It’s a bit scary, no?
Staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page with thousands of words ahead of you is enough to make you quit writing your ebook before you begin.
So, instead of sharing your information, you keep it locked inside your head, where it can’t be seen.
This is especially frustrating because ebooks seem straightforward. After all, lots of other people seem to be writing them, so how hard can it be?
But the truth is: most ebooks are terrible. The average ebook author doesn’t know what they’re doing. And they lack the support and resources of a traditional author. Despite their best efforts, they simply don’t know what they don’t know.
But what if you knew how to write an ebook step by step? Where to start, what each step entails, and how to prevent the overwhelm?
That’s what this post will share with you:
The fact is: everyone has areas of expertise that they can write about and sell to those who value their knowledge.
Still, it’s far easier to quit than to finish. Our hope is you can use this guide to defeat the temptation to give up. If you follow this process, you can avoid running out of ideas, getting distracted, or becoming overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task.
However, before we proceed, it’s important that we clarify exactly what we mean by “ebook”. This post is based on the traditional definition of an ebook: a non-fictional “information product” written to teach something valuable.
If that’s what you plan on writing, then read on to find out how.
Writing an ebook is not a “build it and they will come” kind of thing. You need to be strategic in learning how to write your own ebook.
And the most important step, by far, is choosing an effective topic. A great topic will make or break your ebook. It separates the money makers from the duds.
As such, this is where you’ll spend all of your time before you write a single word. Your topic is the crux of how to write a successful ebook.
There are five core considerations when choosing a topic:
If you don’t thoroughly understand who your target audience is, you’re essentially shooting blind. At that point, figuring out how to write a good ebook comes down to dumb luck.
Instead, every decision you make about your ebook should be run through the filter of whether it makes sense for your target audience. Being able to see things from your audience’s perspective is crucial. The reader must come first, last, and always.
So, naturally, you must understand your reader. You need to do some serious thinking about who you are writing your ebook for.
The first things to consider are your demographics and psychographics:
Demographics – facts such as age, education, and location.
Psychographics – traits such as habits, hopes, and dreams.
Use the demographics and psychographics to define your audience. As you consider topics, picture them in your mind. Imagine yourself as them and think about what would most resonate with you.
Way too many ebook authors simply write what they think their audience cares about.
But, if you’re serious about knowing how to write a successful ebook, that’s not enough. You need to know for sure that your ebook is something your audience wants. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time.
Always remember: your audience doesn’t care about you or your bank account. They care about their own needs, wants, and problems.
If you have an established blog, then you are in a great position to determine what your audience wants. A blog is a built-in barometer of your audience’s interests. Look for posts based on related topics that generate a lot of attention, questions, or other interactions on your blog. That’s a good indication of what your audience wants.
If you have an established audience, you could also run a survey asking people to choose between several different possible topics. A survey is also a good opportunity to find out what specific questions your audience needs help answering and how much they would be willing to pay.
If you don’t have the benefit of an established online presence, there’s still plenty you can do to determine what your audience wants.
First, identify several competitors in your niche. They should be targeting the same audience as you with similar types of content and offers.
Then, for each site in your list, use BuzzSumo to find the most popular content from all your competitors. Look for related or recurring themes. Visit the most popular posts and look at the comment sections to see what your audience is saying and what questions they have.
This exercise should give you some great insights, but if you want to take things a step further, you could also do a complete online competitive analysis using an advanced tool like Ahrefs.
The desire to get sales can make it tempting to pick a “hot topic” to write about. But if you know little about the topic, creating an ebook about it will be a hard slog.
You’ll need to do lots of research and the act of writing will require much more effort. It’s like swimming upstream. You’re fighting against currents that push you in the opposite direction.
But there’s a better way.
Chances are you’ve had many experiences. Those experiences give you stories to tell. And each story carries its own lessons. And since everything you’ve experienced has happened, is happening, or will happen to someone else, your lessons have value. That’s why the best ebooks always share personal experiences about common themes.
To capitalize on this in your own ebook, think about your experiences and how they relate to your target audience. See if you can find connections between lessons you’ve learned and what your audience wants.
The best part about this approach is that you don’t need to be an expert or have a certain set of qualifications. You just need to make it clear that your ebook is based on your own experiences.
Offering the same thing as everyone else is an easy way to be ignored.
Knowing how to write a good ebook comes down to offering your audience something they can’t get elsewhere.
When reviewing your competition, look at what kind of ebooks they are already offering. What topics do they cover? What segment of the market do they appeal to?
Then, think about how you might differentiate your ebook with a different topic, a new take on the same topic, or by targeting a unique segment.
You need to give your audience a good reason to get your ebook instead of the competition’s.
Your ebook doesn’t need to appeal to everyone, but your potential audience needs to be sizable.
A topic that’s too obscure will not garner enough interest or sales to support a business. You’ll wonder why you aren’t gaining traction when you’ve actually already saturated your market.
So, before finally deciding that you’ve found the perfect topic for your audience, ask yourself: are there enough people in the audience?
Your title is often the only chance you have to hook potential readers. It is the first thing people read and your only chance at a first impression. This makes the words in your title the most important of your entire ebook.
If you don’t have a background in copywriting, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a good title. But consider this: the title of your ebook isn’t just a title, it’s also part of your:
You don’t need to be a professional copywriter to see how your ebook’s title directly affects everything else. The more effective your ebook’s title, the more effective the marketing surrounding it.
The perfect title must simultaneously convey your well-chosen topic while capturing your audience’s attention and inviting them to read further.
Ideally, you’d pull this off in just a few words, but it’s not always possible to create a short, yet informative title. So, don’t be afraid to go with a catchy main title that relies on a subtitle to clarify the topic.
Since writing the title is ultimately a feat of copywriting, a good strategy is to use headline copywriting techniques when creating your title.
Keep in mind that your title isn’t set in stone. As you write your content, you may realize another title is stronger. Or, once you finalize your ebook’s content, you may feel another title is a better fit. You’re free to change it, just make sure it’s as strong as possible.
Once you’ve decided on a topic and title, you might be tempted to dive in and start writing.
Not so fast.
If you begin writing at this point, you’ll do more harm than good.
You need a plan. You need a map that gives your ebook some kind of basic structure and direction. In other words, you need an outline.
A strong outline is the backbone of how to write an ebook. It gives you direction and makes the actual writing much easier.
The best way to ensure you create an effective outline is to think about the outcome your reader is looking for and what you want them to learn, then work your way backwards.
Give a title to each chapter you plan to have in your ebook. Create subtitles within each chapter that cover everything you want to write about.
At first, just jot down as many titles and subtitles as can. You can organize them later. The goal is to get all your ideas out of your head and give them some of direction.
As you create more sections, you may notice certain recurring themes. This is an indication that you can combine those sections so that relevant parts are sensibly organized.
Your outline only needs to be about a page long, but make sure it covers every major point of your topic. Once you’ve settled on an outline you’re comfortable with, you can begin writing by simply filling in each section. The more detailed your outline, the easier it is to write your ebook.
But keep in mind that the outline is a fluid document. You can expand it, adjust it, and edit it as necessary to serve you and your ebook.
So, after some blood, sweat, and tears, you should now have a finished draft.
But it’s probably terrible. Most first drafts are. They are you raw ideas and thoughts on paper.
Now it’s time to refine them through the process of proofreading.
There are two major phases to proofreading your work: personal proofreading and professional proofreading.
Before getting another set of eyes on your work, you’ll need to do your own proofreading.
Fixing basic issues allows other proofreaders to focus on major issues like how well you communicate your ideas, whether the ebook solves the problems you say it does, and if the flow of content is coherent.
However, before you do any editing, it’s important that you make a copy of your original draft. You’ll be making a lot of changes: moving paragraphs, removing sections, and rewording thoughts. In the chaos of all these changes you may lose something you’d rather keep. Having a backup copy can be a lifesaver.
To begin, you’ll want to break your proofreading into four phases:
Structural – This is the high-level view of your ebook. Make sure the titles and subtitles flow in a coherent, sensible manner. Reading them alone should allow you to understand the narrative and main points of your ebook.
Concise – Look to remove entire sections of your ebook that don’t support your main topic. Then, go through each section line by line and cut anything that doesn’t support your main thought for that specific section.
Fluid – Here you’ll want to look at how sentences, paragraphs, and chapters flow into one another. Transitions should be seamless and effortlessly move readers to the end.
Fine – Now you check for the basic mistakes like spelling and grammar. Use a tool like Grammarly to catch the obvious grammar issues. And a tool like Hemingway can help you simplify the structure of your sentences for ease of reading.
You are the worst proofreader of your own work. After spending so much time writing and reviewing your work, you become blind to its problems.
As Mark Twain once mused, we are inclined to see what we meant rather than what is actually written:
At this stage, it’s best to have a professional editorial proofreader review your ebook. They are paid to put your work under a microscope and rake over it with a fine-toothed comb. They will catch things you’d never notice. They will challenge you. They may even offend you. But your work will be much better for it.
Unfortunately, most ebook authors lack the experience to realize the value of a professional proofreader. But their value didn’t go unnoticed by Mark Twain. Here’s the rest of that quote:
Here are a few extra bits of advice to help you in your journey of writing an ebook:
Newer ebook authors tend to fall in love with creating the “ultimate ebook”—a definitive, Bible-like tome that will be the only resource their audience will ever need.
But your audience doesn’t have the time or patience for that. A massive ebook is more likely to get refund requests, or simply sit in your audience’s hard drives gathering dust.
You need to deliver something that can be read and digested fairly easily, so you can deliver a quick win for your audience. You want your audience to feel good about the value they receive from your ebook. And the only way to have a chance at that is if they actually read it.
So, focus only on the specific problems your audience cares about most as it relates to your topic. Save your other ideas for future ebooks.
If you’re concerned about length, don’t be. Your audience will love you if you can concisely deliver valuable information.
Moreover, tightly focused ebooks help you target specific audience segments, provide thorough solutions to specific problems, and build anticipation for future ebooks.
One of the most powerful advantages of ebooks is that you can insert links to your other relevant content. If you have supplementary blog posts, videos, or resources that help expand on certain points, link to them.
This delivers more value to your readers and draws them further into your sales funnel.
An ebook should be just one part of your overall marketing funnel. Aside from generating revenue or subscribers, it also helps you build a relationship with your readers.
And any good relationship needs an introduction. Having an “about the author” section at the beginning or end of your ebook allows you to insert a personal touch and introduce the human behind the content.
Welcome your audience into your (digital) home, and your readers will be more willing to do the same.
A “call to action” (CTA) is simply a directive for your readers to take some further action.
What is the next stage of your sales funnel? Is there something bigger you can sell them? That’s your CTA.
Your CTA is unique to your goals. So think about what the natural next step is for your audience, and see how it can be naturally included within the content of your ebook.
While writing an ebook may be the hardest part, it’s still only half the battle.
Obviously, you can’t pass your plain Word document off as an ebook, especially if you have paying customers. And, chances are, your own design skills will only make your ebook look cheap and unprofessional.
So, we recommend hiring professionals. Being professional ebook designers ourselves, this is something we can help with, but for a full look at all your options, check out our ebook design pricing guide.
Learning how to write your own ebook can feel like climbing a mountain. But ordinary people climb mountains everyday. And so can you.
Lots of mistakes and headaches are lurking in the shadows to trip you up, but the rewards are worth it. Simply follow this guide and take it one step at a time, and soon you’ll have a perfectly-written ebook capable of getting you more subscribers, authority, and/or sales.
You got this.