While the majority of blog to book deals are booked blogs, not blogged books, some successful bloggers actually choose not to repurpose their content into a book when they decide to write a book. For instance, Jenny Lawson, The Blogess, didn’t use material from her blog when she wrote Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir). She wrote fresh content. The same is true from some bloggers, like Barbara Wilson Arboleda, who have decided to self-publish. She wrote her book, The Average Buddhist Explores the Dharma, from scratch but in chapters each about the length of a blog post. It is based on her blog by the same name.
Barbara says, “The theme of the sections in my book (I Don’t Get It, I think I Get It and I Still Don’t Get It) were inspired by a dharma talk I heard in which the speaker was saying, (I paraphrase) ‘In the beginning a pencil is a pencil. As you practice Zen more, a pencil is a tree, a pencil is a mountain, etc. Then when you’ve practiced a really long time a pencil is a pencil.’ It’s a great commentary on the way in which we all struggle to make sense of our world.”
I suppose we could apply that to blogging our books–or simply writing them as well: We don’t know what we’re writing, we know what we’re writing, we don’t know what we’re writing (or what we wrote)–but we end up with a book.
Barbara offered some insight into her blogging and writing process during the following interview:
1. What percentage of your book ended up repurposed posts as opposed to new
I chose to write all new posts for the book.
I had the basic topics, but at first they were disorganized. Once I had some content in each, I started to see a flow developing. As I organized the chapters, I tried to stay mindful of what concepts would make sense being presented in a particular order or which concepts flowed best from one another.
2. Did you run into any problems particular to going from blog to book even though you wrote all new content?
My biggest challenge was in discovering how to be concise without oversimplifying what I wanted to communicate. There are so many “pseudo-Buddhist” products around nowadays that I wanted to make sure I was presenting something authentic though from an American perspective. Writing the blog helped me practice my chops and become a more efficient communicator of abstract ideas.
3. 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 didn’t poll my readers per se, but I observed over time what people responded to both in terms of my blog posts and in the Facebook community as well. I tried to write to what they either wondered about or what seemed to speak to them.
4. How did blogging make you a better writer or better equip you to write a book?
Simply blogging itself has made me a better writer, particularly in terms of being able to sit down and write from a concept whether or not I feel “inspired” at the moment. Needing to have hours at a time to write a word or feeling like I needed to be in a particular mood to write held me back for a long time. Blogging helped me overcome that block to my creativity.
5. Did writing your book make you a better blogger (and how)?
I read a lot of fiction. So, I am used to having a through story line. Working with a book format threw me a little more into storytelling mode, which I think was a departure from my initial thoughts of the blog as a descriptive or educational tool. What people respond to the most and what I enjoy sharing the most is more personal and story based. Writing the book helped me to get in touch with that part of it.
6. What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who might want to turn their blogs into books, blog a book or write a book based on their blogs?
Have a message. For me, writing is about communication. If you have nothing in particular to communicate, then people have no way to really relate to what you’re writing.
7. Do you have any tips (3-5) you can offer on blogging, blogging books, booking blogs or writing books based on blogs?
- Blog about something you love. Since blogging is not a revenue source for most people, you need to feel passionate enough about what you’re saying to spend the time on it;
- Find a way to engage readers in conversation, even if it is about content that you don’t generate. This is one reason I love running the Facebook community. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to see how people are relating to posts and to have a forum to relate back to them;
- Don’t worry too much if there are other people out there blogging about similar topics. Just choose your own unique angle on it. Other bloggers can be the best way to be found and can be interesting to get to know as well.
8. What one thing did you do that increased your traffic or brought in more unique visitors?
Making sure to have good tags on the posts and considering including key words in the title and the content.
9. If you are self-published, why did you decide to go the indie route?
I knew that I wanted to maintain control over the project. Having worked in multimedia and some areas of entertainment previously, I knew that a publisher would likely want more control over the content than I was willing to turn over. A colleague of mine had worked with a good company that she recommended. So, that’s how I chose the company to work with.
10. 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 think content is key. Having something that people can relate to and that presents a unique voice. Some people underestimate the basic skills such as writing mechanics and spelling. I think this is a mistake because readability and credibility are both better when you are able to communicate clearly. Also bloggers shouldn’t forget about the look and feel of the blog (and book). We humans are very visual animals and you may have great things to say, but it won’t matter if your site is visually cluttered or unprofessional looking because people won’t take their time to stop and read it.
About the Author
Barbara Wilson Arboleda is a voice-specialized speech-language pathologist and singing teacher by profession. She has been an “Average Buddhist” since being introduced to the faith through
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. She practiced at the Cambridge Zen Center until moving away from the city. Then she had to find creative ways to reach out to like-minded dharma seekers. The Average Buddhist blog is dedicated to un
derstanding how Buddhism relates to the average lay-practitioner in America. www.averagebuddhist.com
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