How I Write eBooks

The other day someone asked me, “How do you write so many eBooks?”

I’ve written thirteen so far. Plus hundreds of pages of other essays and articles that aren’t about marketing.

This fellow asked me, “Would you be willing to share on this, on the way you write, your organization …?”

What follows are my answers to his more specific questions:

How you define the subject?

I’ve already got the topics for my remaining eBooks complete. I’m not sure how to answer this except to say that, once I start getting the same question a few dozen times and become some combination of tired of answering it and feeling like I’ve got a lot to say on the topic, I start wanting to just get an official version of it done so that I don’t have to repeat myself over and over again. Plus, if I write it as an eBook, I get to make it perfect. I’ll never be able to say it in person so well as I will be able to write it up.

How you constitute your plan?

It is, of course, always immensely flattering when people assume you have a plan around the whole thing. I regret my plan resembles something more along the lines of a dam bursting. I’ll sit on things for years sometimes until something happens and I finally realize I have to get started on the endeavour.

I’ve currently got notes gathering for another seven or so eBooks that I hope to write in the coming year or so. We’ll see how that goes.

How do you write the content?

This is the big thing. I don’t write it all at once. I have a place where I put my ideas. I use a program called Things to keep track. Some people use the text notes on their smart phones. Some people type their ideas in documents in their laptop. Some write in their journals.

However you do it, you must create a system to capture your ideas as they come.

By the time I actually sit down to write an eBook, I’ve already captured hundreds of ideas to incorporate. So then, writing becomes more a matter of organizing ideas and connecting them.

And, in the articulation of these ideas, I begin to see more. When I began to write the Point of View Marketing eBook, most of what has become the core content (e.g. the POV Pyramid) didn’t exist yet. It came as I wrote it and tried to make sense of it all. Writing these eBooks better resembles a game of Connect the Dots than writing a novel.

I have never written an eBook by sitting down with a blank page and starting from there. I always already have a sack full of ideas that, like puzzle pieces, I dump out onto the table to begin to piece together. As I do that, I begin to see that there are huge gaps and begin to wonder about how I might fill them.

Do you record classes & transcribe or give classes in topic after writing? Or some other process?

I do transcribe some things. The Way of the Radical Business (now called Marketing for Hippies 101), The Heart of Selling which is almost ten years old and The Top Ten Blunders Holistic Practitioners are all augmented transcripts. This means that I’ve done a hard edit on the transcript to remove anything that doesn’t serve and added other pieces that weren’t a part of the call to fill it out.

How do you organize your writing into daily organization? When? How long? A ritual? What sort of goals do you give yourself for writing such as words or pages per day or timetable?

It tends to be a bit more a binge. I’ll do nothing but that eBook for a few days and then set it aside for a week.

For example, I’ve got my Hub Marketing eBook about 20% done right now. I spent a few days working on it and then had to move onto other things. I’ll be coming back to it in about a month.

What’s your editing process?

The first thing is that I just begin to write the thing and I get as far as I can.

But there’s a certain point where I can’t bear to look at a computer screen for a second longer and so I will print it all off, go to a nice cafe and do some editing with my pen. This allows me to put pages side by side. It allows me to see the writing in a fresh way.

I’ll take those notes and use them to edit on my laptop.

After that, I usually need a week or so away from the piece.

It goes like that: working on my laptop for as long as I can, then printing it and editing, then incorporating those edits.

The whole while, I’m having new ideas that I capture as well and weave into the piece.

There comes a moment where it feels done.

That’s the point where I send it to my trusted assistant Susan,(who happens to have a decade of magazine editing and publishing experience at her fingertips), to give it a read over to see if it makes any sense at all. We don’t do spelling and grammar at this point. We’re just looking at the structure and content of it – this part is called the substantive edit.

She’ll send me back a version that’s marked up with notes for me to consider. This often requires a significant restructuring of the eBook.

Mark Silver once came to Edmonton and, excitedly, I showed him an early draft of The Niching Nest. He sat there on my couch, with my laptop on his lap, for twenty minutes, looking over it carefully. Then he looked up and said, “Are you open to some feedback?”

And something in the tone of his voice had me vacillate a dozen times between “yes” and “no” before I said, “Sure.”

The feedback required an utter restructuring and reimagining of the eBook and made it ten times better.

That cycle can happen a few times until it feels as done as it’s going to get.

Then we do the spelling and grammar and fancy formatting, which involves engaging an independent copy editor who edits for spelling, grammar, convention, and in-house style. I then get my assistant to do a final proof read, and the layout/formatting of the book.

How long do you spend planning, writing, editing?

Writing an eBook will likely take you much longer than you think it would. It really depends. I’ve finished some of the shorter ones in a month. Others have taken years.

Do you decide how long to go on about a particular topic in a book or does the writing decide that for you or?

I go on until I’ve said everything I have to say. This makes the eBooks longer than some others might go for but I’d rather make it too long than too short. I think the main thing is actually about good organization of the eBook rather than length. Most of my eBooks I intend to keep adding to over time with Version 2.0 and Version 3.0 etc. I will send the update to anyone who bought the last version.

How long is your average eBook?

Somewhere from 100-200 pages.

Do you pick your topics based on what you think will sell or what you are passionate about at the moment – or maybe it’s both?

What I’m tired of talking about. What I think is important to say. What I’m fascinated by and want to explore more.

How do you make them look pretty?

My assistant finds images on and inserts them where she thinks it they look best to support and add to the ideas and text.

How do you publish it?

I print it as a PDF and email it to my assistant who uploads that to the shopping cart so it can be sold on my products page.

Why the choice to distribute on your website and not on amazon or other?

It seems like eBooks sell for about $5 on Amazon. I want to charge around $40. Eventually I will write the official Marketing for Hippies bookstore book. I suppose in publishing there’s always a question of width vs. depth. I could choose to go wide, and write a book that is a best seller and gets me known but makes me very little per book sold or sell fewer at a higher price. At this point, I’m choosing the latter because it’s easier. Best seller campaigns feel like a lot of work.

How do you decide how much to share vs. how much to offer in your courses or sessions?

I put it all in my eBooks. I don’t hold anything back for the one on one work or courses really. The only exception is The Niching Spiral because my book The Niching Nest would have been 1000+ pages long if I’d done that and I realized I needed to choose a focus for that eBook and put the rest in my Niching Spiral Homestudy Course. But I am tired of repeating myself. I’d much rather have it all written out better than I could say it live and be able to refer people in that direction. I find, as many do, that, if I give it all away, it has people want to hire me even more to help them apply it to themselves.

Is distribution difficult?

I’ve not found it so. I just email it to my list and whoever buys buys.

How do you decide how much they cost?

I just sort of sit with it and see what feels right. If something is highly tactical, I might charge $50-$70. If it’s a strategic opus like The Niching Nest, The Art of Relevance, The Art of the Full House or Point of View Marketing then I charge around $40. If it’s more of a 30,000 foot view on a topic like The Top Ten Blunders Holistic Practitioners & Life Coaches Make, or a beginner piece like How to Start, or a short workbook like Don’t Market Yourself. Market Your Message then I’ll charge $20.

But prices are just made up. That’s the truth. The key thing is that you feel good about what you charge.

Do you ever use a pen name?

I will finally admit that I do. It’s Stephen King. I hired an actor to do interviews and kept him quiet by offering him plum roles in my films.

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