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The Comprehensive Paint-by-numbers Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Ebook

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 From Tragedy to Triumph: Winning Through a Life Crisis 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 LuluLulu 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 here and check out this article on how to write web copy that sells.
  • 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 From Tragedy to Triumph: Winning Through a Life Crisis has had rave reviews.

WordPress 2.6 Goes Live

WordPress today announced that it has just released its newest version WordPress 2.6.

Here’s their video tour of it.

MoFuse Announce Pro Version is Free

Yesterday Mofuse (a service that allows bloggers to launch and manage a mobile version of their blog) announced that they are making their ‘Pro’ service free for everyone.

There was previously a free version and Pro version with the paid version allowing you to point users to your own domain but now this is available to all bloggers.

Get Up To $100 as a BONUS from Chitika

chitika-bonus.jpgI’m excited today to announce an exclusive special offer for ProBlogger readers from Chitika (my own #2 income earner) that could be worth up to $100 for some of you.

If you’ve previously not been accepted into Chitika or have a site that is product focused and didn’t work well previously this will be especially beneficial to you. Read on to find out why.

If you are not already a Chitika publisher and sign up today they are willing to double the money that you make with them in your first six weeks (until the end of August) up to the value of $100.

For Example:

  • If a publisher earns $80 between now and August 31, Chitika will match them $80, making their total payout $160
  • If a publisher earns $600 between now and August 31, Chitika will match them $100, making their total payout $700

This promotion is open to any NEW publisher with Chitika who signs up with THIS LINK.

Previously Not Accepted as a Chitika Publisher?

If you have previously applied to Chitika and were not accepted into the program Chitika have recently opened up their program more and you are welcome to reapply.

Don’t have a ‘product related’ site?

Since adding their new ‘premium ad unit’ to their range Chitka’s ads now not only do well on ‘gadget’ or ‘product related’ sites – but are converting well on sites of all kinds of topics. At b5media we’ve added them successfully to hundreds of our sites on all kinds of topics (most of them not product related at all). For example – check out this mini case study from a finance related website – Bankaholic.

This promotion is exclusive to ProBlogger Readers and runs from today (Monday 14 July) through to 31 August – 2008.

Again – to be eligible you need to sign up here.

Is Your Blog a Networking Tool?

blog-networking.jpgIs Your Blog a Networking Tool? In this post Jennifer Gniadecki from Everyday Networker explores this question.

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked during the Q&A at live speaking engagements is, “So…yeah….I’ve been thinking about starting a blog…is a blog a networking tool?” I thought it was a question that warranted some serious thought. I mean, I hear probably once a day from someone that a blog is a conversation, and networking is all about conversations, so wouldn’t they be the same thing?

You give out business cards at a networking event

While your blog should not only be a business card, it should share all the elements somewhere on there. The things you would share if you were at a real networking event with real people. It should have the answers to the grown up versions of the college question, “What’s your major?” As well as let people find you. It amazes me when I find a blog that is written by an enigma. Especially if there is a service attached to it in some way.

Contact information – It doesn’t have to have your home address and phone number, but if someone wants to talk to you it is best to give them an outlet. An email address or contact form is just fine. When people want to ask you a question, don’t make them go all over hell’s half acre looking for how. Make it easy. You might be awesome and important, but you’re not worth jumping through more than one or two hoops. No matter who you are.

Where you can be found – Again, within the bounds of your privacy. Do you want people that read your blog to connect with you on Linkedin? Twitter? Plurk? Facebook? Seesmic? You have to let them know. You may even want to designate one account or service just for your blog readers so you are able to make your communications with them more targeted.

What you do – The title of your blog might be “Bob – Greatest Artist Ever” but that isn’t going to be enough. Put a blurb or sidebar (or an about page…you do have one, right?) explaining with a little more detail what you do. For example, “I’m Bob – I’m the Greatest Artist Ever and specialize in watercolors and sculpture.”

What you do for money – Let people know what they can give you money to do. Do you take sponsorships? Write reviews? Consult? Have a service business? Paint paid commission pieces? Don’t make people figure out how they can give you money, make it easy for them to pay you if you have something they need/want/desire.

Your logo – If your blog doesn’t have your logo on it, you’re just phoning it in. I almost didn’t mention this one but thought, “Hey…go for the obvious!”

Blogs are conversations, so that means the conversation aspect is networking, too!

No.

A blog is not a conversation. Unless you’re the person at the networking event who talks for up to ten minutes without taking a breath and letting the other person get a word in edgewise. But if that was what you were doing, people wouldn’t read you because they’d think you were a blowhard that didn’t stop talking no matter how good your material.

In reality, blogging is almost exactly like a speaking engagement. I think many people refrain from explaining it that way because they hate public speaking but love blogging. So you couldn’t be a public speaker when you couldn’t be a…you know…public speaker.

But stay with me for a minute. You’re in front of your audience and you talk. You emote. You teach. You say stuff to them. You continue until you’re good and ready to be done. No one interrupts you. No one talks back in the middle of your sentence, and you don’t accidentally sneeze. Only when you are finished does the audience have a chance for some Q&A and feedback (comments!) Your choice as the presenter is to respond to each individual comment or to a few comments at once or answer some questions and ignore others.

A conversation would force you to answer every question you are asked when you were asked. That is the nature of a two-way conversation. A speaking engagement model allows you to have some extra freedom and leeway in what or how you choose to answer. While it is possible to have a reader e-mail you directly after reading something on your blog, this is much more like following up with a speaker than it is a gesture of the, “Hi, how are you today?” that characterizes a friendly, even businesslike, conversation.

You also can’t get a read on any one person the way you can when you’re talking to them one-on-one. You may get a glimpse here or there of someone you might want to talk to more, but really you’re going to get a general impression and a lot of feedback.

While it’s not a conversation, it is a powerful tool to increase exposure, platform, and an overall sense of personal well-being that comes from knowing your message is getting out there. Plus, if you think of it as a conversation you’re much more likely to get too personal. Sure, you can call it transparency, but I call it not wanting to know what color underwear everyone has on.

So, to wrap up, is blogging a form of networking?

The answer is, “Sort of.”

Of course the real answer comes from asking an entirely different question. Ask yourself if your blog (or blogs) are doing what you want them to do. If you were a public speaker (pretend you love to speak in front of a group for this one) would you be happy reading to the group before you what you have written in your blog? Would you feel like you were really teaching your audience something?

Do you slack off on post quality and convince yourself it’s in the name of conversation? Do you tell people a little too much about you personally and claim transparency? Worst of all, if you read your blog aloud to a group…would they stay awake?

Be a good public speaker on your blog, have the pertinent information people need to understand and make decisions about you, and you’ll find it might even be more rewarding than a traditional networking event.

Jennifer Gniadecki loves to talk to strangers. She does this online through blogging at Everyday Networker as well as contributing to the illusion of transparency over at Beyond Mom. You can download a free couple of chapters (no list sign-up required) of her book over at Non-Toxic Networking.

ProBlogger Book Competition Winners

I’m so confused!

The 193 entries into my ProBlogger Book competition were all so great that I’ve spent the last hour agonizing over who to choose.

I didn’t know whether to choose winners based upon quality of the comment, the blog of the commenter and how much help it needed (and how useful the book would be to them) or any of 10 or so other factors that I could have chosen a winner on.

As a result I’ve chosen three winners and will send each a copy of the book. I only wish I had 193 copies sitting on my desk to send.

Thanks to everyone for entering – but here’s the winners:

I’ll be in touch with you each shortly via email to get your postage details.

Like I say – I could have chosen 100 or so others to win – but had to draw the line somewhere.

To the rest of you – thanks for entering and I do hope you manage to pick up a copy of the book. Amazon currently has it on special for $16.47 and I’m told that it should be hitting stores outside of the US any day now (if it’s not already arrived). Many stores have them on order and others are taking customer orders for it so call up your local store and order one today.

Two New Offers for Newsletter Subscribers Next Week

Just a short note to let those of you who have not subscribed to the ProBlogger weekly newsletter know that next week’s edition has a couple of great offers for readers – only one of which will be posted here on the blog.

One is a way to make up to $100 and the other gives you a 25% discount on a range of great WordPress Templates.

In addition you’ll get highlights from the last week of blogging at ProBlogger and an exclusive tip that you won’t get here on the blog.

Join over 16,000 other’s who get this newsletter each week by adding your email address here:

Add Your Email Address Here to Subscribe

PS: the free 1 hour bonus podcast for subscribers is still on offer – you’ll get access to this once you’ve verified your subscription.

Aweber to Release Subscriber Count Chicklet This Week

As a followup to my post last week on why I use Aweber to deliver my newsletters – a little bird just told me that Aweber will be announcing a scriber count chicklet in the coming days.

This new feature is to go live on Tuesday and is is similar to Feedburner’s subscriber counter in that it’ll display to prospective subscribers to your newsletter how many others have already subscribed.

Aweber-Counter

It’s all about social proof.

Aweber publishers will be able to choose colors and can add chicklets to current signup forms.

Enter Our SNAP ProBlogger Book Competition

Problogger-Book-1I’ve got a spare ProBlogger Book sitting here on my desk with one of your names on it.

To win – in comments below simply leave a link to your blog (if you have one) and in under 250 words tell us why you need the book.

What do you need to improve on your blog? What questions do you hope it answers? What’s your biggest need as a blogger?

I’ll choose the person who I feel the book will help the most. The competition ends Monday Morning at 9am my time here in Melbourne – 24 hours from now.

update: Thanks everyone – I’ve closed this competition (and comments) and will announce a winner today.