Back in 2012 when I had been blogging for two years, I had gotten to know the blogging community pretty well through top sites for bloggers like Copyblogger, which has since turned into a multi-faceted media and software company.
I was struck at the time by the almost total disconnect between authors, who were learning how to use the new tools of publishing to put their books out faster and with less risk than ever before, and bloggers, who often were sitting on massive archives of their own content.
The authors were learning what to do, but the bloggers simply had no clue that a revolution was happening, one that they could easily learn to take advantage of.
In that context, I contributed this article, which was addressed directly to the blogging community, to Copyblogger. I’ve updated it a bit, but honestly, it’s just as accurate as it was when it was first published. Enjoy.
Attention Bloggers: I’ve seen the future, and you’re missing it.
Oh sure, we bloggers think we’re the most up-to-date, leading-edge, tech-savvy people on the planet.
But one of the biggest changes in the long history of content creation is taking place right under your feet, and I’m afraid it may be passing you by.
Yep, the ground is shifting, fortunes are being made, and some of the people who could best profit from this tectonic shift — content producers — are mostly sitting on the sidelines.
Okay, what am I talking about? The revolution in book publishing.
Maybe you’ve heard some of the success stories of the authors who’ve been selling a ton of paranormal romances, thrillers or other genre novels on Amazon’s Kindle platform, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
You may have also heard about big-time authors like Barry Eisler, Steven King, Seth Godin and others leading the way in self-publishing. That’s not it either.
What I’m talking about is something bloggers are already expert in: niche publishing.
Bloggers vs. authors
Let’s back up for a minute. Have you ever thought about the similarities between self-publishing and blogging? Probably not, why would you?
But as a blogger who writes about indie book publishing, I think about this stuff all the time. And here’s what I see at this amazing moment in publishing:
Self-publishers and bloggers each have only half the equation for success in the new world of book publishing.
Take authors for example. Most are really good at things like producing long content (long as in 80,000 words), staying with a project for months or years without losing focus, and planning a complex project using freelance contractors.
The problem is, many authors are notorious loners, are often non-technical, they can go years without any contact with their readers, and their mindset may be completely rooted in the 19th century. Not only that, the typical author has no idea of what marketing actually means in the real world.
That might make a blogger feel pretty good about herself.
It’s true that bloggers stay in constant touch with their readers, know how to publish on a schedule, get constant feedback from readers, love to experiment via agile content, and are highly networked with other bloggers in their niche.
But niche market bloggers have obstacles to overcome, too.
They can fall into the trap of thinking 500 words at a time, with disjointed subjects littering their archives. After blogging for a while, they may lose sight of any overarching theme they started with.
Not only that, many bloggers treat their blogs as a “hobby”, or they’re focused on Adsense, affiliate sales and special promotions. Bloggers like to chase the “shiny new object,” fall into the social media time-sink very easily, and all too often rely exclusively on metrics as the measure of their success.
Why book publishing makes sense for bloggers
Here’s what you’ve been missing: you don’t have to be Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath or John Locke (all of whom have sold a ton of ebook fiction) to get major, potentially life-changing results from book publishing.
This is the dirty little secret behind self-publishing that we’ve been hiding from the big publishers for years:
If you’re a writer with ready access to a niche audience, you’re probably much better off financially publishing your own book.
If you blog on a niche topic and know how to reach the people in that field, why give 85% of your profits to a big publisher in New York?
(If you’re Chris Brogan or Tim Ferriss writing for a mass consumer or mass business market, you might be better off with that big publisher. But if that’s not you, read on.)
The blogger’s unfair advantage
Okay, so you know how to meet deadlines, you publish on a schedule and you’re in touch with your readers. You’re already miles ahead of most self-published authors.
Is it really worth going through the trouble of learning how to publish books? Here are some outcomes that might stimulate you.
- Authority—There’s a reason all those guests you see on TV are introduced as “author of …” There’s nothing that will supercharge the authority you have in your niche the way a book will, especially one with lots of testimonials from people your readers know and respect.
- Passive income—It’s better than ads in your sidebars, better than pay-per-click, and once your book is for sale in either print or ebook versions, the whole process is completely automatic.
- Status—Having a book to your name will spread your profile far beyond the circles you can reach with your blog.
- More opportunities—You are likely to get more offers for speaking gigs, joint ventures and co-authoring opportunities once you’re a published author.
- Stand out from the crowd—Is there another blogger in your niche who is also a published author? No? What’s stopping you?
- Back of the room sales—Another underutilized way to make money from your blog is by selling your book at live appearances, workshops or other events.
But how do you make the leap from blogger to author? It can seem overwhelming when you compare the pile of posts in your archive to a neat and cohesive manuscript ready to publish.
Don’t despair; I’ve got three methods you can use, so read on to see which one appeals to you…
1. The site archive method
Lots of bloggers ignore their archives, which is a shame.
We’re so concerned with the next post that we forget all the value we’ve built up over the months or years we’ve been blogging.
In this method you explore your archives for themes that keep reappearing, or for posts you wrote to answer the most common and compelling questions people keep coming up with in your niche. Your “pillar” or “evergreen” or “foundation” posts are going to come into play here.
Gather the posts you find that meet your criteria into sections, each one for a separate subject. These will eventually become the chapters in your book.
This is the method I used last year when I published A Self-Publisher’s Companion. Then I wrote an introduction for the book, added an up-to-date resource section and the book was done. How cool is that?
2. The series method
This is the opposite of the Archive method, because it means you’ll be writing the book as a series of blog posts or, more likely, as several series.
You’ll outline the book first. This doesn’t have to be difficult, just pick the subjects you want to cover and then divide them into chapters.
For example, your book might have 12 chapters, and each chapter could be about 5,000 words.
Create a blog post that looks at each aspect of your chapter. You’re now looking at a series of five 1,000-word articles. And don’t forget, blog post series are a great way to keep readers involved and coming back for more, so you’ll win both ways, as a blogger and an author.
Just keep writing those series of blog posts, and pretty soon your manuscript will be finished and ready to go.
3. The big edit method
In this method you’ll treat all posts as potential first draft material.
Although this takes the greatest amount of work, it has the potential to produce the best book from the copy you’ve already written.
Look through the content you already have, selecting the parts that work within the scheme of your book. You’ll be doing a ton of cutting-and-pasting as you assemble the bits you want to use.
Undoubtedly, you’ll need to write new material to create an effective manuscript that flows well from one subject to another. To use this method, you’ll probably also need to hire an editor to help shape and smooth out the manuscript.
The truth is, in the book world, hiring an editor is always a good idea.
Your book editor can be a powerful ally when it comes to creating a book people really want to buy.
Now, you’ve got a real book manuscript.
When I did this last year it took about 40 blog posts and a new introduction to create a 222-page trade paperback that sells for $14.95 (print) or $4.99 (ebook).
What’s the profit look like from those books? On sales at Amazon.com — after all discounts and manufacturing costs — my profit is $8.00 per paperback and $3.75 per ebook.
Getting interested? Want to know how to get started turning your archives into books? Here are some tips:
- The fastest way to get a book up for sale without the complications of formatting for print production is with an ebook.
- These are ePub and Mobi ebooks, not PDF ebooks like the ones you give away on your blog.
- You can convert your own files to ebooks with free software like Calibre or with a tool like Scrivener, used by many ebook authors.
- Apple’s Pages outputs to ePub, and more tools like this are coming online constantly.
- Smashwords will convert your book for free if you follow their formatting guidelines.
- BookBaby offers great deals on ebook conversion and distribution to all major retailers at very low fees.
- Lots of authors have reported good success with Draft2Digital, another popular service that helps authors publish ebooks.
- Become part of the book scene by getting familiar with some of the big reader communities that are growing like crazy online. Goodreads, Wattpad, and Scribd are all new communities with millions of members that most bloggers have never even heard of.
- Use your blogging schedule to plan out the article series that will become your book manuscript. For instance, you might want to have a special focus on your blog for the month, encouraging lots of discussion and interaction while you’re creating that specific part of your book.
- Leverage your blogging network when it comes time to launch and promote your book. After all, you establish these connections to help market your blog. When your book comes out, it’s a great opportunity to “tour” the other blogs in your niche, exposing you to tons of new readers.
The time is now
Well, there you have it.
No group of people is better situated than bloggers RIGHT NOW to take advantage of the historic movement to digital books and the exploding popularity of self-publishing.
Will you join the revolution?
This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on Copyblogger.com under the title 3 Simple Ways to Turn Your Website Archive into Profitable Books and eBooks