General tips on writing the book

2.1 Note about formats
2.2 How to start
2.3 Language to use
2.4 Rhetorical figures
2.5 Thesaurus or synonyms
2.6 Provide instructions
2.7 Examples, case studies and exercises
2.8 Avoid highlighting text
2.9 Overviews
2.10 Points of view
2.11 Contact
2.12 Interactivity
2.13 Once you think you reached your goal. Proofreading.
2.14 Cover

2.1 Note about formats

There are many different formats for E-Books. Though the industry in general is not pointing on it I am convinced that the best format to use is PDF. The main reason for this is that everybody has already seen a PDF file, knows how to open it and which applications to use to read it. It works on all platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux) and most mobile devices as well. So it’s easy for people to read but it’s also easy for you to give it a particular style, give it a personal touch and implement different contents.

Anyway what you may want to do is have the E-Book in two versions:

- PDF

– ePub

2.2 How to start

Once the most important part is done, brain storming and planning the book, I usually start by typing in all the chapter titles and subtitles. This way it’s easy to see and change the order in which you place them. They should follow a logical path from a start, the first action required, to a finish, the last action required. Once this is done you can easily fill in the text for the chapters one after the other.

Already apply the formatting, how you want the headings to look like and the appropriate paragraph styles. Same for other text such as case studies and examples.

2.3 Language to use

A book should be written in a language everybody can understand. Jargons should be avoided. If you can’t avoid technical terminology or you think it’s important for your readers to know them make sure you give a short explanation of the term the first time you use it. Using too much jargon makes it difficult to read for people who don’t know much about the topic but are interested in it. Keep things easy.

Avoid using parenthesis and adding too many footnotes. Usually what you would write in parenthesis could also be implemented into the sentence itself by changing its structure.

2.4 Rhetorical figures

Rhetorical figures are language tools which allow you to explain something difficult in an easier way or make the reading of your books a more pleasant experience. For example: similarities, metaphors, rhetorical questions, …

Questions and rhetorical questions

Questions can be used to interact with the readers and have them thinking about a topic. They also give them a short break. The difference between questions and rhetorical questions is that when you use questions you usually provide the answer “How is it done? To do it…” whereas in rhetorical questions the answer is not provided. Perhaps because there is no answer to it, because the answer is already provided in the question itself, because everybody knows it or because you want your readers to think about something by themselves without you giving an answer.

Similarities

Similarities usually make use of something everybody knows to explain how something more difficult works.

“The cycle of the water in nature works like when you cook pasta. When you boil the water, it evaporates, when you put your hand in the vapor you will see it condensate and you will see drops of water on your hand, just like clouds. After a while the drops will fall down like rain, and the process starts again.”

Metaphors

“The sun is a gas station”. Of course the sun isn’t a gas station but at a gas station you get fuel to run your car and with solar panels on the roof of your house you could be making electricity to run your mixer. From both you get energy to run something.

The difference between a similarity and a metaphor is that in a metaphor you say “it is” whereas in a similarity you say “it is like”. In a similarity you compare something to something else. In a metaphor you use something with alike characteristics to describe something else.

As always use these tools only from time to time and don’t rely too much on them. Otherwise they could overcomplicate things instead of making them easier.

2.5 Thesaurus or synonyms

Avoid repeating the same word multiple times in a sentence where possible. Try to use different words to say the same: use synonyms. There are various sources for you to find out thesaurus. On your Mac computer open the Dictionary application, select Thesaurus, type the word in the appropriate field and search. On the web visit the following pages thesaurus.com or thefreedictionary.com.

2.6 Provide instructions

Provide your readers with instructions on how to use your book and how to get the most out of it. It may seem to be obvious how to read your book but it isn’t. Especially if you have any particular features.

2.7 Examples, case studies and exercises

If you publish a book with tutorials or a book to increase the knowledge people have about a certain topic it is very helpful for your readers if you give them exercises or case studies to read. Write examples of everyday-life everybody should be able to understand. Apply your words to situations your readers could be experiencing every day and describe them as concrete as possible.

Some authors put case studies and examples at the end of a chapter or at the end of the book. People like me often skip them thinking they are not important. Others put them in the middle of a sentence as separate entities so you have to turn three pages of case study first to finish reading the sentence then turn the pages back again to read the case study and continue. That’s awful since it disturbs the reading flow.

To me the best solution is to integrate them in the content of the book itself. To actually make them part of the content.

You may highlight them by putting them in a text box with a different background or using border even better just type Example:

Always try to keep the reading experience as seamless and smooth as possible.

2.8 Avoid highlighting text

The reason why you should avoid highlighting text like this is that people usually like highlighting text but don’t like if someone else does it for them. What is important to them may not always equal what is important to you. If you want to highlight part of the text do it by applying a different formatting to it. For example by using italic. However try to reduce the highlighting to a minimum. You may want to use it for the main keywords. Perhaps if you’re writing a book about fishing and explain the different techniques you may turn the name of the technique into italic Hand fishing, Spearfishing, Netting, Angling each followed by the explanation of how it works as normal text. This way a reader looking for a certain technique can easily find the page and the part of the page where you talk about it.

2.9 Overviews

At the end of the chapters it is helpful to write a short resumé with the key features or ideas you discussed in the chapter. The question to answer is: “What should I remember and keep in mind of this chapter?”. This helps your readers to keep track of the messages which are contained in your book and to see the logical path behind your book.

Think of it as walk or a journey from A to B along which you discuss this and that, you see this mountain and that river, and at the end of each chapter you shortly summarize what you’ve just seen.

2.10 Points of view

You are the author and as the author you have a lot more informations about your book than any reader will ever have: you also have all the thoughts which made you go one way rather than another while writing the book. For this reason it’s important to always try to assume a reader point of view as well while writing.

What may be a logical path for you as an author may not always be it for your readers too. Try to take your readers by their hand and lead them all the way through your book. All the way from A to B. To make sure that the path your book follows is clear it is good to have someone proofreading your book for you. Someone who tells you “That’s not really clear to me, I’m a bit lost, I’m missing some details here, here I think you should mention this and that, …”

Further while writing your book you may give some knowledge for granted. However people reading your book may not have the knowledge you have. Writing a book about food you would probably mention calories, carbohydrates and all this stuff. Unfortunately not everybody knows what they actually are or do to our bodies, why we need them, why we shouldn’t get too much of them, what will happen if we get too much or not enough of them, … These are all questions you should address in your book in a few sentences. People who don’t have the knowledge yet will have it after reading the book and people who already had it will have their memories refreshed.

2.11 Contact

Add a way for people to get in touch with you. Either by e-mail, on a website, or on a social network. This will help you improving the book since you get to know what people may want to know and it will also increase your own knowledge. Last but not least it can also be a source of motivation. If I get an e-mail like “Thank you for your E-Book and your help” it motivates me much more than the +12$ or whatever on my PayPal balance. If I get an e-mail like “Do you know how to do…?” then I know people are interested in it and probably more people are interested in it and if I add it to my website or E-Book I will probably get more visitors, happier readers and maybe also sell more products.

2.12 Interactivity

Interactivity is great.

When I read a book, a real book, a paper book, I’m really happy that all I have to do is to turn the pages. There is no blinking flashing banner telling me what I have to do, no scrolling advertisements telling me how great a product is with a fantasy guy telling me how a single click totally changed his life, no beep sounds. I’m not a friend of all that blinking nonsense.

Reading a book there’s just silence and the sound of the paper when turning the page. Every page has its own sound. You will never be able to replicate that in digital format. There are digital format readers which try to imitate that but every time you turn the page it’s exactly the same sound. Totally boring and annoying within a short period of time.

In my opinion interactivity is not a must. It often is just an annoying hype. Too noisy too blinky just too much of everything. I mean: Give me a break!

Anyway, at times, it can also be great. You can’t put a photos slideshow, a PowerPoint/Keynote presentation or embed a video in a PDF document. Hence what you may want to do is combine the E-Book with a website.

As an example if you wanted to have people looking at a video in the E-Book you would place a screen shot of a movie with a play symbol on it and a link pointing to a page on the web with the video embedded. If you’re writing an E-Book about a trip around the world you may present photos in a slideshow on your website. This is also good to provide your readers with some additional informations. To ensure only people who buy the book can access it you may password protect the site or page.

More info on building a website in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.

2.13 Once you think you reached your goal. Proofreading.

Once you think you reached your goal make a writing-pause. Afterwards take some days to read the e-book and check how it’s organized. Is there a logical path leading from A to B? Are you happy with it? Did you include everything people need to know? Did you provide them the tools to read, understand and get the most out of the book?

Along with reading your book yourself also give it to friends or other people and ask them to give you their feedback. You may also use the proofreading tools provided by the text editor you’re using. See Chapter 3.

2.14 Cover

The cover usually is one of the last things to do when writing an E-Book since the topic or the focus your book is about may change multiple times during the process of writing it. The cover may change accordingly. This book perhaps could have ended up being a motivational book rather than a tutorial book on how to write an E-Book.

On the cover there should be an image suggesting people what the book is about, the title, subtitle if any and the author’s name. If you’re not a graphic designer or photographer you can buy the right to use other people’s graphics from sites like graphicriver.net or bigstockphoto.com to design your cover. You could also ask someone on flickr.com for the permission to use his or her photos.

As an example the pen on the cover of this E-Book comes from graphicriver.net and is available here for $2 or $30 if you were to use it for an E-Book or similar products (Extended License).


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Thank you for visiting and supporting my website,
Cédric

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2 Responses to General tips on writing the book

  1. Svetlana says:

    Thank You so much! Great, inspiring writing!

  2. Lawrie Cairney says:

    2.6 Providing Instructions. ”It may SEAM to be obvious”. . . . . . . you did not proof-read your own work. In spite of that glaring typo, I’m still interested.
    Rgds.

    Thank you very much for pointing that out!
    Kind regards,
    Cédric

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