Have you seen The Martian yet? If not, go see The Martian. I loved it, even more than I loved Fury Road. Everybody I know loved it. The reviewer I trust most called it the best hard sci-fi movie ever, based on the best hard sci-fi book ever.
Seriously, this was a great movie. Go see it. I’ll wait.
Okay. Wasn’t that fun?
Here’s the thing about The Martian.
It grossed $54 million on its opening weekend, and as of October 26, has brought in $385 million worldwide. More than two years after its release, the book is sitting at #6 on Amazon for Science Fiction and #15 overall. It’s not hyperbole to call the project a phenomenon.
Slightly less impressive, but related for reasons I’ll reveal shortly, are the stories of Grammar Girl, Mil Millington and Justin Halpern.
- Grammar Girl sells hundreds of thousands of books a year, after starting a blog to help academics write better.
- Mil Millington’s books still rank well on Amazon, all collected takes from his blog Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About.
- Justin Halpern moved in with his cantankerous father and began tweeting the choicest comments for his own amusement, eventually ending up with a network TV show based on his Tweets starring William Freaking Shatner.
And The Martian began life as a blog, with each post representing a journal entry by protagonist Mark Whatney. Blog-to-book is no guarantee of spectacular success for your writing project, but it is seriously the best system I’ve encountered so far to hedge your bets in that direction.
If you blog for your business, it combines the power of robust search content with a three-dimensional mailer that trumps postcards and brochures every day of the week.
If you’re an expert, it lets you establish that expertise online while working towards becoming the person who literally wrote the book on that topic.
If you’re a fiction writer, you build interest in your stories and characters and establish a viable fan base before the book gets released.
How Blogging Your Book Works
It’s a simple enough process:
- Step One: Come up with a unified theme for your blog. Everybody’s blogging a book these days, but most people do it wrong and just slap covers around 50 or so blog posts. The result is an uncompelling book, because there’s no center or soul to the material. Stay focused.
- Step Two: Blog once (or twice) a week with 1,000 of your best words about your topic or industry, or of your story if you write fiction.
- Step Three: Engage relentlessly about your topic, both by posting links to your blog and by saying smart, funny and shareable stuff about other people’s related material online. Likewise, respond to all comments on or about what you blog.
- Step Four: Once you have enough material to make a book, collect it all and revise it according to what readers have suggested, what you’ve learned since you started, and the general rules about what works for books as opposed to blogs.
- Step Five: Hire professionals to edit the book, lay out the interior and design the cover. It’s worth the investment.
- Step Six: Put that bad boy out on the market and tend it like a fragile seed. If you want to succeed, you’ll need to pay as much attention to it after release as when you were writing it.
- Step Seven: Get to work on the follow-up book. The single most effective technique for selling more books on Amazon is to put more books on Amazon.
Okay, maybe it’s not that easy. But it’s exactly this simple.
Why Blogging Your Book Works
Once upon a time, people wrote their magnum opuses (opii?) in seclusion, then released them to the world with the help of huge publishing companies. That’s too slow and too uncertain for most businesses and experts, and many aspiring fiction authors, in the 21st century. Blogging Your Book engages readers and potential clients early and creates success with a three-pronged approach:
It even gives you free beta readers. This model is made of win.
Have you ever been doing something for a while, then suddenly realized it was a great idea? I can’t claim to have thought of it, but I have been guiding authors, experts and businesses through the process for enough years to know its features, faults and finesses.
Drop me a line if you’d like to learn more. I love geeking out about this stuff.