How I’m Going To Book My Blog—And You Can Too

by Joel Friedlander on February 2, 2011 · 47 comments

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Yes, you read it right, it’s not a typo (typo—an unintended mistake in typographic material).

You can travel throughout the blog-o-sphere and find lots of articles about how to “blog your book.” This is a way to develop content for a book project by publishing bits of it on your blog. You might do this to create content for your blog, to test out material with your readers, or as a way to create a serial reading experience, like Charles Dickens did by publishing episodes in the newspaper.

But what the heck is booking a blog? In my mind, it’s the opposite of blogging your book. You create a book by taking material already published on your blog and refashioning it into a real, live book.

Guess what? I’m doing this right now, and I’ll show you exactly how I’m doing it.

The Problem with Blogs

I love blogging. It has given me real rewards as a writer, as a small business owner, as a content creator, and as an information marketer.

But I don’t love everything about blogging. The software we use (my blog runs on WordPress software with the Thesis theme, styled by the suave and smart Matt Chevy) is frequently referred to as content management software. The WordPress system is a terrific boon to anyone who wants to publish online. It makes it so easy, even I can do it. I’ve even used WordPress to set up regular websites.

But blogs, by their nature, are organized by chronology. In other words, the thing that characterizes blogs is that the newest articles always appear first, on the home page.

As each new article is published, of course, the older ones are pushed down one notch. If you publish a post every day, the way I do, after a month there are 30 other posts on top of that great article you wrote last month. Next month there will be 60 posts to dig through to get to it.

We try to overcome this basic infrastructure with tags and categories and sneeze pages and popular post widgets and lots of other gadgets, but they can only help so much. You can’t turn a blog into a structured, hierarchical website no matter what you do with your tags and categories.

So, with 450 articles in my archive (and growing) there’s a lot of valuable information that gets buried under the pile of more recent posts. And that’s why I started looking for ways to dig these posts out and create a book from them.

The Publishing Gene Never Dies

I’ve been wanting to publish a book for some time. Although I’m publishing for my clients, I haven’t published a book of my own since 1992. That itch, to get into print, doesn’t go away.

But when I started thinking about what book to publish, what would help newcomers to self-publishing, I realized I had already written it. The problem is that it’s buried in the big pile of articles that this blog has become.

And so booking your blog was born.

Do you have a blog with a lot of articles on it? Want to do something with them instead of just letting them lie there, getting old and rusty? Read on.

The Concept is Always the Hardest Part

As with any book project, figuring out what your book is about, who will read it, how they will benefit from it, and how to reach those people with that message is always the hardest part.

This is where all your knowledge of your field will help you. If you “are the market” you’ll have an advantage over someone who doesn’t know it.

In this case, I’m targeting this book at writers considering self-publishing, people who are interested in what’s going on with this field since it’s receiving a lot of media attention recently, and self-publishers looking to get a fuller perspective on recent developments.

I’ll plot out the steps I went through, since you can do the exact same thing:

  1. Decide on a concept that includes the intended readership, the benefit you intend to bring to those people, and how you will find them to bring them this message.
  2. My idea is to collect the many non-technical articles I’ve written about the growth of self-publishing along with a healthy dose of the advice and “tips” articles. I reasoned that this book would appeal to people who want to know what’s going on in self-publishing, since there’s a lot of media attention on it these days. It would also provide a huge amount of actionable information in the form of advice, inspiration, tips and action plans you can use right away.

  3. Create a working title and subtitle for the book
  4. This might seem premature, but I assure you it’s not. You may not keep this title/subtitle for long, or you may. Right now that’s not important, but I find having to come up with a title and subtitle is a terrific way to focus your thinking about what book you’re writing, so go ahead and do this step—don’t skip it! I came up with:

    Self-Publishing Today: Advice and Inspiration for Authors Thinking About Going Indie

    I’m not going to pretend this is a good title, and it won’t be the one on the book when it’s published. But it captures the concept well enough to move forward with my plan.

  5. Dive into the archives of your blog, looking for articles that directly speak to your concept and your title/subtitle
  6. I went back to the beginning, the very first blog article I ever wrote. There were 29 screens full of blog posts in my WordPress interface. As I scanned the titles, I could see what fit and what didn’t. When I couldn’t remember the entire article I’d open it up and glance through it.

    When I found one that fit, I opened the article in a new browser tab by right clicking the title. I made sure that I was looking at the article from the outside of the blog, the way a reader would see it. I didn’t want to copy the HTML from the input window.

    With the post open, I selected everything and hit copy, then went to a blank document in Microsoft Word and pasted the entire article. This carried over the graphics and links and most of the formatting too, like bold and bullet lists. Neat!

    Getting Organized Pays Off

    I saved each article in a separate Word document with the title of the article as the file name. This will come in handy in the next steps.

    It took several hours over a two-day period to check out all 450 articles, but at the end I had a collection of about 50 articles that seemed to fit my theme. This was still too many to deal with at one time.

    Blog articles run about 800 – 1200 words, far shorter than the chapters in most nonfiction books. On the other hand, books with short bits that you can read in a few minutes have always been popular, and it might suit people with not much time or a short attention span.

    However, after paring the list down I expected to still have about 30-35 articles. I decided what I needed was a subject-oriented organization for the book. I went back and looked at the subjects of all the articles, and these six broad subjects eventually emerged:

    • All the excitement and innovation around the EBook Revolution
    • General information about Bookmaking
    • Lots of posts on You are the Market
    • Inspirational articles about the Electronic Life
    • How we use Social Media
    • Articles that give you a Self-Publishing Orientation


    I made a folder for each of these subjects and worked my way through the list of articles, dropping each into the folder that seemed to fit the best, until the list was done. This made me unnaturally happy.

    Altogether I was about four hours into the project and I felt I had moved a huge distance. Here’s why:

    The sheer volume of articles in the archives had paralyzed me at first: How would I find anything useful in those 450 blog posts. How would I make sense of it? It just seemed overwhelming.

    Now I had six folders full of themed articles, and they almost seemed to be organizing themselves. Each folder had on average 8 or 9 articles, a much easier number to deal with. I could see just by looking at the subject lines that many would fall into a natural order. It looked like I had a whole book just waiting to take place.

    I don’t know the title of this new book yet, but I will soon. I hope you’ll follow the rest of the journey as I try to bring this “book of the blog” into print.

    Photo by Danny Ben

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    { 33 comments… read them below or add one }

    Amanda February 2, 2011 at 1:35 am

    What a timely post. I’ve been thinking about “booking my blog” lately as well. It’s nice to know that I’m not entirely crazy for thinking that way. I look forward to seeing where your project goes from here.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 2, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Amanda, it might be a natural for you since it looks like you’re dealing with some of the same issues I have, with great content but not a lot of ways to point people towards it. With all your great photos you might think of an ebook to avoid the expense of photo reproduction. Thanks for checking in.

    Reply

    John Soares February 2, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Joel, I think it’s very smart to create a book based on your blog posts, and I really appreciate you sharing your method in detail.

    I’ve been taking different path lately: I’ve been using excerpts from my e-books and trade paperbacks on my blogs, always with attribution and a link. It helps me get more blog posts out quicker, and it promotes my books.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 2, 2011 at 8:00 am

    John, your adept promotion of your books is one of the things that inspired me to make the leap. I think the content carousel works both ways, and there is certainly no shortage of authors posting book content as blog excerpts. One of the great things about that is that readers have an excellent idea of what’s in the book. Thanks for the thought.

    Reply

    John Soares February 3, 2011 at 5:51 am

    Thanks for the kind words Joel. I’ll be watching here to see how your project unfolds.

    Reply

    Patricia Benesh February 2, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Joel,

    Great article. Working with my clients, I do a similar set of exercises–and even get them to write a draft back cover. Your blog organization almost does that ….

    Also, I’m glad John pointed out that it goes both ways. If you’ve written a book, you have a treasure trove of info to blog.

    Can’t wait to read your book!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 2, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Trish, that’s interesting to think of them as “exercises,” I hadn’t thought of that, thanks.

    Reply

    Ed Gray February 2, 2011 at 10:12 am

    “You can’t turn a blog into a structured, hierarchical website no matter what you do with your tags and categories.”

    True, but you can do something about the hierarchy: For a post you want to keep near or at the top, you simply change the date of that post via your dashboard editor, thus placing it where you want. It doesn’t work well with a daily poster like you, but for the occasional blogger, it can help.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Ed, there is actually a way with this software to create a static front page for your blog, and the Wordpress software allows you to create a site that’s a bit of a hybrid, because I can publish pages as well as posts, and you can establish a menu hierarchy for those pages to some extent. Thanks for your comment.

    Reply

    Susan Daffron February 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    As you know, I’ve done this 10 times. All my books started out as online articles. Along with coming up with a concept like you said, the key to making it work is ruthless editing.

    You may have to shred some of your writing into bits, so the book doesn’t read like a bunch of blog posts. But starting with material you already HAVE is a smart way to write a book I think.

    Another advantage is that if you find there are gaps in your material to make it work as a book, you can write blog posts to fill in the blanks. So you don’t have to worry about thinking up blog topics for a while ;-)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Susan, you’re the expert in this area, that’s for sure.

    I’ve decided to take a different approach, since the articles were not written with the idea of making them into a longer text at some point. (Although I do have that idea firmly in mind now!)

    Since there’s no real way to disguise them as anything other than blog posts I’m doing a very light edit. In fact, I’ve come up with an extremely rapid method of moving this book to a final proof that I’ll talk about in the next article in this series. Your input is very much appreciated.

    Reply

    Betsy Gordon February 2, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Yup — this is one book I’m going to buy, for sure.

    It’s really exciting to learn how you begin the process, Joel. I can’t wait to read the rest of it.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Betsy

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Betsy, thanks so much. Watch for more articles in this series, I’m moving pretty quickly through this project.

    Reply

    Ian Knight February 3, 2011 at 4:16 am

    What a great idea !

    I have been looking for an excuse to put a book together – this is it. I can then offer hardcopies for sale via LULU or similar.

    Another great article Joel – thanks !

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 3, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Glad I can help, Ian. Good luck with the book.

    Reply

    Patti February 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    For blog-to-book you can use WPtex (http://xhtml-css.com/wptex/) to generate a TeX file of all posts in your WP database.
    I did this with a private blog to preserve the content. Opened the TeX output in Libre Office. Libre will also output a PDF. (Libre is the successor of Open Office which is now controlled by Oracle).
    WPtex is free. Libre is open source.

    WPtex creates a chronological output so it doesn’t help with topical organization.

    You have a lot of strong content Joel. I’m sure your book will be great.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 3, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks for that Patti, I’ve never used TeX so I’m unfamiliar with the tools. But there are many TeX fans out there. I’ll be blogging about this in the next couple of days.

    Reply

    Cheryl February 3, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Yes, it is a little unnerving to learn that some great posts are buried within your blog. And you’re right, organization is key (something I’m struggling with right now). I have an old blog from a couple of years ago that I’m digging through to find a book. In fact, my first book I self-published came from my blog. I’m just now learning to work with WordPress though. Some things are still tricky for me :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 3, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    You know, there have been some blog posts I wrote that have kind of gotten lost. I use the Articles page often to find articles, but not all of them have the little box checked, so they don’t show up there. And the search function, which is helpful, isn’t that great. Looking through the whole database was actually interesting. I got to see how my writing had changed over the last 15 months or so. You should try it.

    Reply

    Scott Loftesness February 5, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Joel, great stuff!

    What I’d *LOVE* to have at the moment is a plug-in that would export posts from Wordpress into OPML format that I could then import into Scrivener – to edit and produce a book! Scrivener can accept OPML – importing each item as a separate “scrivening” making for easy organization, editing, etc.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 7, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Scott, you’ve whetted my apetite to learn more about Scrivener. Not sure on the plug-ins. Have you seen the tools that create a PDF of blog content on the fly? Wonder if that would have any use.

    Reply

    Ren Cummins February 7, 2011 at 7:11 am

    This blog came at the perfect time – - I just did a mass download of my past 7 years of blogging and filtered it down to just under 1000 pages of material, and – after I regained consciousness – was pretty overwhelmed by the imagining of the task ahead.

    This has given me some great ideas of organizing the material out. Thank you so much!

    Reply

    Doug Shaw February 7, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Great stuff Joel, really appreciate the practical advice you’ve offered here. I’ve been struggling with how to start booking my blog, am struggling no longer. Cheers!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 7, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Ren & Doug, I was pretty stumped until I came up with this simple method. There’s so much content we create that could be re-purposed to find a whole new readership. I’m pretty excited about this and the book is coming together pretty quickly. I’ll be writing about the next steps I took later this week.

    Reply

    Shelley Hitz February 15, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Joel,
    This is brilliant! It’s actually what I did with one of my websites in the fall of 2008 and continue to sell copies of my print book today. I am a speaker, so having a book made sense. It gave me instant credibility but also gave me a resource to give away or sell at events. And I had already done all the hard work in writing the website articles. I did add some information that wasn’t available online as well as a guide to go along with the book.

    I then re-purposed the material again into an ebook, Kindle book and audio book (MP3 downloads and CDs). So the same material has given me a lot of miles :)

    I share the story of how I published my book from website content here: http://www.self-publishing-coach.com/support-files/8-simple-steps-to-self-publishing-books.pdf

    Best of luck to you! I know it works :)
    Shelley

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander April 26, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks, Shelley, and good luck with your projects, too!

    Reply

    Joseph Gregory April 26, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I thought it was cheating since I’m a newbie to blogging to retreive old work and post it, but I see that it’s commonplace. Moreover it gives one a chance to improve the work. Write, re-write and re-write again. Thanks Joel

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander April 26, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Hi Joseph, one of the great things about blogging is the ability to develop content in “chunks” but it’s also good for re-purposing content that otherwise wouldn’t get much readership.

    Reply

    Maggie Paris May 14, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Acmebook has been “preserving the printed word since 1821″, here in Charlestown, MA. If you want affordable books made in any quantity from one to ten of thousands, of highest quality, with options limited only by imagination, let us know!

    Reply

    Patricia October 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Joel,

    I blogged my first novel and it attracted some attention, but not as much as I would have liked. Then I removed the novel from the blog, posted it on Authonomy.com

    I also worried about readers stealing my material. My novel took a year to write.

    Reply

    Novicto January 16, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Hi Joel, I love what you’re going to do with your blog. I have a question here from a newbie. I have blog content that I want to turn into a book too, but I don’t think I want to edit much of it, since most (95%) of the posts are just the way I like it. Do you think publishers (like Kindle) would mind to publishing a book with almost the same content as my blog content. Thanks for a great read :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 16, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Novicto, Kindle is unlikely to know or care about the similarity between your blog content and your book, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Good luck with your project.

    Reply

    Robin Dilks December 27, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Hi Joel,
    I’m finding your articles very helpful. I’m in process of putting together my book using Amazons Creates space and you answered many of my questions. I think your publishing your blog is a wonderful idea and would be very helpful to many writers interested in self publishing. I’ve thought about gathering my blog posts and publishing them in time but I am not quiet there yet. Thank you so much for your insightful page. This was a great help in understanding many parts of the final process.

    Reply

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