My first e-book: A 10-week journey

Posted on March 2, 2012

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A few people reading this will know that for about a year I’d been deliberating writing an e-book. Not the sexiest of subjects to start with – how to run things like panels and interviews at live events – but a necessary area of expertise for lots of people in the type of media world I’ve worked in. (See my post about the release of Everything in Moderation over on the Collective Content blog.)

Since setting up my own business that idea became a realistic opportunity, for both time and rights-ownership reasons.  I’m not going to talk you through the mechanics of getting a self-published book up on Amazon or similar (others, including former colleagues, have done that really well – see the end of this post for links) but I did want to share three things I’ve learnt along the way.

It needn’t take long – If you have an idea, an idea that doesn’t mean meeting or interviewing lots of other people, you can get to a malleable first draft manuscript in no time. Of course that depends on how long the manuscript is. My thinking was that it should be long enough to justify the ‘book’ moniker but short enough that it is consumable on an e-reader, tablet or even smart-phone.

I came in at about 10,000 words, give or take. Put another way, this is doable – as a first pass, remember – in a weekend. From that first take to going live, it was 10 weeks.

Get some help – Revisions are the name of the game, for those who haven’t written professionally – and for those who have. They’re vital. Take some time between coming back to the draft. At 10,000 words or so you’ll need, for one thing, a little while to get through the text each time. (Don’t consider a session of less than an hour.) But you won’t spot everything – not just typos and grammar (tell me spell check is a given for you, right?) but content ideas, formatting, style and basic points like how to start and end it.

And assuming you’re going for a work of non-fiction, if you’re anything like me then getting past the first page or two will be hardest.

In short, work with someone who is an experienced copy editor. Shout if you need one, I know lots and the one I worked with is as good as they get.

Beyond text – The help you’ll need is about more than the words. I also worked with an illustrator. When you browse any e-bookstore it is surprising how few of the books give any sense of branding or even plain old professionalism at first glance. People do judge a book by its cover, even an e-book.

What’s doubly tricky in this case is that a cover should work when both a thumbnail and blown up. I’m no expert on this but keep it simple, make it bold and think about how people will glance at the cover as much as the title and blurbs.

My first e-book isn’t stacked full of photos or diagrams – the format doesn’t really make that a good idea – but the format will embrace that, in time, so think carefully about visual elements you’ll need.

What else? – For many business books making versions available in formats such as audio or – wait for it – a physical, dead-tree copy is a good idea. I haven’t done that yet with EIM but am on it.

Would love to hear any thoughts on this subject. Or indeed on Everything in Moderation, which I haven’t yet mentioned here is available for a very reasonable £2.50  or $4 .

Here are those sources of good e-book advice I mentioned:

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) – 10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to Any E-Publishing Service

Larry Dignan (@ldignan) (a former colleague of mine over on ZDNet.com) – On Kindle Singles

DoJoKlo.com – The E-Book Handbook ($9.99)

Registered Nurse RN – Best Way to Sell an eBook, Market, and Create Sales Page

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