Write your book in a blog and you may just get published, says author of How To Blog A Book, Nina Amir.
HAVE a book in you? Why not blog it out? American editor and journalist Nina Amir, 52, discovered this concept when she was invited to speak at a panel on blogging books at the San Francisco Writers Conference a few years ago.
“Blogging a book means composing your manuscript on the Internet using blog technology. Basically, you write, publish and promote your book one post at a time on the Internet,” says the California-based Amir via e-mail.
She thought that the idea was a fabulous one and noticed that nobody was writing or teaching anything about the subject. So in 2010, she created the blog, How to Blog a Book at howtoblogabook.com, with the intention of “blogging a book about how to blog a book”.
Her experiment was a success. She finished blogging her book in five months by writing three to four posts a week (each about 500 words) and her blog became the No.1 blog when searching about blogging a book in Google. Best of all, she caught the attention of Writer’s Digest Books, which publishes how-to guides for writers. Amir signed a contract with them in July 2011, and her book, How To Blog A Book: Write, Publish, And Promote Your Work One Post At A Time, was released last Monday.
“Today, a good idea and good writing are not enough to make you a published author – at least, not a non-fiction author,” says Amir.
Authors need a “platform” – a fan base or a huge number of people who will buy the author’s book. Publishers are more keen to take on writers like that as they are “good business partners”, Amir says.
Blogs can not just help you build that platform but make it easier and less daunting to write your book, as you’re writing it one post at a time.
“If you don’t want to take the time to promote yourself or your work, and you aren’t finding the time to write your books, blogging your book may just be the solution to your problem,” she says.
But are publishers keen to take on a book that is already available on the Internet for free?
Amir says that her publisher didn’t mind that a good bit of her book is already in cyberspace. While it was true that some publishers used to balk at previously published material, these days, publishers see popular blogs as successfully test-marketed book ideas. After all, more blogs are being discovered and turned into books ever before, Amir points out.
“According to the president of Hyperion Books, prior to blogging technology publishers had no way to test market a book idea effectively. What better way to use a blog for this purpose than to actually plan out your book’s content and publish it on a blog?” she adds.
“I do, however, suggest that bloggers hold back some material and plan on releasing that in the printed or e-book version,” she says.
Note, however, that blogging a book is not the same as taking the content off a blog wholesale and turning it into a book. Julie & Julia: My Year Of Cooking Dangerously, The Amazing Adventures Of Dietgirl, Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary Of An Ordinary Iraqi and Stuff White People Like are such blogs-turned-to-books.
Instead, one starts with the intention of writing a book in a blog. Amir suggests that you begin by writing post-sized bits (about 250 to 500 words) of your book in a word processor, which you then publish on a blog. “By keeping it short, you will blog your book over a longer period of time, allowing readership for the printed book to build.”
While you are doing this, you can promote the blog via social media, by commenting on other blogs or via podcasts and videos. This will attract readership to the blog.
Once the first draft is done, writers should then revise it a few times and later have it edited professionally, says Amir.
“That’s why my book went from 26,300 words – the length of the online book – to more than double that word count in the final draft. That makes the printed book attractive both to my regular readers and to new readers. Everyone will find something new in the book.”
Once all this is done, the novel is ready to be shipped to a publisher or perhaps be turned into an e-book.
“E-books are hot right now. It’s a great market to get into and just like blogs offer inexpensive ways to write, publish and promote books,” says Amir.
But what if you already have a blog with a good number of posts? Amir suggests that you try “repurposing” the blog content or “book the blog”.
“This means reusing content in other ways and for different purposes, such as taking a series of blog posts on one topic and putting them together into a short e-book or rewriting one blog post for a press release or an article or turning the majority of the blog into a book,” she explains.
You can turn your old blog posts into booklets, a memoir, a collection of inspirational stories, a short story collection or a “how to” book.
Melbourne-based professional blogger Darren Rowse has done this numerous times. His e-books 31 Days To Build A Better Blog and The Essential Guide To Portrait Photography were culled from old blog posts. Rowse added new content to the previously written content, and updated the existing materials.
“And in both cases my readers overwhelmed me with thanks for compiling previously scattered content into complete e-books,” he writes in his blog, Problogger (tinyurl.com/84dgvsz). Still, Rowse was initially very sceptical whether this could work.
“I didn’t think my readers would want repurposed content, but in the end they actually demanded it,” he says in an interview on Amir’s blog.
However, Amir says that “booking the blog” is actually a more difficult process than blogging a book, as the posts have to be restructured and rewritten into a more coherent structure so that they will read more like a book.
And although there are actually programs that will convert your blog posts into a book (some even ensure that the printed version looks exactly like the blog), it’s not something Amir recommends.
“You want your book, when it is finished, to look and read like a book. Let the blog be a blog and your book be a book – even if you are booking your blog.”
But what if you want to write a novel? Well, Amir says that while it is easier to blog a non-fiction book as the chapters are easier to break into small pieces, people have found a way to blog novels. Sometimes dubbed “blovels” (the hybrid of the word “blog” and “novel”), they mimic the once-popular serialised novels published in magazines. (Charles Dickens published many of his novels this way.)
“Blogging a novel is trickier. The chapters in novels aren’t as easy to break into small pieces; it’s easier to do this with a non-fiction book,” says Amir.
However, one just needs to find logical places to break the writing so that one will end up posting short pieces instead of long ones.
“This keeps your readers coming back to ‘turn the page’, if you will,” she says.
■ How To Blog A Book: Write, Publish, And Promote Your Work One Post At A Time is available at Amazon.com.