How to Write a Free Ebook in Just 7 Days

How to Write a Free Ebook in Just 7 Days

A free ebook is a great way to showcase your expertise and provide value to potential customers. But for most small business owners, finding the time to put together an ebook is hard.

Sure, you know all the benefits an ebook could bring you … you just can’t find the time to write it and get it done. After all, writing ebooks are typically known as huge, long projects, right?

What if I told you that you could write that free ebook in just one week, spending no more than two hours per day on it?

Well, you can. (Even if that means you need to let go of your rigid blogging schedule.) Here’s your 7-day plan to writing an ebook for your business:

Day 1: Think Up a Great Ebook Topic

You may already have awesome ideas for an ebook, ones that you’re itching to write.

Put those aside for now.

Your ebook needs to be short, specific, and incredibly useful to your audience. That means you’re looking for a topic that:

  • You can cover in 3,000 – 4,500 words (around six blog posts in length).
  • You can make clear, concise and compelling. “Ten Great Gardening Tips” isn’t as focused as “Ten Ways to Grow Better Broccoli”.
  • Your readers are clamouring for. Think about questions that come up constantly in the comment section of your blog or problems that all your clients seem to have.

If you’re stuck for an idea, head to Facebook or Twitter and ask your audience, “What’s your biggest struggle with [topic]?” Look for any common factors in the answers.


Day 2: Build an Outline for Your Ebook

You’ve got your topic; now it’s time to plan. Getting a clear plan down on paper means the actual writing will be much easier – you’ll just be filling in the blanks  – and the ebook will be a coherent, structured, whole that readers will find easy to take in.

Hopefully, you already know a lot about your topic, and you just need to get your ideas down onto paper. A great way to do that is with a mindmap:

  1. Get a blank sheet of paper and write your ebook’s topic in the center (“Ten Ways to Grow Better Broccolli”, for instance.)
  2. Jot down all your related ideas around the edge.
  3. Draw lines to connect related points.

Often, writing your ideas helps you come up with new ones. Once you feel you’ve jotted down as many ideas as you need, you can start sorting them in a sensible order.

If your ebook has a numbered structure (e.g. “Ten Ways…”) then you’ll want to aim for eleven or twelve points so you can cut or combine any weak ones. If you’re writing a how-to, then make sure you’ve covered each logical step along the path.

Write a list of chapter headings and two to four bullet points for each chapter.

At this stage, you may realize that you need to research some particular areas. Look up any key facts that you need, but don’t get bogged down in research. Tomorrow, you need to start writing.

(Tip: If you find that a particular point needs lots of research, it might be best as a blog post or even a separate ebook.)


Day 3, 4 and 5: Write Your Ebook

You have three days to write your ebook. That might not seem like enough time, but with a great topic and a clear plan in place, the writing phase shouldn’t be too difficult to manage.

A good length for a free ebook is around 3,000 to 4,500 words. That means you should aim to write 1,000 to 1,500 words per day.

You can probably manage that within a couple of hours. Don’t worry about perfect spelling and grammar; you’ll have the chance to edit your ebook on Day 6.

Here are a few writing tips:

  • If you get stuck while writing, imagine yourself writing an email to a client or customer who had this particular question or problem. Write in a simple, direct, and straightforward manner.
  • If you struggle to stay focused when you’re writing, turn off your internet connection!
  • If you’re missing a vital statistic or fact, just jot down [note to self] in the text and highlight it in yellow so that you can come back to it later while editing. .

Split your ebook into short chapters and use a similar structure for each chapter. This makes the writing phase easy and helps give readers a consistent experience, as they’ll know what’s coming next.

One simple structure you can use is this:

  • Explain the concept or idea
  • Give an example or mini case-study
  • Have an exercise for the reader to try


Day 6: Edit Your Ebook

You’ve finished the draft of your ebook – but you’ve still got two days left. The next step is to edit your material.

Editing doesn’t just mean correcting spelling mistakes. It also means making sure that your advice and instructions are clear, and you can watch for any missing pieces or unnecessary tangents.

If you had a good outline for your ebook, you probably won’t need to make any big changes.

Here’s your action-plan for quick editing:

  • Print your ebook and read it through in one sitting. Look for areas where you repeat yourself, information you might need to add in, or sections that don’t really fit. Make these changes before going further.
  • Rewrite the introduction to make it stronger. That might mean cutting it down – you don’t need two pages of waffling around at the start of a short ebook.
  • Read through slowly and change any awkward or unclear sentences. Look up any missing facts and double-check information you’re not sure about. Fix any typos or spelling mistakes.

Day 7: Design and Publish Your Ebook

You’re writing a free ebook, so readers won’t expect the world’s flashiest design. They will expect your ebook to be easy to read.

Try these 5 easy ways to enhance your ebook quickly:

  • Use a larger font size. When I write regular documents, I use 11 or 12 pt fonts; for ebooks, 13 or 14 pt works better.
  • Avoid a sea of plain text. Use bullet points and bold text, just like you would in a blog post. You might also put a box around your exercises, for instance, to help them stand out.
  • Add page numbers. This takes seconds, but it’s very helpful for readers who might print your ebook.
  • Start each chapter on a new page. Use a page break (rather than hitting Enter multiple times) to do this efficiently.
  • Add a cover. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy: you could take an image from Flickr (make sure you attribute credit to the artist) and add a text box with the title of the ebook and your name.

To publish your ebook, simply convert your document to a .pdf. If you’re using Open Office or Word 2010, the ability to save as .pdf is built in. If you’re using Word 2007, you can download an add-in from Microsoft to save your file as a .pdf.

And that’s it! You’re now the proud author of a great ebook, and you’ve got a very nice piece of marketing material for your blog, website, or email list.

By the way, there’s never going to be a “perfect” time to write your ebook. So why not get started today? If it helps, add some accountability by leaving a comment below about your start date plans.

Post by Ali Luke

Ali Luke has written a bunch of her own ebooks (several are available free) and has worked to help other writers with many more. If you find it tough to get inspired to write, check out her post Twenty-Five Ways to Come Up With Great Ideas for Your Writing.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. OK with everythihg, maybe, but 3,000 to 4,500 words is not a book “e-” or otherwise. That’s just a medium-sized article.

    • Probably depends on your audience with this! You could call it a “free report” or “mini-guide” or anything else that you feel would work well for the length. Or you could lengthen the plan and spend a few extra days on it. :-)

    • I agree, as long as books and reports are still defined based on print editions, I think most people expect a book to be 30-40 pages minimum (for a kids book for example) and a report to be in the handful of pages range. That may change/may be changing, but I don’t think that’s a good thing. If people pay for a book vs a report, there should be a difference.

      • I was focusing on free ebooks here, Cheryl; I definitely agree that when you’re asking for money, you should be clear about what people are getting. I give page counts for my paid ebooks, so readers know what to expect.

      • Will make sure Cheryl and Riccardo don’t proof-read my books 😉 “How to write a *FREE*”……

  2. Many thanks Ali. This is a great post. Not only did you motivate me to start writing that free eBook, but you also, by sheer coincidence, gave me a topic. Right now I’ll have to keep that secret, but I’ll send you a copy once it’s finished – hopefully after only seven days!

  3. That was very helpful, ¡especially the design tips!

  4. Every time I get to the computer I think, “I need to write an e-book.” I just keep putting it on the pile of “to do stuff.”

    Thanks for your specific advice Ali. And I like the timeline.

    I’m still recovering from surgery, but I’m thinking we should have a Nano type challenge. Writing an ebook in a month, or something.

    • Hope your recovery is going well, Mary — very best wishes to you.

      I think a month is a very do-able length of time for an ebook, and a challenge sounds like great fun. NaEbookWriMo… hmm… not sure that quite has such a ring to it though!

  5. Reading this has me re-evaluating how I decide on topics for my e-books. I’ve got to drill down more in my focal points. Thanks for the insight.

  6. Thanks , clear and informative !
    Just the kind of push ! –and inspiration, that I need to take something ‘ mysterious’ ,and do it.
    Many thanks ! Excellent advice .

  7. Such clear, practical, and implementable information, Ali. I’m so glad to have discovered you and your great resources for writers. I’ve just bought your book on freelancing for bloggers.

  8. Hello Ali, simple, concise and straight to the point. Now, I can go ahead and try my hands on this e-book tips. Thanks for sharing :-)

  9. I agree with most of your process, but the notion that someone can write a book in a week is misplaced. No publisher would consider a piece containing fewer than 40,000 words or so to be a book. In a week, you might be able to write an article or a pamphlet, but certainly not a book. That said, I appreciate your encouragement to write marketable e-somethings, and I’ll do my best to work in that direction. Thanks!

    • This is always a bit of a can of worms, Doug! (See Riccardo and Cheryl’s comments above.) But there are some print “books” with very few words … I’m thinking of things like “The Little Book of Calm”. Perhaps “free report” or “mini-guide” or another word like that would work for you and your audience?

  10. Ali, I’m taking it on.

    I’ve had an idea for a paid ebook for couple of years now, so no more excuses!

    I’m going to follow your schedule outline and get that thing DONE.

    By this time next week, I fully expect to be raising a glass of chardonnay to you and James for providing such excellent advice and inspiration.



  11. Thanks for the tips. I have many ideas for eBooks, but haven’t decided which project to pursue.

    Sometimes, I use PowerPoint instead of Word to create my eBooks. I thought about using Adobe InDesign, but haven’t attempted it yet. Also, I never thought about using a larger font such 13pt or 14 pt. I use a 12pt font. I’ll use a larger font when I write my next eBook.

  12. I followed the advice given and I did it! Mine is pretty short, but it’s my first attempt and I’m happy with it. It can be done in 7 days, which really surprised me! Thanks so much for the free advice. I’m calling mine a ‘handbook’ or ‘pamphlet’ since it’s so short. Very happy with it, though! Feeling very encouraged right now :)

  13. Great post! I’m planning to write one and this guide will be really useful. Thanks for sharing
    – Nischala

  14. So, technically, you are writing the actual book in three days. Is 3,000-4,000 words long enough to be considered a “book”? Perhaps it is different for e-books.

  15. Following the steps. Completed mind map outline of my Ebook in an hour!! On to the next step. Will finish by next week. Great advice!

  16. Interesting, but I personally feel one shouldn’t hurry into writing an e-book with the sole objective of finishing it within a week. Writing a good one requires much time and effort.

  17. I am curious what are the legal liabilities for writing an ebook. My daughter suffers with Bipolar disorder. I have done allot of research and would like to share with people our personal experience and compile some resrarch. One of my concerns is people self diagnosing and us getting in legal trouble. Society has become a sue happy people. People are always looking for a way to make lazy money. I don’t want to become a target for someone who is looking for easy lazy money. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Brenda-
      Phrase your ebook title as your opinion rather than medical facts: Tips on caring for a loved one with bipolar disorder; Family coping skills; How this mother survives the tides of her daughter’s bipolar disorder.
      Your content would probably be along the lines of: “It was difficult to get my daughter to comply with weekly bloodwork. We made the event less stressful on everyone by combining the trip to the lab with our weekly ice cream outing.” And not: “Make sure the blood depakote level is between 50 and 100. If too low, double the dose until you can speak to the doctor.”

  18. Another tip that we should include is to design a quality
    ecover for the ebook, since this is the first thing that
    get the customer to read the title and the content.

    If you want to create a nice ecover for your ebook, do this:

    1-Download a free background image, there are many free resources
    2-Get a nice font, such as League Gothic, Alegreya
    3-Download a good image editing software: InkScape/Gimp
    4-Open a new document and set the image dimensions: 800 pixels x 600 pixels
    5-Insert the image
    6-Type the Title of the ebook
    7-Important: the title should be 80% of the ecover surface, because this must be the most visible element even in thumbnail view.
    8-Add a frame to include the Author Name
    9-Add colors, but keep at most only two colors other than blank/white

    Believeme, if you get a quality image, the book ecover only need a nice title.

    By the way, we design high quality book ecovers, and every week we give
    away free ecover design between our facebook fans.

    Nice post!


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