I wrote an ebook, here is what I learned
I wrote an ebook. It was something different to coding all the time and I want to share my experience, successes and challenges.
During summer 2020, I began writing an ebook. It was an exciting experience, but I hit some challenges along the way, and I learned a lot during the research, writing, promoting and selling of the ebook that I'd like to share with you. If you're thinking of writing your own ebook someday, then I hope this article and my experience will help you during the process of writing your book.
Why did I write an ebook?
During summer 2020, I was made furloughed on the UK Job Retention Scheme during the Coronavirus pandemic - basically, I had about 4 months of free time with no work, but I was still being paid a salary. I utilised this time focusing on my development skills by learning new tools, languages, and programming and design concepts. I could feel myself approaching a burnout because I was doing something developer-related almost all day, every day. It's fair to say I was getting a little bored of coding at that time and I just needed something else to do. Since I've always wanted to write an ebook at some point in my career, I felt now (summer 2020) would be a perfect time to start, and would be a nice break from constant coding.
At such a young age, I've felt for a long time that I've achieved so much in so little time and have made some really good choices with my career that I feel were the best choices for me. I have no degree (only my school education), never completed my apprenticeship due to redundancy and have faced the 'age' issue for quite a while. Don't worry, I wasn't made redundant for any other reason than the company I was employed at as an apprentice went bankrupt. From what I've gained in such little time and the knowledge I do know about levelling up careers, I decided to base the topic of my ebook on this - this ebook has become very popular primarily amongst new/junior developers. I found a gap in the market for a developer book with the theme of focusing on your career and how you can improve it from a wider view by making small improvements to many small areas of your career.
But this article is not about me, my education or my career - the focus of this article is the process during the writing, promoting and selling of my first ebook. However, if you are interested in my journey into development, consider reading my article, How I went from a Retail Assistant at 17 to Landing a Developer Role at 19.
Becoming a published author can be a lengthy process and often a lot of work - you have to find a company to publish you, you have to write the book, you have to refine the book, they have to review the book, then you have to wait for them to print the book and do the promoting on your behalf. Then ultimately, you could end up only half owning the book you wrote. This wasn't going to work for me - I wanted to self-publish, completely own my book and do the promoting myself.
I decided to do an ebook for many reasons over a printed book. Firstly, printed books cost a lot of money for the raw materials and the printing process, which is the kind of money I don't have, whereas the cost for making a single ebook costs nothing (if you exclude writing hours). This ties in really well with being green and looking after the environment by not using a lot of paper and ink. Ebooks are ever-growing extremely popular since a lot of people love reading books on their mobile phones and/or tablet devices from anywhere, whereas with a book you might forget to take it with you. With websites such as Gumroad, it's really easy to write and self-publish an ebook, giving you the freedom to manage the earnings, promotions and everything else. I like seeing Gumroad as a great application for content creators looking to create and sell their own content. The last real benefit from only making an ebook rather than a physical book is the fact that you can update and iterate over the book, so the first release is never the finished product.
Writer's block is a condition in which a writer temporarily loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. This loss of ability to write and produce new work is not a result of commitment problems or the lack of writing skills.
I experienced writer's block many times while writing the ebook. I knew what I wanted to write about, I just didn't know exactly what to say. When you have a really good idea, then forget it and you're frustrated that you forgot it, writer's block is just like that.
You never really overcome writer's block, and it doesn't happen all the time, but I have found a few techniques that help me minimise how often I experience writer's block.
I planned each section in Notion and I didn't start writing that section until my Notion note had enough points in it, that made me feel I could write enough. I would make notes on phrases, diagrams, anecdotes, quotes, websites etc. I also love a cloud-based application, like Notion, because if I ever have a really good idea while I'm out somewhere (or not near my computer), I can also update the Notion note on my mobile phone.
I would often draft out paragraphs beforehand in Notion, or highlight existing paragraphs in the book that I want to revisit.
Imposter syndrome was real. Who am I to write a book on career development? But someone told me that the people I can help the most are those just behind me in their career path, junior developers. The book I am writing will be very valuable to those starting in a tech/development career. I may not be an expert in a specific programming language and I may not have 25 years experience under my belt, but I do have the right experience and advice to share with those who are where I was a little over 2 years ago.
My imposter syndrome towards being a self-published author only grew larger and larger as more pre-orders came in and as I approached release day. But I kept reminding myself that someone will at least find this helpful and that's what matters.
I encountered a few challenges during the writing of my ebook relating to legality issues and pricing. Most issues I was able to overcome, but the fact that I was able to identify them is a really good start.
I have a chapter on productivity techniques that I found helpful and maybe others may also find helpful, but there are specific techniques that have been trademarked and/or copyrighted - therefore, after reading the copyright guidelines, it is illegal for me to mention the name of some of those techniques in my book, purely based on the fact I was going to sell my book to make money. No matter if I highlighted and clearly stated that the technique idea is owned by someone else or another organisation, it is still illegal for me to mention the name.
This occurred multiple times throughout the book. I didn't want to remove them at first because they added so much value to the book, but for my sake, it's better to be safe than sorry. I checked the copyright for everything referenced in my book to make sure that my book was legally clean.
Some people can create content and set a really high price because they know people will pay for it, some of us cannot do that. This is my first content I've created, so I didn't feel I'd earned the trust yet, or proven myself to be worth paying for my product. Setting a price that was not only affordable and inexpensive, but also compensated for the extensive amount of time I spent on the book was tricky. Setting it too low wouldn't compensate me enough and would give the impression that the quality isn't very good since it's cheap, and setting it too high would be out of the question because less people would be able to afford it and I haven't proven that my content is worth it yet.
I finally settled on $10+. Gumroad has a 'pay what you want' feature, so I enabled it and set a minimum price of $10 so if someone was feeling generous, they could pay more if they wanted to. Pricing this way has worked out great so far with many people buying at $10 pleased with how affordable it is, and some people paying $15 and even as much as $20.
I'm not particularly the best writer, but I feel I'm good enough. With a good grammar tool and a thesaurus on-hand, I felt like I could string together a really professional sounding sentence.
There were certainly some instances when writing the ebook where I felt a bit hippocritical - where I felt I could take a leaf out of my own book. This feeling is to be expected though because as I learn and write more, I'm going to encounter new things that I'm going to share and advise but I don't actually do myself yet. But this does not mean that I'm not in a position to not share what I've just learned.
I asked specific people to proofread my book if they had the chance, and in return they'd get a free copy. They all did a fantastic job in helping quality assure the book and I am extremely grateful for their help.
An issue that only sometimes arose was that some of them didn't agree with the advice I was giving out. I would think long and hard but I came to the conclusion that it's ok if they don't agree because not everyone has to agree on everything. I would simply thank them for their opinion and expressing it with me.
Ensuring to make this book authentic and sound like me, it was important to write about topics and tips that I truly believed in, and you should too.
So, what did I write?
I am now a self-published author of an ebook called Level-Up Your Career Today: Developer Edition and I could not be more proud.
I had so much fun writing the ebook and I was able to learn so much myself while researching what to write about. I hope you enjoy the book and find it useful.
Hopefully, this article has been helpful to you if you ever decide to write an ebook. If you do decide, then I wish you the best of luck.
Sr Full Stack Engineer, Front-End Specialist, DOM Artist. https://braydoncoyer.dev/
Very insightful. I imagine planning and scoping the work involved was a huge task that could “make or break” the process. I just got started using Notion, mainly because of points like the ones you made in this article.
Thanks for sharing!