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From Blogger to Book Author: The 4-Step Guide

This guest post is by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.

Some bloggers don’t start a blog to make money. They start blogging, because they have a message that the world needs to hear. In other words:

Some bloggers blog to get published.

Recently, I signed a contract with a book publisher. I had always hoped to one day publish a book, but I never thought it would happen in a few months.

What made this possible? In a word: blogging.

Planning a book

Image copyright Lasse Kristensen - Fotolia.com

If you want to go from blogger to book author, you’ll need to do a few things. But the pay-off can be significant.

Why you should publish a book

With the rising popularity of ebooks and self-publishing, why should you go with a traditional publisher?

Why even write a book at all? Doesn’t a blog suffice?

Well, no. Not always. In some cases, self-publishing (especially your first book) may not be a good idea.

Reasons to work with a publisher

Although self-publishing can work just fine, there are still some legitimate reasons to go traditional:

  • Marketing: A publisher will offer its resources and knowledge to help you not only promote your book, but consider the marketability of it before it’s published.
  • Editing: A publisher will help you with the actual writing, as well as proofreading and copyediting. Normally, you would have to pay someone to do this or do it yourself.
  • Authority: There is still a great deal of social clout when it comes to having a published book from a reputable publisher. Publishing a book will make you more of an authority in your niche.

Of course, some authors make good money off ebooks without ever going through a publisher. So this may not be for everyone. But it’s at least worth considering. (Even Darren and Chris G. released their Problogger book through Wiley. It’s not about money as much as it’s about influence.)

If you’re interested in becoming a published author, there are the three steps you’ll need in your path to publishing.

Step 1: Build a platform

All publishers want to know the same thing: Do you have a platform?

In other words, are you “legit”? Do you have the audience and authority to speak on a particular topic? Money is so tight in publishing that if authors don’t bring their own marketing chops, they have little hope of succeeding.

A platform can range from a podcast to a television program; however, in our case, we’re going to assume it’s a blog.

Why a blog is a great platform

Blogs are great for authors, because of the following reasons:

  • A blog allows you to practice writing.
  • A blog allows you to capture email addresses (with a service like Feedburner or Aweber).
  • A blog allows you to communicate a core message over time.

My blog has been instrumental in helping me find my voice as an author, as well as providing some content that I’m actually re-purposing for my upcoming book.

Step 2: Release a manifesto

Once you’ve built a blog and starting building a decent audience, you can now work on something that articulates your core beliefs: a manifesto.

A manifesto is a short, actionable ebook that you give away for free. The point of it is to spread idea and help you connect with your tribe (i.e. people who share your beliefs).

This can also be a great way to capture attention, by exchanging the ebook for people’s email addresses. I grew my email list from 75 to 1000 subscribers in a week, thanks to a manifesto. And it also caught the attention of my publisher. It works.

If writing a manifesto sounds hard or overwhelming to you, don’t worry. It’s not.

The DIY way to publish a manifesto

  • Find the content. Dig up an old blog post or series of posts that resonated with your readers.
  • Develop it. Build upon your original idea and edit out what’s irrelevant.
  • Finish writing. Shoot for 1000-10,000 words long. It needs to clearly communicate one, important idea. The shorter you can make it, the better.
  • Create it. You can do this through a program like Word or Pages (for Mac), or you can use a slide presentation program like PowerPoint or Keynote and export as a PDF. Michael Hyatt also has a great seven-step tutorial for how to do this. (Note: This may create a huge file, depending on the length of your e-book. If you get something that’s over 10 MB, you can use the program PDFshrink to make it smaller.)

Alternatives

If you’re looking to spread an idea quickly, you can even publish the manifesto through a site like ChangeThis.com. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, and Guy Kawasaki have all done this. Only the best ones make it, though, so this doesn’t guarantee you’ll get an ebook published through them. (See mine here.)

You can also hire someone to do it for you, if you have the budget.

Step 3: Connect with people through social media

Social media is a great way to find fans and create advocates that will spread your work for you.

The great thing about social media is that it’s social (obviously), which means it can lead to other meaningful interactions, including real-life relationships.

From follower to friend

I’ve connected with more people through Twitter than any other way. This has led to grabbing coffee with other writers, picking up freelance gigs, and even getting to meet some of my heroes. It’s the best networking resource I’ve found.

Starting a Facebook page for my blog has also been a great way to share content and connect with my audience.

The people you connect with through social media may begin as followers, but they can quickly become friends and even patrons of your work. If you do it right—by adding value to your readers and followers—these people can become life-long supporters of you.

What better asset to have before publishing your first book than an already large and growing fan base? The publishers will be fighting over you.

Step 4: Establish your brand by adding value

Every author needs a brand—an established voice that makes his or her content unique.

Blogging can help you do this, because it allows you to practice in public. It also attracts an audience, which can help you in defining (and building) your personal brand as a writer.

Serve your way into influence

The best way to earn trust and establish a brand is to serve people.

Do the grunt work. Hustle to help people, and you will get noticed. In a world full of self-promoting sleaze bags, if you add value to people’s lives, you will never have a marketing. People will come find you.

This is a great way to brand yourself as an author, too. Someone who serves others doesn’t have a hard time selling books. People know you’re going to help them, so they’re eager to pay money to hear what you have to say.

And if you can demonstrate that, a publisher will be honored to work with you.

Interview experts

Another way to do this is by interviewing experts. You can seek out other authors and bloggers in your niche and ask to interview them. Do this over time and you’ll not only deliver value to your readers, you’ll also build relationships with influential people.

Pretty soon, people will come to think of you as the expert—which is exactly what publishers are looking for.

All of these relationships (if founded on serving others) will come back to help you. It’s true what they say: what goes around comes around.

You’ll be publishing a book in no time.

Jeff Goins is a soon-to-be-published author, blogger, and nonprofit marketer. You can connect with him on Twitter @jeffgoins and Facebook and get his free, weekly newsletter. You can also find out more about his path from blogging to book contract by getting his eBook Every Writer’s Dream: How to Never Pitch Your Writing Again, which is free for a limited time.

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Comments

  1. I’ve been drafting an ebook, but without the manifesto. Thanks, Jeff, for the advice.

  2. Dean Saliba says:

    I’ve been saying I’ll write a book since I was about 8 years of age, 2012 is finally the year I am going to do it and I fully believe that if it wasn;’t for my 10+ years of blogging then it would remain just a pipe dream. :)

  3. Great article! A lot of food for thought. Can see there’s a few learnings I need to incoorporate into my own blog strategy – not because I want to publish a book, it just makes good sence!

    Thanks Jeff

  4. Hi Jeff,

    Simple and powerful tips here.

    Blogging helps you establish authority, Build a following, network with leaders, add value, become valuable. With some clout publishers will take note. But the process can’t be rushed. Build a community and you are golden.

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

    RB

  5. darkduck says:

    There are plenty of free tools to create books (being it manifesto or finished product). Free packages like LibreOffice or OpenOffice.org have nice built-in tools about this.

    http://linuxblog.darkduck.com/2011/11/how-to-create-ebook-with-openofficeorg.html

  6. I am thinking of writing a book as a free giveaway for my list which i will be starting soon. This post has come at a very right time for me. thanks

  7. Amit Shaw says:

    Just awesome sharing. Thanks. And I liked it. I just started to blogging and this site is really Good For me as well as for new blogger. Thanks.

  8. I never really understood the importance of having a “manifesto” but now it totally makes sense. Compiling posts about who I am as a person, and my experience creates a story. And people can relate to stories so much better. I wasn’t thinking of writing an ebook until reading this, but it’s inspiring how you are going from blogger to published author. Good luck Jeff! Can’t wait to read more about your journey.

  9. Christin says:

    Very simple and encouraging. Thank you, Jeff.

  10. Amy says:

    Interesting. I can’t wait to be an author of a book. :)

  11. Toni says:

    Great post, Jeff. Publishing a book is a super way to build credibility and influence.

    Just a note on self vs. traditional publishing: while both will get you to the end goal (being published), self-publishing gives you the control over your end product (and profits) that traditional publishing lacks. In addition, it can speed up the publishing process — wading through the submission process with a traditional publisher can easily take six months to a year (or more).

    If you’re willing to put hard work into (or sub out) the writing, editing, design and promotional aspects of your project, self-publishing can certainly provide the greater payoff. There’s tons of self-publishing info on the web, too (but, sadly, also many scams) — give us a shout if we can help!

  12. This has given me a lot to think about, Jeff, particularly about ebooks. I have an idea that I think might translate well to an ebook but I am writing a book proposal and since the book is my first priority, I wouldn’t want the same content to be in both. How much overlap of material is too much?

    • Jeff Goins says:

      It depends, MaryLauren. My publisher is letting me re-purpose some of my previously-published content for my hardcover book. I think you can do whatever you want, as long as you’re clear with your readers. If you’re honest, I think you can reuse your content however you like.

  13. Justin Mazza says:

    Congratulations on signing your book deal Jeff. Once I decided to give away a free eBook to my newsletter subscribers my sign up rate increased dramatically. Blogging has been a great way for me to write, connect with others and most importantly for me, to do something new.

  14. Susan Sundwall says:

    Jeff, You nailed it with your three reasons to go with traditional publishing. It’s what I’ve always thought and hope to do. All around a stellar blog post.

  15. Guy Hogan says:

    I’m working hard to employ your excellent advice. But so far my ebook is not moving. So, obviously I’m doing something wrong. It’s been three years since I’ve been trying to promote my ebook through my blog.

  16. Thanks Jeff, this article couldn’t have come at a better time!

  17. Drewry says:

    congratulations on getting a book contract with the publishing company. You are officially and “globally vocal” :-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cIuGN2f3WM

  18. Great to see another blog post here. Congrats! We all have lots to learn from you.

  19. Great tips. A lot of people have a book (or two) inside them, waiting to be written. I suppose that is why a number of people begin blogging in the first place and you are giving them hope that it can happen. Thanks for the tips and great advice.

  20. Ashu Jain says:

    Nice tips. Turning into a book Author isn’t easy but for a blogger who works so hard its kind of a child’s play taking so much of pressure. I am thinking of advicing a friend to turn into a book author cum blogger .

  21. Jerry says:

    Thanks for the tips Jeff, 2012 is the year I am going to finally write a book =)

  22. Lisa Walker says:

    A very interesting and detailed article that managed to explain all the benefits and difficulties of the decision. It is surely useful to know the motivation of such important step forward in order to make it a successful one and to be ready to all possible consequences.

  23. I’m waiting for the day when writers abandon books and write blogs only. It may take a hundred years or so, but I’m very patient.

  24. Jeff Gross says:

    I think i hve some friends from the industry and they all have told me that when someone starts writing a blog for making money the process could take up-to an year to finally earn some money. If someone starts for the love of writing and to share the knowledge he has, has always been able to make money faster. I guess the same thing happened with you too..

  25. Jeff Goins says:

    you’re welcome, Jerry. Good luck!

  26. Blogging sure got me started on writing. I can’t stop now. I blog almost everyday and I have a book that I wrote last month editing now. I am just trying to figure out the best way to publish it. So many options now.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      I’ve experienced a similar thing. One idea: start with an eBook and go from there. Once it spreads, you can print it with a good degree of confidence that it’ll move (if it sells in the eBook format).

  27. Zahoor Shah says:

    Thanks jeff. Im gonna review and polish my first book before publishing it, that i previously thought was almost completed. your tips came just on time and very useful….

  28. Karen says:

    It’s on my “list” this year too! Great tips, I appreciate them coming this month…Getting started with the template so good news! Thanks.

  29. Jungo says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this post. I began the year motivated to do what I have not done in the previous year, and reading this has added to fire I have burning inside. Thank You!

  30. Matt says:

    Very nice topic and article, i think a true blogger is writer in nature, he can write unlimited books.

  31. Debbie Higgs says:

    Some great information here Jeff.

    Can I just add that, when thinking about publishing or self-publishing a book, one of the first things you should do is identify your target market/s very early on. This forms a large part of your book marketing strategy which, as you point out, is well served by all of the forms of social media and online tools as well as traditional book marketing methods. Too often people are distracted by not knowing WHO their book is targeted at and WHERE they can best interact with them

    If anyone is contemplating publishing their book in 2012, may I be so bold as to suggest a peek at my book The Self-publisher’s Marketing Guide. Available in print ($14.95) or eBook ($9.95) from http://www.palmerhiggsbooks.com.au. I am also presenting a workshop at the Victorian Writer’s Centre on this topic in January

    Happy blogging and writing!

  32. Dredd says:

    Thanks Jeff. This is a great step by step tutorial that I love to start with my blog.

  33. Richard Ng says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the sharing, especially on the idea about manifesto. It’s kind of a fresh idea to me… All the best in your traditional book publishing venture.

    Cheers!

  34. That is so true, Jeff. A blog really is a great platform for putting across our messages and create an engagement around them. One thing I learned before I became a bestselling author and long before Inc Magazine voted my company as one of the fastest growing companies is that it is really important to create your brand value. Brand building should be incorporated as early as possible for any business.

  35. Chirag says:

    Nice one.
    Blogging helps in spread out messages!
    Blogging is passion :)

  36. Whitecorp says:

    Appreciate you sharing Jeff. Currently I sell some self penned maths worked problem e-books on my site, hopefully one day I will score with an established publisher like you. Happy new year and all the best. Peace.

  37. Farhan Syed says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I think in some way your post is contradicting on itself.

    On one hand you mention the advantages of traditional publishing and on the other you also teach us the advantages of building a community. If you already have a community then why ever go for traditional publishing? Your subscribers will easily buy your self-published book.

    You say the three main benefits of traditional publishing are:

    1) Marketing
    2) Editing
    3) Authority

    Marketing – Now if you already have a great fan following you can market your book for yourself. At the most the publisher can ask bookstores to put your book in the front shelf. Anything else?

    Editing – As you yourself say that you can hire an editor for that. Yes you’ll have to pay for it but publishers usually take away about 90% of the M.R.P. While in self publishing you will lose only about 30%. So in a way traditional publishers are “charging” money for their services. That’s not free too.

    Authority – Yes this still remains the strongest reason why authors go for traditional publishing. But I think with more and more people self-publishing their books and people like Amanda Hocking selling more than a million of her self published books, this aspect is changing.

    Besides, the advantages of self-publishing far outnumber the advantages of traditional publishing. You showed only one side of the coin. Please remember most ProBlogger readers do not own their blogs. (Darren once said that here. I lost the link – I’m sorry.) And as such they usually do not have a detailed knowledge of the topics discussed here. I think it would have been much better if you would have mentioned or given a link of an article that discusses both the pros and cons of traditional publishing. Something like this – http://freelanceswitch.com/money/writers-self-publish/

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Hi Farhan. I appreciate the feedback. Here’s my answer to your comment about my possibly contradicting myself:

      Why should you go with a traditional publisher, if you can build a community with a blog? Because you can make more money off of the authority of getting a book published than off of the actual book sales. In other words, a book can be a brochure that establishes you as an expert; then, you can use that social clout to generate leads for speaking engagements, consulting services, or premium services/products.

      Here’s a great article that explains this concept more: http://michaelhyatt.com/forget-the-royalties-just-give-your-book-away.html

      • Farhan Syed says:

        Thanks for the reply. Yes I agree that traditional publishing will give you more respect than self-publishing. But one question.

        Speaking conferences, consulting services and things like that will only come to you if you SELL A LOT.

        If you traditionally publish and sell no decent amount of books – no one would consult you. Why should he?

        But even if you self-publish and sell a lot – people will flock around you to learn your methods.

        I (like many others) started following the blog of Amanda Hocking only because she sold a lot of her books. I’m sure if she starts an author coaching program a lot of people will join it.

        Don’t you agree?

  38. alex says:

    imho. Its just business. When blogging the person develops his abilities in writing. Then blogging becomes a step when the man understands that he can step higher going famous an earning real cash.

  39. Rick Carufel says:

    I started by writing SciFi and Horror. I published some eBooks and joined social media sites. Then I started blogging. Well the books are still lost in the six million books on Amazon but I now get paid regularly to write blogs on a variety of subjects. I make about $20 an hour blogging and have learned a lot about internet and social marketing since that is the specialty of two of my clients. So I am in a much more knowledgeable position to market my eBooks online than I was before and I get paid for learning.

  40. john1989 says:

    nice guide for bloggers to improve their blogging.
    thanks Jeff Goins

  41. Dan Smith says:

    I published a memoir about my travels as a Sailor a few months ago through Smashwords. It was free and pretty easy. I haven’t given the book away because I didn’t know I should, but I’ll look into it. My goal this year is to focus on some more of my Christian and mentor writing and publish something in that vein as well. Good post, and thanks for the head’s up about a free manifesto. I appreciate it!

  42. Yes, marketing, editing & authority are the win-win position for the publishers.

  43. John Cole says:

    There are lots of affiliate products and sites that are surely good, but how do I know if it is reliable that will
    benefit you on the long run?

  44. Jeff,
    I read the original post on your blog and was so happy for you. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. You had a clear vision, focused on your market, worked hard and made it happen. Congratulations.

  45. I definitely like the way you used Problogger as an example of gaining influence. When you decide to start blogging, you have to ask yourself whether you want your presence to be felt in the blogging world or you want to sit passively watching others succeed while you get left behind.
    It takes hard work and dedication and me being someone who has just written an article on how to become a famous author on my blog , i have to admit this is a pretty good post. I might possibly recommend you to my readers
    Keep wrting Jeff, hope to read more of your posts soon.

  46. I think publishing a book would be great, because you pretty much become an instant authority on whatever subject you choose. The problem though is creating something worthy of being a book that hasn’t already been beaten to death while still staying in the industry your choosing.

  47. Scottish Mum says:

    Well done on your boo publishing deal. It sounds perfect.

  48. Patrick C. says:

    I have been wanting to start on a book for a couple years now but keeps getting pushed back. But now that i just started blogging that desire is coming back.

    Thank you Jeff and problogger for the info and advice

  49. Jason says:

    As someone in search of a publisher, these tips are helpful.

  50. Nicolaj says:

    Well i dont plan to be a book author, but i love the part about how to publish a manifesto..
    Thanks for your advice :)