For those bloggers and writers pursuing their passions or interests—especially personal ones, this blog-to-book success story proves how you can develop a following in any niche and inspire others with your story. Almost always—maybe not always—the world contains other people who want to read what you have to say and connect with another like-minded person. When you put yourself out there with a blog so you and your story can be found by those people, you find success.
Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston is an adult adoptee as well as a social worker, speaker, and now also an author. She debuted in the adoption activism community as a blogger whose writing processed both her personal and political experience of being adopted. That blog, The Declassified Adoptee, later landed her a traditional publishing book deal. To produce the manuscript, she booked her blog.
Amanda explains, “My longest-running and first blog, The Declassified Adoptee, began as Are You my Birth Mother? I started it as a way to locate my original family.” Through blogging about the search and reunion process, she obtained feedback from blog readers that they, too, were experiencing this journey. For her, much of the journey translated into social justice issues.
“After reuniting, I wanted to explore more adoption discourse, my own narrative within adoption, and the social justice issues surrounding the institution. I re-vamped the blog to support the exploration of these new goals,” she says. “The name ‘The Declassified Adoptee’ comes from the fact that I am part of a very small percentage of domestically born and privately adopted adult adoptees in the U.S. to receive government clearance to access both my original birth certificate and adoption files. I achieved this after navigating a 36-page law and seven-month process through the Department of Children’s Services in my birth state. I remind myself each and every day to never take it for granted that I have the privilege of holding my own documentation in my hands whereas many adult adoptees do not.”
Through writing her blog, starting www.thelostdaughters.com, contributing at www.adoptionvoicesmagazine.com, and being syndicated at blogher.com, she met Kevin Haebeom Vollmers at www.landofgazillionadoptees.com. They worked together on a few projects and pieces. He began working with CQT Media and Publishing and, eventually, through him she was offered a book deal from them.
The book was published in in October 2013 as The Declassified Adoptee Essays of an Adoption Activist. It is a collection of Amanda’s “best-blog-posts-turned-essays” from The Declassified Adoptee blog. It contains a forward by JaeRan Kim, a Korean-American adult adoptee, social worker, and child welfare researcher and scholar.
I hope you will read what Amanda has to say and get inspired to blog your book, book your blog or just start blogging.
Since you booked your blog (repurposed posts), what process did you use to find or choose the blog posts that went into your book?
To select the blog posts that would appear in the book, I went by the number of “page visits” associated with each posts and number of comments to gauge the popularity of that particular piece. I have also collected email feedback over the years from blog readers, which played a role in what posts I felt would be most significant to the book for its readers.
How did you then organize the posts you chose, or did you keep the flow that you originally constructed?
The post are categorized into sections based on themes. The posts where I told stories of my life will be in one section. Posts on policy and activism are going in another section. And finally, posts on processing popular adoption concepts and paradoxes will be in a third section.
What percentage of your book ended up repurposed posts as opposed to new content?
Honestly, I am terrible at math. But if I had to give a percentage at this point, I would say that less that about 10 percent of the book is new content. I wanted to add some new pieces as a “thank you” to my readers for buying the book, by offering them exclusive content.
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, or anything like that?
I needed to take out links to other websites and mentions of other blogger friends that other blog readers might understand within the context of the blog but readers of the book might not. I write constantly for school and find myself writing in a more relaxed version of academic writing for my blog. Most of my posts have a beginning, a body, and a conclusion and will not need to be re-written or heavily revised.
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?
(See answer #1). Reader input was used in the selection of the blog posts that were considered for inclusion. Also, I considered reader input in the comment section of each post in the editing process.
How did booking your blog make you a better writer?
I think going through my posts with my editor helped me realize my punctuation and grammatical errors. The more I learn the fewer mistakes I make each time that I write.
What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who might want to turn their blogs into books or blog a book?
Try your best to use proper grammar and punctuation. Some quality readers simply won’t stick around if your posts are hard to read.
Pick a topic a lot of people can relate to but that you may have a unique take on.
Be firm, be unapologetic, be controversial, but don’t piss your readers off. No one likes to read something and feel judged or misunderstood.
I think once you find your little corner of the blogging/writing world, being discovered or being able to make a pitch for your writing becomes much easier.
What one thing did you do that increased your traffic or brought in more unique visitors?
One thing I did that increased my traffic was join the BlogHer Publishing Network.
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?
Gaining blog readers has been a slow and gradual process over the course of three years now. I think one huge turning point where my following dramatically increased was the first time I decided to put my photograph on my blog. I think being able to see a photograph of a blogger really helps people connect, feel like they know the person who is writing, and feel like a part of the blogging project.
What’s the most important thing a blogger can do to get noticed in the blogosphere and build an author platform or fan base?
I would repeat some of the same advice I’ve already given. Also, I would say that it is important to link to other blogs and spend time reading and commenting on other blogs. Especially if other blogs are on a similar topic, it is a good way to connect with readers who would be interested in your perspective. Other bloggers also appreciate that you are enjoying their content, and they may link to you or start reading your blog as well.
About the Author
Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston is a social worker, author, and speaker. She has an A.A. in psychology, a B.S.W. in social work, and is currently a candidate for a master’s in clinical social work. Amanda’s work on adoption has appeared in multiple books, magazines, journal articles, radio interviews and has been presented at several conferences. She is a founding board member of the Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative and also founded Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights and Lost Daughters. Amanda co-facilitates an adoption support group for anyone connected to adoption, and is a quarterly contributor to Gazillion Voices Magazine. Amanda is best known for her internationally recognized, award-winning adoption blog, The Declassified Adoptee.
Amanda’s writing and work focuses both on the experience of being adopted and on adoption policy. Amanda has testified on adoption policy at the state level and also has engaged with congress. She has won multiple awards as a student for her adoption activism. Amanda was also a Yahoo!Voices featured mom activist and was listed in the Top 20 Adoption blogs on the web by Adoptive Families Magazine. Amanda’s work has been published in two books and in several other books and anthologies pending publication. www.amandawoolston.com