How to Write an E-Book

I’m in the process of writing my first e-book, and I’d use this space to talk about it instead of writing another movie or book review. Perhaps once I’m finished, you can read it and review it for me on your own sites. But only if you’re going to say nice things. :)

This e-book is a ghostwriting project for another company, so I won’t profit from it long-term, but it has definitely been a good learning experience. I’ve got a few insider tips that I can share here, but before I do, I’ll just briefly outline the benefits of e-books over the paper ones.

1. They save trees. Trees are important. I’m realizing their value now more than ever as I’m helping my sister sell her house. She’s had to do some extra landscaping to get her property in show-ready shape, and recently hired a tree service company to make it look presentable. All that aside, we need trees. They keep the oxygen count in our environment high, which helps kill harmful microorganisms and prevent disease. Also, they’re nice to look at. E-books help conserve trees by cutting down on paper use and printing costs. You already knew that, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway.

2. They’re easily mobile. We can take an e-book with us wherever we go—on our smartphone, tablet or laptop. Paper books are easily mobile too, but they take up more space inside of a purse or bag. An e-book is just a click away; it takes up a negligible amount of digital storage space and doesn’t take up any extra physical space.

3. They can be written quickly using re-purposed content. I’ve seen several clever companies take posts from their blogs, organize the content into a single PDF, and publish the PDF as an e-book. This way, your content soaks up SEO value while you offer a piece of free content in the form of an e-book to help you build your e-mail list. Once you’ve built your list, you can market to all of the people on it and upsell them content for a price. It’s a genius marketing tactic.

4. They are easily digestible. Many readers can finish an e-book in one sitting, because they’re typically rather short.

Clearly, an e-book is a valuable piece of media, the benefits of which you can reap for a long time after it’s written. So, how do you go about writing an e-book? Where do you start? That’s what I’ll cover next.

Step 1: Start with a set of goals. What do you want your readers to learn from your e-book? What do you hope to accomplish by writing it? Write down your goals and keep them in front of you at all times to help you stay motivated and on-task.

Step 2: Create an outline. Writing an e-book really isn’t much different from writing an essay. It’s just a bit longer. It helps to create an outline that will keep your content organized. Think about the focus of each chapter and try to go ahead and write the titles for them ahead of time. (You can always edit them later.) The titles will keep you on-topic as you begin to write the content in the body of each chapter.

Step 3: Write the chapters. I recommend going slow and taking each chapter one day at a time. Write chapter 1, and stop. Read over it the next day and make edits. Then write chapter 2. Read over chapters 1 and 2 the day after that and make additional edits. Repeat this process until the entire e-book is finished.

Step 4: Edit. You’ve already begun to make edits chapter by chapter. Now that the book is finished, it’s a good idea to read the whole thing without making any changes. Then read the whole thing again and begin to make changes as you go. Following this process helps you keep the entire content in focus and see the overall, big picture while you edit. As a writer, I can tell you that it will make a world of difference.

Step 5: Get another pair of eyes on it. If you can, get several more pairs of eyes on it. Two heads are better than one, and three heads are better than two. Find yourself a few friends who would be willing to read it and give you feedback. Take their feedback and use it to make the final edits before publishing.

Step 6: Add graphics and/or illustrations. If you’re not a graphic artist or an illustrator, there are plenty of services out there who can do this step for you. I like to search fiverr.com for e-book creators. It’s a budget-friendly way to get your e-book ready for publishing. They’ll create a cover and insert colorful images into the content that will help to make it more engaging for readers.

Step 7: Publish. You can publish it on Amazon or on your own website. I recommend offering it on your own site a free resource and a “thank you” to anyone who signs up for your e-mail list.

Step 8 (optional): Re-purpose. If you didn’t use existing website content to write your e-book, now’s a good time to re-purpose the book for additional site content. “But what if my readers figure this out?” you ask. It’s very unlikely that they will. If you publish each chapter of the e-book as a separate blog post over time (posting additional, related content in between each one), your readers will most likely not catch on, especially since they will come to your website through various funnels.

Bonus Tip: Make a pot of coffee before you start. You’re gonna need it.

Now, it’s your turn. Have you ever written an e-book? Share your process and tips in the comments below this post.

Movie Review: Insurgent | A Prediction of Hope for Modern-Day America

My favorite kinds of movies are ones that reflect the human condition and how that plays out in our modern-day America. Perhaps the biggest traits characterizing our society today are pride and greed, which also happen to be two of the seven deadly sins. Imagine that…

Movies like The Hunger Games and the Divergent series are among the most entertaining for me because they reflect these traits so accurately. When I watch them, I feel like I’m seeing the future of life in the supposedly “free” country in which we live.

If you’re nodding in agreement, then I applaud you, for you must be pretty aware of what’s happening in our world. If you’re shaking your head and calling me a conspiracy theorist, that’s okay too. One day, we will all know the truth, and I think (and hope) that we’ll be pleasantly surprised. In the meantime, I can’t help but look at pop culture as a clear lens through which we can view a somewhat distorted version of reality as we know it.

The first movie in the Divergent series—Divergent—did a great job of setting things up for the second movie, Insurgent. And there were definitely parts of that movie that reflected the human condition very accurately. But there was something about Insurgent that seemed to grab me by the balls (if I can be honest). It was almost convicting on some level.

Of course we all see a hero in Shailene Woodley’s character. And in her love interest, Four. I think as watchers, we innately connect with them and see ourselves as divergents as well. After all, in what reality would anyone feel like they fit into a single bucket? In what reality would anyone be comfortable with being labeled as one thing or another?

Amity. Dauntless. Abnegation. Erudite. Candor.

I see myself as a combination of all of these traits—some more than others—but not one overpowering the other four to a degree so great that I’d be automatically classified as such. I’m pretty sure that most of us, if given the aptitude test, would fall into more than one faction and be classified as divergents.

Or would we?

Lately, I’ve been sensing high levels of apathy among members of our society, and it makes me sad. We are apathetic toward the greed of politicians and public officials. Toward the fact that our food and water are being poisoned and our rights are gradually being taken away. And we are so full of pride that we’re not even willing to admit it.

We find comfort in definition. Who we are has been replaced by what we do. It’s almost like we gravitate toward the buckets society uses to define us, because to live outside of those lines is uncomfortable and scary. We gladly trade our basic freedoms for “safety” and “security,” both of which are illusions. In short, we are all but slaves, and we’ve been conditioned to love it.

And yet, occasionally I see little sparks of hope that remind me all is not lost. Movies like Insurgent are those little sparks of hope. Divergent sets us up for disappointment through the death of characters like Will and Natalie Prior—Tris’ mom—and Insurgent rebels against it in hopeful attack.

When Jeanine finally dies at the end of the movie, we feel a sense of relief, yet we also feel sorry for her in a way, and scared for the future of society’s divergents under Evelyn’s rule. (Naturally, since she’s the one who killed Jeanine, we assume that she comes to power in the third movie, and we know from Four’s attitude toward her that it’s probably not without conflict.)

I believe movies like this are created by people like us—people who see the human condition for what it is, yet have somehow found hope for the future. Redemption, if you will. The way I see it, Divergent is a reflection of modern-day society, and Insurgent is a prediction of hope for a better future.

Now, let’s just hope it doesn’t end like 1984 where Big Brother wins… I think that in order for that not to happen, we must become comfortable with living outside the lines. Which basically means, we must never allow ourselves to become comfortable at all.

Hello and Welcome!

Thanks for visiting my new site. If it’s your first time here, welcome. Check out this page to learn more about me and the purpose of this blog. And if you’ve been here before, welcome back!

I’ll be posting more soon, but just wanted to say hello. Please check back in a few days for my first movie review… it’s gonna be a good one. :)