Five Tips for Booking Your Blog
Enjoy another spot-on blog post from writer Dave Baldwin on booking your blog:
If you have a book in your head and you are struggling to find an effective way to write it, publish it, market it, promote it, and—gulp—make money at it, I have good news and bad news. The good news: you have more options at your disposal than ever before. The bad news: it still takes work, it still takes discipline, it still takes persistence, and there’s still no shortcut. However, there are new pathways to profitability.
One common question that people have asked me: “What’s the point of a blog?” I usually reply with a resounding, “It depends,” but in general, blogs are useful as a pre-selling tool for business. Pre-selling is distinct from selling in a number of different respects. Pre-selling is about getting your audience to buy you—the person behind the brand—not your products. When you do a good job at pre-selling, your audience is warmed up and ready when you ask them to buy—if the products you pitch are a logical fit. Perhaps the single best example of how pre-selling and selling works: blogging a book.
If you’re struggling to come up with the perfect book, one way to make the process more manageable is to break up your book content into blog posts. You can start to publish content on your blog and experiment with different themes. For example, if you’re thinking of writing your life story, you might consider writing out short autobiographical vignettes and publishing them as blog posts. This is a way to break down the process of writing a book into more concrete and manageable steps. If this approach appeals to you, here are a few tactics that you might find helpful.
- Test and measure audience response. You can share blog posts on your Facebook or Twitter page and see what kind of response they get. You may be surprised at which posts draw the most comments and views. Be sure to install the right software so that you can read the stats on your blog. If you use WordPress, this is easy. This will help you decide which sections to include in your book. User comments may also give you new ideas. Last note on this point: you might also try reading a blog post aloud at an open mike night for some live feedback.
- Create a routine. If you set aside time once a week to write a blog post, you will find yourself generating new content and ideas at a rate that surprises you. Don’t say things like, “I’m not creative” or “I’m just not good at coming up with ideas.” Instead, focus your energy on priming the creative pump. When you exercise the right muscles, they get stronger. I guarantee you that you have plenty of stories to tell. All that’s needed is to dig into your memory and find them. The process gets easier over time.
- Set a timeline for completion of your book. What amount of time is reasonably aggressive, but realistic, for getting your first book done and in print? One year might be ideal for some people, while shorter time frames might be better if you are looking to stretch yourself. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do it in less than 90 days or stretching it out further than 18 months.
If you’re not sure how long it will take, do the math. A decent length for a book might be anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 words. A blog post can be anywhere from 200 to 1,000 words, depending on your audience. If you were to write a blog post once a week, how long would it take you to finish a book? Figure out the fastest rate at which you can write without creating stress. Also factor in the editing process: you will likely end up cutting anywhere from 20% – 40% of your initial draft.
- Pick a theme. What is the greatest driving purpose behind your decision to write a book? What legacy do you want to be known for? What do you want your readers to do when they finish reading your book? How do you want them to start living their lives differently? How do you want the book to influence the way they make decisions? Make it a priority to use the writing process to become clearer about the answers to these questions as you create your blog posts that will serve as the future content of your book. Writing isn’t just about doing a mass brain-dump. It’s also about developing deeper insight into what it is you have to say.
- Pick a success model. Find a book that’s currently doing well in the marketplace on a topic similar to the one you’re planning to write. (And please, don’t say “Oh, but my book is so unique—nothing like it has ever been written!” That’s just pride talking. If you’re serious about being a great writer, your ego is a luxury you can no longer afford.) Forget about trying to be brilliant and innovative, and instead start by copying a model that works. This isn’t plagiarism; it’s what successful authors do. You will still add your own unique value by weaving in your personal story.
For example, if you’re blogging a book about positive thinking, read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. If you want to blog a book about dating and relationships, read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray. Blogging a book about personal organization? Read Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. One example of a book that started out as a series of blog posts is Seth Godin’s Small is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas. Also, Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital started out as a series of articles that he originally wrote for his column in Wired magazine.
If you’re a perfectionist—or if you’re the type of perpetually-blocked writer who identifies with Billy Crystal’s character in Throw Momma from the Train—blogging a book may be the approach for you. This is a great way to get into action and to stay motivated with your writing practice. The stereotype of the suffering writer at a keyboard in a dimly-lit basement does not have to be your reality! You can start blogging your book today.
Here are some nonfiction books that originated from blogs:
Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia
Christian Lander’s Stuff White People Like
Pamela Slim’s Escape From Cubicle Nation
Walker Lamond’s Rules for My Unborn Son
Jill Smokler’s Confessions of a Scary Mommy
Martha Alderson’s The Plot Whisperer
How could you use blogging as a tool to move your book to completion? Please share your insights here!