So, You Want to Write an e-Book?

Purpose

Why do you want to write an e-book?  Do you have a compelling story you want to communicate to a broad audience?  Do you want to inspire others to action?  Are you trying to sell something?  Are you trying to reinforce a brand (corporate or product)?  Are you trying to be recognized as a thought leader?

It may be OK if you want your e-book to serve multiple purposes and audiences, but avoid answering this question with “All of the above, and much more!”

Title

Some people say you shouldn’t worry about the title early on in the process (because it will probably change anyway), but I like to start by thinking about the title of the book almost immediately.  A working title helps you to visualize the project and makes the abstract “e-book that exists only in my mind” a little more real.  If you can come up with a brief, descriptive, compelling title that focuses on what you think is important and then you write to that title, you tell a consistent story that reinforces the theme and drives the content.

If you can keep the title to 2-3 words that draw people in, then you can elaborate with a wordy subtitle and not lose people. And as your thinking evolves through the writing process, the title and subtitle can evolve as well.

Book? Take a Step Back…

A lot of people say “I want to write an e-book about…”  The first thing I like to ask is, what are you trying to communicate?  An e-book may or may not be the best way to do it.  Maybe you would get more mileage out of your story if you published it as a series of blog posts or magazine articles, you created a series of web pages, or you made a video.  More likely, it’s a combination of various media, which leads to…

Content Marketing

When you write an e-book, you are generating a huge block of content that supports a theme or message.  Writing an e-book may seem like an overwhelming task, but in fact the e-book itself is a small piece of the entire content puzzle. Think bigger than “just” an e-book.  By thinking bigger, you’ll actually make the project more manageable.  Let me explain.

Everything you do can and should serve multiple purposes.  To get the most out of your effort, you need to think in terms of “feathers” and “bricks”, and embrace the concepts of consolidation and derivation.

content marketing

“Feathers” are things you do which have a low investment of resources and result in a relatively low return.  “Bricks” require much more effort, and potentially have a much bigger impact as well.

Consolidation is the process of taking all the little things you do and turning them into something bigger—making a “brick” out of “feathers” and moving up the return on investment ladder.  Derivation is the process of taking your big block of content and parsing it out into many smaller pieces—making “feathers” out of your “brick”.

“Bricks” tell the complete story in detail.  “Feathers” tell pieces of the story or support the overall story.  Everything taken together tells a compelling, consistent story which supports your overall message and communicates to a wide audience using a variety of media.

Outline

Thinking about “feathers” versus “bricks” and consolidation versus derivation will help you drive the outline of your e-book.  You can write the outline, then look at each area of the outline and try to identify pieces (articles, blog posts, etc.) you’ve already written about the case that could be re-purposed as parts of your e-book.  Or could start by taking an inventory of everything you’ve already written about the subject, identify missing pieces that still need to be written, and then assemble those into the outline.

When you identify pieces of the story that still need to be written, break them down into components and think of them like this:

  • 3 blog posts can be assembled into one article
  • 3 articles can be assembled into one e-book

The math (3 X 3) and the media (blog posts –> articles –> e-book) in this example may not be exactly right for your project, but if you approach it this way and get a solid outline and logically break down your story into component pieces, then in my hypothetical example all you have to do is write a combination of 3 articles / 9 blog posts, and then you’ve got all the content for a short e-book.

Not too many people think they have the requisite skills to write an entire e-book.  But most of those people can probably write 9 blog posts.  Follow this simple formula, and your 9 blogs posts–if carefully thought out and planned–equal one  e-book.  Not to mention you get the bonus exposure of 3 articles and 9 blog posts published before your e-book is done!  Now that’s what I call content marketing!

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