Anyone who has anyone ever seen me do a presentation about how to blog a book has likely also heard me mention Kevin Cotter and his blog-to-book deal for 101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress. I have always been quite taken by this touching, story of a many who turned his anger and depression over being divorced by his wife—and being left with nothing but the old wedding dress—into a humorous series of blog posts that garnered the interest of a publishing company. And I love the fact that his story has a happy ending that includes a focus on charitable giving. He not only got remarried and had twin boys, but his blog now has a page that focuses on how to give used wedding dresses to charitable organizations.
Kevin doesn’t blog much anymore…and no wonder. His life has changed tremendously. But I see people are still reading and commenting on the blog. That means his topic still resonates with them. It’s too bad for many reasons that he doesn’t keep up with it, although he mentions that he doesn’t know exactly what to blog about any more. This long-term blogging issue is one I tell would-be book bloggers to think about when choosing a book topic. Kevin could consider bringing in guest bloggers (even other people who have new ideas for ex-wife wedding dress use), or finding some new angle to pursue that would keep the blog alive and serve as a forum for other men going through the same experience. This would continue to boost Kevin’s book sales.
Kevin mentions the possibility of starting a related blog on blended families. (I, too, know how hard that can be…I have two step-children.) If he did so, he could easily link back to the first site to promote his book. It would still behoove him to continue blogging on the first site, however, if he wants his book to sell well over time.
I thought Kevin’s success story might end up in my book, but it didn’t. So I’m very please to share it now on my blog. I hope you enjoy and learn from it.
I understand that you booked your blog (repurposed posts). What process did you use to find or choose the blog posts that went into your book, and how much previously published content did you use?
Before I started my blog, My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress I thought that 101 Uses For My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress could be a funny and therapeutic gift for a guy going through divorce. I imagined a photo and caption book containing 101 offbeat wedding dress applications with captions—a piece of cake. After my blog attracted interest online and I received a book deal the publisher wanted 40,000 words! They also wanted 40 unique wedding dress applications. In order to come up with 40,000 words I tried to use as much of the written content on my blog as possible.
How did you then organize the posts, or did you keep the flow that you originally constructed?
There was no planning that went into the organization of my blog. I would share photos of a new wedding dress application and would write about whatever was on my mind. In order to put together a book, a plan was required and that plan was to break the dress application into categories (chapters) and then match my ramblings to them, all the while attempting to tell my story from the day my ex-wife left me until I met my new wife.
What percentage of your book ended up repurposed posts as opposed to new content?
I would say around 60% of my book is made from repurposed blog entries. That holds true for both text and pictures. The publisher wanted 40 unique dress applications for the book which meant I was only able to pull 61 of them from my blog. Blogging became tricky once I started writing my book because I didn’t want to give away the end of my story on the blog, but wanted to continue adding content so that there weren’t long stretches of time without new blog entries.
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.?
Major editing and a lot of new material were needed to turn my blog into a book. Transitions were added between chapters in the form of fun facts and statistics related to the wedding industry and wedding dresses. On my blog some of my entries were very long and others were entirely visual—new images of the wedding dress being put to work. But, in my book every picture required a piece of the story to go along with it. So my blog entries were broken up, along with the new content that was added, to create 101 short entries.
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?
My readers’ comments were a big part of my blog, my book, and my enjoyment throughout the entire process. Readers contributed to my book in two ways. They suggested wedding dress applications and commented on what they thought of what I was doing. When I started my blog I had a list of approximately 60 wedding dress uses that I found funny and realistic in that we would actually be able to stage and photograph them. I ask the visitors to my blog to help me come up with an additional 41 uses. Quite a few of the wedding dress applications in my book were suggested by visitors to my blog either by comments directly on the blog or via e-mails to the address I made available on my site. Some of the comments I received on my website were so funny I had to share them in my book. Direct quotes from some of my visitors were used in the final draft.
How did booking your blog make you a better writer?
I think that because of the nature of my blog topic I am able to better express my emotions through writing than I could before I started this project. I still very much think of myself not as a writer but rather as a box salesman who got lucky when people took interest in an idea to repurpose an ex-wife’s wedding dress as a grill cover, a scarecrow, and 99 other odd uses. There were quite a few people who wrote to me and said they liked my blog because of the writing as much or more than my funny photos, which is hard for me to believe.
Did publishing your book affect your blogging?
I don’t believe that my book has made me a better blogger. In fact, once I started to work on my book I had to be very cautious with the material shared on my blog and because of the new material needed for the book I really had to focus my efforts there. At this point I’m not really sure what to blog about. My blog was based on wedding dress applications, which have been completed. Although my ex-wife’s wedding dress is still mostly in one piece and very strong, I have given it a well-deserved retirement. I did really enjoy blogging—perhaps I should start a blended family blog. Blending families is much harder than netting a trout with a wedding dress.
What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who might want to turn their blogs into books or blog a book?
My advice to any aspiring author who doesn’t know how to get their book published would be to start a blog. I actually sent some blind proposals to a handful of publishers and never heard anything back from them. For those who already have blogs they want to turn into books the only thing I can suggest is making sure you have some unique content to attract a lot of visitors.
Do you have any tips (3-5) you can offer on going blog to book?
All the obvious things come into play here: being on time for phone meetings, meeting deadlines, and basically doing whatever it takes to meet commitments. One thing the literary agents I worked with stressed was the book proposal. A lot of time and effort went into putting together my book proposal and it was a collaborative effort between me and the two literary agents who helped me throughout this process. I thought my project was so straight forward that not much of a proposal would be needed, but in all my conversations with publishers I received compliments on our proposal.
What one thing did you do that increased your traffic or brought in more unique visitors?
I don’t know that I can really take credit for doing anything out of the ordinary to increase visitors to my site except that I shared some funny pictures that seemingly quite a few people wanted to see. I replied quickly to every media request and shared some of my pictures with newspapers, magazines, and websites that were interested in my shenanigans. I also set up a facebook fanpage and a twitter personality for my project.
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?
I can pin point the day my blog took off thanks to Google Analytics. I shared the link to my blog with less than 20 people, my close friends and family. The first six days I averaged a couple hundred visitors per day. On day seven over 25,000 people visited my blog thanks a link that appeared on Collegehumor.com. On the ninth day a link to my blog appeared on Fark.com and over 75,000 people visited my site.
How long did it take you to get a blog-to-book deal?
I started my blog in May of 2010. I had a book deal by December that same year and a little less than a year after I received my deal my book was published.
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 the most important thing a blogger can do to get noticed it to have unique content—something unavailable anywhere else on the web.
About the Author
Kevin Cotter is a 38 year old Tucson native who loves water but is stuck in the desert. His lifelong dream is to have a summer home somewhere cooler. He is a University of Arizona graduate and a box salesman. He is a father of three who loves playing soccer, fishing, the outdoors, Hondas, steak, and Target. He inherited an unbelievably versatile wedding dress when his ex-wife moved out of their home in 2009. He has since remarried and has no intention of ever working on a sequel to his book 101 Uses For My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress.