Note: For my most current advice on writing and selling your ebooks, check out my guide eBooks The Smart Way (Editor’s Note 09/2015).
I’m super stoked. Why? Because many of you have given me some really nice comments and feedback about this series so far, and I’m really excited to continue to pretty much outline in detail exactly what I did to get where I am today. Please, keep your comments and questions coming—it’s a great motivator for me.
So far, we’ve learned the following:
- Part 1—Why I chose to go with an eBook rather than a hard copy version.
- Part 2—How to Get Started after you have an idea about what you want to write about.
Again, I’m not quite sure how many parts this will be. It’s funny because I originally wanted to write this out in just 2 posts, but there is just so much helpful and necessary information for me to pass on to you. By the looks of it so far, I’m guessing it will be more like 8 to 10 posts. I hope you don’t mind.
Writing Your eBook
As I mentioned in Part 2, you’d better have your outline finished before you start writing. It will be your road map to completion. Don’t forget, always begin with a section that you’re comfortable with—it doesn’t have to be the very beginning or introduction.
Also, Sarah from Lifestyles of the Organized commented in my last post:
“One of my college professors gave me a writing tip a while back that I’ve continued to use time and time again: when you “finish” one section and decide you are done for the day, try to start the next section just a little (like a sentence or two) so that when you pick it back up the next day you can just sit down and keep on writing where you left off. It really works!”
Thanks Sarah, this is a great tip.
In your word processor, it’s a good idea to create a one-page template that will be the model for the rest of your eBook. Once you have your template, you can start a new section of your eBook and “save as” without having to reformat your new file for each new section. Sweet.
You should think about the following as you are creating your template:
- The correct page size you want to format the book. Most common are the traditional 8.5″ x 11″ and the 6″ x 9″ formats, as those are best viewed on most computer screens and easily printable.
- The font type you want to use. Don’t use a fancy font. Yes, it may look cool on one line, but after 30-100 pages of it, it can really hurt the eyes. I like to use a simple font, such as Arial, but not Times New Roman. Maybe it’s just me, but Times New Roman is used way too much. It makes any document look like a book report or school essay.
- The right font sizes. Yes, that’s plural. Why? Because you should have different font sizes to differentiate the different sections and hierarchy of your eBook. Just like in this post, it clearly helps the reader organize where they are and what they are reading about. Since most people will be using a computer to read the document, you’ll want to make sure your font sizes are optimized for that. The following font sizes are just an example of what I used, but I recommend trying it out for yourself to see how it looks to you on your screen. Also, send your template with different section headings on it to your friends or view it at work too to make sure it’s able to be read well on other computers. Remember, everyone has different screen sizes and document readers, so you’re kind of guessing what will work for most.
- Header 1 (For words like “Introduction” or “Chapter 1”, etc.): Size 22, bold.
- First Subset (For words such as “Section 1”, for example): Size 18, italic
- Second Subset (For words such as “Part 1”): Size 16, italic
- Third Subset (if necessary): Size 13, bold
- Body and written text: Size 13, normal
- Your header/footer. A header or a footer is a great place to put information that will help the user navigate a little better. Your page numbers and possibly the title of the section their in is always helpful. I also included my email address here so at any time, if anyone ever had a question they could easily find my email address.
- Any graphics or logos you’d like included on each page. Some people go all out with this, but I like to keep it at a minimum. It’s up to you though and you may want to include cool graphics on each page, depending on the style of your book or guide. All I did was put a little border around each page, which makes the document look less like an essay and frames the information a little better, and also my logo in the footer and my website url.
After you have your template, you’re all set to go full blast. Have your outline handy so you can check off the sections you finish as you go along.
As far as your writing style and language are concerned, the most important thing to understand is who your audience will be. What kind of people will be purchasing your book?
Most likely, as was the case for me and my study guide, your customers do not know much, if anything about the subject which you are writing about. Start at the beginning and make sure you are able to guide people along the way without going too fast. They can always skip sections they already know, but will not be able to learn things you don’t include.
In my case, I really made sure to “dumb down” everything I knew and start right from the beginning. I hate to use the words “dumb down”, but I think you know what I mean. Your customers will more than likely appreciate how easy it is to follow your words, instead of bash you for presenting
something as if they are stupid.
Other Things to Make Sure You Include In The Contents of your eBook
- A Well-Designed eBook cover: This will be the first thing people see when they open your product, and first impressions have a huge impact on how well your eBook is received. Also, you can use your eBook graphics for marketing purposes as well. I designed my own cover, since I have photoshop experience from work, but if you have a friend who knows photoshop, have them create one for you for a dinner in exchange or something. If you don’t know anyone, you can always go with a service such as eCoverDesign, which does professional looking eBook cover and product graphics. Here is my eBook cover along with a marketing graphic I created using the same cover:
A Disclaimer Page and Copyright Wording: Even though you may think you know everything about what you’re writing about, some people may interpet it another way, or you may even be flat out wrong. You’ll want to cover your butt just in case some psycho decides to sue you for whatever reason. If you wanted to be sure that you cover all of your bases, I would recommend hiring a lawyer who could write something out really quick for you, but usually it’s says that the information you provide either cannot guarantee something or it’s just your own opinion and people should form their own conclusions about the information you present. Also, it’s good to site companies you use in your eBook that you aren’t affiliated with, as well as the statement we all usually see about “no part of this publication shall be reproduced or transmitted without prior consent of the author, etc.” You can read more about copyright language here.
- A Preface about Why You Published the eBook: It’s always good for your customers to know what your intentions are, and it can increase your creditability too. A story or a history about the eBook or the subject can be placed here. You don’t have to include this, but it sets the mood without diving into the hardcore material yet.
- An About the Author Page: For the same reasons as the preface, an about the author page is good because it’s nice to get a little personal with your customers. Usually, this is found at the end of the eBook, but if you have lots of credentials, you may want to include this page at the beginning so people come across you and your qualifications earlier. Then, they’ll be more excited to learn from you.
- Links: One of the best parts about writing an eBook is that you can link to certain webpages to help get your point across. If you link to your own webpage, that’s a great way to provide additional information or tools beyond what’s in your eBook. If you’re going to link to a third-party website, please make sure it’s ok with them. Usually, people don’t mind because it’s giving them free traffic, but if they found out you mentioned them in your eBook without any compensation, they might get angry. Usually, a nice email before you publish does the trick. You’ll want to footnote the link in your text with the actual link on the bottom of the page you reference it on. This is so just incase the hyperlink doesn’t work, people will still be able to type in the website into their favorite web browser.
- Helpful Tools, Exercises, Calculations, etc: It’s a really smart idea to add some tools or helpful calculators or anything that can help your customer further their experience with your eBook and better learn the material. I added a couple of exercises at the end of my eBook to help people memorize the information, and this is a hit. It does a couple of other things for your eBook as well:
- It makes your eBook look more professional and helpful. With the exercises and tools inside, customer’s will know it’s a great all around package, not just a reading tool, but a “doing” tool as well.
- You can use this as a marketing tool. I’ll talk more about this later, but basically you can say that you’ve included these “extra” tools for free, even though you were going to include them anyways. Man, I can’t wait until the marketing part of this series, it’s going to be fun. Sorry, I digress.
- A Way to Contact You: Including an email address to you is a very good way to make your customers feel more confortable with their purchase, and let them know that you’re always just an email away if they have any question or come across any technical problems. You may want to create a separate email address just for this purpose, just for organizational purposes. I included my email address on every single page in my eBook, and I got a lot of comments about how nice that was, and it make my customers feel like I wasn’t hiding and was right there with them any time they needed help at any time.
It’s funny, after reading this, it kind of sounds like I’m talking about starting a blog. They are kind of the same thing as you’re trying to provide helpful information to as many people as possible, so many of the same rules apply. If you have a blog or have written articles online, writing your own eBook shouldn’t be that much different.
How Long Does This Process Take?
For me, it took me a little over a month to complete my study guide. I wrote for about 2 hours each day, sometimes more, sometimes less, but it was completed in about 1.5 months. I was lucky because I was living at home with my parents and was able to close the door to my own room and crank it out. For some, I know this can be difficult, but as long as you try and keep a schedule, and tell your family that you’re working on something important, you should be ok. You may need to sacrifice something like your favorite t.v. show or your nightly read, but it can be definitely worth the sacrifice in the end.
If you want to know how long it will take you, create your outline and then plan out how much time you’d like to spend (or you think you should/will spend) writing each part. Add up the days, and you’ll have a rough estimate. Time to get started, yea?
What’s Up Next
After you’ve completed your product, it’s sitting there in a document format in Word or another word processor. The next step is to convert it into a PDF format and get it ready for sale. In my next post, I’ll go over this a little as well as what you can do within Adobe to protect your final product as much as possible.
Then, we’ll go over what websites and tools you need to automate the entire process, or as Ron Popeil like to say, “Set it and Forget It!”