Currently I’m streamlining and tweaking my hour-long “how to write a book presentation” for a 30-minute talk at BlogItSA. The topic is “blog to book,” which fits well since I documented my experience here making the transition from “blogger” to “published author.”
Here’s a description from a similar talk I gave last summer:
What’s the difference between a published author and someone with a great book idea? The published author integrates writing into her “regular” life, consistently uses basic organizational tips, effectively utilizes resources (including social media and the library), and grasps the realities of the industry.
Reading over my notes, checking with my fellow authors, undertaking some new research, and tweaking for a social-media savvy audience in anticipation for next week’s talk, I’ve come up with 5 essential things all bloggers need to understand before they make the leap.
I thought I’d share them with you here and also invite you to deep-dive into the topic of “blog to book”–and shoot down some common barriers to success–at next week’s conference in San Antonio.
1. Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Most of us bloggers maintain jobs and homes and other responsibilities. We don’t have the luxury of sitting for hours at a time and writing and then rewriting. As it happens, “slow writing” is as good for your schedule as it is for your end product. A little every day for weeks, months, or, yes, years is just fine. Relax.
2. Good writing is rewriting. That first draft is really an exercise in getting all the words down. They don’t need to be perfect. In fact if you labor over them too much, you may very well lose your enthusiasm for the project. For first drafts–and for endeavors like NaNoWriMo (yes, you can use it for non-fiction or fiction writing)–I suggest embracing what I call “hot mess writing.”™ Write down the words as they tumble out, leave gaping holes where you need to go back and research, and then fix it all later. Much as a photograph made on film, your book needs time to develop through the process of edits and rewrites. Don’t sweat the grammar too much early on. Save the nitpicking for later. (Note that a great resource for editing your grammar is Strunk & White’s classic, The Elements of Style*.)
3. Even if you want to write “just an e-book,” you still need a good editor. As much as I love Guy Kawasaki’s book on writing for the brave new world of publishing*, the reality is that reading a great book on how to write isn’t as essential as having a good editor. (Spoiler: Guy Kawasaki also talks about the importance of an editor. His book is really awesome.)
Did you know that there are different kinds of editors for different phases of your book? Depending upon your budget, you may hire one or several of them. The copy editor is the most essential, in my opinion. No matter how great you are at editing your own copy for your blog, your brain starts to “see” what you “meant” to say after your third read-through of the text.
4. Whether or not you work with a publisher, you still need to market your book. For bloggers and other social media veterans, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Most of us get this intuitively. And it’s much easier to market a book with an existing social media presence. In fact, if you have a respectable social media presence (meaning that a few thousand people other than your friends, immediate family, and random spammers follow you on places like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and increasingly Google+ ), then you’re also more apt to land a traditional publisher. At the same time, bloggers tend to be more willing to experiment with the freedom of e-publishing.
Translation: If you can complete a book,
then you can see your book in print one way or the other.
I’m on my second book contract. Pinterest–yes, Pinterest–help me gain my publisher’s notice. My current publisher is an indie, upstart organization that offered me advantages of both the traditional and e-publishing worlds. Yet I’ve learned first-hand that blog book tours, private Facebook discussion groups, solid Amazon reviews, and most importantly word-of-mouth are as essential for authors to nurture as their writing skills.
5. Selling your book is a marathon, too. Granted, if you’ve got a massive social media following, your book is priced well for the market, and you’ve got a great cover, then you may very well see brisk sales right away even with an e-book. That’s fantastic! Yet it is the rare author who generates significant revenue from a new book out of the chute. If you’re committed to building a career as an author, you’ll need to continue your marketing efforts for at least six months on a variety of social media sites–including your own blog.
Any questions? Leave a comment or question here or on Facebook.
• The Blood-Red Pencil: This is a great blog for learning about the ends-and-outs of publishing. It skews heavily toward the fiction realm, but I still find it useful as a non-fiction author.
• In anticipation of next week’s talk at BlogItSA, I’ve created two new resources for bloggers who want to transition from blog to book. The first is a Pinterest board featuring pins from myself and other bloggers-turned-authors. The second is a Google+ group. I’d love to see you over in one (or both) of those places.
• Looking for a good round-up of all of your e-publishing options? See David Cornoy’s summary on CNET Reviews.
• If you’re looking at e-books as a way to monetize your blog, note that the books have potential but they aren’t a guaranteed money-maker. If you’re looking at blog monetization in general, I heartily and enthusiastically recommend How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul* by Ruth Soukup of LivingWellSpendingLess.com. Not only is her book fantastic for bloggers who want to generate income ethically, Ruth clearly gets what works when writing an e-book, from the outstanding cover to the content inside.
* FCC Disclosure: This post contains Amazon.com Affiliate links selected primarily to assist readers in exploring this topic further in a convenient manner.