If you want to hear a classic blog-to-book success story, this is it. Emily Benet is one of those bloggers who was “discovered.” But she set out to create her dream of successful authorship–first as a blogger.
Born in London to a Welsh mother and Spanish father, Benet moved to Barcelona at 13, where she won her first significant prize for writing and was published in a short story collection. After her studies she returned to South London and worked in her mother’s chandelier shop. It was amid the chaos of crystal beads and confused customers that she began her Shop Girl Blog.
“I wrote about the barterers, the shoplifters, the agony aunts, the Jehovah’s Witness, the great customers, and the ones who spent more time trying to sell to us than buy anything. I also wrote about how I wanted to escape the shop and become a best-selling author,” she relates.
In 2009, Salt Publishing offered her a publishing contract for the story she had told on her blog and named it Shop Girl Diaries. According to the book description on Amazon, before the book was published, Benet’s blog already “had thousands saying she was the new Bridget Jones, but with one difference: She’s a real life shop assistant in a very real shop.”
Benet’s book, Shop Girl Diaries, includes about 90% of all the blog posts she wrote. Approximately 60% of the book came from the blog; 40% of the content was totally new. “Shop Girl Diaries also contains a love story, which I felt too personal to write in the blog at the time,” Benet adds.
Although Benet’s blog began as a weekly column about the comedy of retail, it has changed over the years. She still writes her blog under her name, www.emilybenet.blogspot.com. And since the success of Shop Girl Diaries, she has published several books, some traditionally and some independently. Benet’s next book, Hen Party, which is self-published, has just been releaseed.
Learn more about Benet’s blog-to-book journey in the following interview.
What kind of editing did you need to do to make the previously written 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 edited my blog posts so much before posting each one that when it came to writing the book I didn’t have to make too many changes to them. The book is in the form of a diary, so I added new entries in between the posts to help the story flow. The blog read like a diary so it didn’t require a huge step to repurpose it into a diary-style book.
Did you take your readers input, such as comments, into account before the manuscript went to press?
Not with Shop Girl Diaries, mostly because I didn’t get many comments suggesting changes! However when I came to write my romantic comedy, Spray Painted Bananas, chapter by chapter on Wattpad.com, I was influenced by readers’ comments. When a few mentioned how much they disliked one of the protagonists, I realised I needed to make him more likeable at first. When I came to editing the novel for publication, I made those changes. The book was published by Harper Collins’ imprint Harper Impulse under the title, The Temp.
Why did you write a romantic comedy chapter by chapter on Wattpad- rather than on your blog? And how did you get a million visits there…and a book deal with Harper Impulse?
Wattpad had over ten million readers a month compared to my blog, which back then had, at best, five hundred a month, so it made much more sense to publish a novel with them. Wattpad is designed for reading novels whereas it can be difficult navigating a novel on a blog.
I wrote to the organizers of Wattpad to see if they would feature my novel in their Featured Section. Thanks to Shop Girl Diaries, I was a published author and they were enthusiastic about having me.
The visitors flooded in because I was in the right section. I’d like to think it also was because the book is great fun and had a quirky cover. Once the book had reached half a million hits, I contacted an agent. I got an agent before I’d finished the book but had to wait another six months before I signed with Harper Collins.
Did blogging your book make you a better blogger?
It’s funny to look back at my old blog posts about the shop. They are so badly spaced and difficult to read. I would present them so differently now, and I would have a call-to-action at the end, at the very least.
After my blog-to-book success, I began my own blogging and social media workshops. It was great because it meant I learned so much as I prepared for talks. So, yes, the experience made me a better blogger in the end.
What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who might want to turn their blogs into books or blog a book?
I don’t think every book suits being blogged. Non-fiction is better for blogs than fiction, in my opinion.
For non-fiction authors, you can use the platform to offer valuable content in the form of tips or articles about your subject. You gain readers by delivering consistently useful, entertaining or insightful content. Then, when you have enough content, you can repurpose it into a book. People buy the book because it might be more convenient for them to have it in a book form rather than a blog and because you have added extra content for the book.
For fiction authors, like myself, it’s trickier knowing what to write about. Writing a personal blog won’t get as many readers as a niche blog, but it’s good for my online presence, and I’ve got a lovely, loyal readership.
Do you have any tips you can offer on blogging books or booking blogs?
Choose a catchy title for your blog posts. Don’t be ambiguous. Think about what people are searching for by looking at Google trends.
Be consistent with your topic. If I hadn’t written exclusively about my time in the shop, Salt Publishing who published it, would not have seen its potential as a book.
Write a tagline under your blog title so when people land on your blog they know what it’s about as quickly as possible.
What one thing did you do that increased your traffic or brought in more unique visitors?
Building my Twitter and Author Facebook page. It’s not easy though. I once posted a mug with a Shakespeare quote on it on my Facebook Author Page, and it went viral and boosted my page by 300 likes in two days. Not all of those new followers will visit the blog though, but a lot have. If only I could repeat that every week!
What’s the most important thing a blogger can do to get noticed in the blogosphere and build an author platform or fan base?
There are so many things you can do, but it all starts with having a great blog. The most successful bloggers write about what they are passionate about, not what they feel they have to write about. What could you write about every week for years to come? Start there!
First, I self-published a short story collection called Short Stories for Busy Adults. Each of the ten stories were either selected at readings or commended in competitions. The collection would never have been something a traditional publisher would have invested in, so I decided to do it myself as an ebook.
I also self-published a Blogging for Beginners guidebook, which was an Amazon bestseller .
My new book The Hen Party is my most serious step into independent publishing yet. I spent half a year waiting to hear from publishers, then responded to their comments with a huge structural edit, then waited another six months only to get their rave rejections. We really, really, really like it! they said, and then they’d make an excuse about having a similar author already.
I decided not to wait to hear from other publishers and take the leap myself. I hired a professional editor and worked with a cover designer. It’s been so exciting seeing the book take shape and having creative control. I’ve been listening to the Creative Penn self-publishing podcast for years, and I think my success with blogging and then Wattpad was probably the universe nudging me in this direction all this time! Author-entrepreneur is the word I’ve been hearing and I like it.
Do you plan to toggle between self-publishing and traditional, and why?
I don’t know what the future holds. I’m curious to see how The Hen Party sells compared to my traditionally published books. Whatever happens, I won’t be sitting back; I’ll keep on writing!
About the Blogger and Author
Emily Benet is an author and award-winning blogger. Her debut book, Shop Girl Diaries, began as a blog. Her second, Spray Painted Bananas, racked up a million hits on the online platform Wattpad and led to a two-book deal with Harper Collins, which led to a social media comedy #PleaseRetweet. Her latest book, The Hen Party, is set in Mallorca where she lives with her husband and writes for abcMallorca magazine. Find out more at www.emilybenet.com or follow her on Twitter here: @EmilyBenet.