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How to write an ebook in 7 steps

Topic / Technology

How to write an ebookEver since I released my ebook, “130 Youth Ministry Tips & Ideas,” I’ve had a couple requests for this post. This is my first ebook, so I’m definitely not an expert by any means, but here’s what I did.

1. Write on a topic you’re passionate about.
Don’t waste your time (and mine) on something that doesn’t excite you. And definitely don’t write it just to gain some recognition. Ask yourself this question: “Even if no one reads my ebook, am I still willing to write it?” If the answer is yes, then go for it. Readers will pick up your tone throughout the ebook and decide if you’re the real deal or if your ebook is just a homework assignment.

2. Write the content.
Type up everything you wish to say and say it in as few words as possible. No one likes to read something that drags on and on about the same point. The five Bs of public speaking apply here: Be Brief, Baby, Be Brief. You should be more interested that I actually read through the whole ebook rather than trying to explain every detail of every argument. I can fill in the gaps myself.

3. Make it look appealing.
In a sense, how it is designed and formatted is more important than the content. You can have the best content in the world, but if I open up the ebook and skim through the first couple pages, it better catch my eye and look appealing or I’ll probably close it and move on, rendering the content useless. First impressions mean a lot. When I designed my ebook, I probably spent three times the amount of time working on the layout than I did actually writing the content. I even sought help from a graphic designer friend of mine.

I also took the advice on Seth Godin’s “How to make an eBook” Squidoo page and changed my page dimensions to eight inches wide and six inches high. I wasn’t sure if this was the smartest move because it makes printing a little more difficult, but it makes the ebook a whole lot easier to read on a computer monitor. Since most people will read an ebook on a monitor, I went with the 6×8.

The last thing to remember in designing your ebook is to make it clean and simple. Lots of color, flashy images and weird fonts will distract the reader and even cause them to need a break from it. Catch my attention with your appealing design and keep my attention with your great content.

4. Have multiple other people proof-read it.
This is where I went wrong and I’m pretty embarrassed by it. I read my ebook word by word several times and figured all the misspellings and grammatical errors were worked out, so I released it and the downloads starting tallying up. Unfortunately, I soon received feedback from helpful readers who pointed out several mistakes and errors. I corrected them as quickly as possible and released an updated version about 5 different times. It’s embarrassing to know what those mistakes are to think about how those errors are spreading all over the internet as people pass along the ebook to others. To a reader who knows nothing about you, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors question your credibility and professionalism.

NOTE: No one’s contacted me about any errors in my ebook for a little while now, so if you have an older copy, download the latest corrected version from here.

5. Select a Creative Commons license.
Go to CreativeCommons.org and figure out which license is appropriate for your material. Post it somewhere in your ebook. It’s also generally a good idea to print a copy, seal it in an envelope, sign across the flap, mail it to yourself and don’t open it. This is referred to as the “poor man’s copyright” since the postmark is regarded as the government sealing the date of the content inside. In case someone steals your work and it goes to court, having this is at least better than having nothing at all.

6. Convert your final work to PDF.
I used Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional just because I already had the software from an earlier project. There are several free PDF converters out there as well as some free online services. The problem with some of these, however, is that they don’t always keep your fonts and layout exactly intact. It’s worth a try, though. Of course, if you have a Mac, converting to PDF is easy just selecting it from the print menu.

I opted not to add any security to my ebook because I wasn’t sure why it was necessary. To give my ebook away for free and then place restrictions on it seemed a little contradictory to me. If someone decides to alter my content and redistribute it with heresy or something, there’s enough legitimate copies floating around that hopefully it won’t be a big deal.

7. Distribute your ebook.
Decide whether your ebook will be distributed free of charge or if you’ll ask for anything in return, such as an email address for each download or even monetary compensation. There are various benefits to each option, but I chose to be completely hands off. Free ideas always spread better than restricted ones. Besides, my intent is not to make money, but to help as many people as possible.

The platform I used for distributing my ebook is obviously my blog and that’s probably where most people will start, too. However, if you don’t have a blog, consider using Scribd.com. Scribd is kinda like the YouTube of ebooks.

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Posted on May 16, 2007

  • Great post Tim…very helpful.

  • I’ve enjoyed reading this post, thanks. We’ve justhad our first baby 8 weeks ago and thisis exactly what I was looking for, keep up the good work.

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