Saturday, December 22, 2007

Writing E-Books as a Freelance Writer

Along with blogging and SEO writing, writing e-books is one of the newest forms of freelance writing. E-books involve a wide variety of subject matter and lets you stretch your writing abilities, rather than being confined to low word counts or narrow subjects. Because of this -- and because of the decent pay rate and almost zero overhead -- writing e-books is both creatively satisfying, and a lucrative one.


Writing an e-book is different in both content and structure than writing an article or a series of articles. An average magazine article of 2,000 words gives you time to introduce a topic, develop it, discuss some of its implications, and conclude neatly within the allotted word count. Shorter articles--maybe 400 words--give you a sentence or two of introduction, maybe three brisk paragraphs, and a hint of conclusion. E-books, at a bare minimum, give you eight single-spaced pages of material, or about 4,000 words. An e-book is going to reach the thirty, fifty, even hundred-plus page range and contain many more topics and sub-topics.

The vast length of an e-book precludes the simple “introduction-development-conclusion” model that applies to article writing. Instead, you have to develop sophisticated ways to lead your reader through all topics in your e-book. This doesn't have to be a chore: in fact, it's one of the most enjoyable, creative parts of writing an e-book.

For example, if you're writing about DIY home building, you can start your first chapter with the topic “Materials and Planning,” then lead your readers to the next chapter on “Building the Foundation,” and then to chapters on wiring, walls, and roof.

If you're writing about the history of soda, you may decide a different approach, moving chronologically and focusing on a single "era-defining" soda brand per chapter.

The structure of your book isn't just a "necessary evil": it determines the overall flow of your argument, and should be well nailed-down before you start writing. Once you start writing, you'll thank yourself for setting out a structure beforehand: it's easy to lose your creative flow in a complicated topic, and developing a good structure can keep you on the right path from start to finish.


In the actual writing, avoid the temptation to pad; your audience can tell. If a chapter seems too slight to you -- or if you just want the book to be longer -- add additional information from your research and write a subsection or add another chapter.

There's no topic so narrow that you can’t expand it or use as a starting point for another topic altogether. As long as you're not exceeding your original chapter structure (or going off on tangents that don’t relate to your topics), there's no reason not to include as much supplementary material as possible. If it's all well-integrated with your topic, supplementary material makes your book more comprehensive, more interesting to a wider audience, and a better product.

If you're writing an e-book for another individual, such as a corporation, or some other entity, you won't have to deal with marketing the e-book. Just make sure the client is paying you at or above your hourly rate.


If you're writing an e-book for yourself, you'll need to do some work to market your product. At the very least, your e-book should have its own home page, preferably with some free content or even a sample chapter from the book.

Link exchanges are another good promotional tool. Find someone with a web page that deals with the same topic, email the site admin, and ask whether they'd be willing to participate in a link exchange. A link exchange means your e-book's home site puts up a link to the related site's content and vice versa. Many people will say yes to a link exchange, and it's a good way to connect with a wider pool of online traffic (some of whom will hopefully buy the book).

If you have a number of different e-books, you can cross-promote them in one another. If you have a blog, you have a ready-made audience of people interested in your writing who might buy the book.

Finally, "portal" sites full of e-books (similar to for traditional books) are the closest approximation e-books have to a traditional bookstore, and a good way to make your book known to the e-book audience.


E-book writing is a much larger undertaking than other freelance writing projects. It involves the ability to develop a good chapter structure, to stick to it, and to keep the quality of writing consistent (i.e. never "padded") throughout the entire length of the e-book.

Once you're finished, you have a substantial piece of work behind you, and one that can earn you profits almost immediately and continuously through the e-book's lifespan. If you can write clearly and effectively on a broad and interesting topic, and if you can promote your work vigorously, e-book writing is one of the best ways to launch a career in writing.

Learn more about writing careers.