How to Write an E-book and Get It Into Your Future Fans’ Hands

Abi Wurdeman
March 29, 2024

It’s never been easier to write and publish an e-book. With all the technology available to us these days, you can even plan, write, edit, release, and market an e-book entirely on your own. 

Not only that, but you can decide how much money you want to invest in this adventure, starting at zero dollars. Whether you’re creating an e-book for kicks or hoping to build a thriving publishing company, you can structure a budget that aligns with your goals.

It’s no wonder there’s been such a boom in self-published e-books in recent years. This format provides a low-fuss way for creative writers to share their stories with readers. It’s also been a valuable tool for professionals seeking to build credibility with a nonfiction book bearing their name.

And based on the fact that you clicked on this article, I’ve got a feeling you’ve got your own reason for exploring the wide world of e-book publishing.

So I’ll stop reflecting on the e-book boom and get right to the information you came for. You’re about to get a full tour of the e-book writing process, plus a whole bunch of hot tips on editing, formatting, publishing, marketing, and even optimizing your book for long-term success.

We’re gonna keep it comprehensive so you can feel fully equipped as you head into this major—and majorly fulfilling—project.

Pre-Writing Phase

A lightbulb on a blackboard with six idea bubbles drawn around it in chalk.

Before you put fingers to keyboard, you’ve got to sit down and give your e-book project a good think.

What are you really trying to do here? Write a bestselling crime fiction e-book? Attract more clients to your consulting business? Also, who’s going to buy this book? Why will they connect with it? What resources do you need to gather to write a stellar e-book?

You can save yourself literal months by taking the time to think through these questions now. It’s easy to get all jazzed on a book idea and spend half a year writing it only for beta readers to tell you that you failed to understand your target audience.

On the flip side, you can set yourself up for smoother-than-normal publishing process and better e-book sales just by doing some reflecting upfront.

Here are a few steps you’re gonna want to take at this phase:

Name Your Niche

If you write fiction, we’re essentially talking subgenre here. Be as specific as you can. 

“I’m writing a contemporary romance e-book” is okay.

“I’m writing a second-chance contemporary hockey romance” is better.

“I’m writing a closed-door second-chance contemporary hockey romance” is great.

The clearer you can be on your niche, the clearer you’ll be about who you’re writing for.

It’s the same idea if you’re writing nonfiction. Are you writing a self-help e-book on the power of positive thinking? Or are you writing a heavily researched self-help book on using the power of positive thinking to foster deeper connection within a troubled marriage?

If you can name it, you’ll be all set for this next part.

Further reading:

Study Your Target Market

Several books and a couple laptops sit on a table. A person sits at the table reading a book.

This is where you figure out who’s going to read your e-book. Imagine your ideal reader and ask yourself:

  • How old are they?
  • What books do they love?
  • What TV shows are they watching?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • Who’s their favorite author?
  • Do they have favorite genre tropes?
  • Which social media influencers resonate with them?
  • What do they value?
  • What do they want out of life?
  • What do they worry about?
  • Who’s important to them?

I know. The questions start to get pretty deep. But as an author, it’s important to understand these things if you want your book to be successful. Your goal is to write a book that resonates with them, after all—to help them solve a problem or offer them an escape into their perfect fictional world.

There are a lot of ways to find these answers, like hanging out in online reader forums, joining Facebook groups related to your topic or genre, and reading reviews of books that are similar to your own.

One of the best ways to glean this information, however, is to start building your author platform now, before you write your e-book. Actively engage your audience and invite their opinion on subjects that will help you understand who they are.

It could be as involved as sending a reader survey to your email list or as simple as an Instagram post inviting people to share their favorite cozy mystery tropes. 

Further reading:

Clarify the Purpose of Your E-book

This is also a good time to check in with yourself about what you hope to gain from your e-book publishing journey.

These days, e-books can fill a surprisingly wide range of functions. Not everyone writes an e-book because they want to become a full-time author.

You might be an entrepreneur who wants to add an e-book to your product line or use an e-book to build credibility. You might be a creative writer who absolutely wants a full-time author career, but you plan to release an e-book for free as a lead magnet or to tease a forthcoming series.

You might even create an e-book simply because writing is fun and your mom just got a new Amazon Kindle.

Whatever goal you’re shooting for, take time now to nail down what your e-book’s purpose is—its purpose for you and your target audience.

Let that insight be your guide as you plan your content, revise your book, budget your expenses, and build your marketing strategy.

Research Whatever Needs Researching

Okay, so that’s obnoxiously vague. But I don’t know what you’re writing, so I’m going to keep this pretty open.

The main point here is to take a pause before you start writing and consider whether you need additional information to make this e-book the best it can be.

Do you need to research facts and statistics for a nonfiction e-book? Is your novel based in a real place you want to portray accurately? Does your protagonist have a job you’re not familiar with? Equip yourself with the answers you need; they’ll help you plan a better e-book in the next step.

Also note any gaps in your knowledge as a writer. Do you know how to create a character arc? Do you know what makes good prose? Have you read a full yacht-load of books in your niche or subgenre so you know how to deliver on reader expectations?

You don’t have to hold off on writing until you feel like you know it all. That day is never coming. But you can at least set yourself up for a smoother writing process by actively pursuing a deeper understanding of your craft.

Further reading:

Planning Your E-book

Two open notebooks and a laptop sit on a wooden table beside a lit candle and three rocks.

Now that you’ve got a solid grasp on the overall vision for your e-book, you’re ready to do more planning!

I know. You came here to learn how to write an e-book. But stick with me—I promise we’re getting to the good part. 

I also promise you’ll be glad you took a little time to figure out what you want this process to look like. See, this step isn’t just about planning the content of your e-book. You’re also going to lay out your strategy for setting goals and establishing a routine. 

That’s going to help you show up even when the muse fails you and you’re pretty sure your first draft is garbage. (I’m not saying you will feel that way; I’m just saying that every good writer has, at some point, felt that way about everything they’ve written.)

So hang in there. I promise we’re getting close to the fun stuff.

Outline or Whatever

In the wide world of authors, some writers are planners who plot their whole book ahead of time, some are pantsers who fly by the seat of their pants and find the story as they go, and others are plantsers, a hybrid creature that does some outlining while still leaving plenty open to discovery.

It doesn’t matter which one you are. All that matters is that you write your e-book in whatever way works best for you.

Having said that, you did just put a ton of effort into understanding the expectations of your genre and the needs of your reader. Even if you choose not to outline, I recommend jotting down some crucial things you want to include in your e-book so you can keep them top-of-mind as you type.

And, at the risk of contradicting myself, I’ll add that if you’re writing a nonfiction book that’s meant to be instructional in any way, an outline is probably a good idea. At least a loose one. 

I mean, you do you, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time later if you lay out the logical sequence of your guidance now. An outline also gives you a chance to review your solutions for your target audience and make sure they align with your reader’s needs.

Further Reading:

Set Some Goals

Several yellow and green darts stuck in a dart board.

Goals are great. They give you something concrete to work towards and keep you motivated with every milestone you meet. 

In the context of writing e-books, the most effective goals are measurable. But it’s entirely up to you what unit of measurement you use, whether you’re trying to complete a specific number of pages by a certain deadline, put in a certain number of hours each week, or meet your target word count every day.

This is a good time to revisit your e-book’s purpose. For example, if it’s supposed to be a selling tool, you might aim to publish it before your next professional conference. In which case, you’ll set a release date goal and work backward from there, setting goals for the completion of the final draft, first draft, first chapter, etc.

However you choose to measure your progress and set deadlines, I recommend breaking up the project into smaller goals. It’ll make your big e-book project more manageable and give you an ongoing sense of accomplishment.

Bonus tip: If you use Dabble, you have access to a brilliant goal tracker that will calculate your daily word count goals based on a final deadline and your specified writing schedule. No math for you!

Further Reading:

Create a Routine

When I say “routine,” I’m basically referring to two different things.

One is a schedule. Decide when you’re going to write and block out the time on your calendar. Don’t take it for granted that you’ll naturally gravitate towards your desk whenever a free moment arises. Even if you’re presently on fire with the white-hot flame of insatiable inspiration, there’s like a 98% chance your passion will cool off about midway through your first draft.

Even if it doesn’t, it’s so easy to give that time to other people and responsibilities if you don’t explicitly reserve it for writing.

Now let’s say you’ve got the kind of life where you can only fit writing into the gaps between work and school pick-ups and visiting the parents. Totally fine! Just make a clear commitment to using the gaps to make progress on your e-book.

The other aspect of routine involves the things you do when you actually sit down to write. That includes the space you’re in, the way you set up that space, and any triggers you can create to signal to your mind that it’s writing time, like lighting a specific candle or playing a specific album.

The more consistent you are with these things, the easier it becomes to get into the zone when a writing session rolls around.

Further Reading:

Writing Your E-book

A person types on a laptop on a big wooden desk beside a window in a teal room.

Okay, now we’re ready to discuss how to write an e-book.

The broad overview is that you just sit down and do it. That may seem like stupidly obvious advice now, but if you’re like 99.3% of writers, you’ll soon learn that this is both the hardest and most essential aspect of writing.

That’s why the advice in this section focuses on how to keep showing up even when it’s hard. You’ll also get tips on actively improving your craft as you go.

If you could use guidance on constructing a compelling narrative, I recommend these articles:

Now, let’s get down to the business of getting down to business.

Maintain Consistency

If I could only give you one piece of advice for making this process as close to easy as it can be (it won’t be easy, just a heads-up), it’s this:

Be consistent.

Stick to the schedule, commitments, and routines you established during your planning. There will probably be moments when it’s hard to believe your time wouldn’t be better spent putting the laundry away or meeting with a friend or going for a run. Write anyway.

Consistency is a form of magic. It turns schedules into routines and then into habits. The thoughts flow more easily (usually), and you make steady(ish) progress.

If you happen to miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Just show up next time and get your rhythm going again.

Further reading:

Breaking Through Writer’s Block

Glasses sit on top of a small notebook, surrounded by sheets of wadded up paper.

Writer’s block is that miserable experience of having a creative mind that just won’t.

Won’t come up with an idea for the next chapter. Won’t answer any of the questions you ask it. Won’t write even one complete sentence.

Writer’s block is the worst, but you can overcome it if you understand what it really is, and nine times out of ten, it’s just fear. We might be afraid of rejection, failure, or writing such a terrible draft that we have no choice but to dismiss the whole e-book idea off as a massive failure. Writer’s block can also be caused by overwhelm or burnout.

Here’s what it’s not: it’s not a tragic condition that strikes writers at whim and leaves them powerless until their muse returns. The key to getting through this moment of frozen creativity is to be active, which means confronting whatever deeper struggle is keeping you from completing your e-book.

The links that follow can help you identify your unique struggle.

Further reading:

Learning on the Job

While it’s a good idea to learn with the basics of top-notch writing before you begin your own e-book, this is a craft you learn best through practice. So, to ensure the quality of this and future projects, write with an eye for improvement opportunities.

If your descriptions feel flat or clichéd, look up writing exercises that will work your creative muscles and find unique, nuanced ways to share your view of the world.

If you worry that your explanation of a complex concept won’t be clear enough for the average layperson, ask a trusted friend to read what you’ve written and let you know exactly where and why they get confused.

The more proactive you are about learning and improving as you write, the higher your chances of writing an e-book that sells.

Further reading:

Editing and Formatting

A sheet of paper in a vintage typewriter reads "rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite."

The first draft of your e-book should be a hot mess. Every author’s initial attempt is. Your first complete draft might have a little more polish to it if you like to edit as you go. Either way, you can’t expect perfection right out of the gate.

That means if your ultimate goal is to sell this e-book, you’ll need to spend some time editing and formatting it.

Here’s what that looks like:

The Revision Process

After you write an e-book, you’ll work with a series of editors to turn that initial draft into a marketable masterpiece. 

The first editor is you. Do a few rounds of your own revisions, looking for errors and plot holes, as well as opportunities to flesh out characters, heighten tension, humanize your message… whatever it means to create a more engaging read for your target audience.

If you get stuck on anything during the self-editing process, you can always call on a critique partner to help you. Critique partners are fellow writers who are happy to give you feedback on your work and help you think through problems, knowing you’ll do the same for them.

Once you’ve taken revisions as far as you can on your own, turn to beta readers for feedback. Make sure your beta readers reflect your target audience.

You’d typically turn to professional editors last, starting with developmental editors and sensitivity readers, who focus on the larger picture of your story. After you’ve applied their feedback, you’d look for a line editor, who advises you on using language more effectively, and finally, a copy editor, who corrects technical errors.

You might not want to use all these pros for your first e-book. Hiring everyone I listed in the previous paragraph can get pretty pricey. I recommend clicking the links to learn more about each one and deciding which types of editing you should prioritize for your current project.

Further reading:

Interior Formatting

Once you’ve polished your manuscript within an inch of its life, you’re ready to format your e-book.

The good news is, this is actually one of the easier steps on this list. Technology has your back with a bunch of tools that handle the formatting for you. Vellum and Atticus are popular options, though they come with price tags and Vellum is only available for Mac users. Free options include Kindle Create and Draft2Digital’s formatting software.

Whatever tool you use, remember to include the essential extras as you format your e-book. I’m talking about the copyright page, dedication, clickable table of contents, back matter directing readers to your website or newsletter sign-up page, acknowledgments, and author’s bio.

Before you export your fully formatted e-book, double-check which file format your chosen publishing platform prefers. At the time of this writing (March 2024), most publishing platforms accept EPUB files.

Further reading:

E-book Cover Design

An ebook cover showing on a Kobo reader that sits on a wooden table surrounded pinecones and branches.

This is one area where creating e-books is slightly easier than publishing physical books. When it comes to cover design, you don’t have to worry about the spine or back cover. Those things don’t exist. All that matters is the front cover.

But let me tell you, it matters.

If you want to make money off of your e-books, you have to learn how to sell with your book cover. It’s your first and most essential marketing tool. That’s why it’s best to work with a professional designer unless you happen to be highly skilled in this area. 

The articles linked below will walk you through some important cover design decisions, but the short version is this:

Go with a striking cover that accurately conveys your e-book’s tone, clearly identifies the genre, and is legible in a thumbnail.

Further reading:

Self-Publishing Your E-book

A person touches the screen of a tablet propped up on a desk.

You’ve learned how to write an e-book. You know how to revise it, polish it, and make it ready for your future fans. 

So what’s the next step? How do you get this puppy out into the world?

Let’s talk publishing.

Choosing Your E-book Publishing Platform

Actually, you probably want to choose your e-book publishing platform before launching into the formatting and cover design process. Each platform has file format and cover design specifications. While they’re often very similar across platforms, you don’t want to do all that work (or pay someone else to do it) only to have your e-book rejected.

When it comes to publishing your e-book, you’ve got tons of options.

There are services like Draft2Digital, IngramSpark, and Lulu that distribute e-books across several platforms. These services take a very small cut of the profits and save you the work of publishing on each selling platform individually.

You can also publish directly with sellers like Kobo, Barnes and Noble Press, and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). 

For many authors, the big question is whether they want to publish exclusively with KDP or “go wide,” offering their e-books across a range of platforms. KDP offers a significantly higher royalty rate if you’re exclusive with them.

Ultimately, it’s a decision only you can make. I recommend doing some research to determine where your genre sells best and where your target audience is most likely to discover and purchase e-books.  

Further reading:

Setting Your Price

A hand drops a coin into a blue smiling piggy bank.

Oof. This is always a tough one. How much should your e-book cost?

Traditionally, indie authors have identified the sweet spot to be somewhere around $3.99 for a full-length novel in an e-book format. But even that isn’t always true.

Many authors offer a digital novella or short story for free as a way to get readers hooked on a fictional world so they’ll buy the series. Others charge up to $9.99 for a self-published e-book because they have existing fans who assume they’d be working with a traditional publisher and expect to see a higher price on their e-books.

I think you know what I’m going to say here. Do your research. Find out what your target audience expects to pay for a book like yours. Compare that against your expenses and sales goals. Decide what makes sense for your e-book.

Further reading:

Marketing and Promotion

A person holds a bullhorn out in front of their face.

If all you wanted was to create an e-book you could share with your friends and family, you can stop reading here. You did it! Nice work.

Now, if you’re still with me, I’m assuming you’re also looking to sell some e-books and make a little money, if not build an entire career. To do that, you’ve got to figure out how to get this masterpiece of yours in front of your target audience.

That means marketing your e-book before, during, and well beyond your launch. Here are some tips for catching your reader’s eye:

Your Marketing Options

Self-published authors have all kinds of clever marketing tricks. Some cost money, while others are absolutely, 100% free. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common strategies for marketing e-books:

  • Engaging with readers on social media platforms
  • Paid social media advertising
  • Advertising on publishing platforms like Amazon
  • Email marketing
  • Live events
  • Webinars (especially for nonfiction authors)
  • Cross-promotion with fellow authors
  • Giveaways
  • Podcast appearances
  • Guest blogging
  • Newsletter swaps

You don’t have to do all these things. In fact, you probably shouldn’t unless you have a whole team to support you. It might help to make three lists: tactics you can do very well, tactics that fit into your financial and time budgets, and tactics that put you in front of your target audience. (No use posting BookTok videos if your readers are mostly Facebook people.)

Select the items that appear on all three lists and start there. And also maybe make sure one of them is email marketing. Almost every indie author you meet will tell you that their newsletter is their best tool for connecting with their target audience.

Further reading:

Building Your Author Platform for the Long-Term

A person works on a laptop at a white desk near a vase of purple flowers.

As long as you’re thinking about how to market your first e-book, you might as well start building your author platform with the long-term in mind.

That’s why social media and newsletters are such popular marketing tactics for self-published authors. They provide opportunities to not just sell to your target audience but also connect with them.

Give readers a tour of your writing space in an Instagram reel. Release a bonus chapter to newsletter subscribers. Host a webinar that goes deeper on a subject you cover in your e-book… or a subject you will cover in the next one.

Nurture reader relationships and I can pretty much guarantee your next e-book launch will be even more successful.

Pro tip: Email newsletters are more important than social media because your email list gives you something you control. Social media algorithms can and will change, and authors have lost six-figure incomes because they solely relied on a social site. Long-term author success means starting your email list sooner rather than later.

Writing the Next Book

Want to know the most effective way to rack up more sales of your e-book? Write another one.

The more e-books you have out there, the more opportunities readers have to find your work. Once they discover, read, and love one book, they’ll look for others.

Is it a time-consuming strategy? You bet. But now you have a system for selecting a topic, researching your market, planning your e-book, following through with your writing goals, publishing your e-book, and getting the word out.

You’ve basicaly built your own e-book template! Might as well put it to good use. 

Monitoring and Optimizing

A hand points to graphs showing marketing metrics.

There’s one last step in this journey, and it’s an easy one to forget. If you want to keep raking in those e-book sales now and into the future, you’ve got to monitor your book’s performance. That includes:

Tracking e-book sales - How well is your e-book selling? If it’s on multiple publishing platforms, where is it selling best?

Reviewing marketing efforts - Do you notice any spikes in sales following a specific campaign or special offer? Which marketing efforts pay off and which ones seem to fall flat? 

Considering reader feedback - How is your target audience responding to your book? Are you learning anything valuable from reader reviews—anything you should keep in mind as you write your next e-book?

Use these insights to determine where to focus your budget, how to connect more effectively with your audience, and what to do differently in the future. 

If your book really struggles for an extended length of time and you’re pretty sure it’s an issue with the content, not the marketing, you might consider retooling it and re-releasing it as a new edition. Or you might determine that your cover doesn’t attract the right reader, so you change that one aspect of your book.

The beauty of self-publishing e-books is that you hold all the power. You can revamp and optimize at any time. From that initial e-book idea to every last marketing move, you make the decisions.

It’s a big job. It’s also a tough job. But man, is it fun.

Bonus Tip: Let Tech Smooth Out the Wrinkles

Before you scamper off to write your very first e-book, I want to give you one last tip.

Find a writing program that makes this whole process easier. All-purpose word processors like Microsoft Word and Google Docs will technically get the job done, but it’s so much easier to work with a tool that was actually made exclusively for writing books.

Dabble happens to be one of those tools, and I can attest to its greatness because I use it. It’s got incredible features for staying organized, including customizable Story Notes, internal linking, and the famous Plot Grid.

All your notes are there at your fingertips as you write and revise, plus you get a host of editing tools like comments, sticky notes, and highlighting. 

If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, you can access a free 14-day trial at this link. That allows you to test every one of Dabble’s features, and you don’t even have to enter a credit card to get started.

Believe me when I say that your future self will thank yourself for doing everything you can do today to make this fun-but-massive project a little bit simpler.

Abi Wurdeman

Abi Wurdeman is the author of Cross-Section of a Human Heart: A Memoir of Early Adulthood, as well as the novella, Holiday Gifts for Insufferable People. She also writes for film and television with her brother and writing partner, Phil Wurdeman. On occasion, Abi pretends to be a poet. One of her poems is (legally) stamped into a sidewalk in Santa Clarita, California. When she’s not writing, Abi is most likely hiking, reading, or texting her mother pictures of her houseplants to ask why they look like that.