How to write my first ebook – The idea comes first..or does it?

This series of posts is compiled wisdom of some sorts on “how to write my first ebook”, rather than a strict guideline to follow per say. In fact a more appropriate title would have been: “how I managed to write successful books”, but please indulge the SEO title bullshit. It seems the only way to get Google’s attention these days…anyway.

This is the strategy I followed to write my first ebook. It worked out pretty well for me as I get around 2500€ per month as of November 2017.

I must stress out that I only write non-fiction books, but I can easily see the process extending to fiction books as well.

Write my first ebook: It all starts with an idea

What does not!? Everybody values ideas so much, some even keep them close to their vest in fear of competition. I will let you in a secret my friend. Your are not special. Nothing your say or do is really that special. There are 7 billion people on this planet. Many more were here before us, many more will come after us. Ideas are worth exactly zero. It is all about execution!

Stop trying looking at the clouds wondering about sparkling innovative ideas to write about. It is just your procrastination at work. The simplest ideas are worth writing about if you give them the right spin.

I usually follow this procedure when searching for an idea for a new book:

  • List subjects I know about: photoshop, pictures, writing, programming, playing guitar, etc.
  • List interesting stuff I experienced: couchsurfing my way through Asia, relocating to another country, etc.

This gives me enough raw material to start imaginining plotlines and interesting scenarios: “How to start your life in a new country”, “Learning guitar in one week”, “Meeting women in 6 countries”… You get my point. Go wild and be bold.

Is it really a viable idea?

Once you have your list of book topics and broad scenarios, you need to test if there is a market for it. It does not matter how good your idea is. If there is no market for it, nobody will buy the book.

How can you possibly know that? Well you simply check categories in Amazon. Specifically how well ranked is the best seller in that category.
Example. Let us say we choose to write a book about learning guitar in one week. We browse through the list of “Best Sellers in Guitar Music” :

write my first ebook - amazon best selle guitar books

Amazon best seller list in the guitar category:

If you click on each of these books and check their overall ranking, you will notice it is around 11 000 as of Octber 2017:

amazon overall ranking

Overall ranking of the best seller book in the guitar category

An overall rank of 11 000 means around 15 to 30 sales a day. It may sound fantastic, but remember we are talking about the best seller of this category. It is not a huge number. I personally would be more comfortable with a category featureing a best seller ranked around 3000. It shows that people are hungry for books on that topic, which raises dramatically the potential success of your book.

Of course the idea is to look at the 10 best selling books’ overall rating and not just the first one. You get a more accuraite picture this way.

How many ebooks are you up against

Once you find an active market, you want to measure how crowded it is. This translates into an importnat number: How many new ebooks are released on average per month.

Getting the number of average new releases is simpler than you think. Amazon keeps a list of hot new releases in each category

write my first ebook - amazon hot releases

Amazon hot releases in the guitar category

This particular list features 9 books in the month of october, most of them by the same publisher (you can check it book’s details). While 9 is not a huge number, it is quite significant for a category that is not that active (best seller book is only ranked 11 000). Moreover it is being flooded by the same publisher employing different authors. Too much competition over a small market share…

You can also check the total books in that category. Though hid these numbers a while ago, you can still find some in the UK market :

write my first ebook - total amazon ebooks

total amazon ebooks in the UK market

This gives you an idea how much competition you have, but I tend to focus more on the “hot new releases” part.

To recap then

Ideally, I am looking for an book idea that I can register in at least one “promising category” (remember, you get 2-3 categories when listing a book on Amazon). A promising category is one that has well ranked best sellers (3000 at least), with around 10 hot releases in a given month.

Of course this is only a broad rule of thumb, you can make a killing writing in a crowded (20-30 new releases per month) if you nail your cover, title, description and marketing strategy. But it would certainly require a bit more efforts.

Now that you know what you are looking for, in the next post we will takle the next challenge: the blank page!


This post is part of part of a series of articles about how to write your first ebook:

Defeating the blank page – How to write my first eBook
Polishing your writing – How to write my first ebook
Naming your ebook to grab attention – How to write my first ebook
Designing ebook cover – How to write my first ebook
KDP exclusive or Go Wide – How to write my first ebook

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