The TI Interview Series is back, and this time we stayed in-house. Live Lingua’s content manager Tim Wenger is the subject, discussing how to write an eBook and why online teachers should go about writing and self-publishing in order to help grow their business.
Before forming his company Inkwell Media Services and coming on board with Live Lingua, Tim spent over a decade in the music industry. First as a musician, then as the editor of a monthly music and entertainment magazine. He also worked as a talent buyer and booking agent at a venue in Denver and as an artist relations manager for many festivals and events.
Last November, he published a book about his experience in the industry, stocked full of advice for independent musicians. He’s going to share his process of writing, editing, and publishing his book with us, and offer a few tricks of the trade for online teachers. Most importantly, he hopes readers will gain insight on how to write an eBook.
Why and how to write an eBook?
There are a few different angles for writing an eBook. The first, and most common for online entrepreneurs, is to use as a lead magnet. An eBook is a great way to establish your authority on a topic. Many use this type of lead magnet to get visitors to their website to first sign up for an email list in order to receive the book for free. Once they read the book and the content in forthcoming newsletters, they then trust the person enough to buy their product.
Another angle, which is what Tim did with his book lead magnet, is to use the eBook as the sellable product and build a website and brand around it. While many lead magnet-based eBooks are only a handful of pages, this approach requires a longer and more comprehensive approach.
“I basically took everything I learned over twelve years in the music business and put it into a book,” Tim says. “My goal was to create the ultimate resource that I wish I’d had when I first started playing in a band in my early twenties.”
Tim covered a number of topics relevant to independent musicians and broke them down into separate chapters. “I have a chapter on inter-band agreements, one on social media, one on touring,” he says. “Anything a musician needs to reference, all he or she has to do is go to that chapter and it’s there.”
Using the eBook as a business card
Online teachers may employ this approach to share their knowledge on what they teach in a new way. This can be a great way to build a brand and attract new students. “The book has been an effective business card for me,” Tim says. “I’m essentially just sharing my experiences and observations, but it instantly seems to make me an authority on what I talk about. Especially at networking events and conferences. I’ve done several readings and talks on the subject also, which wouldn’t have happened if I couldn’t send the eBook version to event organizers and be like, ‘Hey, you should bring me in! I know what I’m talking about!’”
How to write an eBook: Software
Tim used good ole’ Microsoft Word for the manuscript. Each day, he’d save his work as a separate document and upload it to Google Drive in order to have a backup. In the end, having each chapter separated like this helped the editing and revision process stay organized.
“I was super paranoid that I’d wake up one day and my computer would crash, and I’d lose everything,” he says. “To avoid this, I backed up my writing immediately on Google Drive, a flash drive, and sometimes I’d even copy and paste my day’s effort into an email body and send it to myself. I probably went overboard there.”
Writing an eBook doesn’t have to necessitate special software. “Some writers use Scrivener or other word processors that are specifically designed for book writing,” Tim says. “I know Word like the back of my hand, so I went with what I know. I used Grammarly for quick edits and grammar corrections. Nothing too fancy.”
How to write an eBook: The writing process
“For me, as someone who loves to write, the actual writing of the book wasn’t that tough,” Tim says. “What I struggled with was dedicating time to work on it. I write thousands of words per week to make a living, and there are a lot of times where after a day of work, I’m burned out and don’t want to write more.”
What he found helpful was dedicating time first thing in the morning. “I’m most creative when I first get going,” Tim says. “I taught myself, after much trial and error, to sit down for an hour or two a couple days a week, first thing in the morning. I’d just flow through as much as I could, with the goal of 1,000 words per session, before I even opened my email or did any professional work.”
After about three months of this, Tim had covered all of the topics he wanted to touch on. The manuscript came in at about 30,000 words in eleven chapters.
“The next step was going back through everything and cleaning it up,” he says. “I thought this was going to be super frustrating, because who likes staring at their own work for hours and picking out what’s wrong with it? But it actually was pretty simple. I’d do one chapter per session, going through and rephrasing things, adding stuff that I’d left out, and often, shortening parts where I’d rambled too much.
How to write an eBook: Hiring an editor
If you’ve downloaded half as many eBooks as I have, you’ve probably noticed that most don’t spend much time on the editing and proofreading side. Many are full of typos and grammatical errors.
For those giving away their eBook free as a lead magnet or promo, it’s understandable – the goal of the eBook is to get the message out, not necessarily to create a perfect work of art.
That’s not the case for those planning to charge for the book. “I knew coming in that I was going to hire an editor and that I needed to be willing to pay for professional editing,” Tim says. “Two rounds of edits seemed appropriate. I hired Cian O’Shea, a Location IndieLocation Indie cohort and founder of editing service Korrection to do the first round. I spent about $300 with him. He did a round of editing and a round of proofreading. My wife, who’s a much better writer than myself and has an incredibly keen eye for errors, did the final round.”
There are certainly more expensive options to take – many professional editing services would charge upwards of $500 for the same service.
How to write an eBook: Formatting and publishing
This is the trickiest part for those wishing to publish their eBook on Amazon and other online sellers, and/or to have it printed. Many options are available. Tim recommends Amazon for eBooks and IngramSpark for the paperback.
Amazon has specific formatting criteria for eBooks published on its service so that they can be read on Kindle and other devices. “I hired someone to do this part for me also because I wanted to make sure it was perfect,” Tim says. “Another Location Indie cohort, Kelly Claus Creative, did the formatting for me. I signed with Amazon for eBook rights and then used IngramSpark for print-on-demand paperbacks. Kelly formatted my book for both outlets and handled the uploading of the documents. It can be done by yourself, for sure, if you’ve got the time and patience, just do your reading and follow exact instructions because otherwise your release will be delayed.”
For those wishing to pursue IngramSpark’s formatting guidelines themselves, here they are.
IngramSpark is a widely used self-publishing service which handles printing and shipping of books on a per-order basis. Each time a book is ordered, it is printed and shipped automatically to the buyer. Tim makes about $4 off each book sold at $15 – not a huge sum, (he makes about $7 for each $10 eBook on Amazon), but also doesn’t have to worry about shipping or logistics. Royalties are paid monthly by both Amazon and IngramSpark.
Bulk orders are available through IngramSpark at a discounted rate, which Tim uses for his in-person appearances. “I order a couple cases of 25 books each and sell them at events until they’re gone, then order more. It’s super easy, and I’m making more money that way because there is no direct-to-customer shipping involved.”
So, You Have A Band was released November 1, 2016. Tim is happy to answer any questions on the process – email him here.