How to Write an Ebook

In April 2010 I had the idea to write an ebook. My plan was to finish it by the end of June, publish it in July and then…well, I hoped to sell a few copies.

This was completely uncharted territory for me and given that writing is not my favorite thing to do, I approached this project as an experiment. Basically I was intrigued by the “launch your own product” process and I wanted to figure out how it all worked.

how to write an ebook

As you might expect, things didn’t go according to plan. June came and went, as did July. In fact, so did August and September. Then October rolled around and the dark, unfinished project cloud that hung in the air, coupled with the realization that I would probably regret it if I failed to follow through, prompted me to make a final push and just get the thing done already. Which I did.

Then I wrote this step-by-step guide so you could write your own.

I officially launched Tell Your Time: How To Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free on October 26, 2010. By that point, I think it’s safe to say I was so relieved I was done writing I would have been happy with $10 so I could buy an ice cream and soda to celebrate.

But that’s not what happened

I was a bit stunned when I made significantly more than $10 that first day (like thousands more) and now, here I sit, almost 4 months years later…and people keep buying it. Honestly, before this whole thing started, I never really thought much past the first week of launch.

What I set out to do (learn the “launch your own product” process) I have accomplished. At least in part. I’m still learning, but boy have I learned a lot so far.

And that, my friends, is what I hope to pass on to you.

I did some things right and I did some things wrong. Some things I have yet to determine whether I did right or wrong. But what follows are my honest, personal tips for writing an ebook. I hope they’re helpful to you.

Question #1: Should you write an ebook?

Short answer: Maybe, maybe not. I have no idea actually. It totally depends.

Long answer: When I started this process, it seemed like every time I turned around, someone else was singing the praises of ebook writing. I guess I took it as fact that writing an ebook would be a good and profitable thing, for me and everyone!

In fact, I don’t recall anyone cautioning against it. It wasn’t until I was knee-deep into the process that I started questioning whether or not I should have taken the plunge myself.

Why? Because it’s actually quite a bit of work.

And there are a lot of reasons why an ebook might take off and why it might never go anywhere at all.

Tip #1: Don’t drop everything to write an ebook.

As you’ll see over the course of the next several posts, I wouldn’t recommend putting all your eggs in the ebook basket.

Could it be worth it? Yes. Would I personally do it again? Yes. But not just because I actually came out ahead financially.

My best advice is this: spend 10-20% of your time working on your ebook. Spend the other 80-90% of your time building your blog. Seriously. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that without a blog (i.e. a platform), your ebook is likely to go nowhere.

I haven’t come across an author yet – traditionally published or self-published – who doesn’t say writing is the easy part. Marketing is the hard part. Thus the need for a blog. (Don’t worry, I have a simple guide for creating a blog too.)

Also, develop online relationships with others. As we work through this series I’ll tell you why.

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Comments

  1. Kat says

    This is awesome, but what website did you use to publish your ebook? I’m almost done with my book, but I don’t know where to post/publish it. Thanks!

  2. says

    Thanks for the great article. I’m going to sit down and read all the posts (I’ll put it on my ‘to-do’ list). I’m just tossing around the idea of putting my paperback “Crime Beat, Murder, Mayhem and the Mundane” in an ebook format.

  3. says

    Thank you very amy for sharing this. Writing an ebook is always tough but once you had finished writing it then it can be a source of passive income. After reading this post am inspired a bit for writing my first ebook. Hope it will also turn into a great source of income for me .

  4. says

    Nice content, Amy:) I was thinking of writing an ebook for another site I have in mind and was looking for a few pointers and your site popped up, so here I am. I scanned your posts and found some great value in them. I will definitely be back to move through the stages as I begin writing my first ebook. You may have answered this in one of the posts already, but I’m wondering if 1 page in a word doc equals the same as 1 page in an ebook?

  5. says

    The first time I wrote an eBook, it was challenging. Of course, new experiences are. I have written so many, that I can almost write an eBook in my sleep. The real challenge is getting it to the people who you want to read it. Great article. Thank you, Amy.

  6. says

    Hi Amy
    I stumbled on this part of your website from a twitter link to a post on customising a WordPress theme. I am currently writing an eBook under Liam Naden’s eBook Mastery course (which I recommend). So far I have only read your intro post on eBook writing & I hope to view the other parts later.
    Great to hear you got the success the work deserved for your eBook-making a quality eBook is not a trivial process. I hope to emulate this with my eBook (Programming for success for non-programmers) which I’m also hoping will be finished within the next week. Keep enjoying the blogging & writing :-)

  7. says

    Great post Ali. I’m already a professional writer (newspaper, magazines, website copy, etc.) and my real challenge is knowing what platform/format to use. Which e-book creation platforms or methods do you recommend?

  8. says

    This is a fantastic website Amy-Lynn. I am just starting my Blog and really like all your help. This is exactly what I have been looking for.

    Thank you!!!!

  9. says

    great information for starters thank you very much i also discovered a free eBook and it helps too free download windowsfolder.info

  10. Gregg says

    Hi Amy,

    What a great site you have (seems I’m not the first to say this).

    My question is this: Any thoughts on joining Clickbank?

    thanks-
    Gregg

  11. says

    This whole series of posts was very helpful. I want to start writing ebooks and I wasn’t sure how to start. Thank you so much for this post, your blog is great.

  12. says

    I actually just wrote my first ebook about 6 months ago. It was an incredible learning experience and I actually made a decent profit, which was awesome! But hey, even if you don’t make much money, if you had fun writing something you have a lot of passion about, then that’s important. Not to mention, you can add, “Author” to your resume! :)

  13. Ashwin says

    Dear Amy , Hope All is well ..,, I just visited your site today, for first time .,, and I was just reading n reading , found so many interesting posts and the language is so simple and clear . I wish why didn’t I find your site months/years back ??? Anyways, I am enjoying reading it , Good Luck !!!!!

  14. says

    Thanks for this info. I have been working on an online program and feel that an ebook would help support it. You have just confirmed this for me. Thanks so much!

  15. says

    Great stuff. I got here looking for information, for my father, 88, on how to publish an ebook and saw all the stuff you have on blogging, particularly on gaining traffic. My business and blog are dead in the the water but I’m continuing, hoping to gain traffic and get the business moving. AwareNewJersey is intended to be a directory of unique, small, local independent businesses in New Jersey in a handful of niche markets: wellness, spirituality, wildlife and animal welfare, natural and artisan foods, and more. Stuff that’s not mainstream. I love all the great little businesses I’ve found but haven’t had any traffic. I’m hoping your tips will help. Thank you.

      • says

        You know, when I filled in the form, I assumed that my website url would appear in the comment. It wasn’t until I’d hit the post button that I realized that I missed the opportunity you’d mentioned in your blogs on site traffic to link back to my site, so I’m leaving this comment as well to do that. I’m at http://www.awarenewjersey.blogspot.com and hope and intend to use the tips you’ve given here to try to increase traffic to my site.

  16. George says

    Amy, thank you for your information. I have finally stumbled upon a website that I believe is truly honest about writing ebooks and blogging. I am in the process of writing an ebook. I was not sure about its publication, but since I came across your site by accident, I believe I will go forth with the ebook. I have read so much about ebooks and blogging and finally I found your website that I believe will be able to help me with my endeavors. Thank you so much.

  17. says

    Thank you so much for your helpful guidance about ebooks! I may just give it a try! (I have been itching to go to the next step, after writing a blog for over a year. This is just the encouragement I need!

  18. Tania says

    Can a person make money from an e-book without doing a blog? I want to write anonymously and am not savvy enough to try blogging anonymously so I thought I would just do an e-book alone. Recommendations?

  19. says

    Writing ebook is really important.Lot of bloggers are making huge money by selling e-books.This post will help me lot in writing e-book.

  20. says

    This is fantastic! Writing an e-book is one of my 1-2 year goals. Thank you for your excellent and comprehensive guidelines. I have bookmarked this post to come back to again and again as I set out to achieve my goal. P.S. I lvoe your site…it is very visually attractive and clean.

  21. says

    Recently started blogging and constantly looking for ways to improve. Decided today that an ebook is something I’d like to look into writing. Thanks for sharing your advice!

    Gary

  22. says

    Another tip that we should include is to design a quality
    ecover for the ebook, since this is the first thing that
    get the customer to read the title and the content.

    By the way, We design high quality ecovers, and every week we give
    away free ecover design between our facebook fans.

    Nice post!

    • Amy says

      Hi George, if you read the posts in this series, you’ll find a lot of tips regarding getting your manuscript into ebook form. If you want to sell it on Amazon and BN.com, read this post.

  23. says

    You offered some very awesome tips and you have inspired me to keep at it though it get’s discouraging at times. I’ve written a few so far and this just gave me an idea for another ebook! Thanks so much!

  24. says

    Amy,

    I’m just starting into the series as I found your site tonight in a Google search. I am impressed and a bit intimidated by the quantity of material here. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all … just a lot to consider. I appreciate that you start the series with a frank statement of what lies ahead in the ebook writing process and whether it’s worth it or not.

    One thing that isn’t spoken about in the media’s gushing over ebooks is the fact that there isn’t much money to be made in most cases. I like your recommendation to spend more time on blogging. You’ve given me much to think about. Thank you.

    • Amy says

      I’d be interested to know how much a typical ebook author makes as compared to a typical traditionally published author. I know the vast majority of traditional authors don’t make much at all considering the time they put into writing. Have you seen my series about why I turned down a book deal? I share more thoughts there.

  25. says

    You brought up an interesting point. We need to be spending more time trying to cultivate those relationships and less time trying to sell. Listening to the relationships will provide us that opportunity to see where the real needs lay!

  26. Jamaule LM Hall says

    I actually am starting to write a story and I thought about writing a book, until I received an email from a marketing expert I follow that said that “Print is dead”. So I read the article and he talks all about writing e-books. So I went on Google to search how to write e-books and your blog was #2. I just read your 1st entry about writing your e-book and I’m looking forward to going through your series. Thanks for sharing Amy.

    • Amy says

      So glad it was helpful, Kacey! I’ll look forward to meeting you as well. I’m really looking forward to it.

  27. says

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site again. An ebook is a definite goal. I can’t wait to follow your steps. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  28. says

    You make it sound so easy! And I’m really impressed with how popular your blog is. I’m just starting out (with both the blog and the eBook) and I feel a little overwhelmed right now, but I shall look to you for inspiration :)

    • Amy says

      Liz, I completely understand the feeling of being overwhelmed (I was there too!). But really, I think you’ll find it makes sense as you go along and as long as you take a step at a time, you’ll do great! You can do it!!

  29. Helen says

    Jehovah bless you for sharing this.
    I am homebound with a disabled husband
    and I really did not know how to do an ebook.
    Now I can write about my passion, and make
    a little extra income.

  30. says

    I’m glad I found your site! I’ve been thinking about writing an ebook and now I have the instructions! Some blogs don’t tell the whole steps meaning do’s and don’t’s. Thanks for making your site easy to read and understand. I try and do that too on my blog.

  31. says

    Thank you Amy…today my eBook launched! (still not on Kindle as it didn’t format correctly once uploaded there, but as a PC download, we are set. Thanks for your help with the process, the recommendations, e-junkie help and more…now to figure out how to fix my Kindle issue.) :) Seriously, had you not gone before me, I might never have attempted this. Thanks!

  32. says

    I read your whole series in one sitting. I’ve decided to take a dip into the ebook pool and am doing tons of research before I start. Thanks for this great advice. I have had a blog for a few years and freelance for Huff-Po, AOL etc. but this ebook thing has got me excited about writing something different.

  33. says

    Well, tomorrow is your 1 year anniversary of completing your ebook! I would love to be the first to congratulate you. :)

    I have a couple ebook ideas rolling around in my head. So thought I’d look up how to write an ebook and you came up first! Yay! So now I need to just get started (after I read you series on them though… )

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • Marc says

      Very helpful Amy. I’m looking at a layoff soon. Your site came up first (I’d like to know how to make that happen) and an ebook sounded like something to work on while I’m looking for work. Your input is excellent!

  34. says

    Amy,

    I have been writing a book over the past few months, and using your guide. Thanks so much for all of the helpful tips!! I am so excited that it will be coming out soon. I will definitely be sending you a copy! I was wondering if you have any tips about copyrighting? I know that it takes 3 months to register & copyright with the government, and I am hoping to release it next week, so I don’t think that I can do that? I know that there is already an automatic copyright once you have written it, but I was not sure if I should do more or not? Also, did you get an ISBN number? Any advice on this would be appreciated. Thanks!! Rene

    • Amy says

      Thanks Rene. I’m glad it’s been helpful! I have researched copyright very little and ISBNs only a little more. I have not pursued either. I can’t say that’s the most education or well-researched conclusion, but it seemed clear to me that my little ebook would not be detrimentally impacted at this point. Not sure if that’s helpful at all…just my $.02. :)

  35. Rebecca says

    I have been mulling over the idea of writing an e-book for sometime now, but I only just recently began seriously researching the idea. I was wondering what your opinion is of Smashwords and CreateSpace, and you see value in pursuing one of these avenues instead of this method. I’m kind of overwhelmed by all the options available!

    • Amy says

      It is overwhelming. CreateSpace is not for an ebook as much as it is for hard copies. I have not used Smashwords, but I would recommend researching exactly how much of a cut they’ll take so you can determine if it’s a good road to take!

  36. says

    Good morning!
    I am asking (begging) for your help! I have searched everywhere but get confused with all the “help” on the web. (besides the fact I’m a 63 yr old man LOL)
    I cannot seem to find the code for a blog button to post on my website that will allow visitors on my web to follow my blogs. All I know is I want the “B” from blogspot.com and just get frustrated trying to find it!!
    Can you please email me the code with instructions (I do know copy and paste lol) or tell me the url where I can get the code I want.
    Your help will be appreciated.
    Thank you
    Steve Gan

    • Amy says

      Hi Steve. Glad you stopped by…

      I think what you’re asking is for people to be able to subscribe to your Blogger blog’s feed. If you go to “Design” in your Dashboard and click on the “Add a Gadget” link in the spot on your page you want that button to appear, you can choose the “Feed” option from the list.

      Does that help?

  37. real blogger says

    I’m a little confused as to why people should listen to you or take you seriously?

    Per your bio…

    “Hi, I’m Amy. I’m just a regular gal who wondered if there was a legitimate way to work from home. I’ve done it, and you can do it too. Here’s my easy peasy, step-by-step guide. You might also like the quick tips I share on Facebook. And here are my blogging tutorials. Skeptical? I get that. Check out my FAQ for my take.”

    And yet the second sentence you write states that “This was completely uncharted territory for me and given that writing is not my favorite thing to do, I”…

    I guess you really have to love the internet these days where anyone and EVERYONE is a self proclaimed “Blogging EXPERT” or a “Social Media GURU”…just for fun I am going to proclaim myself “Lord King of all Things Blue”

    That is all.

    • Amy says

      Oh my goodness, I wasn’t calling myself The Guide, I just put together this step-by-step guide which includes the steps I’ve taken as I’ve walked through the process of writing and launching an ebook. Of course the process is still not finished so I’ve definitely got more to learn. Nope, I definitely don’t consider myself a guru or expert by any means, I’m just passing on the info I’ve gleaned over the years in the hope it’s helpful to others. :)

  38. says

    OMG, it’s a series. This is almost like stumbling on an encyclopedia on ebook writing. At the risk of sounding like a spammer, I’m bookmarking this particular page for reference as I try my best to accomplish my goal of writing my very first ebook. Amy, you got a neatly designed blog here., I like it. :)

  39. says

    Well, I’ve gotta say that you’re doing a great job of building up suspense over this series. I’m dying to read what you’ve got to say on this ebook venture.

    I’ve typed up 2/3rds of the second draft of my ebook. I love writing, but it’s still hard. Those self-doubts creep in. Making something worthy of selling puts your writing in a different category than just slapping it up on the blog, take it or leave it. As I write, I come up with more ideas and more ideas. This thing could become another War and Peace if I don’t cap it off!

    • Amy says

      “As I write, I come up with more ideas and more ideas. This thing could become another War and Peace if I don’t cap it off!”

      LOL!

  40. says

    Thank you so much for this guide! I just started contemplating turning part of my book into an ebook so I don’t have to be consumed with waiting on the uncertainty of publishing. I didn’t know where to start, though, so I’m thankful for the perfect timing … and especially your willingness to share what you’ve learned.

  41. says

    I’ve been asking for tips and suggestions from people regarding starting an ebook, but noone seems to want to share. You can’t imagine how helpful this is to me. Thank you so much!!!

  42. says

    I, for one, am so happy that I bought your e-book. I haven’t finished it yet because I won’t let myself read it all until I do the steps in the e-book.

    I didn’t think I’d ever purchase an e-book, but I’m thrilled that I did.

    Every time I think I should write something, I see that someone else has already written about that subject. I like your idea though – spend 10% – 20% of your time on it. Maybe I’ll try that.

    • Amy says

      Thank you Johnlyn. You are crackin’ me up about making yourself do the steps. :) That’s awesome!

      And regarding your ebook(s), no one sees it like you!

    • Amy says

      So, don’t be afraid to write something in your unique voice, even if it’s a topic that others have covered. After all, there’s nothing new under the sun.

  43. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your walk with an ebook. I have been thinking of writing one of my own, but I wanted to wait to see how your process has gone. Lol Everytime I want to start something else comes up! I am thankful for being busy but I also want to get this off the ground. You are an inspiration and I love reading your blog. Thanks again for sharing!
    Brooke

    • Amy says

      Thank you Brooke. That is very kind.

      Everytime I want to start something else comes up!

      That has got to be the story of my life! :)

    • says

      Amy, OMG, since stumbling onto your website a few days ago, I have been just amazed. I have been searching for ‘just the right’ information . I love writing, have always loved writing, have created several blogs and written a number of articles trying to figure out just the right thing ~~ your site has done it for me. I now know the direction I need to take my writing (I have an ebook that has been in the making forever) Thank U, Thank U. Your website has been an absolute God-send for me…….. God Bless U for your willingness to share (will keep you posted).

Trackbacks

  1. [...] David Gaughran, in his blog Let’s Get Digital, discusses how Penguin Publishing has launched a self-publishing service that over-charges significantly, something an inexperienced writer might not be know in their dealings with this old and established publishing house.  I learned a great deal about the pitfalls of self-publishing and what to be careful about.  For a positive personal experience on self-publishing, check out Christine Grote’s Random Thoughts From Midlife.  A great resource about creating an e-Book can be found at Blogging by Amy. [...]

  2. [...] David Gaughran, in his blog Let’s Get Digital, discusses how Penguin Publishing has launched a self-publishing service that over-charges significantly, something an inexperienced writer might not be know in their dealings with this old and established publishing house.  I learned a great deal about the pitfalls of self-publishing and what to be careful about.  For a positive personal experience on self-publishing, check out Christine Grote’s Random Thoughts From Midlife.  A great resource about creating an e-Book can be found at Blogging by Amy. [...]

  3. [...] who have a good reputation and charge just $5 per month up to 10 e-books (with unlimited sales). Amy Lynn Andrews who wrote the bestselling e-book Tell Your Time has a series of articles on her website on how to [...]