We had a great show with a lot of tips and insights, From Blog to Book, with guest Pamela Redmond Satran, who turned her blog, How Not to Act Old, into a book that was published by HarperCollins in August 2009.
Leading into the interview, SEO expert Susan Gilbert noted that success is in the mind of the beholder – and you can measure success of a website or blog in different ways. However, everyone should have long- and short-term goals in mind when they set out.
Goals can include quantifying the number of site visitors, newsletter sign-ups, blog subscribers, comments following each post or retweets on Twitter. The value you assign these items varies based on why you’re doing this in the first place.
“If you have it in mind to build a blog because you’re creating content for a book, then think big in terms of structure,” Gilbert says. Start with a strong back end system for your site that can handle the growth.
How will you know it’s a success? The systems you put in place to measure this from day one will let you know if you’re moving in the right direction. If you’re getting sign-ups, comments, visitors â€¦ you’ll have evidence that you’re doing something right.
For additional resources and tips, check Susan Gilbert’s website, www.susangilbert.com.
About our guest: Pamela Redmond Satran, http://pamelaredmondsatran.com, is the author of the NY Times bestselling humor book How Not To Act Old, based on her blog (http://hownottoactold.com) of the same name, and of five novels, including Younger and The Man I Should Have Married, and the baby name books Cool Names for Babies and The Baby Name Bible, which became the foundation of http://nameberry.com. She also writes a column for Glamour and also writes frequently for The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post. Learn more about her blog to book experience at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-redmond-satran/how-to-turn-your-blog-int_b_643477.html.
Pamela said she started her blog, How Not to Act Old, with the intention of getting published. When she first had the idea, Pamela thought it would make a quick, fun magazine article, but she couldn’t find anyone interested in the piece. Meanwhile, she had to learn how to blog that summer as her baby naming site, nameberry.com, was going live. She figured she would try blogging and see how it went.
She started How Not to Act Old in June 2008, and she says while evidence of increasing site traffic, visitors, etc. is important, another important factor to consider when blogging is sustainability. Is the blog something you can keep going for a couple of years? You need time to build an audience, sell a book, drum up interestâ€¦. you’re basically in it for the long haul.
There is also no guarantee that people who read the blog will buy the book, she says; they may assume they’ve read it all on the blog. Or, if the blog is free online, why pay $15 or $20 for more for a book?
Things to consider when deciding if your blog is worthy of a book: you’ll need a lot of new material, which can take a year or so to build up. “Look at the issue from 30,000 feet – the big picture: probably the best chance of success is if you go out the door with a sharp idea that you know hasn’t been overdone online or in books, and with a url that builds your brand (don’t have different urls for your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, etc.).” In addition, writing, tone and graphics used in print can make it difficult to translate from books to the web, which is a very visual medium. Yet all kinds of elements should be part of your blog package, including video and music – even if those are not part of the book, she says.
Pamela says she knew How Not to Act Old was a fresh idea because no one was writing to new generation of middle-aged people – who swore they would never be middle aged or act old. She sent blog posts around and got a lot of positive reaction from friends and family, who were sending the pieces to other people (of course your friends and mom will love what you write, she says, but if your friends’ friends make it viral, that’s one way to know you’ve tapped into something).
Bloggers entertaining the idea of getting a book deal should pay attention to industry news. Publisher’s Lunch, Publisher’s Marketplace and Publisher’s Weekly are online so you can keep up with book deals: who is getting them, and what kind of books. You can Google popular blogs and blog topics, or check sites like Technorati.com to see what has people buzzing, or if your topic is overdone.
Also, if you’re serious, buy the web domain name that is right for your book and blog. For tracking statistics such as site visitors, Google analytics is a free program that offers a lot of data.
Pamela used a WordPress blog and got her domain name – How Not to Act Old – and she was very happy with it. She used the built-in WordPress measurement tools to learn where traffic was coming from, when her blog was getting spikes in visitors and other details.
Interestingly enough, when Pamela was meeting with publishers about turning her blog into a book, nobody asked her about her blog traffic. “I was surprised. I think publishers have had to get a lot more sophisticated very quickly – two years ago nobody asked me how many unique visitors â€¦ and it’s harder now to get the numbers in traffic that will impress a publisher,” she says.
In this tougher market, she says you should use blog and traffic statistics to make a great presentation to a publisher, and use those stats to show growth and provide evidence that your blog will continue to grow.
With digital books so popular right now, writers should probably think “blog to e-book and self publish,” Pamela adds, because it’s so much easier and much more respectable to self-publish now. “If you build an audience for your blog and have something fresh to say in a book, in some ways then why do you need a publisher? Sell your book to your audience directly.” Plus, if you sell a lot of e-books, traditional publishers will take notice.
Please join us August 10 for our next show, A Self Publishing Success Story, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepublishinginsiders/2010/08/10/a-self-publishing-success-story.
Authors can and should look beyond the bookstore for their book sales, and Randy Kearse has found a winning formula selling his books on the New York City subway. Over the past three years, Randy has sold about 14,000 copies of his books at $10 apiece, offering his message of hope, redemption and success. Randy will share his story and his strategies for his successful subway sales.
About our guest: Once deemed a menace to society by a judge who sentenced him to 15 years in 1992, Randy Kearse, author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, served 13 years, 6 months and 2 days in federal prison. He returned to society with a new perspective, a fresh focus, and strong determination to succeed. Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. Randy grew up in the Farragut housing projects. He provides people with a formula to turn a negative situation into a positive opportunity.
Randy is the author of Street Talk: Da Official Guide to Hip-Hop & Urban Slanguage (first self-published then picked up by Barricade Books Inc. for Street Talk); Changin’ Your Game Plan: How to use incarceration as a stepping stone for SUCCESS; The Writing Game: How to Print, Publish, Profit in the Book Industry; co-wrote From Incarceration 2 Incorporation with best selling author J.M. Benjamin; and recently released The Street Survival Guide for the Young Black and Latino Male. Learn more at http://www.randykearse.com/ and http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/10/nyregion/10books.html.