You’ve faithfully followed your content strategy and filled your website with useful blog posts, videos, and infographics that convey your knowledgeability. Now you’re ready for a new content venture and considering an ebook as the perfect next step.
But there's just one problem: you don't know how to write an e-book.
Not to worry—we’ll break down everything you need to know to bring your first e-book to life.
What is an E-book?
An e-book, or “electronic book,” is a book that is digitally distributed. Those who download e-books can read them on phones, tablets, computers, or dedicated e-book readers like the Kindle or Nook.
The major difference between e-books and print books is how they are consumed and distributed.
In fact, many print books also offer an e-book alternative for those who want to save space or carry multiple books with them on a small device. And just like a print book, e-books have “pages” that can be flipped or scrolled, and are often broken into chapters and sections.
Why write an E-book?
E-books take time to write, format, design, and publish. If you’re going to invest resources to bring one to life, you need to understand how it fits into your overall content strategy.
An e-book allows you to thoroughly explore a topic you’re an expert in so you can bring new leads into your business’ sales funnel. Whether you’re giving it away as a free lead magnet on your website or selling it on Amazon or another online ebook distributor, you should have a clear pathway to convert readers into paying customers.
But generating leads isn’t the only benefit to writing an e-book. Here are a few other ways your business can benefit from an e-book:
- Establish authority in your industry
- Build trust with your readers
- Increase traffic to your site
- Create new blog content with excerpts from your e-book
- Give new life to old blog content by using it in your e-book
8 Steps for Writing an E-book
The thought of creating a single, beautifully designed document with thousands of words and corresponding images can be daunting, but our guide will teach you how to write a successful e-book in 8 steps.
1. Choose a topic
Writing an ebook is like taking a long road trip. You need to know where you’re going before you begin. If you were to start driving with no clear direction, you’d only end up lost and frustrated along the way.
Having a clear vision when choosing your ebook topic will make your writing process much easier.
Choose your topic based on the goals you want to accomplish with it, not necessarily your own personal interests. Also consider your own expertise and what your audience has to say. For instance:
- What questions do you answer repeatedly?
- What problems do your customers or clients face that don’t have a clear solution?
Either comb through data you already have or survey your audience to better understand what they want to know. Through detailed analysis, you may notice patterns emerging in the responses.
While seeing these patterns may tempt you to answer all of your audience’s questions at once, resist the urge. A definitive guide is not your friend—especially for your first ebook. Instead, focus on just one specific question or topic.
If length is a concern, don’t worry about your ebook being too short. Short, focused ebooks help you:
- Target specific segments of your audience,
- Provide a thorough solution to your customers’ specific problem, and
- Build anticipation and ideas for your next ebook.
Moreover, while print books needs to be longer to justify printing costs, ebooks don’t have that problem—giving you the freedom to make your ebook as long or short as you need.
2. Build your chapter outline
Once you’ve figured out the specific topic for your e-book, write a chapter outline that provides valuable information about your main topic.
Instead of aiming for a certain number of chapters, include as many as you need to fully address your chosen topic.
Think of chapters as headings in a long blog post. Under each heading, write focused information that supports the overall topic of your ebook. The more detailed your outline, the more structured the writing process will be—meaning no long-winded tangents that ultimately get edited out.
3. Write your e-book one chapter at a time
You can break through the overwhelming fear of writing an e-book by treating each chapter as a single unit. Approaching your ebook like this will break up your work into mini-topics within your main topic, where you can focus on each chapter's main point specifically.
You do, however, runs the risk of making each chapter seem disconnected from the others, but you can keep your ebook flowing smoothly by following these tips:
- Keep your main topic in mind. If you remember that each chapter is there to support your main argument, it will be much easier to bring them all together as a cohesive ebook. Typing your main topic into the header of each page is a great way to keep it in front of you at all times.
- Focus on your audience. What specific information do they need to solve the problem you’re addressing? Include data and graphics to support your ideas in each chapter.
- Include calls-to-action at the end of each chapter. A concise CTA is a great way to wrap up a chapter while flowing into the next one. There are a lot of great options to choose from like steps to apply the chapter, a link to a resource page on your website, a study, or blog post that supports your argument, or even an opportunity to talk with you directly. Your most important CTA, though, should be an invitation to join your email list. Using your ebook to build your list is a best way to turn your readers into leads for your business.
<div class="tip">Is writing not your strong suit? Not to worry—you can always outsource. Find a ghostwriter to tackle each chapter of your e-book or use an e-book writing service to craft the perfect marketing material for your brand.</div>
4. Write the introduction and conclusion
Don’t take your e-book’s introduction and conclusion lightly—they may be the only sections some people read.
It might seem strange to write your introduction and conclusion after you finish the body of your e-book, but doing so has its advantages.
The introduction sets the tone and draws people in. It should build tension and intrigue, creating an urge in people to continue reading the chapters to have their questions answered.
You can tailor your introduction to the information you actually included in your chapters. Instead of updating the introduction as your e-book comes to life, you can write it last, saying exactly what your readers need to convince them your ebook is worth reading.
5. Proofread and edit
Don’t edit as you write. This will only slow you down and keep you from putting your e-book out to your audience. Instead, finish your manuscript first, and then edit the whole document.
Yes, your e-book will be ugly at first. Don’t worry. That’s why revisions are necessary for any writing project.
You’ll find that some sections need to be rewritten, while others will need only minor touch ups to get your finished product.
Don’t try to edit everything all at once. Break down your editing and proofreading process into the following sections from less-specific to more-specific so you can focus on one aspect of your ebook at a time:
- Structure - Take a high-level view of your e-book. Check the chapter order, headlines and subheadings. You should be able to read only the headings and understand the main points of your answer.
- Fluff - Read through the body of each section with (a figurative pair of) scissors. Cut out anything that doesn’t support your main thought in each specific section. Then remove sections that don’t support your ebook’s main topic. Removing the fluff will move your readers through your book without losing their interest.
- Flow - Focus on sentence, paragraph, and chapter structure. Each one should flow seamlessly into the next, guiding your readers through your e-book toward your final destination.
- Proofread - Look for any mistakes that slipped through the cracks, like spelling, punctuation, and sentence fragments. An app like Grammarly will catch most mistakes, but hiring a professional proofreader adds a human touch. A fresh, professional perspective is a valuable editing tool.
Before you edit, make a copy of your original draft. You’ll be moving sections, deleting paragraphs and rewording sentences. Sometimes you may delete something only to realize you want to include it somewhere else. It’s best to keep a copy of your rough draft so you can go back to it throughout your editing process.
6. Format and design
Once you have the body of your e-book ready to go, it’s time to format and design it to create an optimal reading experience for your audience.
How you format your book will depend on the file format you use.
Most of this information can be used for all formats, but specifically has PDF e-books in mind. Formatting for Kindle and Nook looks slightly different; be sure to review Amazon’s e-book resources and the Barnes and Noble Press formatting guidelines.
Generally speaking, however, you should follow these guidelines:
- Leave a lot of white space. Give your pages wide margins, large font size, and plenty of space between lines and paragraphs. Each of these components will keep your readers flowing easily through your content without having to strain their eyes to follow along.
- Include a header and footer. At minimum you should include page numbers at either the top or bottom of pages, but don’t be afraid to put other helpful items, e.g., the title of the chapter or e-book, or a link to your website.
- Write the front matter/end matter. Remember to create a table of contents, copyright page, and an “About the Author” page with a call-to-action. This last one will tell your readers who you are and direct them to your website.
- Double check pictures and graphics. If you included pictures and graphics in your e-book, be sure to list any copyright or source information. Finally, check that they are positioned and proportioned correctly.
While formatting focuses primarily on the inside of your e-book, design focus on the outside. No matter how a book is published, readers will view the cover as a gateway to the content inside. Publishing your ebook with an unprofessional or off-putting cover design will cause your readers to think your content is also unprofessional or not worth reading.
For that reason, consider hiring a professional designer to create your e-book cover. This investment alone could be the difference between cash and crickets.
Congratulations! Making it to this step means your e-book is ready for the world.
Have you decided if you are going to sell or give away your e-book?
If you plan to sell it on your website, you’ll need a dedicated sales page with payment processing for your audience. Fortunately, several WordPress tools and plugins make this a relatively simple process, including:
Alternatively, you can go the self-publishing route with your e-book to get it listed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other e-book distributors. This may generally require a little more effort, but is manageable so long as you follow each distributor's instructions.
8. Promote your new e-book
Writing an e-book takes time and energy, but an even bigger challenge may be finding people to read it.
Just as you would for any new product or service, you need to plan a marketing strategy to promote your e-book. Fortunately, you’ve already done much of the strategizing when you picked your topic—for instance, you know exactly who’s asking the questions your e-book seeks to answer.
To develop your e-book’s readership, consider promoting it in a few of the following ways:
- Send it to your email list and ask readers to share it.
- Schedule social media posts to announce it.
- Use excerpts as blog posts and add CTAs to direct people to your e-book landing page.
- Create a form and use your e-book as a lead magnet on your site.
- Host a giveaway.
- Target your audience with social media ads.
- Work with influencers.
If you're selling or giving away your ebook on your website, create a landing page that shows your readers exactly how the e-book will answer their questions. Include social proof from early readers to show that others have already read and loved your book!
From start to finish, creating an e-book requires significant time and energy. Done well, however, the payoff is tremendous—a successful e-book can generate new leads to your business and establish your brand’s expertise in your industry.
So what are you waiting for?
Use our e-book writing guide to get started bringing it to life. Just remember to tailor your e-book to your specific business needs.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Trevor Wallis.