How to Write an E-Book
February 18, 2020
As you’ve probably seen, e-books are everywhere—and for good reason. Writing an e-book for your inbound marketing efforts is a great way to establish yourself as an industry expert and bring in more leads.
If you've never been through the process of putting an e-book together, it can seem a little daunting, but don't let that prevent you from writing one—we have all the tips you need to get started.
Write an E-Book (Step-By-Step Guide)
1. Decide the Persona Your E-Book Will Target
Before you can even begin writing, you need to choose a persona, or a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on research and real data about your current customers.
Do whatever you can to learn as much as possible about this persona, including researching on Google and interviewing current customers, and write your e-book based on their wants and needs. Remember, just because you like your topic doesn’t mean they will. Forget about your personal interests and write for them.
2. Develop a Compelling Topic That Solves a Problem or Educates Your Persona
Obviously choosing a topic is important, but choosing the right topic is what you really need to focus on.
Based on your persona research, you should decide if the topic is scientific or casual, broad or niche, and so on. For example, if you know your persona has a very busy schedule, you want to choose a topic you can cover relatively quickly. If your persona is in the healthcare field, focus on their specific pain points based on their position, not healthcare in general—even if they fall under that category. Address a problem that they need solved. After you choose your topic, keep in mind that you don’t need to include every little detail about the subject. Figure out the main points you want to convey and plan from there.
Remember, the subject of your e-book needs to be clear to the reader immediately. If they don’t know what they are reading within a matter of seconds, they’ll stop. Let them know what they are about to dive into.
3. Organize Your Thoughts First; Write Second
When writing your e-book, chances are you'll have a million thoughts racing through your mind and pulling you in different directions. So how do you overcome this? By creating an outline.
Your outline should include:
- A table of contents
- An introduction
- A list main topics you want to cover
- A list of subtopics below each main topic
- Brief descriptions or main points of each of the subtopics
- A conclusion/final thoughts
Creating an outline will allow you to plot out a natural flow for the e-book and will help you focus. An outline will also help you see which areas need a bit more content and which areas are good to go. It may seem like an extra step, but using an outline will save you time in the long run. Once your outline is in good shape, it’s time to begin writing.
4. Decide on a Title That Captures the Reader's Attention and Is Optimized
The title is the first impression people will have of your e-book. Make sure it’s engaging enough to stop your reader in their tracks and make them take notice. Know, however, that it’s not enough for your title to be compelling; in this day and age, it must also be optimized for search if anybody is ever going to see it.
Do extensive keyword research and choose words to place in your title that have a difficulty score lower than 60, meaning it won’t be too difficult for you to rank (the lower the better). Also, be sure that people actually search for those keywords each month.
5. Write the Manuscript
When writing your e-book, don’t just throw all your thoughts into giant paragraphs for pages on end. Who wants to read that? Be sure to mix it up by including bullet points, bolded or italicized words, callouts, and so on.
You’ll also want to include a table of contents and section headers so that the reader knows what they are getting into.
Referring to the outline you put together will also help as you get started. If you have an outline before you start writing, the strategy and format are already done for you. Now you just need to let the words flow.
Once you’re done writing, it’s time to proofread. You may be the smartest person in the room, but if you have typos throughout your published work, you can lose credibility fast.
Be sure to read and reread your e-book, and once that’s done, give it to somebody else for a second pair of eyes. You want it to be as professional as possible.
7. Perfect the Design and Layout
You know the phrase “never judge a book by its cover”? Well, the fact is that most people do judge a book by its cover, and you don’t want it to happen to you. If you’re not good with design, find someone who is and have them create a cover for your e-book. Your audience is constantly getting content thrown at them. The only way your e-book will get read is if you figure out a way for it to stand out from the crowd.
Assuming you get the reader to the first page of your e-book, you must also lay out your content in a way that is easy for the reader to digest. Include images and a design that keeps the reader's attention and that aligns with your topic.
8. Promote, Promote, Promote
Congratulations—you have just written the greatest e-book the world has ever seen! Here’s the thing, though: Nobody will ever know it exists unless you promote it. Dedicate time to getting your e-book in front of your audience. A few ways to get it out there can include:
Repurpose Blog Content into an E-Book
Now that you've read through the above process, you may be thinking to yourself, "I'm already writing a ton of content. Why do I have to start from scratch?" Well, the truth is that you don't need to (but you can if that's what's best for you).
Typically, when you write a blog post, it is out there for the whole world to see. Blog posts can help build your authority within your industry and increase your search ranks if you include targeted keywords (which you should).
But if you compile several blog posts into an e-book, you can gate it by putting it behind a form in order to generate leads. You can also use it as a CTA on said blog posts and promote it on social and through email marketing.
Sound good to you? Here's a look at how to make it happen.
1. Choose the Blog Posts You Want to Repurpose
When choosing which blog posts to turn into an e-book, choose a handful of posts that revolve around the same topic. As mentioned above when we discussed personas, it’s important to know your audience’s pain points and to choose blog posts that revolve around those points. Your audience will want a focused e-book, not a bunch of random blog posts thrown together.
2. Take Apart and Rebuild the Blog Posts
Once you decide which blog posts to use, don’t just copy and paste them into a PDF, put a cover on it, and call it a day. You’ll want to take a close look at each post and create an outline for a natural flow of an e-book.
It should be structured just like any other e-book with an intro, body, and conclusion. This means you will have to break the blog posts apart, play with wording and sentence structure, and maybe even mix posts to get them into an order that flows and makes sense to your reader.
3. Develop a Cover and Format the E-Book
Once the copy is complete, it’s time to lay it out and include engaging images throughout the e-book. Also, play around with bold letters and italics throughout the document to help keep the reader’s attention. Make sure you stand out from the crowd. As suggested above, if you do not know how to create a cover, hire a designer.
4. Create the Conversion Path
Now that the content is all set and ready to go, it’s time to create the conversion path. Included in the conversion path is a landing page, a thank you page, a CTA, and a follow-up email. Remember to do the following when creating an effective conversion path:
- Ensure the CTA and landing page headlines match.
- Remove navigation and include an image on the landing page with a form.
- Be brief, include bullet points, and explain the benefits of your offer on the landing page.
- Make sure your thank you page includes the offer and a secondary offer or form.
Send a follow-up email that makes it easy for the lead to retrieve the content and that includes another offer to encourage reconversion.
When the timing is right (you don’t want the launch to interfere with another offer of yours), it’s time to promote the landing page.
Companion Assets to Create with E-Books
In the section above, we discussed pulling together existing blog posts to create an e-book, a very powerful tool in your toolbox to use to generate leads. However, once again, it's a smart idea to maximize all of your efforts in creating this content to reuse it for another purpose.
By creating varied content, you can reach prospects in their preferred styles of digesting information (remember, for example, that some people are visual learners).
To help break this down, let's pretend you've created an asset for your targeted industrial buyers called "Metal Stamping 101" (one of our favorite manufacturing examples).
Here's what else you can create:
Infographics are great for awareness and can simplify content that may otherwise be difficult for a visitor to consume. In addition, due to the illustrative nature of an infographic, it can help break down complex manufacturing processes and show off the differences between fourslide and progressive die stamping.
The best videos are quick, informative, and engaging. They can also make companies seem less robotic and more human by putting a voice (and face) to a product, process, or service. The more of a human connection people feel, the more comfortable they will be and the more likely they are to buy from you.
Common uses for videos are visual case studies, expert interviews, and product demos—all of which work for our example here.
Like video, SlideShare is another visual way to show your content. Not only is it useful as a way to establish authority and generate leads, but it is also very simple to use.
Using this format could be as easy as pulling the highlights out of your e-book, putting them into a slide format, and adding visuals (and videos, like we suggested above!) and anything else you think adds context.
Webinars are a great way to engage with your audience because they help you communicate with your audience in real time. Hosting a webinar allows you to discuss topics and trends in your industry, which increases your reputation within the field. Webinars allow you to show your expertise while providing information about your product.
Answering your audience’s questions live makes them feel like they’re having an actual conversation and building a relationship with you. The more the attendee feels connected to your company, the more likely they’ll be to trust and buy from you.
About the author
Jennifer Shore was formerly the Director of Marketing of SmartBug and a Seattle-based writer who has received numerous awards for her work. In her role at SmartBug, she is responsible for the development, execution, and optimization of the high-growth lead funnel, nurturing, and customer acquisition. Read more articles by Jennifer Shore.
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