"E-Book" is short for Electronic Book---an organized set of content delivered in an electronic format. There are many different types of e-books including packaged executables, PDF, and formats for the handheld computer.
As with so many of the original e-books, your e-book doesn't have to be about Making Money or Internet Marketing---people are interested in many other things. What makes an e-book valuable to a wide audience is that it provides information that people cannot easily find elsewhere.
Over the years, I've had the pleasure of writing numerous printed books and working on several electronic publications. From what I've seen, the e-book medium supports the greatest creative flexibility. Images can come alive, you can provide interactive forms and content, the user can access remote databases, and you can support dynamic updates whenever the content changes. There are, however, several steps involved in the process to properly develop and promote an e-book to your audience.
When developing an e-book, you have to perform several important steps to create quality content. Each step allows you to fine-tune your idea and the end-product so that readers will learn from and enjoy the content you provide.
- Brainstorm an Idea
Ideas are cheap, but good ideas take time to develop. To develop a good idea, you have to jot down as many ideas as possible, then go through the list to make sure that:
* you're interested in the idea;
* you're knowledgeable on the topic;
* you're hitting the greatest, potential market;
* people will purchase the information; and
* you can market to those interested.
Once you reduce the list to a few solid choices, go back through and examine the remaining topics to determine which topics you can write, by:
* determining what you know about the topic;
* performing market research to ensure that you have a market and an angle for that market; and
* performing competitive research to find your competition's products, successes, failures, and target markets.
While fine-tuning your product, remember that people will buy the product if it:
* solves a problem;
* improves an existing product;
* hits on a hot trend;
* creates a new niche; or
* fills a current need.
- Develop an Outline
Once you come up with the idea, you'll have to create an outline or table of contents to develop the idea. The best way I've found to do this is to break the idea down into blocks of contiguous information---similar to assembling a pyramid. At the top is the IDEA with each successive level providing a more detailed sequence of points that ultimately explain the top-level IDEA.
The outline itself should be at least four levels deep so that you can understand what you'll say for each section or chapter. Research each section and collect pertinent information so that you can develop a coherent outline and understand the depths of what it is you are writing.
- Develop the First Draft
The first draft is merely a "brain dump." Follow your outline and write as much as possible about each section. Don't worry about format, spelling, or grammar at this point, as you'll focus on resolving those issues later.
- Substantive Edit
A substantive edit is a review of the manuscript where you fine-tune the content. You have to make sure that the content is complete, contains pertinent information for the topic, and provides enough relevant information to explain the topic. At this point, you can perform additional research to verify the content or enhance the information for the reader.
- Content/Technical Review
Find some experts in your manuscript's topic area and have them review it for accuracy and readability. This type of review ensures that the information is correct and that the target audience will be able to understand the content. Many times, experts will take credit in the acknowledgements as opposed to a fee, but this is something you'll have to work out with them.
- Second Draft
The second draft takes into account the information from your reviewers as well as changes you need to make based on your own review of the content. Once this draft is complete, take a day or two off to give your brain a break. This way, when you return to the manuscript, you'll be fresh and able to catch any mistakes that you would've otherwise missed.
- Copy Edit
The copy edit allows you to check the grammar, spelling, and readability of the content. Make sure that everything is formatted appropriately and that your manuscript provides a professional presentation.
In a publishing house, proofreaders will go through the product and check for any final production issues, wording, and problems with content. Do a pre-package of the product and send it out to a few people to have them read through the product. Ask them to check for any mistakes or errors that might have been missed.
Once you've completed the manuscript, you can package it in several different formats. The format choice depends on your target audience as well as your desired presentation. Of course, you can always have an e-publisher generate the package, but they too will use one of the formats discussed in this section.
Developed by Adobe (http://www.adobe.com), PDF is a document packaging format that is compatible across several platforms (i.e., Microsoft Windows, UNIX, Macintosh, etc.) A PDF document is viewed on the free Adobe Acrobat viewer, which is itself platform-dependent. When developing PDF documents, stay with standard writing practices involved in creating manuscripts. Adobe Distiller, which usually comes with FrameMaker, works with just about any word-processing environment (e.g., Microsoft Word, TeX, etc.) and generates a PDF of your manuscript directly from the application.
E-Book compilers take HTML files and package them into a single executable application. This format is, however, limited in its distribution as it will only run on its target platforms. For instance, one of the better compilers, Activ E-Book (http://www.ebookcompiler.com), is targeted to run on Microsoft Windows platforms. You will need a compiler that supports all of the major facets of HTML as well as password protection, configurability, and branding. Branding allows you to create e-books branded with your affiliates' or distributors' names. Note that the vendors for some of the more expensive compilers will not only charge for the compiler, but also charge royalties for distribution rights.
Handheld e-book reader formats are very wide because of the multitude of e-book readers available on the market today. In most cases, all you have to do is generate a solid manuscript and submit it to one of the e-publishers in Microsoft Word format. They will usually package the manuscript into one or more of the different formats acceptable for the more popular e-book readers.
Copyrighting Your Work
Once you've created your e-book, the last thing you want is for someone to illegally copy your work, or worse yet, claim it as their own. It's true that there are technical means (i.e., password protection) that can make this kind of theft more difficult, but none offer total security. No matter what you do, there's a chance that you could be a victim of this kind of theft---it could even go on for a while before you discover that it happened.
Even worse than discovering that you're a victim, is discovering that you're a victim with either no, or very limited, recourse. But there's a way to make sure that it doesn't happen to you---take steps to protect your work ahead of time. Visit the following sites for information on protecting your work as well as registering your work online:
* MediaRegister (http://www.mediaregister.com)
* Click and Copyright (http://www.clickandcopyright.com/)
* International Standard Book Number (ISBN)
If you're serious about publishing an e-book, you'll need to have your own ISBN number. The ISBN is a number that identifies book products published internationally. To distribute your work in books stores, online and otherwise, you have to obtain an ISBN number.
An ISBN consists of 10 digits preceded by the "ISBN" prefix. The number is divided into four parts, with each part separated by a hyphen. The number establishes and identifies one title or edition from a specific publisher and is unique to that edition. This supports a more efficient marketing scheme for products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers, and distributors.
Currently, you must order a minimum of 10 numbers for a charge of $225. You can order online and it only takes a few days for delivery. For more information and to apply, visit:
* RR Bowker (http://www.bowker.com/bowkerweb/)
* ISBN Home Page (http://www.isbn.org/)
Sell or Free
As you package your e-book, decide if it will be distributed free of charge or for a fee. Usually, free e-books contain bits and pieces of information that induce the sale of other products and services and increase traffic to the host Web site.
- Free E-Books
A free e-book should be a leader to something better that must be purchased. If you create an e-book that you want to sell, it's always a good idea to either block certain pages with a password or distribute a subset of the main e-book free. When determining how to provide a free version of your e-book, think about the following questions:
* Which chapters will everyone be able to read?
* Do I create a free version and a for-pay version?
* How will I get people to pay for the e-book once they review the free one?
* How will I promote and distribute the product?
- For-Pay E-Books
As for the for-pay version of the e-book, you can use PayPal (http://www.paypal.com) or ProPay (http://www.propay.com) to accept payment because they are much easier to setup on a simple site. The only problem is that they are not very flexible when dealing with automating order processing. If you have the time and the funds later, you can always upgrade to a merchant account, order-processing environment.
You also have to develop a set of procedures for handling purchases. These procedures identify the steps for collecting funds, handling returns, and sending the password or key to unlock the e-book. An example of these procedures is as follows:
* User submits a purchase request.
* You accept the request and receive payment.
* You send the password, key, a URL to the complete product, or the complete product itself via e-mail.
* If the user wants to return the product, determine their reasoning and refund the money.
Selecting the Right Price
Selecting a price for the e-book is always a tough decision, but a very important one. Remember that the main advantage to e-books is in the inexpensive methods of production. You can usually write an entire e-book and have it published in a very short time. On top of that, when you generate the finished package, you can simply distribute that same copy instead of having to continually re-run the process to generate a new product---as in the print market.
To price your e-book correctly, research your competition's prices and determine if you have any added value above and beyond your competition. If so, either price it at their price or add 10%. With a good write-up and press release, you will draw readers because you are newer, have a larger footprint (i.e., more pages), and have more information.
Once it has been out there for a while, speak with your past customers or drop the price a little until sales begin to pick up. There are many tactics for setting the right price, but with proper market research, you should be able to come up with a solid price the first time around.
Promotion is the key to getting your e-book noticed. You must be professional and diligent when handling the promotion of your work as one misplaced e-mail or posting could destroy credibility for you and your work.
- Web Site
If you don't already have one, you should consider assembling a Web site to present and sell your e-books. You'll need to obtain your own domain name and quality hosting to gain credibility with your customers and your competitors. You only need to assemble one page per e-book and provide a short blurb outlining what the e-book presents. Also, provide a way for the user to download, or purchase, the e-book as well as a way to contact you.
You've seen the small graphics scattered around the Web that depicts a book or box with the title of the e-book---this is called a "virtual book cover" or a "3D virtual box." Whether you're good with graphics or not, this is a great and simple way to advertise your work. You can view samples at eBook Cover-Art ([http://www.ebook-cover-art.com]) and Free E-Book Covers ([http://freeebookcovers.homestead.com/covers.html]).
- Free E-Book Sites
As we discussed earlier, it's always a good idea to have a free version of your e-book to help promote the for-pay version. One of the best reasons is that many e-book sites that allow free promotion will only promote free e-books. This way, you can promote the free version of your e-book on more sites and have it drive potential customers to your Web site. Some of the more popular free e-book promotion sites are as follows:
* E-Books Rock (http://www.ebooksrock.net)
* Free E-Books (http://www.free-ebooks.net)
* E-Book Directory (http://www.e-bookdirectory.com)
* E-Book 2000 (http://www.ebook2000.com)
* Abika ([http://www.abika.com/books/submitbook.asp])
* E-Book News (http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/EBook_News)
* E-Book Talk (http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/EBook_Talk)
- Review Sites
You can get the greatest amount of publicity by submitting your complete e-book to a review site. The reviewers will read your e-book and generate a public review for posting to their site. In this way, others can read the review and visit your site for a download of your e-book. Some of the more popular review sites are:
* EBooks 'n Bytes ([http://www.ebooksnbytes.com/reviews])
* Midnight Scribe ([http://geocities.com/midnightscribe])
* Reviewers' Int'l Org ([http://www.geocities.com/bookreviewers])
- Press Releases
A press release is another great way to bring notice to your new e-book. One of the more prominent e-book press release distribution systems is eBroadcaster (http://www.ebookbroadcast.com/). The site features press releases related to new ebooks, epublisher announcements, and handheld news. Another site is called PressBlast (http://www.pressblast.com/). If you're not up on writing a press release, it's time to get a handle on it because you'll need it!
- Free Content
Many writers abhor free content as they feel they are "writing for free." Actually, if you target your writing to define and present your knowledge as well as bring in clients, the small amount of time you spend putting together the free content is not wasted. Realize that people want information, and if you give them good information, they'll come back for more. Realize also that you already have a great source of free content right under your nose---your e-book. All you have to do is take excerpts from the various chapters and send them to a few posting sites listed below:
* Article Depot (http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/The-Article-Depot)
* Article Announce (http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/aageneral)
* Free Content (http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/Free-Content)
* Publish In Yours (http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/PublishInYours)
* Idea Marketers (http://www.ideamarketers.com)
* Author Connection (http://www.huginc.com)
Once you've packaged the product and you feel that it's ready to go out to the world, there are several things you can do to expedite distribution. First, you can always approach a royalty publisher and let them handle the packaging and distribution for you. This is usually a good path to take, but it can be time consuming as they are back-logged with other e-books.
The other path is to distribute it yourself. There are hundreds of sites available on which you can post your packaged e-book. Users will come to the site and download your e-book then either purchase it or visit your site to see what other products you have available.
- For-Pay E-Book Distribution
One method for distributing an e-book you intend to sell is through one or more of the following Web sites. Some of these sites require that you sign an exclusivity contract which prevents you from selling your e-book elsewhere, so pay attention to what you sign. The vendors will usually provide a merchant mechanism so that they can collect a fee for you and, out of that fee, they take their cut. Also, note that many of these distributors will either take your manuscript as a Word file and convert it themselves or they accept only PDF.
* E-Books 'n Bytes (http://www.ebooksnbytes.com)
* 1st Books ([http://www.1stbooks.com])
* BookLocker (http://www.booklocker.com)
* MightyWords ([http://www.mightywords.com/])
* iBookTime (http://www.ebookshoppe.com)
* EBooks on the Net (http://www.ebooksonthe.net)
* MyPublish ([http://www.mypublish.com])
* Amazon (http://www.amazon.com)
* Borders (http://www.borders.com)
- Free E-Book Distribution
The free distribution sites for free e-books provide the mechanism for distributing your free version of your e-book. They take just about any format that can be read on a computer.
* Free EBooks (http://www.free-ebooks.net)
* E-Books 'n Bytes (http://www.ebooksnbytes.com)
* ZDNet (http://www.zdnet.com)
* Download (http://www.download.com)
* Upload (http://www.upload.com)
* Softseek ([http://www.softseek.com/submit/index.html])
* EBook News (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Ebook_News)
* EBook Talk (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Ebook_Talk)
* EBooks Rock (http://ebooksrock.net/)
* EBook 2000 (http://www.ebook2000.com/)
When you write and package an e-book, you must have some sort of plan. Don't just write an e-book and "throw" it out there. What is your objective with the e-book? A good plan involves a targeted marketing approach to creating and distributing the e-book.
Make sure that the product attracts people and that the information is useful. Some publishers tend to sell information that is already free on the Web. Make sure that if you use information from the Web that you're not duplicating---always add value to maintain a professional presentation and a respectable reputation.
Once you finish your masterpiece and implement your marketing plan, you'll be well on your way to being known as an "e-book author."