Planning and Outlining an E-book

So you've chosen a niche for your new ebook, and you have a good idea of what you want to write about. What's next?

Some e-book writers may simply jump right into the e-book writing. Personally, I'm a note-taking, outline-loving, organizational junkie. If you're even a little bit like me, you may want to plan or outline the content of your e-book before you sit down to write.

We all have our own outlining styles, but here's my process. Feel free to use it when writing your own e-books, or alter it to meet your needs:

Step One

Make a very general list of the main topics you want your e-book to cover, and the sub-topics within each. These don't need to be in any kind of order yet. I find that 3x5 index cards are perfect for this step.

Step Two

Make a list of any general pages (like a title page, "about the author" page, etc.) and any addenda pieces you may want to include in your final e-book. I also put these things on their own 3x5 index card.

Step Three

Organize your note cards (or other notes) by placing them in the order you want them to appear in the e-book now. I usually do this by simply arranging my index cards, and then I create an outline on paper based on it (because if I don't, I'm bound to lose a card or two, and I just like being able to scan a single sheet of paper). This outline should end up being very similar to your final table of contents.

Step Four

Make a list of any asides you may want to include. I personally don't like to use stock images in e-books, and instead prefer to break things up visually with more useful content (I don't like buying "padded" e-books with a lot of unnecessary pictures, so I don't use them unless I have to - such as important screenshots). I used a lot of asides in my Press Releases Made Easy e-book (such as blocks of tips).

Step Five

Here's where you can get more detailed if you want to by actually outlining specific points for the e-book content. I only do this for sections where there's something very specific I want to cover or say, and I'm worried I'll otherwise forget. I go back to my index cards for this part, and use the back of any section cards I need. You could have all of this done earlier and put into your overall outline if you want to. I just prefer to keep that outline mimicking the table of contents, so I don't add a lot of detail there.

When outlining your e-book early on, it's important not to worry about things like total page counts, or page numbers where information will be found.  If anything, worrying about page counts will probably prove to be more overwhelming than productive.

If you want to write approximately a 50-page e-book, thinking about it simply in terms of "50 pages" can make it feel like a larger project than it really is. This is why I always make note of the smaller pages in the e-book... not only does it help me remember to include basic things, but it makes the project seem a little smaller in scope.

E-book Elements

Here are some of the basic e-book elements that will be included in your final page count without taking a lot of writing time:

  • Title Page
  • License / Copyright Page
  • Table of Contents
  • About the Author
  • Disclaimer Page (it's a good idea to have this in any niche)
  • Resources (you don't have to include this, but having a page pointing to additional resources in the niche can be a good thing - if you're planning to include affiliate links, here's a place for them as well).
  • Addenda (anything you'll be including at the end of the e-book - for example, in my new press release writing e-book, I'll have a lot of addenda, such as sample real-life press releases, press release templates, etc.)

Outlining your e-book before you start to write it can save you a lot of time in the long run. It can help you to avoid missing important points that may need to be added later (which can be a formatting nightmare if you later have to make major changes). Have as much of your e-book planned as possible, and you may be surprised at how smoothly the e-book writing process can go.

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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1 thought on “Planning and Outlining an E-book”

  1. Hi Jennifer,
    Great website. I’ve just completed a collection of writing articles that you and other readers may find interesting.
    Steve Manning


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