Want to write an e-book? Actually it’s not so scary.

Gymspiration ebook by Helen Foster

So this time last week it launched – my e-book for bored exercisers Gym-spiration: 52 Ways To Wake Up Your Workout, or as it’s known in my house right now – that document that makes us argue.

Relax - this e-book thing is easier than they tell you.

Relax – this e-book thing is easier than they tell you.

I promised last week that I’d write a post about what I learned while writing it – last week however was spent in e-book swan mode. On top of the ‘water’ was the serene, ‘it’s finished’ post – underneath what you couldn’t see was my frantic paddling to refine the sales pages. Trying to work out what was putting people off, what would make them buy. There’s been a lot of yelling in the last week as The Boyfriend tries to help and I go off in a big snit muttering something about keyword placement.

You, however, don’t want to hear my woes. If you’re reading this page, it’s because you probably have an inkling in your head that you fancy writing one too. So, with my limited experience so far, here’s what I learned doing it.

NB: I’m not setting myself out as a guru here. I write because I love doing it and I wrote this book because I had an idea I believed in. And frankly, being decidedly non-technical, I wanted to see if I could actually do it. But if I’d listened to all the scare stories I wouldn’t have bothered. So with this post I’m not telling you I’m going to make you millions. Instead, I’m just trying to dispel some of the things that might stop you giving this a go. If after reading it even one person starts typing the first words of the book they believe in, my work here is done.

Herein lies the lessons……

  • Know your strengths – do what you can, ask for help doing what you can’t. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. I knew what I wanted my cover to look like, but there was no way I could design it. Instead I went to elance.com, listed my job and choose the person whose style – and price, I liked best. It cost me US$50. I also owe a friend who knows where apostrophes and hyphens go a pizza (with wine, dessert and doughballs).
The Cover: The one thing I spent money on

The Cover: The one thing I spent money on

  • Don’t believe the hype about formatting. Everything I read said non-fiction especially was a nightmare. Everyone I spoke to uttered one of those breaths through their teeth that builders do before they tell you your roof is falling in. ‘You’ll need to pay someone,’ people said. No, you don’t!. You might with a complicated design with pictures, Gym-spiration is a simple typographic book, I managed to follow a mix of the amazon instructions and the advice in Publishing E-Books for Dummies to use the calibre software – and had absolutely no formatting errors whatsoever.  It works on kindle, iPhones, iPads and PDF.  I admit I haven’t however yet been brave enough to try Smashwords. It’ll happen, but in a couple of weeks when I’ve had a break.

  • Be 100% happy:  Saying that though, don’t test your formatting until the book is 100% edited and you are happy with it. I was so sure it was going to go wrong that I formatted and reformatted about 12 times – and I would fiddle with different things in different versions and then have to remember what I’d done.  The result is the version selling on amazon contains one line that I hate – it’s nothing major, just something I wished I could change – but I didn’t risk redoing it in case I did suddenly hit the formatting gremlins. Get your master copy 100% perfect, then format.

  • Help is online: This is a technical bit which you may want to save until you do get started…..The only problem I did encounter involved my table of contents. No matter which instructions I followed I could not get it to work when I previewed it on the kindle – every other device worked fine. I shouted, I cried, The Boyfriend had a go, it turned into an immense row. I finally found the solution online courtesy of someone only known as R.C. If you have stumbled across this post because you had the same problem, here’s what worked for me. Make your document an epub on calibre, open it in sigil and create your table of contents there, then save the epub and covert it to mobi on calibre. Do not worry if this is currently Dutch to you, I still don’t completely understand what it all meant, but I did it, it worked so I’m not analysing it further.


  • Writing the sales page is harder than writing the book. I read endless books on ‘how to get your book to number one’, I implemented all their lessons. There were ‘buy me’ buttons everywhere. Keywords a-go go. I explained every single step as to how to download the book.  It didn’t feel like me, but I was following the rules. Thanks to an influential tweet on Tuesday seventy-five people clicked my page in 20 minutes, no-one bought it. Not. A. One. With no disrespect to my American readers, all the marketing books I had read were US based, virtually all the publicity I have had has been British – the British think anything telling you to buy it a scam. And selling yourself is a turnoff.  About five attempts later, the page is far more subtle, the patter is more humble and personal. It feels like me. Most people who click now buy. Admittedly, my US sales suck!

  • If you can help other bloggers, they can help you. About the time I’d finished my first draft of the book I noticed another blogger Amy at peonut.com lamenting how bored she was with her workouts. That’s my target market. Emails were exchanged, I sent her the book and I asked, if it helped her, if she could mention it on her blog. It did, she did and as far as I can extrapolate, every person who has clicked from her review has bought the book.

* Rejoice in every single sale.  I’ve had print books out before. I even had a best seller. That was great, but this is actually more special. None of my other books were my idea. Other than writing the words, I had no say in covers, titles, getting it into the shops or the press. This book is my baby and every single time someone buys it I let out a little ‘yay’ and run downstairs to announce it to The Boyfriend. The bad news is sales figures are like crack. You think blog stats are compulsive, these are worse. I’m actually having to ban myself from my phone.

So, that’s what I’ve learned so far – admittedly I’ve still got a lot to master before I write the next one.  But, yay – I wrote an e-book. And you can do it too.

Oh, and just in case you’re interested, you can buy Gym-spiration: 52 Ways To Wake Up Your Workout right here. You didn’t think I was going to miss the chance of a sale did you? And…. if you run a fitness blog and want to review it, email me at healthehelen (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll talk.

Images: freedigitalphotos.net

1 Comment

  1. Jo Waters

    Thanks Helen this is really useful stuff would quite like to do one myself so I’ll keep this to one side for when I do.


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