10 Steps to Creating an E-Book Based on Your Blog

    by Amanda Hirsch
    May 24, 2013
    If you're planning to write and edit an e-book based on your blog, keep this in mind: Even the best writers need editors. Image courtesy of Flickr user kodomut and used here under the Creative Commons license.
    Feeling My Way: Finding Motherhood Without Losing Myself by Amanda Hirsch

    The author’s e-book, ‘Feeling My Way: Finding Motherhood Without Losing Myself.’

    I recently self-published an e-book based on my blog, and I want to share what I learned. This post focuses on the editorial process; in subsequent posts, I’ll share tips on coming up with a design for your e-book cover, choosing a publishing platform (I went with Kindle, for now) and marketing your e-book.

    "A book is an entirely different form of storytelling than a blog, and demands a different kind of context."

    A quick bit about me, so you know who’s offering the advice below: I’m the former editorial director of PBS.org, and am currently a freelance writer and online marketing consultant. My book is called “Feeling My Way: Finding Motherhood Without Losing Myself,” and I self-published it in April. It’s based on a series of personal essays about pregnancy and new motherhood that I originally shared on my blog.


    Without further ado — here are 10 steps to write and edit an e-book based on your blog:

    1. Cut and paste

    Begin by cutting and pasting all relevant blog posts into one massive Word document.

    2. Read, and read again

    Read through your Word doc in one sitting, and then do it again. Your goal is to re-familiarize yourself with some of your older posts and to get a feel for what the narrative is like when all of your posts are strung together in one place.


    3. Eliminate content that doesn’t serve the narrative

    Even if your mission is to weave your blog posts into a book, that doesn’t mean you need to use every single post — no one’s keeping score! Your job is to make the book as compelling and readable as possible, and that might mean letting go of a few posts, even ones you love. I deleted a couple of posts that just didn’t fit in, like an attempted humor piece that, in retrospect, wasn’t all that funny.

    4. Begin establishing structure

    Do you want each blog post to be its own chapter, or could some posts be combined into a single chapter? Do you want your chapters to be organized into sections? Begin thinking about this now. How can section/chapter titles help you tell your story? For example, if someone is skimming your Table of Contents to decide whether to read your book — what information will they be able to glean about the substance and tone of your story?

    5. Revise

    I was completely surprised by how many revisions I found myself making to the text of my original posts, but in retrospect, it makes sense that this would be an intensive process. After all, a book is an entirely different form of storytelling than a blog, and demands a different kind of context. You may find that you need to flesh out ideas that you touch on briefly on your blog, but that warrant more exploration in the context of a book. And if you’re anything like me, when confronted with your writing anew, you’ll see opportunities for improvement — tightening, rephrasing, etc. — and you’ll take them.

    6. Write

    You’ll likely need to write some new material to serve as narrative glue between your posts. In my case, I wrote an introduction to provide some context (there’s that word again) for my story upfront. Later, after I got feedback from my editors — see No. 7 — I realized I needed to write some short intros to each section of my book, as well as a final chapter and epilogue.

    7. Get people to edit you

    Even the best writers need editors. Do not skip this step. I sent an early draft of my book to a fellow writer/editor, and then later, I sent a nearly final draft to…my dad! He has a journalism degree and is a fabulous editor, and doesn’t follow my blog very closely, so most of this content was brand new to him. That was critical, because it helped him see some holes in the narrative that someone closer to my blog might have missed. He raised questions and also observed some themes I hadn’t realized were there, which helped me weave them more mindfully throughout the entire book. His feedback was essential. I highly recommend having one of your editors be someone who isn’t familiar with your blog and who’s outside your demographic — they’ll see things that a close buddy may not. I’m also lucky to have a husband who’s a fabulous editor. He gave me feedback at various stages throughout this process. If you can have a go-to sounding board like this, it’s a real gift.

    8. Sit with it

    Sit with your editors’ feedback and decide which changes feel right in your skin, and which don’t. This is a delicate balancing act between being open to other people’s good ideas and staying true to your own vision for the book. In general, I took more ideas than I ignored, but in some cases, even though I understood what they meant — it just didn’t feel right to make the change, so I didn’t. Trust your gut. And don’t rush this part of the process.

    9. Make final revisions

    Once you’ve decided which of your editors’ feedback to take, make your final revisions. Note that these changes may be structural as well as sentence-level — for example, you might decide to move part of your story earlier in the book, or maybe you’ll decide to group chapters into sections, at the same time that you’re rephrasing descriptions or reconsidering some of your word choices.

    10. Be done

    You can’t edit forever. At some point, you need to let this baby be born. I recommend setting a deadline for yourself at the outset, to help you maintain focus and momentum; otherwise, the process may drag out indefinitely, which sure can take the wind out of your sails. In my case, I made the decision to write my book in January, and I realized that Mother’s Day would be a big marketing opportunity, so I knew I wanted to publish by the end of April. That ended up being a perfect time frame, for me, for a book my size. You may need more time, or less — but I highly recommend that you give yourself a deadline, and stick to it.

    Questions? Suggestions, based on your own experience with e-book publishing? I’d love to know. And if you’re writing an e-book — good luck!

    This post originally appeared on Amanda Hirsch’s blog.

    Amanda Hirsch is the author of Feeling My Way: Finding Motherhood Without Losing Myself. In addition to writing and performing, she runs Good Things Consulting, which specializes in raising the impact and visibility of good things like art, public media and nonprofits. Amanda lives in Brooklyn, but she does not raise artisanal bees. You can follow her on Twitter at @amanda_hirsch.

    Tagged: blog e-books editing self-publishing writing

    6 responses to “10 Steps to Creating an E-Book Based on Your Blog”

    1. This might also work with tweets – download your Twitter archive, open in in a spreadsheet, delete the uninteresting tweets/rows, move tweets around and then export to a document for more editing. I tweet a *lot* more than I blog. And I post Disqus comments more than I blog as well. Hmmmm …

    2. Nina Amir says:

      Nice post about “booking” your blog. I actually suggest people begin blogging their books from scratch–with a plan. It makes the process much easier and the resulting books flow better. I blogged a book about how to blog a book, which was the traditionally published (How to Blog a Book)! However, for those who return to their blogs to mine them for gold (a book), the process I go through with them is much like the one you describe. Good luck with your new book!

    3. I’ve been toying with the idea of publishing my own blog posts in a Kindle format. Trouble is, my blog is political and politics is, of course, a very topical subject. What I wrote last week is no longer relevant. Now, I know several NY Times op-ed writers such as Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich had published bestsellers comprised of their old political op-ed bylines but they had a built-in marketing platform called the NY Times. So what do you do if you’re not as visible as a Times columnist and have largely topical material to publish?

    4. Bruce Bonafede says:

      Good outline and advice! I followed this same process in helping a colleague turn several dozens of blog posts/articles into a business-type book. In our case, however, I did #4 before #3, determined the structure first and then moved each post into its relevant chapter, dumping the (few) posts that didn’t fit anywhere. The main benefit for me was it then made it easier to spot posts that were repetitious (they had been written over a number of years so he had often revisited the same subject) and edit accordingly. Plus it made it easier to write the new material needed to bridge any gaps and create narrative flow.

    5. LarryEdwards says:

      Good thoughts. I endorse #3, 5, 7 in particular.

    6. I found it funny that “SEO” now refers to gray hat / black hat techniques in your industry.

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