How to Write an eBook
I’ve received more than a few requests over the past weeks on how to write an eBook.
The printing and publishing business is changing–and fast! Yesterday as I was watching the movie The Help, I was reminded just how far our culture has come with putting words on a page.
Not only are we allowed to write about all things including race or sex, but we have religious freedoms as well. As a Christian and as a writer I believe we have a responsibility to seek and speak the truth. Clearly one is much harder than the other.
My favorite verse (pertaining to writing) in the Bible is from 1 Chronicles 16:24 and Psalm 96:3 that says,
“Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does” (NLT)
Since I recently self published my own eBook, I thought I’d share 8 tips on how to write an eBook and get it published.
Tip #1 – Start With an Outline. Open Microsoft Word and start typing your ideas for chapter titles. This will get the juices flowing. Over time you can expand and actually start writing certain chapters, or copy and paste them where you think they’d fit better. An outline is supposed to be messy. Sometimes I sit on a book title and/or outline of a book for a year (sometimes even years) before I get the inspiration and courage to follow through.
Tip #2 – Follow Through. If you say you’re going to do something then you need to do it. Write and keep writing. Write until you get sick to your stomach or feel weak in the fingers. Write until you break a pencil and your heart. Write until the words don’t stop flowing and you feel at peace. Write when you know your schedule is too busy and write when you’re procrastinating. Write when you’re wanting everything to be perfect and write when everything is a mess. The writing process, as ugly (or clean) as it may be, is part of the fun. You have to start somewhere. Never despise small beginnings.
Tip #3 – Search Amazon. Most eBooks are sold on Amazon. Start searching titles to see if yours is unique or if there are over hundreds with the same title. Keep keyword searches in mind. For instance, if you want to write about relationships like I did, keep your title relevant to keywords or phrases regarding relationships. This makes it easier for people who have never heard of you to search and find your new book.
Tip #4 – Set a Budget. There are plenty of people who are willing to take your money. Want to know how much I paid to self publish my eBook? I paid $269. Not $2,699 or $20 but $269. I paid $200 for editing and $69 for graphic design including the picture I bought off Shutterstock.com. This is not the time to start skimping or refuse to hire a professional. If you want to sell many copies than it needs to act and mimic other books that are professional (see: not self published). Let’s face it–there are many ugly and hideously cheap looking covers and words out there just waiting to bombard you. Make sure yours stands out. Take the time to get it right the first time. You only have one chance for your book cover to make a first impression. Also the first few sentences of the first paragraph of the first chapter are very important, and so on and so forth!
Tip #5 – Don’t Do it all Yourself. I want like to clarify that I did not upload Loves Me Not, my eBook, to Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble. Since MagGregor Literary Agency represents me, and this is a service they provide for their authors–I went for it! This is also one of the reasons why I switched agents and literary agencies because as an author I want to make sure I am staying current with the trends. I also know my limits when it comes to formatting and technology and this is definitely something I did not want to attempt myself. That said, maybe you are gifted and maybe you don’t have an agency who will do it for you. Ask around. Hire someone if need be–otherwise here are the uploading and formatting requirements for Amazon and Smashwords. If that doesn’t help you can always Wiki the answer.
Tip #6 – Pricing Matters. You don’t want to price your book too high or too low. Did you know that Amazon takes 65% of books sold between $0.99-$1.99 and 30% between $2.99-$9.99? If you’ve never published with a traditional publisher you might not know how many pages would equal a certain dollar amount. I wouldn’t recommend self publishing an eBook for more than $4.99. An eBook is meant to be easily accessible, downloadable, and purchasable. You want to add value to your name, brand, website, etc–not ask for too much from people. See below for pricing and word count suggestions:
+ $0.99 – 5,000 words or less (for instance a Chapter, a teaser, a booklet, or a giveaway for your blog/website)
+ $1.99 – 5,000-10,000 words
+ $2.99 – 10,000-20,000 words
+ $3.99 – 20-000-30,000 words
+ $4.99 – 30,000-40,000 (plus) words
Tip #7 – Marketing Matters. Just because there are lots of crappy eBooks out there doesn’t mean if you follow these tips and make the most presentable, most professional eBook known to man are you guaranteed to sell a ton of copies. The great thing with eBooks is they never go out of print! Times have changed and sometimes it can take a book a while to catch on. With traditional publishing, they have sales reps who sell mass quantities (wholesale), that juice up your stats. When my first book, Faithbook of Jesus, released on March 8, 2010 the entire print run of 5,000 copies had already sold out. This is not the same with eBooks. There are no “limited” quantities or numbers of print runs. Please don’t be discouraged if your book doesn’t sell well in the first week or weeks. My literary agent, Amanda Luedeke just released her first eBook, The Extroverted Writer and in it she gives all sorts of amazing tips on how to market yourself (not just for eBook only authors, but for all authors). I suggest you buy a copy for yourself. She also said if you sell 400-500 copies in a month or the first few months you’re doing alright.
Tip #8 – Celebrate with friends, family, and food. It can be so easy to get caught up in the lonely life of a writer. Don’t neglect your family and friends. When you take the time, money, and effort to get that eBook out there–it’s time to celebrate and never look back! You can market all you want, but at the end of the day the people you’re living with mean (and should matter) the most. Even if that means sacrificing some key marketing time or writing one last article. If you’re a writer who wants to be around for the long haul you’ll quickly learn that it’s a marathon not a sprint. I tried that and got burnt out. Don’t get burnt out! Have fun and remember to enjoy the process and smell an iPad 🙂
[Photo: ktoth(.), Flickr]