“Hey, you should write a book!”
Ever hear this from a well-meaning family member or friend? They may have good intentions, but what happens if you don’t have a book? To an amateur’s eye, you may not be considered a writer if you aren’t published. Scoff all you want, but the same may hold true for potential clients.
If I had to choose between two writers with nearly identical attributes except that one had completed an ebook, you better believe I’m going with the one who has put in the time to create a cohesive document from start to finish. It speaks volumes to their capabilities and concept of the market’s demand. It also separates you from the flakey freelancers out there and the wannabes.
But I know what you’re thinking: writing a book takes work, dedication, sweat, blood, toil, and caffeine overdoses.
Wrong again, foolish freelance writer! You might already have one finished and not even know it.
A Writer’s Orphanage
A lot of writers have an assortment of creative projects that they’ve kept on the backburner or have put aside in lieu of paid work. Heck, this might even be the reason you got into writing in the first place, only being parlayed into the freelance working world to make ends meet. The thought of getting published by traditional methods might seem very far off and insurmountable for the time being.
Forgive me, but screw that! If you’re a writer and you don’t have half-baked articles or unwanted finished pieces, then I can safely say that you’re not really a writer. It’s the name of the game to have pieces that just don’t fit into the marketplace’s jigsaw.
What you need to do is find them a foster home—and by this I mean put them in a collection. Ebooks fit the bill perfectly.
I actually took a partial “article idea” list that I was composing and made a collection of humorous titles entitled “1,000 Titles for the Lazy”. From this idea, I churned out 6 more books under the same concept. I had a bunch of unsorted poetry lying in the depths of my hard drive? Two more books. And then I actually got around to knocking out a book after being familiar with the process. All of this happened within a year.
When a client asks how many books I’ve written, I can confidently say 9.
It’s Like a Senior Year Assignment
I remember the class well…
It was AP English class in the senior year of high school. Senior year in high school is particularly typified by a loosening of responsibilities—kind of an equivalent to how European students take a gap year before hunkering down for university. In the US, our senior year tends to function the same way.
Anyways, the class was led by a new teacher. I believe they gave this teacher the job because senior year is a good way to get acclimated to the academic environment with low pressure. Most students have mentally checked-out or reserve most of their time for SATs and other college prep.
One day, my charismatic friend (and fellow prankster) decided to hand in an essay assignment. The introductory paragraph was well-written, the conclusion was well-written, even the first couple of sentences of the body were well- written (do you see where I’m going with this?). The rest read:
“I don’t think Mrs. Omitted is going to read this, so I’m just going to write this sentence. After this sentence, I’ll put another one like this one, and still I think this is going to fly underneath the radar.”
His grade? A.
My grade? B minus.
It was a pretty decent object-lesson into the adult world.
Low Barriers to Entry
The moral of the previous story is that most people don’t have the time to read beyond the initial scanning, no one’s going to do all the research and homework into your work. Having a facsimile of work, or even an honest attempt, is good enough in some client’s eyes. It’s certainly worked that way for me, and you’ll rely more on your salesmanship with some evidence to back it up.
This probably sounds terrible, but you can use word count to your favor. Think about it: a person can only read 200 words per minute. When they see a monolith of a document that looks good under a quick glance, they’re going to take the word for it and not actually read the content. Sorry.
When someone tells me they can’t write a book, I just say, “do you have any articles that don’t fit anywhere?” Just making a table of contents and dividing your work by subject matter, you’ve just made yourself a portfolio that separates you from the pack. Your book may not exactly read like Kurt Vonnegut or being as nuanced as David Foster Wallace, but you just managed to join them with your contribution to the literary universe.
The kicker is that if you do get an assignment and do a bang-up job, guess what? You now have an honest-to-goodness piece that is “legitimate” to add to your portfolio. Congrats and welcome to the working world!
There’s More than One Way to Skin an Ebook
Websites like Leanpub, Smashwords, and Amazon’s Createspace make it incredibly simple to create a professional-looking document. Each of them has their own guidelines for publishing a document: Smashwords requires that you follow their “Meatgrinder” formatting rules, Leanpub uses a template with Markdown, and Createspace requires a complete MS Word document (.doc).
Don’t let these parameters scare you. It may take a day or so and a pot of coffee, but all of those websites are relatively user-friendly. The added benefit is that you’re gaining adjacent skills that open up a realm of money-making possibilities. There are plenty of gigs out there that open to you once you understand the work involved for creating a cohesive ebook from start to finish.
As a side note, you may want to outsource creating a cover, but I found that slapping together something in Photoshop required a minimal amount of effort. Your mileage may vary.
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The benefits to having a finished ebook are that you can get more work, you understand the process of actually putting together a book, and you’ve already done the writing. It’s perfect if you’re lazy, too. Why create something from scratch when you’re already done the scratching? The ultimate goal to creating an ebook is that you’re trying to increase your value to potential clients—if you can do it for yourself, surely you can do wonders for their project.
Finally, when your friends or family ask if you’ve written a book yet, you can honestly say, “Yeah, I wrote a bunch of ‘em. When are you gonna buy one, Aunt Cheapo?” You can do the same and I hope to read—ahem, skim your book in the near future.