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How to Hire an eBook Writer
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Of all the various forms of freelance writing available online, eBooks are perhaps one of the trickiest to hire for. Writing short-form content requires an adept command of vocabulary and skill at combining words in a short space to convey a lot of meaning. Writing mid-form content like website pages and blog posts is a (relatively) easily trainable skill, and the added length provides a lot of flexibility to the writers.

The format of eBooks, though, requires additional attention to elements of a piece that other forms of writing lack. It needs a lot more emphasis on structure and logical flow. It requires consistency, detail, and expertise across the entire project.

Solution Most importantly, it also requires someone who can work on a single long-form project for weeks (or months, depending on various factors) and maintain deadlines.

How can you hire a good eBook writer? Read on for our tips and instructions.

Determine Your Needs

The first thing you'll want to do is spend some time pinning down the various details of your project, so you know who to hire, how to hire them, how to work with them, and how to produce a finished product you're happy with.

This involves asking yourself several important questions.

First, what kind of book will this be? Are you looking to produce a work of non-fiction or fiction? Is it marketing copy, self-promotional biography, or storytelling? There are all manner of different kinds of eBooks written in all kinds of genres; billions of them are published on Amazon and many more on other platforms.

Most people don't go into the idea of getting an eBook ghostwritten without at least the seed of an idea. That idea needs to be expanded into your core concept, and you need to think through what you'll need.

Next, ask yourself who your audience will be. Are you writing children's or young adult literature? Are you writing a marketing book to promote yourself or your brand? Are you writing an industry tell-all as a way to drive up sensationalized press? Are you just writing something moderately authoritative to cement yourself as a thought leader? All of these have different kinds of audiences (B2C or B2B, Adults or Children, educational or entertainment, etc.)

Determining Writing Needs

Related to this, you'll also want to decide how long the book should be. The shortest eBooks can range around 5,000 to 10,000 words in length. The exception to this is children's books, which can be much shorter but are often filled with illustrations to take up much more room (and budget) in the production.

On the other hand, longer eBooks can be as much as 30,000, 50,000, or even more in word count. This is more the domain of biographies, tell-all reports, or fiction, though, of course, fiction novels can be even longer.

Two data points that may be interesting:

  • Every year in November, millions of writers participate in National Novel Writing Month with the goal of producing 50,000 words in 30 days. This is unpolished work and at an unsustainable pace for most writers, so don't expect it to be an average for your own turnaround.
  • Word counts and expectations are increasing, on the low end. Consider that seven or so years ago, B2B eBooks were 2,000 to 2,500 words long. These days, regular blog posts are around that length, and eBooks must be longer accordingly.

Another decision you'll want to make is how much original insight your writer should produce. Some eBook commissioners will set down a topic and a set of guidelines and don't care what the writer writes as long as it's accurate and authoritative. Others want a ton of their own personal insight, quotes, and thoughts in the piece and need the writer to piece them together. These processes work in different ways, and different writers excel in different forms.

Understand the eBook Writing Process

Speaking of the process, you need to understand how a typical eBook commission works. When you're hiring an eBook writer, you want to find one that works with your process.

eBook Writing Process

Generally, it will look something like this:

  • First, you develop a pitch and brief. This will include things like the general topic, the point of the piece, the audience, the word count, and the level of sophistication you want out of the writing. You will also likely need to know whether you want a more independent writer or you want a writer to write something out of your notes and recordings.
  • Second, you need to find a writer. I'll get more into this in a bit. Your choice of writer should be someone with at least a passing familiarity with your industry and topic (and preferably some level of expertise), as well as the demonstrated ability to write long-form content, meet deadlines, and work with you.
  • Third, you'll want to recognize that there's a process for eBook production. Generally, you'll need to talk to your writer in an interview format, gather up materials, and answer questions about your goals and your topic. The writer will review your materials, ask you for any additional information they may need, and learn your expectations.
  • At this point, you'll work with your writer to hammer out a project framework. Typically, you will work with your writer to produce an overall outline. This isn't in-depth; rather, it's more of a list of chapters and their core subjects. This is the easy part.
  • Next, your writer will produce an outline of the first chapter and send it to you for approval. You deliver any feedback, they edit, and you get that first chapter to a place where you're happy with it. It doesn't need to be polished or finished, but it needs to be satisfactory in broad strokes and in major specifics.
  • You repeat this process for each chapter through your whole project, according to the outline you agreed upon at the beginning. This may or may not change over time as you hammer out a better logical flow, or you recognize that something you thought would take half a chapter deserves a chapter of its own, and so on. Just remember that changes to the overall outline may involve changes to your timeline and to your overall cost of the project.

Speaking of costs, eBooks can be a costly endeavor. Obviously, you don't want to pay up-front for an entire project, but a writer will never commit to writing an entire book without seeing some money. How does it all work?

Understanding eBook Payment Structure

There are, of course, all kinds of different payment options for eBooks. The most common, though, works like this.

First, you find your writer, which is easier said than done. Then, you hammer out that outline, and you agree on a general price for your eBook. This is usually a price per page (or per word, with the agreement that a "page" is about 200-300 words, as in a traditional manuscript.)

Generally, since there's a lot of commitment and a lot of work up-front, you will pay your writer an advance on the first three chapters of the book. This can vary depending on the intended length of chapters, the length of the book, and so on. Obviously, a 4,000-word eBook is a much different style of project than a 30,000-word eBook will be.

You pay the advance and work with the writer to produce the first three chapters.

Paying for an eBook

At this point, you re-evaluate.

  • Do you have enough content to fully flesh out your whole project?
  • Do you like the direction the project is going and the way the writer is handling it?
  • Can you keep working with the writer?

This is your opportunity to decide whether or not the project is worth continuing and lock in things like your tone, style, general approach, outline, and more. If you decide the project isn't worth it and you've paid for the content you had produced, you can part ways amicably. If you decide to continue the project, this is your last chance to make major changes.

Many commissioners reach this point and realize they don't actually have enough substance to write a full eBook and need to either drastically shorten the full piece or cancel it altogether. There's no shame in doing so; you've paid your writer for what they've done, and you have them on hand if you have another project later. Alternatively, you can change the scope of the project into something shorter, something broader, or something else entirely. This is the moment for re-evaluation and adjustment.

From here, assuming your initial outline holds, the rest of the project typically goes on a per-chapter basis. You work with the writer to hammer out a chapter, you pay for the chapter, and this continues until every chapter is written.

At this point, you have the finalization of the book to consider. Is your writer going to do a final editing pass, or do you want to hire an editor to do that? Are you going to hire a graphic designer to add images and graphics to the eBook, or will you do that in-house? Do you want to hire a publication specialist for layout and design?

This brings us to another key point.

Choose a Freelancer or Agency

When commissioning an eBook, it pays to recognize that there's more to it than just writing. You may need the following:

  • An editor to review and polish the piece when it's finished.
  • A graphic designer to create images to go into the finished product.
  • A designer and layout specialist to format the book for reading.
  • A transcriptionist, if you choose to do verbal/phone interviews for the content your writer will need.
  • A project manager to work as a go-between for the project in case you don't want to manage all of these people individually.

Thus, you have one significant choice to make. Do you hire all of these people as freelancers (or build a team made of in-house elements and freelancers if you have a few on staff already), or do you hire an agency?

A Writing Agency

Agencies typically have all of these people on staff already. You get an account rep, and they handle everything between you and the writer, though some agencies give their writers the leeway to interview you directly when they have questions.

Agencies are generally more expensive but less time-consuming than managing a team of freelancers on your own. Of course, an agency known for producing high-quality eBooks is different from freelancers in terms of expectations, processes, contracts, and more.

Both options are perfectly viable. It largely just depends on how much personal time you want to invest in the project. Some clients are too busy to do more than a few basic interviews and are happy to let an agency handle the rest. Others want a more hands-on approach and want to manage details to their satisfaction. Pick the option that works best for you.

Finding Your Writers

If you're looking for an agency, it's easy enough to search for "eBook writing agency" and get plenty of results. Finding specific writers is harder. Some writers don't like long-form content, while others specialize in it.

You generally have two options. You can post a job listing on sites like Indeed or your own careers page and have writers come to you. Often, instead of generalist job boards, you can look on writer-specialist job boards like ProBlogger or my own board.

Freelance eBook Writer Search

Or, you can look for writers on writing or freelancer hubs, like Upwork. Both methods can work, though typically, finding and reaching out to writers can work better if you look for people who list both your industry and topic as a specialty and who have written long-form content in the past.

Once you've found a promising writer, either from them pitching you or you pitching them, all that's left is to get to work. Variations of the above process are common, so it's up to you to work out the way you want it all to go.

If you have any questions about the hiring process for eBook writers, feel free to drop us a line, and we'll gladly help you out however we can!