What Does It Take for a Blog to Become a Book?

I find myself advising writers more and more frequently to develop an
online presence first—sometimes by blogging—before attempting to get a
book published. Some types of content simply work better online,
or when you’re engaging in real time with a community.

Online
platforms allow you to test ideas, develop your readership, and craft a
stronger premise for a print product. Plus, if you really catch on fire
with a particular readership, you can start attracting editors and
agents to YOU, rather than you chasing them. Doesn’t it sound better to
be fielding offers  rather than begging for them?

Of course, this
process takes patience. You can’t launch your online efforts today and
expect interest overnight (or even in a year). You have to be invested
and dedicated to what you’re doing, and involved in an authentic way,
for you to produce something of value.

And you also have to let
go of this idea of being online only to reach the holy grail of a print
book. You need to NOT want it in order to get it. That is, you have to
be Zen about it. Have goals, but no expectations. Know that your
project will likely change, or your goals will change, as you put
yourself out there more and more.

Key to remember:

Even the most popular blogs don’t necessarily translate into great (profitable) books or a book deal

No
matter how much positive feedback you get on your blog, that doesn’t
mean it’s going to interest a publisher. It’s the same thing as telling
an agent, “My mother loved it.” You always need to back up “positive feedback” with hard-core numbers about subscribers, unique pageviews, newsletter subscribers.

So, what does it take for a blog
to become a book? It often takes someone in the mainstream media (or a trusted
voice or opinion maker) to scream to the world, “Have you seen this person’s
blog? It’s a must-read!”

When notable people talk you up to agents/editors,
and/or when you are featured by the so-called mainstream figures of online/offline media, then you can bet that agents/editors will start to
take notice and ask if you’ve thought of doing a book.

Now, keep
in mind that most blog material is not suitable for straight-to-book
publication. Bloggers turned authors usually have to start book
manuscripts entirely or partially from scratch, or undergo a very
thorough revision process. But if industry professionals see that you
have a strong voice, a strong message, and a strong following, they’ll
work with you to figure out what your best book is, and help you adapt
your ideas for the best book product.

Here are a few extremely successful and visible examples of bloggers turned book authors.

If
you want to transition from blogger to book author, consider how a book will offer an experience or a benefit that is
unique or distinctive apart from the blog. Why would people want the
book in addition to or instead of reading the blog? Is it simply
because you think you can reach a broader audience? Sometimes that’s
not reason enough. Consider why and how the book can be a vehicle for what’s not easily or feasibly accomplished online, and how
readers would benefit from the book format.

Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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0 thoughts on “What Does It Take for a Blog to Become a Book?

  1. Alexis Grant

    Thanks for this great post, Jane. I’m using my travel blog as a skeleton for my first book, a travel memoir about backpacking solo through Africa. One of the benefits of using a blog as inspiration? Occasionally when I go to write a scene, I already have a piece of it drafted, a place to start from. That feels awesome!

  2. Julie Isaac

    When I think of who’s moved from blog to book, the first name that jumps to mind is Julie Powell. She was happily blogging away when Little, Brown and Company approached her and asked, Can we turn your blog into a book? She said, Yes! And the rest, as they say, is history.

    Her book “Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen,” chronicles her year-long commitment to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” while following all that was going on in her life, and marriage, at the time. Not only was the book a bestseller, but the movie, “Julie and Julia,” will soon be coming out starring Meryl Street and Amy Adams.

    Obviously, this level of success is the exception, rather than the rule. But to me, it’s a reminder that ANYTHING is possible. It encourages us to keep our minds and hearts open, and focused on the positive. The most basic elements of writing success are self-confidence, and believing that success is possible. That’s what enables us to write–to dare, to risk, to take that leap of faith. (@WritingSpirit)

  3. Jane Friedman

    RED FLAG: Just because people tell you that your blog is a book does NOT mean it is a book … unless those people are in the publishing industry (agents/editors).

    If you’re working on a book separate from your blog, keep working on it. Keep it separate. Your blog is often an element of your platform, NOT the book itself.

    If you want to write and publish a nonfiction book (whether based on a blog or not), you have to start by writing a nonfiction book proposal, which is essentially a business plan explaining why your book should exist, why it will sell, what your expertise and platform are, and how you will promote. The proposal should also identify the audience.

    Proposals vary in length, but often exceed 50 pages, depending on the complexity of the project, and they also include at least one sample chapter demonstrating the very best content (no introductions, please).

    A good starting guide to writing book proposals is HOW TO WRITE A BOOK PROPOSAL by Michael Larsen.

  4. therapydoc

    Hi,

    I started blogging three years ago, and it does seem the blog has a mind of its own, and many people have told me, This blog is a book. And of course, I’m working on a book.

    But how do I start the process?

    I’ve got 475 subscribers, average 15,000 reads a month.

    Thanks for any suggestions,

    therapydoc

  5. Robert

    As a technology writer, I would often "float" ideas on my blog, garner comments from an international community, and, in exchange for a footnote of thanks, leverage a tremendous community of peers before going to print in a magazine. Over time, the magazine articles lent themselves to a book–but I bailed on that, despite interest from a major publisher–for other reasons. Still, the blog->journal->book approach seemed to work organically for this particular type of writing. I could see memoir working similarly, though fiction may well be another matter. In any case, exposure and feedback are wonderful stepping stones to the greater exposure and feedback that can come from traditional publishing channels.

  6. Louise

    What a great post! I’ve always wondered how those blog-to-book writers manage to do it.and I also appreciate the Zen advice. Often having no expectations is the best way to go. -Louise, aka @ThoughtsHappen

  7. Debra Marrs

    Great advice and tutelage, Jane. LOVE the GH Woman’s Home Blog Book mock up too. Favorite lines: "You need to NOT want it in order to get it. That is, you have to be Zen about it. Have goals, but no expectations." So true!

  8. Lydia Dishman

    Great post Jane, and I am glad you qualified it by adding the statement about how the book should/must differ from the blog.

    In my humble opinion, this was the major downfall of Heather Armstrong’s latest, It Sucked and Then I Cried, which to her loyal blog readers, was basically just a rehash of the posts with some added details.

    Aspiring authors, file that under, "Don’t let this happen to you."

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