4 Simple Ways to Create a Well-Written Ebook

4 Simple Ways to Create a Well-Written Ebook

You’ve got a great idea. You’re going to write an ebook – perhaps your first! It’ll grow your business, bring in money, and help establish your expertise.

And to keep yourself accountable, you tell all your readers to expect the ebook by the end of the month. Sure, that might mean a few caffeine-fuelled, late-night sessions … but your ebook will be done, dusted, and out the door.

Heck, if you really knuckle down, perhaps you can knock out a short ebook in a single week.

Maybe you can.

But that doesn’t mean you should.

Writing an Ebook isn’t a Race

It’s easy to feel pressured to knock this out fast. Maybe you wish you’d written your ebook a year ago. Perhaps everyone else in your field seems to have an ebook – or several. You might feel like you’re already behind.

But writing your ebook isn’t a race.

Yes, at some point, you need to ship it out. Taking an extra few weeks (or even just an extra few days) isn’t going to kill your business, though. In fact, it might well be the best decision you make.

Your Ebook Should be Your Best Work

Whether your ebook is a paid product or a freebie, it needs to show you at your best.

If customers need to pay for it, they’ll expect an ebook that’s complete, carefully structured, and well-written. If buyers get an ebook that’s error-ridden, badly structured, and obviously rushed, they’re never going to buy from you again.

And if your ebook is a freebie, you still need to make it as good as you can. Those readers are potential customers, but if they download your free ebook only to find that it’s full of typos, badly formatted, and confusing, they’re not even likely to buy once.

So what should you do? Here are 4 simple ways to create a well-written ebook:

1: Follow the Writing Process

Every writing project goes through the same stages:

  • Idea Generation
  • Research
  • Planning
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Publishing

Sometimes the stages overlap; you might do some research while sorting through ideas or revise your plan during the writing stage. Sometimes the stages take next to no time at all, and you might come up with an idea within a couple of minutes.

But when you rush through the stages with an ebook, though, you waste time.

If you don’t have a strong idea of what readers would love, then you’ll wonder what to write.. If you don’t take enough time to plan, you’re going to get stuck partway through. If you rush the writing, you’ll spend extra time going back to fix it up later.

2: Set Aside Time on a Regular Basis

You might have great intentions for your ebook, but if you don’t get into the habit of spending time working on it regularly, you’ll end up rushing things to meet your launch deadline.

Big chunks of free time aren’t just going to magically appear. You need to carve them out of your schedule.

Put ebook-writing appointments into your calendar at regular intervals. That might mean spending the first hour of every day on your ebook (yep, before you check emails) or it could mean blocking out a couple of afternoons each week.

3: Involve Readers during the Process

The good news is that you don’t have to tackle every stage of writing your ebook alone. If you have a blog, email list, Twitter account or Facebook page, you’ve already got at least a few readers or potential customers.

Get them involved from the start.

When you’re coming up with ideas, look at the questions your existing readers typically ask. Do any topics come up again and again? Or if you’re not sure, you could run a survey to find out what readers want or need.

When you’ve finished the first or second draft of your ebook, ask if any readers would be willing to take a look and give you some feedback. (In return, you’ll give them a copy of the finished ebook in due course.)

They might not be expert writers, but they can tell you when you haven’t explained something clearly enough or when you’ve gone off on an unnecessary tangent.

4: Get Help from Professionals

If you’re short on time but have a bit of money to spare, then consider paying for help. You could hire an editor to improve your rough draft, for instance, or you could even hire a ghostwriter to do the bulk of the work for you. And when you get to the publishing stage, you might want to involve a paid ebook designer.

Not only will you save time but you’ll also end up with a higher-quality finished product – which helps make the time you invest more worthwhile.

An ebook can be a huge asset to your business. If it’s a freebie, it can bring in lots of new customers; if it’s a paid-for product, it can become a very nice income stream. But you can’t just sit down and rattle off ten thousand words in a spare afternoon or two.

You need to put time and effort into your ebook if you want it to be a success.

Don’t let that put you off, though. Right now, take out your schedule and look ahead a week or two. Find some time that you can block out to work on your new ebook.

And let us know in the comment section what you have planned – so we can help support you!

Post by Ali Luke

Ali Luke is currently on a virtual book tour for her novel Lycopolis, a fast-paced supernatural thriller centered on a group of online roleplayers who summon a demon into their game ... and into the world. Described by readers as "a fast and furious, addictive piece of escapism" and "absolutely gripping", Lycopolis is available in print and e-book form. Find out more at www.lycopolis.co.uk.

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  1. I wrote an e-book last year called Finding Liberty and I rushed the book, I have to admit I’m not very proud of it. However, I learned a lot from that experience, I did use a professional e-book designer so it looked great but I didn’t really work on the story. This time around I am paying more attention to the small details and making sure I am completing my characters thoughts and story lines. I am taking my time with writing this story and I hope the end results reflect it. I really appreciate the tips and I love the idea of getting readers involved in the writing process.

    Any other advice you would like to give, I would very much appreciate.

    • Thanks, Ciciely! I think getting readers involved is so crucial, particularly if you’re working on fiction … not just for help with the little things like typos, but also for the big-picture of story and character development.

      It sounds like you’re doing all the right things with your new ebook. :-) Is there anything in particular you’ve got questions about? I’m very happy to offer more advice.

  2. Thanks Ali. Thanks James.

    Good advice.

    It’s easy to get in a rush. Blogging is exciting, writing a book is exciting. The potential benefits loom up to encourage hyperactivity. I’m working on an ebook on improving your writing (of all things!), and for a while I was frantic to get it done and get it out there, but I’ve slowed down, I want it to be good, the best I can write–no! not just that–awesomely helpful to readers.

    Besidces, life is more fun when I don’t rush!

    • Thanks Bill! I completely understand the excitement inherent in a new project (goodness knows, I fall into that trap myself a lot …) but there’s also the satisfaction of a job well done, of knowing you’ve done the very best that you can for your readers.

      Obviously there’s a balance to be struck somewhere — but sometimes, just an extra few weeks or even days can make all the difference.

  3. Great reminder to follow the writing process. It’s the very same thing I teach my primary students every day.

  4. Great piece of advice.

    Too often we rattle off a bunch of stuff, to get that ‘free’ book out there, only to find that it’s just advertising that we’re a little sloppy, slowing down our sales for the paid stuff.

    I do think that the right compelling message can still outweigh a few typos here and there, but for the most part, I think you’re right. If your customers see that you can’t put a few sentences together in a lead-generation book, then why should they pay you money for the honor?

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

    • Thanks, Joshua. And I agree with you that a compelling message isn’t going to be ruined by one or two tiny slips … but you’re also right that free content needs to make a crucial first impression. It’s worth taking the time to get it as close to right as you possibly can!

  5. Thanks again Ali. This is some real good advice in addition to your previous post: How to Write a Free Ebook in Just 7 Days. My new blogsite is just 1 month old. At this stage people don’t even know who I am. My first free ebook should boost traffic to my site and you’re right, it should be my best work. At the same time it must really be something people would want to read – information they are looking for or something that would help them.

    • Thanks, Pieter! I think there’s a fine balance here (and I’m hoping that my two posts taken together manage to find some sort of middle ground…) High-quality is, of course, hugely important — but so is actually finishing and launching the ebook.

      In terms of figuring out what people are looking for, have you done any sort of survey of your current readership? (See step #3 of the post!) Or can you pull some ideas from comments, emails, and one-to-one conversations? This can be great way to figure out exactly what’s on your readers’ minds, and it can speed up the ebook-creation process too by giving you a great start on an outline.

      • Good advice as usual. Many thanks, Ali. I regularly tweet and the tweets are also read by my Facebook friends, but I know I should take the survey idea more seriously. (Step #3.) I find that people do visit, but they don’t comment. As you know – please excuse the expression – zero is not nice. If they’re not saying anything, I don’t know what they’re thinking or what they really want.

  6. To me Ali, the most important suggestion you gave in your list of magnificent suggestions was that of carving time out of your schedule to do this. Most people don’t do this and mysteriously, they always get to cling to the excuse that they don’t have enough time. But I think everyone knows that it’s not a matter of managing our time, but rather it’s about us managing ourselves.

    One of my favorite sayings I’ve come across as of late is, “First things first. Second things, not at all.”

    I believe that anyone who produces products/content on a consistent basis has to live by this principle. For me, it means that I don’t get to play until I’ve put in a set amount of work. For me, I work to time blocks. I work straight for 50 minutes on one project driving towards it’s completion – (no answering the phone, no checking twitter, no checking facebook, no answering emails, nothing but focus on the task at hand) and then give myself 10 minutes to do anything but work – anything I don’t permit myself to do during the 50 minutes. Work 50 minutes straight then give myself 30 minutes to do anything but work – go and have fun.

    I firmly believe that if you don’t shield yourself from distraction, any project you undertake will take forever to complete or never even arrive at completion. Thank you Ali for reminding me of such an important lesson!

    • Thanks, Lewis. And I agree with your take on time management … it’s really about managing our energy and attention, and putting those towards the main things.

      I like your time blocks method. I don’t stick to such rigid ones (though maybe I should!) but I tend to get up every hour to exercise for a a few minutes and get the blood pumping. It’s definitely easier to focus when I know I’ve got a break coming up, even a short one.

  7. Thanks, Ali.

    I think I needed that. I’ve been putting together an e-cookbook over the last few months, and it’s been feeling like a bit of a slog. Part of that is that my first priority was spit and polish, presentation being the piece of e-publishing that I feel is most often overlooked.

    After reading this, I feel like the book is on the right track (which it better be, seeing as I just announced it on the blog :-P ). Now I just need to get through the last big sprint to the finish and trust that the time I put into the content will have been worth it, right?

    • Thanks Tim! Sounds like you’re definitely on the right track … and I’m sure it’ll all be worth it too. I agree with you that presentation is often overlooked (it’s probably not my own strength, either, if I’m totally honest!) Best of luck with the launch!

  8. Thanks for your tips. Enjoyed reading them. I am attempting my first book but I can’t seem to get over the format conversions and cover pages. Any advice on formating for a first time novice?

    Alicia

    • What file type are you trying to create, Alicia? Is it a .mobi / .epub (for Kindle, etc) or a .pdf?

      Either way, my main tip is to take things slowly and to look for tutorials online if you get stuck with anything. I regularly find I want to do something fiddly in Word (like have separate sections in a document) when formatting ebooks, and usually a quick Google reveals how to do that!

  9. great tips. I find myself writing my first ebook now, ‘Random Rationality’ and I luckily somehow find myself following this process. First time I do something right without having to read about it.

  10. Funny, I just started thinking about writing a few eBooks. Nothing I’d want to make money off of, but just a way to compile some of my advice in a handy package to my readers. Figured it’d be a great promotional tool as well. I agree with all your points, though. It shouldn’t be rushed at all. And whether it’s free or comes with a price tag, it should be as good, if not better, than your regular writing work.

    • Thanks Andrew! And good luck with your eBooks. I think it’s a great, easy way to package knowledge for readers … not everyone wants to wade around in blog archives. :-)

  11. I wrote and published my first ebook for kindle in february, which was more successful than I expected (1000 copies sold so far which made me create a print run which just started selling on amazon).

    The experience is great!!!

    Would I do stuff differently now? Yes, I would!
    I learned way more about book selling, about books, about writing, correcting, print. Actually about every detail in the process.

    Right now I’m doing research for my second book which I want to start writing end of the week. I don’t really have the time, having kind of a full time job and two businesses on the side, but it is so much fun I’ll find a way to carve some time aside for this!

    So: if you enjoy writing, just do it!

    Oh, and I might even would have participated in your online-writing course, but since I’m not writing in english (and am not even close to writing anything meaningful in english) it did not really apply to me. Pity, though!

    • Sam, congratulations on all your sales — that’s fantastic! And it’s great to hear that you learnt a lot in the process. Best of luck with your second book too, hope you fan make the time for it. :-)

  12. LK Watts says:

    I cannot agree with you more on this subject. Many writers will argue that self publishing ebooks is not worth the effort unless you have a backlist of ten books. But what if this is the first book you’ve ever written? You can still go ahead and publish it so long as you have made it the best it can be. Readers take time to find you. As Dean Wesley Smith says: ‘You’re not going to get all your readers at once.’

  13. Great guidelines for getting organized and getting started. One of the biggest things that stops people from writing is that they just never get started. The writing process offers a good stepwise plan.

  14. VERY good advice. When I first started mucking about with networking and making connections, I “met” a lot of authors online who said things like, “I wrote six books last year” and “My fourth book is out this month, and my fifth will be out in six weeks.” It made me feel like there was this race to get the maximum amount of content into cyberspace in a minimum amount of time.
    A year later, I’ve finished my first book and recently uploaded it, and I’m STILL feeling the pressure to get it out there, get it sold, get it in everyone’s faces, and for God’s sake get going on the sequel. I know better, and I’m resisting the urges, but they’re still there.

    • Congrats on getting your book out there, Dawn! And I think that, over time, quality writing is always going to pay off … sure, some people naturally work fast, but rushing a book out of the door is never a great idea. (Plus, as a reader, I’m unlikely to buy more than a couple of ebooks a year from the same author… six is definitely overkill!)

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  2. [...] 4 Simple Ways to Create a Well-Written Ebook [...]

  3. [...] 4 Simple Ways to Create a Well-Written Ebook From Men with Pens, written by Ali Luke E-books have gotten kind of a bad rap lately and rightfully so in some cases. There are so many bad e-books out there that are thin on content with little to no purpose other than to grab your e-mail address. What I like most about Ali’s post is that she really stresses quality and walks you through a solid process for getting it done. [...]

  4. [...] 4 Simple Ways to Create a Well-Written Ebook From Men with Pens, written by Ali Luke E-books have gotten kind of a bad rap lately and rightfully so in some cases. There are so many bad e-books out there that are thin on content with little to no purpose other than to grab your e-mail address. What I like most about Ali’s post is that she really stresses quality and walks you through a solid process for getting it done. [...]

  5. [...] Mon 30th April: Men with Pens – 4 Simple Ways to Create a Well-Written Ebook [...]

  6. [...] 4 Simple Ways to Create a Well-Written Ebook – Men With Pens [...]

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