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Build Your Brand to Get a Book Deal

This guest post is by Valerie Khoo from www.ValerieKhoo.com.

This article is the second of a three-part series on how to build your brand through your blog and get paid for your creative output and expertise. The first part was about How to build your brand to write for magazines.

Now that you’re addicted to blogging, you might want to explore other forms of writing. Like writing books. So how do you achieve what many consider to be the holy grail of publishing—a book deal?

The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, has done it. Nicole Avery from the blog Planning with Kids has written a book of the same name. Kerri Sackvillle (author of When My Husband Does the Dishes… and The Little Book of Anxiety) got her first book deal after her agent pointed several publishers to her blog.

And this month, Wiley is publishing my book Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Business. All these books got the nod because they had the power of a blog behind them.

So how can you turn your blog into a best-seller? Here’s your five-step plan.

1. Determine what your book is about

You might fancy the idea of writing a book. But you need to be clear on what you want to write about. Is it a memoir, how-to, cookbook, fiction, or paranormal urban teenage romance?

Your book idea needs to resonate with the brand you’ve built as a blogger. If you already have an established blog, then it makes sense that your book is related to the themes you cover. After all, if you’ve been blogging about food for two years, your readers are probably going to be a bit confused if you decide to turn out a book on martial arts.

2. Can you slap some posts together and call it a book?

In some cases, yes. In most cases, no. This might be fine if you’re selling your own ebook from your website, but most mainstream publishers usually want original material.

When I was negotiating with my publisher, they particularly liked the fact that I was writing my book from scratch. In fact, only about 500 words from my blog ended up in the 60,000-word book.

Similarly Kerri Sackville says that blogging is very different to writing a book. “When you’re blogging, you’re creating a series of disparate—and often unrelated—posts. Your book, on the other hand, needs to have a common thread linking the the whole thing from beginning to end.”

3. Test possible topics

Your blog is a great testing ground to see what resonates with readers. The posts that generate the most comments, or the ones that are most shared will give you an idea of what topics your readers are most interested in.

If you’re in doubt about whether to include a certain topic in your book, write a blog post on it and see if your readers find it appealing.

4. Connect with the right people

The old saying is true: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

You could be the most amazing writer in the world but that’s a moot point if no one knows about you. It’s notoriously difficult to connect with people such as agents and editors in the book publishing industry, especially if you don’t live anywhere near the action.

However, social media has changed all that. I recommend using it to connect with people in the publishing industry such as:

  • authors
  • agents
  • publishers
  • editors

You can start by Googling lists of these people. However, you can also simply find these people with some logical deduction. Pick your favourite author (follow them), and check out the acknowledgements at the front of their latest book (they often thank their agent and editor—follow them too!). Their publisher will be listed in the acknowledgements (follow them as well).

Authors also often follow other authors/agents/editors/publishers—another good way to find relevant people to connect with.

Engage on social media with these people. Not all of them will want to know you, or even care who you are. But some will. Over time, nurture these relationships and make it known that you’re writing a book.

It’s this very strategy that blogger Kerri Sackville used which finally landed her a book deal—and couple of best-selling books along the way. Similarly, I first developed a Twitter relationship with publishers Wiley in Australia, before it progressed to email, then face-to-face meetings and then a book deal.

5. Write a book proposal

I strongly recommend that you do this even if you haven’t made contact with a publisher yet. Effectively, you are writing this book proposal to no one. It’s simply going to benefit you.

Why? Because when you write a book proposal this helps you distil the essential elements you need to consider before you even approach a publisher. Take time to do this at the start because, quite simply, it will help you write a better book.

This proposal contains key information like what your book is about, who will buy it, why it’s likely to sell, why you’re the ideal author to pen it, and so on. Here are the essential elements of a book proposal:

  • What is your book about? Write a one-page synopsis of your book.
  • Who are you? Write a few paragraphs about who you are and why you’re ideal to write this book.
  • Who will buy your book? Identify the types of readers you think will buy your book. Don’t say “everyone”! “Everyone” will not buy your book. But a group like “30 to 45 year old women who are trying to raise a family while earning part-time income” is a clear demographic that can be targeted when publishers determine their marketing campaigns.
  • List competitive titles. It’s good to know what other books are out there so that you don’t write yours only to find there’s already one in stores about exactly the same topic.
  • Consider your marketing and promotion strategy. In theory, your publisher is responsible for this. However, many authors/bloggers are taking this into their own hands. If you have a marketing strategy outlined to promote your book, you’ll be more appealing to a publisher than an unknown author who has no idea where to start promoting their book.
  • Write a chapter breakdown. If you’re writing a non-fiction book, map out every chapter in the book. Don’t worry, you can change it later if you find it’s not working for you. If you’re not entirely sure where your book is going, do this anyway. This process forces you to think through how you would structure your book and, importantly, whether you have enough material and interesting information to create a compelling one.
  • Write three chapters. If you do approach a publisher with a proposal and haven’t included any chapter samples, they’re going to ask you to provide them anyway. This process also helps you discover whether you love or hate the writing process.

Ultimately, remember that writing a book is completely different from blogging. But if you’re up for the challenge, you could end up with a book you can be proud of—and a brand new revenue stream.

Have you used your blog brand to pitch a book to a publisher? Tell us about it, and share your tips for success in the comments.

Valerie Khoo is founder of www.SydneyWritersCentre.com.au which offers online courses in magazine writing. She blogs at www.ValerieKhoo.com and is author of the new book Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Businesswww.PowerStoriesBook.com.

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Comments

  1. Chris Walker says:

    Your section on writing a book proposal is solid advice that can only lead to a better book. Thanks for the great tips, Valerie.

  2. Vicki says:

    I have written 2 historical novels and I do not have a blog. It sounds like you are saying that my blog and my brand should be related to my books. I admit I am uneasy about blogging. One of my fears is that I won’t have enough material. Do you have any advice for me?

    Thanks
    Vicki

    • Valerie Khoo says:

      Your blog/brand doesn’t have to be related to the content of your books. As a historical novelist, I would say that your blog/brand should focus on you as a writer. And that you should use your blog to make connections and grow your (potential book-buying) audience.

      When it comes to non-fiction books (eg “How to ease back pain”, “The Four-Hour Work Week”, etc) then I would suggest, in many cases, it would make sense for your blog/brand to be related to your books.

      Hope that helps.

  3. Marcy Twete says:

    Great article, Valerie. I’d add as well that authors may want to think harder about self-publishing than ever before. These days, large publishing companies often don’t or can’t provide the marketing and PR support they used to to all of their authors, only the big big names. Self-publishing companies are becoming increasingly professionalized and putting out a product that rivals many of the large traditional publishers.

    After exploring all of the options for my own book, I’ve been told by multiple agents and publishers that my book would take 1-2 years to “sell” and ultimately longer to get on the shelves. I’ve made the decision to go with an incredibly reputable self-publishing company (be careful because some are seedy) in order to push up the production to a 6 month process. It was the right option for me and may be for others!

    • Valerie Khoo says:

      Great point Marcy. I think that self-publishing is a very viable – and often better – option for some authors. But I do think that you need to bent towards entrepreneurialism to make this successful. When you self-publish, you then need to undertake the time-consuming task of getting sales.

      This comes easy to some. But other people just want to write – and they hate the thought of sales and promotion. However, if this is something that an author relishes, then go for it I say!

  4. Richard Ng says:

    Hi Valerie,

    Nice article! The tips in this article just hit me on the right spot as I am just about to plan my very first book-writing venture.

    I have a question though and hope can get some advise from this community: what are the factors to consider whether to publish our book in Physcial Book or eBook format (or both), since the later is gaining its popularity and seems to be easier to launch?

    Thanks in advanced

    Cheers!

    • Valerie Khoo says:

      I think it depends on:
      * what your goal is
      * the primary method of distribution of the book/ebook
      * whether your target readers would prefer book/ebook
      Alternatively, offer both!

  5. Daniel Jordi says:

    This sounds very interesting, I am currently building my audience and provide as much value as possible. The growth is astonishing after only 6 weeks after launch date. I will look into that tool soon as I want to launch products that are perfectly tailored to my audience.

  6. I love the way you put in the fact that your sites i.e. blog and brand should relate to your book. It is quite an advice and even if they are quite different, you could include the overview of what your book is all about from time to time. I am sure this will not only help promote the book but it will also give you an idea of what your readers actually think about it. This post could be helpful and encouraging for me. Thanks Valarie!

    Tabetha

  7. Hi Valarie,

    I am actually glad someone is talking about this. Your article on building a brand for your book is great. It is as if you are referring every detail to me. It is concrete information that could improve the quality of the books of many writers. I am overwhelmed by this blog post. Thanks a lot Valarie.

  8. Valerie Khoo says:

    No problem Carmen. Now get out there and do it :)

  9. Ashley - Embracing Beauty says:

    Thank you for this post! Several self-publishing companies have contacted me to write a book for them but I was hoping to go the traditional route. I wanted to but I was unsure of how to start. Thank you for giving me the inspiration and concrete steps to get going!

  10. Elena says:

    A nice push that I needed. I have been wanting to write a book proposal for a while now, but always have something else come and cause a delay. Thanks to you, I actually typed up a few things tonight.

    Now, how about a few suggestions on the best way to look for a reputable agent?

    • Valerie Khoo says:

      When it comes to getting a reputable agent, a lot of people ask me if there is some kind of directory. Even though there are directories, I don’t suggest this as a useful place to start. My advice is to go to a book store and find books that are similar to the kind of book you would like to write (eg, if you want to write a business book, then go check out business books that are similar).

      Then look in the acknowledgements or the section where the author thanks people. Well, 99 per cent of a time they will thank their agent! Take note of that agent’s name. Compile a list (from the various books you’ve looked up) and this is a good start. If the agent has represented an author you admire (and who has published books in reputable stores), then you can make the assumption that this agent is legitimate, connected and has a good reputation.

      I would also suggest following them (but not stalking them!) on social media. I know a number of authors who have found their agents this way. They don’t bug the agent on Twitter but they engage with them in an authentic way and then, over time, the agent enquires about their writing.

      Good luck!

  11. Shelby Roth says:

    Hi Valeria.
    I’m absolutely encouraged by your tips above. It sounds so inspiring that I can now have a break-through o plan my very first book-writing venture! You just hit me on the right spot. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  12. Thanks a lot Valeria for your book writing proposal; sounds so solid and definitely a brilliant idea to me. I have been practicing on making a write on the novel I have been reading and it was uneasy for me to think of making a blog out of it, do you think it is necessary or possible? I truly have a feeling that it won’t be that disgusting! Anyway, thanks a lot for sharing. I enjoyed your encouraging write. I look forward into sharing more!

  13. Having just written a cookbook that was published by Mc-Graw-Hill (The Boat Galley Cookbook), I can say that unless your book is expected to be a blockbuster best seller, you WILL have to do most of the real marketing yourself. What the publisher calls “marketing” is primarily distribution.

    Having a blog does two things for you — the publisher sees that you already have fans who are likely to be interested, and if your blog has decent readership (doesn’t have to be huge) it shows that you know something about marketing it that is likely to translate to selling books.

    The marketing plan that you submit with the proposal is one of the most important things in convincing a publisher to take a chance on you.