Like an actor earning a star on Hollywood Boulevard, a published book is the dream of nearly every writer. It’s the proof of concept, the seal of approval, a testimony that what we do all day has meaning and matters. Today, technology has revolutionized the publishing process and made that dream attainable for many more writers. To write, publish and even market your own eBook, all you need is time – and the discipline to sit down and start writing.
If you’re aching to get published, an eBook is a great place to begin. Typically shorter than a printed book, you can produce an eBook in a matter of weeks. You don’t have to rely on an editor to push your manuscript through or wait for hard copies to finally be printed. With an eBook, you’re in the driver’s seat and the only thing standing between the ideas in your head and a final product is you. Which means – the time is now!
At Wix, we’ve published several eBooks and have learned a thing or two along the way. To help you out, here’s a step-by-step guide of how to write your first eBook.
This step can take a minute or a decade, but without it, you’ll never get that eBook written. You simply need to decide, unequivocally, that you are committed to the project. It may help to think about an eBook as a sequence of articles, rather than a book in the traditional sense. “Book” is a daunting word with the potential to be a significant blocker. Instead, tell yourself that you’re writing a series of essays on the same subject, which you can quickly knock off, one at a time.
Now that you’re committed, you need to really hone in on your subject. For the best chance of success, we recommend the following: First, write about something you know and love. Next, make your topic as specific as possible. Writing what you know best will save you from days or weeks of research. You’ll still need to look around to see what else is written on the topic, but you can write naturally, based on your own expertise and you won’t have to look constantly for data and references.
As for a narrow topic, this can help you in several ways. It will provide you with a clear focus and keep the length of your eBook within reason. It will also help you define your target market and – when it’s time to promote your new opus – it’ll help you find readers. Take careful note of what other content exists on your topic and try to look for holes. Ideally, you want to identify a popular subject that no one seems to be writing about. Be on the lookout for an untapped niche that your eBook can slide right in to!
Imagine, for example, that you are a social media guru and you’re considering writing an eBook about how to use Facebook. You’d find yourself with an infinite amount of information to cover and a target audience of nearly every person alive. Instead, you could write about how to use Facebook to sell your house and your eBook will quickly take shape. Your target market is clear (people trying to sell their homes) and the chapters can be based on the step-by-step process one needs to go through in order to sell property on FaceBook.
Sure, you’re somewhat motivated to write this book because you want to tick this big item off your bucket list. But if you want people to actually read (and enjoy) your new publication, then take the time to research your target market. Consider who might want to read your book and why they would be interested. What types of writing do they usually read and where do they read it? Are they young or old? Are they familiar with technical lingo about your subject?
In addition, consider what questions they’re asking. You’ll have your best shot at getting readers if your publication says something new and offers readers information and answers that they can’t get elsewhere.
In step one, we recommended thinking about your eBook as a series of articles. If that’s the case, then your outline is a list of the article titles. This step will help you break down the project into manageable, bite-size pieces of paragraphs and pages. A clear outline will keep you on topic and make it easier to stop and start your work from day to day. You can use the outline to keep you honest, too. Commit to writing one article per day or week.
To create your outline, brainstorm a list of all the subjects you want to cover in the eBook. Then, begin to organize them in a logical way, perhaps chronologically or in order of importance. Next, determine if certain subjects are “subtopics” or can be coupled with other ideas on your list. It may help to write down your ideas, step away from them and then come back to the list with fresh eyes a few hours or days later.
After you’ve completed an outline of your main topics, we suggest coming up with a consistent theme or story to weave into all of the chapters of your book. When we wrote our Wix SEO Guide, for example, we used a bike shop in San Francisco as a recurring example throughout the articles.
Now it’s time to start writing. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it chronologically. Instead, try to start with the chapter that feels easiest to write. If your outline is clear enough, you won’t have a problem putting the eBook together, even if you write the chapters out of order. You may find it helpful to write certain chapters early on and then come back to other topics that are more challenging. For many writers, the opening or introduction is actually the last content they write. Do what works for you and keeps you writing. The most important thing is to keep the momentum going and knock off those chapters one by one.
Writing for the small screen
Remember that your eBook should be formatted for reading on screen. The structure of an eBook should therefore look a bit different than a traditional book. Write short paragraphs, with relatively brief sentences and use bullets and numbered lists when relevant.
You want your eBook to be scannable, so break it up into easy-to-grasp chunks. The headers and subheaders should keep your reader moving down the page and help them know what is coming next. The fact of the matter is, many readers will only skim your text and will never read the nitty gritty details in each paragraph. Because of this, each chapter should read like an independent, stand-alone article.
Unlike a novel or traditional book, many eBook readers will only ever read sections that are most relevant to them. Sure, you can refer to previous chapters and you don’t need to rehash the same points, but you do want to make sure that each chapter makes sense to someone who may only be reading that one section of your eBook.
A note about length
There’s no hard and fast rule about length, but there is value in brevity. People don’t have much of an attention span these days and if you can get your point across concisely, more power to you! 50-100 pages should be more than enough for nearly any topic. And sometimes, 10 will do the trick.
Once you’ve written drafts of all those chapters, you may want to step away for a bit. If you can, put the eBook down for a week. Or two. Then, you can return to it with fresh eyes and renewed gumption. Read through each chapter, in order, from start to finish. As you read, you may find that you want to reorder some of the chapters, elaborate on certain points or cut out sections that seem redundant.
Double check your chapter titles and section headers to see if they accurately describe the content beneath them. Ask yourself if certain parts of the book can be tossed out. Refer back to the research you did in Step 3 and consider if you’ve missed any major points. Are you answering all of your readers’ questions?
Next, it’s time to start calling in the favors. If you don’t have a professional editor, turn to your 3Fs – that’s Friends, Family and Fools. Ask them to read your book and offer feedback. You want them to edit for ideas and flow, as well as for grammar and spelling.
Once you’ve finalized your text, it’s time to work on your design. You don’t need to be a professional to do it well, although you may want to spring for a graphic designer to help with the cover. Cliches aside, a great cover can make a difference in how well your eBook sells or catches on.
Next, choose a font that is easy to read. If you’re eager to use a more decorative font, save it for the cover or chapter titles. All of the paragraph text should be in a familiar font that’s easy to scan and read.
If possible, break up the text with images or graphs, particularly if they help explain your point. Authentic photos are best, although you can sprinkle in some stock photos if they’re really relevant or helpful. If you don’t have access to a professional designer, you can play around with easy-to-use online photo editors or hire an affordable designer using a service like Fiverr or 99Designs.
With your design complete, you’re ready to publish! One great advantage of the eBook is that you can publish in an instant. Save that doc as a pdf, give it one last read-through and then start spreading the word. Because you’ve earned some bragging rights! Regardless of how many eyes will eventually read those pages, you are officially a published author.
Curious about what we’ve written here at Wix? Here are two of the eBooks we’ve written:
Stay tuned for Part II of this blog, where we will talk about How to Market Your eBook.
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