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:
- 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.
- Create a working title and subtitle for the book
- Dive into the archives of your blog, looking for articles that directly speak to your concept and your title/subtitle
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.
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.
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