It’s official: eBooks now outsell physical books on Amazon.
In less than half a decade, eBooks have gone from a tiny fraction of the market patronized by a niche audience to a multi-billion dollar industry that’s changed the way we read and publish books. Gone are the days of waiting for months to write, edit, proofread and print books; the modern writer can get a book into the market almost instantly thanks to digital publishing.
Writing eBooks isn’t very dissimilar to writing physical books. Learn how to start writing your first book with this step-by-step course on publishing eBooks for profit.
In this blog post, we will tell you how to write and publish a non-fiction book. For fiction books, follow the steps highlighted in our tutorial on How to Start Writing a Book.
Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas
Every writing process starts with an idea. For non-fiction eBooks, this means researching niches and coming up with ideas that appeal to a narrow, but sufficiently large market. Everything – from the content to the formatting – springs from the idea, so make sure that it is clear enough in your own head before putting pen to paper.
If you hit a creative wall, try following these brainstorming tips:
See What’s Selling: The best way to know what to write is to know what’s actually selling. The Amazon Kindle Bestseller list is a good to start your survey. Besides the obvious (romance, thrillers by big name authors), you’ll find that certain genres – personal finance, self-improvement, etc. – outsell others.
What’s the Conversation? There’s a central thread of conversation that runs through the heart of every industry and vertical. In the tech industry, for instance, it’s Big Data. A year back, it was Cloud Computing. For the automobile industry, it’s electric cars. For consumer electronics, wearable watches, and so on. Browse the forums, blogs and publications in your industry to find out what people are talking about. This will give you tons of ideas for topical, in-demand books.
Pick an Evergreen Niche: Weight loss, productivity, making money – these are niches that never go out of fashion. Writing an eBook in one of these markets is usually a good idea, provided you can bring a fresh perspective or a new twist on old topics.
Step 2: Do Your Research
Research is the heart and soul of any non-fiction eBook. Once you have your idea, it’s time to make Google your best friend and pick up statistics, facts and figures to move your idea forward. Follow these tips while doing research:
Who’s Buying? Who are the chief consumers in your niche? If you’re writing a book on entrepreneurship, are your customers seasoned startup guys or starry eyed greenhorns fresh out of college? Remember the 80:20 rule – 20% of your customers will account for 80% of your sales. It’s crucial that you find out who these 20% people in your niche are.
What are They Paying? What is the average and median selling price for books in your niche? Are there frequent discounts? If yes, how much? What is the most people are willing to pay? What is the least (besides free)?
Where are They Selling? Find out where the best authors are selling their books – their own websites, SmashWords, Amazon, etc. This information will come in handy when it’s time to release your eBook in the market.
Statistics, Facts and Figures: If you want your eBook to be taken seriously, make sure that you back opinions and arguments with statistics, facts and figures. Google, WolframAlpha, StatisticBrain, ZanRan and USA.gov are some great places to start your search.
Research Papers: An argument carries a lot more weight when it is backed by academic research. Your best bet is JSTOR, but since most of you won’t have memberships, try Google Scholar and Google Books instead.
(Pro Tip: Since most research papers are PDF files, add the qualifier ‘filetype:pdf’ in your queries to search for only PDF files)
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Step 3: Take Notes and Organize Resources
Raw research is rarely useful. Organizing it into more comprehensible form will make your writing process much smoother. Follow these tips for taking notes and organizing resources:
Use Excel: Keep all statistics and figures organized in an independent Excel spreadsheet.
Organize Quotes and Citations: If you’re referencing outside sources, make a separate Word document to organize all citations and quotes. Use summaries whenever possible.
Take Notes: Jot down key issues, ideas, and tips in another document. This will come in handy when you’re actually writing the book.
Step 4: Create a Detailed Outline
The outline may be optional for a fictional work, but an absolute must for a non-fiction eBook. Your readers are most likely reading your book to find a solution to a problem. Burying this solution in mounds of musing and irrelevant asides will end up frustrating your readers. Which is why you need a detailed outline to help with the writing process.
Follow these tips while creating the outline:
The outline should read like a table of contents.
Use the outline to organize ideas by chapters.
Include detailed sections and sub-sections, each with its separate summary.
Include references to citations/statistics you found in step #2.
Step 5: Write
This is where the rubber meets the road. Writing should be fairly easy now that you have a detailed outline of the entire project. Following these tips should make it even easier:
Be Direct: Don’t lose your audience by meandering around the solution. Be direct and to the point.
Work on Your Voice: A non-fiction book doesn’t have to be boring. Pepper in some personality and wit whenever you can. A strong voice can often overcome weak research or arguments.
Use Industry-Appropriate Style: A weight-loss book for middle aged housewives shouldn’t read the same as an advanced finance book for MBAs. Use industry-appropriate style whenever possible – academic/professional for serious topics aimed at industry insiders; casual/conversational for general audiences in broader niches.
Keep the Goal in Mind: Every eBook is written with a specific goal in mind. Maybe you want to help busy people make the most of their time, or help beginners pick up a programming language. It helps to remember this goal while writing. It’ll make your writing much more concise and purpose-oriented.
Step 6: Edit
Writing is the book is only half the battle won. The much harder part is editing stray thoughts and ideas into order. Take heed of the following when editing your eBook:
Keep Critical Distance: It’s a good practice to give yourself at least a month or two between writing and editing. This will give you the critical distance necessary to view the book dispassionately.
Be Merciless: You must wield the editing pen with absolute ruthlessness. Chop down anything that isn’t crucial to the overall goal of the book. This can often mean cutting away a beloved turn of phrase, an insightful observation or a funny aside. Ideally, your book should be 2/3rd its original length after a solid editing exercise.
Check Grammar and Spelling: Nothing destroys the perception of professionalism faster than a bunch of grammar and spelling errors. Pore through each and every word manually instead of relying on Word’s spell check. You can also get outside help for this if you want.
Step 7: Get Published
Getting the book published is the final piece of the puzzle. Thanks to the number of tools and services available today, this will be the easiest of the seven steps.
Follow the Publisher’s Rules: Platforms such as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Amazon CreateSpace have detailed instructions on formatting. Make sure that you follow these rules before hitting ‘publish’.
Include a Table of Contents: A table of contents is a must for every non-fiction book. This is very easy to do with Word’s in-built table of contents creator.
Design an eBook Cover: Unfortunate as it may be, we do judge books by their covers. A high quality cover can dramatically increase sales. You will need some design experience and Photoshop knowledge to create a good cover. Consider taking a course to learn how to design eBook covers that sell.
That’s it – you’re now the proud author of your very own eBook. Now it’s time to hit the ‘publish’ button and wait for the cash to flow in! If you’re publishing on Kindle, this course will tell you a lot about getting your book on Amazon, boosting your credibility and getting more sales.
What do you think about our seven steps? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!