How to Write an Ebook (in 9 Steps)

Ebooks are an increasingly popular medium. They are light and inexpensive for readers, allowing them to access volumes of content on a single device. In 2020, they reached peak popularity at 191 million units sold in the US alone.

Writing ebooks offers businesses and professionals an avenue to demonstrate their authority on a topic. They enable businesses to educate potential clients and reinforce their influence among existing customers. Fiction writers also use ebooks to reach out to a wide audience of readers who find ebooks more accessible due to their low cost.

What is an ebook?

An ebook is a book that is available to readers digitally. Like all books, ebooks consist of text and imagery. The difference is simply that they are read on flat-panel displays including computers, iPads, phones, Kindles, and other devices.

Ebooks are often written specifically as ebooks in order to save time and money. They can be an alternative to paperback or hardcover books, which require a more substantial investment to print out. But many books are now available as ebooks as well. In fact, most significant historical literature can now be downloaded as an ebook as well.

Ebooks are popular among professionals and businesses because they are a low-cost and accessible avenue for reaching out to customers/clients. You can share an ebook for free or at a low cost, allowing people to read long-form, informative content that educates and persuades them.

Why write an ebook?

There are many reasons to write an ebook.

In-depth content

Online articles and guides can only cover so much ground. The longest blogs may top off at about 5,000 words, but they aren’t always an ideal format. Also, most people don’t browse the web looking to read extremely long articles of 10,000 words or more. It’s simply not what they are mentally preparing themselves for.

Ebooks are the perfect format for long-form, in-depth coverage of any given topic. If you’re covering any complex topic, ebooks give you:

  • The liberty to provide far more extensive levels of information
  • The medium that customers refer to when they’re looking for extensive information

Ebooks serve a specific kind of consumer. People who download an ebook are typically very interested in the subject of the book. They aren’t normally looking for brief explanations of a passing topic of interest. So, ebooks enable you to speak to the most emotionally invested people. If you can tell a better story and present more interesting imagery than your top competitors, ebooks can help you gain a key edge over them.

Authority

Books can help any business or professional establish higher levels of authority within their niche. Even the simple fact that a business or person wrote a book on a specific topic is enough to bolster their authority. Ebooks, by definition, will contain many pages of useful and specific information about a concept. So, they provide a lot of value to readers. They also provide authority to the writer both through the value provided by the book and the fact that the writer has written such an in-depth work on the topic.

Lead magnet

The offer of a free ebook is a very good hook that is used to get more people onto your email list. A lead magnet is normally delivered something like:

“Sign up to our email list now and get our FREE ebook…”

Likewise, having a free ebook offered through your site is a great way to attract more traffic to your site. That’s why many businesses simply repurpose other types of content into an ebook. They can simply compile all their in-depth articles into a larger ebook, then use the ebook to attract a different kind of user.

Trust

Readers who read through your entire ebook will naturally see you as more trustworthy. After all, you’re delivering useful, insightful, and interesting information to them. By using an ebook to position yourself as an authority and educate readers in a meaningful way, you can build greater trust in your brand. The trust that ebooks help build is also trust from the most invested kind of customer.

9 steps for writing an ebook 

To demystify the ebook publication process, you can simply follow a few steps. This linear process makes publishing an ebook much simpler.

1. Choose the topic and goal

The first step is choosing the topic of the book and the outcome you hope to achieve with it.

The topic of your ebook should be something that resonates with your audience. It should solve a problem for them and offer insights they find relevant. 

The content in an ebook doesn’t need to deviate much from the content delivered through your other channels. It’s simply a way to dive deeper into the topics you already present to them. So, you will want to choose the specific topic that they will want to really learn more about.

While brainstorming the topic of your ebook, it’s important to plan what the goal of your book will be. We’ve gone over what some of those goals are by covering why to publish an ebook. The purpose of your ebook will influence the writing, as the writing must be completed with the ultimate goal of the book in mind. If the goal is simply establishing authority, the writing would be different than if the goal was to sell a specific product.

The topic and goal of your ebook lay the foundation for the outline and later steps of your ebook. The topic you choose will have to enable you to break down a series of sub-topics for your readers. 

2. Make an outline

When your topic is chosen, you can begin asking broader questions about your plan. Before outlining each individual chapter, you can start by simply listing every sub-topic or idea that you will cover. The contents of your ebook are important for all stages of the reader’s experience. It helps them decide whether the ebook will offer them what they need. When they read it, they will be following the progression that you set up for them.

For some ebook writers, an ebook is a string of blog entries stitched together into a single publication. While there’s a lot of truth to this, it has to factor in one important factor. Your book needs to flow properly from one sub-topic to another. Ideas need to flow fluidly and progress logically from chapter to chapter. The outlining stage starts with an outline of each chapter name and the content that is to be included.

An ebook doesn’t need to be very long, but length is another aspect of outlining. You have to carefully consider which subtopics need to be covered, and how much coverage they all need. Length, however, doesn’t come with a set standard. If you can thoroughly and engagingly cover your topic in 30 pages, that’s fine. But if you can keep the relevance and engagement up for 100 pages, that’s also fine.

Your outline can be edited as you go about drafting the content of each chapter. It doesn’t need to be set in stone from the start. However, an outline is important for getting started so you can set the foundation for fluid and understandable progression.

3. Read similar work

For most topics an ebook has covered, another ebook has been written. If not, then there’s a paperback available. Just as often, there are also a plethora of articles and blogs on the topic.

Even if you’re confident in the value your ebook will provide, it’s useful to have a glimpse at what others are doing. Looking for other successful ebooks allows you to understand the tone and subject matter that readers are looking for. It may even give you a few new ideas. You don’t need to even spend that much doing this comparison work. Just looking at a few tables of contents and skimming along can help you get a better idea.

The purposes of reading similar work to what you image yours will look like serves several purposes:

  • Understanding the tone and language used in more successful examples
  • Finding new ideas for topics to cover
  • Gaining a point of reference for some of the subtopics to cover

4. Draft the content

By now, all of the initial planning is complete. Using the outline you’ve made, it’s time to draft your content. 

It can be hard to get started sometimes. In general, it can be useful to simply start with the ebook’s introduction and conclusion. Those two sections will provide the structure with which you can tie the book together. You can then simply bridge your introduction and conclusion.

For longer ebooks, drafting the content can be easier said than done. Not only will the writing take longer, but the organizational structure may require changes. It’s hard to predict the entire progression of your book from the very start.

Your introduction is meant to be the bait. It should draw audiences in and make them want to continue reading. So, it’s important to keep it interesting while making promises that you will follow up on in the middle of the ebook.

From the introduction, it’s important to follow up with content that fulfils the promises made by the title and introduction. However, minor changes can be made to an outline after the writing has started, especially for longer ebooks. For this reason, it’s important to focus on one chapter at a time. At first, treat every chapter as if it were its own story. For all intents and purposes, each chapter is its own story.

5. Organize your design

There are many ways you can go about designing your ebook’s:

  • Cover
  • Backend
  • Colour scheme
  • Text (fonts)

To start, you will need a broader design. The easiest way to start is to choose an existing design template. You can download existing templates in a wide variety of file types and from a wide variety of sources. You can find free or paid templates.

Alternatively, you can employ a unique design. In this case, you will either need the time and expertise to create a unique design, or you will need to outsource it. Outsourcing design work can be costly, but with the right help, it can be much faster and be done with professionalism.

When completing this stage, testing different options is important. Try lining up different templates. The more options you can compare, the more likely you are to find the ideal design for your book.

They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But there’s a good reason why that saying exists. It’s in our nature to make quick judgements based on surface-level appearances. Even when you’re trying to get people to read an ebook, the digital thumbnail will play a large part in potential customers’ decisions. It pays to make sure your designs give the right message from first sight.

Imagery

Ebooks are often more complete with images. However, caution needs to be taken in many cases.

Many publishers would be ill-advised to add large, detailed images into an ebook. Even high-resolution covers can substantially increase the file size of an ebook. For a small publication publishing on a platform like Amazon, this can mean lower royalties.

For free ebooks downloadable from somewhere like your website or an email sent to your email list, you can take more liberties. But good imagery will still inflate the file’s size greatly, while also increasing your production costs. Exact costs will vary by method, with edited stock images from existing subscriptions being a less costly option.

Aside from costs, you need to factor in the file size of your ebook for usability’s sake. If your ebook is too bulky to download, you unnecessarily sacrifice potential business. It’s also worth considering the devices people use. 61% use a tablet, but some people use an old laptop or a subpar mobile device for ebook reading. Kindle, of course, does not even display color. Understanding your business’s following can help guide you to more efficient decision-making.

Ok, so with all of these troubles, why bother with images?

Well, images simply work. This is especially true if you’re simply trying to bolster your business’s authority by educating a wide audience. Visualizing some of the more important content in your ebook can greatly compliment readability. It can also bolster your reputation. Many images, including professional infographics, don’t need to be high-definition. With the right balance, the correct use of images can improve an ebook.

6. Emphasize research and statistics

When you’re trying to sell anything at all, citing research pays. This has been known since the early days of marketing when Claude Hopkins was studying what creates the best returns. The research is in, and research helps increase sales and bolster authority.

You don’t need to treat an ebook like an academic essay. However, when making any claim that is substantial and meaningful to your audience, it’s important to maintain trust and authority. You can do this by focusing on making true, evidence-backed claims and arguments. The more recognizable and authoritative your source is, the better.

You don’t always need to only cite the most recognizable scholars, institutions, and publications. In many cases, there will be little definitive research available. This is especially true when your writing covers highly niche subject matter. In this case, you can still use research that supports your arguments and cite the source. For some niche topics, the little research available will likely be from recognized sources for your readers.

Beyond the basic sense of using research in your writing, it also simply makes for more impactful writing. Stating “most people prefer working from home and would like to continue working from home after the pandemic” sounds less authoritative and impactful than “The portion of Americans working from home rose from 20% to 71% during the pandemic, and 54% want to continue after the pandemic subsides” while of course citing the source (Pew Research).

7. The editing process 

After everything is drafted, you will need to start the editing process. Depending on the length of the book, you may need several rounds of edits.

Editing is often a far more tedious process than writing. But it’s important to make sure that the writing comes across as readable and professional. For that reason, it’s a good idea to hire an editor. Their job is not just proofreading and correcting minor mistakes. They will also trim any excess and make sure the book is easily understandable and to the point.

At this point, you will also need to ensure your ebook is ready for publishing. Editing the actual writing is just the first part of that process. You will also need to make sure your file is the right type. This normally requires you to convert your ebook file. 

You have several options here. There are several popular formats that people save ebooks in:

  • PDF
  • ODF
  • MOBI
  • EPUB (Electronic Publication)
  • AZW

There are several others as well. So, you’ll want to make your choice based on the size of your book and the devices you want it compatible with. Overall, PDFs are the simplest option because they are easily downloadable and are a common file type that most devices can support. If your ebook is meant to be read on a computer, you’ll want a PDF. If you’re going for Kindle users, you’ll want to convert your file into an AZW.

8. Publish 

You have several options for publishing your ebook. The simplest way is to self-publish. 

You can self-publish ebooks and paperbacks for free through Kindle Direct Publishing. This is the cheapest and easiest way to reach millions of potential readers. You can publish a book with Amazon’s help in a matter of minutes. Normally, your ebook will be available to readers within 48 hours.

Publishing an ebook properly can be a great move for establishing credibility. It can also be a good move for promotion (more on that in a second). It is now extremely easy to publish a book, set the price, and promote it as necessary. 

Before publishing, double-check every aspect of your:

  • Written content
  • Outline
  • Organizational structure
  • Cover image
  • Design

After that, you can start promoting your ebook for maximum effect.

9. Promote your ebook

Many of the steps we’ve described are helpful when it comes to promoting your ebook. But you will want to maximize your book’s reach, often with a few extra steps.

This is where you can use all of your online presence. No one on your email list or on any of your social media feeds should be unaware that your book is out there. So, it’s time to take inventory of all your business’s followers. Make sure everyone on your email list gets an email regarding their book. Then make sure all social media connections on all platforms are accounted for as well. 

For ebooks, professional platforms like LinkedIn can be great places to share your work, presumably with many people who know about your products and services already. But it can’t hurt to make posts on all your business accounts.

If you’re worried these organic methods won’t have the desired impact, you have other options. Paid ads can be called for, especially when you have the market research to back them. In that case, don’t be shy to reach out to new audiences that are involved in your industry, but may not know of your business yet. Free ebooks are in fact a great way to attract more of those potential customers. This is where your ebook can also be used as an effective lead magnet.

The bottom line

Writing an ebook can be a difficult and time-consuming process. However, the payoff can be excellent. Ebooks are a great way to bolster your authority in your industry while reaching out to new audiences.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, eBooks are among the top 3 most effective lead magnet offers (B2B). When it comes to marketing, eBooks can help you kill two birds with one stone. You can effectively reach out to old and potentially new customers. They are also long-lasting; they can net you new leads for months or even years on end. All while being able to boast of yourself as a publisher of industry-specific insights.

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