How To Write A Successful E-Book

Writing for a living can be both exciting and daunting. Knowing upfront what some of the common pitfalls are, can save a lot of time, energy and frustration. So let’s look at seven common mistakes that can be easily avoided by successful e-book authors.

1. Creating only a pdf file

While the pdf format is great for a lot of projects, e-books are not one of them! Digital publishing platforms all have their own bespoke formats – this is so that, amongst other things, readers will be able to increase the type size on their Kindle or e-reader screen for ease of reading. So if you create only a pdf version of your book, you will be missing out on all the potential sales coming from the Kindle, Nook and other popular platforms.

It may seem really daunting and confusing to try to convert your pdf manuscript. After all, you’re a writer, not a full-time digital publishing expert! The great news is, you don’t need to figure this out all alone – a service like Word-2-Kindle is a cost-effective way to guarantee your e-book is produced in the perfect format for multiple e-reader formats.

2. Formatted incorrectly for digital publishers

Following on from the above point, perhaps you have had a go at trying to learn the very specific formatting required, to transfer your book to Kindle and other popular e-book formats. You have discovered that there is quite a lot of technical jargon and technical requirements, and perhaps you discovered that now you needed to get someone to reformat the whole thing and repaginate it, which sounded like a massive headache. So you just passed on the whole opportunity. Not making the effort to get it converted means your time and effort put into writing your book will have been wasted! And if your book was a labor of love, never letting it see the light of day just because of intimidating online formatting requirements would be simply heartbreaking.

Rather than getting your manuscript rejected by Amazon, Kindle or Nook, due to it being incorrectly formatted, you could simply ask for help. Professional online services will eliminate all the common critical formatting errors, which can include:

• Body text rendered as bold, italicized, underlined or hyperlinked text
• Extra body text margin padding that is more than 1/4 of a screen wide
• Primary content is oriented in landscape mode without any detail page disclaimer
• Body text not set to the default color
• Forced white text or forced black background that causes text to be unreadable. For example, forcing a code such as “Font = white” will cause text to be unreadable while reading on a white background mode or on an e-ink device.
• In-line page numbering is present – page numbers entered within the book file break the flow of the reading experience and must be removed.
• Forced alignment of body text
• The size of the body text is forced, causing it to be larger or smaller than standard text sizes
• Body text incorrectly changes size
• Bullet points missing from a bulleted list
• A list has bullets which appear on a different line that the list contents
• Missing list formatting

For detailed information on what to look out for and how to fix it, take a look at our word-2-kindle blog.

3. No marketing required??

In order to get a big explosion of initial sales, you need to self-market your e-book! As obvious as that may sound, if the author has minimal knowledge of how to market their book, and just e-publishes it and hopes for the best, it will absolutely get buried in the tens of thousands of new titles released each week on these digital platforms.

The total number of print and e-books that were self-published in 2018 was 1.68 million in the US. That’s 4500+ self-published books a day, and that’s just self-published books in the US, not counting the thousands of books published by publishing houses worldwide.

To make any money at all, your e-book would have to be sold to at least 1,000 people – counting your own family, friends, and people who only know of you because your book was recommended to them by one of their friends…

So give some thought to how you will market your e-book once it’s ready to go. Contests, giveaways, offering it to bloggers and influencers for free in exchange for a review are all better options than going with no marketing at all. Alternatively, find a professional e-marketer who can provide you with insights and marketing services, to help make you visible in the sea of e-titles out there.

Getting guest bloggers to read and rate your e-book is an excellent way to get noticed. For some tips on how to do this, take a look at our blog.

4. It’s too long

There is a noticeable trend that successful e-books are a shorter length. People don’t always like to read for hours on end on a digital screen, and they tend to go for shorter e-books.

This doesn’t mean that you need to convert your novel to a short story. Just keep the word count to a reasonable amount. A check of some of the bestseller lists on Kindle reveals that e-books at around 100 -150 pages are selling very well. Translated to word count, the full-length novels are around 70-100k, and the ‘novellas’ going in at 20-30k words are the ones currently selling somewhat better.

If you are writing a huge tome, perhaps give some thought as to whether your story could be split up into sequels.

5. No set up for sequels

Writing one massive manuscript and publishing it as a single e-book can work, but breaking the story down into sections or episodes allows for sequels to be generated – with their accompanying additional online sales and income!

If you are writing something time-specific, for instance, that speaks to the entire century or ‘new millennium’, can it be reworked to cover smaller pockets of time instead? You could then publish a new and slightly updated version of it each year, and created a franchise.

The release of the new edition or sequel would generate new interest and sales each time it comes out. It may be time to generate a sales machine for yourself.

6. It’s too expensive

At US$32, it might offer great value given all the stuff you packed into it, but people are used to paying less for e-books. If your massive manuscript covering the story of the ages appears all in one expensive e-book, you won’t have a follow-up product to upsell to readers who bought that first e-book. You will have just that one-off product.

You would most likely have done better publishing a smaller e-book at a lower price, with a cliff-hanger ending to draw in the binge-watching, binge-reading customers time and again.

7. No author reputation management

Getting self-published may be as easy as dropping your manuscript into Amazon’s Kindle or Nook or iBook engine. But getting people to take you seriously as an author, building your reputation as a writer, and increasing not only the sales of your current book, but also anticipation for your next one will require some strategic thinking. As an independent author, and to improve your online profile, to increase your sales and to make you ‘searchable’, you will need an online author’s page. This is offered by Amazon’s “Author Central” program, where you are able to create a page adding your biography, photos, blogs, videos, snippets of your current and future publications and almost anything else that will help to give you positive exposure as a writer. You can sign up as a KDP author with your KDP account, or independently.

You could even consider setting up your own independent writer’s web page, with a personalized url – take a look at the online presence of your own favorite author, to see how they are managing their public image.


In conclusion, there is more to getting your e-book successfully published and sold, than just sitting down and writing a manuscript.

The effort will absolutely be worth it, however, when you look back at the journey you have taken, and when you can look with pride at your online titles and sales.

How great would it be, next time someone asks you what you do, if you can confidently answer, “I’m a published author!”

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