For years I’ve had Thomas Umstattd’s voice in my head telling me to blog my book. “Test out your ideas,” he said. “Start building your audience,” he said. “It’ll be easy,” he said.
Well, maybe he didn’t say it would be easy.
Blogging my book was, in fact, one of the hardest things I’ve done as a writer, and possibly one of the most rewarding.
Some background: I’m a fiction writer.
I started out writing fairy tales under a traditional publishing contract, but after three books (insert common story), I switched to indie publishing.
I had some vague idea about writing a nonfiction book on writing fairy tales, but hadn’t quite pinned down the specifics. To kickstart things, I created a reading challenge in my Facebook group Fairy-tale Forum. The #GRIMMread2019 challenge was to read through all of Grimms’ fairy tales in one year and respond to the weekly reading. We’d read approximately four stories at a time; writers could blog about the experience while artists could make art.
My loose plan was to write a blog post each weekend and then in January the next year, scoop them all up and format them into one cohesive whole. I figured I could have the book up for sale by February(ish). While the actual work may not be easy, if I was disciplined, the book would practically grow on its own. Good plan.
Things that worked
Choosing a topic.
Then, refining the topic as quickly as you can. Within a few weeks I started naming my blogs “Lessons from Grimm: Something, Something.” For example, “Lessons from Grimm: Plot Tropes.” “Lessons from Grimm: Trees in a Fairy Tale Orchard.” I quickly decided that Lessons from Grimm: How to Write a Fairy Tale was going to be the title of The Book.
Setting a blogging schedule.
Every Saturday, I posted to the blog. That meant I had to read the stories by Friday and get some thoughts down. What did these stories have in common? How were they different? What lesson could I learn from them as a writer? Sticking to this schedule forced me to get the work done. During the week I’d focus on writing fiction, but on the weekend, it was time for nonfiction.
Doing all the SEO and blogging promotion practices.
I tried an old-school technique, using linky lists to keep everyone connected in a blog hop format. But the #GRIMMread challenge never took off like I hoped it would, and by the end I was the lone blogger still blogging. However, the challenge gave me a central topic to consistently post about and create graphics for. Creating the graphics using Grimm quotes took very little time once I found my grove. I still get visitors coming to my site from the graphics I pinned on Pinterest.
Things I Would do Differently
When I started to put the blogs together, I realized I was all over the place. I had read four stories at a time and looked for lessons in those four stories. How did the weeks relate to one another? It was an organizational nightmare. I worked in Scrivener to define general categories of blogs, then I went through all fifty-two blogs and assigned them a color based on category. Then I grouped all the colors. Some colors had five blogs, while others had twenty-five. The material was out of balance, and I had a lot of editing to do.
Get a book cover early in the process so you can make graphics.
I made quote graphics every week to post to Instagram and Pinterest, but it would have been nice to have branded graphics from the get-go. I’ve got those now, and I’m going back through the blogs to insert and pin.
Start compiling the book sooner than at the end of the blogging run.
If I’d started getting organized even halfway through the challenge, I would have seen the gaps sooner and been more strategic in writing the remaining blog posts.
In the end, I published the book in June, about six months after I finished blogging the book. The slow and steady pace allowed me time to think more deeply about the subject, which I hope is reflected in the book’s content.
Would I blog another book? Not this year. And probably not next year. But three years from now? Maybe so.
About The Author
Shonna Slayton writes historical fairy tales and is the co-creator of the Fairy-tale Forum group on Facebook. Her book Lessons From Grim became an Amazon #1 New Release within days of launch.
She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang, sound a lot like teenagers today. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona.