In this mini-guide, I'll be sharing tips on how to write an ebook for beginners.
Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to build your brand and increase the size of your audience. One of the best types of content you can create for your content marketing strategy is an eBook.
With more and more people consuming content online and using eReaders, such as the Amazon Kindle, eBooks will only get more popular.
Writing an eBook can be a challenging process, though, especially if you haven't done it before.
Even though an eBook doesn't necessarily need to be lengthy, it will typically be far more in-depth than a blog post.
With all the work required for an eBook, it's easy to get off-track or procrastinate.
This guide will cover the steps you can take to write a quality eBook that gets the results you want.
Remember that you can adjust this process as necessary depending on your time constraints and the size of your eBook.
Figure Out the Purpose of Your eBook
First and foremost, you'll need to determine what you're writing this eBook for.
At the most basic level, the goal of any book is to be read, but your eBook could be very different depending on what you intend to do with it.
Here are some of the more popular reasons why authors publish eBooks:
- To make money through eBook sales
- To develop a reputation as an authority in their industry
- As free content to giveaway to email subscribers
- As content to include with an online course
You need to decide your plans for your eBook first because that is going to impact every subsequent step of the writing process.
For example, if you're writing an eBook that you plan to sell, it will need to be longer than something you're using as a freebie.
As you do this, you should also be thinking about who your target market will be.
You'll need to create an eBook that appeals to the specific demographics you're targeting.
Read Similar Types of eBooks
Once you know what type of eBook you're going to write, you can start looking at what other authors have released to get ideas for your own.
If you're writing a free eBook, subscribe to several email lists and check out the eBooks those authors send out.
While you may be eager to get started on your own eBook, you'll learn quite a bit by seeing how other authors format theirs.
You can pick out elements you like and want to use in your eBook, along with weak points to avoid.
There are plenty of eBooks available for free or just a couple dollars. You don't need to break the bank to do your research.
Choose a Topic
Now that you know why you're writing this eBook and you've read eBooks by popular authors, it's time to decide on a topic.
If you already have a blog, then you'll obviously want your topic to fit with your usual subject matter.
Your options are open if you're writing fiction, but with nonfiction, it's generally a good idea to hone in on a useful topic that you can cover.
You could do this in several different ways.
One popular option is helping the reader fix an issue or accomplish a goal. If you write about online marketing, your topic could be how to gain those first 1,000 subscribers.
If you write about fitness, your topic could be how to lose 10 pounds of fat.
Another way to go is to explore something potentially interesting for your audience.
Let's say you have a travel blog. You could write an eBook about what it's like adjusting to a new country as an expat, or a specific city's most hole-in-the-wall attractions.
No matter what topic you choose, what's most important is that you're passionate about it.
Completing an eBook can turn into a grind, and if you don't like what you're writing about, you're less likely to push through the tough times and finish what you started.
Do Your Homework on the Topic
The amount of research you need to do will obviously depend on how knowledgeable you are about your topic already.
Even if you're an expert on the subject, though, you'll still need to read up on the topic first.
By seeing what other people have written on a topic, you can ensure that you find a fresh perspective or a new angle instead of just retreading over the same ground previous writers have covered.
If you're going to need sources for your eBook, then you'll definitely need to do some research to find them.
Thanks to the wealth of information available on the internet, research is much easier than it used to be.
When you find an informative site, save the URL so that you can come back to it later.
Although you may have all the information you need online, you may also want to consider ordering some books on your topic or visiting the library.
Many eBook authors only use online sources because of the convenience, and by using evidence from actual books, you can go the extra mile and set your work apart.
Select Your Tools
There are tons of tools and programs that you can use for writing and formatting your eBook.
What you use comes down in large part to your personal preference.
Here are some options to keep in mind for your writing:
- Microsoft Word (1-month free trial available)
- Grammarly for checking spelling and grammar errors
- Google Docs
Here are some other tools that could come in handy:
Craft a Title that Gets People's Attention
At this point, all the preliminary work is out of the way and you can finally start the writing process.
It's smart to figure out your title first because that will help you stay on track.
Just like when you're blogging, the title of your eBook really only has one goal, and that's to get people to start reading.
Of course, that's easier said than done, especially if you're asking someone to sign up for your email list or shell out $9.99 to read your eBook.
The most important element to an effective title is specificity. You need to tell the reader exactly what your eBook is about in a way that makes them want to download it.
Generic titles are boring and won't convince anyone to check out what you wrote. Just consider the difference in the following two titles:
- How to Launch a Blog
- How to Take Your Blog from 0 to 1,000 Subscribers in 3 Months
The first title is generic and sounds like many other eBooks and articles. The second paints a picture in the reader's head of how many subscribers they can gain and in how little time, making it far more likely to convert.
One final tip on choosing your title – if you can, get a title that you can also register as a domain name. A site dedicated to your eBook is a valuable marketing tool.
Outline Your eBook
Just like your title, your outline helps you keep your eBook on track. Writing is much easier when you have the structure mapped out already instead of making it up as you go.
The length and level of detail in your outline depend in part on how long you plan to make your eBook.
For a 20 to 25-page eBook, you should be fine with a brief outline that spans only a page or two, although you can certainly be more thorough if you wish.
If you're planning on an in-depth eBook of 100 pages or more, then you should take the time to put together a longer outline. Doing this will keep your writing focused.
This isn't high school, and you're not getting graded on your outline, which means you should use whatever format you're comfortable with.
Maybe you work best with Roman numerals before your headers, or perhaps you keep it barebones with some heading ideas and a general description of the content in that section. As long as you can follow your outline, you're good to go.
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Dive into a First Draft
Here's the thing about writing an eBook (and writing, in general) – if you plan to wait for your inspiration, or you think that you'll sit at your computer and the words will just start to flow, you're probably in for a rude awakening.
When it comes to writing, inspiration is a myth. Good writers schedule time to write every day because the ones who wait for inspiration typically never end up writing anything.
It's easy to put off writing an eBook, especially when you have plenty of other responsibilities in life. That's why you need to make yourself do it.
Choose a block of time every day and dedicate it towards writing your eBook. If possible, choose a timeframe when you tend to be at your most productive and alert.
This could be an hour or even just a half-hour. It's better to consistently write for a short time and turn this into a habit than to write for hours for a few days, and then give up because you got burned out.
When you sit down to write, get rid of any potential distractions. Turn your phone off or put it on silent.
Make sure anyone else in the home knows not to bother you. If you think you'll be tempted to browse the internet, shut it off entirely.
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If you're like most writers, you'll probably second-guess yourself quite a bit. There's a natural tendency to strive for perfection.
The problem is that this will hold you back from achieving anything. Remember that this is a first draft.
Focus on getting your ideas down, even if you don't knock it out of the park in every section. You'll have plenty of opportunities to refine everything.
Don't worry about the formatting while you write your first draft. This time is all about getting the first version of your eBook written, and nothing else matters.
There's no need to add citations or look up exact statistics at this point, either. You can simply include notes in those areas to add the source or find the statistic at a later time.
Tighten Up Your Work with Redrafts and Edits
There are two ways you can approach the editing process:
- Begin your redrafts and edits immediately after you finish the first draft.
- Give yourself a couple days to a week off so that your work is fresh when you look at it again.
If you have the time, a break is a good way to recharge and get your eBook out of your head for a while.
It's much easier to spot mistakes in your work and make improvements when you haven't been seeing it every day already. But if you're on a time crunch, then you'll need to expedite this process.
The amount of time you have will also determine how many redrafts you do before you decide you've got it.
Two to four redrafts is generally a good range. A single draft means your work will probably have some issues that you could have spotted if you spent a little more time on it, but you can reach a point with redrafts where you're chasing something that's unattainable.
During your editing, you should look for:
- How the content flows – do you move naturally from one topic to the next, or are there sudden, abrupt shifts?
- Repetitive segments – have you covered the same information in more than one part of your eBook?
- The strength of the points you're making – are you convincing with what you write, and do you provide evidence to support it?
- Entertainment value – is your content enjoyable to read through, or does it feel like a slog?
Be patient as you edit. The first draft is when you want to pump out content without wasting time on the minor details. The redrafts and edits are all about those minor details, and it can take time to get them right.
Right now, your eBook is a collection of words. To make it both professional and interesting for your readers, you'll need to add some graphics.
These could be photos, images or charts, depending on what you think fits best with the content of your eBook.
If you're publishing a novel, you may not need much in the way of graphics besides your book cover.
For other types of eBooks, it's best to include graphics, as you can bet that your competition will.
Where can you find the right graphics? If it's photos you're after, there are plenty of photo marketplaces out there where you can buy professional photos for a small fee.
How to Make a Book Cover: I recommend Picmonkey because they have ready-made templates that make creating ebook covers a breeze.
Keep in mind that graphics in an eBook are like salt in a home-cooked meal. When you sprinkle just enough of them in, they can make great content even better.
Too much, on the other hand, will be overpowering and make the final product seem sloppy. The draw of an eBook is what you wrote, and everything else is only there to bolster it.
Format and Finish Your eBook
You're just about done now, and there are a few finishing touches, including formatting, that you'll need to handle.
With medium to long eBooks, this won't be something you can breeze through. Here's what it takes to finalize your eBook:
- Select your font, margins and page size
- Insert your graphics
- Add headers with the book title and footers with the page number
- Create a table of contents
- Write your bibliography and any acknowledgments
- Include a bio so that your readers know more about you
Save it when you're done, do another quick read-through to make sure that any links in it work correctly, and then give yourself a big pat on the back, because your eBook is complete.
Get a Second Opinion
This can be the most nerve-wracking part of the entire eBook process, but that doesn't mean you can skip it.
Your eBook is going to represent you, and if it doesn't deliver, readers may never check out any of your content again.
You've already spent plenty of time on your eBook, and you're the farthest thing from an unbiased reader, which means you need a second opinion (and ideally, a third, fourth, fifth and so on).
Since you need unbiased opinions, that also rules out friends and family, unless you're absolutely certain that they'll be honest with you.
Rachelle Gardner has good advice on Who Should Read Your Unpublished Work.
The feedback you get can help you decide if your eBook is ready to publish or needs some additional work.
Although it can be tough to hear criticism of something you've worked hard on, don't take it personally.
Be open those critiques and use them to improve your work. After all, that's the whole point of soliciting those opinions in the first place.
Publish Your eBook
With your eBook ready, you can upload it to either your website or an online marketplace and start spreading the word about it. If you're selling your eBook, you'll also need to set a price for it.
Pricing can be tricky, and it may help to look at what other authors are selling their eBooks for.
If you write an advanced eBook and the other authorities in your industry sell theirs for $60, you can certainly do that, too.
If you're releasing your eBook on the Amazon Kindle store and competing with authors selling books for $9.99 or less, then you should go with a similar price range.
There's no one-size-fits-all method for marketing eBooks. You should promote your eBook as much as possible on your website, and if the eBook is free content, make sure you mention it on every page.
The sidebar is a good place to do this. If you're selling your eBook, you may want to run some pay-per-click (PPC) ads on search engines or social networks.
Writing an eBook can take a long time, or, if you're writing a short one, you could do it in less than a day.
By following the process above, you'll have a much better chance of accomplishing something many would-be authors don't, which is completing your eBook.
Most importantly, your finished product will be polished, professional and engaging.