If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I would have been a published author at some point in my life, I probably would have laughed straight in your face.
Seriously, that is the last thing I thought I could do. I never really enjoyed writing, plus I figured I didn’t have any knowledge that would be useful that wasn’t already in books.
Fast forward to November of 2013 and I have not just one, but two published books. Real, hard copy, beautifully smelling books with my name on the cover.
How I Became an Author Without That Being My Goal
I never set out to become an author, yet here I am.
It all started because I followed one of my passions and created a blog around it. If you read my Newbies Guide to Building Profitable Websites, I talked about making money with your passions. While many people start off where the money is, I like to start off with what is enjoyable to me and figure out how to make money with it.
If you know me, you know that I love craft beer. Put an imperial IPA in front of me and suddenly life becomes amazing, the birds start singing, and I start praising God for creating such a wonderfully brilliant beverage.
Whether you like beer or not isn’t the point however. I do and that’s what I wanted to turn into a business.
While I do enjoy homebrewing, I started to look into opening up a brewery of my own and quickly realized it wasn’t for me. The long hours, working nights, and not having the freedom I do now made me start thinking of other ways to follow my passion.
Back in 2010 I decided I would start up my own beer blog. Although I didn’t consider myself a writer I thought it would be a fun way to get practice and get to know the industry a little better.
I happened to come across a blog that was for sale as the owner was selling it to free up time since he started his own brewery. Being the SEO fan that I am, I jumped on it as there was already a ton of great content, plenty of really good backlinks, and some traffic already coming into the site.
Instead of starting from scratch, I bought the site and pretty much instantly became a craft beer expert.
Utilizing my ninja like SEO skills I had the site ranking #1 in Google for “beer blog” and a ton of other keywords.
At this point I had written just a couple of posts on my own and really didn’t know much about the industry still. I was having a lot of fun with the site and pretty soon the UPS and FedEX guys where at my house multiple times a week delivering free beer. Hey, someone has to review them.
Key Lesson #1
You don’t have have to be an expert at your topic to be successful. You can start with the knowledge you have and work hard to get to where you want to be. Don’t let the fact you don’t feel like an expert stop you from creating something awesome.
People perceived me as a beer expert because I used my marketing skills to rank highly, not necessarily because I was the smartest guy in craft beer. What I quickly learned is that if you can master marketing, you don’t have to be an expert at something to get started.
Sure, I know a ton about beer now, but I still don’t have anywhere near the amount of knowledge other people do. Yet because I worked at getting people to my blog, people considered me an expert and a ton of opportunities have opened up because of it (not just free beer).
As I continued to build up the blog, I utilized Facebook and Twitter to start building a larger audience (I’ll share my tactics in future posts). The next thing I know my blog was doing pretty well and getting over 1000 unique visitors a day. Not huge, but not bad either.
I still didn’t consider my blog as one of the best around (it still isn’t by far). I just learned how to get on top of the others.
Each year there is a Beer Bloggers Conference held somewhere in the US and in 2011 it happened to be near me in Portland, Oregon. I only went to the first day since I had to fly out to New York the next day to attend Affiliate Summit, but what happened there shifted my view somewhat.
During two different presentations by speakers, they used my blog’s logo along with a few other really big blogs in their power point presentations.. I felt like a fake, but I guess I was becoming known as a big blog.
I was writing some good content, but most of all my rankings helped.
Key Lesson #2
Blogs are awesome. Most people however don’t make much money directly from their blogs through advertising. Successful bloggers use their blog as a platform that leads to other opportunities that wouldn’t have happened without blogging.
While my blog was making some money, it wasn’t a full time income and I really didn’t look at it as such. I was just enjoying the topic I was writing about and pretty soon many opportunities started opening up.
I’ve been asked to attend multiple private events where different breweries launch their beers. I’ve had special access to different brewers and have been able to tour a lot of breweries, plus I get to go drink beer and use it as a business write off.
Then one day last year I got an email from a book publisher who was doing a series of books that are beer guides in different areas around the country. They were interested in having me write a book for the state of Oregon.
I think the first time they wrote I didn’t even reply. I figured it was probably just some kind of ebook thing, plus I didn’t look at myself as a writer (I still don’t really).
A few weeks later I got another email and so I started investigating. It was the real deal. Before I knew it I had signed the contract and had my first payment in the mail.
Talk about a fun project. I went all over Oregon writing about the numerous breweries and craft beer bars across the state. I may have gained about 30 pounds in the process, but it was the most enjoyable work I’ve done in my life.
As my deadline for finishing it loomed I started getting stressed a bit, but I was able to finish on time.
Right after I submitted the final changes to my editor, they asked if I’d write a second book on Washington. It was hard to refuse and off went another project.
Sure it was tough, but I’m glad I did it. I accomplished something few people actually do.
One of the most satisfying parts of the journey was when I walked into a Barnes and Nobles and saw my book on the shelf. Or when my wife was walking through a mall in Portland and it was in the display case for everyone walking through the mall to see at the Made in Oregon store.
My Oregon book was published in April and the Washington book just came out this month. This only happened because I started blogging and worked hard at getting to the top of Google and making a name for myself.
How You Can Do It
If publishing a book has always been something you’ve dreamed about, now is the time to start.
I suggest you get a blog going on the topic you want to write about and get writing and promoting. You never know where it will take you.
Once you get some practice, start writing your book, even if you don’t have a publisher. Seriously, you’ll never get published if you spend your whole life wishing.
If a publisher won’t publish it, you can either self publish or create your own Kindle book. You could probably make more money anyways self publishing (check out the post my buddy Chris Guthrie did on creating a Kindle Book).
So what’s holding you back?
Let me know in the comments if you’ve published a book or want to get one published? Then let me know of any questions you have on turning your blog into an opportunity to get published.