What happens if you don’t want to be discovered by a traditional publisher–if you’d rather book your own blog? Or what if you don’t get discovered by an agent or publisher and decide to become an indie publisher instead? Maybe you want to try your hand at producing an ebook… How do you make sure your booked blog–your newly minted ebook (or pbook) succeeds in the crowded marketplace? I decided to ask Rachel Thompson to shed some light on this topic. Why?
Thompson, author of A Walk in the Snark and The Mancode: Exposed, has sold about 14,500 of both her ebooks combined. Her ebooks also have been downloaded free about 100K times. A Walk in the Snark has been a #1 bestseller on a variety of Amazon paid lists–Motherhood, Parenting & Family, Family Relationships, Advice/How-To, Women’s Studies–and it’s been on the Top 100 Overall Paid bestseller list as well (#400). Mancode also has been a #1 Amazon paid bestseller on the Marriage, Parenting & Families and Parenting & Relationships lists. Plus it made the Top 100 Overall paid list as well.
Thompson’s first book was taken primarily from blog posts. She revised them for the book and added in about thirty to forty percent new original material. Thompson utilized a critique group, professional editor, proofreader, graphic artist, and multiple beta reviewers for prior to publishing.
Recently she was contacted by two agents via Twitter! I heard she remaining an indie author. But she’s doing something right. Let’s find out what.
What process did you use to find or choose the blog posts that went into your book? And out of how many posts did you have to choose?
For my first book, A Walk in the Snark, I created the book from posts (that I edited completely) and thirty to forty percent new original material not seen on the blog before. I worked off a Word document.
I went through each post individually to determine if it fell into the structure I had created with my editor. If it hit on a main theme, I used it. This takes longer than searching via tags or categories, but since at the time I wrote A Walk in the Snark I was on blogger, it made sense for me. I wanted to be thorough and not miss anything.
How did you then organize the posts, or did you keep the flow that you originally constructed on your blog?
I totally changed the format based on the structure we (my editor and I) created for the book. We created a theme (Men vs. Women) and then divided them further with regard to topic (relationships, parenting, work, etc.).
What kind of editing did you need to do to make the blog posts work in a book? Did you need to add transitions, revise for flow from one post to the next, rewrite because of the different timeline, etc.?
I did add transitions, which most folks seem to hate in SNARK!, so I’m revising. I deleted things like headings and bullets, so the posts read like essays; and, yes, I definitely had to revise with regard to removing timing so the essays weren’t dated.
Did you take your readers input (comments) into account before the manuscript went to press. How did comments affect the final version of the book?
I believe we should all follow our own vision. That said, I had over twenty betareaders, so if there was something glaring, I took it out or revised. Same with my second book, The Mancode: Exposed – while it is all original material, I still ran it by both my critique group and beta readers to ensure the content was on point.
I didn’t include blog comments, as I wanted it to be seen as a book, not a blog. The blurbs came from established authors who also beta read for me.
How did booking your blog make you a better writer?
I’ve been writing since age ten – all kinds of things: nonfiction, fiction, poetry. I found that creating a book from my nonfiction posts required focused effort to make it read more like a book. I learned the process of editing: creating structure to my work. I also identified where I needed to improve as a writer – creating action and movement, for example.
Did booking your blog or blogging your book make you a better blogger (and how)?
I believe so because by removing all the posts to create the book, I had to look closely at my content creation, tone, and how I interacted with readers. All good skills for any writer.
What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who might want to turn their blogs into books or blog a book?
Create an editorial calendar so you’re not searching for topics to blog about! Once you know your focus, write three or four posts at once so you have a month’s worth. (I post once or twice weekly.) Even start inviting guest bloggers (always good to promote other authors!), which gives you a bit of a break when in the editing process.
Do you have any tips you can offer on blogging books or booking blogs?
Tons! I teach the Blog to Book webinar for Triberr, which is a great app that helps you increase your reach and frequency via your blog and Twitter. Top tips, however:
- Always reply to comments.
- Follow your readers back. They are potential buyers of your book and word-of-mouth makers.
- Use your keywords across your entire platform.
What one thing did you do that increased your traffic or brought in more unique visitors?
Having a thriving social media platform is critical. Too many writers wait until they release the book to start getting serious about Twitter, Facebook, etc. I spent a good six months (the months I was putting the book together) to start targeting readers and creating a dedicated fan base. Pre-release activities can be as important, if not more so, than release.
I also recommend using WordPress.org (which is self-hosted). You own your own domain, can use plug-ins to do much of the work for you, and it helps increase your SEO and SMO digital footprint – all important when you release the book!
How long did it take for you to gain blog readers, and can you pin point any certain event that created a tipping point when readership increased noticeably?
When I wrote my first Mancode blog post, it was a HIT! (It’s in A Walk in the Snark, titled ‘Men are from Seinfeld, Women are from Friends.”) And people loved my humor and started following me. I created branding around the Mancode with regard to all my social media, and it just grew from there. I also actively follow back my readers and interact with them. Interaction and engagement will always take you farther than a one-way broadcast model.
There are several ways to do this: Using a commenting program like DISQUS allows you to comment and have it show on Twitter & Facebook. Most people will respond, and then you can follow them. You can Google them also. There are also WordPress plug-ins that capture who has tweeted your post so you can follow them that way.
Why did you decide to go the indie route?
I have many friends who are still waiting while their agent shops their book around. I now have two books out and am almost done with the third. While I have been contacted by a few agents (who found me on Twitter – yes, it happens!), I’ve stayed true to maintaining control over my work, which is important to me. The bias that exists against self-publishing is too general; not all self-published books are poorly made. I ran everything by a critique group of writers I respect; I also used a professional editor for content and structure, a proofreader, a formatter, and a graphic artist.
A good self-published book will do well. A bad one won’t. It’s not that difficult.
What’s the most important thing a blogger can do to get noticed in the blogosphere and build an author platform or fan base?
As a social media consultant, I hear this all day, every day. My advice is to build your following in an organic, authentic way:
- Follow people who are interested in your genre or topic.
- Be polite.
- Create a brand – focused keywords that you design your entire platform around (i.e., people know me at the Queen of Snark – not self-proclaimed by the way!), which helps people to understand exactly what content you provide.
About the Author
Rachel Thompson, aka RachelintheOC, is a published author and social media consultant. Her two books, A Walk In The Snark and The Mancode: Exposed are both #1 Kindle bestsellers! When not writing, she helps authors and other professionals with branding and social media for her company, BadRedhead Media. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut.
Thompson is currently working on her third book in the “Chronicles of Snark” series, titled Chickspeak: Uncovered, as well as her first collection of non-humorous essays, titled Broken Pieces.