Creating Your First eBook? 15 Experts Share Tips and Best Practices
So if I’m guessing correctly, you’re here because you’ve decided to learn how to make an eBook. Am I right? Thought so.
Pretty smart move on your part – for deciding to publish an eBook that is. You see, eBooks are an incredibly popular and essential part of marketing strategies.
As time has passed, the process of getting out a good eBook has become a lot simpler. A lot of writers use document creation software to automate the way they edit, customize, publish, and share their ebooks.
Content is the backbone of a solid marketing strategy. Therefore, the quality of a business’s content can make or break its marketing strategy. So understanding how to create content that works is important.
And eBooks, they work.
That being said, let’s get you moving on your first eBook!
Tips for creating an eBook
Creating an eBook doesn’t have to be difficult, especially with a little help from those who do it best.
With that, here are 15 tips from marketing professionals who have mastered the eBook game:
1. Test your audience
My top recommendation when making an ebook is first testing that your target audience is interested in the subject that you plan to write about. To ascertain interest, check which blog subjects most appeal to readers as measured by regular traffic to specific articles through Google Analytics or your CMS.
Once you have a few subjects that you could confidently expand on, survey your audience through a Facebook and Twitter poll on what ebook topic they would be most likely to read. This will get your audience engaged and interested and will allow you to test ideas with your target demographic.
– Nicolas Straut, SEO Associate, Fundera
2. Do your research
When creating an eBook, it is important to understand that this type of content functions best as a way to establish your brand as a Thought Leader in your industry. Considering that, it is imperative to research the subject matter your audience is truly interested in. Use tools like Keyword.io to assess what sort of information people are looking for. Once that is determined, find a way to present the information in a unique way to differentiate your content from your competitors.
A good example of this is to create your eBook in an interactive format rather than the traditional approach of a static .PDF. This works for a myriad of reasons.
Content with interactivity has been proven to be more engaging and leads to a higher rate of conversions. In addition, the SEO value of an interactive piece is much greater. eBooks presented in .PDF format are severely limited from a SEO perspective.. With an interactive eBook being web-based, search engines will be able to index the entire page and this will help drive organic traffic from search.
– Jonathan Rosenfeld, Director of Demand Generation, Bython Media
3. Be flexible
Don’t sweat the word count – With an eBook, you have more flexibility when it comes to the length of your content. That’s because you don’t have to be concerned about how much it costs to print, store, or ship a physical book. There are some ebooks that only have a few thousand words, but the knowledge in those words makes them bestsellers. At the same time, there are books that it would take weeks for most people to read, but only offer a few needles of new information in a haystack of fancy words. Don’t focus on the word count, focus on the quality of the words you’re presenting to the world.
Be careful with images – Don’t be fearful of using images, but don’t let them do all the heavy lifting. When it comes to eBooks, you have to remember that most people will be reading on smaller devices. A printed picture doesn’t look the same as it does digitally, especially on a 5-inch screen. If you think there is no way to get around including a particular image, include it. But if it’s more supplemental than essential, leave it out.
Delegate as needed – You don’t have to do it all yourself. Sometimes trying to take on a multi-faceted project alone only leads to disaster. You spread yourself too thin and end up with a mediocre product at best. Don’t be afraid to be the idea engine behind the ghostwriter, editor, proofreader, cover designer, and publisher you’ll be working with. Most decent books on the market are a team effort, not a solo project.
– T.L. Curtis, Volo Press
4. Plan ahead
My recommended best practices are to plan the subject matter of your book in advance. Start by identifying the core issue you want to focus on in-depth. Plan out the related issues that have a bearing on your core issue so you can explore in greater detail as your manuscript develops. This will help to ensure you get started writing rather than procrastinating.
So, for example, in my recent book, I wanted to explain to small business owners why a Google My Business listing is so important for local search. I then developed that into how they should go about optimizing the listing fully. From there, I was able to explore all the related, and vitally important factors, that need to be tackled in order to give the optimized the listing the best chance of attracting local search users. By planning those steps from the start, I was able to stay on track despite the distractions that come from running a digital marketing agency.
As an aside, I also think its good to know the way you’re going to publish up front. So for me, knowing the process of uploading to smashwords.com, knowing the editor I would use to format the script and having planned the steps to publish to Kindle, helped to ensure I had an end publishing goal and outcome.
– Alistair Dodds, Marketing Director and Co-Founder, Smoking Chili Media
5. Budget smart
Whatever your budget is for writing the content, you’ll need to plan on spending that on visual design too.
These days people judge the value of content based on how it looks visually and it’s crazy but design almost matters more than the content itself.
I have also learned that 50% of your overall budget for the e-book creation needs to be allocated to promotion.
It’s sad but even the best e-book in the world won’t do anything unless you’ve got a promotion campaign behind it.
Promotion is another strategy altogether, but if you’re going to invest in creating an asset such as an e-book you need to plan on a few months of promotion and outreach to get it off the ground otherwise all of your hard work will definitely fall on deaf ears.
– Zach Hendrix, Co-Founder, GreenPal
6. Keep it fresh
For your first eBook, I recommend that it look like a marketing document. Use images and make it look desktop published, as opposed to a word-processed document. This includes a well-designed cover page and clickable Table of Contents (TOC).
Also, have links out to web pages where content can be updated as required. This will keep your document fresh with a longer shelf life. Distribute it as a PDF document so it’s not editable and can be opened on both computers and mobile devices.
– Vito Michael Santoro, Co-Founder, Vaetas, LLC
7. Offer knowledge and stay consistent
eBooks have changed dramatically over the years and today, there are many more places where businesses can share them. The obvious way to leverage them is to drive leads to your website, using the content as a gateway in which you offer potential customers some useful information in exchange for their contacts. But with the rise of SlideShare (now owned by LinkedIn) and the popularity of eBooks on Amazon, there are exciting new ways to share your content.
Knowing that your eBook could be shared across many platforms, here are my tips on how to make the most of them:
- Keep it educational – There’s nothing more disappointing to an eBook fan than downloading a book only to find out it’s a 20-page ad for a company. Give readers knowledge, using cited data and statistics. If you have proprietary research that your company has conducted, that’s even better.
- Don’t overload pages with too much text – More and more viewers are reading eBooks on tablets and smartphones. Cramming too much text on each page will not make it a positive reading experience. Mix up your copy with compelling images, charts, graphs, etc.
- The look/feel should be consistent with your brand – Even though the book should not be an ad, you’ll want your audience to get a sense of your company’s brand. Use colors and language that are within your brand’s guidelines.
– Michelle Barry, CEO, Mesmerize Media Consulting
8. Make it interactive
Include clickable links in your e-book.
Unlike traditional printed guides, e-books offer the ability to add clickable element—and yet this is a feature that is woefully underutilized. You can improve the experience a reader has with your material by including internal linkages, such as from the table of contents to various sections of the guide.
This can be especially effective and valuable if your e-book is long and/or text heavy because it allows them to bypass excessive scrolling. In addition, external links can provide quick access to relevant resources and references that may further interest the reader.
– Greg Bullock, Marketing Manager, TheraSpecs
9. Start small
Don’t try to make a 50-page eBook right off the bat. Ebooks can be short! Even a small 3-5 page study with data images and infographics counts.
Make sure you are providing valuable information that a reader can put into action rather than a blown out piece or promotional information on you or your business.
Make your eBook subject-specific and have a unique perspective that is your own. Remember, you can revise and re-release the eBook again at a later time as new information becomes available – especially if you are getting several follow up questions surrounding your material.
Be sure to brand the cover to your business and have your contact information in your page footers and on the final page.
– Bernard May, CEO, National Positions
10. Make an impact using creativity
Writing an eBook can help you gain traction in making your name or company standing out of the crowd. But, it’s not an easy task, Why? because most of the people on the web don’t care what you write. To make sure your content stands out, you have to do complete research and show your prospects in a more creative way. Below are the few tips and tricks to make sure your eBook makes an impact towards readers:
- Do your research about a topic that you will need to write on that eBook. This will make easy to stitch up things according to your topic. Do some keyword research also, this will be helpful in managing what individual are searching over the internet.
- Be creative in writing and present your eBook more creatively. Not just another downloadable content, but be precise in what you write.
- Use graphics enhancements, this will allow your readers to be more interested in your content and enjoy the content more.
- Length of the content should be taken into serious consideration. As Einstein said it; If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand well enough.
- Promotion of the eBook should be done according to your SEO. Social media promotion can be effective but there is a cost to it. If you are into free marketing than SEO can help you. Select the title of the eBook and placements on your webpage. Don’t clutter the reader, just help them to locate your eBook on your webpage.
– Adeel Shabir, Content Marketing Executive, SIA Enterprises
11. Understand your reader’s intent
For someone coming up with their first ebook, understanding the right audience can be the deal breaker. Unlike a blog that can cater to different audiences with a varied understanding of topics, an ebook must be tailored for only one type of audience. Essentially, that means you must know beforehand where your target audience stands in terms of understanding or sophistication and where they plan to reach post finishing the ebook.
If you are making an ebook for beginners, you can’t stuff information that is only known to the intermediate or the advanced level. Or, explaining beginner terms to an advanced audience is also a counterproductive approach. Also, keep the topic uptight and don’t deviate from the end goal the ebook is trying to achieve.
Next, you must assess the type of conversations your audience have in their regular life or else; you might fail to connect even after pulling together the best information available on the planet in the ebook. Use words they are familiar with, use tooltips where you think they might face difficulty in comprehending a concept or term; if you want to engage them right from the start.
Also, spice up the ebook with the right design elements. Understand the pictures that your audience frames in their mind post reading certain words and use imagery and colors according to that only.
– Ketan Kapoor, CEO and Co-Founder, Mettl
12. Prioritize ease of use
Get the branding spot on – Most businesses use eBook for lead captures or education. It’s, therefore, paramount that you brand your eBook accordingly. You need to make sure that the eBook follows your brand identity and that every page has at least the company name in the header or footer. This also helps if the person shares the eBook with someone else.
Make it interactive! – Many users will read the eBook on a mobile device (eBook reader or Tablet) instead of their computer. Therefore, you should make sure that the eBook is interactive. That is, there is navigation, and internal bookmarks work. We’ve all seen 200-page ebooks with no way of navigating, and you have to spend time getting to the right section, and then you have to go back to the start if you wish to find another section. Most software will easily allow you to do this when you’re exporting the eBook (even Microsoft Word!).
Don’t overcrowd it – eBooks aren’t like traditional books. They should be colorful and easy to read. Don’t fall into the trap of having pages of writing and nothing else. Give your eBook to some friends or colleagues before sending it out, and see how far they read and what their response is.
Send it to them on multiple platforms – Most eBooks are part of a lead capture process, whereby you have to enter your email to get it delivered to you. I can’t count the number of times I’ve signed up for an eBook, received the email… and then never opened it! Give them to option to send it to them via Messenger, directly to their Kindle, Viber, or even by SMS if that’s something that would appeal to your target audience.
Minimize it – A well-put-together eBook will usually take up at least 10MB. People are impatient, and by the time it downloads, they might have moved on to their next task and completely forgotten about it – forever. There are plenty of free minimization tools available online so make sure you take advantage of them.
– Peter Selmeczy, CEO, SEO Tech
13. Build an outline
- Focus on one specific idea rather than trying to fit several separate ideas into one piece of content (even if they seem related).
- Decide where this piece of content sits in your buyer’s journey and which persona you’re writing for. Resist the urge to write an eBook that covers multiple parts of the buyer’s journey or multiple personas so you can be specific and relevant to just one audience.
- Before you start writing, build an outline featuring the key points that will reinforce your top-level idea. Use those points as your section headings and build out the content below them, using consistent formatting and lengths where possible.
- Make it easy to read by breaking information up with headings, subheadings, lists, illustrations, images, and pull quotes.
- Ask customers, partners, influencers, and other experts for their perspectives on your big idea and weave their quotes and headshots throughout the content to reinforce your message.
- If you’re creating an eBook from scratch, think about how you will atomize the content for publication elsewhere, such as on your blog or social media channels. If you’re building an eBook based on smaller chunks of content that already exist, such as a series of blog posts on the same topic, invest your time in writing a solid introduction and smooth transitions, so it doesn’t just feel like you slapped a bunch of random blog posts together.
– Cassandra Jowett, Director of Content Marketing, PathFactory
14. Keep readability in mind
- If you’re new to writing ebooks, make a list of high-quality sources in your industry. These are sources you can keep coming back to for ideas, knowledge, quotes, statistics, etc., so you aren’t researching from scratch on every topic.
- Watch your tone. – Think about what kind of tone your readers would expect from your brand – serious, funny, technical, cheeky, etc. Make sure your tone is consistent throughout your writing so it’s not throwing the reader off and distracting them from the content.
- Check your readability. – Formatting makes a big difference in how well people engage with content. Be sure to include plenty of line breaks to create space between the text. Use bolded text to highlight your key points and phrases. Pull out quotes from the body copy, so they’re easy to spot. Use headers regularly to create topical sections.
- Don’t skip professional editing. – If you don’t have someone on your team experienced with editing, then hire a professional freelancer. There are plenty of ebooks out there that undermine a brand’s credibility because they clearly skipped the editing phase. An error here or there isn’t the end of the world, but when readers are distracted from your message by errors and inconsistencies, that can really injure their view of your brand and make them choose not to spend money with you.
– Krista Brubaker, Content Marketing Strategist, BizLibrary
15. Make sure it’s worth it
Yes, you may be giving away your eBook for free, but you’re still asking your audience for something that is of great value to you and personal to them – their contact information.
If you’re planning on gating your eBook content, make sure the contents of it are clear, concise, and actionable. It’s not about the number of pages. It’s about getting the point across. I recommend including a few different elements outside of the main body of copy, such as checklists and quizzes. This will not only keep your readers engaged but help relay your message in a variety of ways.
– Rory Schåff, Digital Media Manager, McGrath/Power PR
Whether your story has just begun or you’re editing your last draft, there are always ways you can improve your eBook before it hits the target audience. And if you take the advice of all these experts, you’re much more likely to live happily ever after! The end.
Wondering how you can get your eBook out into the world more efficiently? Learn more about how a strong content distribution strategy can help.