Ask the cubicle expat: How do I use blogging to build a platform for my book idea?

February 19th, 2008

Student X writes: I was in your class last summer on “Everything you Wanted to Know About Getting Published.” I am in the process of starting a proposal for a non-fiction work, but I want to start a little buzz about it and start a blog. How do you suggest blogging regarding this so that the publisher has something to look at? I’m not sure how to start. I’m not much of a blogger anyway, but I write reviews of books on all the time.

I answer: Congrats on working on that book proposal. Cool! Here are my recommendations for starting a blog. I’m sure others will chime in with their suggestions too.

  1. Sign up for a free blog account with Blogger, TypePad, or WordPress.
  2. Pick a template for your blog. These are also free.
  3. If I’ve already lost you, read a book on blogging. Or take a class. Or have a blog-savvy friend walk you through the setup.
  4. Pick a topic for your blog, a niche you’ll stick with. Don’t be a generalist. Since you’re trying to build what’s known as a “platform” for your nonfiction book, your blog topic should be the same as that of your book: wrench-wielding women, mimes who love too much, recovering Republicans, etc.
  5. Pick a relevant, catchy name for your blog.
  6. If you need inspiration, check out some other blogs by authors to see how their blog complements their book topic, or at least showcases their crafty writing. Some blogs by authors I know: Offbeat Bride, Single State of the Union, Bad Advice, Totally Wired, Watercooler Wisdom, The Renegade Writer, Lusty Lady, Felicia Sullivan, Marci Alboher, Boss Lady.
  7. Also check out blogs by people who went from blogging to book deal: Escape from Cubicle Nation, Breakup Babe, Happily Even After, Lifehacker, and Web Worker Daily are a few examples. Here are some more — these “blookers” were even nominated for an award.
  8. Read Galley Cat to learn more about who’s getting book deals from blogs these days. Sign up for Publishers Lunch. Skim Publishers Weekly. And google “blog to book.”
  9. Make sure your About Me page gives your real name, your email address, and your writing/subject matter credentials. Be sure to include a photo of yourself, and make sure you brush your hair and teeth.
  10. Start blogging! Preferably posts that are 300 to 600 words (give or take) in length.
  11. Use photos whenever you can. And links. Especially to other blogs.
  12. Proofread your posts and check your links.
  13. Send out a blanket email to everyone you’ve ever met in your life telling them about your blog. Do this after you’ve made a few posts you’re proud of. Only do this once.
  14. Add your blog URL to the signature of your email address.
  15. Join some writing listservs or online communities and contribute to the conversation, keeping that signature in all your posts. Ditto for online communities revolving around the topic of your book.
  16. Post to your blog at least three times a week. Stay on topic, and don’t be afraid to be opinionated, funny, and/or controversial.
  17. Never apologize for not posting for the past two weeks. No one cares. If you have a lot of readers, a better idea is to do a post like this in advance.
  18. If you feel compelled to blog about your cat, try to find the tie-in to your overall blog’s topic. Otherwise, maybe skip the cute pet posts.
  19. Read and comment on other people’s blogs. It’s the best way to get new readers to come to your blog — and to raise your Google rank.
  20. Read articles on how to blog. Here’s one that people seem to like, though I tend to shy away from all those Best/Richest/Smartest Blogger Ever types. Here’s an even better tip list by my friend Amanda; it includes some suggestions for books on blogging too.
  21. Get a free tool to measure your site traffic so you can see what posts people like the best and how many readers you have. Here are a few: Site Meter, Google Analytics, MyBlogLog. This is not my forte, so I’m sure others will chime in.
  22. Speaking of, know that blogging means putting yourself out there. Sometimes rude, nasty people with nothing better to do make obnoxious comments on your site, often anonymously. That’s the way of the web unfortunately. You have the option to hit Delete. More often than not, though, the comments will be supportive, encouraging, helpful. You may even make a new friend or two. Maybe even a book agent friend. And wouldn’t that be nice?
  23. Above all, have fun. If blogging sounds like a chore, maybe you’re better off publishing a couple of well-placed articles on your pet topic instead (think Huffington Post, Salon, Slate).

Entry Filed under: Ask the Cubicle Expat,This freelance life

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Diane  |  February 19th, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    This is a fantastic post, Michelle. Packed with information and great insights. It’s almost enough to make me want to start blogging!

  • 2. Gwynneth  |  February 20th, 2008 at 8:31 am

    For Student X: I’m in the same boat, have signed up for a WordPress blog and happily bought the Idiots Guide to it (I’m not proud and it’s a well written How To book). I’m very much looking to getting my blog out there and mucking around with some of those neat tools they have in order to give my platform as professional an edge as possible. Good luck with establishing yours. I’m looking to get mine online by March end.

    Michelle: I didn’t know about some of these other points so thanks for sharing.

  • 3. Michelle Goodman  |  February 20th, 2008 at 10:39 am

    hey, i should get that idiot’s guide. there’s so much more i wish i could do with wordpress… thanks, gwynneth!

    one thing i forgot to add to the above list: as a reporter, i sometimes search blogs when i’m looking for an interviewee on a cultural trend, say for a story. all the more reason to get out there asap! get interviewed in the MSM and tell THAT to your agent.

  • 4. Nichelle  |  February 21st, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Great post!

  • 5. Michelle Goodman  |  February 21st, 2008 at 1:59 pm


  • 6. Katy  |  February 27th, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Michelle, great post. You’ve got some great points in there about blogging that reach out to folks that aren’t writing a book as well.

    If you get a chance, check out – she’s the author of the WordPress for Dummies book.

  • 7. Jenny  |  February 28th, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    OMG – it never occurred to me that there might be a BOOK to help with my burning WordPress questions! Thanks to you commenters for mentioning the Dummies book … picked it up last night and it looks like it will be just what I need. Yay!

  • 8. Janna Cawrse  |  April 11th, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks for including me in your list of blogs to book deals, Michelle! And I just want to mention that your blog doesn’t necessarily have to translate directly to your book or even your topic. A loose connection is good enough; or a blog that will attract your book’s demographic.

    E.g. I blog about relationships for the Seattle PI whereas my book is a travel memoir about sailing across the Pacific on my honeymoon. So the relationship theme is the link, but otherwise they’re totally different. The trick was finding something I was passionate enough about to blog about regularly, and then using it as a platform to show I could draw an audience. My blog definitely helped me sell my book through a nonfiction book proposal. And, once the book’s finished, I can’t wait to get back to blogging more…

  • 9. Suzannah  |  September 11th, 2008 at 8:25 am

    This was extremely helpful! I am really enjoying blogging and in the process of trying to figure out the exact details of my book so this is a great roadmap to getting there. Thank you!

  • 10. Meet Michelle Goodman &la&hellip  |  November 28th, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    [...] to build a platform so that agents and editors know you already have a built-in following. Blogging, tweeting, writing articles, posting YouTube videos, teaching classes, and sitting on panels are [...]

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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