The first time I ventured into the scary realm of ebook writing, I had to Google how to do it. Seriously. But with the growing demand for businesses to publish ebooks to expand their reach, I figured that do or die I was going to get it right. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve written multiple ebooks for my clients. Here’s my recipe for producing a successful ebook, in 7 fundamental steps.
Step #1: Define the Target Market
This is a crucial first step in anything you write, but even more so for an ebook that takes longer to write (and costs a lot more money) than the average blog post. The more narrowly you target your niche, the more likely you are to get results. Start with a broad definition of whom you’re writing for, then break it down into segments and create personas.
Let’s assume you’re writing an ebook to attract subscriptions to a tour operator’s mailing list:
- Does the company target travel agents or travelers?
- Are the products (tours) offered high end and expensive, or backpacking and budget?
- What are the demographics of the customers who typically take up the tours available?
When you’ve listed and grouped your targets into various categories, decide which group you’re specifically targeting with the ebook and create a persona with a name, a job, a life and needs, wants and desires.
Step #2: Identify the Call to Action (CTA)
Ok, now that you know whom you’re writing for, you need to determine what you’re trying to tell/sell them. Usually the client determines this, but if you’re a marketing writer for a company you might be the one in the hot seat. Remember, ebook writing (and any other form of content) doesn’t work well unless there’s a clear CTA that tells the reader exactly what you want him/her to do, and what they can expect to receive in exchange. In an ebook, you’ll likely have several different versions of the same CTA appearing in various locations to reinforce the message, so make sure that you know what it is and that you write content that supports it.
Step #3: Select the Tone, Size and Format
This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often I ask an ebook writing client this question and they don’t know the answer! You can’t just start writing and hope you reach the end somewhere. I’ve found that good questions to ask the client are:
- What is the primary purpose of producing the ebook, e.g.: create awareness/generate leads/brand building?
- What are the main points you want covered? Even if a client doesn’t have a clue how to go about ebook writing, chances are good s/he knows roughly what they want in it, so don’t accept only a working title.
- How in-depth do you want the information to be, e.g.: brief overview/general explanation/detailed instructions?
- What’s the main message you want the reader to take away from the book?
The answers to these will give you an idea of how much information you need to provide on the topic and how to break the information up. Your target market definition should help you to pinpoint the tone and format, too.
Step #4: Create an Outline
No, I don’t just mean a list of the chapters or sections. I mean what goes into each section, too. You have a specific message to deliver and by now you know what your CTA/s are going to be, so one way to structure the ebook for maximum benefit would be to create sections that each support a different question or objection the prospective customer might have.
Map out each section in terms of the format, the information that’s going into it and the projected number of words. This will help you to identify whether the “size” is realistic, too.
Step #5: Write the Intro and Conclusion
Yes, I know we all learned in school to write the essay first and the intro last, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to ebook writing. You can “tweak” them later, but by writing the beginning and ending first (based on the outline, naturally) you create a framework for yourself to operate in. You’re less likely to find yourself going off-track in the midst of a chapter, because you can keep referring back to your intro and ending for information. Say what you’re going to say, say it and then say what you’ve said.
Step #6: Let it Rest
I never, ever turn in an ebook writing assignment right after I finish it. Not even if I’ve proofread it twice. The reason is because fresh eyes see things that tired ones don’t, so let your work—and your eyes—take a break of at least a few hours to a day before you finalize it.
Step #7: Check and Finalize
Once your rest period is over, review the content and weigh up carefully whether your writing delivers on the promise in the introduction all the way through. If not, you can either modify the intro or the body, but there’s nothing worse than an ebook that starts off saying one thing and ends up saying something else. Read it aloud—that will help you to pick up typos as well as awkward phrasing and ensure that when you submit it to your client, it’s the very best work you can produce.