Blog to Book? Here's Your Strategy!

The blog-to-book craze is surging, and it's no wonder. How awesome is it to be able to take what you've already written and create a brand new product for your audience? 

I'm all about multi-purposing these days. It's one of the ways I bring a semblance of balance to my business and my life. If I had to create brand new content every time I posted something, or created an article for a publication, it would suck up all of my free time. About 20 percent of my book, The Art of Inspiration, was created from my existing e-book and blog material (which, along with a rock-solid outline and a clear mission and reader outcome, was a big part of the reason I was able to finish the book in just eight weeks). 

But, like the lead gen book craze I posted about recently, the blog-to-book trend has its downsides—and if you're not aware of them, you could end up with a book that doesn't wow your readers, grow your credibility, and live up to your vision.

Before I get into the actual "blog-to-book" strategy, I want to tell you a little story. 

 

A Real-Life Blog-to-Book fail

Last year, I attended a live event. In our goody bags, there was a book about money management with a catchy (if somewhat grammatically challenged) title. 

I put the book in my to-read pile when I got home, and promptly forgot about it. (I have a BIG reading pile!) But my hubby, Matthew, who is obsessed with financial development and investment books, picked it up immediately. 

A few days later, he asked, "Have you read this book yet?" 

"No," I replied. "Why? Is it good?" 

He shook his head. "It reads like [the author] just took a bunch of blog posts and stuck them into a book. It's disorganized, disjointed. Half of it didn't make sense, or was contradictory to what was written earlier. It was cringe-worthy. If it was a movie, I would have walked out." 

Now, Matthew may be a special case as a reader. He was a physics and biology teacher for years. He likes processes and theories that make practical sense, and is very exacting. He's also my behind-the-scenes proofreader and personal content editor, so he has plenty of experience with my methods and what works in non-fiction books. But he's also the sweetest man alive, and goes out of his way to find nice things to say about everyone and everything. For him to have a reaction like that, about a book whose subject thrills him ... Well, the book must have been pretty awful. 

"Was there anything good in there?" I asked, surprised. 

"Absolutely! He had some good ideas, but they were completely buried in a jumble of other material. I shouldn't have to work that hard to get to the point."

"Would you ever work with him after reading the book?"

"No way. If he can't even put a book together, how could I trust him with my bank accounts?" 

And there you have it: my case for a solid blog-to-book strategy that keeps your readers from "walking out" on your book ... and your business. 

Blogs, for the most part, are self-contained articles or discussions. They have an introductory section, a body, and a closing. They rarely contain a full picture of the information the author can offer on a topic; rather, they focus on a sliver of information which can be explained in 1200 words or less. 

More, blogs evolve over time.  They often cite current events, or vary in structure or tone depending on what is present personally and professionally for the author. What a blogger writes this week may offer a different point of view or set of instructions that he or she would have given three years ago (or even six months ago). 

So, is it any surprise that simply collecting a bunch of blog posts, sorting them by category, and printing them as a book often creates less than stellar results? 

 

Sorry to burst your bubble, but ... 

Writing a book from your blog posts requires the same level of focus, planning, and precision that you would bring to any other book. So it's essential, even if you have piles of great material, to start with a clear mission, topic, outline, and plan for reader outcome. Then, apply only those parts of you blog material that actually fit that structure.

What you're doing by re-purposing your blog posts is cutting down on the writing time for your first draft. Not bypassing every other part of the book creation process. 

Okay, go ahead. Scowl at me. Shake your head in frustration, and whine, "But I thought I was getting a shortcut!

As my Oregonion friends would say, "Sorry-bout-it."

The truth is, you CAN create quality with efficiency, and you CAN apply solid strategies so you don't write, copy, and paste yourself in circles. But if you want to create a quality book that serves you for years to come, you can't hack it, or skip crucial parts of the process. 

Put another way, you can't take a bowl of apples and call it a pie, even if they're the most delicious apples on earth. Some transformation has to occur before the apples become a pie. They have to be sliced, diced, and mixed with other stuff. They have to be contained in a (delicious and attractive) pastry structure and baked up to perfection with heaping doses of attention and intention, for a certain amount of time.

If you skip any of the crucial steps, your readers will take a bite of your book, make a face, and say, "This seems a little ... raw." 

Duhn, duhn, duuuuuhn ... Credibility, gone.

The apples might have been juicy and crisp, but your readers didn't show up to eat apples. They showed up for pie. 

 

blog-to-book strategy that actually works

Before you freak out and toss your blog-to-book plans, though, let me be clear:

Writing a book from your blog is STILL a heck of a lot easier and more efficient than writing from scratch—and you CAN do it in a way that skyrockets your business, your vision, and your credibility. 

Before you can do that, though, you need to understand three things: 

  1. What makes a book effective for your readers
  2. What should (and shouldn't) be in your book if you want readers to create the promised results, and 
  3. Where to start the process so you don't confuse, sabotage, or overwhelm yourself as you assemble your content. 

So, before you start trying to piece together all your old blog posts like a crazy word puzzle, take a step back, and get clear on these five things: 

  1. What you're actually writing about. Your blog probably explores a wide variety of topics. Don't think you have to smush them all into one book. Choose a narrow, focused topic that will solve a problem or benefit your readers while shining a light on your expertise and the area of your business you most want to grow, and then consider which blogs might support that outcome. 
  2. Who you're writing for. Many bloggers write about a broad topic, and without an ideal reader in mind. Before you create your book, spend some time getting to know your ideal reader—who, by the way, is probably also your ideal client. 
  3. Why you're writing this book. What do you want this book to accomplish for you, and for your readers? What is your dream outcome? 
  4. How you want to structure your book so your readers can actually achieve the results you want to create, and 
  5. When each piece of information/blog post needs to appear in order to make the Why and the How happen in the most effective way possible. 

Then, based on what you've discovered, create a Purpose Statement and mission for your book, as well as a detailed outline. (Yup. If you're doing blog-to-book, you MUST outline. No fudging or winging it. Sorry-bout-it.) 

Once you have those pieces in place, you can start pulling blog posts. Compare each against your Purpose Statement and outline, and see where they fit—if they fit. (Fact: Not everything on your blog will go in your book!) 

Chances are, you'll be able to fill in about 60-80 percent of your book using your existing blog posts. Then, you'll need to go back and fill in the missing pieces—either by writing new blog posts (hello, multitasking!) or drafting content specifically to meet the needs of that section of the book. 

Once you're done, you'll need to go in and edit your material. Specifically, you'll need to remove the intros and outros of your blog posts and create new transition sections to help the book flow smoothly from section to section and chapter to chapter. The good news is, this process will seem easy, natural, and clear when you understand the purpose and structure of your book.  

And that, my friend, is my Blog to Book Strategy in a nutshell. 

 

To sum up our discussion ...

If you're going to make a pie, be sure to follow a great recipe.  

Blog-to-book is a GREAT way to write—but it's an efficiency strategy, not a shortcut or a hack. If you take the time to do it right, you'll end up with an amazing book that will serve as a cornerstone of your business for years to come. 

Feel free to post your comments and questions below!


I'm hard at work on my online course, Blog to Book Bootcamp,
which will be out in late spring!

 
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If you'd like to get on the waitlist, click here.


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Bryna Haynes is a word alchemist, book strategist, and the founder and President of The Heart of Writing. She's also the chief editor for Inspired Living Publishing and the best-selling author of the multiple-award-winning book, The Art of Inspiration: An Editor's Guide to Writing Powerful, Effective Inspirational and Personal Development Books. In over a decade as a book coach, editor, ghostwriter, and publishing consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors find their authentic voices and create powerful, memorable, successful works. She lives outside of Providence, RI, with her husband, Matthew, their Moonbeam, Áine, and their Little Star, Aelyn. 

Bryna Rene Haynes