Translating a Blog into a Book

This blog started out as a marketing tool to show potential customers that I knew what I was talking about when it came to technical writing. Later on, it became a public service. Eventually, the more I wrote (every Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m. Eastern Time), it came to be a passion in itself. I grew to love sharing little bits of insight about the tech writing business with you fine folks who check in on a weekly basis (1,000/month and climbing).

Making money on my weekly advice

Yet here’s the kicker: as much as I enjoy pontificating, I was wondering if there might be a way to make a buck at it. I became aware of this potential as I got more and more mail asking for specific advice on how to do A, B, or C. Many or most of those emails resulted in blog entries, which I then shared with the rest of you.

But still, there has to be a way to make money at this, right?

A good friend, fellow technical writer, and reader of this blog reminded me that people can and do make money translating their blogs into books. After thinking about it, I could recall at least two of my favorites who have done so: John Scalzi and Paul Spudis, so I’ve decided to try writing a book based on what I’ve been writing here over the last few years.

The actual writing process

However, this project presents a few challenges. For one, if you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you’ve already read a lot of this stuff. For another, one is never certain of the audience for this sort of thing–how many people might actually buy a book on the business of technical writing? And lastly, given the fact that my posts have meandered all across the board when it comes to tech writing, how does one organize such a mess?

These are some of the questions I get to answer as I set myself the task of writing a book to suit you, my fearless readers. While it’s a safe bet that all 52,000 technical writers in the U.S. are not reading this site on a regular basis, I at least have a starting point for explaining to a publisher the potential market size. You’ll tell your tech writing friends, right?

I started this process by identifying the “themes” on which this blog is based:

  • Demonstrating a solid work ethic
  • Minding your manners/following up
  • Pursuing your passions
  • Building your network
  • Learning what you don’t know
  • Keeping your work organized
  • Paying the bills
  • Taking concrete action on your own behalf
  • Accepting painful realities, helplessness, luck, and the kindness of others with humility
  • Helping others/giving back

If I haven’t covered all of these topics in sufficient depth, I’ll have the opportunity in the book, won’t I? The nice part about a book is that I’ll get the opportunity to be more systematic about my approach to the various topics.

What comes next will be a bit painful, perhaps, but I must go back and reread this entire blog and see what pieces are worth sharing again. Then I have to file the various thoughts under one of the above headings and hopefully come out with an equal amount of content for each. If not, I’ll get to reshuffle my categories and start over.

Feedback from you

As I’m starting this process, I’d truly appreciate input from you, my faithful readers. If you were to read a book on the business side of technical writing, what would you want to know? Or, if you’ve read my stuff already, what would you like to read more about? I can’t guarantee that I’ll take every suggestion, but I’m pretty flexible. At the very least, you can earn yourself a place in the Acknowledgments section. 🙂

So as I go forward with my various day jobs, this blog, and the book, I would appreciate  your indulgence if I start returning to old ground or occasionally post a rehash of topics I’ve covered previously. I haven’t done this nonfiction-book-writing thing before, so you’ll get to experience some of my learning process along the way.

I’m looking forward to this new adventure, and I hope you are, too!

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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6 Responses to Translating a Blog into a Book

  1. Larry Kunz says:

    Bart, I wish you the best of luck with your idea to publish a book. I might even look to you for inspiration to try it myself.

    I suggest that you think about what, specifically, distinguishes your blog content from everyone else’s. Offhand I’d say that you have a lot of insight into freelance-vs-contractor issues and some unique experience working with SMEs in very specialized fields. Decide what your superpowers are — you obviously have some, judging from the picture at the top 🙂 — and emphasize those.

  2. Bart Leahy says:

    Great advice, thank you!

  3. jillamatt says:

    I too am in the process of writing a book, which was inspired from my recently started travel blog ‘Just Some Wandering’. It’s a scary process but I’m excited to do it. I wish you all the best! I will look forward too hearing how it’s going for you.

  4. David Hitt says:

    Bravo, sir! I’ll buy a copy. I think the “getting started” basics may fall within the first couple of topics in your outline, but I’d love a Bart-ified version of just what this “technical writing” thing is. It’s a term that gets bandied around a lot, particularly in a community like Huntsville, but it’s amazing how many different things it means to different people.

  5. Bart says:

    David: I shall contemplate. Meanwhile, here’s a related blog to clarify or muddy things further:

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