Recently we talked about how a Kindle book can be a great way to monetize your website and possibly tap into Amazon’s credibility and huge distribution network. Fair enough, but where to even start? Writing a book does not have to be a complicated affair. Like anything in life, it’s more about sitting down and doing it than anything else.
Here is a simple step-by-step process for getting your first book off the ground.
Step 1: Figure Out What Your Market Wants
The very first step entails coming up with something your market wants. Just because you have a website about hydroponics doesn’t mean you should write a generic book called “Everything You Need to Know About Hydroponics” and expect that to make the cut.
Instead, do a bit of market research and figure out exactly what your readers are looking for.
What are they talking about on niche-specific forums? What fears and aspirations are coming up in your blog comments? Are there particular articles on your site that have gotten a surprising amount of love? What’s already being discussed in other books on Amazon? Is there a gap in the market you could fill?
In short, what matters to your industry?
Figure that out and write something much more than a cookie-cutter book.
Step 2: Do Your Research
How research-intensive will your book be? It’s always best to make your first book about something with minimal research needs, but a well-researched book will always be more credible.
That said, you don’t have to be an industry expert to write a book. Many people even claim that writing a book is the best way to learn about a subject.
One great research trick is just to read the current industry books. After poring through five to ten respected books about an industry you’re only vaguely familiar with, you’ll not only be caught up on the history and the basics of that niche but will have a solid understanding of the most current, pressing issues.
If possible, interview some experts as well to get some first-hand experience with people who are directly involved.
If you already know the subject well and the book is largely opinion-based, take care of research as you tackle each chapter.
Step 3: Write a Chapter Outline
Many fiction writers like to give their story room to breathe and naturally unfold on it’s own, but this is isn’t always the best approach when writing about the real world; outlines are a great way to tackle a non-fiction book.
Will your book have an overriding theme or concept? If so, outlines are a great place to let your creativity come into play. Lay out a basic framework of all the issues you want to touch on, and then think for a while if there’s some way you can spin it all together to create a brand for the book. Non-fiction books can also be quite effective when laid out in different sections.
Decide each and every chapter that will be written ahead of time. This gives you a step-by-step framework for writing your book.
Step 4: Flesh Out Your Book
Now that you’ve got the framework, it’s time to get started.
Tackle it one chapter at a time. If possible, write each chapter in such a manner that it could stand on its own, as an article for instance. If you do this, writing a book is no more complicated than writing a series of articles. Think about it this way – if you write 5000 words of content per day, you can flesh out a 75,000 word book in three weeks, and that’s with your weekends off!
The important thing is not to worry if you think it sounds stupid or amateur; make it your number one priority just to get it finished and down on paper.
You very well may even find out on second read that your book is much better than you thought.
Step 5: Redraft, Redraft, and Redraft
If you really want to take your book to the next level and be a real author, have some pride in your work. Redrafting isn’t just about catching typos, spelling errors, and grammar mistakes; for many well-respected writers, redrafting is where the real magic happens.
Because with a little love you can take a crappy piece of writing and within a couple redrafts make it a masterpiece.
So redraft multiple times. Keep polishing that manuscript until it becomes something to be proud of.
Step 6: Get a Second Opinion
But is it really something you can be proud of? You can let the market decide, but you should at least get a couple beta readers to give it a read for basic edits and initial impressions.
Enlist the help of a few friends, family members, or colleagues who have half a brain – always best to choose people who already like to read as their feedback with be that much more credible.
You might also consider hiring a real editor, but don’t go too overboard – it’s okay if you don’t have the budget of a big publishing house, and readers will give you a tiny bit of leeway. If you have some initial success, you can put those funds into hiring a legitimate book editor to bring the manuscript to the next level later.
Step 7: Format Your Book
Don’t assume that how your book looks in your Microsoft Word document is how it’s going to come out looking on a Kindle device. Amazon actually provides an eBook called “Building Your Book for Kindle” for free download. Further tips can be found in the “Smashwords Style Guide.”
Generally, the simpler your formatting the more compatible it will be on a wider range of platforms. Some rules of thumb are never use tabs for your indents (instead set them throughout the document at about 0.3”), never use a return more than four times in a row, and split sections of with a “horizontal line.” Font size and style are somewhat irrelevant since people will be able to change these as desired with their Kindle.
When the document is done, you can upload it directly to your Kindle Publishing Account to have it automatically converted, or use a free .mobi converter to prepare the document beforehand so you can test it before uploading to Amazon.
Step 8: Order a Cover Design
A nice, professional cover is very likely one of the most important assets of your book and will make a huge difference in sales.
There are a few good designers on fiverr, believe it or not, who make it their business to churn out Kindle covers. To be extremely clear, small graphic design jobs like covers are about the only time I ever recommend using fiverr for IM stuff.
Just make sure to see examples and ask where they get their images – so you can be sure you have the proper rights. You might even offer to purchase stock photos yourself for peace of mind.
It helps the designer if you give them a synopsis and a general idea of the book’s theme. You might also link them to other books covers in your genre that you like. Learning to design your own covers is pretty easy too if you’re willing to do a bit of research, and this gives you the ability to test different covers easily, with little investment, to see what converts best.
Remember, your Kindle book will be seen as a thumbnail to Amazon shoppers, so it’s important that the title of the book is fairly large, in order to be easily seen – this means the layout will be different from what might look good on a regular book cover.”
Writing a book can be a big project – there’s no doubt about it – but with a little time and hard work it’s certainly not undoable for most of us. What can you offer your audience?