I’ve worked with several clients on list-building ebooks (i.e., ebooks that are given away for free in exchange for an email address.) At times, I’ve worked on very tight deadlines. Once client, for example, wanted a 150+ page ebook done in under a month.
When you’re a freelance writer, the faster you can write, the more money you make. So, I’ve been dealing with crazy deadlines since I first started my content marketing career as a writer back in 2006. However, even when writing fast, you have to be able to keep quality up. If you don’t, no one will hire you for a second or third or fourth project…and it’s back to eating ramen for dinner again.
Today, I’m going to give you my formula to help you write an ebook fast, while keep the quality high. People are always in awe of how fast I write. This is how I do it.
Step One: Start with a Wordcount Goal.
How many words do you really need to write? That depends on two factors:
- The topic of the ebook
- The purpose of the ebook
If your topic is “The Ultimate Guide to Twitter,” you’re going to need more than 10,000 words to get the job done. On the other hand, if your topic is “How to Find the Right People to Follow on Twitter,” 10,000 words or even fewer will be plenty for your ebook. I recommend working on one longer, more complex ebook every few years and publishing smaller ebooks in between. Need help coming up with a good topic? This is a great guest post from Mandi Ehman on Amy Lynn Andrews’ blog on that very topic.
Typically, if the purpose of the ebook is to build your email list, you need fewer words than if the purpose would be to sell the ebook. The more information you ask from someone, the more content they’ll demand. If you’re just asking for a name and email, 5,000 – 20,000 words is fine. If you want my name, email, URL, social usernames, address, phone number, and first born child, I’m going to want a much longer ebook covering a more complex topic.
Regardless, set your wordcount goal before your start writing so you can stay on track to hit that number.
Step Two: Break the Ebook into Chunks of 1000 – 2000 words.
My blog posts are usually between 1000 and 2000 words, which is typically what I recommend for most bloggers (though occasionally longer and shorter posts are fine too, based on your target market and the post topic). Writing an ebook seems like an impossible task…but writing 10 blog posts doesn’t seem so bad. Heck, I did that last week!
So, if I want to write a 15,000-word ebook, I would break it down into about 10 chunks (sections, chapters, whatever you want to call them) to help me write an ebook fast instead of feeling like it is way too much to write. I give each chunk a topic that supports the main topic of the ebook. For example, let’s say I was writing an ebook called “How to Herd Cats the Right Way.” I might break it down into:
- Why You Should Want to Herd Cats
- 10 Common Myths about Herding Cats
- How Much does Herding Cats Cost?
- The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Herding Cats
- Case Study: How One Company is Herding Cats Every Day
I usually brainstorm a fairly large list and then cross off topics if they aren’t necessary for the ebook, overlap with topics discussed in other chunks, or are not robust enough for at least 1000 words. Once I have the list of topics I’m going to include, I organize them in a way that makes sense.
Step Three: Outline Each Chunk and Write Them!
Next, I approach each “chunk” I’ve chosen as if it were its own blog post or mini-ebook. Each should have a brief introduction, supporting points, and a conclusion. Unlike a blog post, however, your intros and conclusions don’t need to introduce the main topic every single time. Remember, this is going to flow as an ebook. So, taking the first topic above as an example (Why You Should Want to Herd Cats), I might outline like so:
- Why Your Should Want to Herd Cats
- Herding Cats is Fun
- Your employees will like herding cats, so it’s easy to get them on board with the idea
- You will enjoy pitching in to herd cats – it won’t be a task you dread.
- Herding cats can be a stress relief.
- It is not Hard to Start Herding Cats
- There are training programs to help you learn how to start herding cats.
- Some of your employees might already have cat herding experience.
- You don’t need lots of supplies to get started herding cats.
- Herding Cats Saves You Money
- You’ll see a return in investment after just one month of herding cats.
- Herding cats saves money on your electricity bill.
- You get tax benefits for herding cats.
- If you don’t like herding cats, it’s easy to sell your supplies online.
- Herding Cats Saves You Time
- Your employees will be more productive if they learn to herd cats.
- Studies show that the learning curve for herding cats is low.
- On average, you’ll save eleventy more dollars per hour by herding cats instead of herding other animals.
- Herding Cats is Fun
By outlining the details, you can easily sit down and write sections that flow cohesively into one another, even if you write them out of order. Remember, you can also copy and paste sections of your own blog posts if they are relevant for the ebook. You own the rights, so don’t be afraid to repurpose something you’ve already written to use in a blog post.
Section Four: Read the Ebook from Start to Finish.
After you’re done writing each section, start at the beginning and read your ebook from start to finish. Fill in any gaps and remove unnecessary sections. Are you near the wordcount you wanted? If not, it might be time to go back to the drawing board and brainstorm more chunks to add or cut the ebook into two smaller ebooks.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, though. Unless you’re writing the ebook for a client, it doesn’t really matter how many words your ebook ends up being.
Once you’re happy with the content of the ebook, I highly recommend working with an editor and designer to complete the finishing work. You can do it yourself, but it’s very hard to self-edit. Hire a professional – you’ll thank yourself later!
So, that’s my process for writing an ebook quickly, whether that ebook is for myself or for a client. Questions? Just let me know!