Guest post: Moving from blog to book

Joanne MallonWhen Joanne Mallon decided to write Toddlers: An Instruction Manual, she knew just who to turn to for assistance–her fellow parent bloggers. Combining her own experience with stories from other UK parent bloggers was no easy task but the amazing end product was well worth it! Here Joanne tells us about the experience and adds some tips to help you move from blog to book…

How do you fit 60 bloggers in a book?

Very, very carefully.

When I was asked to write a book about toddlers, I knew exactly where to go for help – my friends in the parent blogging community. When it comes to wrangling the under fives we’ve all either been there, done that or are going through it now. And we like to write about it. Sounds like a great recipe for a parenting book.

So I asked around on BritMums and other networks, on my blog, Twitter and Facebook – hey bloggers, who wants to be in a book?

Sometimes I would spot a really good post and ask if I could put it in the book, or approach a blogger whose writing I liked and ask them to contribute. And mainly, people were extremely helpful. I couldn’t pay contributors, but what I could offer was the chance to have your writing and your blog featured in a book. I know many of us have a dream of writing a book, so I hope this is a start for some of the bloggers who took part.

I didn’t turn anybody away, but I did have to trim some of the posts. Word counts don’t matter so much with blog posts, as you can say what you need to say using as few or as many words as you like. But in a book with many voices, we found that anything too long affected the balance, so in the interests of coherence I did cut some contributions back.

But as far as editing goes, that was pretty much it. The UK parent blogging community has some fantastic writers – warm and engaging people with a lot of wisdom to pass on.

Some bloggers were very keen to contribute, but found the process tough, as we exchanged lots of late night emails: Is this what you want? How about this? Or I could do it like this instead? People who could probably write a blog post in their sleep sometimes found writing a book contribution very challenging. And I don’t blame them – it is challenging, I found it tough as well. There is something quite intimidating about knowing that your words will be printed on paper and live on bookshelves and in libraries for many years, rather than simply adding to the general online chatter.

So it was a tough job, but we did it and I am immensely grateful to every blogger who took part.

And we’re supporting a great charity with this book of ours – a portion of the royalties will go to Home-Start I’m really pleased about this because they’re a fab charity who give practical help to families under stress. And since practical help is what Toddlers: An Instruction Manual is all about, it’s a good fit.


Points to bear in mind if you’re moving from blog to book

Think long term – blog posts are generally written in the moment and are relevant to right now. But a book has a much longer shelf life, so ask yourself –will this still make sense in 5 years time?

Think of the reader – Most of us write blogs for our own benefits, because we have something to say. But when you’re writing for a reader who may have paid good money for your book, their needs are the ones that matter. What’s the benefit for anyone who reads your book? Why do they need to have this book in their life?

Break it down into chunks – Make a plan before you start so you know what each chapter needs to contain. Feel free to rip up this plan and start again if you want to. Then make a list of what you want each chapter to include. Writing a book is a bit like eating an elephant – it’s only really doable in smaller chunks. And if you’re a blogger, smaller chunks are what you’re already doing, so really you’re already part of the way there.

Do your research – Double check all your facts – are you sure about that, or is it just your opinion? Have you checked it out? Talked to anyone else with experience in the field?

Pay attention to the details – You can get away with a few typos and slightly wayward grammar in a blog post, but this won’t fly in a book.

Every word still needs to earn its place – Although a book is obviously much longer than a blog post, this doesn’t give you licence to waffle on at will. Keep it tight and value-packed for the reader.

Toddlers: An Instruction ManualJoanne Mallon is a journalist and life coach who writes the blog. Toddlers: An Instruction Manual is out now in paperback and Kindle formats

No elephants were eaten in the production of the book, though a lot of coffee was consumed.

 –Joanne Mallon, Joanne the Coach

Inspired by Joanne’s story of moving from blog to book? Join BritMums next week for the start of a new series on writing!

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  1. 24 February 2012 / 10:22

    I love that you have done this, and that you are sharing your tips. I reckon a lot of bloggers would love to achieve what you have done here – looks like a great book too. Have you got one for pre-teens??? I could do a great collaboration with you on that 😉

  2. 24 February 2012 / 13:35

    Love Joanne and love her work, fantastic and generous advice as ever.

    • 05 March 2012 / 22:33

      Thank you AM. I think the concept of ‘An Instruction Manual’ could work well for any stage, and I agree with you that pre-teens have a lot of material in them!

    • 05 March 2012 / 22:34

      Thank you Linda, that’s very kind