The Trusty Oak Post

Ebooks Don't Have to Be Scary: A Primer

July 27, 2018

Maybe you've heard before that you should be creating content offers to generate more leads for your business. According to Pew Research Institute, 26% of Americans read an ebook in 2017, a significant number suggesting that many people are willing to download long-form content in exchange for their contact information. For marketers, lead generation is a high-priority goal, and ebooks tend to be the most popular kind of content for capturing and converting leads for a number of reasons. 

First, ebooks lend themselves well to sharing valuable content. Your customers will only be interested in information that's useful to them in a format they can easily access, so an ebook with loads of helpful insight is a great prospect. Second, ebooks can reap well-qualified leads: when a website visitor downloads an ebook, you know they're interested in the topic you're writing about. This means you'll instantly know invaluable facts about them as a result. Finally, while ebooks take some work to create, they're not out of reach for the average small business.

It may seem daunting to develop, write, format, publish, and promote your own ebook, but it's absolutely doable. Here's the basic outline of how to create your first ebook from start to finish. 

1. Find Your Topic 

How to Write an Ebook

Of course, before you can start writing anything, you need to know what you're writing about. The bad news? This could take some time. The good news? If done well, this phase of your ebook process will ensure that you've created a truly valuable piece of content with tons of lead generation potential. 

To find your topic, I suggest starting with a close look at your customer. If you've developed buyer personas for your business, it's time to pull those out and examine them closely. If you haven't created buyer personas, it may be time to flesh them out (there are great resources online to do this, such as Beckmann Collaborative's Customer Persona Template). Buyer personas are the "story" of your ideal customer(s); they help you identify the needs, desires, and habits the people you want to serve. 

Armed with information about your ideal customer, you can begin finding your ebook topic by answering these questions: 

  1. What is your client's role (i.e. a retiree looking to travel, a mid-level manager at an HR firm, etc.)?
  2. What does a day in their life look like? 
  3. What are their pain points and challenges? 
  4. What are their most common objections to your services or products?

The most important part of this exercise is to zero in on your customer's pain points, needs, and challenges. Can you be your customer's hero by providing free information you know they could use? If the answer is yes, you've found your topic. 

2. Outline and Write Your Ebook 

How to Write an Ebook

Once you have a broad topic, it's time to start narrowing and finding your niche. What makes your ebook more valuable than the next company's? Unless you've discovered what dark matter is made of, it's unlikely you'll be writing an ebook full of entirely new information. Instead of focusing on originality, concentrate on your ideal buyer and how you can meet their needs in a particular way. What makes your ebook better for your customer than others? Maybe the way you differentiate is by simplifying the information and making your ebook a quick read; on the other hand, maybe you take a deep dive because you know it'll serve your reader. However you make your ebook unique, keep your customer always at the forefront of your mind. 

After you've narrowed in, it's time to outline and scaffold your ebook. Outlining can make the writing process more manageable and less intimidating. Outline your content in a way that's logical and easy to understand with a clear introduction to preview your ebook. Your outline can also serve as a way to collaborate by assigning different team members chapters or sections to draft individually. Your outline will serve to remind you of the major takeaways you want to cover and give you a place to put all relevant data, notes, and resources during the writing process. 

You'll likely spend a significant amount of time—many hours over several weeks or months, even—to write your ebook. From the initial outlining and research phase to editing and finalizing, writing can be a time-consuming task. Don't be intimidated, though: your work will all be rewarded with qualified leads. If you need to, hire help to get the meat of your ebook written: it'll be worth your investment. 

3. Format Your Ebook 

How to Write an Ebook

If you have a graphic designer on your team, then you're in luck: this part will be easy! If you're like most small business owners, though, you likely don't have easy and affordable access to someone skilled in graphic design. This is where the wonders of the internet come in handy: many companies offer free ebook templates you can download and use (our favorite, by far, is HubSpot). You can input your content into a ready-made template, convert it into a PDF, and you're golden. If you choose to go the template route for your ebook (or if you create your own design, for that matter), keep these things in mind. 

  1. Always prioritize readability over design. Any graphic designer will tell you, it doesn't matter how pretty it looks if no one can read it. Don't sacrifice ease of readability to use a neat font or to include a background photo. 
  2. Stick to your brand standards. Fonts, logos, and colors should always follow your company's brand standards, even if you're using a template. 
  3. Link where appropriate: Don't forget that your ebook will almost exclusively be read on a laptop, phone, or tablet, and you can use this to your advantage. Link back to your company's website (in particular, other resources you have such as blog posts, white papers, case studies, etc.) to gain more web traffic. 

4. Create a Landing Page 

How to Write an Ebook

You have a killer ebook, so now it's time to give it a place to live on your website. Marketing best practices suggest a landing page that tells your customers exactly why they should download your ebook and makes it easy for them to see what they're getting. The elements of a good landing page are: 

  1. A description of your ebook: Make sure your customers know why this ebook is the one they want to download. Use a bulleted list to cover the major highlights of your ebook and keep it simple. Avoid adding so much text that your customer will have to scroll down to read it all. 
  2. The ebook cover image: People are visual, so show them what they're getting by including the ebook cover image on your landing page. 
  3. No main navigation: Landing pages are all about showcasing one thing only, so format your ebook's webpage without the main navigation menu of the rest of your site. 
  4. A lead form: Here's where the rubber meets the road. Your landing page lead form should ask for as little information as possible and shouldn't scare your potential lead off by looking long and complicated. Most forms require name and email addresses, but some ask for company name and title, as well. Remember, the less information you ask for, the more likely someone is to fill out the form and become a lead
  5. A clear, compelling call-to-action: Finally, your call-to-action should be clear, concise, and compelling. Don't be vague (i.e. "Join the movement" or "Download"). Let your customer know exactly what will happen after they click the call-to-action button and submit their contact information, (i.e. "Download Your Ebook" or "Get Your Free Ebook").
  6. Social proof: Everyone wants to do what they see other people doing, right? Any social proof you have to add to your landing page increases the likelihood of downloads. Social proof could be as simple as showing download numbers or social share numbers, such as, "This ebook has been downloaded X times" or "X Facebook likes." 

5. Promote Your Ebook

Promote Your Ebook

Finally, it's time to promote your brilliant new ebook. Share your ebook in your marketing emails, via social media, and with pop-ups on your website. When you write blog posts on similar topics, always link to your ebook. Get the most out of the content you've created by promoting it regularly and through multiple channels. 

You can create an ebook with useful content for your customers and ramp up your lead generation. Feeling a little lost or overwhelmed with the process? We can help. 

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How to Write an Ebook from TrustyOak.com.

About the Author

Emily Fisk

Emily’s background is in marketing, social media management, professional writing, and program development. When she’s not working from home, Emily loves digging into a good book, cooking a delicious meal, and getting outside with her two daughters and husband. She’s a proud native of Boise, Idaho, and is never more inspired than when she’s surrounded by nature. She blogs at www.emilyfisk.com.
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