Five Things You Need To Know Before Writing an eBook

Gene Marks

Thinking of writing an eBook? Well, buckle up — it’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. I’ve written five self-published books, and I’ve learned these lessons the hard way. So let me save you some time and share with you the five things you absolutely must know before getting started.

You will need to pay.

Writing an eBook is going to cost you. Why? Because no one wants to read a book that looks like a Word document. People don’t want to see typos. Readers expect a level of quality nowadays. They know that the technology available to produce a book is advanced and that there’s plenty of help available. When they see a poorly put-together product, they associate that with the writer, and you don’t want that to happen. Your eBook is representing you and your business, and you want it to look exactly – and I mean exactly – like any book you would buy from a well-known author.

So it will cost you. To do it right, you’re going to need help. You’re the brains behind the great content, and that’s what you do best. But you will want to utilize other people’s brains to do what they do best. You’ll need an editor and likely a separate proofreader because the more eyes, the better. You’ll also need a graphic designer and possibly a photographer to ensure that your front and back cover look professional. You may even need research assistance. What will this all cost you? Likely between $5,000 and $10,000 if you want to do it right, and that doesn’t include marketing or the cost to print books.

You will need to have a budget.

Are you a billionaire entrepreneur, a TV star or a famous chef? No? Then you’re not going to be a best-selling author. Sorry.

You are not going to make any money selling books. It is not a sustainable living for you. If you don’t believe me, just do the math. A typical eBook can sell online for anywhere from $1 to $15. If you’re doing this on Amazon or working with another distributor, they will take a commission, or you will incur a printing cost. Sure there are the few authors who sell lots and lots of books, but c’mon, you know that’s rare. You will be lucky to sell a few thousand books over a period of a few years, and at a profit of $5 a book (even that’s a stretch), it will only be enough to cover your costs of production (see above).

But that shouldn’t discourage you. Think of your eBook as a 21st-century marketing document. Back in the day, people would make hardcopy brochures, catalogs and other sales materials. Some still do. Well, your eBook is just that — a robust brochure for you and your business. It’s a potential giveaway, a prize, a treat or an incentive to attract new customers or engage and strengthen your relationship with existing customers. Don’t view your eBook as a profit center. View it as a tool to help you generate more revenues. So if you do spend $10K to produce a great eBook and it helps generate $50K in new business, then it was well worth it.

You can use the eBook in different channels and formats.

An eBook isn’t really just an eBook. You can make it more than that. For example, I like to publish my books using Amazon’s author services. Why? Because, uh, everyone goes to Amazon to buy their books! But there are other great services that can help you get your book placed on different channels. For example, Books2Read will ensure that your book is available not only on Amazon but Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and other booksellers and distributors. Kitaboo, Lucidor and FBReader are examples of platforms that provide publishing tools and will accept your eBook and make it available across a wider audience of people searching for books. Then there are many independent printers and publishers (you can Google them) that will take your book and make them available for volume purchases. Oh, and BookSprout will help you get reviews.

Your goal is to get your book in the hands of as many people as possible, so exploring these options is critical for your marketing and distribution campaigns.

You will need to keep it current or write more eBooks.

Every year hundreds of thousands of eBooks are published, so the field of authors is crowded. Like I mentioned above, you’re not going to write a best seller. But your book can stand apart because it addresses a certain niche, answers questions or fixes problems. Done the right way, it can be an excellent informational tool for your community. But as we all know, information gets old fast, which means that just writing a single eBook isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to need to keep writing, or at the very least, update your eBook frequently. I make it a point to regularly put out new “editions” of certain books where I go in and revise, edit, add and delete content. That way the information is fresh.

Reserve time every year to update your eBook. Your audience can tell if you’re getting lazy.

You have to like to write.

Writing a book is not easy. If it were, many more people would do it. To have a decent book, it needs to be a decent size – at least 60,000 words, in my opinion. I realize some may argue that the size of a book doesn’t matter as much as the content, and I can understand that point of view. But there’s an expectation that when someone gets a book, it’s a book. Which means it should be weightier than what you would get in a blog or article.

All of this means you need to write a lot, so you better enjoy it. Writing an eBook can take months of hard work. It requires discipline, dedication and tenacity. If you skate through the process, you’ll just produce something of mediocre quality, and your readers will know that. You’ll be spending time away from your day job and your family. That’s a cost. So again, I hope you enjoy writing. You’ll need to if you want to produce a quality book.

In the end, a successful eBook is like anything else — you get out of it what you put into it. It’s unlikely you’ll make much money from the book itself. But done the right way, it will surely help you land more business and generate revenues for your business.

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23 Responses to "Five Things You Need To Know Before Writing an eBook"
    • Nancy | February 2, 2022 at 10:56 am

      Do you have any recommendations for editors & proof readers?

      • Small Biz Ahead | February 2, 2022 at 11:20 am

        We find writers and editors on Contently: https://contently.com/ But there are a variety of platforms you could use.

    • Philip Walsh | March 4, 2021 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks for the article! Very timely as my daughter (a professional copyeditor) and I started a micropublishing group within my consulting company. Having completed one project and working on the next, I must say you nailed it. Interestingly enough, we tried to do everything locally. We produced 500 copies which would have cost less than $5.00/each overseas but having it done here came to almost $18/each (keep in mind it was an imprinted hardback with a gloss dust jacket but gorgeous!). Breaking even on it will be a relief!
      Phil Walsh

      • Small Biz Ahead | March 5, 2021 at 5:56 pm

        Thanks for sharing, Phil!

    • Rick Mendes | February 18, 2021 at 3:22 pm

      I am tackling my self-edits of my manuscript using Fictionary StoryTeller for story edits and ProWirtingAid for copy edits. Eventually, I will need to pay for a professional line editor and proofreader. The more editing I can do ahead of the professional edits, the more money I will save.

      • Gene Marks | February 18, 2021 at 3:24 pm

        That’s a good point, Rick. Thanks for sharing your insight.

    • Doris E McMillon | February 17, 2021 at 10:12 am

      You are so right! I am working on my third book. It’s no easy task, but when it’s done there will be joy in house!

      • Small Biz Ahead | February 18, 2021 at 8:49 am

        Thanks for commenting, Doris! And good luck with your third book!

    • dana kline | February 17, 2021 at 9:23 am

      I want to write a book and need as much help as possible with the book and the business side that produces income streams.

    • BOB TIBALLI | February 17, 2021 at 8:39 am

      I enjoy listening to your segments on the John Batchelor Show. Always helpful, always informative.

      • Small Biz Ahead | February 19, 2021 at 2:11 pm

        That’s great to here! We’re glad you’re enjoying them!

    • mike Sullivan | February 17, 2021 at 8:27 am

      Just finished my 3rd draft and working with an editor($$$). Yeah it takes a financial commitment as well as a time commitment. But the process is good for keeping my brain active. Thanks for the insight.

      • Small Biz Ahead | February 18, 2021 at 8:54 am

        We’re glad it’s going well for you! Thanks so much for your comment, Mike!

    • Lorraine Catalano | February 17, 2021 at 1:17 am

      Thank you!

      • Small Biz Ahead | February 18, 2021 at 8:44 am

        You’re welcome, Lorraine!

    • Tim Gregerson | February 16, 2021 at 11:53 pm

      Everything I read was interesting, informative, and candid, which, above all else, was very important to me.

      However, what instigated my desire to read this book was not business-related. More than once, I have been told that I should write the story of my youth, my teenage years, by those to whom I have related some of the more exciting episodes and raucous behavior.

      I thought this might cover the writing of an eBook from the author’s perspective … beyond all the costs, but it was clearly intended to nurture the author of a business publication. Sadly. I did not see any encouragement for a story that might engage and delight the reader rather than acquire more clients.

      If you or someone you know would care to elaborate on “that side” of publishing, I’d be quite grateful for another perspective. 🙂

      Thank you.

      • Small Biz Ahead | February 19, 2021 at 2:14 pm

        Thanks for reach out, Tim! The target audience for our blog is small business owners, so we gear our content toward that.

      • Philip Walsh | March 4, 2021 at 6:19 pm

        Hi Tim,
        I stumbled across this after starting a micropublishing group with my daughter who is a professional copyeditor. We’ve completed one project and she is working on another. If you would like to reach out to her let me know.
        Phil Walsh

    • HOSS SAID | February 16, 2021 at 11:51 pm

      good input and advise

      • Small Biz Ahead | February 18, 2021 at 8:43 am

        Thanks! We’re glad you found the article useful!

    • Lung Lew | February 16, 2021 at 11:04 pm

      Thank you.

      • Small Biz Ahead | February 18, 2021 at 8:42 am

        You’re welcome!

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