Writing Your First (Kindle) eBook - 6 DOs 3 DON'Ts
By Mark Portlock
The following are some dos and don'ts if you're thinking of writing (and publishing) an e-book for the first time. My experience comes from writing & publishing two books on Amazon Kindle, plus I've shared some knowledge gained from others who have a great deal more experience with eBooks & Kindle, such as Sean Roach and Ryan Deiss.
Firstly, 6 DOs!
#1 Do consider Amazon Kindle
According to a senior Google executive, Amazon is the company that they fear most. Amazon has over 400 million credit cards registered with them. No one else comes close. Why is Google so concerned? It's that Amazon attracts buyers not browsers.
When it comes to eBooks, Amazon's electronic publishing arm, Kindle, is one of the most powerful forces in the business. There are now over 100 million black and white Kindle readers and, more impressively still, the new Kindle Fire (which has a colour screen) has sold over 23 million units since July 2012. Not least that, but Kindle books can also be read (for free) on virtually every platform that's out there. E.g. iPhones, iPads, PCs, Macs, Android etc. It's no wonder that Kindle is growing at 119% a year.
#2 (Just) Do it!
If you think you've got a book in you, I encourage you to 'Just Do It'. It's now easier than ever. Once you've hit that Publish button, one of the beauties of the platform is that all books are placed at the same level; whether published by you, Simon and Schuster, or whoever!
You don't even need to have expertise or special knowledge in any given subject... it's perfectly okay to write as a reporter.
Another plus is that you don't need to write a large amount. If you can write in the range of 20 to 50 pages, that's perfect. If you want to write more than that, then consider writing a series of books rather than a single large book (as was the way, further back in history). If you are a first-timer, then the biggest challenge is possibly just that of overcoming the fear to take a risk and look stupid. Everyone gets that to a degree, so, as they say, just feel the fear and do it anyway. (Version One is better than Version None!)
#3 Do it for Fun (and profit too)!
To get going, perhaps start by just writing for fun. Take the smallest of steps and let it grow.
However, if you're interested in profit too, I have some numbers that you may find interesting. Firstly, the costs to publish are very low. Kindle themselves charge nothing, however, if you want a professional photograph for your cover, you may need to pay a third-party for publishing rights (say $US 10 for a high resolution picture from a stock photo library). Likewise for formatting; if you prefer to not do it yourself you'll have to outsource, however, the cost for that is very low as well.
Of course, beyond these costs the sky's the limit if you want a very professional result or the support of a real publisher. However, if you're just starting out, you can do so on a shoestring budget.
In terms of book pricing, the sweet spot for Kindle books is between $US 2.99 and $US 9.99. Any lower than that and the price might appear too cheap (implying low quality), and any higher than that needs extra justification. But, perhaps your book really does warrant a higher price. That's great if so. However, unless there's a compelling reason to do otherwise, it's best to stay within the sweet spot range.
Though these prices may seem low, they can still produce a good income for the author as long as the volume is sufficiently high. This is because, as the author, you'll get up to 70% royalty. (Amazingly, you'll likely get a better income from an Amazon book selling at $US 2.99 than you will from a traditional paper book selling for $US 24.99!)
If you're interested in some specific profit examples, I recently came across the results of a couple of Kindle 'how-to' books. One was called How To Purify Water and the other was called How To Use Pinterest. Even though both were priced at only $US 2.99, the book on how to purify water produced a royalty profit of about $US 300 per month, and the book on Pinterest produced a royalty profit of about $US 1,300 per month. Pretty good, eh!
#4 Do... aim for a Niche
The previous two examples lead neatly into the subject of niches. Both of those books were, I believe, aimed deliberately at popular niches; the purify water book at the 'disaster preppers' niche and the Pinterest book at a 'happening' Internet niche.
If you do write for a hot niche, then the results can be great. However, the trade-off is that the result may not be sustained over time.
Of course, niches need not be non-fiction. It's worth noting that, for every three non-fiction books on Kindle, there are about two fiction books.
One example of a hot fiction niche came about following the roaring success of the book Fifty Shades of Grey. Despite its professional reviewers (who said its quality was "mixed to negative") it became the fastest-selling paperback of all time. Of course, Kindle rode that wave too and did whatever they could to quickly get more titles of the same genre. (Maybe they still are!)
A brief word on pen names & niches. I've chosen to write my books using my own name. Of course, it's perfectly okay to write in a pen name too. The best advice I've received is to use one pen-name per niche if you are publishing in multiple niches.
#5 Do some things to speed Production
I've found it's best to write long, write fast, ignore errors, and then go back and rewrite, rewrite and rewrite again. (I actually start with a mind-map). Set-up the structure first and, if you can, create a book title and description early on. (Essentially, define the outcome and work back from there). To make progress at a reasonable pace, set yourself deadlines and then stick to them. Celebrate when you hit them. And, if you don't, you might even want to give yourself an occasional penalty!
The only real 'tool' you need is Microsoft Word. Kindle does have a process to take Word documents and automatically convert them to their format (HTML). However, you will likely need to adjust your document before submitting it for conversion, as there are some aspects that their process is poor at achieving. E.g. table of contents, bullet points etc. (But, as mentioned before, there are plenty of people who offer this service at low cost).
One thing I've used to help me write quickly is voice recognition software. This technology has been around for a long time, however, it has now developed to a point at which it is both fast and accurate. It has to first learn about your style of talking, but, when that has happened it can type as fast as you can talk. I used a program called DragonSpeak, which costs $AU 80. It's worth every cent!
#6 Do... pick a suitable environment
I found that the choice of the location that is used to write can make a big difference. The better you can focus, the better your speed and quality will be. For example, if you have a study at home that might be perfect for you, or perhaps you prefer a cafe, or public library. Whatever it is, if you're getting stuck, I suggest to first experiment with your writing environment. (And that includes picking a time when you're at your best). Just do whatever works for you.
And lastly, 3 DON'Ts!
Here are three simple tips that might help.
#1 Don't copy others!
Don't be tempted to plagiarise. Though I'm pleased to say that the content I've produced is original, it's certainly the case that some people copy other people's work (whether in large or small amounts). For anyone considering taking this shortcut, be aware that Kindle has sophisticated technology to detect this. They are able to scan on-line and check whether duplicate content exists elsewhere. So, the best advice is simple... just produce original work.
#2 Don't proofread off the screen
It's very important to produce material that looks good. Even if your content is the most fantastic and valuable thing ever written, it will be dragged down if the presentation is bad e.g. poor spelling, punctuation, grammar etc. I would recommend that, at the very least, you get someone else to proofread your manuscript. Failing that, print out a hard copy and then go through it yourself with a red pen, sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word. Do so slowly, and carefully... very carefully. If you rush it, you will likely miss errors.
But, whatever you do, don't ever try to proofread off a screen. If you do this, errors are even harder to find. However, fortunately, if you do spot mistakes once the book has been published, it's very quick and easy to fix them. Just resubmit and the corrected version will be published within about 12 to 24 hours.
#3 Don't produce an elaborate cover
The key here is simplicity. When people first discover your book it'll likely be as one thumbnail image in a search result amongst many others. Elaborate covers will likely mask the message, and so people may not click through to find out more. I would also suggest that, if your cover is light in colour, use a dark border on the outer edge. Again, the reason stems from the search process, as the cover thumbnail images are presented against a white background. So, if your book cover has a light shade, it will tend to merge into the background. So, better still, use a darker cover and that way it will stand out more.
As it is for the cover picture, so it is for the title. For this reason, use a title that is short and choose a style that is bigger & bolder than you would first think required.
In closing, I hope you've got some value from this article. With luck, you're now encouraged to go ahead & write your first e-Book!
About The Author:
Mark Portlock is the founder of the publisher Bullseye Focus, and creator of a web resource dedicated to helping people achieve their goals using predominantly visual / graphical techniques. See how you can apply these new and different approaches at http://www.goalstoolbox.com
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