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.
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 and freelance writing gigs are great ways to express your ideas and earn a side income, you can’t help feeling they’re a little, well, fleeting. Lightweight even.
But your own 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 writer 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 writers and bloggers?
Why Most Ebooks Are Embarrassingly Bad
On the surface, writing ebooks seem relatively easy.
Lots of writers 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 bad decisions. 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 ebook mistakes:
Table of Contents: How to Write an Ebook Like a Pro (Don’t Do These Amatuerish Things)
- Choosing a Topic You Know Little About
- Writing the Ebook Your Audience “Needs”
- Thinking Like a Writer, Not a Publisher
- Picking Up Your Pen (or Laptop) and Starting to Write
- Trying to Make Your Ebook Too Valuable
- Starting at the Beginning
- Only Writing When You Feel Like It
- Letting Your Inner Editor Take the Lead
- Quitting Just Before it Gets Easy
- Trying to Keep Up The Momentum
- Throwing Your Best Work in the Fire
- Reviewing With a Microscope, Not a Telescope
- Telling Yourself You Don’t Need an Editor
- Hiring the World’s Worst Proofreader
- Indulging Your Inner Perfectionist and Procrastinator
- Assuming You Know the Best Format for Your Ebook Already
- Using the First (Yawn-Inducing) Title that Comes to Mind
- Designing Your Own Front Cover
- Forgetting to Link Back to Your Blog
- Completely Ignoring the Power of Social Proof
- Acting Like Your Ebook Isn’t a Big Deal
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 self-publishing 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 on Google, interview experts, and perhaps even pay a real guru to get you up to speed.
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.
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 to make money or just selling the concept to your readers — you’ll run into problems later on.
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.
Jumping into the writing at this point in your ebook project will cause you serious problems. You’ll find yourself repeating things, or wasting time exploring ultimately unhelpful tangents.
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 question: “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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ebook cover design 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.
If you need some examples, plus some handy templates you can use, take a look at Venngage’s 17 eBook Templates and Design Tips (From an Expert Who Sold 10k+ Paid Copies).
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.
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.
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.
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?