Skip to content

How to Build an e-Book from Your Blog

How to Build an e-Book by Aaron Pogue

Available Now!

A little over a month ago, after the amazingly successful conclusion of the first annual Pre-Writing Challenge, Carlos came to visit me in Oklahoma City and we spent an evening discussing his plans to build an e-Book about the experience. It was something that needed to be done, a product that needed to exist, and Carlos knew that. He was a little worried, though, because he had never done anything like it before.

There’s a funny story about how that conversation went, and you can read it (for free) in the Foreword to my new e-Book, How to Build an e-Book. The upshot of that conversation, though, was that I could teach him what he needed to know. We scheduled another visit, to take place three weeks later, when Carlos and I would spend three days straight discussing his book.

With that settled, he went back to Kansas and I went back to work, but we both spent a lot of time thinking about how to get the most out of his next visit. For me, it was all about chasing efficiency — I kept asking myself, “How am I going to teach him, in three days, all these things I’ve learned over ten years as a Technical Writer?”

And, of course, the answer was in the question.  I decided to spend those three weeks before he came getting ready, preparing detailed tutorials and professional-quality examples. For three weeks, I had no free time. For three weeks, I had no life. But I got it done. When that weekend came, when Carlos and Julie showed up at our house early Saturday afternoon, my wife had to greet them because I was sitting at a Kinko’s, waiting for my tutorials to finish printing.

When I handed the rough draft to Carlos, his eyes got wide. He flipped through a few pages, glanced at the table of contents, and then said softly, “Wow.”

His wife was watching over his shoulder, and she looked up at me with a suspicious expression. “What did you do?”

I shrugged and told her, “I wanted to get Carlos some good examples, and I knew I needed to explain all this stuff, and I’d have to make an e-Book eventually anyway, so I just did it all now.”

She shook her head, eyes wide. She laughed. “So you were trying to think how to save some time, and the answer you came up with was, ‘Hey, why don’t I just go ahead and write a whole book?'”

Yes. Yes it was.

Why Should I Write an e-Book?

There’s a big difference between writing an e-Book and preparing short tutorials, though. So it was more than just writing. There was a lot of research to do, too — questions I had to ask myself, and the answers that I found might be useful to you, too.

I talked last week about why you should make a professional blog. Obviously that’s what I’m trying to do here at Unstressed Syllables. I’d like to make this site a significant source of income, so I can afford to focus all this time and energy on helping others improve their writing.

I don’t really want to do that with annoying ads or membership fees — two of the most common ways of generating income on a blog — because both of those methods could cut down on the number of people visiting my site, and my main goal here is to help as many people as possible.

Luckily there’s another method available, and one tied directly to my talents, my training, and my extensive experience: e-Books. Providing e-Books on your blog offers more benefits than just income, too. Everything I’ve read about running a professional blog recommends offering products and services, and always for the same reasons.

Offering products and services establishes your authority. Having professional-quality products available on your site makes you look professional (and e-Books are, by far, the most common product on offer). It’s a matter of credibility — if you’ve put in the time to prepare a valuable product, it’s easier for your readers to trust you to put in the time to keep providing valuable content.

So that’s my message to you today. Yes, I’m talking about my e-Book (and yes, I’d love for you to pop over to the sales page and see if it’s something you might want), but this article is more than just a sales pitch. It’s a continuation of last week’s suggestion that you should make a professional blog of your own.

That’s a lot easier to commit to when you’ve got a clear goal to work toward. You don’t need to build a massive readership to pitch ads to, or enough fame and recognition to sell out seminars — you just need enough content and enough authority to provide a valuable product.

The funny thing about e-Books is the way they both rely on and contribute to your authority. Before you can sell an e-Book, you need to get your site well enough established that you can market to somebody, and you need enough of a presence on Google and other search engines to get your product out there.

Once your book is written, though, it becomes a promotional tool all by itself. Every page of your e-Book becomes a testament to your style and ability, to your knowledge and unique voice. And as your readers discuss your product on their blogs, they contribute to your search engine presence.

What Should My e-Book Look Like?

Of course, if this is the first time you’ve considered making an e-Book, it might be difficult to picture exactly what it is I’m suggesting you do. I’ve told you about the rewards available, but what is it you’re actually trying to make?

That’s a matter of audience analysis and market research, things every writer needs to spend time thinking about. In this case, what you really need to know is your buyers’ expectations. Whether or not you’ve seen an e-Book before, the people ready to buy one from you probably have.

The exact expectations vary by market, but I’ve checked out a lot of products on a lot of blogs as I’ve prepared to launch my own, and most places I see e-Books that are around 20-30 pages of content, and they generally sell for somewhere around $15-$25.

Obviously there are outliers — rockstar bloggers selling e-Books for hundreds of dollars, and philanthropists giving away their work for free. By and large, though, most of the e-Books I’ve seen have averaged twenty-five pages, and sold for twenty bucks.

When I put together my e-Book for Carlos, including just the absolutely critical information he’d need, I ended up with something considerably larger than that. In the end, it weighed in at over 100 pages, but I’d designed it from the start in three parts: Prewriting, Writing, and Rewriting. Individually, they get close to the market standard, so I’m selling them that way (with a small discount if you decide to pick up the single-volume set).

One of the most important things readers expect from an e-Book is a single cohesive message. That’s what makes a bunch of free blog posts into a product worth a buck a page. It’s an opportunity to build a more involved conversation than you can reasonably fit in weekly articles, drawing out ideas you’ve sprinkled throughout your archive and pulling them all together into a single, sustained message.

You can’t do that with just copy and paste. You’ll have to rework whole sections, and write brand new material to fill in the gaps. When you’re done, though, you’ve got more than just a bunch of blog posts — you’ve got a book.

Of course, you could write an entire book of new material. Most buyers don’t expect that, though. They expect exactly what I described above, a collection of blog posts reworked and added to, to create a powerful product. After all, the material they’re familiar with on your blog is a big part of why they decided to buy your product in the first place.

And that’s worth remembering. Even more than they expect to see familiar content, they expect to see a familiar style. Make sure your readers can hear your voice — the one you’ve developed on your blog, the one you’ve built your brand on. Make sure it’s in every page, because when they click the Buy Now button, they’re buying you.

Why Would Someone Pay for That?

Understanding what your readers want can help you make a quality product, but it still often leaves new writers wondering how valuable the product is. Sure, you’ve heard that most e-Books sell for around twenty bucks, but why are they worth that? Especially when so much of the content is already available for free on your blog.

The value comes from your authority — both from the credibility you’ve established on your blog, and from the expertise you bring to your topic. That’s something I’ve talked about before here, taking something you understand and making it accessible to your readers. I called it Translating Understanding.

The end result, though, is information — not raw data, but information that’s been processed and prepared, served up in the way that can be of the most benefit to your readers. That’s a service people are willing to pay for.

The specific ingredients of that process are research, application, and exclusive content. As you build an e-Book, even as you’re collecting posts from your existing archive, you’re spending the time and effort to gather the relevant topics, filter out the rest, and organize them in the most effective way.

And there’s more. As you complete your message, you’ll point out exactly how each chapter applies to your topic. That’s the extended conversation I talked about earlier, it’s the benefit of dedicating a whole book to a single topic. And everything that’s missing — everything you add just to fill in the gaps — becomes exclusive content.

How Can I Get Started?

Are you interested in writing an e-Book? It doesn’t have to be now, but if you follow my advice from last week and start a professional blog, do you think you might want to develop an e-Book someday?

If not, you can be done with this post. All I’ve got left is a sales pitch, and I’m really not trying to trick anybody into buying my book. It’s an excellent product for anyone who wants to build an e-Book for their website, but probably a waste of money for anybody else.

If you are interested, though, you should start with last week’s advice. Build your blog. Find your voice. Establish an archive with at least several months of strong content to draw on. Once Google knows who you are (and, with any luck, at least a few dozen regular readers do, too), then you can start thinking about making the e-Book.

When you get to that point, my guide will take you through the rest of the process. You’ll start with choosing a topic, as I said above. I chose Technical Writing, because I am an expert Tech Writer, and the key to building a professional-quality e-Book is to work like a Tech Writer.

I’ll teach you how to design your document’s structure  and plan your writing process to make the best possible book with the least amount of effort. I’ll teach you how to make and use stylesheets that save you time and improve your document’s readability. I’ll teach you how to get the most out of your existing content, and pack your pages with value. I’ll teach you how to polish your draft into a professional finished product, and then what to do next.

If you’re already sold, click here to buy the single volume collection (all 100+ pages for $49.99). If you’d rather start slow, you can visit our new products and services page to buy just Part I: Prewriting for $19.99. Try it out, work your way through, and if you like it you can buy the other two volumes when you’re done.

If you’re not quite convinced, check out the book’s sales page for more details, testimonials and reviews, and look through the book’s introduction(PDF), which includes a complete Table of Contents.

That was enough to sell Carlos. That weekend when he came to visit, still nervous at the very idea of writing an e-Book, he flipped past my cover page and Foreword, and skimmed the ToC.

Halfway through he looked up at me, and said, “You’ve really got all of this in here?” I nodded, and he said, “That’s everything I need to know.” Three days later he had a writing plan, a custom document template with powerful styles, two chapters finished, and perfect confidence that he could get the rest done. The transformation was amazing.

That’s the whole reason I wrote this e-Book, and why it’s the first product for sale at Unstressed Syllables — it takes the fear and frustration out of writing, and that’s what I’m all about.

2 Responses to “How to Build an e-Book from Your Blog”

  1. Trish Pogue says:

    The quality of the writing in this book astounds me. I’m not saying you don’t usually write with quality but how quickly you got this book written and available for other bloggers and writers is truly amazing. Great job!

    Are you going to write the next Ghost Targets that quickly? I hope so, I’m ready for Katie’s next adventure!

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      Well, here’s the thing….

      See, there’s a really good chance that I’ll write it just as quickly as my e-Book, but only if I do that in November. I’m guessing you hope not to wait that long.

      The good news is, entirely out of the blue, I spent my walk the other day working through the intro and climax of GT: Shelter, so it might creep up on me much sooner than that. Keep the hope alive.