At the age of six, Bryan Collins, a nonfiction author from Ireland, read BFG by Roald Dahl and became enthralled by the idea of a Big Friendly Giant who collects the dreams of children. “Dahl was a creative God to me, so I decided I wanted to become a writer,” Collins explains on his website.
Collins became a blogger, and his online writing led him to authorship. Most recently, he published a booked blog called The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book. It explains how to write a nonfiction book that earns money, builds credibility, or helps writers share their stories.
The Journey to Blogging and Blogging Books
Collins kept his goal of authorship in mind as he completed his education. After college, he got a job as a journalist. When that didn’t work out, he tried a few other jobs and then started his blog, Become a Writer Today, in 2014.
On this site, Collins offers practical advice for new writers who want to build authority or earn more money. He specializes in nonfiction and publishes new articles and/or podcast episodes approximately once a week.
Today, Collins writes for Forbes, is a copywriter in the B2B industry, works with new writers, and self-publishes fiction and non-fiction books.
The Blog-to-Book Process
The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book, a booked blog, contains an even split between new content and blog posts. That said, Collins says the blog inspired much of the new content in the book as well. “In other cases, I rewrote some blog posts as book chapters giving them a polish,” he reports.
To choose the blog posts he would include in the book, Collins reviewed the most popular blog posts on his site, read reader comments, and considered what posts were missing.
“I put links to all my posts and a short summary into a Google Docs spreadsheet. This helped me see what they were about, their topic, and relevance to my title: The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book,” Collins explains.
“Then I put the complete posts into Scrivener, calculated the word-count, and revised each post, so it read like a book chapter and not a blog post. This meant stripping out links, formatting for the web, etc. This also meant telling more stories.”
Additionally, Collins revised the book’s flow completely. “I wrote some new chapters, and then played around with the structure. I based the book a three-act structure with individual posts forming chapters within each act,” Collins says. “In some cases, I expanded on or cut parts of specific posts.
Using Reader Feedback and Comments
Collins also took into consideration blog post comments from readers, which he called “an essential element” of writing nonfiction. “I made sure I answered their questions and criticism in later drafts.”
He also contacted some readers and ask them to read the manuscript. He then used this feedback, too.
In the end, the book ended up with 50% previously published content and 50% new content written specifically for the book.
The Blog-to-Book Editing Process
As with most blogged books, Collins went through a revision process during which he rewrote much of the existing posts. “Think of the posts as like a second or third draft and the book chapters as a fourth and then a final draft,” he says. “I used this blog-to-book process as an opportunity to revise, rewrite, clarify, and expand on ideas in the original blog posts.”
He edited some chapters heavily and others less so. “In some cases, I rewrote the introduction and conclusion. In other cases, I revised the entire chapter, keeping only the topic or subject matter behind the chapter in question,” says Collins.
Additionally, Collins worked with an editor at Kibin.com. He sent her individual book chapters each week. And he commissioned a proofreader.
Authorship Makes You a Better Writer and Blogger
Authorship requires good writing skills. However, blogging can make you a better writer.
Blogging got Collins into the habit of publishing iterative content and getting feedback fast. “It also helped me hold myself to account in terms of deadlines and target word counts,” Collins shares.
Also, writing a book taught him about book structure and working with others (e.g., an editor, designer, etc.). “That’s altogether different to publishing a post in WordPress or on Medium,” he says.
Plus, Collins was able to sell the book to his blog readers and use some book chapters for a subsequent course. In the process, he says, “I built better relationships with the beta readers of the book. It also increased the credibility of my site. What’s more, I later used the book as part of a boxset, so it helped with product creation.”
Advice on Booking a Blog
According to Collins, booking a blog is not a copy-and-paste job. Writing for the web requires a different skill set compared to writing a book. “You can do it,” he says, “but you’ll need to plan ahead and accept rewrites.
Here is Collins’ best advice on booking a blog:
- Hire an editor sooner rather than later. You don’t need a finished draft to work with one.
- Set deadlines, one for you, one for your editor
- Involve your readers early and often. Although you don’t need to accept all their feedback, they’ll help you write a better book.
- Budget for a proofreader, designer, etc. Your book must look professional if you want it to sell.
Growing Your Blog Traffic
To sell books successfully, you have to build your blog’s readership first. Remember that publishers like blog-to-book deals because bloggers have created a built-in audience for a book (a platform). Their readers are that audience. However, self-publishers also need fans waiting to purchase their books.
To increase his blog traffic and increase the size of his mailing list, which built his author platform, Collins gave away a free gift with the book that required optin with an email address. “This drove Amazon readers to my site. They arrived on a dedicated landing page and joined my email list.”
As for his best tips on blogging, Collins shared the following:
- Build an email list.
- Create great content.
- Tell stories about your work.
- Accept feedback.
- Fail fast.
- Move on.
Advantages of Self-Publishing a Booked Blog
Pros and cons exist for each publishing path. One is control over the process—including content and materials. That’s why Collins chose to self-publish all his books, including The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book, which is the third in a series. This experience also gives him fodder for blog posts, which he published on his blog.
“I also like indie publishing, as it’s possible to create books in different formats (e.g., audio, a course, blog posts, etc.),” Collins explains. “And it’s faster than the traditional route. That said, I haven’t explored the traditional route much beyond speaking to other authors who do this.
No matter how you publish, the blog-a-book or book-a-blog process continues to provide writers with an effective way to reach authorship. Blogging also continues to build the author platform necessary to succeed and remains an essential tool for those who want to bring to life their dreams of writing and publishing books.
Did a book inspire you to blog a book or book a blog? Tell me about it in a comment below.