Write a Book? Assemble the One in Your Archives!

Turning One Kind of Content into Another


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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  1. says

    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. says

    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. says

    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.

  4. says

    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?


  5. says

    {{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?)

  6. says

    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 . . . . . .

  7. says

    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.

  8. says

    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?

  9. says

    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?

  10. says

    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.

  11. says

    @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.

  12. says

    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.

  13. says

    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.

  14. says

    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. :)

  15. says

    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. :)

  16. says

    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.

  17. says

    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. :)

  18. says

    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).

  19. says

    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!!! :)

  20. says

    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.

  21. says

    @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. 😉

  22. says

    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 :)

  23. says

    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.

  24. says

    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. :)

  25. says

    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.

  26. says

    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. :)

  27. says

    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. 😉

  28. says

    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.

  29. says

    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.

  30. says

    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. :)

  31. says

    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.

  32. says

    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.

  33. says

    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

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