How I Went from Dad Blogger to Published Author (And You Can Too)
How do you go from being ‘just a blogger’ to writing and publishing a book? That’s a common question for many aspiring writers – how exactly do you leverage a blog into a book.
Leverage can be a difficult concept to define but if I was going to take a stab at it I’d say it is this:
“Taking a skill you already posess and developing it until you create something of considerably more value.”
I’m going to flesh that out as this blog post develops. But what I want to write over these next couple of thousand words is an encouragement to you, fellow blogger, to write and publish your first book.
This isn’t an easy route to take. I have been exactly where you are and I know, it’s tough. But by making a few changes to how you approach your writing, you can easily be hitting ‘publish’ on your first book by this time next year.
Everybody want to write. Ain't nobody want to write a heavy ass book.
Writing a book takes work – far more than I could have anticipated when I started out. But with that additional effort comes a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You will create something that is all your own. Something that no-one can take away from you. That is a reward in itself.
I’ve heard other writers describe their craft as a compulsion, even a mental illness. They can’t not write. I’m in that bracket. As I type these words I’m on holiday without any WiFi or mobile internet and I’m loving it.
But I brought my laptop with the purpose of writer a few hundred words a day. I’ve done this at other times when I’ve travelled or been on vacation and sometimes the effect is amazing.
The writing flows so much better when not hampered by disctractions or the pressure that every blogger feels of ‘getting that post out.’ (This is one of them, so is this.)
I’ve written posts that had to come out. I couldn’t rest until what was in my head had been played out in prose.
Every Man Has At Least One Book in Him
I’ve always known I had at least one book in me. At the age of 9 I started my first novel. Sadly it was never finished. My school was visited by the author Alexander McCall Smith and I was enthralled by his energy and passion for the written word.
Later I started another novel which remains unfinished. A few months ago I re-read it and didn’t hate it, so who knows, it may may an appearance yet.
I started blogging because I had stories and information stored up inside me like a reservoir with no overflow: eventually that baby’s gonna blow!
When I started writing, it was a bit of a scattergun approach. I had no idea what my (at the time, nonexistent) audience would want. So I just wrote about what I was into.
I initially thought I’d be a ‘dad-blog’ with loads of helpful advice for new Dads, funny stories and product reviews.
But pretty soon I became disillusioned with that scene. It wasn’t where I wanted to go or be. I was much more interested in creating something new, something unique. You can’t be unique if you are constantly trying to copy someone else – even if they have done a good job of building a blog.
When I sit down to think about what separates me from Dad Blogs (setting aside my writing on the subject in the past – I’ve moved on) it comes down to leverage.
That’s not to say that they don’t leverage and I do. Rather it’s a question of ‘what’.
What exactly are dad blogs leveraging.
For the most part, the leverage is aimed at turning fatherhood into a profitable enterprise. Which is fine – every man has to make decisions for themselves.
But this trade makes many such websites a front for the kind of PR companies that used to bombard my ‘Contact’ page with offers of cash to post pre-written reviews of dental care products.
When I started asking for $5000 per post, they soon stopped (that’s still my price for sponsored content, in case you wondered).
I’ve chosen to leverage something different altogether. I have the ability to write in an engaging and entertaining way and so I decided to leverage that into reaching as many Dads as I could.
So far it’s working great with month on month website traffic growing, mailing list subscribers on the up and incredible opportunities like appearing on top podcasts.
Writing my first book is just an extension of that – a chance to reach men and Dads that can’t be so easily reached through a blog.
This could be the real problem with writing a ‘dad blog’ which is aimed at Dads (most are aimed at Mums, but that’s ground I’ve covered previously). There is a whole section of fathers who just don’t read blogs. How do I know this?
Well for starters, I was one of them until about two years ago. I used to despise blogs as cheap, unregulated content. Sadly, this is true for the majority of those trying to write blog style websites.
But a discussion I had off-air with Mark Baxter when we did the recording for his podcast crystalised some of my own fears. Many Dads who would want to hear the message of TDD don’t because they don’t read websites.
So how do you reach them? How do you make contact and tell them that, no they aren’t alone. And yes, they are doing a good job.
How do you help them see that their whole approach to fatherhood is working and is shared by millions of men just like them?
Being a ‘blogger’ is a mistake because it limits you to one format only. If you leverage into other forms of communication, will you reach more or fewer people?
My experience is that having a blog isn’t enough. You need multiple ways in which to reach your audience. TDD, Twitter, Periscope, Facebook and Gab all allow me to reach those Dad’s who want need to hear my message.
What Should You Write?
If you’re a Dad Blogger reading this then great, I wrote this with you in mind. I’m going on the assumption that ‘funny stories’ about fatherhood aren’t cutting it for you. Yes they might bring in the page views.
And you might even get a few comments from the usual Mum Bloggers about how ‘that’s a really sweet story’. But what does this do for your sense of personal fulfilment?
I’ve read too many writers on Twitter say how they’ve lost their mojo or just don’t feel ‘it’ any more. But if all you write is vapid anectodes and product reviews, is it any wonder you feel like you’re treading water.
Imagine if you changed how you wrote. And I mean completely. What if you wrote, not to attract page views to keep your ad income high, but to add value to your readers’ lives.
What if you wrote useful, actionable content that is designed to help your readers to overcome a challenge (this article is a good example).
What if you binned the 300 word daily posts that read like the Diary of A Wimpy Dad and focused on longer, more authoritative content that was well written, researched and even used headings (shocking suggestion, I know).
Instead of leading to the call-to-action where you entice your readers to click the damn affiliate link or sign up for your giveaway, your post ends in a real call to action.
Does this sound doable? I think this is easily achievable. And to help you further, I’ve compiled four things you should always include in your blog posts.
1. Write content with a purpose.
All writing should have a purpose. I simply can’t sit down and write just for the pleasure of tapping out the keys. Even when I kept a journal in Uganda, I thought that someone might like to read it some day.
Now when I write I begin by thinking ‘Who will this post help and how is it going to do it?’
When I started TDD, I didn’t think ‘How can I leverage these decently written blog articles into a top 250 Kindle book?‘ But because my writing had a purpose – that is to help other Dads – compiling the articles into a book format was simple.
Before you write an article, think ‘Why am I writing this?‘ If you can’t give a good answer, don’t write until you have one. Or write on a different subject.
Saved in my phone is a memo of all the ideas I have for blog posts. I save these up and write them as I come to them. Some of them get ditched because they don’t fit with what I’m about or they wouldn’t work.
Others have turned into my most read posts that help Dads every single day.
Make everything you write have a purpose. If you are serious about publishing your first book, you can’t afford to waste time with junk articles or filler posts.
2. Never write for ‘parents’.
I’m commandeering this piece of advice from the author Jack Donovan. In his interview with Thor Holt on the Write With Courage podcast, he says this:
Never refer to ‘people’ when you’re writing for men.’
Which I’ve changed to ‘Never refer to ‘parents’ when you are writing for Dads.
If you write a blog for Dads (this applies to any specific niche audience), write and refer to them. Being all things to all men doesn’t cut it. If you want to build and audience you must know who they are.
I don’t write for parents. I write for Dads. The fact that many mothers enjoy my writing is good but they should know that I don’t write with them in mind. If you want to go from being ‘just a Dad Blogger’ to published author, then stop being so generic.
An excellent book is ‘How to Write Seductive Web Copy by Henneke Duistermaat (Amazon) Each chapter is followed by an exercise. One chapter is identifying who your audience is (this works for blogs and books too so listen up). The exercise consists of write a full profile of who your target reader is, leaving no detail out.
I’ve done this not only for TDD but also for my niche sites. If nothing, it helps you visualise who you are writing to. I recently read a book by Steve Solomon in which he said he imagined writing to a young, keen but inexperienced gardener.
Harnessing this while you write your book is going to help no end.
3. Go for quantity and quality
“Go for quality over quantity”
“Write longer, more frequent posts – write, publish, repeat.”
Both of these seem like conflicting pieces of advice. But imagine if they weren’t. What if you could write both quantity and quality?
Sure, not every post is going to be a viral hit (most of my ‘viral’ posts are quite poorly written), but if you start to build up a bank of long, authoritative and well written blog articles, you’ll soon be in a position to pivot into writing a book.
Take this blog post as an example. It’s already pushing 3000 words long. I could easily add in a few more chapters on book formatting, cover design and AB testing titles/subtitles. I’d have a 10,000 word eBook in no time.
So how do you write both quality and quantity. Here’s the problem: too many bloggers feel like they need to publish daily or several times a week. To that end they bash out 300 word ‘funny story’ posts like there’s no tomorrow.
The result is that they run out of funny stories (there are only so many times you can get called ‘Mummy’ by accident while picking up your kids from school). After running out of humorous anecdotes, you hit a writing ‘wall’ and give up.
You’ll never get a book published doing this.
But if you took time to write well considered posts once or twice a week, you could still produce a similar quantity of content in the same space of time.
Here’s what I mean:
I’ve written this post over the course of several days averaging about 700 words per day with a final edit and format at the end.
Now 700 words is a decent length for a blog post. Some of my most popular articles are no longer than this. But instead of publishing 4 or 5 vapid ‘nothing’ Dad Blog posts, I’ve written something that is going to benefit you and countless others like you for a long time.
I’m willing to bet that this post is worth more than 5 Daddy Blog funny story articles. And I had a blast writing it. And I won’t get any fawning Mum Bloggers clogging up my comments section.
4. Never Neglect Structure
Too many online writers neglect structure – at their peril I might add.
If this applies to you, I want to ask you direct: What do you have against headings, paragraph spacings and pictures. Do you not know that this makes a blog post easier to read and is therefore going to be read by more of your audience.
Do you not care or is it a question of ignorance?
All blog articles should follow a similar structure. All of my ‘How To’ articles follow the same formula. Read them and use them as templates if you’re stuck.
Structured posts are not only easier to read, they’re easier to write. If you already have a mental vision of how to get your point across, will it be easier or harder to do?
Well structured blog posts are simpler to edit and format into book chapters when the time comes. If all you have is banks of text that seem to flow endlessly, you will have to spend time break these up, adding headings and editing heavily.
Put the time in early on and you’ll be in a much better position to turn your blog into a book.
What Does This Have to Do with Writing a Book?
That’s a good question. I did start this blog post saying that I was going to show you how to pivot out of a Dad Blog into writing a book.
The inspiration for writing this post was something of an epiphany. If there are so many Dads writing, why are so few releasing books?
This realisation started about a year ago. I was reading through James Altucher’s books, starting with Choose Yourself before moving on to his other titles.
I slowly came to the realisation that he’d leveraged his incredibly popular blog into a series of equally (if not more) popular books. The books were polished and fit together well, but their root were the most read and appreciated blog posts.
But here’s the rub. If all you ever write are ‘Dear Diary‘ or ‘12 Things You Didn’t Know about Nappies Before You Became a Dad‘, you’ll never have any content worth publishing in a book format.
My own book ‘A Father’s Mission‘ is based on Altucher’s format. I took the best posts from my blog, added some new content, re-wrote and edited the existing posts and organised it into a format that flows and fits together. You can read the introduction for free here.
If you want to write a book someday on your given subject, you have to drop the diarising and write words that other people find useful. Or give up blogging as a serious venture to write fiction (also an admirable course to take).
Either way, junk ‘Here’s what we did as a family last Saturday‘ filler won’t cut it if you’re intent on building an audience that doesn’t consistent of fawning Mummies.
Write a good post twice a week for a year and you’ll have over 100,000 words. Cut that in half and you’ve got a book of considerable length.
Keep writing vapid drivel and you’ve got nothing.
Are You Ready to Transform Yourself from Dad Blogger into Author
I’ve never self identified as a Dad Blogger. I’ve never wanted to be part of the awards scene or add to my Twitter profile that I’m ‘PR Friendly’.
Dyed-in-the-Wool Parent-Bloggers hate me for it but I couldn’t care less. I operate in a totally different space to them.
That’s why it’s been easy for me to leverage my blog into a book. I don’t write ‘funny story’ posts or sponsored content about how you should visit Warwick Castle. I write content that Dads want to read and will find useful.
Another reason is having great mentors: you know who you are and I owe a debt to gratitude that I hope I can repay in time.
If you are willing to make the change, the time is now. Stop writing junk and focus on book-worthy content. Compile this and edit. Then edit some more.
You will be left with your first book – something to be proud of, a legacy of your work and a gift to your loyal readers and subscribers.
P.S. My first book, which is based on this website, is finished. You can get it here.