Publishing a book takes effort, so before you start, do a reality check: Do you have what it takes to make your blog a book?
Congratulations! Your blog’s been doing well for a while now: you’ve built a fan base, carved out a niche, and looking back on your articles, you’ve produced tens of thousands of words. So why not publish a book?
You’ve already got credentials as a seasoned blogger, and putting your work together in a book will bolster your reputation. Your readers enjoy what you write, and they’ll be pleased to have it bound together as a book.
But publishing a book will take more effort than maintaining a blog, so before you start, do a reality check: Do you have what it takes to make your blog a book?
Take inventory. Let’s say you blog about “The World of the Fennec Fox.” You’ve been telling your fascinated readers all about this little nocturnal bugger with the unusually big ears running around the Sahara of North Africa. The fennec fox community knows and loves you.
While not every book with good content succeeds, several factors can work to your advantage.
- Readership. You’ve started building readership with your blog. It’s a lot tougher if you aren’t starting from a strong reader base.
- Recognition. People recognize you as an expert on the fennec fox, so they’ll be more likely to buy your book.
- Community. Are you well-known and active in the larger fennec fox community? Do they recognize you as someone who always offers value? If so, you’ll get more than readership: you’ll get active support.
- Comments. If you have an active comments section, you’ve got the beginnings of an audience.
Of course, there will always be competition. A book has the best chance in the market when it offers unique value. It needs to say something that others aren’t saying in a way that makes it stand out.
"It's also important to consider if the content available on your blog would translate to a book format, if you'd be able to provide new and exclusive content in your book that devoted blog readers haven't seen before, or ideally both," says Andrea Kiliany Thatcher, marketing manager at Smith Publicity.
The economics of self-publishing
Self-publishing is an entrepreneurial activity. Keep that in mind at all times. Create a simple spreadsheet or ledger, keep good financial records, and record all your income and expenses.
There are degrees of “do it yourself.” If you do it all, you have to set up an e-commerce site that makes downloads available and collects payment for them. This can be the same site as your blog, if you have appropriate software and a payment processing service.
You can also use a service like BookBaby that serves as your conversion specialist, book producer, and book distributor.
Should you consider crowdfunding?
You might want to consider crowdfunding your book. A crowdfunding campaign gives you advance publicity and helps create (and gauge) the level of interest in your project. Of course, if you run a successful campaign, you’ll also have money to produce and market your book in advance of publishing.
Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe are three of the more popular crowdfunding platforms, and each has its own approach. Kickstarter offers an all-or-nothing model, where you receive nothing and your supporters’ money is refunded if you don’t meet your specified goal. Indiegogo gives you the option of “flexible” or “fixed” funding – the flexible option lets you proceed whether you meet your target goal or not. GoFundMe doesn’t require you to set a target.
Running a successful crowdfunding campaign requires planning, effort, and an engaged community. Let your supporters know in advance what your target goal is, when the campaign will start, and how long it will run. You need the support of your core following to contribute money and spread the word. [Editor's note: a crowdfunding campaign might also help fund book publicity services. Or if you hire a book publicist first, they can help increase awareness about the campaign in the media.]
Setting the right premiums are a big part of a successful campaign. All contributors over a minimum threshold should get an eBook, while higher-level supporters might get acknowledgment in the book, a mention on your website, personalized thank-you cards, and signed copies of the book.
You can get as creative as you’d like with your rewards, but you have to remember that when you start a crowdfunding campaign, you’re accepting an obligation. If you meet your funding threshold, you have to come through – don’t launch a campaign unless you’re sure you can deliver the book and the premiums.
You can’t just create a book completely on your own and expect it to sell. However good you are at writing, you can’t be your own editor. At a minimum, you need a skilled proofreader, but you should seriously consider employing a good copy editor. Software can play its part, but spell checking software won’t catch homonym errors like “hole” for “whole” or “pore” for “pour.” Same goes for grammar checkers.
A copy editor doesn’t just check for spelling and grammar mistakes, she makes sure your writing is the best it can be. A copy editor will catch repetitious passages, excessive use of the passive voice, and much more.
Your blog might include quotations, lyrics, images, comments, and guest contributions – perhaps some borrowed from other blogs and places online. When you’re selling a book, potential copyright violations will get more scrutiny. You’ll have to be mindful of Fair Use and contributors’ rights.
People who let you post articles and other content on your blog haven’t necessarily given you permission to include them in a book. You need to ask them and get clearances. They may be thrilled to have their content included, but if they say no, you do not have the right to include their content in your book – even if it’s intended as a giveaway.
Whether traditionally or self-published, you’ll be competing with a host of other books, so yours needs to look as attractive and professional as possible. Like it or not, people do judge a book by its cover, and yours will appear on your website, on online retail stores, and everywhere your book is promoted or sold. A bare title or an amateur illustration will not encourage readers to buy, but a cover by a skilled designer will tell them you’ve put thought and care into the book.
As a self-publisher, you’ll also have to be a self-marketer. Harness the resources you already have: the place to start is your blog. If anyone will be interested in your book, it’s the people who already read your material.
Once the book is published, write a blog entry alerting your readers of the great news. Thank them for their support with a discount code. Put a conspicuous, permanent link to buy your book on the home page, along with an image of the cover.
If you have a mailing list and newsletter, promote your new book: give your newsletter readers a distinct discount code. As a general rule, spread discount codes around as much as you can, and tailor each for your different promotions so you can track sales and determine which avenues are working best.
Social media promotions will be a big part of your strategy. Again, use the cover image, and be persistent but NOT annoying. The key with social promotions is engagement. Make your posts read like part of a conversation, not an ad. Talk about what’s in the book and what it was like to create this work. Invite responses.
Time to publish
Turning a blog into a book is a lot of work, but you’ve got the content and a reader base, so you’re off to a good start. It takes planning and commitment: you need to figure out how you’re going to proceed before diving into the deep end. You also need to recognize that the work does not end when the book goes up for sale.
It’s a challenge, but you’ll have the reward of being a published author, and that alone should boost your recognition in your field.