Write an Ebook That Sells Itself (and Builds Your Email List) Pt. 3

Interested in creating an ebook for you first information product? Maybe you sell premium coaching or consulting and you want to introduce an entry level product that will lead people down the sales funnel as they become interested in become one-on-one coaching. Yes, we are talking ebooks.

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In the first part of this series, I talked about why you should create an ebook and why it makes a great entry level product (so people can sample your stuff and are ready to buy your higher priced offerings). I also talked about the eight big reasons which stop people from writing an ebook – even when this is something they really want to do.

In the second part of this series, I talked about how to make sure you pick an idea that will be a sure-fire winner. I explained how to do your research and survey your audience to ascertain their interest in your idea.

If you haven’t read these posts, go check them out now!

Just to give you an idea of what to expect this is what we will be covering in this four part series:

  • Part 1: Why write an ebook and how to bust beliefs that are holding you back,
  • Part 2: Choosing a fail proof idea that will work every time and get your audience thinking about it,
  • Part 3: How to write that ebook already and get it ready for the world,
  • Part 4: How to sell that ebook and build your email list.

So, you have done your market research and polled your audience. You have a winning idea, congratulations! You just saved yourself tons of misery and heartache down the line. And now you can’t wait to begin. Who wouldn’t? When you know your audience is eagerly waiting for you to write and launch this ebook?

How exciting is that?

You are absolutely ready to dive into the writing process. Just to remind you at this stage, you would be working on three distinct tasks.

  1. Writing: You are working on your ebook (this post)
  2. List Warming: You are sharing related content on your blog (See part two)
  3. List Building: You are writing guest posts on the leading blogs to create add more people to your list (see part two and part four – coming soon).

In order to plan and write your ebook, and to reduce overwhelm and prevent self-doubt, I am going to break the planning process in 4 simple steps.

Prepare to start your ebook

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Step 1: Planning your scope

You know what your ideal customer looks like and you have you winning idea. Now it is time to create a roadmap or an outline for your ebook.

At this time, I want to talk about two critical elements that go into the success of an ebook. Even though there is a market demand and people said that they were interested in your idea, a poorly executed ebook will mean more requests for refunds or negative word of mouth. Ouch. You don’t want to be in that place.

  1. Know what to teach.

You don’t want to be teaching theory or imparting knowledge. People are not going to pay for that. You need to teach skills. Teach people how to get results. You want to give them actionable steps that they can implement and see the results.

Now, you can’t and won’t guarantee that everybody will see the same results, but assuming that they do the work, they should be able to report a wide range of results. People don’t want education – they want training. Don’t give too much theory, concepts or abstract knowledge. Focus on strategy, tactics and tips – the sequence – the step by step.

  1. Identify one specific problem – pick the right problem.

Teach people how to solve it. You also don’t want to give away the kitchen sink. Nobody wants a kitchen sink. Decide on your learning objectives – what do you want your buyers to learn and implement?

Don’t try to cover everything under the topic or try to make it too comprehensive. From a prospective customer’s point of view, it looks huge and overwhelming. They might even be concerned that you will skim over what they need you to cover. Buyers want answers to specific problems. Give them that.

This actually makes your job of writing an ebook that much easier because now all you have to do is stick to the process of solving that problem and exclude everything else. For example, as an Occupational therapist you might teach a set of exercises that will help somebody’s special needs child improve their grasp of the pencil and write better. A dog trainer might teach a set of tricks to stop customer’s puppy from biting.

You want to move people from point A to point B. You may include some background or theory, but if you are not giving concrete steps, people will not be happy customers. Less is more, always remember that.

Now you understand what goes into your ebook, let’s move on to the outline creation phase.

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Step 2: Outlining

At this stage, most people will tell you to start brainstorming ideas for your ebook. And you can certainly do that, but know that there is more than one way of accomplishing this task.

#1 Linear method

I want you to imagine that you are sitting with a client and they have asked you a question on how to solve a specific problem.

For example, they might have asked you advice on how to choose a piece of fine art for their lounge room. This will cost them a lot of money, so they don’t want to make a mistake or look silly in front of the gallery owner. Now you have 60 minutes to teach them everything you can on how to make a right choice.

What would they need to know first? Do you need to bring them up to speed on art appreciation and what to do before beginning this art collection process? Teach them the why. 

What do they need to know next? List all the information you need to tell them, don’t rush. Teach them the what.

So how can they make use of all this information? How can they implement this? Teach them the how.

  • List everything they need to know in sequential order to achieve the result they want.
  • List it in the order of how you would teach your client.

If you haven’t done this before, no worries, lay out the whole process as best as you can (you are the expert, right? Even if you haven’t worked with one-on-one clients yet) and then organize the material from start to finish.

#2 Brainstorming

You could also brainstorm your ideas if you are having trouble with the linear idea generation method explained above. Especially if you are more of a right brain person. You can use fancy mind mapping tools or you can just use plan old notebooks to start jotting all your ideas.

brainstorming

Make sure to go back to your survey responses. What did people say? What are the main problems? What are their issues that are preventing them from solving these problems? You want to make a list of all the responses. Categorize them so you can keep track of everything.

Now start organizing all this information. Again, think of the problem you are solving. Arrange all the information in sequential order. Keep working until you have a working outline for your ebook. This is crucial to reduce overwhelm and stay on track.

As you are outlining your book (a task that seemed totally daunting before), also have a look at the outlines of your competitors. I am not suggesting that you go and buy all the books but have a lot at their table of contents and see how they organized the information. Don’t try to steal their content either.

Think about these two questions:

  • How can you do it a bit differently?

Have you got a different take on the problem?

Is your solution different to what is out there?

  • How can you do it better?

What points did they miss?

What examples, case studies, checklists they should have included?

Should they have presented it in a step by step method?

Can you make it easier to understand?

Is your solution better?

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Step 3: Writing your first draft

Once you have a working outline for your ebook, you need to start creating content for your ebook. You can do this by creating one chapter at a time. Here are some ways to make it easier for you.

# Create a structure

Remember, you have a distinct advantage here. Since you are solving a specific problem for people, you most likely have advice which will take people on a path. There is a step 1 which needs to be done before they can do step 2 and so on.

Since you have a sequential order of things to cover, you don’t have to drive yourself crazy by thinking about what to put in chapter 1 and what should go in chapter 2. Create a structure – a framework in which people can learn. Always be thinking about what is it that people must know to get ahead. You have a clear process and your structure will reflect that.

# Write the introduction

Most people tend to get stuck on writing the introduction section of the ebook. You can skip this entirely and write it after you have done the bulk of the writing or whenever you feel ready. This is totally fine. If you want to start, here are some good points to cover in your introduction.

  • Something you wish you learned in the beginning of your own journey
  • Things you find yourself saying repeatedly to your clients
  • Things that your clients just don’t get
  • Most common beginner mistakes
  • Mindset or beliefs that keep them from success

You want to empathize with your reader. You want to show them you understand what it’s like to be in their shoes (as you were there once). You never want them to be at fault or assign blame. Start the training on a positive note.

writing an ebook

# Write fast

I want you to write as quickly as you can. Imagine speaking to a client or customer and write that down, or record it and have it transcribed. This also helps you stay true to your voice. You want to let your personality shine in your writing. You want people to see that this work is not ghost-written.

If you are typing I want you to turn off the spell check. You don’t want anything to distract you and slow you down. Remember, this is the creation phase, not the editing one.

# Stay accountable

It’s a very good idea to stick to a schedule and get the first draft done as quickly as you can. Allocate some time each day to work on your ebook or work in chunks – so two hours, three times a week. Pick a schedule that suits you.

Be mindful of how long this ebook needs to be. If you have some idea of how much you are going to price it for, that will also guide its word count. For a $17 ebook, you don’t need hundred pages (if your information is super useful). For a $99 ebook you might need to 100+ pages and then some.

Set goals and reward yourself for achieving them. How about writing 1000 words today and you get to order takeaway? How about writing 1500 words and treat yourself to a bubble bath? Whatever works, do that.

Another great way of staying accountable is to send one chapter to someone every week. Perhaps to a business coach or someone in a mastermind group. This helps you stay accountable.

Set a deadline. Have you got a launch date? Work your way backwards and always allow more time – it always takes more than what you planned.

# What to keep

Remember what I talked about earlier, you need enough information that will hold your customer by the hand and help them solve their problems and get results – and no more.

Here are more great reasons to go narrow.

  • It will help you organize your materials and make it easy to write.
  • It helps you to sell the course because it be easy to focus on the benefits and differentiate it from other products.
  • It will help prospects see if the course is right for them, or not.
  • It will help buyers understand, master and implement the materials.
  • It will help buyers get results.
  • It will generate great word of mouth.

Since you are working with your outline, you should know exactly what to cover but even if you find yourself going off on a tangent or you end up writing more than necessary because you are in the flow, keep going.

All the material that won’t make it into the ebook is gold. Don’t throw it out. Scrapped topics are great material for being published as posts or guest posts.

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Step 4: Rewrite and edit

It is common for people to spend way more time on this part. If you find yourself in this position, know that you are not alone. Here are some tips to make this process as easy and pain-free as possible.

# Edit your work before you hire a proof reader

Gather your draft and start editing. This is where the fun begins.

  • Read aloud to catch crazy sentences

Read the text aloud to yourself. You will discover many inconsistencies in your writing that you will not be able to catch otherwise. Rewrite some more by simply saying out loud what you are really trying to say.

  • It should sound just like you

Read your draft to see if it sounds like you. Can your voice be heard? Will your readers feel like as if they are having a conversation with you? If not, rewrite to let your personality shine through. Write conversationally.

  • Keep your prospect in mind

Imagine your reader when you are reading it again. Is your language appropriate? Have you confused or patronized them, appeared sexist? Have you said anything that might not sit well with your audience?

  • Keep your tone consistent

Your tone is your attitude towards the topic, reader and yourselfIt is impossible to write without a tone – it is apparent in the selection of your words. Keep it upbeat and positive.

  • Use verb contractions

If your tone allows it, use contractions to lighten your text. Instead of saying You were not even listening, say you weren’t even listening to me. Replace I will come with I’ll come and so on.

  • Look at your paragraphs Again

Use short paragraphs. Each paragraph should be a series of sentences exploring one main idea. Every sentence should relate to that main point. New thought? Start another one. Your paragraphs should connect with each other in a logical, seamless flow.

  • Vary the length of sentences

Have you varied the length of your sentences? Give your reader’s mind and eye a rest by doing that. Split long sentences into two to make them reader friendly.

  • Get rid of clichés

The only thing that your writing needs is that it is honest and specific. You don’t have to use fancy, clever or literary language. Instead of using cliches, aim to write to inspire your reader.

  • Use exclamation marks sparingly

Use strong, vivid words to communicate that instead.

  • Eliminate unnecessary words

You have probably written thousands of words. Revise and cut everything that you can without affecting the meaning and the message in your piece. If you won’t notice it’s gone, remove it. Eliminate repetitious information.

  • Proofread

Finally, proofread.

Make any last minute corrections.

Step away from your ebook for at least one week. It’s also handy to change the font, size or colour when you do. The text will feel fresh, like you are reading it for the first time. Many people still rush through this stage and inevitably end up with typos and other mistakes in their writing. Be thorough, use a spell-check.

You know you are done, when you have done the best you can. Relax, and be proud. At this stage, if you feel confident, ask at least three people to read word to word and point any typos or mistakes. Don’t give them the whole book. Give a few chapters to each person. Otherwise, hire a proof-reader or copyeditor to do the job for you.

# Add more value

You can add massive value to your ebook by adding checklists, worksheets, templates and links to various resources throughout. Remember, not everyone does it, and if your topic allows it, this can be a great differentiating factor for you.

# Finalize the title

Don’t get stuck on this step. Keep a running list of possible titles for your ebook. What is already available? The main thing to keep in mind is to choose a benefit driven name. Keep it simple. Be clear, rather than creative.

Finally, it is time to get it ready for the world.

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Step 5: Formatting & design

Here are my best tips to keep in mind at the final stage of your ebook.

  • Include common pages such as title page, copyright page, table of contents, introduction, conclusion, what’s next, etc.
  • Remember, people will be reading these on their computer screens, tablets or even smart phones. Make it screen friendly. Insert lots of white space. Use headings, sub-headings, bullets, lists and images (where appropriate). Use text formatting such as bold, italics or text boxes to highlight important information.
  • Use images if you have to. Use screenshots if you are explaining something that would require it.
  • The easiest way to format an instructional ebook is to convert it into a PDF. People don’t need special software to read it and most people are familiar with it.
  • You can use MS Word to convert it to PDF or use special software that will do this for you. Google your options.
  • For a content rich, problem focused ebook, you don’t need uber fancy formatting. It can be very simple and classy. Make sure it has a professional layout and effectively captures your brand.
  • You also need a professional cover for your ebook. However, the good news is that because you are not competing with other ebooks on Amazon, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars or hire a creative agency to create a spectacular work of art. Often all you need is a clean looking design with your ebook title.
  • If you are not confident with this process, hire someone to design an ebook cover and format it for you. If you are tight on budget, ask around for help or barter your services for some graphic design help.

So there you have it. This is the complete process of writing an ebook from start to finish. At this stage, you deserve a huge round of congratulations. You have a final product in your hands – or in your hard drive.

Now stay tuned for the final instalment in this series which is all about marketing and selling your ebook. This is where all of your hard work is going to pay off in terms of building your email list, sales and hot leads for higher priced offerings.

Don’t miss it.