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The Comprehensive Paint-by-numbers Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Ebook

Posted By Darren Rowse 16th of July 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Over the last few months I’ve had a rise in the numbers of people asking me about the why and how of writing and publishing Ebooks. So when Mary Jaksch from the blog Goodlife Zen and Ebook From Tragedy to Triumph: Winning Through a Life Crisis offered to write a post on Ebooks I jumped at the offer. Here’s her comprehensive guide on the topic.

When I began writing my Ebook From Tragedy to Triumph: Winning Through a Life Crisis, I had no idea what a long and complex project writing and publishing an Ebook can be. I’m offering you this paint-by-numbers guide in order to make the process smooth and easy for you.

Do you feel overwhelmed by the idea writing an Ebook? Personally, I enjoy writing books! But others who feel less confident or lack the time, prefer to outsource the writing of their book. You can find writers for Ebooks on Elance for between $280 – $500.

1. The ‘why’: what is your motivation?

The ‘why’ determines the structure and content of your Ebook; it has to be strong enough to carry you through the entire project. Here are some reasons why you might want to write an Ebook:

  • To promote your blog or other product – If you want to promote your blog, consider offering the book for free, or as a teaser for signing up to a newsletter. Make sure you place a link to your blog in the footer of each page.
  • To make money online – You may not make a huge amount, but the money will trickle in continuously. It’s the ultimate passive income!
  • To boost your profile – As the author of a book, you are seen as an expert. This can have interesting spin-offs. You may get a contract by a publishing firm for a print book, you may be invited for guest posts or public talks, or you could launch a lucrative consulting business.

2. The ‘what’: 5 questions that help you find it

What can you write about? As you go through the following questions, use a notebook and jot down your answers so that you end up with a list.

  • What gets you going? – When you’re with friends, what topics do you love to talk about?
  • What do you know a lot about? – For example, do you know about collecting stamps, cleaning a house, riding a horse, kitesurfing, worm farming, learning an instrument, making friends, or bringing up kids?
  • What special life experiences have you had? – Have you overcome a particular difficulty? For example, have you emigrated, or struggled with illness, divorce, raising teenagers, or looking after ageing parents?
  • What kind of advice do friends tend to ask you for? – If you’re unsure, ask your friends. They will know!
  • What’s your passion? – If you had endless time and hords of money, what would you love to do?

Take a look at your list. Each point you wrote down could be turned into an Ebook!

3. Prepare for productivity: 3 planning points

  • Set the length of your book – An Ebook is usually between 15,000 to 30,000 words long. A piece that has less than 15,000 words is usually called a ‘report’. Set a length for your book so that you can develop a strategy for writing it.
  • Use a mindmap to plan your book – Mindmaps are great tools to spark creativity. Download Freemind or use crayons and paper. Check out this article for a step-by-step guide on how to use a mindmap.
  • Lay out the bones of your book – Once your mindmap has produced main headings and sub-headings, it’s time to lay out the bones of your book. Make a list of chapters; they can be up to 2000 words long. Then divide the chapters into sections, each with their own heading. You can enter chapters and sections into a spreadsheet with the projected wordcount for each part. As you write each section, place your actual word count in a separate column to keep on track.

4. Hit on the right title

The title makes all the difference when it comes to selling a book. You might want to start with a working title and choose your final title when you’ve completed writing your book.

  • What makes a great title? – Titles for Ebooks and blogposts follow similar rules. Check out Brian Clark’s Magnetic Headline series.
  • Getting help with your title – If you’re not sure about the title, ask a marketing advisor for help. Elance is a good place to find the help your need.

5. Write on!

Remember the tale of the hare and the tortoise? Slow and steady certainly wins out when writing an Ebook! Here two tricks to keep your writing flowing:

  • Set a deadline for completion – There is nothing like a deadline to keep you moving ahead, even if you set it yourself. To find an appropriate date, plan on writing a certain quota of words a day. Then divide the total amount of projected words through your daily quota to find how long it will take. Add another month for editing.
  • Keep the momentum going – Set a daily time for writing. If your life is full, get up 30 minutes earlier each day and sit down immediately to write. Don’t worry about writing well. Just put the daily quota of words on the page. Next morning, read last day’s words briefly, then add the next lot. Take an hour once a week to edit what you wrote.

6. Breathe life into your writing

Here are 3 ways of bringing your writing to life:

  • Write like a journalist – Journalists learn to write for maximum impact. Instead of introducing the theme with an overview and then focussing in on particulars, journalists take the reverse track. They start with a personal story, and then zoom out to the larger issue.
  • Use juicy writing – Pick up the pace and increase the flow of your text through using short sentences and frequent paragraphing, getting rid of filler words, and using only one idea per paragraph. Check out techniques of juicy writing here.
  • Use dialogues for emotional impact – Dialogue makes a story out of mere information. Learn how to use it in this article.

7. Tricks of an efficient editor

Good editing can lift a book from mediocre to excellent. After writing, editing is a writer’s most important task.

  • Liposuction flab – Your first major edit should cull every superflous word. Here’s an article that shows you what to watch out for. Aim to shave at least 10% off your wordcount after the first read-through!
  • Outsource the final edit – A final edit is best done by a professional. Good editors aren’t cheap. You may have to spend $150 – $250 for a 20,000 word book. You can find editors on Elance. Some print-on-demand publishers (see below) also offer editing.

8. Do pictures say more than a 1000 words?

  • Pro’s and con’s of using illustrations – Illustrations can add value but make ‘on demand’ publishing more expensive, as well as creating a large file size for downloads.
  • How to source illustrations – Flickr is a great source of free images. Check out Skellie’s excellent article on how to find images on Flickr.

9. Design your book for ‘knock-out’ impact

To complete and market your Ebook, you will need the following design package: layout, fonts, ilustrations, the cover, a small 125x 125 banner and a large banner with 3D book image for your website. If you’re not a designer yourself, I suggest finding someone on Elance. Check out other Ebooks in order to find a layout and cover that you like so that you can give clear guidance to your designer.

10. Make the most of front– and back-matter

  • What the front matter needs to contain – The first few pages before the actual text begins are called ‘front matter’. It’s a place for a quote or a dedication, for credits of your photographers or designers, for stating your copyright, and for including an index.
  • How to use back matter to maximum effect – The back matter is what you add at the end of your book. If you are a blogger, add a page to invite readers to your blog. If you have any other products you would like to sell, you can add a sales page as well.

11. Create an audio version for iPod people

Consider adding an audio version. You can either produce it yourself or get a professional to do it. On Elance this will cost you about $150. You can either offer it for sale on sites like LearnOurLoud, or offer the audio version together with the Ebook as a value-added package.

12. Sell your book to the whole world

  • Selling the Ebook yourself – If you have your own blog or website, you can sell your Ebook from your site with Paypal. In that case you would store the Ebook file on a password protected page on your site. In the process of paying through Paypal, the buyers would get a password to your download page. A no-sweat alternative is to sell your book through E-junkie. Their system is easy to set up, and they store the digital file for you. This choice means that you can also set up their user-friendly affiliate service.
  • Sell your book through LuluLulu produces and sells both digital books, as well as on-demand print copies. An Ebook nets the author 80% of its sale price. For ‘print on demand’ books, Lulu’s commision is 20% of the author revenue (which you set over and above the production cost per copy). The setting-up cost for a print version ranges from zero (if you have all the files ready to go) to $500 if you choose Lulu’s complete editing, formating and design package.
  • Sell your Ebook through Amazon – Amazon is pushing their Ebook reader Kindle. Check out how to publish and sell your Ebook with Amazon here. Amazon has joined with a ‘print on demand’ publisher called Booksurge. Their fee for setting up a print-on-demand version of an Ebook is about $300.

13. Write a sizzling sales page

Whether people follow through and complete the buying process is largely due to sales copy that overcomes inertia and doubt, and calls to action.

  • Write your own copy – Read my sales page here and check out this article on how to write web copy that sells.
  • Outsource copywriting – It may be worthwhile to outsource the copy for your sales page. There are many experienced copy writers on Elance.

14. Prepare for the Big Day

The launch is an important day. Make sure that your blog readers and fellow bloggers know about your upcoming launch. This helps to create expectation and excitement. Check out this article on How To Use Product Launch Principles When Selling From Your Blog. Here is what you can do to prepare for the launch.:

  • Sign up buyers pre-launch – This strategy means signing people up to get a discounted book on launch day. It’s best to start the list about three months before launch date.
  • Test your selling system – It’s important to test your selling system. If you use E-junkie, you can set the price to a few cents for testing purposes and buy your book by credit card. This will immediately show up any problems. Remember to change the price before the launch!
  • Write a sales page or launch post – Have your sales page or blog post ready as a draft on your site so that all you need to do is to hit the ‘publish’ button on launch day.
  • Send out complimentary copies – Send out complimentary copies to fellow bloggers and close friends. You can use their testimonials on your sales page. Craft your email carefully. Offer your affiliate program and ask people to review your book.

15. Set up an affiliate program

Setting up an affiliate system means that you are offering your Ebook not only to your own readers but potentially to hundreds of thousands of readers! An affiliate gets a commission for every sale. It pays to be generous with your commission (I offer 40%). I think E-junkie is the most user-friendly affiliate system. It’s easy to set up, and both you and your affiliates can track sales online.

  • How to find possible affiliates – To find possible affiliates, start a list with all your blogging friends, as well as your commenters who have blogs. Then comes the detective work: find an Ebook by an author who focusses on a similar target group. Google the name of the book plus the word ‘review’; chances are that the people who wrote a review also are affiliates. Add them to your list. On your launch day, email each possible affiliate and attach a complimentary copy.

16. Blow your trumpet

You are your best marketing weapon! Contact all your friends on the Net. Now is the time to call in your favours. Here is what you can do:

  • Ask for reviews – Choose blogs with a similar theme and ask for a review of your book.
  • Create links to your sales page – Mention your book in your blog posts and link to the sales page. Go through your archives and find relevant post in which you can place links.
  • Put up a banners – Put up a big banner on your site and offer smaller 125×125 banners to your affiliates.

Follow these steps, and you will find the process of writing and producing an Ebook quite straightforward. When you finally get to Launch Day, you will feel the thrill of achievement!

If you have a question or want to add something, please leave a comment.

Mary Jaksch writes a blog at GoodlifeZen.com. She is the author of ‘Learn to Love’ which has been translated into six languages. Her recent Ebook From Tragedy to Triumph: Winning Through a Life Crisis has had rave reviews.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Excellent post…this is one to save! I wish the article would have shown how to get your book on clickbank, thats where the real affiliate money can be made!

  2. Outstanding post, Mary! And, very well written! Thank you!

  3. Excellent advice Darren (as usual).

    This is a great road map for anyone thinking of creating an e-book.

    I have been thinking of a way to incorporate an e-book into my tavel site, so this has given me a lot of food for thought.


  4. AWESOME! My motivation jumped after reading this because it seems so doable now. Great overview, links, information! Thanks, Mary, and thanks to Darren for posting it.

  5. whoops read the post too fast – great article Mary and thanks Darren for this guest post

  6. Very interesting, thanks for the tips.

  7. As always, a killer write-up! I am learning alot from your actions and posts on the web! Thank you Darren for these lovely tips and guides!

  8. This is an amazing post (and so coincidentally well timed for me!).

    Thank you for sharing your insights and suggestions with us all :)

    I’m almost ready to publish my second eBook and while my first was successful, I hope to make this one even better. I especially like the suggestions about publishing premium ebooks as this will be part of my next endeavor.

  9. These are some excellent steps to really get your eBook out there. Some steps that I will definitely follow and I’m sure many others will too.
    Great Post!

  10. Incredible post, thanks for the in-depth information. I learned some new stuff about publishing an ebook on Amazon.com – and will start out on it right away!

    All success

  11. I’m actually going through these steps as I read this article, so great timing, thanks!

  12. Excellent, Mary. Just enough good info without being too long or too much for a bog post. If you expand on these ideas, you’d have another killer ebook. :)

  13. Mary this is the best article I have read on e-books. Thank you!

  14. Perfect…I’m starting to write an ebook about “how to quit smoking in one minute” so this article is perfect timing. I’ve been looking for a good how-to article on ebooks and this post nails it! Thanks Mary!

  15. Great post. I stumbled it.

    Writing an ebook can be a daunting task especially if you have never done it before.

    Most of the ebooks I have written are given away for free to get more traffic to my site, and it works like a champ!

    I am going to bookmark this list as much of it applies to creating viral ebooks.

    Things I suggest for creating viral ebooks:

    You must start with something of value, I cannot stress this enough, people will not forward something to their friends unless it has real value.

    In creating the ebook make sure that it contains a link to your site in the header/footer and at the beginning (the most read page).

    NOTE: Make double sure the link is clickable and that your site does come up correctly. Never put a url in it and assume people will open up a new browser window and type in the url. People are lazy.

    Put in a copyright statement encouraging others to pass on the ebook as they wish as well a disclaimer statement.

    In the introduction & conclusion portion of you ebook, ask people to send it to others. Sometimes it works best to simply ask others to send it to others.

    When you link to your site make sure the link is enticing, promising additional information.

    Many ebooks have an appendix at the end. Instead of putting an appendix in your ebook put the appendix on your site and link to it in your ebook. This not only sends traffic to your site but also allows you to keep your appendix up to date, adding further value to your ebook.

    Keep your ebook relatively focused on single subject. If it solves a problem make sure it solves it well and solves nothing else.

    Viral ebooks tend to small and easy to download, making it easier for others to download and email to others.

    Add page numbers, have fonts be standard size, and use normal page margins. Make it easy to read.

    Read More Ideas:

  16. Great post – thanks for sharing.

    Interesting sidenote – I have a Google Alert for the term ‘Freemind’ and this post came up on the latest crawl. Just shows you how traffic can come to your website from unexpected places.

  17. Loved this post!

    I’ve been procrastinating on producing an e-book for the longest. No more! Today is the day… I made the decision to have my e-book completed by my birthday, Oct. 4, which should be easy for me because I’m already a published author and love writing.

    I know a post is really good when it moves and inspires me to take action. This one definitely did–it was the official kick in the butt I needed, along with the necessary tools and simplified step-by-step process to just GET IT DONE.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you from a fellow blogger.

    Valerie Love
    Author of the book God Speaks to Me–Stories of Triumph Over Tragedy from Women Who Listened to God

  18. Great article! What format would everyone suggest publishing the ebook in? 2 pages in landscape page? Any other format suggestions?

  19. Jennifer says: 07/16/2008 at 5:19 am

    I love the article, but the links back to Mary’s eBook and website are broken :(

    Lara Says: Jennifer, thanks for pointing out the issue, but the links aren’t broken, the site’s experiencing difficulties (the 500 Internal Server Error (of DOOM! hahaha) is a site server issue) and I’m sure they’ll get it sorted out soon.

  20. I’m glad you like the article, guys!
    It was interesting to read that Michael Martine suggests writing an Ebook about this. I’m planning to do just that.

    @Nick Stuart
    This is fantastic information about making an Ebook go viral. I’ll have to interview you for my Ebook :-)

    I’d be delighted if you could offer some more suggestions of marketing an Ebook. I]

  21. Thank you!! I have a really good idea for an ebook, and especially seeing how the form has started to really take off, it would be a great learning experience to figure out now. :)

  22. Great article. Very easy to use steps. Its amazing what the web can help you accomplish these days.

  23. Oops you forgot about createspace.com, owned by amazon. It’s their answer to lulu with better commissions and a direct plug into amazon’s book store if you are selling a paperback.

  24. Hi,Selling ebooks is a popular way of making money online, because many people go online in order to find solutions to their problems.

  25. i think this article give me some idea.

  26. Excellent guide for writing an ebook to generate passive income.

  27. @Roosh
    I had a look at Createspace and it looks good. It’s maybe a bit easier to set up a book at Lulu but that’s outweighed by the fact that Createspace is linked to Amazon. Thanks for bringing this up!

  28. This post is amazing!
    Really thourough and great solid content.
    I am looking to write my first e-book in the next 18 months (as my site builds traffic and readership) and I will definately be referring back to this later to complete my ebook.

  29. I still can’t believe that you don’t have an “email this post to a friend” option on your blog. You often write great posts that I want to send to others. I am not always on my own computer, and of all the people I would have thought you would be top of the list for making it easy to share your posts along with the other options that you list at the end of each one.

    Guess you really can be suprised each day :)


  30. thanks for this information, I am just about to get myself a not pad and a cup of coffee and spend some quality time with this post.

    I have wanted to know more about ebooks for ages now…


  31. ooops! I meant to say note pad but I wrote “not pad”

  32. Britegate says: 07/17/2008 at 11:38 am

    Mary, this is a most helpful post. It is lucid and focused, and it contains a wealth of information for a newbie such as myself. I think you have helped a lot of people with this presentation.


  33. @ Mike
    You mention Clickbank. Could you please share with us what your experience with Clickbank is? I’d be very interested

    @Bruce Houghton
    You asked about format. It’s best to make a decision on where and how you’re going to publish your Ebook before settling on a format. My Ebook From Tragedy to Triumph is the format of A5. But that doesn’t fit with some of the US print-on-demand firms like Lulu etc. So I’m having a version done with a different format.

  34. Excellent post. As you mentioned, most people have no idea how much goes into creating an ebook. With a plan like you outlined, the process becomes much easier.

    I especially like the part of determining what the eBook is going to be used for. Sometimes we use them as lead generators, other times as revenue generators or both.

    Kathleen Gage
    The Street Smarts Marketer

  35. This post has some of the best advice I’ve seen out there for aspiring ebook authors. One area that could be expanded would be the promotion of the ebook after it’s published. Full disclosure- I work for ClickBank, which is an affiliate network that promotes digital products, ebooks being one of our specialties. However, there are a number of other similar networks out there.

    Joining an established affiliate network can be a great way to go, mostly because it allows you to quickly get a lot of people (potentially thousands) promoting your book for you, rather than taking the time to build up a list or your own affiliate network. Your percentage of the sale after you pay your affiliates will be lower than if you promote it yourself, but you also won’t be paying for advertising costs, which can save you a lot. ClickBank also handles all of the payment processing, security and customer service, so you don’t have to have your own payment processor or deal with customer service issues directly. We also take care of paying the affiliates, so you don’t have to worry about taking the time to pay them yourself.

    Even if you don’t choose ClickBank, I would strongly recommend that ebook authors take a look at joining an affiliate network, as it’ll let you ramp up sales of your book very quickly with little risk (since they operate on a Cost Per Action basis), and let you spend more time writing and less time handling the business side of things.

    Good luck, everyone!

    Beau Blackwell

  36. Mind mapping software is a great way to not only outline your e-book but to capture key ideas and turns of phrase using your program’s notes feature. When you export your map to Microsoft Word, your map’s topics and sub-topics are converted to headers, and any attached notes become body copy. So you have effectively pre-written parts of your e-book, giving you a gigantic head start on writing the rest of it. This technique is described in more detail here.

  37. Thanks, so much for this post! You’ve inspired me to start working on an ebook now.

  38. What publisher and publishing program is the best for Ebooks?

    I have had scores of issues with the books I have written but cannot qute get published properly..


  39. Lots of resources. It would take more time to go thouroghly. So, I will just bookmark it.

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