For years I’ve thought of writing an e-book. After all, entrepreneurs have been utilizing and singing the praises of e-books for at least a decade. And as someone who has enjoyed a front-row seat in the rise of the self-publishing industry, I flippantly wondered, “How hard can it be?”

So with a new book idea in mind, I downloaded Kindle’s “Building Your Book for Kindle” PDF and read it word for word. Then I read it again. Great! Got it! This won’t be hard!

I opened my Microsoft Word document, imported my text (I had written the text in another program) and began the formatting process. Being sure to regularly refer back to the Kindle PDF, I inserted page breaks between each chapter. I made sure my links worked. I used Word’s styles feature to denote headings. I inserted photos using the actual “Insert” function rather than copy and paste.

Feeling great and amazed at how simple it really was, I followed the upload directions and then selected the preview feature before finalizing the process.

That’s when I re-learned my first lesson: Nothing is ever as easy as it seems.

There, staring at me on my monitor, was a poorly aligned document, with photos distorted and not in their proper placements. The table of contents contained all fifty-two of my writing prompts rather than just the section titles. In a word, it was a mess.

For someone who has worked in the publishing industry, I know what a good book looks like. What a professional book looks like. And this wasn’t a good book. Like every writer, I have one chance to make a good first impression with each book that I create. Looks matter (yes, even with an e-book).

So back into my Word document I went. I replaced all of the faulty images with hi-resolution images. I removed the heading styles from the questions. But the problem with the table of contents persisted – now I had no table of contents.

Delving deeper into the problem, I discovered that my section dividers were images with text embedded in them. Word’s table of contents function can’t read embedded text; only heading styles. So that meant I had to create a second section header.

It wasn’t a look I was going for, but it was the only solution in order to pull in a table of contents (an expected tool among e-book readers, enabling them to quickly click between sections of a book).

Which leads to the second lesson: Use a simple layout.

In my initial manuscript, which had been designed for traditional print format, I had two writing prompts per page, with a small image beside each one and the text in a column near the gutter of the book. However, after spending a considerable amount of time trying to get the formatting aligned in similar fashion for the e-book, it just wouldn’t cooperate. The only way to make the e-book work was to create a separate page for each writing prompt.

Also, I discovered that e-books do not include page numbers or traditional headers or footers. In fact, most traditional formatting rules fly out the window with e-books, and that includes fonts.

However, one significant benefit of e-books over traditional print publications is the use of hyperlinks within the text.

Lesson number three is:  Take advantage of hyperlink capabilities.

Since readers are consuming your content on a digital platform (computer, tablet or smart phone), they can simply tap or click on any hyperlink to be taken to more of your content or to another website. Use these links to your advantage.

In my case, I created an “Additional Resources” page at the end of the book with direct links to all of my social media, website and product service pages.

So there you have it: Three lessons I learned from creating my first e-book. Want more tips to help you write your very first e-book? Check out this Facebook Live video that I created shortly after my e-book, The One-Year Collection of Weekly Writing Prompts: Write Your Life Story, One Question at a Time, was added to Amazon. (As you’ll see in the video, I’m on a learning curve for that medium as well, so be sure to watch for a future post about what I learned from creating Facebook Live videos!)

Have you created an e-book yet? If so, what did you learn from your first project?