Writing an ebook can be a great way to make money, increase your brand visibility, and grow your audience. But it can also seem like a massive undertaking if you’re unsure where to start. In this article, we’ll walk through the process of writing an ebook from start to finish so that you can get started on yours today!
- Research your target audience
- Pick a topic for your ebook
- Define the purpose of your ebook
- Create a hook for your readers
- Brainstorm and outline
- Put words on the Page
- Self-edit, then hire a professional
- Determine how you’ll distribute your ebook
- Promote and market
Here are 9 essential steps to writing an ebook.
One of the most important things you can do as an author is research and determine your target audience. People often fall into the trap of thinking their ebook will appeal to everyone. If you create a product for everyone, chances are no one will be interested. Rather than taking a broad universal approach, you need to dig deeper by doing research to validate your audience in order to understand the motivations, pain points, likes and dislikes they have. You can’t address everyone’s pain points in one ebook, so your audience can’t be everyone.
When researching your target audience, your goal is to have a specific person in mind. Here are some questions you can ask about your target audience:
- What issue do they have that you’re trying to solve?
- What do they do for work?
- How much money do they make annually?
- How old are they?
- What other books or ebooks might they have read?
These are just a few of many questions that can help you understand how to define a target audience.
A weak example of a target audience is men between the ages of 20 and 50 who want to lose weight. We’ve left a lot of information out in creating this target audience. An example of a more defined target audience would be middle-class men between the ages of 40 and 50 that struggle to lose weight. Write down your target audience. Keep notes on what you learn about them, and don’t hesitate to revisit your ideal reader.
If you already have an engaged audience, you could ask them to fill out surveys or ask questions that will help you understand who they are and what pain points they have. Email lists and social media like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are great ways to gather data on your audience.
If you don’t have an audience, look at creators with similar businesses. They’re likely to share a very similar audience. Are they creating ebooks about one topic but not another? Understanding how they engage their audience can help you determine which topic(s) is best for your target audience. Understanding the financial status of your audience will help you determine if you can successfully sell your ebook or if a free resource makes more sense.
You can revise your target audience once you’ve done more research. For example, 40- to 50-year-old middle-class men struggling to lose weight, who enjoy muscle-building leg and arm exercises. The more research you do, the more specific you can be and the more you can appeal to your audience.
What was originally a great example of a defined target audience is now even more refined and could help you create a more valuable product for your target audience.
If you can’t visualize how you’ll reach your ideal readers, then you aren’t clear enough on who you are creating content for.
Now that you’ve developed a target audience, it’s time to consider what topic your ebook will be about. You probably have at least one (if not a few) ebook topics floating around in your head. Good for you! A topic can feel like one of the easiest things to determine in your ebook writing process, but there are some important things you should consider before moving ahead.
Promotional vs. valuable
You should first consider what kind of content your topic entails. Does your ebook topic mainly relate to a product or service you offer? If so, this will lead to a more promotional ebook than an ebook that delivers real value for the reader. Readers can see through thinly veiled promotional content, and it can turn them away from your service, product, and even your company.
Is your target audience interested in the topic?
As promised, your target audience will inform every decision you make in the ebook writing process. An ebook titled “How To Drop 10lbs with 10 Minutes of Daily Core Exercise” will probably fail if you’ve established that they’re interested in arm and leg workouts. Don’t mistake your own interests with those of your audience.
If you surveyed your audience, you already have a list of potential topics. If you didn’t, you’d want to perform more research to find out what issues they already engage with. This could be anything from YouTube videos and TikToks to physical books and magazines.
Similar to establishing interest, you’ll want to establish value. What value can you offer your target audience with your chosen topic? To understand how you can best offer value, look at pain points or issues your audience is trying to solve.
Once you’ve picked your topic and considered what value you could offer, it’s time to dig deeper and consider the purpose of your ebook. While your purpose or goal is the entire reason for writing your ebook, this step comes third because understanding your audience and what they want will help you fulfill that purpose more than if you consider your goals before you consider theirs.
People create ebooks for a number of reasons, including:
- Growing an audience
- Driving traffic to an online course
- Establishing authority and expertise in an industry
- Generating revenue
You could have any number of these in mind as you enter the ebook writing process. Let’s look at a few of them in more detail and explore how they might impact the direction you take your ebook.
Driving traffic to your online course
Creating an ebook is but one of many ways to create a profitable online course. Ebooks can help you pull your target audience into a sales funnel for your course. It functions like an appetizer to the main course (pun intended), providing enough value so they’re confident your course will be worth the investment.
Our example audience is 40- to 50-year-old middle-class men that struggle to lose weight and enjoy muscle-building leg and arm exercises. An ebook that helps this target audience lose 5 pounds in 2 weeks will probably be extremely effective at driving sales to an online course about losing 50 pounds in 20 weeks.
Even if you haven’t considered online courses until now, you can easily create an online course from an ebook. Especially when your ebook is full of valuable information that helps readers solve a problem.
Establishing authority and expertise in your industry
You might also be interested in creating an ebook because you want to build authority in your industry. An informative, valuable ebook that engages your reader and helps them solve their problem is an excellent way to demonstrate your knowledge on a given topic. When your target audience sees your brand or company again, they’ll be more likely to trust you as an authority and will likely engage with your content again.
Generating revenue for your business
There are many paths to generating revenue with an ebook. The first is to simply sell it outright. When you charge, your reader is going to be a little pickier when it comes to purchasing your ebook. For this purpose, you’ll want to really ensure you offer great value, appeal to a target audience, and deliver a product that’s on par with what your audience expects from a published book.
You could also offer an ebook for free but require emails to access it—emails you can then nurture with additional products and offerings to earn you money. Or you could bundle multiple ebooks or digital products together and charge a single fee to access all of these resources.
The hook is what grabs your reader’s attention and entices them to find out more. If you don’t have a good hook, you’ll struggle to give this book away for free, let alone sell it as a stand-alone or as part of your online course.
Ultimately the hook comes down to a simple question from the reader’s perspective: what’s in it for me?
For an ebook, a simple way to think about this is in the form of a headline. How can you explain the value you’re offering in an enticing way, all within one or two sentences? It should build upon your chosen topic and target the specific audience you’ve already researched.
If you’re trying to share a book about weight loss for men aged 40-50, you need something with a juicy hook that appeals to the things they’re looking for–even on a subconscious level. This might be love, fulfillment, money, attraction, power, or influence.
So, your weight loss ebook or online course isn’t about dropping pounds. It’s about:
- The 30-Day Men’s Guide to Dropping Pounds without Ditching Chips and Beer
- From Flabby to Flexing: A Men’s Guide to Shredding Fat and Packing Muscle on the Road
- Fit and Fifty: Fighting for Your Ideal Body without the Hurt
Each hook speaks to a man with unique needs rather than speaking to a generalized version of men. While marketing is the ninth step in this list of how to write an ebook and make money, you should begin to think about it before and as you write. The ebook hook is a great place to start.
Need more proof?
Timothy Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, isn’t really about working four hours a week. It’s a comprehensive game plan to ditch the 9-to-5 gig and create a business that supports you in living an exciting, adventurous life.
Now, that’s a good hook.
Harv Ecker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind asks the following question: Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get rich easily while others are destined for a life of financial struggle?
This creates curiosity and suggests that if you know the answer, you could be a millionaire. That’s a great hook too.
Here are a few questions to help you get to your hook:
- Are there ebooks with similar topics to mine?
- Does mine take a different approach?
- What have you experienced that goes against common advice in your industry?
- What problem will you solve?
- How do you solve it in a way that others haven’t yet?
You now have your target audience, topic, and purpose figured out. It’s finally time to actually start creating. Brainstorming is not about finding the right words, perfect sentences, or even the best ideas. It’s about putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and planning the main ideas of your ebook. Then, you organize your ideas into an outline.
Make use of bullet points at first. Take note of any ideas you’d like to include under your main points. What are the steps you will take your readers through to get results? What resources do you recommend? If you have stories or case studies, note those here too.
As you work through your brainstorming and outlining process, it’s important to keep your audience, topic, and purpose or goal in mind. A great method in education that can help you do just that is the backwards design method.
Backward design is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than starting with the content, you start with the end goal and work your way backward to the content. This is a popular method in education, whether it’s in a public school classroom or an online yoga course.
A traditional approach to design will start with the lessons you want to teach, then you’ll look at the main points you’ve taught, and you’ll figure out how to determine what your students learned. A backward design approach starts with what you want your students to learn.
In a learning environment, you would then determine the best way to assess whether your students actually learned the material. And then, you’ll finally come up with the best way to teach the material based on the end goal and assessments in mind. This method puts the end goal, target audience, and purpose at the forefront of the entire design process.
Now it’s time to write. Take your outline and the notes you’ve compiled so far and begin to give them life on the page. Your main goal for the drafting part of the process is to get what some people call a ”crappy” first draft. Whether you’re writing an article, ebook, online course, or full-length book manuscript, you can’t create a book if you aren’t writing.
Once you’ve started the drafting process and your creativity is flowing, then you can slowly begin to focus on the more technical and editorial elements of the ebook writing process. It’s easy to get stuck on editing, revising, and rewriting a paragraph over and over. If you’re struggling with perfectionism, then set a timer and don’t even allow yourself to reread what you’ve written until the timer is up.
This doesn’t mean it’s not okay to revise and edit your work. It just means there is a time and place for that time-consuming work. If you find that an idea works better in a different chapter, or perhaps two chapters should swap places in the outline, make those changes.
Nothing you write is set in stone just yet. Just try to prevent yourself from making exhaustive edits before you have a full draft. Chances are, you’ll make many more changes before the end of the process anyway. Investing hours into the perfect paragraph or introduction might be wasted if an editor says it’s redundant or you hate it tomorrow.
What to do if you can’t start writing
Writer’s block is a common problem for writers. Even though you’ve created an outline and organized your points, and you have a clear goal in mind, it can still be difficult to put your ideas into words. Nowadays, you have plenty of options to help you push through this obstacle.
I enjoy using speech-to-text tools. These tools will allow you to turn your spoken words into written text. My favorite tool is a tool called Temi (note: it costs 25 cents per minute recorded). If you need a free tool, Google has its very own built-in speech-to-text tool right in Google Docs.
Your first goal when you’re writing anything is to create a bad first draft. Whether it’s an article, ebook, or online course, aim to hit the bad first draft as quickly as possible. Then go back and make it as good as it can be.
After the draft: considering the technical elements
You should keep your purpose, end goal, and final format in mind as you put words on a page. The purpose and final format of your ebook can also have a significant impact on how and how much you write. For example, if you’re going big and making this into a small book, then you may need chapters and subheadings. Here are some things to keep in mind for the most common formats:
If you plan to turn your ebook into a printed book, keep the topic, organization, and length in mind when you’re writing. Make sure to organize using chapters and aim for at least 25,000 words. This is so it can be printed with a spine big enough to put the title on it.
Preselling an online course
If you want to use the ebook as a free resource, make sure the ebook will give the reader an achievable result or outcome. If you can show them how they can get results with a short ebook, they’ll likely be more interested in what other services and products you have to offer. If you’re offering up your ebook as part of your online course preselling process, they’ll be incentivized to jump into the rest of your course content.
Free lead magnet
Free ebooks can also help generate valuable leads. It’s important to remember to avoid heavily promotional content if you’re creating a lead magnet. People will see right through that. Create something that delivers real value. Doing so will naturally lead your readers to wonder what other services or products you have to offer.
Related article: Hear from author Alli Worthington on how she uses online courses to deliver free resources like ebooks as lead magnets for her business.
Selling on ebook platforms
If you want to use the ebook to sell on a platform like Amazon, I highly recommend performing keyword research. Platforms like Amazon are really just search engines. Their goal is to show searchers what they want so they’ll make a purchase. If your topic is something your audience is truly interested in, then keyword research and good writing will help your ebook get shown to the right buyers.
Congratulations! You’ve created a full draft! Now it’s time to reread your ebook. The writing process is recursive, which just means you’ll probably revisit each step of the ebook writing process several times.
For example, you might finish a draft and realize you left a main point out. That could send you back to the brainstorming and outlining stage. A second reread might send you back to the drafting step so you can rewrite a page.
Your goal in these initial rereads is to make sure you’ve covered the most important concepts, created value, and set your readers up to achieve their goals so you can achieve yours. As you progress, take the time to edit and revise your text, focusing on smaller details each time.
While your first reread might have led you to include a whole new chapter, your third or fourth reread might focus on rewording this sentence and fixing commas throughout. Once you’ve self-edited all you can, it’s time to enlist some help.
Hire a professional editor
A professional proofreader and editor will catch errors you simply can’t catch because you’re the original writer. They can also help you refine your writing.
There are plenty of places to hire editors, like Reedsy, Upwork, and Fiverr. Reedsy is a site dedicated to book professionals, while sites like Upwork and Fiverr can connect you with freelancers and contractors that specialize in ebooks and writing. Regardless of where you decide to source an editor, you need to hire someone to give your material a good edit before you go to the next step of designing it for download.
Related article: Need more insight on how and when to hire a freelancer to help edit your work? Check out this guide on how to hire and work with freelancers.
There are dozens of places you can write an ebook and sell it online or distribute it for free. However, each platform will have its own tools and requirements for publication. It’s important for you to consider these requirements before you hire a designer to complete your ebook because they’ll need to follow these requirements as they format the ebook.
Common ebook publishers
Of the many options available to you, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books are three of the most popular choices with easy-to-use software and a large market share of the online book space.
Kindle Direct Publishing
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s platform for ebook publishing. Compared to the Apple Books and Barnes & Noble self-publishing platform, KDP is said to be the most user-friendly choice. While you can create an ebook using a simple Microsoft Word file, you could also use Amazon’s own software called Kindle Create. This will optimize your ebook for digital viewing on Kindle devices. You can easily find their required formats online.
Barnes & Noble publishing
Like Amazon, Barnes & Noble has their own platform for self-publishing. If you would like to tap into the large market share of ebook readers B&N has, you’ll need to follow their ebook formatting requirements. You can choose to use Microsoft Word, HTML, TXT, and ePUB files when formatting your ebook.
Also similar to Amazon, B&N has Nook e-readers. When you publish using this platform, you have the opportunity to make use of B&N’s marketing engine and recommendation system. Just like search engines online, Nook will recommend your book to new readers if it believes it’s of interest to them. You also have the chance to be included in promotional material sent out by Barnes & Noble.
If you choose to publish with Apple Books, then you have the choice to use Pages, ePUB, Microsoft Word, PDF, Mobi, and KF8 files when formatting for publication. Apple’s software is on parr with the B&N software, but they also offer great resources for designing your ebook cover and internal pages.
Another benefit of choosing Apple Books is that they offer a wide range of distribution options. You can choose to make your ebook available on all devices, or only on iOS devices; this gives you more control over how users access your book.
Online course platform
If you aren’t interested in publishing your ebook on a massive platform like any of the ones previously mentioned, you can restrict access to a smaller audience. If your goal is to create an ebook as part of a larger customer journey that leads to an online course or an email list, you can distribute it through a platform like Thinkific. You can keep design simple and just focus on creating a file that can be easily shared through an email for your students and enrollees.
Hiring a designer to complete your ebook
Hiring a professional ebook designer is completely optional. The popular publishing methods we’ve just discussed have tools and resources that will help you format and design your ebook on your own if you’d like. Still, creating an ebook requires design and you might want a professional’s touch.
Once you’ve decided on a format for your ebook, then you can begin looking for designers. Some designers will specialize in specific formats. For example, you might find a designer that specializes in ebook design for Kindle Direct Publishing. If you were interested in creating an Apple Books exclusive, this designer wouldn’t work for you.
Here are some steps to follow as you look for an ebook designer:
- Compile a small list of ebooks you find aesthetically pleasing. This will help the designer understand what kind of design you want in your ebook.
- Determine a budget. Digital design is an entire industry with a range of rates. Figuring out what your budget is will help you not only stay on track financially but also save you time in your research.
- Research designers that have your ideal design in their portfolio, fit within your budget, and can create according to your ebook’s final format.
- Finally, reach out to one or more of the designers you’d like to work with. They’ll be able to answer any questions about your project and they may be able to help you visualize what the final product will look like with their services. In this step, you’ll make a final decision on hiring a designer and move onto step 9 in the ebook writing process.
Now that your ebook is on its way to being a published ebook, it’s time to think about how you’re going to generate engagement with an ebook marketing strategy. How are people going to find out about your ebook?
We’ve talked about ebooks as a lead generator for courses and services, but ebooks also need content to direct people to them. Here are some of the most popular methods for attracting readers:
Email isn’t dead. Email marketing generates millions of dollars in revenue for companies across the globe. When designing your email marketing strategies, you’ll want to consider your audience, their goals, and deliver value even in your emails. This method works best when you can create engaging content and develop meaningful relationships with your readers.
Social media marketing is another great venue for an effective marketing strategy. However, you should really focus on your target audience with this one. Different audiences can be found on different social media platforms.
For example, TikTok is known to be popular among Gen Z. It’s possible you’ll find 40-50-year-old men on the platform, but you’re much more likely to find them on a platform like Youtube or Facebook.
As you create social media content, plan for each platform individually. You shouldn’t copy and paste your Facebook post to your Twitter account. Users engage with Facebook differently than they engage with Twitter. In order to get the best results, you should optimize your content for the platform you’re posting on.
Advertising is a paid form or component of marketing. Audience also plays a significant role in how you choose to advertise. When you choose to advertise on any platform, you have the choice to target a specific audience. The more you know your target audience, the better you can target them with your ads. If you aren’t properly researching your audience, you can really lose money with paid advertising because you either misunderstand your audience or target the wrong group.
After you’ve completed an advertising campaign, you can reevaluate whether or not it’s an effective method for your audience, ebook, and business. Is there a large portion of your audience that clicks your ads and downloads your ebook? If so, what percentage of ebook readers convert to paying customers? You’ll want to be especially careful if your ebook is a free resource that leads to paid content. Only a small percentage of your audience is likely to move from one portion of your sales funnel to the next and you’ll want to make sure the advertising cost balances with your overall gain in revenue.
Webinars and videos
Creating a video or webinar about your ebook is a great way to reach new people and broaden your ebook’s reach. Be careful not to share the same content from your book. Instead, you’ll want to create a video that compliments your book.
For example, if you write an ebook on how to lose weight for 40-50-year-old men and you focus on exercise plans, a complimentary video could feature easy meal plans and meal prepping skills.
Marketing your ebook this way will also give you the chance to engage with your audience in the comments of the video or during the live stream if you choose to record the webinar live. That can give you helpful insight into how your material will be received by your target audience, especially if your marketing strategy begins before the book is officially published.
Remember that integrating your content creation and marketing strategy can happen before your ebook is ready. Even if you haven’t published, generating excitement and engagement with any of these methods will help you galvanize downloads for your ebook.
Read more: Top 11 Ebook Creator Tools
Interested in getting started with an online course? Try Thinkific free today.