14 Day E-book Writing Challenge – Day One

on January 18, 2008 in Indie Publishing

Welcome to the 14 Day E-book Writing Challenge. I'm glad to have those participating joining in, and I hope it's a pleasant networking experience (not to mention hoping we turn out some high quality e-books!). 🙂

Reminder: Visit the official challenge thread to access all of the pre-challenge reading on e-book publishing, and for a running list of daily challenge tasks. If you can't participate during these 14 days, you'll be able to use the information in that post at any time later to challenge yourself as well.

Now let's jump right in with Day One of the 14 Day E-book Writing Challenge!

Task Summary:

  1. Decide on a Free E-book or Income Source
  2. Choose a Niche
  3. Conduct Basic Market Research
  4. Choose a Final Topic
  5. Choose a Working Title
  6. Choose and Setup a Domain Name / Hosting

We have a lot to do today, so let's get to it! 🙂

Free or Paid?

Your e-book publishing motivations may have an impact on the topic you choose to write about, so decide on that first. If you plan on using your e-book as an extra income stream, you'll need to think about niches that would sell well. If you want to offer a free e-book as a viral marketing tool, you'll want to go with a topic with viral appeal (something people will pass around, spread the word about naturally, want to give away to their own site visitors, etc.).

For help making the decision, you may want to read Should You Write a Free E-book?

Choose a Niche

Hopefully this part will be a breeze, and you'll already have a niche idea (or even more focused idea) in mind. If not, make a quick list of things that you enjoy or know a lot about (keeping your free or paid e-book choice in mind). When you have a niche (or two) in mind that you think you know enough about to write an e-book on (keeping in mind that we're going for quality e-books here and not that crap that's just compiled articles, PLR content, etc.), it's time to move into a little light market research.

Market Research

You now have a general idea or two in mind for your e-book's topic. It's time to narrow that down. To do that you'll want to know a few things:

  • Is anyone actually looking for information in that topic area?
  • If you want to release a free e-book and include affiliate links for some income, are there affiliate programs in that niche that you'd willingly get behind?
  • How much competition is there in the topic area, and how much are they charging for their e-books (if you're looking to sell yours)?

To find out if anyone is searching for information in your niche idea, I recommend using the Adwords Sandbox. I've already detailed how to use it to see if people are searching for information in a niche (and using it to help you narrow down your niche with related keyword suggestions and search stats) in my Finding E-book Ideas post, so I won't drag that out further here.

An easy way to see if there are affiliate products worth promoting in your niche is to check the Clickbank marketplace. It's the host to a lot of affiliate programs. Browse by categories or search for related products. You can always contact the product's creator to ask for a review copy, but in most cases you'll need to buy a copy if you actually want to review it personally before deciding to support it. You can also look into affiliate services such as Commission Junction (personally I've had much better luck with ClickBank products, even though I've used CJ for much longer).

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The simplest way to see if you have competition and what they're charging is simply to search. The ClickBank marketplace is a good place to start when looking for people selling niche e-books. Beyond that, pick your favorite search engine and see what you can find. You should find their pricing info directly on their sales page. If you're interested in finding competition related to a free e-book you plan to write, you can also search free e-book directories like Free-Ebooks.net.

Choose a Final Topic

The Adwords Sandbox should have helped to narrow down your topic ideas, and you should have enough info on hand through the rest of your research to pick the best overall topic. Take a look and choose a topic you'll enjoy or that you're knowledgeable about, that's specific but not so specific that no one's searching for the information, that has some competition (so you know there's a demand) but not so much that the market's saturated, and that has products you'll be comfortable promoting through affiliate programs if you've decided to use them in a free e-book.

Choose a Working Title

This step is optional, but personally I like to have a title before I start outlining. It helps me stay focused. I even do this with short articles (sometimes the title stays, and sometimes it morphs into something different by the end).

Try to make the title catchy enough that it would attract sales or interest in a free download. You can generally do that by making it appeal to people's needs or desires (to simplify their lives, make money, save money, get healthier, etc.). Basically, let the title tell them why they have to get your e-book, and what it's going to do for them.

Domain Name & Hosting

You don't have to have a final name in order to think about getting your domain name and hosting set up (if you'll be needing them). Here are a few options:

  1. Register your own domain name (you can get one for $5.95 at Netfirms
    - I use them for several domains, and am slowly moving more to them), and get your own hosting (most of my sites are hosted with Host Gator, although I also recently set up an account with Vivid Hosting for one of my sites - haven't started using them just yet though). This is the option I recommend if you want your own site or blog for your e-book.
  2. Create your sales page on your existing site or blog (this is a good option if you just want a sales page and already have a professional site where it would be at least somewhat relevant).
  3. You can create a free page using anything from a free blog host like Blogspot to something like a Squidoo lens (although I'd suggest using something like that as a supplement and not the actual sales page). Generally I consider free blog hosts to be unprofessional, and personally you'd have a much harder time selling something to me there. Why? If you won't spend the equivalent of one or two e-book sales each month (at most) on hosting your own site, that would tell me you don't expect your e-book to do terribly well because you're not willing to invest even a small amount in it. So be careful when choosing this option. Know your target buyers and what kind of image it might portray to them - certain niche markets may be more forgiving than others. Another potential issue is that with a free solution, you may not get full access to the code to be able to use certain ordering and delivery services if code or scripts have to be added. Read up carefully on any free service before deciding to use one.

Note going in that your domain name doesn't have to be the actual e-book title. Sometimes simple keywords will help you attract more traffic (and potential buyers). That's why it's alright to start thinking about this before your final title comes along (once you're certain of your niche). If you're really uncomfortable doing this step this early, you can hold off on it until later - just know that you won't be able to take part in some of the pre-launch marketing steps of the challenge if your site is ready to go up before the e-book is completed.

Talk to Me

Leave a comment and let me know how you're doing with kicking off the e-book writing challenge. Were you able to choose your final topic? Did you set up a site (feel free to share the URL)? If you're not over-protective of the idea, share your general niche or even final topic with us. I'd love to get a feel for the spectrum of topics people are going to be writing about. 🙂

Good luck and happy writing! 🙂

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. Through her company, 3 Beat Media, she operates All Indie Writers, NakedPR.com, BizAmmo.com, and numerous other blogs.

Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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  1. Jennifer Mattern January 18, 2008 Reply

    It wouldn’t be fair of me to ask you to share your progress if I didn’t share mine, so here you go:

    I’ve decided on my overall topic, but not my working title yet (which I probably won’t share until the end). It’s not even 11am here yet though, so I have some time to work that out. 🙂 Here’s the essence of the final topic.

    The e-book will be on succeeding in Web content writing / copywriting, unique challenges in marketing yourself in those areas, and how to earn an income writing on the Web without ever taking low-paying jobs that won’t benefit your overall career.

  2. Anna January 18, 2008 Reply

    Ok, I have my niche and when my husband gets home, we’re buying the domain name. That’s just because he has an account with the domain name people because he constantly buys domains.

    So based on what you said today’s tasks are, these are my answers:
    1. Decide on a Free E-book or Income Source
    2. Choose a Niche
    3. Conduct Basic Market Research
    4. Choose a Final Topic
    5. Choose a Working Title
    6. Choose and Setup a Domain Name / Hosting

  3. Cindy January 18, 2008 Reply

    Woohoo! I have my niche, my specific topic, my domain name and my hosting. Wow, one little sentence that represents a huge amount of research and work. My learning curve is steep, but I’m actually having fun! I’m keeping quiet for now, but I’ll share in the end. Congratulations to all on their progress.

  4. Jennifer Mattern January 18, 2008 Reply

    I have a very rough working title. It’s definitely not going to be the end title, but it will work for now. 🙂

    Congrats on a good start Cindy and Anna. 🙂 I certainly hope we get a few more people from the original thread taking part. 🙂

  5. Cindy January 19, 2008 Reply

    Jennifer – I know of a couple folks who, at the very least, are following along and who plan to take on the challenge when they have a bit more time. BUT nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyaaaaaah (thumbing nose) to them, because we’ll be way ahead! 😉

  6. Rebecca Laffar-Smith January 19, 2008 Reply

    I took my time getting here but I’m on board. 😉 Thanks for putting together this fantastic challenge, Jennifer. I’m excited to finally have a great reason to stop procrastinating when it comes to putting together my first ebook.

    1: Free or Paid? = Free
    2: Niche = Blogging
    3: Research = Done
    4: Topic = Beginner Blogging Tips and Startup
    5: Title = Some ideas already; continuing to ruminate; will finalize at the end.
    6: Domain & Hosting = Will use my blog and blogs domain to promote with a blog entry or page to sell. These details will be set up when the product is ready (or near ready) to be launched.

  7. Jennifer Mattern January 19, 2008 Reply

    Congrats on getting started Rebecca. 🙂 Great topic choice! 🙂

    And I suppose I forgot to mention earlier, but for my own e-book, I do plan on charging for it. I’ll be releasing a free report shortly after (compiling the 14 day challenge info), so I want to use the e-book as an income stream. 🙂

  8. Diana January 19, 2008 Reply

    I haven’t been posting much, but I’m keeping up with the challenge. I’ll share details on my ebook later on, when things are a little more clear.

  9. Jennifer Mattern January 19, 2008 Reply

    Glad someone else is on board Diana. 🙂

  10. jill January 19, 2008 Reply

    OK, I am in so far. A paid ebook in a niche travel topic I have identified but may change a bit as I get into it. I have a working title and have searched the domain. Won’t register domain today as it doesn’t look like it will be hard to get one of several equally appropriate ones, and I could still change my mind.
    One of the things I will have to learn is not about writing the book but about setting up a website to promote it. I have registered domain names before but that’s as far as I’ve gone with other site concepts.
    I am in the middle of planning a website and if it ends up being on the same or a related topic I will use a page on the site to be the main page for the book.
    If I like doing this ebook, the concept is very expandable and I can see many spin offs.
    It was interesting seeing what’s available on clickbank and free e-books sites – thanks for all the info, Jenn!


  11. jill January 19, 2008 Reply

    Oh whoops, my bad – I should have posted in day two! Sorry!

  12. Shay January 30, 2008 Reply

    I already have the book, title, blog, etc. I was planning on having it prnited, but I believe that the e-book format would suit my needs better.

    My only debate now is free or paid? 😀

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