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A Blog, a Book and a Business: One Author’s Journey

This guest post is by Kevin Cullis of MacStartup.com.

I don’t like writing. Or should I say, I used to not like writing. My reason? I found no reason to write other than writing a college paper or something for work; it was a requirement; I had to do it.

I was bored with my computer sales job and still had plenty of talent and motivation to do something—but nowhere to channel it.

book

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One day at work I had an idea: use my talents to write about my experience. Initially I had no clue where this was going to lead me, much like spontaneously taking a late night drive on a country road and only seeing as far down the road as your headlights will shine: let’s just head out into the open road of writing and see where it leads!

My book idea

To start, I just began writing, and days turned into weeks. My idea was to combine both business processes and computer solutions into one content document, not separating these into one subject or another and then into finer and finer details like other writers have done.

This writing was different from my previous efforts: I now had an outlet for my pent-up boredom and an engaging interest in my subject matter because it combined both my talents and experience selling computers to businesses.  In addition, I had daily, ready-made access to content and a list of potential readers.

Whenever I came across something relevant in my work, I wrote it down—both the problem and solution. As my writing began to take shape, I organized the information into specific and logical sequential steps for my future potential business readers. My realtor wife even became a guinea pig in my endeavor. When I heard the familiar “Honey, I need some help,” I’d go in to help her, taking notes, and writing the solutions down when I was done.

Now for my blog

One day, a business customer recommended turning my writings into a book, and wondered when it would be done so she could buy one. Until then, it was just a writing idea, but now my idea took on a larger goal: to get a book published. I was now seeing farther down that lonely country road with larger and brighter lights of my writing journey.

In 2009, I started a blog because a fellow author said that during the one to two years it would take to write a book, my writing would improve and change. Talking with other bloggers, I was told that 250-750 words was an appropriate length for a blog post—and similar to having a goal of writing 1000 words a day for a book. Writing a blog would provide another outlet for increasing my monthly goal word output, and improve my writing skills. Later, I found out that blogging allows one to test out content ideas online and provides both personal and additional perspectives for the readers of the book. Also, an author’s blog almost always points to that author’s book.

In the spring of 2010 I attended the Colorado Independent Publishing Association conference and connected with other professionals in the publishing field. There, a local editor suggested that I use an initial (raised or drop) cap in my book design. I couldn’t afford Adobe’s InDesign or to pay someone to help me. I used Apple’s iWork Pages to write my book, and I had to eat my own dog food. But I did not know how to create a drop cap in Pages.

So I spent three hours finding the answer and, rather than lose this experience because of my infrequent use of it, I posted it on my blog. Within weeks it rose to near the top of my most-viewed articles, and still remains one of my most popular blog posts.

Not only were people hungry for my information, but I have personally referred to my site using my own blog to find long forgotten answers to problems. And if I hadn’t blogged about it, I’d have to revisit the process again. Oh, and when I showed my printed proof to the editor, she didn’t believe that I used a $79 office suite to produce what I did until I showed her the file on my laptop. Then she gave me a B+ for my results.

Book, blog, and business working together

As both my book and blog posts progressed, my blogging experience awakened me to how a blog could be more useful for me. Over time I began noticing trends in my blog statistics. An affinity surfaced when I looked at monthly, quarterly, and even yearly post view counts. Using this information, coupled with my day-to-day interaction with business customers needing computers, I was able to get a much clearer vision of my content for both my book and blog.

When I first blogged, I considered it to be like shooting in the dark in terms of working out what to write about, but over time this multi-sourced feedback helped provide me with content direction. Writing my blog also helped change my book’s content to today’s third version. It’s one thing to scratch your own itch, but it’s even more motivating to get actual, statistical feedback from others who have the same itch that needs scratching.

Going forward from today with my blog, I’ll be using Google Analytics and keyword research to help determine what people are looking for, so that I can provide immediate answers to my ideal blog audience. Using this approach will help narrow down my potential content and solve a customer’s points of pain in the short term, but I have also found that it may not provide a good focus for all of my content. Here’s why. Answers people are searching for comes in two forms and everything in between: I know what I want to know (my drop cap example), and, I don’t know what I want to know (I have no clue what to look for).

The first search is easy. The second one is more important, but it’s solved by awareness and education.

So my future content will take on many forms. While some of my blog posts might be the “thrill of the road hot rod” looking for an adventuresome driving experience of immediate answers, be sure that I’ll also provide “slow, steady, reliable transportation” posts to educate my blog readers to find the right answers to their many different journeys and destinations.

AJ Michalka’s song title states it right—It’s Who You Are—so I write my blog posts about my subjects because it’s who I am. And watch out for the occasional spontaneous “road trip” breakout blog post occurring before a long weekend that just might shake things up a bit.

Can you see potential in your work, interests, and life to combine blog, book, and business? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

Kevin Cullis is a former US Air Force officer and considers himself an Entrepreneur, Mac
Evangelist, Business Geek, Husband, published author of a Mac business book, readaholic,
analytical, balding. He is the founder of MacStartup.com.

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Comments

  1. Kevin Kimes says:

    I hated writing in school as well. High school and College.

    But, apparently I learned something, because now that I actually enjoy writing and have a lot to “say”, I’m not half-bad at it.

    Ironic that I’m going from barely not-failing college writing courses to building a business on my writing.

  2. Michelle says:

    Fascinating article, and journey. What a great opportunity to expand your writing and move towards the questions that people need to answer. A true problem solving approach is priceless; we need to teach it to our kids.

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Thanks Michelle. We’re all in a discovery mode of life, you just need to keep moving forward and the opportunities will present themselves.

      Kevin

  3. Kevin Cullis says:

    Hey Kevin,

    Not only “writing brothers” but “name brothers” as well. :-)

    The other part that I did not say in my piece was that because of technology, i.e. POD (Print On Demand) businesses, there is now no reason NOT to get published, including taking your blog and creating a book from your content. I originally thought I’d never get published, but because there’s no barrier to entry to publishing, it opened up a whole new opportunity for me, for YOU, and others.

    Keep on writing, Kevin.

  4. Justin says:

    Hey Kevin
    That’s awesome that you are writing a book. Writing effectively and properly will be learned over time through repetition and learning.

    Blogging on the other hand has a lot more to it. Writing editing, promoting, social media, product creation, analytics, SEO and so on.

    It’s funny when I tell people that I am a blogger. Most think I take an hour to write and publish a post and then I am done for the day. Ha.

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Justin, I have WRITTEN a book, take a look at my website, it’s available now. Both blogging AND writing a book require everything you mention. As Jack Canfield stated, “10% of your effort is in writing the book, the other 90% is in marketing.” This is no different than any other business, whether a lawyer, doctor, graphic artist, etc.

      And I’m still learning about writing better. As it has also been said, it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. :-)

  5. barry says:

    Ihave about 20 years of sales under my belt, i’ve often thought about a book

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Barry, it has become SO easy to write a book and to get it published that it’s not funny. There are plenty of POD (Print On Demand) companies that will help, just watch out for the vanity presses that will charge you lots of money and give you a basement full of books. POD will print 1, 3, 7, 30 or any number of books you want, hence the POD. Check my web site for more info on what it took me to get it done.

      The “surprise” on people’s face when they see my face on the back cover is PRICELESS!! :-)

      Also, my “expert” credibility goes way up in their eyes. It’s work, but worth it.

  6. Kevin Cullis says:

    @Justin, I have WRITTEN a book, take a look at my website, it’s available now. Both blogging AND writing a book require everything you mention. As Jack Canfield stated, “10% of your effort is in writing the book, the other 90% is in marketing.” This is no different than any other business, whether a lawyer, doctor, graphic artist, etc.

    And I’m still learning about writing better. As it has also been said, it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. :-)

    @Barry, it has become SO easy to write a book and to get it published that it’s not funny. There are plenty of POD (Print On Demand) companies that will help, just watch out for the vanity presses that will charge you lots of money and give you a basement full of books. POD will print 1, 3, 7, 30 or any number of books you want, hence the POD. Check my web site http://www.macgetit.com/my-book/ for more info on what it took me to get it done.

    The “surprise” on people’s face when they see my face on the back cover is PRICELESS!! :-)

    Also, my “expert” credibility goes way up in their eyes. It’s work, but worth it.

  7. Kevin, I so appreciate you post. I think we have all had “low” points in life and I get the “dog food” thing very well. During my 17 years as an LAPD regular and current Reserve – I see we are akin with your Air Force Career.

    I attempt to write “although not great at all times”, your post is something that will keep me focused and I am happy for your success.

    My BEST – Connor with HONOR!!!

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Hey Connor, the “low” points give rise to more opportunities, just keep ones eyes open to them. Hoorah!! :-)

      Just keep writing. As one author friend said your writing will change in the course of getting it done, so when you “puke out” your first draft (don’t get done with the first chapter and then go edit it), which is really not your first draft, it will look and flow terribly. Don’t worry, just keep at it.

      And my best to you.

      Kevin

  8. Andrew Hill says:

    Kevin, I found this post interesting and helpful. I also started Blogging as an activity to complement my book writing. I’ve started two blogs; one to give me experience in Blogging and to practise writing generally; the other to provide a platform for writing material specifically related to my book. If the blog and the book complement each other well, a business dimension may follow. Thanks for sharing your plans for taking your blog further; I might be able to follow your lead.

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Andrew, thanks for the positive comments and, please, tag along. One thing I’ll say is get consistent in your writing, both your blog and your book. Hint: don’t give the same content in your blog that’s in your book. :-)

      Kevin

      • Hi Kevin, With regard to duplicate or partly duplicate content, I’d like to make a quick note that there are times when it’s perfectly fine to overlap. Repurposing can be a great thing actually, For example, posting excerpts from a book on a blog is a good marketing strategy as people often want a taste before they buy. You can also use a short snippet from the book but add to it for the blog kind of like bonus footage that doesn’t make a final movie cut.

        Also, people have taken their blog posts and turned them into a book so the content is definitely duplicated then. Why does that work? Even if they’ve read each and every post already, many readers would love to have them bound together in one place either for a convenience factor, or to have a physical keepsake/souvenir. And some people would read a whole book sitting at the beach, whereas they only read a blog sporadically.

        Of course, if you are going to repurpose, the key to doing it successfully is to make sure each product is valuable in its own right. Do that, and it should be a win-win all around.

        Congratulations on getting your book done and thanks for sharing your journey to inspire others!

        • Kevin Cullis says:

          Absolutely Cheryl. Originally the comment was made that you do a mix of book and blogging, but as you outline it now becomes a hybrid of an author/blogger’s content in a form the reader wants. The reason why I like analog books is to mark them up with my comments. I find that when I reread books I see things differently.

          Kevin

  9. Fazreen says:

    I hate writing as well. Now I find something fun to do which are designing and writing at the same time. It takes me two years to discover what I prefer the most..

  10. Kevin Cullis says:

    Hi Fazreen, then you’ve started down a similar path as I did: you have an interest and you find it needs to be expressed in writing, or print, and at some point maybe moving into audio and/or video. My book changed three times in six years, but my idea did not.

    As it has been said, you can’t steer a parked car, keep yourself moving and you’ll head in directions that you did not see months ago.

    Thanks for the comment.

  11. alls says:

    one of my hobby is writing and blogging,2 elemen make me happy and fresh.

  12. Sharninder says:

    What about getting a publisher for the book ? Or did you self publish ? Looking at your blog just now, and It seems like your blog is now just a channel and the book is the main money earner ?

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Shaminder, I independently published it. Why? Primarily because I figured that the change that is occurring with the publishing industry today, much like the iPod changed the recording industry, that I’d have fewer chances of getting published by anyone. I also wanted to do it all myself to see what it took to get it done, an “eat my own dogfood” approach, and to show others that it can be done and you don’t have to have a big company backing you to do it. If I did get a publisher, it sort of defeats my blog site, right? :-)

      Regarding income, it’s about multiple income streams, and I’ve got some other projects that I’m working on behind the scenes that will be out over the next few month, so check back.

      Thanks for your comments.

  13. Debi says:

    Kevin,
    Thank you for sharing your journey down the country road with us. Your writing skills, your ability to tell a story that paints a clear picture is so helpful. I am a writer who happened upon blogging. The daily discipline of posting quality work has revealed the ebb and flow of writing – it may not all be great, but like the tide it’s necessary. Low tide reveals both trash and treasure that were hidden before the water receded! So too my blog writing reveals areas I should focus on and areas not worth pursuing. Your post has set my eyes and vision towards the road ahead – I know there’s a book there and you have encouraged me to find it! Thank you!
    Debi

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Debi, oh so true about the ebb and flow. My first writing coach mentioned about doing a first draft by “puking it out,” and then begin editing it. Many a day I had the “dry heaves” and had difficulty writing, but then the answer was to go read some more.

      You can only see further down the road when you take another step. Glad I helped out.

      Kevin

  14. Marie Noelle says:

    Really interesting post! Great journey, inspiring! Blogging is really a great way to improve your writing skills, especially if you blog everyday!

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Thanks Marie, looking back I’d say so myself, but during the journey there were ups and downs. I learned that if you intend to write, you need to write, and blogging is an avenue that helps propel that along. Now if I could just get the lurkers to comment. :-)

  15. Barry says:

    Kevin,
    Thanks for the post! I can identify with your approach as I write a blog called BookBlogBusiness.com. Another idea to bring Book + Blog together in a Business is to build a blog around your book’s central theme. Your blog becomes a platform from which to market, sell, and teach the topics contained in your book (if your book lends itself to that end). It can provide you with a business model that will produce results for a long, long time.

    I’ve used InDesign and MSWord to write books in the past and lately, the Mac App ‘Pages’ has caught my eye (especially at $20) for a potential book writing tool. You might give that a looksee as well. Thanks again for the post!

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Barry, that’s what I have done. Also, I wrote my book, both the interior file and the book’s cover, all done in iWork Pages. And using a POD (Print On Demand) printing company has made it great for startups. Thanks for the comments.

      Kevin

  16. Kendra says:

    I actually loved writing all throughout college. Now that I’m blogging, I’m trying to get out of the habit of creating content like I’m writing a research paper. Lol….

    Thanks, Kendra

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      ROTFLOL Kendra. Yea, same here, especially since I wrote a non-fiction book. BUT, I was able to add some fiction to my content to make it different. Stretch yourself.

      People want to get to know you. :-)

      Kevin

  17. Alex Neuer says:

    I hated writing too, but i do no get enough time to start something. Have a lot of thoughts but it’s all puzzled up, not sure what to do. It is great reading such an article, very in depth and detailed it enlightens one’s mind. Thank you for such a wonderful article

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Alex, in some cases it’s a matter of making the time, i.e. giving up some time doing one thing to do writing, that’s what I did. As you write it, and I mean just start writing, it later becomes a matter of finding a purpose for writing and then keep at it and as you progress you need to watch out for new opportunities as they present themselves.

      Regarding your “many thoughts” the key issue is to get them out of your head and put them down either on paper, and it’s OK in the digital age to do this, or on your computer. Once you get these thoughts out of your head you can now see an “affinity” or it sparks more ideas and then you see an affinity of your thought around a certain subject.

      My book went through three “versions” as I wrote it, but my idea did not change. That’s the creative process, construct and deconstruct your ideas into something better.

      Start and then move.

      Kevin

  18. Eddie Gear says:

    Kevin, I really enjoyed reading this post. I don’t know what is it about this post but found it useful.

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Hi Eddie, sometimes things need to marinate in our brain before we can “nail it down” for ourselves. Thanks for the comment.

  19. Great article. Work can be a rich source of inspiration for fiction too. You never know what will spark an idea that ends up being a story.

  20. Great post Kevin. I’m glad you turned what you didn’t think would work into a viable business. It’s also great how you found out a strategy (I know what I want or I don’t know). Great way to build content. Much luck to your success!

    • Kevin Cullis says:

      Thanks Briana. I could not see that far down the road that turning my thoughts into writings could turn into a business until much later. It’s like the term in American history, “Go West young man!” You don’t know what you’ll find until you take action and head in that direction. All journeys begin with a single step and cover many obstacles and turns, you just never know what you’ll see or do, but take that first step.