September 20, 2006

Write a Book? Assemble the One in Your Archives!

published this at 9:25 am

Turning One Kind of Content into Another

books

In July of 1995, I met with president and the major partner/owner of a company in trouble. The company had one product earning and was losing 10% a year. They laid out the problem and asked my solution. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I told them.

I’d get on a plane to the UK next week; find the best product they had to offer; repurpose it to perfectly meet this market; and get it out there earning as fast as I could.

My blood sugar dropped when the partner replied, “You’re going to London.”

We made new products by turning one kind of content into another.

Want to write a book? You probably have one almost done in your archives.

Repurposing, Versioning, Tailoring, Yes

Repurposing content isn’t a new thing. I versioned my first book in 1989 — shhh, I know — and it wasn’t new then. Educational and nonfiction publishers (and TV producers) have been doing for years. It began because it made sense and served readers. (It still does.)

Publishers in small countries needed to share print runs or they couldn’t afford to print enough books to offer beautiful, color books to their customers. They would make versions for other countries, in other languages. That’s repurposing. The American market has different sensitivies, so we’d make changes from the Australian or British version. Or maybe that page would just make a fabulous poster. You get the idea.

I’ve been doing that for almost 3 decades — looking at what is there to see how many different things it might be, and which of those things are worth making. That’s where your book comes in.

Write a Book? Assemble the One in Your Archives!

Have you looked at your archives lately? If you’ve got a blog with 200+ posts, I’m betting you have at least one book’s worth of content. Go look. Here are the basic of what to look for and what to do.

    1. Find your most popular topic.
    2. Print out a critical mass of posts around one set of ideas.
    3. Organize the ideas in a fashion that would work for readers who don’t know you or the topic.
    4. Ask a friend or a colleague if this rough order is complete and logical.
    5. Look for places the key information is missing and might need to be filled in.
    6. Write an introduction, table of contents page, and a conclusion.
    7. Hire a professional editor to edit it.
    8. Ask colleagues to read it and to write something about it. Include those testimonials, but not too many.
    9. Hire a professional designer to design it.
    10. Self-publish.

Why do it now? Because different audiences prefer different formats. That’s why I offer an email version of my blog as well as a variety of RSS feeds. Readers can’t carry computers everywhere and not every reader wants to read blogs.

If your information is solid, then you’re providing a service. If you’re a speaker, a book provides a platform to speak from. Whether you do it to sell the book or to give it a as a free prize on your blog. A book adds value and credibility to you and your brand.

Of course, there are details upon detail to talk about. I’ll go deeper in the next post, if you want to extend the discussion.

Thanks, Darren for another great Writing Project!

–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you think Liz can help with a problem you’re having with your writing or your business, check out the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.

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Filed under Content, Strategy/Analysis, Successful Blog, Writing | 88 Comments »


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88 Comments to “Write a Book? Assemble the One in Your Archives!”

  1. September 20th, 2006 at 10:46 am
    katiebird said

    Good Morning Liz,

    And what a wonderful post you’ve given us today! It’s almost too much to think about.

    Me, write a book? Would anyone really be interested in a book about weight loss and control and health and nutrition and how it all fits into our regular lives without making us crazy?

    I hope you’re happy, you’ve really got me thinking now…. :)

  2. September 20th, 2006 at 11:00 am
    Chris Cree said

    Liz, Thanks for opening up this topic! I am very interested in learning more about the whole book writing/publishing thing. Publishing is one of my long term goals.

    I even installed a word count plugin to get a feel for how much material is in my archives so that I can begin to lay out a rough time line for assembling my material. ;)

  3. September 20th, 2006 at 11:05 am
    katiebird said

    Chris, that’s an interesting idea too. And it should be possible to do queries on the post to make extracting the text easier, shouldn’t it?

  4. September 20th, 2006 at 11:11 am
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Katie!
    Good morning! People are interesting in what they do and what they want to know more about. Why wouldn’t want to know more about what’s on your blog? :)

  5. September 20th, 2006 at 11:12 am
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Chris,
    It’s good to know. It was my work for almost three decades to cross purpose content for new uses. There’s a wrong that makes way more work and a right way that makes easier.

    Let me know what you want to find out and I’ll plan my posts around it.

  6. September 20th, 2006 at 12:04 pm
    Whitney said

    Hey Katiebird — I would LOVE to see (own) a book that talks about how to incorporate better health and nutrition practices in my life without making me nuts. Most of what’s out there a) drains my wallet, b) makes me nuts, and c) takes too much time and attention away from things (like my writing, my business, my volunteer work, etc.). There has to be a way to do this without making a FULL-TIME JOB out of it!!!!

    Is that an enthusiastic enough “yes” for you?
    :-)

  7. September 20th, 2006 at 12:08 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Whitney,
    You are terrific! I think you’ve given Katie her first testimonial, so to speak!

  8. September 20th, 2006 at 12:08 pm
    katiebird said

    {{Whitney}} wow! YES. (and in fact I got a little excited just writing my concept down)

    I love the steps Liz gave us. She makes it seem possible. And I’ve got over 300 posts in the categories that fit. Some were more successful than others — but most have at least the seeds of a good idea.

    (hmm… what will they say at home?)

  9. September 20th, 2006 at 12:12 pm
    katiebird said

    Whitney, you’ve mentioned the telling fact, “There has to be a way to do this without making a FULL-TIME JOB out of it!!!!”

    Because none of us has the time to make a fulltime job of it. There’s too many other (more fun, more exciting, more productive) things to do. So we don’t do it at all.

    There just HAS to be a way to sneak it in. And when there HAS to be a solution, it usually turns out there is one lurking somewhere . . . . . .

  10. September 20th, 2006 at 12:20 pm
    ME Strauss said

    That’s it Katie, form your book around the need of you readers. Make a books thet provides a clear and clean solution to a problem they’ve been having — one you know well and intimately.

  11. September 20th, 2006 at 12:32 pm
    katiebird said

    It’s an exciting idea Liz.

    Would you advise printing out the posts that seem applicable and shuffling them around sort of like a deck of cards to get related posts adjacant to each other?

  12. September 20th, 2006 at 12:36 pm
    Chris Cree said

    Well, Liz. A look at my word count shows my personal blog CREEations, which has been running for about a year in its various forms has a little over 96,000 words. Unfortunately from a publishing perspective my posts there tend to be all over the map. I’ll have to dig a little deeper to see if there is enough continuity to wrap in a single cover.

    My new venture, SuccessCREEations has been up and running for less than a month and already has 23,000+ words, all fairly focused topically. So perhaps in a few months I’ll have enough there to put something together (provided I keep the pace steady).

    Of course it begs the question, how much material does it take to become publish-worthy? If you figure an average of about 250 words per page, then what about 60,000 words or so for an average book? Is that anywhere near right?

  13. September 20th, 2006 at 1:39 pm
    Carolyn Manning said

    Well, I always thought the archives would come in handy for something good. Excellent idea, Liz.

    Wonderful conversation going here.

    Cree, I’ve just subscribed to your.

  14. September 20th, 2006 at 1:49 pm
    Tony D. Clark said

    Wow, what a cool idea! Of course being a newbie and all, my archives are a little slim. But I’ve often thought about after I’ve accumulated some good content, maybe it would be possible to repurpose it into a book.

    Now I have some good tips. Thanks!

    BTW – I just posted my entry into the Group Writing Project, too. I’ve also found some great stuff over there.

  15. September 20th, 2006 at 2:05 pm
    Carolyn Manning said

    Tony, what group writing project?

  16. September 20th, 2006 at 2:20 pm
    Tony D. Clark said

    @Carolyn – Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger has a Group Writing Project going on. Liz linked to it above with this as her submission.

    There’s some really cool stuff over there, and if you have an idea for a How-To you might consider participating.

  17. September 20th, 2006 at 2:52 pm
    Carolyn Manning said

    Oh, that Darren. Yeah, I need to get over there. Right now, though, I can’t get to it. Either he’s having problems with his site or my computer ate too much spinach.

  18. September 20th, 2006 at 3:01 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Katie,
    That’s exactly what I do, Whether they’re real pages or ideas, I put them on pages and move them around until the order makes sense. It’s the best way to talk through the big picture and know that it’s solid.

  19. September 20th, 2006 at 3:02 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Chris,
    This is not a plug. That’s when you hire someone who knows how to do it to come in and see what you’ve got and how to bridge the gaps.

  20. September 20th, 2006 at 3:05 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Sorry, Chris to answer the rest of your question. A printable book needs 64 pages to have a spine and 96 pages to look like its something. There are lots of ways to put value on those pages. One of Hugh Prather, Jrs. bestsellers had 17,000 words

    Word counts were made for fiction. They’re a nice benchmark, but when you start making books interactive with things to fill in and worksheets etc. The word count goes way down.

  21. September 20th, 2006 at 3:07 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Carolyn!
    Great to see you back! The link to the Group Writing Project is in the “Thanks Darren” Line at the end of my post. On case, you haven’t made it there yet.

    Glad you like the post. :)

  22. September 20th, 2006 at 3:08 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Tony,
    If you know that’s your plan you can write with that in mind. It will help you keep your focus as you write, That is in fact a good thing for your blog. It serves your readers by providing them copy that stays in your niche. :)

  23. September 20th, 2006 at 3:14 pm
    Carolyn Manning said

    I just remember having a book written by Art Buchwald that was a compilation of his newspaper columns. Other columnists did it too. Liz, you’re right that repurposing isn’t a new idea and I’m sure glad you brought it back out for those of us who either didn’t know about it or didn’t realize what it was when we saw it.

  24. September 20th, 2006 at 3:18 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Hey Carolyn,
    It’s what I do, I wanted to share it. :) Besides it’s fun. Seth Godin’s books come from his blog, too.

  25. September 20th, 2006 at 3:39 pm
    Scorpia said

    Don’t forget graphics. Some pretty pictures can help a lot, and not only just to fill out the book.

    A book doesn’t have to be all-text.

  26. September 20th, 2006 at 3:42 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Great point, Scorpia,
    I had kind of bundled that in with the designer. I should have unbundled that when I was talking to Chris about word count.

    White space is important too, especially when used with care and consciousness. :)

  27. September 20th, 2006 at 3:42 pm
    Whitney said

    In a recent writer’s conference I attended, one of the editors on a panel discussion said that the average length for a business book these days is 160 pages. 160 pages seems, apparently, to be that “invisible fine line” in front of “not enough content”. Of course, that comment was for business books and may not apply to think like health & nutrition, motivation, etc.

    Writer’s Market, available on the reference shelves of most public libraries, also can offer some insight into book length for non-fiction books (e.g., number of words to published page, number of pages in Word to the average published chapter, etc.).

    Although they’re a fact of life in book publishing, I hate word counts. If you can cover a topic really well in 108 pages, fine. If you need 308 pages to do it, and your book isn’t weighted down with unnecessary bulk, then fine. But word count shouldn’t affect the perception of credibility (though, sadly, sometimes it does).

  28. September 20th, 2006 at 3:47 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Whitney,
    The rule of the word count was never as stringent as editors tried to make it out to be . . . it was just one way to give folks a benchmark that would keep them from sending unprintable manuscripts.

    Now that we’re in a world where a significant percent of the books on Amazon are self-published word counts mean even less than they did. The value is in depth and usefulness of content as you described.

    So you’re winning!!! :)

  29. September 20th, 2006 at 5:55 pm
    Darren said

    great post Liz – it’s something I know a number of bloggers are currently working on in their niches. Nice to see your thoughts on how to do it.

  30. September 20th, 2006 at 5:57 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Thanks, Darren, for noticing.
    Gosh I hope folks know that if they have questions I have answers. I’ve done enough of this stuff. I can do most of it sleeping. I’d hate to know someone was struggling.

  31. September 20th, 2006 at 6:24 pm
    Tony D. Clark said

    @Liz – That’s true about writing with that in mind. For me, it seems to make me more focused on clear topics. At least it’s starting to.

    @Scorpia – I agree about the pretty pictures. But then again, I’m a little biased. ;)

  32. September 20th, 2006 at 6:26 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Tony,
    Think of your categories as your table of contents. . . . :)

  33. September 21st, 2006 at 1:05 am
    How to Assemble the Biggest List of ‘How To’ Blog Posts Ever - Reader Submissions Part III said

    [...] Write a Book? Assemble the One in Your Archives! by Liz [...]

  34. September 21st, 2006 at 8:38 am
    Mike Miller said

    Funny. One of the first comments my mother in law left on my blog was something to the effect of “I like it. And it looks like you are on your way to writing your first book.”

    She doesn’t blog and really doesn’t read any outside of mine.

    I might have to start listening to her more often :)

  35. September 21st, 2006 at 8:41 am
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Mike,
    Welcome!
    Your mother-in-law sounds like a big picture thinker who’s quite perceptive. I think I like her, and you too, already. :)

  36. September 21st, 2006 at 10:08 am
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  37. September 21st, 2006 at 11:06 am
    Jersey Girl said

    Great post, I really enjoyed reading this..it’s a great idea, I’m sure there are many out there that have heaps and volumes of great information right under their fingertips.

  38. September 21st, 2006 at 11:08 am
    ME Strauss said

    Thanks, Jersey Girl!
    It’s fun to start writing about things that I know how to do. :) I appreciate your comment. I’m smiling over here. :)

  39. September 21st, 2006 at 12:20 pm
      Creating a Book from Your Archives by Blogging Pro said

    [...] Creating a Book from Your Archives Over on Successful Blog, Liz Strauss has a post up about creating a book from your blog archives. While it is maybe not something everyone should or can do, many people out there could repurpose their well written materials into a short book, on a subject. This is something I think more thought leaders should do. 1. Find your most popular topic. 2. Print out a critical mass of posts around one set of ideas. 3. Organize the ideas in a fashion that would work for readers who don’t know you or the topic. 4. Ask a friend or a colleague if this rough order is complete and logical. 5. Look for places the key information is missing and might need to be filled in. 6. Write an introduction, table of contents page, and a conclusion. 7. Hire a professional editor to edit it. 8. Ask colleagues to read it and to write something about it. Include those testimonials, but not too many. 9. Hire a professional designer to design it. 10. Self-publish. [...]

  40. September 21st, 2006 at 2:19 pm
    MamaDuck said

    Ah, Liz, wonderful as always. I’ve seen a lot of people do this or attempt to do this ;). Our how-to is up as well if you’d like to check it out!!

  41. September 21st, 2006 at 2:25 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Thanks,Mama.
    Yeah, it can work well or be a total disaster, depending on whether folks know what they’re doing.

  42. September 21st, 2006 at 3:14 pm
    Anne Wayman said

    oh this is excellent, really excellent – which is why I added you to the collection of writing tips from the problogger contest at http://www.thegoldenpencil.com

    going to add you to my blog roll thingie too.

    Thanks… I’ve got 500+ posts… now you’ve got me thinking ;)

  43. September 21st, 2006 at 3:19 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Anne!
    Welcome. Great to see you!
    What wonderful news! You’re a writer you should be doing this if anyone should. Good on you. Thanks for the kind works and for the blogroll too. :)

  44. September 21st, 2006 at 5:00 pm
    Matt said

    Nice blog entry! I enjoyed the read! Thanks for participating in the Group Writing Project. My How To is up also.

  45. September 22nd, 2006 at 2:35 am
    Meeting new bloggers said

    [...] Write a Book? Assemble the One in Your Archives! [...]

  46. September 22nd, 2006 at 1:04 pm
    Working at Home on the Internet said

    [...] 51. Write a Book? Assemble the One in Your Archives! by Liz [...]

  47. September 22nd, 2006 at 2:11 pm
    Lori said

    What a nice, simple and do-able idea! Thanks for a great post and entry.

  48. September 22nd, 2006 at 4:15 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Lori
    Not as simple as it looks. It’ll fool ya! But thanks for noticing. I appreciate your comment. :)

  49. September 22nd, 2006 at 5:20 pm
    Starbucker said

    Hello Liz, Starbucker here. Just catching up on your posts as I’m STILL in Wyoming (I’m finally going home tomorrow). Funny you would post about this, because I’m now north of 200 posts and I’ve recently asked myself – what should I do with all this? I think I need more writing practice, but writing a book has become more and more of a target for me. Funny thing is, as recently as 10 months ago (in the “pre-blogging era”) it never crossed my mind. So to get this far is really an interesting turn of events. I never thought I’d type these words – “I like to write!”. I’ll file your post away for future reference, and you just know who I’m thinking of as my editor, right? :-) Have a great weekend.

  50. September 22nd, 2006 at 5:41 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Hey Starbucker!
    While you’re outside in Wyoming, give my big brothers a shout. They’ll hear ya!

    Of course, you like writing. You’re darn good at it. Can’t wait to get a look at where you decide to take that book of yours. :)

  51. September 22nd, 2006 at 6:27 pm
    Starbucker said

    I’ll give them a big yell Liz! Thanks for the kind words.

  52. September 22nd, 2006 at 6:30 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Cool, Starbucker. Saw your pictures with Phil. Looks like you guys had a fine time! You have a fine time tonight as well!

  53. September 23rd, 2006 at 1:11 am
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  54. September 23rd, 2006 at 8:02 am
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  55. September 23rd, 2006 at 9:19 am
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  56. September 23rd, 2006 at 9:46 am
    Graham English said

    I’m so gonna do this! My how to is up.

  57. September 23rd, 2006 at 9:58 am
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  58. September 23rd, 2006 at 11:57 am
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  59. September 23rd, 2006 at 4:28 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Hey Graham,
    Welcome!
    I can hear your enthusiasm. You go for it! I’m with you! Yeah! 100%

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  64. September 26th, 2006 at 11:12 pm
    Martin said

    Way to go, Liz … you’ve seemed to have hit a nerve with many.

    But knowing your background in publishing (folks: Liz is the real deal here) why’d it take you so long to start writing about this? And now that you have, don’t stop and don’t look back…

    Gee, I might even get into this self-publishing game myself one day. ;)

  65. September 26th, 2006 at 11:16 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Martin,
    You’re the ebook guy. Good at it too!

    I’m into repurposing content. That’s my most favorite thing to do. :) I like the puzzle of figuring out how to turn one thing into another.

  66. September 26th, 2006 at 11:32 pm
    Martin said

    Gee, thanks Liz. I’m just plugging away at this self-publishing game and am loving every minute of it.

    Liz … I may not comment as much these days but rest assured I read (nearly) everything you write.

    Without you knowing it (and I’m sure many others as well would agree) you’re my mentor.

    Now hands up all you Liz fans out there that demands an (e)book from the one and only … Liz.

  67. September 26th, 2006 at 11:39 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Oh Martin,
    Now it’s your turn . . . *she said with a grin* . . . I’ve got to get that ebook that you made for me up around here soon, don’t I? I wish I could say I was playing with it, but I’m just working . . . :)

    As far as Bookcraft goes, it finally dawned on me that I should be talking about what I know best. Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. :)

  68. September 26th, 2006 at 11:46 pm
    Martin said

    Awh shucks, isn’t this one giant love fest. (as everyone in the room pukes…) :-)

    Doesn’t matter how slow you are just that you enjoyed the journey and have found what you’re looking for – and will now reap the rewards.

  69. September 26th, 2006 at 11:48 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Well, I’m not sure that the journey’s been all that much fun all of the time, but It’s been nice to have friends who like nachos around for part of it. :)

  70. September 27th, 2006 at 2:27 am
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  72. September 29th, 2006 at 6:28 am
    Marti said

    {{Voice of Experience booms from the heavens:}}
    “It CAN be done!”

    LOL

    Great post, as always, darlin’!

  73. September 29th, 2006 at 6:30 am
    ME Strauss said

    Thanks Marti!
    You are indeed the voice of experience!
    And what a greatbook you have!

    Thanks for checking in on this piece. Your comment is appreciated.

  74. September 29th, 2006 at 8:41 am
    Mike said

    This is a great idea – but is anyone aware of some software that will easily convert blog entries to a book? I have heard there are some utilities to convert to PDF and others that help create a more “book-like” format.
    Post here if you know – thanks.

  75. September 29th, 2006 at 9:22 am
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Mike,
    I don’t know what will put your blog entries together into one piece, if that’s what you’re looking for. Though it’s not that hard to do a copy and past into a new document.

    If you’re looking for pdf makers, Martin has plenty of eBook resources over at ePublishing Daily You can check them out here;

    http://www.epublishingdaily.com/the-ultimate-resource-page/

  76. September 29th, 2006 at 9:39 am
    Marti said

    If you are planning on publish on demand (like Lulu) you need PDF format anyway (Lulu does conversions for free).

    There is a program I remember reading about…I thought it was called “Blookmaker” but I just Googled that and got nuttin LOL

  77. September 29th, 2006 at 10:23 am
    ME Strauss said

    Hey Marti!
    You’re getting another career out this. . . . Good on you!!! :)

  78. October 2nd, 2006 at 1:17 pm
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  81. November 28th, 2006 at 4:14 pm
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  83. May 12th, 2007 at 7:10 pm
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  84. May 14th, 2007 at 6:02 am
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