A Personal eBook Project

I’ve written several eBooks of varying length and varying topics. They can be brilliant excursions into a topic that holds you or they can be a complete pain in the B-hind. They also don’t tend to pay so well in my opinion but as a relative novice to the market, I haven’t gotten enough eBooks under my belt to command the rises in fee that my shorter works seem to be getting…or maybe that’s just a confidence thing with me.

I’m scoping out a project which is a personal one, indeed a deeply personal matter which I sincerely believe needs to be told.

The medium I have chosen to put this story together with is an eBook.

eBooks are cheap to produce and to prepare and this probably accounts for the huge number of works that are produced. As a ghost writer of some of these dubious works, I’ve been paid anything between $150 to $1,000 for works ranging in size from 10,000 to 25,000 words. Given that an advertisement in a local paper can cost a business anything from £30 for a small inch by inch box on tomorrows fish and chip wrapper and in this light, paying £100 is chicken feed for something someone can put their own name on and claim as their own.

If you wish to promote yourself as an “expert” on anything, write about it and even better, write a book on it.

An eBook gives you a great deal of kudos out of all proportion to what actually goes into it. This is why it is very common to see free eBook giveaways on web sites as they are a very powerful marketing tool in establishing credibility very cheaply.

Like any other piece of work, you need to plan it out and research your subject matter. The time required is going to increase substantially if you are to do this properly compared to writing a series of articles running along the same theme. You’ll need to take this into account when considering delivery times for yourself or your client.

Structure takes a greater significance with eBook writing and here’s why I think that is.

A friend of mine is currently getting crispy with the fires in California but when he’s not putting out fires, he’s a writer/director/actor with some decent credits to his name. My sprogs think he’s “Da Bomb” because he played a Klingon in the Star Trek The Next Generation series but he’s also handled film. Josef believes that while film making is exciting because you have the kudos associated with putting a film in the can, he prefers a series when dealing with more interesting subject matter. With film, you get 90 minutes to tell your story but with a series (or season as he calls them) you get 60 minutes to deal with a chapter and typically 12 episodes to tell the complete story.

So, if you have 1,000 words to tell the story of Hoodia Gordonii then you are going to have to gloss over the interesting bits of the story and focus on what it does and why the reader should buy it. If you get 10,000 words to tell the Hoodia story you can cover what it is, who first used it, how the discovery was brought to the west, the effect it has and the problems it may solve and the problems it may create, how this has affected the indigenous people who control it…

The main issue to address is identifying the salient points of your story around which the chapters will form themselves and organising them sequentially so, just as paragraphs should flow one to the next, so do the chapters. This does not mean that you have to write in a sequential order and frequently I write the last chapter first and work towards it.

Writing an eBook takes more time than keybashing out 40 articles on Thailand or whatever the topic is. I find I need to plan my writing time in a more structured way in order not to become stale with the subject matter and to avoid running into that scribbling brick wall known as writers block. That does not mean to say that when the juices are flowing I don’t get stuck in because I do but tackling 30,000 words is not something you do in leap and a bound. You really need to discipline yourself far more than churning out the odd article for mass consumption.

Publishing an eBook is pretty simple stuff. Simply convert your completed document to a PDF format and there you have it. You need to be sure of the layout, though I rarely use pictures unless the client instructs otherwise and make sure the work is proofed and edited before conversion. One tip for all the Microsoft Word users; I have found that performing the PDF conversion from MS Word leads to some formatting errors in the completed product. An easy way to get around this is to write your eBooks using Open Office which is a free download and provides you with all the functionality of Word and MS Office (I use it almost exclusively now). Converting an Open Office document to a PDF seems to avoid all the nasty little problems with spacing, unwanted character insertions and so on that I experienced with Word. You can find the download here at www.openoffice.org and as I said, it is completely free and gives a Microsoft office experience without the price tag or problems.

Now you have the eBook produced what are you going to do with it?

Most of the time that will be a question for your client who has commissioned the piece and honestly, I have not a clue yet as to how I will market my own work. Perhaps that is a topic for a future posting.