The #1 Tip for Starting an Ebook Is…

Note: To learn more how to create an ebook, check out my free resource eBooks the Smart Way.

Write your outline first! The easiest and most beneficial thing that you will ever do to prepare yourself to easily crank out that ebook you’ve been thinking of writing for the past 3 months is to write yourself an outline.

It may seem like an obvious thing to do, but numerous people have emailed me asking how they should get started. We all have an urge to dive right into writing, but all too often after the first few pages – we get stuck. Follow the advice here to help build yourself the perfect outline foundation for your upcoming success.

What Good Does an Outline Do?

There are many reasons you should hold back from writing your content and first start with an outline.

An outline will:

  1. break down the entire book into smaller, manageable pieces. Each section or subsection can be treated as a different “article”, kind of like in a blog, that can be written on it’s own. This way, you can check off articles you have finished, see which one’s you have left, and when all of the articles are complete – your ebook is practically ready for sale.
  2. give you an easy way to create a completion schedule.
  3. help you visualize the order of progression in your book. It makes it easier to see if things are out of order and should be moved around.
  4. organize the ideas in your head on paper. You can easily tell if any parts should be omitted or added to increase the value of the information in the book.
  5. tell you what other things you can write about if you get writer’s block while writing a particular section. (See #2)
  6. give you a visual roadmap for success right in front of your eyes.

An Example Ebook Outline

First, I’m going to make up an ebook that I could write. I’m going to expand on the idea of sack lunches based on ideas from my mind map exercise.

Now before I get into the outline, I’ll just tell you why I chose sack lunches. For one, everybody eats lunches. Secondly, everybody wants to save money. Thirdly, everyone wants to be healthy. If i wrote about about sack lunches, highlighting the money saved and healthy easy-to-make recipes – I could have a good selling ebook.

Now, I haven’t done any further research, which I’ll talk about later – but this post is only about the outline, so this is what my “Sack Lunches” outline would look like:

TITLE: Something about Sack Lunches (Don’t get caught up in finding the perfect title right away. I’d actually recommend saving this for last. The focus of your book could easily change as you write.)

  • Introduction: who am I, who am I writing for, why write this, what value does the book have to the reader
  • Table of Contents
  • Section 1: Why Sack Lunches
    • Subsection 1: Money
      • eating out costs a lot
        • statistics, personal experience, interviews
        • gas money to drive at lunch
      • potential to save lots of money
        • personal experience, interviews
        • grocery store vs. dining-out prices
    • Subsection 2: Time
      • eating out costs us time
        • normal lunch hour and productivy stats
        • stress levels
        • other things to do during your lunch hour
    • Subsection 3: Health
      • eating out can be really unhealthy
        • statistics and reports, interview
      • benefits of eating healthy
        • productivity
        • energy and life at home
  • Section 2: The Recipes
    • Subsection 1: Sandwiches
      • recipes
    • Subsection 2: Comfort Foods
      • recipes
    • Subsection 3: Pastas
      • recipes
    • Subsection 4: International Foods
      • recipes
    • Subsection 5: Salads
      • recipes
    • Subsection 6: Soups
      • recipes
    • Subsection 7: Vegetarian
      • recipes
    • Subsection 8: Healthy side dishes
      • recipes
  • Section 3: How to Package Your Sack Lunch
    • Plastic vs. Foil
    • Lunch Boxes
      • lunch box history
      • sample lunch boxes
      • the most expensive lunchbox story
  • Section 4: How to Stick with the Plan
    • How to make a lunch schedule
    • How to make your weekly lunches on Sunday night
    • How to get other’s to join you for lunch at work
  • Section 5: Conclusion
  • Section 6: About the Author

Again I’d like to emphasize that you don’t have to write your book in the order that it’s going to be read. As you can see above, it could be very easy for me to write any of these “articles” on it’s own, and just save it for the completed product later.

Now, I have to say that even while creating this outline and looking at the flow of the book – I came up with an even better idea. Instead of breaking the recipes down into types (pastas, sandwiches, etc.) if I instead created “weekly sack lunch recipe” that had 5 related items that highlighted a single grocery store visit each week, that could be even more beneficial.

Again, this is just a made up ebook, but you can see how even while writing an outline, your book could become even better.

So before you start writing, be smart and create an outline.

Ask the Reader:

Can you think of any other benefits to first writing an outline for an ebook?

  • Lindsay

    Hey Pat, I like the new blog design!

    Another good reason to do a thorough outline is that it helps you figure out up front if you have enough meat for a book. If you can only come up with 4 chapters/sections, you might need a broader topic or to spend some more time brainstorming and surveying your audience.

    I know there aren’t length rules with ebooks, the way there are for paperbacks, but people do want to get their money’s worth. 😉

    Lindsay´s last blog post..How to Avoid Blogger Burnout

  • Sarah H.

    This post is gold! Your sample outline is VERY well organized and can really serve as a good template for any subject…thanks!

    I agree with your tip about waiting on the title…I often get so caught up with this step when I’m trying to title a post or pick a domain name…and it really wastes a lot of time! Once you get some good content down, a quality title will just come to you.

    Sarah H.´s last blog post..Four more ways to save on haircuts

  • Andy @ Retire at 40

    How true.

    I have done some writing events in the past (a novel in a month etc) but for those I never outlined and just did it by the seat of my pants. However, since I have been blogging, I have outlined every single post and now realise how much easier it is.

    Thanks for this article!

    Andy @ Retire at 40´s last blog post..Two Ways Biking Substantially Improves Your Life

  • passivefamilyincome

    Excellent! Thanks for the outline. I have been thinking about an eBook, but didn’t really know where to start. Your format will really help me when I get around to it!

    passivefamilyincome´s last blog post..If I had an Extra $1,000

  • Tanji

    Pat i read your Great “Ebook-the smart way” ebook. I want to know 2 points:

    1: Can you get the template you use for that ebook? I believe many of our users cannot prepare such fantastic layout that you used, specially in header and footer area.
    2:How can i make that nice looking “Buy” button?

    Thanks in advanced

    • Pat

      Hi Tanji:

      1) You can easily create something similar for yourself, there really isn’t much to it. I use pages for mac, which makes making shapes and stuff like that SO much easier.

      2) There’s a link to the buy button in the eBook that you can go to, which has the button which you can copy and photoshop or rework yourself for the specific price points that you want!

      Good luck!

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  • Sibo

    Pat, I downloaded your “E-book-the smart way” after subscribed your blog. Great guideline on working on my first e-book! I will do my best to have my e-book laughed before this Christmas and I will let you know once it’s available and of course you will have a copy for free.

  • Amir Rimer

    Great post Pat!

    I have written many eBooks and produced many video courses, and I perfectly agree that creating an outline before you start a project is a great way to stay organized.

    Sometimes I am very passionate about a certain idea, so I begin writing without an outline, but then I see that I have to go back, and create one to keep everything organized in my head.

  • Ryan Kainec

    So helpful. Thanks man! :)