Interview with Nina Amir
The veteran journalist and book editor lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Los Gatos, California. Her book, How to Blog a Book: How to Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books), was just published and has already received good reviews on Amazon.com.
My article on her book and the concept, Blog a Book, recently appeared in The Star.
I stumbled across Nina’s book while googling for something or another one day and was immediately fascinated by her blog and her book, which was not released then.
Nina’s detailed reply to my questions was such a treasure trove of information that I feel it needful to reproduce on my blog:
What does “blogging a book” mean?
Blogging a book means composing your manuscript on the internet using blog technology. Basically, you write, publish and promote your book at one post at a time on the Internet. This produces the first draft of your book, or your second, depending upon how much editing you do prior to hitting the “publish” button. It also produces an author’s platform, or a fan base, so you have a built-in readership for the printed book or ebook once it is released.
How did you get the idea for “blog the book?”
I was asked to serve as a speaker on a panel at the San Francisco Writers Conference; the panel was about blogging and blogging books, but I noticed no one on the panel was an expert on blogging books per se. I thought the idea of blogging a book was a fabulous one, checked around and noticed nobody seemed to be writing or teaching anything on how to blog a book. So, a month prior to the conference I started a blog with the intention of blogging a book about how to blog a book. I called it How to Blog a Book (www.howtoblogabook.com). I, therefore, became the expert on the topic, and over time I drove my blog to the #1 Google position with the search terms how to blog a book, blog a book, and blogging a book.
The premise was simple. I thought I would apply the principles I use with my writing, book and author coaching clients to blogging a book. I would take readers of the blogged book through what I call the “proposal process” and have them see their idea through the eyes of an agent or publisher. In other words, I would show them how to evaluate their blogged book through the lens of all the sections in a book proposal evaluating its marketability online and off and their own ability to help a book succeed—to actually be an author or a successful author. I would explain how to map out all the book’s content and to write posts that would garner traffic (readers). They would then begin writing and promoting the book online, in the process building the coveted author’s platform necessary to land a traditional book deal or to successfully launch any book.
I finished blogging my book in five months by writing 3-4 posts per week.
Can you briefly explain the process?
I basically did so above. However, after the evaluation process and after mapping out the content and coming up with a promotion plan, etc., you begin writing your book one post at a time off line and then publishing it using blog technology. You create a manuscript off line using a word processing document, which you later edit, and you post 250-500 word pieces of the manuscript to the blog consistently—I suggest 3-5 times per week.
You then promote the blog with social networking, commenting on other blogs and using other means, such as ezine articles, traditional media, writing for publications, speaking, etc.
If you garner a large amount of traffic for the blog, a publisher or agent may come knocking. If not, you may need to write a query letter and look for an agent to help you find a publisher. In either case, at some point in the process it’s a good idea to take the information accumulated during the proposal process and place it in a proposal, have that edited professionally, and begin submitting it to publishers. (Or have it ready for when a publisher finds you.)
If you don’t land a publishing deal, you can take your blogged book, revise the manuscript, get it edited, and turn it into a POD (print on demand) book, some other type of self-published book or an ebook, and sell it yourself.
What are the benefits of blogging a book?
Eighty-one percent of Americans say they have a book inside them waiting to come out. Most of them never get it written. I’m sure the statistics are similar in other countries.
Today, a good idea and good writing are not enough to make you a published author—at least not a nonfiction author. You need an author’s platform—a huge number of people who know you in some capacity—a fan base—who likely will buy a book you write. If you can prove that you can sell books, you prove you are a good business partner for a publisher.
Blogging a book is the fastest and easiest way to write your book and promote it—build platform—at the same time. If you don’t want to take the time to promote yourself or your work, and you aren’t finding the time to write your books, blogging your book may be just the solution to your problem. Plus, more blogs are getting discovered by publishers today than ever before and turned into books. So, if you blog a book you might actually land a book deal—or at the least, end up with a readership large enough to convince a publisher your blog deserves to be a book. If you decide to self-publish your book, you’ll also have created the fan base to produce a successful book.
How did people react to the idea?
Almost unanimously aspiring authors and publishing and book marketing professionals have thought the idea is a fabulous one. Aspiring writers, especially those who would like to land a traditional publishing deal and know they need an author’s platform to do so, are hopping on board. Publishers and book marketing experts alike agree that a blog offers writers the best tool for building platform today. And most writers don’t want to take the time to build platform. Blogging, therefore, allows them to write—or write their book—and build platform while actually producing the first draft of their manuscript. They kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.
If you want to hear what industry experts are saying, here are a few of the testimonials I’ve received:
“Recycling your blog posts into a book may provide the easiest way to write a book, and How to Blog a Book provides the plan for producing both the blog and a book that agents, publishers and readers will notice.”
Dan Poynter, The Self-Publishing Manual and How to Write Nonfiction, www.parapublishing.com
“Blogging is a great way to create content for a book. Now Nina has put together a road map for getting a book out of your blog posts. Check out How to Blog a Book. It covers all the stops along the way to your destination as a published author.”
John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, www.bookmarket.com
The old saying, Kill two birds with one stone, is the perfect metaphor for what Nina teaches in this valuable book. Blog with the intention of turning the accumulated material into a complete trade book is a brilliant concept.
Jeff Herman, Literary agent, www.jeffherman.com
“If you are just starting out as a blogger or if you already have 15,000 posts online, Nina Amir’s How to Blog a Book, has the plan for you. You can’t go wrong with this book. Written to provide you with the easiest path from screen to page, How to Blog a Book, gets you there while helping you to dodge many pitfalls and common frustrations. Read it and learn.”
Shane Birley, co-author of Blogging for Dummies, www.shanesworld.ca
Writers were often told that if their books end up online, there goes the publishing deal. However, you are encouraging readers to blog their first manuscript right there on the blog. Why is that?
It’s true that some publishers balk at previously published material. For the most part these days, publishers see a popular blog as a successfully test marketed book idea. According to the president of Hyperion Books, prior to blogging technology publishers had no way to test market a book idea effectively. What better way to use a blog for this purpose than to actually plan out your books content and publish it on a blog?
I did exactly that and had my blogged book picked up by a publisher who specializes in books on writing and publishing. They seem to think the premise is a good one! They didn’t mind that a good bit of the book had already been published in cyberspace. I do, however, suggest that book bloggers hold back some material and plan on releasing that in the printed or ebook version.
How would you describe a quality blog post?
This really depends upon the type of book you are writing, if you are talking specifically about a post related to a blogged book.
If you are talking in general about blogging, a quality post has great information or thought-provoking information.
If you want it to generate great SEO, it has to contain keywords so it is searchable and helps your site rise in the search engine results pages.
It has to add value to the lives of those that read it, or strike an emotional chord.
It should generate reader engagement, in the form of comments, conversation, or shares or likes.
What about those who have an existing blog but did not start out their blog with a proposal in mind? How can they turn their blog posts into an eBook?
Yes, they can repurpose their posts into a book, or “book their blog.” And turning it into an ebook is a great idea. Ebooks are hot right now; it’s a great market to get into, and just like blogs offer inexpensive ways to write, publish and promote books, ebooks offer an inexpensive way to turn that final draft of your blogged books into a saleable product. Aspiring authors can become published authors in no time flat with an ebook. I highly recommend they take this route. (Of course, book bloggers become authors as soon as they begin hitting that “publish” button on their blog.)
You mention that one can blog a novel too. How does one do that?
Blogging a novel is a bit trickier. The chapters in novels aren’t as easy to break into small pieces; it’s easier to do this with a nonfiction book. However, there are novelists doing so. You simply have to find logical places to break your writing so you are still posting short pieces on line and not long ones. This keeps your readers coming back to “turn the page,” if you will.
I think this works best for novels with short chapters so you basically serialize the novel. If you post 1,000 words at a time, rather than, say, 500 or 750 words, you will blog your book very quickly and not build up a readership. I have, however, heard of some novelists who blog one book fairly quickly and then go on to blog another immediately afterward. Some do this on the same blog and some start a new blog. They build a readership simply by churning out a lot of content and great stories one after the other.
If you are blogging nonfiction, I suggest your post length range from 250-500 words. By keeping the length short, you will blog your book over a longer period of time. This allows you to build a readership for the printed book.
How did the book deal with Writers Digest come about?
I already had a literary agent. She was peddling another writing-related book for me at the time when I finished the first draft of How to Blog a Book on the blog. I was concerned about being first to market with the book. My agent encouraged me quickly to write a proposal. As soon as I was done, she began marketing the How to Blog a Book proposal to publishers instead of the other. We got turned down by a few publishers (2 or 3); Writer’s Digest Books, however, voiced strong interest, although we had to submit there twice and wait quite a long time to hear back from them. Once they said “yes,” like me, they were in a hurry to get it published. In fact, I signed the contract in July 2011 and the book will be released in April 2012. That’s pretty fast for most traditional publishers.
What does it mean to “repurpose” content?
This means reusing content in other ways and for different purposes, such as taking a series of blog posts on one topic and putting them together into a short ebook, or one blog post and rewriting it for a press release or an article—or the majority of a blog and turning it into a book. You can repurpose an article you wrote into a couple of blog posts or a social network status update or comment on a blog into a blog post as well. Additionally, you could take a blog post and repurpose the same material into a Youtube video or into an audio clip or break it down into a series of tips you post as Twitter status updates.
Some people believe that blog posts should remain as they are – with errors and all – when included in the book as it’s more authentic. What do you think about that?
I don’t think that’s the best strategy if you want to gain new readers—buyers—to a book. I consider the blogged book, or the blog, your first draft. I coach people to write their book in a word processing program in post-sized bits that they then publish on their blog. This becomes their first draft. Just like any writer or aspiring author, that first draft then goes through several more drafts. It needs both developmental and line editing. It needs to get fleshed out, polished. That’s why my book went from 26,300 words, the length of the online book, to more than double that word count in the final draft. And the writing is cleaner, I’ve included more and better content, and I’ve included new content you can’t find on the blog. That makes the printed book attractive both to my regular readers and to new readers. Everyone will find something new in the book.
And why would anyone want to read a book—or publish a book—with errors? That makes no sense to me. You want to put your best work in print. You want to look professional.
There are blog-to-book programs available. They will print your book so it looks exactly like your blog. I don’t suggest that. You want your book, when it is finished, to look and read like a book. Let the blog be a blog and your book be a book—even if you are booking your blog.
How did you end up in the writing life?
I began writing when I was quite young—probably in elementary school. I used to write stories about horses. And I’d illustrate them, too
In high school I thought I wanted to grow up and become a novelist, because I loved reading so much. However, my mother told me only “a really good writer can make a living as a novelist.” So, I assumed she was trying to tell me something. I then took a journalism class, and discovered I could have a career—maybe not well paying, but a career—as a journalist. So, I went to college and became trained as a magazine journalist.
That led me to writing and editing jobs on magazines, other publications and even in corporations and businesses. Later, I took on a job editing a book for someone I knew. My professor in college had told me books were just a series of articles on the same topic strung together. So, I figured I could edit a book since I could write and edit articles. That’s how I became a book editor, and later a book, writing and author coach and consultant. It’s also how I became an author. I applied the same principle to blogging a book—lots of posts on one topic strung together into a book.
What do you love about working with words?
I can express myself, my thoughts and my feelings clearly. I can explore thoughts, concepts and ideas. I can reach people, touch people, create change in the world on a variety of levels. Oh…and I can be sure my words mean what I want them to mean…unlike when I speak. Sometimes I say things and the words come out wrong or are misinterpreted or misunderstood. That happens a lot less when I write.