3 Silly Mistakes I Made Before Launching My First eBook
Streaming David Attenborough on Netflix is as good for your wellbeing as meditation, according to this recent scientific report.
A study between Coventry University in the UK, Radboud University in the Netherlands and Massey University in New Zealand reviewed 20 mindful activities to see which ones were most effective. One these mindful activities was simply watching nature documentaries. And the scientists found that there was no difference between watching a nature documentary and meditation.
I've been trying to practice meditation over the past 12 months.
But, truth be told, it’s just not for me: I get a bit bored. So after reading this recent study, I felt like I’d wasted a lot of time trying to get ‘Zen’, and I felt a bit silly. I’d rather watch an Attenborough documentary any day.
And this isn’t the only time I've felt silly recently.
A few weeks ago, I launched my first eBook. It's about Instagram and how to transform an unsexy product on Instagram (and sell). On my 'journey' of writing it, I made some silly mistakes that I hope never to repeat. Some small, some large.
If you produce (or want to produce) online information products and eBooks to make money online, please do read on.
A lot of people see eBooks as a way to make money online, but it’s not as easy as some people make it out to be. Online info products and eBooks are common products in modern marketing.
So here are three ways to help you make a good one:
1. Deadlines and why you absolutely need to commit to one.
2. The need to start small and why writing too much might make you want to stop.
3. Proofreaders and feedback and why without them, you could be selling a duff product.
1). Let's start with the first point: the importance of having a deadline.
It was August 2016, and I was contracting near Finsbury Square, London. During my lunch break I was writing my third newsletter. But I was having a mental block. I just couldn't think of what to write about. So I emailed an ex-colleague of mine, Abbi. I asked her: 'What are you needing to know more about in Marketing right now?'
Abbi replied that she needed to know more about Instagram and influencers.
So I decided to write a one-pager article about it.
Well, that one-pager turned into 170 pages.
And it took me about 18 months to produce. Not a solid 18 months, mind. I wrote for about one hour a day for six months, and mostly forgot about it for the other 12 months.
This leisurely approach is fine, if you've got time to kill.
But I didn’t really have time to kill. Taking 18 months to write a book is too long. And that’s not including the time it then takes to market it once it’s written.
I got distracted too easily.
My time was taken up with my new website, setting up free events, writing newsletters and sales pages, consultancy work and my own learning. The clock was ticking and the book was going nowhere fast.
It was only when I committed to a deadline did I get the book finished.
In October 2017, I ran two free events and I planned to announce my book launch at the end of these events. Before the event, however, I realised that I had no date to announce. That wasn’t going to sound very impressive to a room of potential new clients, was it? So I needed to set a date, and fast.
"Why not Valentine's Day?" I asked my wife.
My book is about brands becoming sexier through Instagram, and as Valentine's is loosely connected with sexiness, that became my deadline day: 14th February 2018.
And just like that, the book started to take shape.
Interviews for the bonus book got typed up. The layout of the book was done using InDesign. And I got testimonials for the book ahead of publishing.
The immovable mental marker of a deadline was now in the ground.
Everything in life had to revolve around it. And — surprise, surprise — things got done. Whereas before, the book fitted around life (instead of the other way around).
But time isn't the only limit that we need to put on ourselves...
2). Start Small and Don't Write Too Much.
Shakespeare, Jacobean ruffs, and writing your 'Magnum Opus' with a quill into the wee hours.
These were some of my romantic views on writing that formed while studying English Literature at university. Every piece of work had to be great and long.
But we're talking about writing an eBook about Instagram here, not a world-famous piece of prose.
The reality was that when I started my eBook, I wanted to write everything I knew about Instagram.
And that turned out to be many, many pages.
This is fine if you've written a book before and know how to ruthlessly edit it.
But if you haven't, that leaves you with a lot of bloat. And a lot of detours.
Which is why, if I had to write my first eBook again, I'd write 30 pages, not 170.
That’s about a fifth of the size of my current eBook. Writing less allows you to see if you can manage to write a book on a small scale first.
Writing small-scale does a wonderful thing.
It forces you to focus on one area of a vast topic. And to go into greater depth. And it means that the pains that come with writing your first book are on a small scale. So you are less likely to lose heart and give up.
My error was writing everything I knew about Instagram (which might sound ok from the outside looking in).
But when you are on the inside and writing a monster, you go down rabbit holes, you go off topic, you think of new angles – all of which throw you horribly off course, and may cause you to stop writing altogether.
And that’s why you need to plan your book.
I needed to sit down with one sheet of paper and split the areas of my eBook into three clearly defined parts... and stick to them.
There are a lot of sh*t eBooks and information products out there.
I know because I've read a fair few of them. Books that claim to show you how to make millions of dollars online, or ‘how to treble your social media fans in a week!’. You know that sort of nonsense: great titles that promise a lot, but usually under-deliver. And they often dump a load of unstructured information your way.
But with a decent plan, you stay ‘on point’ (as my American friends might say).
And when you keep ‘on point’ and keep it small-scale, you give yourself a much better chance of getting your first book done on time.
I didn't plan enough or keep it small-scale first-time round.
And it was a massive pain in the backside for me.
Fortunately, second time around, I did.
I learnt from my mistakes, and my new book about ‘How To create a Knockout Social Media Personality’ will be out in a few months.
Having a deadline and keeping things small-scale is not enough, however.
Because anything you produce, be it a one-page article or a 40-page eBook, needs to be proofed. And proofed again. And then again. By more people than just you.
Which leads me on to the third and final point...
3). The Necessity of Proofreaders and Feedback.
(And why without them, you could be selling a duff product and won’t make much money).
Have you seen this ad about spotting a man in a moonwalking bear costume? (If you look closely, he’s walking through a crowd of basketball players.)
The ad is for cycle awareness. It shows us that if we can't spot a man in a bear costume, we also can't spot cyclists on the road when we’re driving.
And the same goes for spotting errors in our own writing.
We all have a blind spot when it comes to noticing our own glaring mistakes. You’ll think you’ve got them all, but I can promise you that there will still be some left on the page.
My mistake was thinking I could get away with not getting my book proofed many times, because I was in a rush to get it published.
Fortunately for me though, my proofreader wife always reigns me in. She told me straight that, “People will think your work is sloppy if there’s a typo. It will detract from all the hard work you’ve put in.”
Obviously, she was right.
She showed me a few sentences that I'd written (and had considered faultless) and pointed out the mistakes. Lots of them. It’s amazing what your eye doesn't pick up when it's your own work.
And here's an extra tip from my wife (a copywriter and proofreader):
Don't proof your work on-screen. Always print it out because your eyes simply won't pick up as much online as on paper.
In the end, my first eBook had nine pairs of eyeballs proofing it.
Mine five times, my wife's twice, my mother's(!) once and six trusted clients who also gave me testimonials. And you guessed it, each time, we all spotted mistakes.
If you find yourself saying “it’ll do, I just need to get it out there”, then beware: you are rushing it. I can promise that whatever you produce will contain errors and look sloppy.
And one last thing:
While I was taking ages to write my first eBook with no deadline, the months passed. And during that time, some information went out of date. And my knowledge of Instagram also continued to grow. Which meant that I kept updating the book. And with these revisions and additions came more mistakes. And that meant more proofing. So altogether, life became quite a protracted headache. And it needn’t have been this way.
So let’s bring it all together: what have we learned?
1. Have a strict deadline and stick to it, or else there will always be a reason not to finish.
2. Keep your first publication small and get used to the process of creating it.
3. Get it proofed many times by more than one person. Different eyes spot different mistakes. It’s amazing what you’ll miss (and always proof on paper).
I am pleased with my first eBook, but the process didn't need to be such hard work.
So if you follow my advice, you’ll avoid the silly mistakes that I made.
And you won’t need to watch too many David Attenborough documentaries to calm you down.
If you want to know any more about writing an eBook, just email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be glad to help.