This blog was featured on 08/13/2019
Turn Your Blog into a Book
Contributor

Years ago, my writing mentor suggested I turn my blog into a book. At the time I didn’t understand why that might be a good idea. That stuff’s done; ancient history, I thought—yesterday’s news. But after my memoir was published and I’d spent several months promoting it, I wasn’t ready to begin another writing project. I needed time and space. 

I took long, leisurely walks. I wrote in my journal. I sat in silence. I let myself slow down. I listened. 

And then one day my blog-to-book project, which felt like it had been if not stalking then at least following me, tapped me on the shoulder. I turned. It stared into my eyes and whispered, “It’s time. Revisit those posts. Do it now.”

It was not the kind of message that feels anxious and unsettling; rather, it came as a clear directive, from a wise, loving source that seemed interested in helping me help others. 

Book Writing Made Easier

Before I knew it, I was off and running. The project took over. Although I spent long hours in my office, I never felt like I was working; it felt like I was taking dictation. As I wrote, I felt like I was being given everything I needed. Even when questions arose, their answers sprang to mind before I had time to ponder them. The words were there. Thoughts flowed. New stories came pouring out. It was the easiest writing I’d ever done, and it felt like I’d been given a gift: a new manuscript. Soon, with the help of two trusted colleagues, its title was born: Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? How to Find Freedom and Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book. This project emerged within weeks rather than years—although I’d been writing my blog for over a decade. Small steps taken steadily over time add up to a formidable journey.

Part of me wanted to dismiss and diminish my accomplishment, but then I realized that I’d be an ingrate if I allowed myself to discount something that had felt divinely inspired. So I didn’t take that bait. I remained grateful for the experience, as well as everything I’d learned along the way. I’d discovered why it had been a good idea to turn my blog into a book, and I’d also learned how to do it.

Why Turn Your Blog into a Book?

  1. Even your biggest fans may not read all (or even most of) your blog posts, and chances are you have a lot of good content.
  2. Organizing your work thematically, versus chronologically, creates a powerful impact. When you assemble like blog posts together under thematically related sections, each piece informs the others in ways that reinforce, expand, and transform your material.
  3. Your readers will be able to identify subjects that they’re interested in without having to comb through your blog.
  4. Revisiting what you’ve written over time and looking back at it through the lens of what you’ve learned since you wrote the original posts enables you to deepen your understanding, hone your message, and share stronger writing. 

How to Turn Your Blog Into a Book

  • Take an inventory of all your posts by making a list. Read through each post with a relaxed and open mind. You may want to scribble as you go, noting what stands out about each piece. While you read, see if titles, subtitles, themes, or section titles emerge. Chapter headings can be the names of each post; that might change over time as you edit and meanings shift, but for now, your post names can be your chapter titles. 
  • You might have several posts that say the same thing and can be consolidated into one chapter. You may have posts that don’t fit into the subject of your book and you’ll want to omit. Home in on the posts that feel relevant, the ones that speak to the subject and purpose of your book. This will likely be conveyed in your subtitle. While titles are often compelling images or catchy phrases, subtitles tell us what a book is about.
  • Once you know what your book is about, look at your posts and see which ones share areas of interest. What are they? When you identify reoccurring themes and motifs, you can use those as umbrella ideas or section titles. When I went through this process, I discovered that most of my blog posts fit into one of the five section headings of my book: Dream, Nourish, Write, Publish, and Promote. 
  • After you identify your section headings, assign like posts to their appropriate section. Work with this as a list at first. Look over your list and see how it feels. Is it complete? Is it missing something? 
  • Once your list feels solid, start stringing your posts together into manuscript format. Read them once they’re assembled. You may discover, as I did, that your strung-together blog posts don’t make a book. Your manuscript may be flabby or redundant, it may have gaping holes, or the content may be out of date. Address these concerns one at a time. Create a table of contents and revise as needed. You may have to update it a lot, which is fine.

It may be helpful, even if you’re writing a self-help or business book, to look at my blog post “Call it into Being: Memoir Organization and Structure.”

Be Open to Change

While your blog is likely filled with great content, especially if you’ve been writing it for years, it may not translate into a book right away. As you work with the material, it will take on a new shape. Be open. Listen. Trust what comes forward. If you’re lucky, you’ll be guided every step of the way and your book, which originated in your blog long ago, will gel into something greater than the sum of its parts.

If you’ve been blogging for years, you may have the substance of a book partially drafted. Culling, organizing, and expanding this material is a gift you give yourself as well as your readers. —But only if you’re called to do it. When thinking about what to write, follow your enthusiasm.

Don’t turn your blog into a book because you think you should.

Do it because the work feels relevant and alive.

Do it because you are not done with the work and the work is not yet done with you!

Post Script: Where Do You Hang Your Hammock: How to Find Freedom and Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book is due out next year. 

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Comments
  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    M FORMISSUS: Sorry, Jane Friedman's book is THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER.

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    M Formissus: Thanks for reading and commenting. You never know what might interest publishers and agents—and also there’s a big, wide world of publishing out there in which you are absolutely free to do as you please. Write for yourself first and then figure out to place what you've written. Meanwhile, learn as much as you can about publishing. Two books I recommend are Green-Light Your Book by Brooke Warner and The Business of Writing by Jane Friedman. Good luck!

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    HYBA: You CAN do this!

  • m formissus

    Loved this article. Thank you Bella. This was informative and came as a relief because I have long listened to how publishers are not interested in material that is already out there in a free format. If there is more we can read on how publishers and agents view material from blogs that later become a book, would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

  • Hyba Writing

    I've heard other writers recommend this, too, and I really think it's a great idea! Compiling your blog posts and editing them into a book is something I wish I could do! Thanks so much for sharing this article - your tips are very thorough and useful!