3 Simple Ways to Turn Your Website Archive into Profitable Books and eBooks

image of vintage archive

Attention Bloggers: I’ve seen the future, and you’re missing it.

Oh sure, we bloggers think we’re the most up-to-date, leading-edge, tech-savvy people on the planet.

But one of the biggest changes in the long history of content creation is taking place right under your feet, and I’m afraid it may be passing you by.

Yep, the ground is shifting, fortunes are being made, and some of the people who could best profit from this tectonic shift — content producers — are mostly sitting on the sidelines.

Okay, what am I talking about? The revolution in book publishing …

Maybe you’ve heard some of the success stories of the authors who’ve been selling a ton of paranormal romances, thrillers or other genre novels on Amazon’s Kindle platform, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

You may have also heard about big-time authors like Barry Eisler, Steven King, Seth Godin and others leading the way in self-publishing. That’s not it either.

What I’m talking about is something bloggers are already expert in: niche publishing.

Bloggers vs. authors

Let’s back up for a minute. Have you ever thought about the similarities between self-publishing and blogging? Probably not, why would you?

But as a blogger who writes about indie book publishing, I think about this stuff all the time. And here’s what I see at this amazing moment in publishing:

Self-publishers and bloggers each have only half the equation for success in the new world of book publishing.

Take authors for example. Most are really good at things like producing long content (long as in 80,000 words), staying with a project for months or years without losing focus, and planning a complex project using freelance contractors.

The problem is, many authors are notorious loners, are often non-technical, they can go years without any contact with their readers, and their mindset may be completely rooted in the 19th century. Not only that, the typical author has no idea of what marketing actually means in the real world.

That might make a blogger feel pretty good about herself.

It’s true that bloggers stay in constant touch with their readers, know how to publish on a schedule, get constant feedback from readers, love to experiment via agile content, and are highly networked with other bloggers in their niche.

But niche market bloggers have obstacles to overcome, too.

They can fall into the trap of thinking 500 words at a time, with disjointed subjects littering their archives. After blogging for a while, they may lose sight of any overarching theme they started with.

Not only that, many bloggers treat their blogs as a “hobby”, or they’re focused on Adsense, affiliate sales and special promotions. Bloggers like to chase the “shiny new object,” fall into the social media time-sink very easily, and all too often rely exclusively on metrics as the measure of their success.

Why book publishing makes sense for bloggers

Here’s what you’ve been missing: you don’t have to be Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath or John Locke (all of whom have sold a ton of ebook fiction) to get major, potentially life-changing results from book publishing.

This is the dirty little secret behind self-publishing that we’ve been hiding from the big publishers for years:

If you’re a writer with ready access to a niche audience, you’re probably much better off financially publishing your own book.

If you blog on a niche topic and know how to reach the people in that field, why give 85% of your profits to a big publisher in New York?

(If you’re Chris Brogan or Tim Ferriss writing for a mass consumer or mass business market, you might be better off with that big publisher. But if that’s not you, read on.)

The blogger’s unfair advantage

Okay, so you know how to meet deadlines, you publish on a schedule and you’re in touch with your readers. You’re already miles ahead of most self-published authors.

Is it really worth going through the trouble of learning how to publish books? Here are some outcomes that might stimulate you.

  • Authority — There’s a reason all those guests you see on TV are introduced as “author of …” There’s nothing that will supercharge the authority you have in your niche the way a book will, especially one with lots of testimonials from people your readers know and respect.
  • Passive income — It’s better than ads in your sidebars, better than pay-per-click, and once your book is for sale in either print or ebook versions, the whole process is completely automatic.
  • Status — Having a book to your name will spread your profile far beyond the circles you can reach with your blog.
  • More opportunities — You are likely to get more offers for speaking gigs, joint ventures and co-authoring opportunities once you’re a published author.
  • Stand out from the crowd — Is there another blogger in your niche who is also a published author? No? What’s stopping you?
  • Back of the room sales — Another underutilized way to make money from your blog is by selling your book at live appearances, workshops or other events.

But how do you make the leap from blogger to author? It can seem overwhelming when you compare the pile of posts in your archive to a neat and cohesive manuscript ready to publish.

Don’t despair; I’ve got three methods you can use, so read on to see which one appeals to you …

1. The site archive method

Lots of bloggers ignore their archives, which is a shame.

We’re so concerned with the next post that we forget all the value we’ve built up over the months or years we’ve been blogging.

In this method you explore your archives for themes that keep reappearing, or for posts you wrote to answer the most common and compelling questions people keep coming up with in your niche. Your “pillar” or “evergreen” or “foundation” posts are going to come into play here.

Gather the posts you find that meet your criteria into sections, each one for a separate subject. These will eventually become the chapters in your book.

This is the method I used last year when I published A Self-Publisher’s Companion. Then I wrote an introduction for the book, added an up-to-date resource section and the book was done. How cool is that?

2. The series method

This is the opposite of the Archive method, because it means you’ll be writing the book as a series of blog posts or, more likely, as several series.

You’ll outline the book first. This doesn’t have to be difficult, just pick the subjects you want to cover and then divide them into chapters.

For example, your book might have 12 chapters, and each chapter could be about 5,000 words.

Create a blog post that looks at each aspect of your chapter. You’re now looking at a series of five 1,000-word articles. And don’t forget, blog post series are a great way to keep readers involved and coming back for more, so you’ll win both ways, as a blogger and an author.

Just keep writing those series of blog posts, and pretty soon your manuscript will be finished and ready to go.

3. The big edit method

In this method you’ll treat all posts as potential first draft material.

Although this takes the greatest amount of work, it has the potential to produce the best book from the copy you’ve already written.

Look through the content you already have, selecting the parts that work within the scheme of your book. You’ll be doing a ton of cutting-and-pasting as you assemble the bits you want to use.

Undoubtedly, you’ll need to write new material to create an effective manuscript that flows well from one subject to another. To use this method, you’ll probably also need to hire an editor to help shape and smooth out the manuscript.

The truth is, in the book world, hiring an editor is always a good idea.

Your book editor can be a powerful ally when it comes to creating a book people really want to buy.

What’s next?

Now, you’ve got a real book manuscript.

When I did this last year it took about 40 blog posts and a new introduction to create a 222-page trade paperback that sells for $14.95 (print) or $4.99 (ebook).

What’s the profit look like from those books? On sales at Amazon.com — after all discounts and manufacturing costs — my profit is $8.00 per paperback and $3.75 per ebook.

Getting interested? Want to know how to get started turning your archives into books? Here are some tips:

  • The fastest way to get a book up for sale without the complications of formatting for print production is with an ebook.
  • These are ePub and Mobi ebooks, not PDF ebooks like the ones you give away on your blog.
  • You can convert your own files to ebooks with free software like Calibre or with a tool like Scrivener, used by many ebook authors. Apple’s Pages outputs to ePub, and more tools like this are coming online constantly.
  • Smashwords will convert your book for free if you follow their formatting guidelines.
  • BookBaby offers great deals on ebook conversion and distribution to all major retailers at very low fees.
  • Become part of the book scene by getting familiar with some of the big reader communities that are growing like crazy online. Goodreads, Shelfari, Wattpad, and Scribd are all new communities with millions of members that most bloggers have never even heard of.
  • Use your blogging schedule to plan out the article series that will become your book manuscript. For instance, you might want to have a special focus on your blog for the month, encouraging lots of discussion and interaction while you’re creating that specific part of your book.
  • Leverage your blogging network when it comes time to launch and promote your book. After all, you establish these connections to help market your blog. When your book comes out, it’s a great opportunity to “tour” the other blogs in your niche, exposing you to tons of new readers.

The time is now

Well, there you have it.

No group of people is better situated than bloggers RIGHT NOW to take advantage of the historic movement to digital books and the exploding popularity of self-publishing.

Will you join the revolution?

About the Author: Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) is an award-winning book designer, a blogger, and the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion: Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish. He’s been launching the careers of self-publishers since 1994 and writes TheBookDesigner.com, a popular blog on book design, book marketing and the future of the book. Joel's also just about to launch a new online training course, The Self-Publishing Roadmap.

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Comments

  1. To say this post brings BIG TIME clarity on how to be resourceful with your content, would be an understatement.

    We are actually writing a book right now, using the blog archive method – mixed with new content – and publishing teasers of the chapters to our audience on Facebook, as a way to solicit feedback. It’s been amazing.

    Thank you for the great information Joel.

  2. Thank you so much for these ideas! I’ve been kicking the book idea around for a while, and never even thought about pulling from my blog archives! Genius.

  3. Great post.

    I’ve recently published a short book on Amazon, but now I’m in the process of writing a much bigger one based on posts I’m going to write.

    I’m glad you brought it up. I think it’s a great deal for our readers as well as ourselves.

    • One of the advantages of doing it that way is you’ll get ongoing feedback from your readers about the book. This is incredibly valuable and one of the biggest missing elements in most book publishing. For many years publishers have issued books based on what they thought people wanted, and their track record isn’t that good. Blogging is a great tool for gauging how your content is intersecting with your audience.

      • Yeah, that’s a great benefit. I also think there are a few others for us, as publishers:

        1 – We can drive our books up the charts, which not only means we are selling to our audience but we make ourselves available to people searching through Amazon and such.

        2 – Amazon has a better conversion % than traditional eBooks.

        I think this is especially made possible because anyone can read Kindle books on their PC/Mac now by downloading the free Kindle reader. I personally much rather read Kindle books on my laptop than PDF books.

  4. just wondering, if you use the archive method, do you then delete those from your archive or are they still there?

    • They are still in the archives, Wendy, especially since those posts have a lot of links associated with them. As long as you’re clear with your readers about that, there’s no reason to delete them.

  5. Great post with fantastic ideas which I will incorporate in my blog. Thanks!

  6. It’s always something to think about. I know many writers who have used their archives in such a way and have had great success with it.

  7. Sounds like it’s time for me to take a trip through memory lane. :D

    Since I’m primarily a fiction writer, I think it’d be fun to mine my archives for my posts related to subject matter in my fiction. For example, in an upcoming series, one of my characters deals with depression. Since I struggled with depression of my own for years and worked hard to overcome it and build a life that makes me happy, it would tie in well with this character. I think my readers would also enjoy it, because they’ve expressed similar struggles in the comments throughout the years. This could be a lot of fun!

    Thanks Joel!

    • Great idea, Liz. Fiction writers face special challenges as bloggers, and a blog may not always be the best way to promote yourself as a fiction author. But lots of writers have found interesting and engaging ways to stimulate interest in their work. I’ve seen blogs written from a character’s point of view, for instance, or blog interviews with characters. Other authors use some of the “backstory” they develop to generate blog posts with content that won’t appear in the final book. Authors of historical fiction blog about the period their books are set in. It sounds like your readers are pretty engaged, so you must be doing something right!

      • I recently started up a second website as a sort of hub for the series I mentioned. I did a character interview and have plans to post extra content, so I’m glad to see that these are good practices!

        I typically blog about the writing process, life as an indie author, and reviews of other books (indie and otherwise), but before that I blogged about pretty much everything. Most of the people who read my blog are more like friends because I’ve had such long relationships with them, and I’ve tried to maintain that friendly attitude with new readers even though I’m now primarily a “professional” blogger. Most of my posts are how-to articles for other indies just getting started; I guess you could say my blogging mission statement is to reach out and help other people who want to pursue their dreams of being a writer but aren’t sure how to start. I’m kind of shy in person but I really love people.

        I have a background in online marketing, but it really is a different game when it comes to fiction (though I’ve definitely been able to apply a lot of what I learned over the years). I think the key is engagement, no matter what your niche is. I’m still figuring all the rest out. ;)

  8. Great post Joel and got me thinking. I have one eBook on Amazon already but it’s not all my own work. It’s the time taken to edit the content that keeps delaying things for me.

    • Joel, you have so much detailed “niche” knowledge that you could probably create a whole series of books rather than one big one. Even 10,000 word articles are selling on Kindle, as long as they are clearly described.

  9. thanks a lot for the inspiration. I’m the lazy person an need inspiration time to time.

  10. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I wonder if I have enough followers of my blog to warrant a book. Maybe a small ebook. But then in turn, wouldn’t it promote my blog? Especially if I offer it for free, like content marketers advocate? With all the options, it’s hard to figure out what avenue to take. Maybe it’s all just trial and error to see what’ll work for me.

  11. You make excellent and timely points! Yesterday, I listened to a teleseminar from Writer’s Digest and the topic was “blog your book.” I like the idea that it could work for fiction writers because I’m interested in writing fiction in addition to non-fiction. Creating a blog from a character’s POV sounds like a lot of fun, and it could be an interesting project. I like how Elizabeth is tying her own experience to her character. This is another way to show your authenticity and engage readers.

    It’s time for me to join the revolution. Which blog to choose from? I could go with my personal development blog I want to relaunch or start with my teen/parent coaching blog I also want to relaunch. I could always create ‘free’ reports and give those away as gifts for those who sign up on my “relaunch” page. Then again, I could start with one of my fiction/YA stories I’m outlining. Or the TV pilot I wrote. Hmm…

    • Amandah, there are techniques for both fiction and nonfiction that you can use. Nina Amir, the author of the new title “How to Blog Your Book” (Writer’s Digest Books) has lots of ideas on this topic, too, you might want to check it out.

  12. Matin d'Crese :

    Self publishing is not ego, it is the book! Do not sell yourself short, anyone can knock out a book, but not a good book!

  13. What a lot of people don’t realize, is that the actual production of a book, whether print or digital, is actually the easiest part. Once you’ve got the text figured out, there are plenty of reasonable options including hiring a freelancer or two for the layout. Also, I always suggest to be very careful of the pay to publish/POD/”self publishing companies that are out there and generally come up first when searching about publishing. That’s not the same as true self or independent publishing and it’s very important for both control and your bottom line to understand the differences.

    • Great point, Cheryl. These days there’s no reason that anyone who can run a blog can’t publish their own books. For the specialist work there are lots of people available including editors, cover designers and interior layout people looking for work. In general, “subsidy” publishers (the ones that do all the aggressive advertising) are probably the worst bet.

  14. Joel,

    Thanks for this excellent advice.

    Writing blog posts with the intention of compiling them into a book is so sensible. I stumbled upon this idea a few years ago when I noticed one day that I had generated over 100 blog posts and thought, “Hm-m-m, I have a book here.”

    Since a book hadn’t been my original intent, I had to select the posts that would work, create a table of contents, and add some new content to blend it all together. There was no way I was going to go to print, however, without an editor, proofreader and graphic artist.

    These services are lots more plentiful and affordable now than they once were, so there’s no reason to risk going it alone, especially editing and formatting. The goal is to turn out a well-written and professional product that can hold its own against other respected books on the market. Trying to do it all yourself could well do you in.

    • Flora, many successful self-publishers have taken the same route. One way to really stand out from the huge wave of self-published titles is to make sure your book is as professional as possible, that it can really stand toe to toe with books from big traditional publishers. Good luck!

  15. I’ve done this (six years ago) and the project turned out very well. I used a combination of blog posts, articles I had written for a local newspaper and some original material. Plus I was blessed to have Darren Rowse discuss it at ProBlogger. :-)
    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/08/10/blogging-for-money-by-self-publishing-a-book/

  16. The reverse process can also apply – I once did a job for a guy who wanted his ebook split into a blog series. Interesting job; still not sure how well the end result has paid off for him, though!

  17. Hey Joel,

    this is a great article. A resource people considering this might want to check out is leanpub (http://leanpub.com) they will automatically create an ebook for you from your blog at the click of a button. I think you can specify date ranges as well to limit the content you want to use but they told me they can’t filter by category yet but are working on it.

    I’ve probably not taken the best route with this but have tried to combine blogging and book writing – I was already writing a book and decided to create it into a blog at http://lessonsfromthecity.com – the thinking being that if I’m going to write it in Word, I may as well write it in WordPress and ‘bring people along’ with me getting feedback as doing so. The problem is I’m not exactly leveraging my audience as it’s a brand new blog (I wanted to keep it ‘clean’ rather than take up ‘air time’ on my existing blog), so it has no links, rankings, SEO or audience – also because my process of writing is to write very sketchy first drafts then revisit, I’m putting sketchy material out there for all to see during the process.

    In any case it’s an interesting experiment. I do find it all very exciting how the publishing industry is changing.

    The idea of the marketing side scares me quite a lot. Even though I know for a fact that my material is good (as it’s based on high-end material that I have charged lots of money for via coaching) I’m not really into making a big song & dance about it and it seems that most successful self published authors are doing exactly that with ‘launches’ etc. Launches scare me a little.

    Probably all very normal and I’ll just have to get myself used to the idea when it comes to being nearly finished – or accept less sales ;-)

    thanks again for a wonderful article,
    Alan

    • Alan, as a Copyblogger reader you probably know this already, but some of the most effective marketing that authors do is the exact same kind of “content marketing” Brian and Sonia preach here—and it works. There’s absolutely no reason you have to do stuff that’s uncomfortable for you if you don’t want to. Communicating your passion for your subject with others who share your interest is the most basic form of marketing, and what author doesn’t want to do that?

  18. Hey, Joel. These are great ideas for bloggers who are aspiring authors. We’ve now published 3 books on Amazon, and it beats every other form of monetization we’d tried hands down.

    The first 2 books were written using option #3 – the hardest but best option. (And yes, you need an editor, no matter who you are.) The last one was written from scratch, but along the way we publicized the book in progress by writing short “voices of fear” essays on the website that were pointed and often funny. It did double the work of tuning people into what we were writing about confidence speaking up and then using each of those “voices” as a special section at the end of each chapter. It added some humor to a sometimes heavy subject.

    You can never start promoting your book soon enough, and this is a really powerful way of doing it.

  19. Thanks Joel – what a thought provoking article for a newbie to blogging. Have been aware that there could be more mileage to my posts than just for the blog – so will definitely bear all this in mind as I build my post numbers.

    • Here’s an idea, Sarah. Take some time and think about a book that people in your niche, category or genre would absolutely love to have available. Write out the table of contents. You see where I’m going with this? Create section headings for each chapter. You now have dozens of blog post topics that will, in the end, form the manuscript for that very book.

      • Sarah. This is perfect advice. If you want to add a twist…set a timer and force yourself to do this in a very short period of time. Try 3-4 minutes to do a 16-topic table of contents. Then, an unreasonably short time to create the chapter sections. What is does, is force you to ignore the left-hemisphere judgement that keeps you from just dumping out ideas. It frees the right-hemisphere to unload. You can always go back and clean up the list and re-arrange it, but the key is to get it all out there first! If you want a guided 37-minute exercise to do this, we’ve got one for free on my site. It’s a generic outline with 16 main topics (chapters) and 4 sub-topics or sections each. 64 topics in 37 minutes. All bloggable.

  20. Brilliant and thanks for sharing.

    I have been trying to get my head around how i can take my content and pull it together in to some sort of book, as much for my benefit as my potential readers. This is a new way of considering the content that I’ve already worked hard to produce…

    Perhaps this is the catalyst to get me writing properly!

  21. This is exactly what I’ve been doing with my new project VisuaLyrics. Every week I plan to release a comic book adaptation of famous poems and songs. I plan to do this for 26 weeks no matter what. If I manage to amass a reader base of over 1000+ subscribers within this timespan (6 months), it would not be far-fetched to consider releasing a printed anthology with the collected material.

    Does that sound like a plan? Do you suppose there will be an audience for this kind of thing? Will I reach it within 6 months?

    Only time will tell. Best I can do is do my very best every week!

  22. Great post Joel! It’s the exact message we’ve been telling people about our service. We’re ideally set up for Strategy #2. I know it’s a shameless plug, but we can get 1,000 to 1,500 words per week out of someone with a total time investment of an hour per month. And, they don’t have to write a word. Zero keyboard time. Like many propositions, it’s a savings of time vs. a savings of money. But, using a podcast as the content origination strategy is working for our clients. Our free outlining tool was developed by the late, best-selling author Keith Miller and taught to us several years ago. We converted it into a 37-minute video exercise. It will shake your book outline loose from the cobwebs in your head. Did I mention that the outline is free? I did. Even if you never use our services, you’ll be glad you have an outline for your new book.

    I love that you are encouraging bloggers to develop books. And the resources you’ve listed are outstanding.

  23. Wow! Joel, thanks for the wonderful information. I’m truly inspired. I never considered myself an author, but it puts a new light into all the hours and hard work I’ve exerted for each blog post. I will be coming back here often. Thank you!

    • Edith, it’s amazing that people who write so much–like bloggers–often don’t think of themselves as potential authors. In fact, that’s the whole reason I wrote this post. You’ve put in the work, why not “re-purpose” it and get all the benefits of having a published book?

  24. Yep! I was on Writer’s Digest’s May 16th webinar with Nina. Good stuff. I just need to choose a book project and go for it.

  25. Such a timely post for me since this was on my to do list for this summer! Thanks for the road map. It will make the job so much easier!