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:
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 Business. www.PowerStoriesBook.com.