How to write ebooks
A quick guide for new authors
Written by Phil Wade
Copyright © Phil Wade 2016
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First Published using Papyrus, 2016
Probably the most common question I get asked about ebooks is ‘how do you write an ebook’. For some reason, people seem to think there is a great mystery or a huge secret about the process. Perhaps they have thought about writing a book or desired to do so at some time but it didn’t work out.
In my experience of writing about 20 ebooks, I have found that it really is not that difficult as long as you understand the process. This ebook will hopefully teach you what that process is and help you understand how to go from an idea to a published ebook.
Chapter 1: The idea
Without a great idea, there’s no point in even considering writing an ebook. After all, why create something that only your most loyal friends will even bother downloading?
Great ideas don’t just fall out of the sky. If they did, I’d spend all day catching them. So where do they come from? Well, anywhere and everywhere. It’s probably best to start with the old ‘identify a gap in the market’ strategy and this can come from you. Is there a clear need in your department for a book that doesn’t exist on your bookshelf? Or is there a subject that you feel is interesting that you know a lot about that you feel you could write about?
You might get an idea for a title or a topic whilst considering this or one might just pop up when you are teaching or looking for materials. Whenever it happens, write it down. Create a list and then pick one and start fleshing it out. Also ask friends if they think 1) It’s worth spending time on 2) If they’d read it 3) If you should give it away for free or charge 4) If you really can and want to spend days or weeks of your own time creating it.
Some ideas may grow on you too so also keep them. Markets and needs change so what seem useless today might not be next year.
Chapter 2: The plan
Now you have a decent idea sorted, it’s time to develop it a bit like a pizza chef kneading a ball of dough, throwing it around and rolling it out until eventually he has a pizza base.
Decide how long you want the ebook. Don’t set yourself up for a fall by deciding to write a 50 chapter groundbreaking reference book. Start small by brainstorming the first 2 chapter headings and then keep going. There is the danger of trying to squeeze too much into a single chapter and not doing any of the subjects justice. So make clear chapters that address one thing but do it well.
Have a break and go back to your plan later. Look at it with fresh eyes and you might realise you need to add a chapter or move things around. Also don’t forget about your introduction and conclusion.
Next, brainstorm the content of each chapter and try to make sure you have the same amount of ideas for each. In a 5 page ebook, you want to have almost the same number of words for each page or it won’t look even.
Don’t get too attached to the plan too as when you start writing, you might realise some things don’t work or need changing.
Chapter 3: Writing
Writing can be boring, long, annoying, infuriating, tiring and soul destroying. Do you really want to spend 50 hours in front of a computer writing, deleting, changing, reformatting etc? I certainly don’t. The less time I can spend in front of a screen, the better.
So what’s the secret to writing quickly? I’m not sure of the answer to this one as each writer is different. Pick what works for you. Some like to write on paper and do a page a day. Some write very detailed plans and then write up the final version. Others prefer to do bursts of writing, stop, take time off and then go back. You need to experiment and find what works.
In my opinion, the very worst thing you can do is to sit in front of your computer and a blank screen scratching your head about what to write. I don’t know anyone who gets inspired sat in a small room, in the dark staring at a flashing cursor. For me, it’s like a lesson plan that you spend time on at home that you deliver in the lesson. Yes, some are more dogme and write ‘in the moment’ but that might not always work for everyone.
Never underestimate fatigue and that can be mental and physical. Find your most productive time and length of writing and exploit it.
Chapter 4: More writing
A chapter or two in and you might have had enough. You may have changed your plan, deleted chapters and added new ones. The ebook could even seem completely different to the original idea. At this point, after 5 coffees a day and sleepless nights, it would be easy to quit. Don’t!!
Writing really is 80 or even 90% persistence and determination. This is why I said to limit the size of the project. Even a 5 page ebook takes time. Setting a 20 page ebook as your very first project will just cause you stress. Start small and break down each step so maybe say you'll write 1 page per week for a month. The pages will soon add up.
Take a break, talk to people about your ebook, share some samples but take feedback WELL. Yes it’s your baby but if you are writing for an audience, involve them and make sure what you are creating is what they want. If it’s just entirely for you then ask friends for general feedback.
It is very easy to stay in a bubble and then cry about your low ebook sales later on. If you are 100% for profit then you must be 100% concentrating on writing what the market asks for and in a style they want.
Don’t be afraid to change things even at this stage. It’s your ebook.
Chapter 5: Publishing
Hurrah! You’ve finished. Now you need to decide if you want and editor and a proofreader or just one. In the old days, writers had teams of them who would argue over points but as a self-pub writer, you don’t have that luxury. If you are all about profit then you need quality so you might want to consider getting either 1) a very skilled editor/proofer or 2) getting LOTS of volunteers. This raises the question of WHO should be giving you feedback. Do you want advice from an ‘expert’ writer/editor or the audience you are writing for?
When you’ve finalised the ebook, you need a cover. Have a look on Word and you’ll find you can add very basic ones or Google and you’ll come across freebies you can adapt. Otherwise, try some online ebook publishing sites, Amazon and free design sites. If you really don’t think design is your thing, ask a friend ‘in the know’ to make you a nice cover with an image, the title and your name.
To get your ebook out there, the easiest way is to use Shakespir as all you need is a word doc and a cover image. Open an account, upload and publish. Voila! You are now an ebook author.
Good luck and remember to use the #ELTebook hashtag if you share ebooks about ELT.
A quick guide for new authors. It covers the idea, the plan, writing, more writing and publishing.