The thought of writing an eBook can be intimidating.
During the COVID lockdown in Melbourne 2020, I committed to writing a book on ‘Python for Managers.’
I had never written a book and had to learn the process from scratch. I wrote the book part-time for 21 days.
What I learned, is that with the right tools and process, anyone can easily self-publish a book. Everyone has some experience they can share with the world. Don’t keep your idea locked up, waiting for the right moment or retirement to write a book.
I came up with a process that I will share with you, so you too can write the book you have always wanted. I will share both the tools and process of planning, writing, editing and publishing.
Tools you will use
Day 1: Plan your book
Open up Google Docs or MS Word and start outlining your chapters. Write the chapter topic and put a few dot points of what you want to cover.
For your first book, I would focus on 6 to 10 chapters. Don’t stress about how many pages you have. It is better to have 6 short useful chapters than 20 chapters of fluff.
Get as many chapter ideas as you can on your outline. Next, look at the most impactful chapters and see which ones can be merged or dropped. Focus on getting under 10 chapters to make sure you get your book out in a timely fashion. If you make your first book too long, your chances of finishing diminish.
Lastly, order your chapters so there is a logical transition between the topics.
Below is my first outline for my book ‘Python for Managers’. The outline does not have to be long. A single page should be enough to give you the structure to write your book.
Day 2: Write your first chapter
Get your first chapter down as quickly as you can. For my first chapter, I wrote an introduction and converted the text into a PDF.
I gave away my first chapter for free as a lead magnet to help drive sales of the finished product.
The lead magnet enables you to capture emails and get feedback from your audience after only writing a couple of pages. You can also tell people a release date to give you a milestone to work towards.
Day 3: Build your pre-sales lead magnet
I built my lead magnet page without any code using a site called Caard. This is a super simple web design tool that uses drag and drop elements to build landing pages.
The below took me about 15 minutes to make after tweaking a template. I pointed the button on my landing page to Gumroad, a site where you can host and sell any digital material. On the landing page form, I sent the users email to Mailchimp. However, you can also tell Caard to send an email to yourself every time someone fills the form out.
If making a landing page and Gumroad is not your thing, an alternative is a service called podia. This is a paid platform where you can sell your ebook. They also help you build and host your landing page.
Day 4 to 11: Write your chapters
Now that you have an outline and are collecting emails, it is time to start writing your chapters.
I used MS Word to write my chapters, but you can use Google Docs as well. A trick I found useful was to create a separate file for each chapter. This helps you concentrate on one topic without getting distracted by other chapters.
Don’t worry about any editing at this stage. Just get your content down on the page. I found I had some paragraphs that I was not sure if I wanted to include, so I put them at the end of the chapter. When I came to editing the chapter I then decided whether to integrate or remove these paragraphs.
The most important part of the writing phase is creating a schedule every day that allows you to get through your chapters. I was writing part-time, so I got up at 6am and worked to 9am. I then did a final hour after dinner from 7pm to 8pm. I find I am more creative in the morning, so the early start worked for me.
Aim for a chapter out each day. After you write your first chapter, you will get a sense for your writing speed and can adjust the time you need.
Day 12 to 17: Editing
Editing was the hardest part for me. I am not a professional writer, so I found this the most energy-intensive and taxing.
My biggest obstacle was I would get bored of re-reading the text and would miss basic spelling and grammar.
I found two tools that made the editing much easier and even a bit of a game.
The main tool I used was Grammarly. This tool helped me with spelling, grammar and readability. Since I am not the best editor, I paid for the premium version and found the suggestions super helpful. I would take the text in my word document and paste it onto the web site tool to find edits.
The second tool I used for editing was the Hemmingway App. The cool part of this free tool, is it highlights sentences that are unclear or difficult to read. This helped me spot sentences that needed to be re-written.
Day 18: Create your book cover
After the hard work of the editing phase, you will want some time out to do something different.
Creating a book cover is a lot of fun.
A super easy to use tool for eBook cover design is Canva. The site has eBook templates that you can edit to create a great cover. I really enjoyed making the cover myself, but if you want to outsource this process you can use a service called 99Designs to hire a graphic designer.
Once you have your 2d book cover, you can use a free tool called DIY Book Covers to create a 3d version of your book. There is also a feature to put your book cover on a Kindle.
Day 19 to 20: Format eBook
To create your eBook in an EPUB format for e-readers, you will need some software. Luckily, there is a free online service called reedsy. This online tool allows you to paste your chapters and build your final eBook.
See below for an example of reedsy from my book Python for Managers.
In reedsy, you can upload your book cover and also generate the table of contents, forward, acknowledgements etc.
Once you are ready, you can export your eBook to EPUB format.
If you want to sell on Amazon, you can convert your EPUB very easily using a tool called calibre. See the below pictures of how to convert an ebook.
Day 21: Publish your ebook
Now that you have done all the hard work, it is time to share your eBook.
The benefit of Gumroad is that you can add any files to accompany your eBook. You can add video, handouts, notes. This is a way to give the buyer additional value over just the eBook. The downside of Gumroad is you have to promote the product more. You will not get any organic searches through Gumroad. You will need to promote your book through the email addresses you collected from your lead magnet and through your social media pages e.g. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn. Gumroad charges 8.5% + $0.30 (USD) per sale.
Selling on Amazon is another good option. Amazon has the benefit of having a large reach with more chance of organic sales. For eBooks, Amazon encourages authors to publish under $9.99 for 70% royalties. See the pricing list here. Another confusion I had with Amazon was whether I need an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). For eBooks, you don’t need an ISBN. However, if you want to publish a paperback, then you will need an ISBN.
That is it! We covered the process and tools to self publish your own eBook. The process we went through is:
- Create your outline
- Write your first chapter
- Pre-sales landing page
- Write your chapters
- Cover design
Hopefully, this guide gives you the confidence to get your book out there.