So, you think you have some advice to share, or you have an idea for a work of fiction, or you have an opinion on some topic. You’ve thought about getting an agent and/or going to a main-stream publisher. But that feels like a long, tough haul. You’ve thought about writing and publishing an electronic book (e-book), but you don’t know where to start. Okay, here are some guidelines you can use to write an e-book.
- State your idea—Many people have a vague idea for a book, but it’s important to solidify and develop the concept. An effective way to do that is to jot down a short phrase or sentence that captures what you want to write about.
- Extend your idea—After you’ve worked on and worked over your idea, start expanding on it. Think of variations on that theme. This is a good place to employ a mind-map. Basically, start creating a web of items related to your idea (circles or rectangles connected by lines that tie concepts together). For fiction, this might include plot variations, locations, time of year, etc. For non-fiction, you might jot down and connect various aspects of the topic, including its history, major players, recent developments, and the like. See how the various areas relate to each other, as well as to the main theme.
- Organize—Rearrange your idea map into a vertical outline. Then organize it until you have a list of topics and sub-topics (non-fiction) or a logical plot flow (fiction). Now, put yourself in a reader’s place. Does everything flow from a strong logical beginning to a proper end? Will the reader have all the knowledge needed to get through your book effectively? This approach will allow you to create the chapters and sections of your book.
- Write—It’s now time to start writing your book. Most people will write it from beginning to end, following their outline. However, some people just can’t seem to write just that right beginning. So, be creative and start writing anywhere. Pick your favorite chapter or section, the one you find easiest to cover, and start there. As you write, the momentum and success of seeing words on the page will give you the boost to write the more difficult parts. And at this stage, don’t sit there for hours or days trying to create a title or worry about style, grammar, etc. Just write. Remember this: writing takes discipline. You need to devote some time each day to completing so many pages or so many words. Try to pick the same time of day (and location) where you can write uninterrupted. If you get stuck, jump to another part of your book. It’s amazing how writing begets writing. And keep going until you have a complete first draft.
- Edit—Once you finish your first draft, it’s very important to set it aside for a period of time. Some people find a few days is okay, but it’s usually most effective to not look at your first draft for a few weeks. That way, when you start reviewing it, you’ll do it with renewed energy and a critical eye. What to check? Start with the structure and organization. Does the book flow the way you wanted it to? Will a reader be able to follow your flow? Do you need to move content around to make your book read more effectively? Now, read each chapter in the same way—structure, organization, flow. Make changes to improve your content and readability. When it comes to editing, quality is more important than quantity. Read slowly and carefully. As the author, it’s all too easy to miss words and meanings because you already know them. It can be helpful to read your book aloud and slowly. How do the sentences sound to your ear? As with writing, you need to set a goal to edit so many pages or words a day. As you read, think of anything that might need rearranging—or deleting. The idea is to communicate your theme, not win a “number of words” contest.
- The other stuff—Once you’ve done the above steps, options for your book’s title should become apparent, unless you’ve already chosen one. But you may want to change your mind at this stage. You might bounce some ideas off of family, friends or colleagues. Remember, the first two things a potential buyer sees are the cover and the title. So, it’s important to spend some time on this. With your structure and organization done, you can now create a table of contents, if appropriate, unless you’ve already created one. Your outline can be a great start. What about any acknowledgements, references, a bibliography, notes, sources, etc.? Time to add those.
- The cover—Even though this is an e-book, it’s important to have an eye-catching attractive cover. Keep in mind that many covers appear on e-book sales sites as thumbnail size. So, simple and direct is a good start. Of course, depending on your book’s genre, you may choose to get really exotic and have a “wild” design. However, unless you have graphic design skills and think you can do it yourself, you might want to hire a professional book-cover designer. As stated above, the cover and title are the two most important hooks for a potential buyer.
- Testing—Before you send your e-book to an online publisher, you might want to consider having someone else read it. This might be family (qualified? biased?), friends (ditto?), or colleagues (maybe ditto?). Or, it might be most effective to hire a freelance editor (usually qualified, unbiased). The honest feedback you need is not only about punctuation and grammar, but readability, and clear communication of your message or theme—and whether it’s written right for your target audience.
- Publish—Take all the feedback you collect and make any changes you agree with. Create a final draft that’s ready to publish.
Writing can be fun, but it also takes skill, time, and patience. If you’re willing to follow some of these steps, and maybe a few of your own, you’ll be on your way to successfully writing and publishing your first e-book.
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