Ideas and Validation June 18, 2020

How did you approach writing your first eBook?

Michael Pierce @matchmike1313

Hi IndieHackers!

Over the past year two eBook ideas have been floating around in my head. 1) An eBook around security for Ruby on Rails apps / network configuration. "The Complete Guide for Rails Security" or 2) M&A 101, a primer to Mergers and Acquisitions, a starter-guide for people interested in working or building software for Investment Banks (Which would be co-authored with several ex-investment bankers).

For those of you that have launched one or multiple eBooks, how did you go about the process?

  • Table of Contents / Content Management (Google Drive, Word, etc.)
  • Publishing your book (Self-publish on website, Amazon, etc.)
  • Design (Illustrations, type, design assets, etc.)
  • Pre-launch sign-ups and marketing
  • Handling a launch, payments, delivery, etc. (Gumroad, Stripe, etc.)
  • What you wish you would of done differently

Thanks! Looking forward to hearing from the community!

  1. 4

    Hey, funnily enough I just wrote a blog post on this!

    I published my ebook on Imposter Syndrome in tech last Friday and I've had 48 sales since then.

    • write content in Google Doc
    • publish on Gumroad
    • Design cover in Canva
    • I didn't do a pre-launch sign ups and created some hype in newsletters and on twitter
    • I launched on Product Hunt
    • I would have a better landing page - I have a subpage on my website but I think a dedicated book page with bigger CTA would have worked better. My sales went way up when I just linked straight to Gumroad.
    1. 2

      wow, nice, congrats man. I'm planning to publish my 1st book on Gumroad, too. Cover I've used on the website is currently Canva, but I think I'm going to jazz it up with one designed by a cover designer, especially as I'm intending to sell on Amazon too.

    2. 1

      @petecodes thank you for your response! This is super helpful. Seems like GDocs, Gumroad, and a single landing page are super common strategies. Would love to get your opinion of the TOC once I get started on this!

  2. 2

    I'm currently putting my 1st one together, The Indie Author.
    This book is pretty much a 'collective' effort, with me co-ordinating; it features the 'stories' (i.e. short written interviews, which I'm editing), with an intro, perhaps a short outro/epilogue, and a handful of short 'mini-chapters' (less than 1k words) I've invited a handful of authors to write.

    (I have a first draft for a mystery/suspense fiction novel I completed for Nano a couple of years back, which I may end up publishing, we'll see).

    I've not published it yet, but here's where I'm at currently:

    Table of Contents / Content Management (Google Drive, Word, etc.)

    • intro: wrote by hand, as I do all my writing, and then typed up to iPad mini -> GoogleDocs.
    • main body: it consists of interviews I sent out over Google Docs/email. I'll be picking and choosing pertinent bits. So, this book is mostly organising/editing content.
    • I've been using SimpleNote for keeping track of who I've emailed / who has sent their answers back, etc, but I've been using Notion recently so will probably use this going forward.

    Publishing your book (Self-publish on website, Amazon, etc.)
    Self-publishing, and selling on Gumroad and Amazon (digital and physical versions)

    Design (Illustrations, type, design assets, etc.)
    I designed a cover on Canva for my website but - especially as I'm selling on Amazon/physical copies, I'm likely to use a cover designer for the actual book so the cover you see currently won't be the one I use.

    Pre-launch sign-ups and marketing
    I'm intending to get on a couple of podcasts, and write a (monthly or every 2 months) update to send out to chart my progress creating the book. It looks like I'll have ~75 authors taking part, and as this is a 'collective book' I figure it would be nice to keep in contact with them. When the book launches, I'm intending to include a short 'behind the scenes' / 'how i did it' document, too, that I'll include on digital/physical purchases (perhaps for a limited time, or permanently, dunno yet).

    Handling a launch, payments, delivery, etc. (Gumroad, Stripe, etc.)
    Not launched yet, but Gumroad and Amazon are the plan.

    ps. @matchmike1313, I notice you might be co-authoring, too. As well as the 'interviews' I mentioned I'm using, a handful of authors have written 'mini-chapters'. Happy to help/answer any q's re: co-authoring if you have them.

    1. 2

      @jas_hothi this is beyond helpful! I love your idea of breaking into min-chapters with 1,000 words or less. I am pretty convinced now about doing down the GDocs path with Gumroad/Amazon. I think I will also go with a designer for the cover. Absolutely! I am sure I'll have some questions around the co-authoring! Signed up for updates about your book! Cheers.

      1. 1

        glad to help :) yeah, I think it's really helpful to break down the daunting task of a book into bite-sized chunks. e.g. think of it was writing, say, 5 blog posts for a particular topic, then turn that into a chapter. I know folks who have re-purposed blog content -> an e-book, too.

        feel free to keep me posted - email (on my profile) is the best bet

  3. 2

    I've written 2 books and this question intrigues me. Let me open my reply with a question of my own:

    Over the past year two eBook ideas have been floating around in my head.

    Right off the bat, I want to ask: which topic have you already written about the most?

    Before you say "neither", I want you to think about:

    • Every Slack post
    • Every forum post
    • Every text
    • Every e-mail
    • Every tweet

    That you have EVER written in response to someone asking you a question on one of those 2 topics.

    Whichever topic you've ALREADY written about the most, that's your first eBook topic! See how easy that was? ;)

    When I wrote my first ebook - a how-to podcasting guide called Record And Release - I got my first 15 pages from combing through everything I'd ever written on the topic - mostly emails to curious friends asking me how things worked, and notes to my assistant regarding production tasks.

    15 pages may not sound like much, but it beats the hell out of staring at a blank page 1, wondering what to write!

    I self-published in PDF format on Gumroad.

    I put up a landing page with an email opt-in, promoted it on Twitter, and offered some free podcasting worksheets as a lead magnet - feel free to check them out and see if they spur any ideas regarding things you can provide to promote your book.

    I got a cover off of Fiverr and formatted the interior of the book myself.

    When launch rolled around, I promoted relentlessly on Twitter, Product Hunt, and my own podcast.

    Things I wish I'd have done differently?

    1. Podcast tour! I had planned to do a podcast tour (and several other marketing initiatives), but a medical disaster in the family forced me to cut my marketing plans short. I tried to reignite sales a couple months later, to no avail. I think the podcast tour could have gotten my book in front of a LOT of my target audience.

    2. Facebook ads. I have no idea if this would have helped but it would have been worth $100 to find out.

    3. In addition to the above 2 channels, I'd have tried to figure out even more promotional channels. That's one bit of myopia I've always had, with every product I've tried to launch; I think of 3-5 promotional channels and then I stall out. A better marketer could probably think of 50.

    Also, let me call out some non-obvious advantages I had, that others might not have:

    1. I had the web-dev chops to create a nice website for the book; it was 5 years ago and I wasn't a full-time manager yet.
    2. I had a halfway-popular podcast at the time, with a 300-person mailing list to promote my book to.

    My second eBook is a whole other story that we can get into another day. ;)

    Hope this helps! Here's wishing you success with whatever ebook you decide to create!

    1. 1

      @chawkins thank you for the well-thought out response! This is a wonderful way to go about it. I am definitely leaning toward the M&A 101 idea now, I built a start-up around Investment Banking email automation and workflows and have explained to so many contractors, employees, etc. M&A concepts from a 30,000 foot view perspective. I am positive I have some good content written up! I too, think I will go with the Gumroad route as a PDF! The Facebook Ads are a great idea. I will give that a shot along with forums, SEO, etc.

      Thank you! Likewise. Good luck with your second eBook!

      Cheers

  4. 1

    Define a goal what that book should do for you (money, Name out, lead gen, etc)

    Cover a single topic and goal aka what shoukd they read get accomplished after reading the book

    Create an outline for that

    Reduce scope because too many ideas screeped in, remove everything that is not needed for goal

    Write that piece

    Read and edit for understandability

    Edit grammar, using grammarly

    Depending on where you publish, consider a proofreader, e.g. Readers on amazon are pickier because they expect a publihser level book

    Get a decent cover, use one of the cheap fiverr or diy if you have the skills

    If you want to publish on amazon, do keyword research first or you will be lost in millions of books

    If you do amazon, get an audiobook via acx too. Sometimes you can make more money with that then the kindle version

    Pricing dependsmon your audience, silimiar books and the market place. Selling your 100 pages for 30 bucks on amazon will probably not work. Customers there are pretty price sensitive and love cheap kindle books.

    If you do the rails book, try to get on skillsoft too. It is like safaribooks and you get royalties based on read pages etc. Brings me a few hundred bucks each month

    I sell via Paddle, Gumroad, Amazon and the other resellers via Smashwords. But from them only ibooks brings some peanuts. Seems amazon has the whole book market.

    Feel free to reach out, happy to share more

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