Don’t try to deny it; you’d love to write a book.
In fact, you’ve been dreaming about it so much you can visualize it.
Seeing your name on the front cover of a published book.
Revelling in the fame, fortune, and fulfilment that comes from being a successful author.
But then, you dismiss it.
“What me?” you think. “Who am I to publish a book?” Or some other variation of nagging self-doubt.
But it isn’t an impossible dream.
As a blogger, you already have everything you need to become an author.
You just need to start believing it.
Why Smart Bloggers are Perfectly Positioned to Become Successful Authors
You’re a blogger, which puts you in a perfect position to write a book. Seriously.
You might feel like you’re just out of the starting gate, but that’s not true.
I meet so many people who have been thinking about their books for months, sometimes years. Yet they’re not taking action.
You, on the other hand, are blogging, which means you are writing. And that simple fact gives you three advantages over every other wannabe author.
- You have content. Your blog is a library of content you can analyze and reuse. Even if you don’t recycle your posts word for word, you already have a valuable source of ideas. Your content is what defines you as a blogger. Own it.
- You have a writing habit. More valuable than your existing content is the writing practice you’re developing. If you have a schedule, a process, and a commitment to your work, writing the book will be much easier.
- You have an audience (no matter how small). You have readers, email subscribers, and a social media following. It doesn’t matter whether that’s two people or 2,000. An audience is the key asset that many would-be authors don’t have when they start a blog. You, however, have a testing ground — a place to share your work safely, and get feedback.
On top of these advantages, being a blogger also means you have gumption.
Many wanna-be authors aren’t taking action. They think they have to wait for someone to commission their books. Or they see a mountain of work in front of them and give up before even getting started.
You, on the other hand, didn’t “wait for permission” to start your blog; you didn’t “wait to be told it was OK to write.” You just did it. And that trait will be invaluable when creating your book.
Sure, you need to understand the process; you need to understand what ingredients go into creating a book. Maybe that’s why you haven’t done it yet.
But, you have everything you need to become one of those seemingly lucky people who do get picked, who do decide to self-publish, who do finally get it done and achieve their dream of being an author.
So let’s go for it!
First, Define What “Success” Means for You
When you think about success, the first thing that comes to mind is probably being a New York Times bestseller. Somewhere in your head, you’re comparing yourself to Malcolm Gladwell, right?
It takes a lot of work, and money, or a huge audience to achieve that kind of success. Whereas, the stark reality for most of us is that we might sell a few hundred, even a few thousand books, but it will be hard to sell hundreds of thousands, and even harder to make money from them.
There’s more to success than book sales, however, and being “a successful author” is about defining what that means for you.
Rather than look at what the obvious big names are doing and imagining you can emulate their results, decide why you want to write a book — what kind of success is important to you?
It might be to grow your client-base as a coach or consultant. Or maybe it’s to raise your profile and build your credibility — you’ve seen other bloggers do it, and now you want some of that for yourself.
Even if it’s to eventually reach those hundreds of thousands of people, that’s a valid goal too — just not necessarily in the first week you launch!
As soon as you know why you’re writing, you have a precise target to aim for, and you know what sort of book you must write to hit it.
If you’re not sure of your reasons just yet, here are the most common reasons for writing a book:
Reason #1: Expert Positioning
You’re a blogger, you know your topic, and perhaps you even consider yourself an “expert,” someone with something to say on your topic. It’s time that others see you in the same way.
A blog post is a great way to say something new, something interesting, something potentially controversial on your topic. Something that takes the received wisdom and turns it on its head, or at least turns it sideways to look at it through another lens.
A book, on the other hand, allows you the space to explore your topic more deeply, to go further and deeper with your arguments, to provide evidence and stories that exemplify and illustrate your point of view.
Jonathan Fields wrote this kind of book with Uncertainty. It’s more of an ideas book than a how-to book; he doesn’t have an “Overcoming Uncertainty” online program to offer on the backend, but it’s part of the greater whole of his personal positioning and his evolving business.
You’ll probably gravitate toward writing this kind of book, and using it to position you, if you find yourself writing a lot of think pieces on your blog. The process of writing will help you get clarity on your ideas, and it will be a wonderful way to communicate and open conversations about those ideas. Conversations that might lead to new ventures, to speaking, and perhaps even to more book deals.
Reason #2: Growing Your Coaching or Consultancy Business
If you’re a coach or a consultant (or any kind of service professional), you probably have a process you use to get results for your clients, and you should have case studies of successful outcomes.
Showing your ideal clients what kind of success is possible for them will attract more of them to work with you. And explaining your process will shorten your client onboarding process and allow you to charge premium fees since clients are already committed to working with you.
Julia, a former client, is a leadership consultant who consults with C-level management at medium to large companies. If she lands a project, it’s typically in the $50,000-$80,000 range. Her book is simple, barely 120 pages, and describes different types of leaders and why each type has its strengths (and weaknesses). It isn’t a how-to; it’s simply a door opener.
When she makes contact with an executive, or someone connects with her, she sends them a free copy of her book. That gives her a reason to call back and discuss it with them, and many of these executives are intrigued enough about her model to want to invite her for a meeting. For her, the book is simply a way to get over the awkwardness of the introduction and that first follow-up. She’s not pitching; she’s simply talking.
Talking about her model, and her ideas (which, of course, often leads to a “How can you help us?” discussion).
Reason #3: Expand Your Reach and Build Your Subscriber Base
Maybe you don’t quite know what you want to sell right away; you just want to reach more people and bring those readers back into your own community. In other words, you want to grow your list and expand your reach.
Well, a book is a great way of doing that.
Nathan Barry wrote his first book The App Design Handbook because his friends asked him to recommend resources on how to design and develop apps. He didn’t have a list, but he was savvy, so he added an email sign-up to his website and collected names and email addresses for people who would be interested in finding out when the book launched.
From small beginnings does great success grow. Nathan made $150,000 with this and his next book, wrote about the process (with yet more success) in his third book Authority, and then switched his interests to developing software to serve that very need: email marketing by launching ConvertKit.
Tim Grahl was running a small agency, working with authors on their websites and book launches, but he wasn’t well-known beyond clients and close connections.
Until he wrote Your First 1,000 Copies, a book about selling books.
Tim decided to aim to sell 10,000 copies of that book in the first year. He wasn’t starting out with a big email list, and he wasn’t the known name he is today. What he did was exactly what he prescribes in his book — be persistent about contacting bloggers, podcasters, partners, etc. to get his name out there and sell one handful of books after another handful until he built a reputation for himself.
Also important is discoverability. Your book can bring you a new source of readers as people begin to find you on Amazon (or wherever your book is sold). The numbers may not be huge, but those readers who find you through a book are already pre-sold on anything else you may have to offer.
So, remember, a successful book is a book that delivers what you want, what drives your business forward, and what moves you to the next level of personal and professional growth.
The Blogger’s Roadmap for Creating a Successful Book
You know why you want to write and what you want your book to do for you, so the next step is to pick a topic that you want to write about and that your reader cares about — to create a structure that gives shape to your work and keeps you on track with the writing. And then you can dive into the writing, the re-working, and the editing of what you already have.
Are you ready to go?
Step 1: Pick a Topic That’s Worthy of a Book
A book is different from a blog post. In a blog post, you can play with ideas and test theories. You can make a virtue of brevity, and you don’t need to completely resolve your arguments — often the best blog posts are thought-provokingly incomplete.
In a book, however, you need to carry a thought from beginning to end and provide a resolution, or at least a closure for your reader.
You need to deliver a coherent message over a few tens of thousands of words, not just a few hundred. You need to go deep enough that the reader is being shown, or taught, something new and interesting. And this means you need a topic that is neither too broad nor too narrow.
Even if yours is a “tips” book, or a “how-to” book where each chapter can stand alone, you still need the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. Otherwise, you have nothing more valuable than a collection of blog posts.
For instance, a topic like “productivity” would be too wide a focus for a book, but take “productivity for authors,” for example, and now you have something you can give depth to.
But a piece is still missing.
To write a good book, your topic needs a strong, overarching idea — a premise — an argument you want to make, or a point of view you want to explore.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield argues that resistance is what stands between procrastination and putting our creative genius out into the world. If we agree with him, that our creative gift is divine and does not come from a selfish desire for attention, then we have an obligation to “turn professional” and put our work out there.
There are no checklists, no schedulers, no accountability methods and systems in his book — just a bold idea.
Your topic — your book idea — could come from a single blog post — a post that lit a fire under your audience and where you know you have more, a lot more, to say. Or your book idea could come from a collection of blog posts — not everything you’ve ever written, but a selection of your explorations in a particular area.
To get started, generate a shortlist of possible topics, and then filter that shortlist according to scope and passion. Let’s see how.
First, create a shortlist based on traffic and engagement
A good book is a conversation with your reader; and conversation flows when your reader is as interested in the topic as you are.
You can easily find out what interests your readers most by looking at your posts that attract the most traffic and engagement.
Which topics hit a nerve on the blog? Which posts did people share? On which posts did they comment?
Did a topic provoke a strong response (good or bad!), or was it just kinda lukewarm? A meh?
You might think you just want to share your message, but the fact is, you have a better chance of success if your writing is led by the topics that already interest your readers, not a pre-determined agenda.
Finding Posts that Received the Most Traffic
If you don’t already know what’s popular on your blog, find out.
In Google Analytics, you can find your most popular posts by looking under “Behavior” and then “All Pages.”
Chances are, however many blog posts you have, a small handful will get more views than the rest combined.
On my blog, one post gets more than twice the page views of any other page — and consistently so month after month.
Your traffic pattern may not be quite as skewed, but it’s tremendously valuable to know which posts are more popular than others.
In my case, the most popular post on my blog is about book marketing, which immediately gives me a potential topic for a book (or even a series of books) because know I my readers are interested.
Finding Posts that Attracted the Most Engagement
You also want to identify those posts that got a lot of reader engagement.
Maybe they weren’t quite so popular in terms of traffic, but you got more comments, emails, and social shares than some other topics.
So check the comments and social counts for each of your posts, and note which posts resonated most strongly with your readers.
The deeper the engagement on a topic, the more easily you can build a loyal team of advocates and followers who are interested in the topic — and who will ultimately support you when it comes round to marketing your book.
Next, filter by scope
Now that you have know what your readers are interested in, ask yourself if there is enough scope for a book (as opposed to a blog post) in each of these topics.
Remember, you want a topic that can sustain a whole book — even if it’s a short book — and yet not one so broad that you ramble off topic and don’t deliver value.
So make sure you have a clear answer to the question, What is my premise? What argument am I making here, or, what am I teaching my reader to do that he or she couldn’t do before?
You are looking for something with a single message — something meaningful, yet contained. Go back to The War of Art example — it’s a simple idea, beautifully told, in what has become an iconic book.
Most first-time authors err on the side of trying to squeeze too much into their book, which will become a source of angst and hair-tearing during the book-writing process. You’ll feel, at the same time, scattered and stuck for what to write (the stuck-ness comes from a lack of clarity rather than a lack of anything to say), and you won’t know when the book is finished.
The answer? Be ruthless with the scope.
Smart bloggers do this in two ways: mining a single post, or using a collection of posts themed around a single idea.
Either way you choose to do it, remember to be ruthless and limit the scope of your topic.
Mining the gold from a single blog post
In 2004, Eric Ries met investor and startup guru Steve Blank and worked with him at Berkeley on Blank’s rapid customer feedback methodology. In 2008, Ries started a blog, and one of his first posts was entitled The Lean Startup.
That single post, alongside Ries’ evolving ideas, inspired one of the bestselling business books of recent years and created a completely new way of doing business.
Sometimes, something like this comes along that sparks the imagination of your readers, and it becomes your obvious candidate for that first book.
Using a single blog post as the basis for your book means there’s a natural restriction on the scope, and your work is to then go deeper and expand each part of your idea. And, going back to the length of your book, it’s not that hard to expand a 1,500-word blog post into a 15,000-word book. Honestly.
Exploring a single theme distilled from multiple blog posts
An alternative is to create a body of work book. A book that is based on your whole blog, or at least on a selection of your posts.
Many bloggers struggle with choosing exactly which part of their body of work to turn into a book; our blogs are often a work in progress, and what we write about evolves over time. But with this route, sticking to a single idea or theme is crucial.
Take The Julie/Julia Project, for example. Or the wonderful Humans of New York project from Brandon Stanton. Both of those have transitioned from blogs (well, OK, a Facebook page in Stanton’s case) into beautiful books. What makes them work is that, although they appear to be wide in terms of their scope, they’re not. Both of them take a single idea and repeat it again and again.
The Julie/Julia Project isn’t an autobiography of Julia Child or a lifetime culinary journey. No, it’s the story of a non-chef recreating 500+ recipes one day at a time over a year, in a cramped apartment kitchen. There’s little or no extraneous fluff.
Humans of New York is — well — about New York. But, it isn’t every picture Brandon Stanton has ever taken of the city and its residents; it’s narrower than that. The success of HONY is that it takes a single, powerful idea of presenting the everyday stories of regular people in their own words with a candid, untouched portrait.
Simple yet hugely effective.
Then, filter by passion
For each topic that passes the scope test, ask:
Do I love this topic enough to write a whole book?
This is important because blogging gives you the chance to test new topics and new angles, so it appeals to those of us who like the shiny and new. A book, however, needs commitment to the topic; not just to the writing (which needn’t take long) but also to the months, possibly years, of ongoing promotion.
Be sure that you love it enough to take on that commitment.
A book like Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project started out as a personal exploration and turned into a global phenomenon that still sells well more than six years after she wrote the book.
Your book should continue to interest you beyond the writing process. Because that’s what will continue to draw new readers into your world and allow you to build the success you’ve defined.
To do this, you must filter your shortlist by passion.
Choose a topic that excites you enough to want to talk about it for years to come, to want to create training products, to want to give talks, interviews, workshops and seminars. Even if you choose not to do all of those, the passion will sustain you through that continued effort of just selling books.
Step 2: Pick a Title That Makes Your Book Stand Out on the Shelves
Whether your book is destined for the virtual shelves of an online retailer like Amazon, or the physical shelves of a real bookstore, it has to stand out from the competition.
While your topic must be interesting to your readers, the title must be irresistible.
And the best way to do that is to promise a specific outcome related to your chosen topic.
You might be writing a book on “how to give better presentations,” for example, aimed at people who want to win over hearts and minds when they speak (the topic), but you want to laser in on the outcome when you decide on your title.
Talk Like TED offers a specific outcome that the target reader for that book both desires, and understands. It’s a kind of shorthand.
Of course, some people haven’t heard of TED talks, or they have no aspiration to be a TED-like speaker; those people aren’t the target reader for that book.
Even if you change the title later, having a working title allows you to stay in scope and on message when you’re writing, and it allows you to hang the hat of your author identity on something specific.
If you don’t have a title, “I’m writing a book” feels less real than it could. The words you use give shape to your actions, and naming your book will rally your fans, and your unconscious mind, around something concrete.
A Simple Formula for Creating a Killer Book Title
To ensure your book stands out in a crowd, its title should be short and snappy.
It has to, literally, be seen on the cover; you want something that is just enough words to stand out in a decent-sized font on the thumbnail image of your book cover on your website or Amazon.
And it has to speak to your ideal reader; you want it to be clear enough to be understood, yet enticingly cryptic to invoke the curiosity needed for him or her to click through or open it and read more.
But sometimes these two forces — brevity and clarity — work in opposition, so how can you create a title that’s snappy and simple to understand?
The answer is to use a title and a subtitle.
Your Main Title is the Hook…
The smart blogger knows how to find a hook to get readers to open, read, and engage with content.
Part of the secret here is to pay attention to the power words and phrases your readers respond to on your blog and incorporate them into your title.
The other part of the secret is testing. Tim Ferriss famously did this when he chose the title of the 4-Hour Work Week.
Tim’s approach was to use Google adwords to test alternate titles including Broadband and White Sand, Millionaire Chameleon, and, of course, The 4-Hour Work Week. Looking back, it seems obvious that one title is much stronger than the others, but when you’re immersed in your content, it’s tough to get the perspective you need to choose a successful book title.
You don’t need to be as scientific as Tim — you can also create a survey for your email list, or you can offer two choices in a blog post and monitor which one gets the most clickthroughs; you have multiple ways to do this.
And of course, it’s your book, so you can still choose your personal favorite. Just be aware that we are not always the best judges of what will sell.
Your Subtitle is the Explanation…
Short titles can appear a little cryptic — not quite intelligible. This is a good thing because it creates a curiosity to find out more.
So the subtitle satisfies that curiosity with an explanation of exactly what outcome you are delivering.
Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick has a pretty vague title. It could be about anything from innovation to carpentry. But once you add the subtitle — Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck — it becomes obvious what the book’s about and who it’s for.
Likewise Talk Like TED has a clarifying subtitle —The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds The subtitle makes a very clear promise — to reveal the secrets of TED’s superstar speakers.
3 More Smart Tricks for Writing Tempting Titles
Beyond setting out your promise, if you layer on subtle psychological hooks, you are more likely to sell books and motivate interested readers to talk about your book to their friends.
There’s no single best way to do this, but picking one of the following three approaches to naming will help hook your reader from the outset:
- Provoke Curiosity. If your title is already clear, you can play on people’s curiosity in the subtitle. Words like “surprising” or “secret,” something that implies we are missing out if we don’t open the book or, better yet, buy it. Life Plan: The one thing you’re resisting that will change everything.
- Name Your Audience. If your reader knows you are talking to them specifically, they’re more likely to buy your book. The Rational Optimist is for a different reader than The Right-Brained Business Plan. Know your reader and you will know what speaks to them.
- Channel Aspiration. Aspiration promises a path to a better self. It’s more subtle than just giving your reader a result because it’s promising a result that isn’t available to just anyone. Talk Like TED is a great example of this — it’s aspirational (because TED is something that is only available to a few rising stars) yet achievable. (We just need to learn a few secrets!)
Step 3: Create a Logical Structure for Your Book
Without a logical order, your readers will spend more time puzzling over how the book is organised than they do absorbing your message.
A book should be more than the sum of its parts, and creating a structure that makes sense requires a little more work than pulling together a collection of your blog posts. This is the step that many bloggers get wrong and where you — the smart blogger — can triumph.
The process I recommend is to create a flow to the overall book — a map to take readers from beginning to end, and then create a structure to each of the sections or chapters — a consistent way of organizing and relating the information and stories you already have.
Use Post-It Notes to Find Your Book’s Flow
The first step in planning your structure is to create a map to deliver on the promise of your book title — the journey you want your reader to navigate. The more interesting the journey, the more likely readers will stick with you to the end.
Open a pack of post-it notes or index cards and, looking at that promise, write out some ideas to include — simple steps, different aspects of the topic, core principles you want to share, etc. Doing this with someone else who can challenge and question what you mean and ask if anything is missing can be quite valuable.
Next, organize these cards into an overall flow — a logical beginning-to-end order, and then group them to form chapters.
It sounds obvious, but a chapter is there to make your work more digestible. Regarding content, especially with a digital book, you don’t want to overwhelm readers; they will be intimidated by long sections of unbroken text — and therefore more likely to put your book to one side, unfinished.
I recommend you create a hierarchy at three levels of organization.
Having sections is optional, but you may find that you have three or four main parts to your work. In my book, Write, Stop Waiting, Start Writing, for example, I break the book into three parts: The Big Picture, The Book, and The Book Launch.
Chapters are the main way your readers will navigate through your book. A chapter is a single idea, or a single part of your idea — something that could potentially stand alone. One of my favorite running books, Chi Running, is nicely organized. The author has a chapter on the principles of chi running, another on the skills, another on form, another on transitions that includes warming-up, cooling-down, etc.
The chapters are digestible on their own, and they have some substance to them — in this example, each one contains three or four sub-sections, and they flow together to create the whole. If you are creating your chapters from your blog posts, then think 3,000-5,000 words — something that is likely to be longer, and more in-depth than your blog posts — so you’ll be expanding on a post, or running three, four, or more posts together to create a chapter.
Your subsections represent the major ideas within each chapter. Some readers will only skim — or will skim first — and you want to tell them what is coming, ideally with headings and subheadings that entice them to read the content in detail.
These sections are similar to the sections within a blog post that tackle a self-contained concept or step, preceded by an enticing subheading that relates to the content without giving the game away.
With your sections, chapters, and subsections sketched out, you now have your outline table of contents. Again, it’s a working draft that you can change, but it’s a start, and you can add to it or delete sections once you’ve audited your content and started writing.
At this stage, I like to turn to the computer and create a folder or a project for my book, and a document for each chapter.
I write in Scrivener, so I would open a new project and create my chapters there. If you’re a die-hard Word user, or you have some other preferred software, go ahead and use whatever makes it easy for you. Just make sure that you create a document for each chapter, and don’t put your entire book in one document — you’ll thank me later when editing!
Hook Your Reader in Every Chapter by Using this Proven Structure
Most first-time authors would start writing at this stage. The smart blogger, however, knows that a little more investment in planning will save time later.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for free writing — I love writing exercises and journaling for those genuinely creative stages of the process. For a book, though, having a structure will make the writing easier.
I recommend, no matter what type of book you’re writing, that you replicate the same structure in each chapters.
You don’t need to broadcast the structure to your readers — don’t tell them how the book will be structured; that’s redundant. If you stick to a format, and you repeat it chapter after chapter, you are subliminally reassuring them about what to expect, and they can focus on the content rather than trying to figure out how the book hangs together.
Introducing the 4MAT Formula
If you’re writing a how-to book, use my twist on the well-known 4MAT structure:
- Open with a story.
- Tell the reader why this topic or step in the process is important to them getting the outcome you’ve promised. (Skip this if you’ve already shown them with your story.)
- Explain a little about the topic or the point you’re making — it could be more stories, which is great if you have lots of case studies, or it could be some data or background concepts if you’re writing about your ideas.
- Give some how-to steps, again, the depth of which depends on your topic and the type of book you’re writing. Might be some activities, might be some more stories about how people solved the challenge you’re addressing.
- Conclude the chapter with an action, a reflection, or a takeaway.
You’ll find it easier to slot your content into this chapter structure if you actually use these prompts as temporary sub-headings (which you’ll change later, of course).
Step 4: Fast-track the Writing Process by Using the Content You Already Have
You definitely don’t need to start writing from scratch. You already have a lot of content, and the idea is to make the writing easy by using what you already have.
You will write a much better book though, if you use your current blog posts as the raw material for your inspiration, and then re-write, edit, add to, or delete content to fit the flow and structure you’ve just created.
Joshua Becker, who blogs at Becoming Minimalist, has a series of books that effectively come from his blog, but that are specific. Take Clutterfree with Kids as an example. It isn’t his life’s work on minimalism, but it does draw on his existing writing for a specific audience.
Remember, you’ve intentionally chosen to go deep on a topic or theme that interests you and that connects with your readers, so be selective about the breadth of the content you include.
How to Audit Your Content and Create a Rough First Draft
You want to be selective in what you choose to bring into the book, and use only those blog posts that relate specifically to the topic you’ve chosen to write about.
The easy way to do this is to print out a list of all your blog posts organised by category, and the highlight those that you think are relevant for this book. You can then export those blog posts to word or a text file to use as the first rough draft of your book.
You might well find that you still have gaps or overlaps, and we’ll deal with that later, in the editing step.
I like to work on paper so I print out my chapter structure at this point, as well as having it open in Scrivener, and I simply go through content I already have (which might be blog posts, it might be half written articles, or even material from existing e-books or training plans — it’s all valuable). I copy sections and paste them in under each of those subheadings I created.
At this stage, I hope you can see that you already have more material than you thought, and even if you don’t have something in every section, there’s at least the start of a book there.
How to Edit Your Draft for Consistency and Value
Your job now is to take the book, section by section, fill in the gaps, and rewrite some of your material so that it hangs together in a single voice.
Edit your content so that the style and the format are consistent. And so that you are delivering that promised value to your reader.
Go back to that chapter structure and edit. Check for:
- Consistent length. Some posts may have short tips you want to expand, and some may be long personal stories you want to condense. Chapters and sections don’t have to be identical in length, but a half-page introduction to one chapter might look odd if the preceding chapter takes five pages to do the same thing. Same with chapters. Split your longer ones, and add to (or just delete) the shorter ones.
- Consistent style. Some of your chosen blog posts may be older, and your writing style may have changed — this can be one of the challenges of pulling a book together from your blog. As you edit over a few days or a few weeks, you’ll find a natural voice emerges that means you end up re-writing sections of your older work. This is all part of the process.
- Topping and tailing. Your blog posts are designed to stand alone, and each will have its own introduction and conclusion. When combining multiple posts into a single chapter, you may need to replace these with a single introduction and conclusion section. Your book will need an introductory and concluding chapter too to make it complete.
I like to write my book’s introduction partway through the writing process. It’s especially helpful if I find myself going off track because I can re-focus on the promise I am making and the outcome I am delivering — this helps me be ruthless when I go back to the body of the book.
Step 5: Let Your Most Loyal Fans Help You Finish
To stay the course of writing, you have to love your topic and want to write about it — which gives you internal motivation.
But, there comes a point for most of us in the book-writing journey where we wonder whether anyone cares about our writing. At this point, I recommend that you seek external input — to see what other people think about your writing — and how better than to ask your most loyal fans.
Engaging with your readers will give you the confidence that your book is hitting the mark (and valuable feedback if it isn’t), and it will motivate you to finally finish.
How to Find and Work with Beta Readers
This step is about finding a group of beta-readers; people who can give you honest and valuable feedback on your book.
A beta-reader is someone who is a good fit for your end customer, someone who can give you general feedback on the book. This doesn’t usually include your boyfriend / girlfriend / parent / brother-in-law / best-friend-who-has-no-idea what-you-really-do.
This is another one of your smart blogger advantages — you already know people who like your stuff — so use them.
Email your list, ask your clients or social media contacts, and ask for volunteers to join your book inner circle. (Call it whatever you want, but make it sound attractive for them.) You can have a selection process to make it even more exclusive if you have a big list.
Be sure to update your subscribers on the progress of your book. They can be helpful during the writing process – when you need to test titles for instances – but keeping them in the loop also helps to prime them for later favors, like giving you feedback.
A Sample Email to Your List
Here’s an example email you could use to build a list of beta-readers:
Notice that I’m explaining what I want, how long it will take, and what’s in it for them (although most people are more than happy to contribute just to support you).
When you send a draft of your book, you’ll get more useful feedback if you ask specific questions: which parts were too long, were there places you could have said more, did the story in chapter three connect with them, etc. Not too many but just enough to give some focus to their feedback.
Your beta-readers are not unpaid proofreaders, and they are not substitute editors. Explain (again) that you’re not looking for typos but that there will be some because this is still a draft. (Some people will tell you anyway, which I always appreciate.)
Ask if they noticed anything else or would like to give you any other feedback. Finally, explain how and when you will be in touch next.
And don’t forget to say thank you. I always give my beta-readers a copy of the finished book. Some people send chocolate.
Importantly, these beta-readers will also become your book ambassadors once you launch.
Step 6: The Simplest (but not the only) Way to Publish Your Book
There are many ways to publish — pdf, print book, Kindle, book + course bundles — and any one of them might be right for you.
You can ask people which format they prefer, but at the end of the day, you’ll probably want your book in multiple formats anyway.
To keep it simple, let’s focus on publishing your book for Amazon’s popular Kindle format.
The Benefits of a Kindle Book for the Smart Blogger
Publishing a book for Kindle is easy and affordable.
Amazon gives you the potential for a wider reach than selling solely on your blog. It’s a way to self-publish and get your book out there for a few hundred dollars, even if you outsource everything.
You also benefit from Amazon’s infrastructure because you don’t need to set up a shopping cart, and you have the best chance to build your list and generate new leads if your book can be found on Amazon. Plus, it’s much easier to get a Kindle category bestseller than a print bestseller should you be craving that credibility stack!
The Thirty-Second Guide to Publishing on Kindle
Publishing on Kindle is easy — you simply create a KDP account, add your bank account details, and you’re ready to upload your book file.
The top tips for making it work though, are a little more subtle. Here’s what I recommend:
- Make sure that what’s inside your book is perfect. This means having it properly proofread, having it formatted for Kindle (it’s super-easy to export from Scrivener if you chose that as your writing software), and making sure that any images or tables, etc. are properly formatted for Kindle in terms of size and resolution.
- Make sure you have a strong cover image. I can’t over-stress the importance of a good cover. People do judge a book by the cover, so be prepared to go pro here. That doesn’t have to mean expensive — there are great services like 99designs you can use. You want colors that stand out on the Amazon page (do some research here), a title that can be read clearly at that tiny thumbnail size, and a striking design that is relevant to your content.
- Think about the small stuff. As you upload your book, you’ll be asked to add categories, to choose digital rights management (DRM) or not, and to add a description. Give some thought to these, but don’t sweat unnecessarily; everything (with the exception of DRM) can be changed later.
- Reviews. One of the most important parts of the process is getting early reviews, and this is where that ambassadors’ group will come into its own. Reviews are an important part of a potential customer’s buying decision, so you want the reviews from your fans to appear at the top of the Amazon listing (because they are likely to be more favorable). Send your Ambassadors a copy of the book before you launch, and ask them to post their honest review as soon as possible on launch day or soon after. Try to connect with people individually — it’s well worth the effort to get ten or more good reviews on launch day.
- Price for sales. There are different strategies for launching, including offering your book for free for a few days to get maximum exposure. That can work, but my experience is that people who take something free don’t value it. As a rule, I prefer to launch with a lower price than I plan to retail at long-term. $0.99-$1.99 is a good range because you want to make it a no-brainer for your subscribers and social media communities to buy the book, and you can let them know this is a limited time offer — great for adding scarcity. After your launch period, simply go back into your KDP dashboard and increase the price, for example, to $2.99
Turn Your Dream of Becoming an Author into a Reality
When you’ve published your book, you should feel justifiably proud of yourself.
Few people have the grit to write and publish a book. You deserve to celebrate.
Becoming an author is a personal growth journey as much as it is a professional journey.
You’ll share your story with the world, grow as a teacher, and gain a deeper understanding of your topic.
You’ll develop your confidence and credibility, and you’ll also change what you think and how you feel about what you do.
In the words of Stephen King,
“I write to find out what I think.”
You don’t really know what you are capable of until you do it.