How I’m Going To Book My Blog—Going Long

by | Feb 14, 2011

Last week I talked about how to get a book out of your blog archives, as I explored my own trove of articles in How I’m Going to Book My Blog—And You Can Too Let’s take the next step together. And I have something to confess.

Do As I Say?

Okay, I’m going to come clean now, and tell you exactly why I did what I did next, and why you probably shouldn’t do it that way.

Normally the next logical step in this book-creation sequence would be editorial: the author or an editor goes through the articles and makes a real book out of them. You’ll need to edit out things like “next week on the blog”, make the language clear and consistent, enforce a uniform style and all the other tasks that editors do.

Then the corrected manuscript would have to have all the blog formatting changed to something more appropriate for book typography. Finally the manuscript goes to a designer (or you, if you are doing it yourself) to be laid out into a book. You experiment with different page sizes and typography until you get the look you want, then flow the rest of the pages to match, formatting as needed.

And that’s what you should do, too. It’s a process that creates the best books. But I took a different, and unexpected path.

I read a couple of the articles, and realized this project was fundamentally different than dealing with a raw book manuscript. All these pieces had already been edited and proofread and published. This was more of an assembly. In fact I decided the Word files I created could well be treated as final, ready for layout, manuscript. Then I would be able to do something I’ve never tried before.

I decided I would assemble, lay out, edit and reformat the book all in one pass. In InDesign.

Experienced bookmakers would scratch their heads at this, but one of the benefits of having such a “diverse” background in publishing is that over the years I’ve done many of the tasks in the publishing company. I’m not promoting this as a career strategy, far from it. But sometimes there are unexpected benefits to paying too little attention to career advancement, and this was one of those times. But seriously, don’t try this at home.

Direct to Press

A Self-Publisher's Companion

Click to enlarge

I created a pleasant text layout in a 5.25″ x 8″ format, because I like small books and have a more intimate feeling reading them. This book does not include a lot of detailed information on layouts, typography, or anything else that needs illustration, it’s likely going to be all text. A book that needed illustration would be better at a larger size.

I took the first article and put it into my layout. As I formatted the typography with a clean title layout in Adobe Chaparral Pro, and the text in Adobe Caslon, I read through the article, stripping out the irrelevant references, the blog dateline, the original image from the header that had been copies over in the move to Word, and any excess coding. I took out the hyperlinks and their associated hyperlink character style.

Next I went through and eliminated the formatting that I often use for blog posts. For instance, where I had a number list: “7 Scenarios for Successful Self-Publishing” I took the numbers out and made a hanging indent format for each paragraph, with a bold lead-in at the beginning. This is much more like the formatting used in books, and not the scannable, attention-grabbing format used in blog posts.

Moving onto the next article, and the next, I soon had an entire section done. Using master pages for the article openings, I could format the book so it looked more like a book, and less like a bunch of articles.

The first section took me about 4 hours, since I had to create all the typesetting formats at the same time and decide on a lot of little design details, like how to space the titles, what kinds of lists I would have, formats for tips I might want to add to the originals, some of which were written 18 months ago.

The Story So Far

The book is taking shape rapidly and will be finished within the next 24 hours. I’ve spent 2 weeks on the project and I’m extremely happy with where it is.

You can do the same, too, if you’ve been blogging or writing for any length of time. I was listening to an audio with Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger Media. He described what he went through early in his blog’s life to promote his work. Brian wasn’t seeking celebrity, far from it. But he said he thought it would be helpful to so many people he had an ethical duty to promote it.

That’s where we are as authors who run blogs or write articles. You’ve written a lot of useful material, yet people can’t find it easily. If we don’t promote it, we’re not doing our job of getting this information to the greatest number of people. In the process we’re going to develop books based around the information that’s already proven popular on the blog.

Is this any way to create books? I think it just might be one way that could work.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. David Bergsland

    I always write directly in InDesign. I came from a PageMaker background when I went to InDesign 1 in 2000. It’s the natural extension of what you always wished PageMaker was. You will have to get used to many Illustrator mannerisms, but it is certainly worth the effort. InDesign is a dream to write in.

  2. Nina

    I’ll see you there! I’m speaking on Sunday.

  3. Nina

    I’m just about to start learning InDesign, but I’ve been wondering about writing and editing in the program. Dan Poynter talks about writing books in Word in a page layout form…so you can see how many pages you’ve written, and it’s quite satisfying. I’d love to just write and see my book take shape in InDesign–especially since I am about to start self-publishing.

    Any tips? Plus, what’s the best way to learn InDesign for a form Pagemaker user?

    • Joel Friedlander

      Nina, sorry your comment got stuck in the spam net. I’ve never tried writing in InDesign directly, although I’ve been editing a book in InDesign for the first time. You can also try out the story editor, which is more of a word processor built right into the program. I learned InDesign (former Quark user) by actually doing books with it, and filling in with videos from InDesign Secrets, the Dave Blattner blog is also terrific.

  4. Greg Randall

    As does everyone, when you get to the point of putting the final Word doc into InDesign, you have tens if not dozens of versions and saved copies floating about, no matter how detailed your file/folder management. Now, when the manuscript moves to InDesign for publication, all the other versions get put in a nice folder and are forgotten (except for the last one with all the formatting, you need that because the import drops most of the italics and other stuff). This is now my working copy (even editing if required). It is fairly easy to take this final InDesign version and copy/paste back to Word for ebook set up or for archiving. And InDesign is pretty good for spell check, formatting (obviously), and font management. When flush, I will get CS5 or whatever is next. Ebooks are suppose to be easier from this later version.
    Thanks Joel, keep it up.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Greg, thanks for that. Probably because I’m handling 10-20 books for clients, I have a pretty good file/folder system or things would be pretty chaotic. If you are losing your formatting going from Word to InDesign, you should re-check your import options because that’s unnecessary and can be handled easily with some Find/Change operations. As far as InDesign and ePub files, Liz Castro has written an entire book on what you have to do to the files after the export to get them to look and act properly.

      • Greg Randall

        Thanks Joel,
        Knew it would be easy and will look for the Liz Castro book, are you going to the SF Writers Conf this weekend?

        • Joel Friedlander

          Greg, I’m going to be presenting at the Self-Publishing Boot Camp on Monday in the post-conference program, although I might stop by the BAIPA booth on Friday for a while. Stop by and say hello.

  5. David Bergsland

    I’m not surprised with your workflow. It seems like the natural way to go. I began writing my books directly in InDesign several years ago.

    But then I was an art director at printing companies for nearly three decades.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, David. Nice to know there are others of us out there. I haven’t tried this before and I certainly couldn’t do it on a client’s book, but I was surprised that I could, with attention, keep the writer, the designer, the editor and the layout artist all in their separate cubicles in my brain, which seemed to make the process work. An interesting exercise, and in the end a way to produce a book much faster than I had imagined. Do you use the story editor in InDesign, or “word process” right in the layout?



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