You’ve already created a successful ebook. You just might not know it yet.
If you’ve ever written a popular blog post that engaged readers, you have material. You have the nuts and bolts of writing and content creation down. You even have an audience, and better yet: you know what your audience responds to.
The problem comes when you imagine sitting down and creating an ebook out of all of this. You don’t want to rehash old content. But you don’t want to lose what made your content so engaging in the first place.
How do you create an ebook that doesn’t feel like a simple rehash of your best blog content? How do you navigate content repurposing in a way that feels fresh?
Most importantly, how do you avoid hours of manual labor, like copying and pasting? Here’s everything you’ll need to know about repurposing blog posts into an ebook that sells.
The advantages of building ebooks from blog content
Maybe it sounds like a bad idea. Why bother recycling old content? Who’s going to pay for an ebook when the content is already free?
There are a few reasons it’s worth your time to learn how to turn your blog into a book:
- Passive income. If you run a service business, you know how hard it is to achieve scalable growth. Turning your service into a product changes that. It turns your expertise into a repeatable digital product that you can sell while you sleep. You can even use this content to create unique products that you don’t have to lift a finger to manage.
- Ebooks are a popular medium. 2020 has seen a “revival” in ebooks, from major publishers to small independent blogs. People want to read digital products. And the market is still growing. In just one week during 2020, over 10.1 million people borrowed digital products from libraries across the world.
- Content is great for lead generation. Creating an exclusive product is a powerful way to attract potential leads online. According to CMI, content marketing generates as many leads as outbound marketing. And it costs 62% less.
- It’s easier than writing from a blank slate. Repurposing your most engaging content means you’ll have an established market. You’ll know when the demand is there. That gives you an immediate advantage over anyone creating an ebook from scratch. For example: When I created the Write Better Right Now ebook, I had a collection of previous newsletters and how-to writing lessons I could pull from. Since all of the how-tos were already in an easy-to-follow format, the entire collection only took about an hour to assemble. So far it’s generated four figures in sales. Not a bad return, right?
- You’re multitasking. Having a blog is an achievement in itself. Blogs create 126% more lead growth for small businesses, after all. They improve SEO, indexing at a rate of 4x over blog-less websites. But content creation goes beyond that, helping you create new products that drive sales and attract new leads. Think of moving from blog to ebook not as rehashing, but as multitasking.
- Easier for your audience to consume. When you have a popular series of blog posts, it can be tough for readers to navigate everything. An ebook sets itself apart by creating a more digestible form of your content. If it means they can read it on their tablet or e-reader, all the better.
- Speed to market. Repurposing blog content is one of the fastest ways to get an ebook onto the page. When you’re repurposing content, the meat and potatoes of your book are already there. You only need to package it in an original way that adds value to readers—you can even use preexisting ebook templates to minimize the work.
Even better? Creating an ebook makes it possible for you to position yourself as a thought leader.
Consider the example of Anton Sten. Inspired by the “teach everything you know” approach used by creators like Nathan Barry (our founder here at ConvertKit!), Anton decided to take a dozen of his most popular posts and drop them into an ebook.
Here’s what he experienced:
- Return on investment. Sten put down $1,000 of his own money toward an editor, and the ebook eventually returned $3,000. Even though Sten admits this is far from a “cash machine,” his returns more than justified his initial investment.
- Long-term marketing value. It may not be a “cash machine,” but Sten does notice his clients’ ears perking up when he mentions his book. Said Sten: “There’s clearly a marketing value that’s hard to put a number on.”
- New opportunities. Sten’s book also led to new exposure that he wouldn’t have realized with the blog alone. According to Sten, it led to interviews with Adobe and WNW which helped solidify his position as a subject matter expert.
There are clear benefits to repurposing your blog content. But how you turn your blog into a book is just as important as why.
Step #1: Use your blog as a content testing platform
It’s rare that ebook writers can beta test the content that most resonates with their audience. In many cases, ebook writers sit down and hash out what they think will be most useful.
This is a thoughtful approach. But it still boils down to guessing.
If you’re investing in your own ebook, you don’t want to guess. Instead, think of your blog as a content-testing platform for the ebook you’re eventually going to compile.
Pop over to your analytics. What are the queries people are typing that bring the most visitors? Here is a list of the items you can look for while running the numbers:
- What questions do people ask in the comments section? If you have enough comments to notice patterns, write down the ones that strike you as the most common.
- What queries are people typing? Google makes it difficult to find these through analytics these days, but pay attention to the blog posts that generate the most interest.
- Which sort of queries does your blog rank for? What is the user intent behind those queries? What questions are people asking that might land them on your page?
For companies without a solid content plan, it would be worth paying money to find out what people want. But if you have a blog already, you can do it for free.
Be honest about the numbers. Which blog posts are inspiring the most visits, and why? What are the common elements that unify your most popular posts?
And if you want to find more material for an ebook, what different elements of these posts do you have yet to explore?
That’s exactly what Nicholas Cole, founder of Digital Press did.
When Cole sat down to compile his book on the subject of writing, “The Art and Business of Online Writing,” he already had a history of user questions to ponder. The first thing he did was dig up his most popular articles, and those articles became the basis for his book’s outline.
I treat 100% of what I write online as essentially data mining content. As these social platforms tell me what works, I continue to refine and double down on these topic areas, building out ‘proven’ libraries based on what audiences want.
Nicholas Cole, Digital Press
Cole also found other opportunities based on the questions his readers were asking. For instance, he noticed that many readers asked him how to position themselves as thought leaders.
Inspiration struck. Cole added a “Thought Leadership” course for anyone who bought his book the first week. It helped launch a successful debut, selling 500 copies from that offer alone.
But the benefits of this approach didn’t stop there. Cole noticed the same thing Sten did: the book led to dozens of new business opportunities. Cole found new clients approaching him at Digital Press. He discovered new advising and consulting opportunities. He capitalized on speaking opportunities and gained more subscribers for his paid newsletter.
His assessment: the ebook led to “tens of thousands of dollars in value in just a few months.”
Step #2: Build your ebook structure
Like a blog post, an ebook requires structure if it’s going to deliver value for your readers. The good news is that the ebook can be an easier way to structure your content. Your readers will enjoy having everything they need, sitting right in front of them.
Ryan Robinson of RyRob.com noticed this was an advantage of his ebooks. He found that repurposing long-form content wasn’t a quick money grab, but a better way of delivering content to readers with busy schedules.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned from publishing 300+ long-form articles on my blog over the last 8 years, is that some readers can get overwhelmed after landing on an in-depth guide that looks like it'll take forever to get through, even if they're motivated to learn and take action on the content they're consuming.
Ryan Robinson, RyRob.com
According to Robinson, readers don’t always like sifting through articles. Even though the content is there for free, navigating the labyrinth of blog archives is extra work.
Readers would rather read an ebook they can sit with than keep multiple tabs open, guessing which piece leads to the next. It’s much easier for the reader to have one well-organized source where they can find everything in linear order.
That leaves one question. How do you sit down and make the shift from blog to ebook? What are the nuts and bolts of your ebook structure? Here are a few key methods.
The Chapter Method
Also known as a “hub-and-spoke” content strategy, this is what Leah Ryder of Trello advocates. Here’s how you can move the content from blog to ebook with ease:
- Gather up your “hub” posts first. What are the “pillar posts” that serve as the master-guide to each topic? These are the hubs around which the individual spokes should revolve.
- Create a chapter from a “hub” topic. Ryder recommends using your existing content, but using fresh formatting (headers, bullets, definition boxes) to improve readability. You can also add extras on top of these (the aforementioned “spokes”), such as quotes from business leaders on the topic that might not have appeared in the original post. Any additional spokes, such as chapter summaries, can also boost readability.
Using this method, you would create an outline based on the most successful “pillar posts” on your blog. Organize your chapters based on these themes. The order is crucial. What does a reader need to know first before moving on to the next theme?
Jessica Malnik of The Remote Work Tribe notes that this is a great way to stretch limited sources. She intentionally plans her blog content with this strategy in mind.
I run a content site helping remote managers on the site. I'm using this process to launch an ebook all about helping remote teams combat burnout. Instead of writing the ebook first, we wrote and published a series of blog posts on the topic of burnout. We'll turn that into a full ebook along with incorporating the feedback that we received from people who read the individual posts.
Jessica Malnik, The Remote Work Tribe
The Excerpt Method
What if you don’t have large pillar posts to build an entire chapter around? Then you can use the Excerpt Method, which is essentially summarizing existing content with an eye on organization. With this strategy, you’ll take snippets from different articles and stick them together based on overall themes.
This is a good idea if you’ve noticed people are interested in specific topics that you haven’t addressed yet. You’re essentially taking bits and pieces from the content you’ve written and reshuffling them to form new long-form content.
With the Excerpt Method, you can still incorporate new additions, such as supplemental content and expert quotes. This way the ebook will feel fresh because the content is organized in a completely different way.
Chris Craft’s is an example of how investing in long-form content makes the Excerpt Method easier. His in-depth approach makes it easier to repurpose that content whenever he needs to.
It’s a lot easier to repurpose content when you start with the words first. If you just start with a long-form piece that has your H3s and H4s, what do those become? Those become bullet points within a tweet. Those become a caption for Instagram, those become an outline for a podcast.
We have a tendency to view long-form content as a static thing. But repurposing that content for people who have yet to see the message is still valuable to a whole different audience. View each post as an investment not only in long-form content, but long-term content generation.
Step #3: Create your ebook
At this stage, let’s assume you have a blog and an audience. You know what people are looking for, content-wise. You have a sense of what questions your audience is asking. Now it’s time to take your top-performing content and turn it into a page-turner.
Even if you don’t do much with your articles except drop them into an ebook, there’s a way to structure them to tell a unique story. How can you do this? With tools that make this sort of organization easy.
- For example, Beacon helps you create an ebook as a lead magnet. It features a “lead magnet editor” so you don’t have to do anything except gathering up the content you’ve already created.
- Book Widgets is a great set of tools for creating supplementary value in your materials. If you feel that you need to offer more value than dropping in old blog posts into an ebook, Book Widgets helps you create interactive exercises, for example. This helps you fashion your ebook into an educational course. Deborah Niemann had success doing just that, repurposing her content with fresh materials that changed her presentation into a successful course.
- Use ConvertKit’s ebook template to format everything properly. This will feature all you need to handle the nuts and bolts of taking your text and turning it into a downloadable PDF worth buying.
Step #4: Set your ebook apart from your free content with extra offerings
An ebook is great. But an ebook packaged with extras will sell even better.
For instance, you can write a new article and attach it as a bonus to create a sense of exclusivity. People who love your blog will want to see what else you have on your mind. You can create an extra PDF and include it with the sale of your ebook for free, incentivizing new sales.
Claire Emerson of ImplementMyCourse.com found that an ebook associated with her course helped drive sales, converting at a rate of around 25% when using it as a lead magnet. “And that’s with no promotion yet,” said Emerson.
The key to her success? Emerson took existing content and repurposed it as a bonus.
According to Emerson, the broader approach of the ebook serves as a perfect complement for a course that explores topics in greater depth.
Some readers may want a bird’s-eye overview of your content. Others might appreciate the deeper dive that comes with an in-depth course. By doing both, Emerson opened her course up to sales that appealed to both types of readers.
You don’t have to sell your ebook exclusively. You can also package it into an existing offering or unique digital product to add that much more promotional value to your offer. According to Emerson, it started making sales even before she began her earnest course promotion.
Step #5: Sell your ebook using ConvertKit Commerce
Do you have a blog that’s ready to turn into an ebook? Or do you want to start creating content with an eye on launching your ebook down the line?