©Perry Gamsby 2011
Traditionally, if one can use such a word in the context of the short lived lifespan of the internet, an eBook is an information product. In the past three to five years fiction books in eBook format (.mobi, .epub etc) have not only become more widely available, they have overtaken print books in sales on Amazon.com and elsewhere. All of which is excellent news for lovers of eReading as these books are a lot cheaper than the paper alternatives. None of which has slowed down the rise of the eBook for non-fiction topics and particularly as a media for the passing on of information, despite the huge increase in other media such as podcasts, video clips and so on.
The bottom line is the eBook is a product that can be bought and sold, except on eBay which now prohibits the sale of downloads as far as I have been told. It has not slowed the demand for content and product for sale online by a specific class of entrepreneur, the web site flipper. Flipping web sites simply means buying or building a we4b site or blog at low cost and then selling it to someone else for more. Some huge numbers are often thrown around and of course, there are ‘hero’ sites that have been built for virtually nothing and sold for hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars.
Like all myths there is some truth in this however the mundane reality is that most web sits sell for a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand, which is still pretty good change. This isn’t about flipping though, this is about how to create an eBook in 20 hours so that you could build a web site around it and then sell it off, if you wish. Or sell the eBook to someone looking for content to build a site around. By that I mean say you write an eBook on hemorrhoids (and who hasn’t? check out ‘Handling Hemorrhoids And Anal Fissures’ by yours truly at Lulu.com) . Now you build a web site by buying a domain name like hemorrhoidsarenofun.com. Next you host it and build a simple WordPress site around it, throw in some links to affiliate programs selling hemorrhoid remedies and add a few articles for content, maybe monetize with Adsense. Some sell right away, others give it a month or two to list with the search engines. You also offer the eBook as a product site visitors can buy or even download for free in exchange for their opting in to your list. You then use the list to market other products to.
Just Like Eating An Elephant
Enough of eCommerce 101, how do you write an eBook in 20 hours? Exactly the same way you eat an elephant…. One bite at a time. Chop the pachyderm into smaller chunks then work your way from chunk to chunk and before you know it you have eaten the whole thing bar the tusks and toenails!
OK, first of all you set a limit to the eBook as to how many words it will be. Some eBooks are novel length (50-75,000 words or more) but not many. Most eBooks are 5,000 to 25,000 words long and many are written in very large point size, say 16pt,
Like this with plenty of white space and bullet points
As the eBook is often presented as a .PDF file you don’t notice the large font size as much as the easy to read layout lets you consume the information pretty quickly and online, it’s all about speed. Average attention span of a web surfer is 15-45 seconds per site so people prefer ‘information’ they can readily absorb and digest without to much brain drain. I prefer to give value for money so I work on a formula of;
eBook = 10-12,000 words in Arial 12 pt, double spaced, about 50 A4 size pages
I use both Excel and Word in Notebook form for my planning. Planning is important and takes up to an hour of the 20 but as I often have ideas floating around and jot them down at the time I often have something I can pull out of the hat, or else it just comes to me because I do these a lot and am a quick thinker anyway. The point is you just need a chapter list if nothing else.
This lets you work out the order and content so that you can logically cover all the topics you need to and do so in a logical order. Excel’s cell structure lets you easily rearrange the order of ideas as you go and of course you can fill in cells in yellow as they are written to keep track of progress. Whatever you like, just have a plan!
Then I start the research. I have set tentative word limits for each chapter which if nothing else breaks the book down into manageable chunks. You haven’t got to write 12,000 words, just 1500 etc. Then another 1,000, then a few thousand more tomorrow and so on.
The research is so easy nowadays with everything at your fingertips, literally. I use Wikipedia (donate, it is a worthy cause) all the time. I just don’t use it as a source. Rather it is a resource that points me towards sources I can cite and include in the bibliography if the work justifies an academic standard. I always check the wiki information with a cited source before I use it as that helps prevent problems. Even if the eBook is just a ‘come on’ and given away free I am writing it and I have professional standards. The one time I ignore those it could come back and haunt me and hurt everything else I have written. Apart from which it is just as easy to be professional as it is to be slap dash and then worry about it. Easier.
I use Word in Notebook format and copy/paste whole swathes of text into each page. I keep a list of the urls as links as well as including the hyper link to the original web page with each block of copy.pasted text. I only use quoted passages in line with the usual academic rules and always with full and proper referencing. I paraphrase according to the style guides too at all times. It keeps you in the habit of writing to the highest standards and it means there is never any doubt in your mind that you did it professionally. I was trained to do this in the Military Police where you always, always, always said the same thing to introduce yourself or at various stages of the investigation, report etc. That way, months later in court, not only could you remember what you said, the defence barrister could cross examine you and try and move you but you knew you said X because you always say X, you can prove you always say X and so your credibility is maintained on X and everything else. Simple but effective and something I have brought to my writing.
One you have all the resource material at hand and have read it, cross checked it and so forth, you are ready to write. I allocate a good 4 to 5 hours for researching the 9-10 chapters. Each chapter is a part of the overall topic of the book. Breaking the topic into nine or ten parts is harder than writing just 1,000 to 1,500 words on each part. Finding the source material is easy and should allow you to glean the necessary volume of data and opinion you need per chapter.
With the research done I then write the intro or overview and let this fine tune my ideas for the book overall. I can now write one chapter per hour, usually in blocks of three or four hours. Once written I edit and proof read, run the spell checker over it and then Find and Replace for my usual ‘form’ instead of ‘from’ typo, all the ‘too’ versus ‘to’ incidents and that other old friend, ‘there’ and ‘their’. Spelt correctly but used incorrectly, spell checker misses them and unless I have the luxury of a second pair of eyes I can ask to read the draft, I need to be able to check things effectively by myself. Well, me and Office for Mac:2011.
Once the proof reading is done I tidy up the format, add a title page and save as a PDF as well as a Word.docx. The eBook is done!
When it comes to images, I try to avoid using them as they can be problematic when formatting as well as increase the file size considerably. Only ever use images you have the right to copy, either you own them or they are public domain or you have permission to reproduce. If you ever unwittingly infringe copyright then make sure you apologise and remove the offending image. The same goes for graphs and tables. Take the data and redraw the table yourself in an original way, don’t just copy and paste unless it is allowed under public domain or other rules.
Learn the formatting capabilities of your word processing software. Word is very complex and powerful and after using it for 20 years in various versions I am starting to use more than just the basics. As a professional writer I realise I need to invest time in learning the tools of my trade and the software is as much one of those as a dictionary.
This method produces a 12,000 word eBook in the 20 hours claimed, everytime. It allows me to schedule my time and budget my resources, figure out viable rates to charge and so on. In a working week I know I can punch out one of these and make $500 plus do other work and of course, source new work. Too many writers forget to allocate time and effort in finding the work and just focus on grinding it out.
With a method or system like this, I can teach others to write eBooks and then I can outsource work and multiply my income capability for the same amount of time. If I have five writers working for me and I pay them $25 an hour each and charge the clients $30, I make $25 every hour just for finding the clients. So that $500 eBook will now cost the client $600 and I get $100 of that. Offset that against the time and effort it took to find and win his business and I am still making money. Then multiply that by the number of clients and so on. I can control and predict this to a greater extent, much more so than if I just asked a writer to write an eBook for $500. How long? When will it be ready? What’s the progress? All questions I can answer because I have a system in place.
It will be 10-12,000 words long, here is the chapter outline, here is what has been written so far, here is how many hours have been spent and how many more are allocated and we expect completion by 4.13pm Friday, will that be cash or Paypal, Sir?
One might say what if you pay them $10 an hour and pocket $20? They miss the point. The talent is still in the writer writing the eBook, not the system used to get it done ontime and in budget. Get greedy as too many do and you kill the goose writing those golden egg stories. Give the writer fair reward for their efforts and they, like me, will turn in 15,000 word eBooks written because they felt it needed the extra 3,000 words to do it right. Not to a schedule or price but to do it right, to do it so that you feel proud of what you wrote, even if your name doesn’t appear on the product. That is the difference between professionals and hacks and quality will always win out in the end.
I trust this has been of interest and hopefully of value. Feel free to adjust and adapt and use this system however best suits you, or do something radically different now you at least know you don’t want to do it this way. Knowledge not shared is knowledge wasted and the web is big enough for all of us.
Feel free to reproduce this article providing you retain this link to my web site and properly credit me with the authorship.