5 Simple Steps for Writing an eBook
I’m a business writer, not a fiction writer. I’ve written several eBooks for companies in the real estate and sonic branding industries—B2B (business-to-business) eBooks designed to attract qualified leads. Each time, the hardest part has been sitting down and getting started. For first-time writers or those with limited experience, eBook writing can be even more daunting. In this article, I’m going to take the stress out of the process by focusing on 5 simple steps for writing an eBook.
Step 1: Flesh Out Your Book Ideas
The truth of the matter is that writers don’t just sit down to write a book. That's not how writing works. You write a sentence, then a paragraph. And then if you’re really lucky, an entire chapter will come together. Writing happens in fits and starts—in bits and pieces. It’s a process. You must set realistic expectations and goals for yourself. Don’t expect to write an entire book in a day. And guess what? If you could accomplish that lofty goal, you’d probably end up rewriting significant portions of it.
Consider your first day of writing the ideas-fleshing stage. Just write down whatever comes to mind about the topic you’ve been assigned for your eBook. If you’re an independent writer, this phase will be preceded by an extra step: brainstorming. Whether you’re brainstorming or fleshing out ideas, just jot down everything that comes to mind. You can screen your ideas the following day when you can come to the project with what I call “clean eyeballs.”
Before you make any final decisions, you’ll need to do some research to ensure that you can gather enough authoritative sources to lend credibility to your writing. Whatever you do, don’t choose Wikipedia. Wikipedia does not have an editor-in-chief whose responsibility it is to fact-check. Use that site with great caution.
Step 2: Keep Book and Chapter Word Counts in Mind
If you’re writing a B2B eBook, the optimal word count is 2,000-2,500 words, although I occasionally write longer books when the company requires it. Other types of eBooks, like novels, can be upwards of 10,000 words, but a B2B book that will be used as a lead magnet must be an easy read. A good rule of thumb is a length that can be read during one’s morning commute to or from the office or on one’s lunch break.
With that word-count parameter in mind, begin drawing yourself a roadmap. My first task is to jot down a possible chapter sequence. The idea here is to zero in on a good topic flow. Keep in mind that chapters needn’t be the same length.
After I nail down the chapter topics and possible chapter titles, I begin sketching in some details. A B2B eBook must deliver value to the reader. By keeping that focus, I’m able to automatically weed out any dead wood that would serve only to usurp my precious word count.
Step 3: Maintain Your Writer’s Space
I write in the same place every time—my home office. It’s quiet and free from distractions. It’s got a great view of my park-like backyard, so it’s actually a very relaxing environment. And it’s equipped with all the creature comforts a busy writer should have. If you’re going to attempt to work in your living room, where the TV is on and the kids are playing, you’re not going to get much done. You will need to designate a quiet area of your home as your “writing cave.” And it must be for your use alone. No kids, no pets, no TV. No interruptions.
Step 4: Create Self-Imposed Book and Chapter Deadlines
The way I juggle multiple projects is simple: I create self-imposed deadlines. I literally map out on a timeline how much of each project I need to accomplish every day in order to meet the deadlines I’ve been given (or those that I’ve set for myself). It’s a lot like planning a dinner party. You have to know beforehand how much time each dish will take to prepare and cook so that all the food will be done at the same time.
Step 5: Take Your eBook for a Test Drive
Understand right now that your opinion of your own writing will be very subjective. Periodically preview your eBook chapters with people you trust. About 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to write a story for the famous Chicken Soup book series. It was an emotional story about my brother’s final days in his battle with cancer, so it had the potential to be a morbid, depressing story. But that wasn’t what Chicken Soup wanted. They wanted something inspirational and motivational. After I completed my first draft, I gave it to my husband to read. “Too heavy,” was his reaction.
And so, I trudged back into my writing cave and spent a couple of hours slashing and trashing, writing and rewriting. The end result, which I showed to a close male friend in addition to my husband, was an inspirational story called “Patience,” which the Chicken Soup editors loved. Had I not taken this step, the outcome would likely have been quite different.