My First E-book: Lessons Learned

myguidecover3.jpgThis month, MakeUseOf.com published my first e-book, The Essential Guide to Digital Photography. It took me about a month-and-half to write it, though the outlines and notes were tucked away in my Documents folder for at lease five months. My e-book is not the full length book or books that I would like to write, but at 56 pages and a little over 8,000 words, it’s a pretty significant achievement for me as a writer.

I have to honestly say, though, if I weren’t being paid for writing it and I didn’t have an editor who set a deadline for me, the e-book may not have seen the light of day.

So now that it’s done and published, I get reflect and share on what I learned and what I’m planning to do differently next time.

1. After I finished my e-book, I read an article on FreelanceFolder about the necessity of doing your own projects, beyond what you get paid to do by others. This couldn’t be more true. It’s very important to complete self-projects because they help you grow in whatever creative field you‘re in, and they give you confidence in your ability to achieve your goals. If you find it hard to do a self-project, try getting paid to do it.  Even though I’m getting paid for my e-book it was still a self-project because it was one that I wanted to do, not that I was hired to do.

2. Outline, outline, outline. The next e-book or book that I write I will spend a lot more time outlining and making tons of notes in the outline. It was only after I went back over my rough outline that I started seeing my way through it. Planning and outlining won’t necessarily make the writing easier, but it gives you a road map to see where you’re going.

3. A deadline is de rigueur. If you or someone else doesn’t set a deadline to get the project done, I don’t think it will ever get done. Yes we writers are supposed to love writing, so it shouldn’t be a problem to write. Yeah, right! I write everyday, but I can’t say it’s something I get up the morning looking forward to do. I love to have written a piece. But I dread writing it. So a deadline—and maybe a paycheck at the end—are essential.

4. The comments and tracking changes feature of Word ’07 and Pages ’08 were my personal assistants in writing my e-book. I hadn’t used them before until I and my editor started making revisions to the guide. Not only did these tools keep me from printing out several copies of the document in order to write margin notes and edit sentences, it allowed me to make changes without losing my original thoughts. These tools proved to be super time savers.

5. I would say that editing this e-book took almost half as long as writing it. It’s very difficult to constantly read back over your own writing. Therefor, with my next project I hope to get another reader beyond the editor involved to help me both edit and proofread the work. Oftentimes there’s too much demand on freelance writers to do all the proofreading of their work themselves. First off, you need some distance from the writing in order to revise and edit it; and secondly, it’s nearly impossible to catch all your mistakes when you’re writing a long piece. So even if I can’t afford it, it will pay off in the end and save me time to hire a proofreader.

If you can’t tell by now, all and all I am very happy to have completed my e-book. It strengthened me as a writer and it is great to read comments from people who have started reading it. One photographer wants to use it as a text for his class because he likes the clarity in the writing.

So yes, I’m looking forward to writing another e-book, and I will also be shopping around a book proposal to a few publishers in the next few weeks. That is the kind of confidence I’ve gotten from finishing this e-book.

If anyone reading this has completed similar a project, please let me know a few things of what you learned.

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