21 Dumb Mistakes to Avoid in 2019

Want to learn how to write an ebook like a pro? It’s not just what you do, but what you DON’T do that can make or break your work.

Admit it.

You’ve thought about writing an ebook.

In fact, you’ve already imagined the front cover.

You can see the main title and, underneath, your name.

And when you picture it, you feel a ripple of pride.

An ebook would be a big step up for you as a writer.

Because while blog posts are a great way to express your ideas, you can’t help feeling they’re a little, well, fleeting. Lightweight even.

But an ebook? That’s more substantial. It’s taken more seriously. It has more gravitas.

And having an ebook with your name on the front transforms you from a mere blogger into that more impressive beast — an author.

But how do you become an ebook author without falling victim to the same mistakes that sabotage the attempts of so many other bloggers?

How to Write an Ebook: 21 Dumb Mistakes to Avoid

Why Most Ebooks Are Embarrassingly Bad

On the surface, writing an ebook seems relatively easy.

Lots of bloggers seem to be doing it, so how hard can it be?

But in reality, most ebooks that see the light of day are horrible. Embarrassingly bad.

That’s because your average ebook author doesn’t have a clue how to write an ebook. They can’t afford to hire a ghostwriter, and they don’t have the support system a traditional author would be given by their publisher when writing a book.

They do their best, but they don’t know what they don’t know.

The good news? We can learn from their mistakes. In this post, we’re going to show you the common mishaps first-time authors make when writing an ebook.

In other words:

Want to write an ebook like a pro? Avoid these 21 common mistakes:

1. Choosing a Topic You Know Little About

If you want to create a premium ebook, you can be tempted to pick a “hot topic” thinking that’s where the money is.

Likewise, when creating a sign-up bribe, you might think you need to entice readers with the latest information about an emerging topic.

And if you’re using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), it’s easy to think you need to target one of the most popular categories.

But picking a topic like this is a BIG mistake.

If you know little or nothing about your chosen topic, creating an ebook will be a huge amount of work. You’ll have to do a ton of research, interview experts, and perhaps even pay a real guru to get you up to speed.

What to do Instead

Write about something you actually know about — which almost certainly means tying your ebook to your blog’s core topic. You’ll not only save a ton of time on research, but you’ll also have a ready-made audience for your writing.

2. Writing the Ebook Your Audience “Needs”

I’ve fallen into this trap myself (twice) and I’ve seen a heck of a lot of other bloggers do the same.

It happens when you realize there’s a topic you know your readers need, and you know you can write the perfect book that will genuinely help them.

Sounds great, but people don’t always know what they need. And your sense of what it is might not be spot-on either.

What to do Instead

Don’t give your readers what you think they need. Give them what they know they want.

How? Run a survey, and ask your readers to choose between three or four ebook topics.

(This is also a good opportunity to find out how much they’d pay, whether they’re beginners or more experienced, and what specific questions they need your help to answer.)

3. Thinking Like a Writer, Not a Publisher

Planning isn’t just about deciding what you’re going to write and what order you’re going to write it in.

Because when you decide to create an ebook, you’re not just a writer; you’re also a publisher (and marketer). You have to write and publish.

If you don’t start thinking now about how you’ll sell your book — whether that means selling it for money or just selling the concept to your readers — you’ll run into problems later on.

What to do Instead

Draft your sales page while you’re planning your ebook. Make it sound as attractive and useful as possible (try Jon’s list of power words, and make the reader the hero of the story) … and use that pitch to drive the writing process. This will make your ebook much stronger and will make your life much easier when you launch it.

4. Picking Up Your Pen (or Laptop) and Starting to Write

Once your survey results are in, you might be tempted to start writing straight away.

Whoa there.

Jumping into the writing at this point will cause you serious problems. You’ll find yourself repeating things, or wasting time exploring ultimately unhelpful tangents.

What to do Instead

Plan your ebook before you start writing.

This means having a clear outline that has, at the very least, a title for each chapter. Yes, that might seem a bit boring, but it will make the writing stage far easier (and more fun).

This doesn’t have to mean opening a blank document and writing a linear outline. Try freeform brainstorming, mind maps, or index cards as creative alternatives to help get your ebook ideas flowing.

5. Trying to Make Your Ebook Too Valuable

With your first ebook, it’s easy to think you need to deliver the definitive ebook — the only one your audience will ever need.

If that sounds like a good idea, ask yourself this: “What will I give them next?”

Chances are, you won’t write just one ebook. You might write several in the same series, or you might create a short starter ebook for free, and then write a more advanced one to sell.

Even if your ebook is destined to be your subscriber incentive, if you give your readers everything they’ll ever need, why would they come back to your blog?

What to do Instead

Go back to your survey and determine what aspects your audience cares about the most. Focus on those. If you have lots of extra ideas, great! Keep them in a separate place and use them for your next ebook. Or explore them in a detailed blog post.

If you inadvertently miss something crucial, you’ll find out when you get feedback, and you can add a new section or chapter to address that point.

6. Starting at the Beginning

Although it might be the first chapter in your book, your introduction almost certainly isn’t the place to start writing.

It’s hard to know what to include until you’ve drafted the majority of your book, and you don’t want to get bogged down at this early stage.

If you start with the introduction, you’ll often end up writing far more than you need to. And let’s be honest. No reader relishes the sight of a long introduction — they want to dive into the real content.

What to do Instead

Don’t begin with the introduction; start with your first “proper” chapter. Once you’ve drafted the rest of your book, you’ll know what needs to go in the introduction.

Also, a lot of “introductory” material can go at the back of the book – I strongly recommend having an About the Author page at the back, because it’s a great opportunity to point readers to your website, mailing list, and so on.

7. Only Writing When You Feel Like It

Although your ebook is probably a high-priority project for you, it can be genuinely tough to carve out the time for working on it regularly.

But if you don’t write consistently, you’ll never build up any momentum. You may write for a few hours to begin with, but then end up taking weeks off … and never getting back to your ebook.

What to do Instead

You don’t have to write thousands of words at a time. One of my clients wrote a short chapter every week, without fail, and finished her ebook within a few months.

Find a consistent time each day, or several times a week, to work on your ebook. You might like to try the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes writing, 5-minute break) to use your time effectively during short writing sessions. Anyone can write for just 25 minutes.

If you know you have a problem with time management, address that now; it’ll pay off for years to come.

8. Letting Your Inner Editor Take the Lead

If you’re writing regularly and staying focused but making slow progress, then you’re probably trying to edit while you write.

Perhaps you find yourself typing a couple of paragraphs, then changing your mind and deleting them. You might even be stopping every sentence or two to make minor tweaks.

This is a serious drain on your productivity as a writer.

What to do Instead

If you change your mind about a whole paragraph or section, leave it in as is, but jot a note to yourself about it. You may find, on re-reading, that it works perfectly well.

You might find it’s helpful to use a full-screen “no distractions” text editor. I like Dark Room for this — as it doesn’t have those distracting red and green wiggles that your typical word processor adds when it doesn’t like a word or phrase.

9. Quitting Just Before it Gets Easy

After you’ve been working on your ebook for weeks, perhaps months, you may find that you’ve not made the progress you’d hoped for.

Whatever the exact cause (illness, workload, etc.), you’ve hit a wall. You aren’t even halfway through the draft, and there’s a long way to go.

When you go through a patch like this, it’s quite tempting to just give up — to cut your losses and leave that ebook draft abandoned on your computer.

But that would be a huge mistake. Because this is often a sign that things are about to get easier.

What to do Instead

Push yourself to reach the halfway point. Once you’re halfway, natural momentum kicks in, and you’ll speed up as you approach the end.

Be sure to remind yourself of your motivation for starting the ebook in the first place: what’s it going to do for you and your blog? How will it help your readers — the people who you’ve come to know and care about?

10. Trying to Keep Up The Momentum

While it’s important to not let your ebook stall after the first draft, you don’t need to rush into editing. Some writers dive straight into the editing phase — but then they struggle to get perspective, and may quickly feel burned out.

What to do Instead

Let your ebook “sit” for at least a couple of days (and preferably a full week) before you begin reviewing and editing. That way, you’ll come to it with fresh eyes and a new perspective — you’ll be able to see what’s already good, and what needs a bit more work.

With a little distance, you’ll be able to see your work from the perspective of a reader, not a writer.

11. Throwing Your Best Work in the Fire

Many ebook authors start their edit using the same file they used for the draft — for example, MyEbook.doc.

While that’s not always a problem, it’s seriously frustrating if you cut something you later want to put back in.

Worse, if you manage to delete, lose, or somehow corrupt that master file, all your hard work could be gone for good.

What to do Instead

For each new draft, create a new version of your file — MyEbookV2.doc, MyEbookV3.doc and so on. And create regular backups. A simple way is to email yourself a copy of the latest version from time to time.

12. Reviewing With a Microscope, Not a Telescope

If you start your editing by looking for minor typos, you’ll miss much more significant issues.

By focusing on the micro detail, you may fail to address major problems with your book — like “Chapter 15 is way too short” or “Chapter 7 should come after Chapter 10.” These often require a bit of perspective (see Mistake #10).

What to do Instead

Read through your whole ebook, preferably in .pdf form, on paper, or on your tablet, before you begin editing.

In other words, read it in a format where you can’t easily make small changes as you go along to force yourself to concentrate on the bigger picture.

Make a note of any issues you need to fix, like chapters in the wrong order, repetitive information, tangents that need deleting, and new sections you want to add.

13. Telling Yourself You Don’t Need an Editor

When you’ve been working away on your own for (probably) several months, seeing mistakes can be tough — from the big picture issues to the small details like missing words or misplaced apostrophes.

But many first-time ebook authors are either too inexperienced to know the value of an editor or figure it’s a luxury they can’t afford.

Even if you’re not in a position to pay for a full edit, that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.

What to do Instead

Consider paying for an editor to review just the first few chapters of your ebook. Many problems the editor identifies will probably occur throughout the ebook and you can fix them yourself once you know what to look for.

Recruit volunteers to help edit: ask your readers, or members of any blogging community you belong to. Be prepared to repay the favor!

14. Hiring the World’s Worst Proofreader

Once you’ve made any major changes and addressed the suggestions of your editors, your book is almost complete.

But before it’s ready to publish, you’ll need to do at least one complete read-through to catch any remaining typos or errors.

However, you’re probably the worst person to catch those errors.

You’ve likely become so familiar with the content and its layout that you’ll miss typos that will be obvious to someone else.

What to do Instead

If you can afford a professional proofreader, or if you have a talented friend who can help out, brilliant.

If you have to do most or all of your proofreading alone, here’s the secret: don’t proofread your ebook in the same environment you wrote it. Try changing the font style and size and printing it out, or reading it on a tablet. You’ll be surprised at how errors stand out.

15. Indulging Your Inner Perfectionist and Procrastinator

Quality matters, but if you’re onto your fifth proofread and you’re spending ten minutes debating whether or not a particular sentence needs a comma, you’re wasting time.

Even books from major publishing houses have mistakes from time to time. You may never have noticed this, because (like every reader) you don’t pause and scrutinize every word.

What to do Instead

Give yourself a deadline for finishing the editing phase, and accept that catching 99 percent of your mistakes is good enough.

Don’t agonize over the possibility that a typo may still be present. Readers aren’t likely to notice, and if someone does point out a particularly glaring mistake after publication, it’s simple to update your ebook.

16. Assuming You Know the Best Format for Your Ebook Already

Even if you started out with a specific end goal in mind, be sure to review your options once you’ve finished your ebook.

An ebook that started life as a subscriber incentive might in fact make a great premium product, or serve as an authority-building book in the Kindle Store.

But if you don’t at least consider other options, you might miss out on a huge opportunity.

What to do Instead

Depending on the final destination of your ebook, a range of different ebook formats are available to consider:

  • If you’re giving your ebook away as an incentive for joining your email list, then .pdf-only is simple and straightforward.
  • If you’re positioning your ebook as a premium product (e.g., at least $10), you can just create a .pdf … but you might also want to offer .epub and .mobi formats. You could also include multimedia bonus material on a password-protected webpage (e.g. audio interviews, short video tutorials).
  • If you’re publishing your ebook on major retailers’ sites, you’ll need a lower price (usually $9.99 or less) and to publish your file in the appropriate format for the store.

And don’t assume that a particular option is right for your ebook just because it’s what you’ve seen other bloggers doing.

17. Using the First (Yawn-Inducing) Title that Comes to Mind

Just like a blog post title, an ebook title must grab attention. It’s going to be the first (and quite possibly the only) thing your potential ebook reader sees.

When I wrote my first full-length ebook, I planned to title it Writing Blog Content. That’s what it was about, after all! But it’s not exactly sexy.

A wise friend (Charlie Gilkey) jumped onto Skype with me and spent a while hashing out better titles. We eventually went with The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing … a much stronger, more compelling title.

What to do Instead

If you’ve had a working title in mind since the planning stage, now’s the time to figure out whether it’s truly good enough. You might want to ask your blog readers to vote on different titles.

The same goes for the headline on your sales page — you’ll probably want to put something a bit more intriguing than just the title of your ebook.

Jon’s Headline Hacks report is packed with lots of inspiration and advice.

18. Designing Your Own Front Cover

Like it or not, everyone judges books by their covers.

Unless you’re a professional designer, creating your own cover is a hugely damaging mistake.

Your ebook will look amateurish, and readers may well be put off from buying it.

This is especially true if you’ll be selling your ebook on Amazon (or other e-retail sites) where most potential readers won’t have any prior knowledge of you.

For plenty of examples of both good and bad covers, take a look at Joel Friedlander’s Monthly e-Book Cover Design Awards.

What to do Instead

If you can afford it, hire a designer. This is a crucial investment, and you’ll likely sell enough extra copies to more than pay for the designer’s work.

But if you really have to create your cover yourself, keep it simple and straightforward, and look at lots of examples of good and bad designs.

19. Forgetting to Link Back to Your Blog

Your ebook might be a reader’s first contact with you. And even those who downloaded your ebook from your blog might forget where they got it.

So failing to link your ebook back to your blog is a big mistake. You’re missing an opportunity to drive new subscribers to your main email list or to a separate list that tells your current ebook readers about your next book.

What to do Instead

Include a page at the back of your ebook — after “About the Author” — that lets readers know where to find you online.

Be sure to link to your subscriber landing page, to your next book’s sales page, or anywhere else online you want to send them — e.g., your social media profiles.

Also important is giving your readers an easy way to send you feedback for your ebook, such as a dedicated email address or a link to a contact page.

And don’t be afraid to link to relevant blog content within the body of the ebook itself.

20. Completely Ignoring the Power of Social Proof

Even if a reader already knows you, they won’t necessarily trust that your ebook is any good until it has at least one review or testimonial.

Whether your ebook is available for purchase or simply a reward for new subscribers, people probably won’t trust its value unless they can see that other people have read it and found it useful.

And if you’re in a niche that’s known for having a few sleazy operators, or one where ebooks are rare, then failing to provide social proof is an even bigger mistake.

What to do Instead

Be proactive — send out review copies to bloggers in your niche, and to any of your blog’s readers who’ve commented regularly or emailed you recently. Add positive reviews to your sales page and, if possible, use photos of the reviewers to boost credibility.

And if you can, send out your review copies before you launch your ebook – preferably at least a couple weeks before. This gives people a chance to read your book and get a review ready on or soon after your launch day.

21. Acting Like Your Ebook Isn’t a Big Deal

Many bloggers are uncomfortable marketing their ebooks so their “launch” simply involves a new link on their blog and a couple of low-key posts on social media.

But even the best ebook will wither and die without some determined promotion.

And the truth is that if you’re not willing to market your ebook when the hard work of writing it is complete, you’ve basically wasted all that time and effort.

What to do Instead

You’re proud of your new ebook, right? So start acting like it. (If you don’t feel a swell of pride about your work then go back to the writing and editing phases until you do!)

Despite any preconceptions, you can effectively market your blog without coming across like a used car salesman.

Here’s how…

Mix up your promotional messages with lots of useful and interesting content.

If you’re giving people useful information at the same time as promoting your ebook, you’ll feel less like a pushy salesperson.

If your ebook is on Amazon, you can create some buzz by giving it away free for short periods.

If this is your first premium product, make sure you tell your existing list about it and consider offering a discount for existing subscribers.

Write guest posts for popular blogs in your niche and direct readers to a dedicated landing page for sign-ups or for the sales page for your ebook.

You might even look into ways to do something more interesting and innovative, maybe creating videos, offering special extras, or getting readers involved.

Writing an Ebook Doesn’t Have to Be a Dream

Lots of mistakes are lurking out there to trip you up on the path to publishing your first ebook, but the potential rewards are great.

You can get more subscribers for your blog, more authority in your niche, and even earn more money from your writing.

And now that you know the most common mistakes, you can avoid them with ease.

But of all the mistakes you can make, one trumps them all:

Not even trying.

Or telling yourself that you’ll write your ebook someday.

But you’re not going to make that mistake, right?

You now know how to write an ebook. Grab your calendar, take a look at the next week, and choose a day to begin.

Because in just a month or two, you could easily have a finished ebook … one that could supercharge your email list, position you as an expert, or start bringing in a steady income.

When will your ebook journey begin?

About the Author: Ali Luke is the author of Publishing E-Books For Dummies, and writes for Learn SEO Fast. If you’d like more help with the “plan-write-edit” process (not just for ebooks!) then check out her free video training, The Writing Process for Bloggers — no opt-in required.

 

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