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Questions My Dad Would Ask Before You Started that Ebook

This guest post is by Barb Sawyers of Sticky Communication.

The pitches go like this: turn your archived content into an ebook that will rake in bucks while you sleep. Invest a weekend, maybe a few weeks, and you’ll have a book that will establish you as a thought leader and open the flood gates to new revenue streams.

But as my 85-year-old Dad asked when I told him I was writing an ebook: “Why would you write a book, now that everyone with a computer can?”

You’ve got to admit, that’s a good point from my 85-year-old Dad, who still makes money on his investments but sometimes can’t find his slippers.

Because everyone can now publish a book, lots more will. So your book has to be great. Make that spectacular. And don’t forget that you’re not only the source of the expertise and probably the writing. You will also be responsible for editing, page formatting, cover design, sales and much more.

Depending on your skill set and budget, you can pay for help from Createspace and other self-publishers, people you stumble across on the Internet or a marble-lobby public relations firm.

But for more of the work and most of the decisions, you are on your own.

Don’t get me wrong. I am tickled pink that more people can share their wisdom or art through ebooks and on-demand print. I’m simply advising you to go in with your eyes wide open, avoid the sleazier pitches, and think about some of these questions my Dad would ask.

  • Are your goals achievable? If you want a book that makes money, it has to be good enough to compete with traditional publishers and the coming flood of self-published ebooks. If you are only interested in raising your prestige among a smaller group of people, you may set the bar a little, but not much, lower.
  • Are you an expert? Ideally, you’ve been accumulating knowledge for years and updating your wisdom daily. If you’re not already passionate about a specific topic, don’t charge in.
  • Do you have a unique approach? Like a product, your book has to offer something people can’t get anywhere else. In a world of countless niches, that might be relatively easy for you.
  • Are you willing to invest time? If you are smart enough to have the expertise that makes a book worthwhile, likely you are not going to fall for the get-rich-quick charlatans.
  • Can you write well? If you want to sharpen your skills, you can learn from many blogs, courses and books, including mine, Write Like You Talk—Only Better. If you’re a blogger, figure at least 30 to 50 quality posts on your theme that will then need to be edited, packaged, and sold.
  • If your writing doesn’t measure up, are you prepared to spend the money and time on someone whose does? Most successful nonfiction authors who don’t eat, sleep, and breath writing pay big bucks to professional ghost writers, not a stranger whose site trumpets their rock-bottom prices. You get what you pay for, as my Dad would say. Unless you can find a 24/7 psychic ghost writer, you’ll also spend lots of time thinking about the theme and feeding your ghost writer your knowledge and revisions.
  • Can you design the pages, cover and marketing collateral? Again, be prepared to pay for the kind of quality that will compete or at least spend the time to find the right online sources. Yes, templates are available, but much of what I viewed were woodlands or other looks that do not work for my cover. Right again, Dad. People do judge a book by its cover.
  • Do you have a content marketing machine? You’ll need to spend lots more time feeding and building your social networks, courting legacy media and pursuing other strategies for marketing your book. Competition is stiff and getting stiffer. You have to do a lot more than sneeze in an elevator to go viral.

If there’s an ebook in your soul, go for it. I’m thrilled that the doors have opened. Just be prepared to pour in years of learning, months of prep time and days of fretting.

It has to be your best, not something you knocked off over a rainy weekend.

That’s how real money is made. Just ask my Dad.

Barb Sawyers, who blogs at Sticky Communication, is almost ready to publish in print and for ereaders the second edition of Write Like You Talk—Only Better. Preview it here.

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  • This is a great post. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jumped the gun and tried to write an ebook without the type of forethought suggested by your dad. Honestly, I believe the best tactic is to let an ebook develop organically from the
    platforms content and the genuine needs of our respective niches.

  • Bojan

    Those are great questions. As with any other field of work, meaning that everyone can write a book, doesn’t mean that they will. And Not everyone will make a good job out of it.

    Thanks for reminding me though, I’ve got a book to finish.

  • THIS: “Ideally, you’ve been accumulating knowledge for years and updating your wisdom daily. If you’re not already passionate about a specific topic, don’t charge in.”

    I ran into this when I tried to write a book that I really wasn’t passionate about. HUGE roadblock. Not only was the work uninspired, I ran out of ideas so fast it was scary.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

    • I’m always amazed about bloggers who complain they have trouble coming up with ideas. You need even bigger ideas for books. I’m lucky to usually have too many ideas. Thanks.

  • This is a huge challenge for me — the next big step.

    I’m taking this a day at a time.

    These are all very great points to consider and think about. Definitely made me ponder for a bit.

  • Insightful questions,its more like counting your cost and what you hope to achieve before you start.

  • Good point. I guess this applies in general to many things, not just ebooks.

    In this day and age, it might be near impossible to find something that is “new”. But another question I would like to add is,

    What key thing can YOU ADD to the table other can’t or haven’t ?

    • Good point. But I don’t think we will ever run out of new perspectives.

  • For me, it is whether that effort that I will put in writing will get me expected results or not

  • Thanks for the post, it covers some pretty good information. Being different and providing a higher quality is what’s really going to weed out the good writers from the best writers in the coming years.

  • Great advice. I would suggest complementing ebooks with screen casts, podcasts and videos which will engage readers in all their senses. Also, ebooks should be highly interactive with exercises etc which will lead readers taking some actions.

  • Thanks for the encouragement about ebooks. I have a good draft. You’re inspired me to complete it.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  • Yes, the questions are about right. But, I still think that you should try writing an e-book, even if the idea came to you on a rainy weekend. In case you still want to write after endless number of failures, well, no obstacles will interfere your way to success. :)

  • Building up a massive network seems critical Barb. Having a great book is fine but having a large network who can help promote the book and leverage your presence is even better.

    The larger and more targeted the network, the better.

    Thanks Barb!


  • Thanks for outlining some of these things! My parents do ask the same things too!

  • My ebook is up and running. It’s the first link at the top of the sidebar on the right of my blog. Now, I think I have to increased the reach of my blog before the ebook starts to move. My blog gets around 130 hits every day. I may have to get four, five or six times those many hits every day before the ebook begins to move. At least that’s the plan. Oh, the message of the ebook is pretty unique. It promotes a unique method of writing fiction, Compressionism: the use of words to paint a picture that tells a story.

  • Once my exams are over, I am going to write an eBook on Android app development, I have learned how to develop quality apps and monetize them to earn biggies. I think it would be interesting for all Android developers and people who want to make money with Android apps.

  • Hi Barb,
    I just finished my second eBook and I know how much work and effort that goes in creating it. I did everything myself but it sure would have been nice to be able to outsource some of the work.

    • The createspace outsourcing is surprising cheap, though I chose to use my own designer and used their template to do the interior myself. It all depends if you have the skill set for the quality you need.

  • A cynic might say that you don’t need to produce a great book, you need to produce a great marketing campaign.

    Many A-list bloggers bring out average books and make a great of money with them, whilst relatively unknown bloggers produce quality content, but don’t have a big enough audience to make waves.

  • Guy Hogan,

    You should change the title from ‘My Ebook’ to something more descriptive in your sidebar. Also, add a cover picture. Nobody will notice that text link the way you have it.

  • I am definitely looking to get into the world of ebooks somewhere down the road. Thanks for posting!

  • Although I have not met your Dad, I admire him based on these questions. These are great.

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