Over the last few months I’ve had a rise in the numbers of people asking me about the why and how of writing and publishing Ebooks. So when Mary Jaksch from the blog Goodlife Zen and Ebook offered to write a post on Ebooks I jumped at the offer. Here’s her comprehensive guide on the topic.
When I began writing my Ebook From Tragedy to Triumph: Winning Through a Life Crisis, I had no idea what a long and complex project writing and publishing an Ebook can be. I’m offering you this paint-by-numbers guide in order to make the process smooth and easy for you.
Do you feel overwhelmed by the idea writing an Ebook? Personally, I enjoy writing books! But others who feel less confident or lack the time, prefer to outsource the writing of their book. You can find writers for Ebooks on Elance for between $280 – $500.
1. The ‘why’: what is your motivation?
The ‘why’ determines the structure and content of your Ebook; it has to be strong enough to carry you through the entire project. Here are some reasons why you might want to write an Ebook:
- To promote your blog or other product – If you want to promote your blog, consider offering the book for free, or as a teaser for signing up to a newsletter. Make sure you place a link to your blog in the footer of each page.
- To make money online – You may not make a huge amount, but the money will trickle in continuously. It’s the ultimate passive income!
- To boost your profile – As the author of a book, you are seen as an expert. This can have interesting spin-offs. You may get a contract by a publishing firm for a print book, you may be invited for guest posts or public talks, or you could launch a lucrative consulting business.
2. The ‘what’: 5 questions that help you find it
What can you write about? As you go through the following questions, use a notebook and jot down your answers so that you end up with a list.
- What gets you going? – When you’re with friends, what topics do you love to talk about?
- What do you know a lot about? – For example, do you know about collecting stamps, cleaning a house, riding a horse, kitesurfing, worm farming, learning an instrument, making friends, or bringing up kids?
- What special life experiences have you had? – Have you overcome a particular difficulty? For example, have you emigrated, or struggled with illness, divorce, raising teenagers, or looking after ageing parents?
- What kind of advice do friends tend to ask you for? – If you’re unsure, ask your friends. They will know!
- What’s your passion? – If you had endless time and hords of money, what would you love to do?
Take a look at your list. Each point you wrote down could be turned into an Ebook!
3. Prepare for productivity: 3 planning points
- Set the length of your book – An Ebook is usually between 15,000 to 30,000 words long. A piece that has less than 15,000 words is usually called a ‘report’. Set a length for your book so that you can develop a strategy for writing it.
- Use a mindmap to plan your book – Mindmaps are great tools to spark creativity. Download Freemind or use crayons and paper. Check out this article for a step-by-step guide on how to use a mindmap.
- Lay out the bones of your book – Once your mindmap has produced main headings and sub-headings, it’s time to lay out the bones of your book. Make a list of chapters; they can be up to 2000 words long. Then divide the chapters into sections, each with their own heading. You can enter chapters and sections into a spreadsheet with the projected wordcount for each part. As you write each section, place your actual word count in a separate column to keep on track.
4. Hit on the right title
The title makes all the difference when it comes to selling a book. You might want to start with a working title and choose your final title when you’ve completed writing your book.
- What makes a great title? – Titles for Ebooks and blogposts follow similar rules. Check out Brian Clark’s Magnetic Headline series.
- Getting help with your title – If you’re not sure about the title, ask a marketing advisor for help. Elance is a good place to find the help your need.
5. Write on!
Remember the tale of the hare and the tortoise? Slow and steady certainly wins out when writing an Ebook! Here two tricks to keep your writing flowing:
- Set a deadline for completion – There is nothing like a deadline to keep you moving ahead, even if you set it yourself. To find an appropriate date, plan on writing a certain quota of words a day. Then divide the total amount of projected words through your daily quota to find how long it will take. Add another month for editing.
- Keep the momentum going – Set a daily time for writing. If your life is full, get up 30 minutes earlier each day and sit down immediately to write. Don’t worry about writing well. Just put the daily quota of words on the page. Next morning, read last day’s words briefly, then add the next lot. Take an hour once a week to edit what you wrote.
6. Breathe life into your writing
Here are 3 ways of bringing your writing to life:
- Write like a journalist – Journalists learn to write for maximum impact. Instead of introducing the theme with an overview and then focussing in on particulars, journalists take the reverse track. They start with a personal story, and then zoom out to the larger issue.
- Use juicy writing – Pick up the pace and increase the flow of your text through using short sentences and frequent paragraphing, getting rid of filler words, and using only one idea per paragraph. Check out techniques of juicy writing here.
- Use dialogues for emotional impact – Dialogue makes a story out of mere information. Learn how to use it in this article.
7. Tricks of an efficient editor
Good editing can lift a book from mediocre to excellent. After writing, editing is a writer’s most important task.
- Liposuction flab – Your first major edit should cull every superflous word. Here’s an article that shows you what to watch out for. Aim to shave at least 10% off your wordcount after the first read-through!
- Outsource the final edit – A final edit is best done by a professional. Good editors aren’t cheap. You may have to spend $150 – $250 for a 20,000 word book. You can find editors on Elance. Some print-on-demand publishers (see below) also offer editing.
8. Do pictures say more than a 1000 words?
- Pro’s and con’s of using illustrations – Illustrations can add value but make ‘on demand’ publishing more expensive, as well as creating a large file size for downloads.
- How to source illustrations – Flickr is a great source of free images. Check out Skellie’s excellent article on how to find images on Flickr.
9. Design your book for ‘knock-out’ impact
To complete and market your Ebook, you will need the following design package: layout, fonts, ilustrations, the cover, a small 125x 125 banner and a large banner with 3D book image for your website. If you’re not a designer yourself, I suggest finding someone on Elance. Check out other Ebooks in order to find a layout and cover that you like so that you can give clear guidance to your designer.
10. Make the most of front– and back-matter
- What the front matter needs to contain – The first few pages before the actual text begins are called ‘front matter’. It’s a place for a quote or a dedication, for credits of your photographers or designers, for stating your copyright, and for including an index.
- How to use back matter to maximum effect – The back matter is what you add at the end of your book. If you are a blogger, add a page to invite readers to your blog. If you have any other products you would like to sell, you can add a sales page as well.
11. Create an audio version for iPod people
Consider adding an audio version. You can either produce it yourself or get a professional to do it. On Elance this will cost you about $150. You can either offer it for sale on sites like LearnOurLoud, or offer the audio version together with the Ebook as a value-added package.
12. Sell your book to the whole world
- Selling the Ebook yourself – If you have your own blog or website, you can sell your Ebook from your site with Paypal. In that case you would store the Ebook file on a password protected page on your site. In the process of paying through Paypal, the buyers would get a password to your download page. A no-sweat alternative is to sell your book through E-junkie. Their system is easy to set up, and they store the digital file for you. This choice means that you can also set up their user-friendly affiliate service.
- Sell your book through Lulu – Lulu produces and sells both digital books, as well as on-demand print copies. An Ebook nets the author 80% of its sale price. For ‘print on demand’ books, Lulu’s commision is 20% of the author revenue (which you set over and above the production cost per copy). The setting-up cost for a print version ranges from zero (if you have all the files ready to go) to $500 if you choose Lulu’s complete editing, formating and design package.
- Sell your Ebook through Amazon – Amazon is pushing their Ebook reader Kindle. Check out how to publish and sell your Ebook with Amazon here. Amazon has joined with a ‘print on demand’ publisher called Booksurge. Their fee for setting up a print-on-demand version of an Ebook is about $300.
13. Write a sizzling sales page
Whether people follow through and complete the buying process is largely due to sales copy that overcomes inertia and doubt, and calls to action.
- Write your own copy – Read my sales page how to write web copy that sells. and check out this article on
- Outsource copywriting – It may be worthwhile to outsource the copy for your sales page. There are many experienced copy writers on Elance.
14. Prepare for the Big Day
The launch is an important day. Make sure that your blog readers and fellow bloggers know about your upcoming launch. This helps to create expectation and excitement. Check out this article on How To Use Product Launch Principles When Selling From Your Blog. Here is what you can do to prepare for the launch.:
- Sign up buyers pre-launch – This strategy means signing people up to get a discounted book on launch day. It’s best to start the list about three months before launch date.
- Test your selling system – It’s important to test your selling system. If you use E-junkie, you can set the price to a few cents for testing purposes and buy your book by credit card. This will immediately show up any problems. Remember to change the price before the launch!
- Write a sales page or launch post – Have your sales page or blog post ready as a draft on your site so that all you need to do is to hit the ‘publish’ button on launch day.
- Send out complimentary copies – Send out complimentary copies to fellow bloggers and close friends. You can use their testimonials on your sales page. Craft your email carefully. Offer your affiliate program and ask people to review your book.
15. Set up an affiliate program
Setting up an affiliate system means that you are offering your Ebook not only to your own readers but potentially to hundreds of thousands of readers! An affiliate gets a commission for every sale. It pays to be generous with your commission (I offer 40%). I think E-junkie is the most user-friendly affiliate system. It’s easy to set up, and both you and your affiliates can track sales online.
- How to find possible affiliates – To find possible affiliates, start a list with all your blogging friends, as well as your commenters who have blogs. Then comes the detective work: find an Ebook by an author who focusses on a similar target group. Google the name of the book plus the word ‘review’; chances are that the people who wrote a review also are affiliates. Add them to your list. On your launch day, email each possible affiliate and attach a complimentary copy.
16. Blow your trumpet
You are your best marketing weapon! Contact all your friends on the Net. Now is the time to call in your favours. Here is what you can do:
- Ask for reviews – Choose blogs with a similar theme and ask for a review of your book.
- Create links to your sales page – Mention your book in your blog posts and link to the sales page. Go through your archives and find relevant post in which you can place links.
- Put up a banners – Put up a big banner on your site and offer smaller 125×125 banners to your affiliates.
Follow these steps, and you will find the process of writing and producing an Ebook quite straightforward. When you finally get to Launch Day, you will feel the thrill of achievement!
If you have a question or want to add something, please leave a comment.
Mary Jaksch writes a blog at GoodlifeZen.com. She is the author of ‘Learn to Love’ which has been translated into six languages. Her recent Ebook has had rave reviews.