How to Finally Start (and Finish) That Ebook

    finish that ebook

    It’s time to finish that ebook!

    Writing an ebook is awesome. You can control the publication process, eliminating the long delays of finding a publisher and waiting for your book to be printed. If you do a free one, it’s also a perfect way to let your future customers take your writing for a test drive.

    I recently released a free ebook and it’s done wonders for my subscriber numbers and traffic. I’ve gotten tons of comments from people about how much they liked it and how helpful they found it. Music to a writer’s ears!

    Here’s what I learned from the process:

    1. Get inspired

    For my ebook, the idea jumped into my lap and wouldn’t go away until I wrote about it. (It was a lot like how I got my cat!) But normally, I expect I’ll be going after ideas myself, rather than the other way around.

    A good place to look for ideas is what you already know and are good at. What do you know now that you wish you had known a few years ago? What resource would you have killed for when you were starting out?

    2. Make an outline

    Once you have an idea, making an outline is a great way to start building the book. That’s how I did my ebook. I had a lot of things I wanted to say, so I started listing and organizing them. Once I had the outline, all I had to do was fill in the blanks.

    The magic of this technique is it takes an overwhelming task (write a whole book!) and turns it into a bunch of doable pieces. Once the whole thing is broken down, writing a section is a lot like writing a blog post. Write a bunch of blog posts? Of course you can do that!

    3. Schedule your writing time

    I would love to have the kind of life where scheduling wasn’t necessary, but I juggle way too many things. If I don’t schedule something, it doesn’t get done.

    When I was working on my ebook, I set aside a two-hour block four mornings a week for writing. It was a good plan, but I often let other things trample a writing session. Oh, the furnace is out–I’ll meet the repair man Wednesday morning. Poof! There went a writing session. Time to make Thanksgiving pies. Poof! There went another one.

    It’s especially difficult when the people around you don’t share your priorities. They want to spend time with you, you say you can’t because you’ll be writing, they look at you like you’re weird, crazy, and lame.

    Or maybe I just had this problem because I didn’t believe in myself. If you don’t take yourself and your project seriously, nobody else will, either. If you want to write a book, commit to it, make it top priority, and guard your writing time as sacred. You will finish it if you want to badly enough.

    4. Celebrate

    Whether your book is short or long, finishing the writing is an accomplishment. Treat yourself!

    5. Revise systematically

    I tend to write like mad and revise later. I do a little rewording during the writing, but I try to leave my critical internal editor at the door. That leaves me a big rough draft at the end.

    This is where I got really stuck. Writing is exhilarating. Revising and editing, on the other hand… far less sexy. I’d try to read through the whole thing and end up asleep on the couch.

    Then I had the idea to break the editing down to the size of a blog post, like I had done for the writing. The amount of work required to fix and tighten up a blog post is about one to two hours for me–a doable amount. So I split the book into chunks and revised them one at a time. Much better! Then I could look at the book as a whole and fix it on that level.

    Another trick I use for revising is formatting the text. After two or three passes through a piece of text, I can’t read all the words any more, no matter how hard I try to make myself concentrate. But when I move it from a word processor to blogging software or a book layout and start concentrating on headings, emphasis, and lists, it gives me a new perspective and I can read all the words again. This is usually my last round of revisions. In the case of the book, I also sent it to grammar-loving friends for additional copy editing.

    6. Launch

    Once the writing and editing are finished, it feels like you should be about done, but actually, there’s still a ton of work to do! You need to design the cover and do the layout, or get someone else to do it. Then there’s all the marketing and technical stuff!

    For me, the excitement of having other people finally read my book was essential motivation at this stage. There are a squizillion little things that need to be set up and taken care of for the launch to go smoothly. Making a checklist is essential.

    Check and double-check all of your links. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to mess up. Try to launch when you don’t have a lot of other things going on. But most importantly, launch! Nobody will get to read your great work otherwise. It can be tempting to keep tweaking and improving, but at a certain point, you have to declare victory and get it out there.

    7. Take the long view

    Leading up to my launch, I was 100 kinds of excited. All this work, finally coming to fruition! I stayed up until 2 am the night before getting everything done. Meanwhile, my day job was causing a ton of stress and sucking up a lot of energy. By launch day, I was an exhausted, gibbering bundle of nerves.

    A lot of things fell short of my expectations on launch day. One of my download links was broken (insert self-flagellation here!). I had less traffic than I hoped, and of the direct traffic that day, only 13.5% actually clicked the “download” link. I was crushed.

    Then, I got a message from a reader saying she liked the book but didn’t see enough of me in it–next time, I should include more of myself.

    I had asked for feedback, and at the time, I sincerely meant it, or thought I did. The problem is, once I consider something finished, I can’t imagine anyone’s honest feedback being anything but “Stellar! Best thing I’ve ever read! I’ve been waiting for this all my life!” So this feedback, even though it was constructive and mostly positive, crushed me. As fried as I was by then, I couldn’t be see anything clearly. I was devastated, ready to quit writing and retreat to my cubicle.

    That would have been a huge mistake! Over the next week, I got some rest, traffic and downloads picked up considerably, and I got a ton of enthusiastic comments from old friends and new subscribers. The rush I was expecting on launch day did happen, just not all that day. It’s also given me the chance to interact and deepen my relationships and feel more a part of the online community as a whole.

    Writing and releasing an ebook is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I highly recommend getting started by writing a short ebook or manifesto and releasing it free. The positive energy is addictive! 

    About the author

      Cara Stein

      Cara Stein helps people remember that life is short and make their best days a common occurrence. You can enjoy more of her posts at 17000 Days.  Check out her free ebook: How to be Happy (No Fairy Dust or Moonbeams Required)

    • Shirley says:

      Thankyou Cara ofr a succinct and honest piece about the whole ebook process. I really enjoyed reading it and read right to the end even tho my time was limited. Now, that tells me you write well!!! All the best!

    • Hi there,

      Being a writer is a gift, you are so blessed to have this kind of gift.. Keep safe!

    • Hi Cara Stein,

      thank you.

      I downloaded your book and are going to read it as the others I have dowloaded from Joe Vitale and others that sometimes give their work free to us.
      Thank you again.



    • This is a perfect article I needed; I have been wanting to write an eBook for long, but never did. This article is like a blueprint! Thanks a lot for these tips.

      • Cara Stein says:

        I’m so glad you found it helpful! Good luck with your new book! 🙂

    • Jeff says:

      Hi Cara – great to hear tips from someone who has actually been through the process.

      We have written 12 ebooks across different markets – each one came about first from an experience, question or learning we have done on our own.

      Overcoming some health challenges early in life became the topic of one ebook, helping coach stress-relief and life planning became the topic of a couple of others. Having helped people setup businesses, yet another.

      We have also coached many others to write their own ebooks, books and courses and what I can say is to anyone that wonders what they could write about or what to put in their ebook I would make two suggestions:

      1. Pick from your experiences – we answer or help people everday, a good deal of this can be packed into ebooks to help others. Have you raised children, have insights that could help other parents? Have you achieved getting a promotion at work, could you advise someone else on how to do the same? Help an aging parent – I bet you would have advice on how others could do that better? We all gain knowledge in everday life that can help others as they go through similar situations. The best part about picking these type of topics are that they tend to provide laser focus, can often be outlined in terms of specific questions and you can draw your own personal story into your ebook – even if you augment it with research.

      2. Pick from a passion or interest you have. Passionate about wine, then write about wine, passionate about becoming a great soccer coach, then help others do the same. With writing there is a certain amount of research required – if you love your topic, then that research seems like FUN not work and that comes through in your ebook

      Great article Cara


      • Cara Stein says:

        Great points, Jeff!

        If you love your topic, then that research seems like FUN not work and that comes through in your ebook

        Exactly! That’s the best!

    • Will says:

      This was really helpful. I just made a presentation about how writers get things done (http://sambacharach.com/bacharachblog/proactive-stories/5-weird-work-habits-of-sucessful-writers/) It’s interesting to figure out how ebook writers will fare!

      • Cara Stein says:

        When it comes down to it, writing an e-book isn’t that different from writing anything else, but I’m glad you found the post helpful! Thanks!

    • Amy says:

      This is so helpful. I’ve been mulling the idea of an e-book over for years, but didn’t really know where to start. It sounds so obvious, but creating an outline and breaking it into smaller chunks makes so much sense! I might have to go start my outline right now…
      Thanks! 🙂

      • Cara Stein says:

        This makes me so happy! I hope you find writing your e-book as gratifying and awesome as I found mine!

    • Hi Cara,
      Thanks for this simple, helpful resource. I loved your 4th tip: Celebrate! Writing an ebook IS an accomplishment, especially one that comes from the heart. I enjoyed the process for my ebook immensely, and still get a thrill every time the ejunkie email pops up with a new sale. 🙂

      Melissa Gorzelanczyk

      • Cara Stein says:

        Thanks! Yeah, celebrating is crucial after all that work! It’s a labor of love, but it’s still labor. 🙂 If you can celebrate all the way to the bank, so much the better!

    • Great article, Cara, with very helpful information!

      Over the past couple of months, I’ve also been going through the process of writing an e-book to upload on my site. I’ve conquered my procrastination demon when it comes to regular blog posting by setting up an editorial calendar for my twice-weekly blogs, but the e-book was a horse of a different color… It took way longer than I planned for, but I’m happy to report that I’m finally ready to share at least a beta version with my blog subscribers this week.

      I’m curious — I notice that you made your e-book available to anyone without the requirement that they subscribe to your site. You say you’ve gotten more blog traffic since you made the e-book available — have you noticed a significant increase in subscribers as well? I’m curious about that part of the strategy and how it works, if you would care to share…. the pros and cons of linking a free e-book to subscriptions, or making it accessible to everyone.


      • Cara Stein says:

        Oh yes, I’ve gotten a ton more subscribers since I launched the ebook!

        What I did is make the book available without subscribing, but have a workbook and other add-ons available if the person subscribes. The thought behind that approach was to get the ebook into as many hands as possible. If people are interested, they’ll want the workbook as well, so they’ll subscribe. If not, they probably wouldn’t have stuck around anyway.

        I’ve seen other people do this–I copied the idea from Emilie Wapnick at Puttylike. As a reader, I have way too much email already, so unless I really want something bad, I won’t sign up to get it. But Emilie’s book didn’t require a sign-up, so I went ahead and grabbed it, and when I read it, it was fantastic! It was better than many ebooks I’ve paid for. I was impressed, so I was happy to sign up for her list to get the add-on material. Her approach and her work stood out, and as a result, I care much more about what she has to say and keeping up with what she’s doing. So when it came time to release my ebook, I followed that model. It seems to be working quite well.

        I would probably get more initial subscribers if I made people sign up in order to get the book at all, but I’m sure I would also have a lot more unsubscribes once they got their freebie. I’d rather get the book in as many hands as possible and have subscribers who care what I have to say and stick around.

      • Cara Stein says:

        I forgot to say, congratulations on finishing your e-book! That’s awesome!!

    • Cara, Congrats on launching your book – I love the title! I’ve been dreaming of writing a book, but the hardest part is scheduling writing time. That, and all the practical/technical stuff of designing/launching. I’ll get there some day, maybe when all my kids are in school!

      • Cara Stein says:

        Thank you!

        I definitely sympathize about finding the time, and about the launch stuff. Some of the launch stuff can be outsourced–you could hire or barter for a designer, for instance. Also, though there is a lot of stuff that needs to be done for a launch, most of the pieces are pretty small and simple if you just take them one at a time. Plus, by then the excitement of having this awesome book to send out into the world is a good driving force! 🙂 At least, that’s how it was for me.

        I hope you find the time to write your book! I’m sure you’ve heard all the advice already about getting up an hour earlier or squeezing it in other times. I don’t know how people with small children get anything done, honestly–my hat’s off to you!

    • Great tips and tricks, thanks a lot 🙂
      I’m planing It for a year now and still haven’t find time :p
      Thanks again, can’t wait to read your book <3

      • Cara Stein says:

        Thanks–I’m glad you liked it!

        For finding the time, I recommend breaking it down into small pieces. For example, making a list of all the stuff you want to include, or organizing the topics into an outline, or writing one small section. Even if you only do one or two a week, that will add up over time. Be sure to chart your progress in some quantifiable way like number of pages written, so you can see that you’re getting somewhere–that helps to stay motivated.

        Or, what worked for me was taking the opposite approach: declaring that November was book-writing month, and it was going to be crazy and other things were going to get neglected until I finished, but I was going to throw myself at it full force and try to finish in a month. I get tired of things if they drag on too long, so the sprint approach worked great for me.

        I know how hard it can be to find the time for even one more small thing, let alone a big thing like writing a book, but it’s such an incredible experience. It’s well worth it–I hope you do it. 🙂

    • NotCathy says:

      Hi there,

      hhmm.. I haven’t try writing an e-book that’s why I dont know what to say :)..All I can say is you really did a great job in this article. I hope someday I can also write my own e-book..:)Still Hoping..:) By the way, congatulations to your ebook.. Keep it up!

      • Cara Stein says:

        Thanks! I definitely recommend the outlining approach if you’re intimidated about how to start. If you can write a blog, you can write an ebook–go for it!

    • Elle B says:

      Serendipity! I’ve been in the “thinking about” phase of writing a free e-book for about a month (thanks to the suggestion from Mary). You’ve given me the impetus to move to outlining. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • AD Bane says:

      Oh, this is really great! I especially like where you said “at a certain point, you have to declare victory and get it out there” because I struggle so often with trying to make my work perfect. I keep telling myself to take a step back. It doesn’t matter! If I keep stressing over it, no one is ever going to see it and nothing will ever come from it. Sometimes you just have to take a stab!

      I like what you said about criticism too. If you put yourself out there you’re going to get criticism, both good and bad, but the way I see it is its ALL GOOD! If someone hates you, at least you’re leaving an impression, and that impression will draw in others to see what’s going on. All publicity can be good publicity!

      Thanks so much for the post!

      • Cara Stein says:

        Thanks–I’m glad you liked the post!

        It is important to make your work the best you can make it, but definitely don’t wait until it’s perfect to release it–nothing is ever perfect! Some cultures actually encourage creators to put a mistake in their work on purpose, because they believe it’s an offense to God otherwise–only God can be perfect. Even if I believed in that, personally, I never have to put them in there on purpose. 🙂

        Good point about the haters! I know you’re right about all publicity being good publicity, and all the successful people say it comes with the territory once you get big enough to be noticed, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to that part. I guess I’ll grow into it. 🙂

        Thanks for your insights!

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