So, you want to write an e-book…

In the four years since I started blogging I’ve written four e-books.  I wrote the first one almost by accident.  I had been planning to compile a series of blog posts about second-hand shopping.  While I was in the process of writing the posts that would make up the series I came across an interesting article about zines, and I had the idea to make one of my own.  Well, that idea didn’t work out when I realised that the cost of printing and distributing the zine was going to be more than I could afford, and I’d have to charge about $15 for each copy just to break even.  I wanted to find a way to sell the content without having to charge an arm and a leg, and I didn’t want my overseas readers to have to pay through the nose for postage.  The idea of an e-book just made sense.

When I talk to people about my e-books, I often get the reaction, “I wish I could do that” or “How do you even write an e-book?”.  The answer is longer than I could give in one sentence, so I’ve decided to dedicate an entire post to the topic.

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What would I write about?

You can write an e-book on just about any topic.  There are always people who are eager to learn.  Most of the hits I get on my blog are people looking for tutorials or advice on certain topics.  As such, all four of my e-books are instructional.  I like sharing my knowledge with other people and helping to answer their questions.

If you want to write an instructional e-book, think about the things you’re interested in and what you’re good at.  Have you got any special skills?  Have you gotten through a difficult experience?  Do you have specialist knowledge in a particular area?  If so, then those things might be good to write about.  Remember that the things that come easily to you might be more difficult for other people.   Aim to share your special knowledge or enthusiasm with people who are interested in learning.

An e-book doesn’t have to be instructional.  If you’ve got a head filled with incredible stories or poems they can absolutely be published in an e-book.  You can write about anything that takes your fancy, whether real or fictional.  Let your imagination run wild.  Chances are that if you’re reading this post, you might already have an idea brewing.

How do I go about writing a whole book?

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

And so it is with writing.  Although writing a book seems like a huge tasks, it’s really just a bunch of little tasks lumped together.  You just need to nut out what needs to be done, and start working through it a little bit at a time.

To begin with, I like to make a master list of all the tasks that need to be done to get my e-book ready to sell.  I write the tasks in no particular order, as they pop into my head and then begin to decide on a time-line for completing them.  My list includes tasks like:

– Survey friends/ readers about what topics they’d like to read about or questions they’d like answered.

– Make a list of the topics to be covered in the book.

– Write a chapter on each topic

– Edit chapters

– Give chapters to friends or colleagues to be proof-read

– Format the chapter headings and table of contents

– List the file in my etsy store

– Promote the book on my blog.

Your to-do list will look different depending on the kind of book you’re writing.  But I find this kind of master list is really helpful.

Now, you just have to do the things on the list! This seems really overwhelming, but you can do it.  Just chip away at it as best you can.  You might aim to finish one chapter a week by carving out an hour a day to write.  Break the tasks down into even smaller pieces if you want, and try to set aside some time on a regular basis to work on it.  If you begin to feel discouraged by all the work that’s left to be done, take a look at what you’ve already accomplished.  Remind yourself that it takes a while to finish such a big project and try to do at least a small task to keep your momentum going.  Be gentle on yourself and keep telling yourself that even the tiniest action begins you a step closer to being finished.

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Getting the word out there

Once your book is finished, it’s time to start telling people about it.  If you’re intending to sell your book, you’ll need to do a bit of self-promotion to get the word out about it.

If you have a blog of your own, this is probably the best place to start with promotion.  Write a blog post to tell your readers about your book.  Email your subscribers.  Utilize your social networking profiles by providing links to your work.  Remember to pace yourself and don’t flood your Twitter feed with self-promoting tweets.

It can also be really helpful to get other bloggers to help you spread the word.  Write to some of your favourite bloggers and offer to send them copies of your e-book to review.  I’ve done this in the past and I’ve found that it’s a great way to get the word out there and attracted buyers.

Don’t underestimate the power of your real-life social networks.  Tell your mates about what you’ve written. Even if they might not be interested in buying it, they might know someone who will be.

Choosing a marketplace

The distribution of an e-book can be tricky.  There are lots of different sites and online store platforms where you can sell your work, but they all have their own pros and cons.  I have two different sites that I use to distribute my e-books.

Firstly, I use my etsy store.  Etsy is really simple to use and they charge only a very small fee for listings.  At present it only costs twenty cents per item (regardless of quantity) to list items on etsy.  Etsy also allow you to upload the file for sale, so that buyers can download it to their computer as soon as they’ve paid for it.  This saves a lot of messing around.  Etsy offers safe payment options and is a very reputable marketplace.

I also use a site called e-junkie.  I like e-junkie because they also allow you to upload your files so that they can be instantly downloaded by buyers.  Once you’ve created your product listing, you can get sale buttons to add to your blog.  I chose this because I wanted to be able to sell my e-books directly from my blog, so that my readers didn’t have to go through etsy to buy my books if they didn’t want to.  E-junkie is very easy to use and is relatively cheap.  I pay $5 per month for my basic account.

While publishing your own e-book is a lot of work, it’s a huge achievement once you’ve finished it.  If you’re thinking about writing a book of your own, I say go for it!  What have you got to lose?

If you’ve got any more questions about writing or selling e-books let me know.  I’d be happy to answer them!

Any questions?

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