Typing on computer
Book Biz

10 Steps to Writing an eBook for Lead Generation

By Cesar Cruz

August 10, 2009

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ve already realized that we like telling you what to do. A lot. This serves a few purposes. First, we get to be the bosses, something we relish. Second, you learn something, which can’t hurt. And third, it establishes us as the “thought leaders” we are. You know, people who know what they’re talking about. That’s us. We’ve done everything from teaching you how to write a cover letter to explaining why LinkedIn is actually a good thing for lead generation. So now, we’ll tell you how to write an ebook. A not-boring ebook.

Ebooks are a great way to give your clients, prospects or customers valuable information that’s relative to your business without being promotional, bland or self-serving. As an inbound marketing tool, an e-book’s main purpose is to increase site traffic and act as a source of lead and audience generation. They’re essentially a savvier version of the ol’ fashioned white paper and serve as a vehicle for offering your expertise to your prospects, clients or other target audiences. They also differ from white papers in that they are (or should be) less pedantic and dry. In fact, they should be basic (and interesting) enough that non-experts understand and learn from them (because, hey, experts don’t need your help). And with the right mix of content, language and design, they will.

Here’s how:

1. Like any undertaking in life, an ebook first demands you answer the question: What is my goal? What is your goal in writing your ebook? Clearly you want to generate leads and increase your database, but you should also have an audience takeaway goal. What impression are you trying to convey for your company, brand, or product and what response do you want from your audience? Are you looking to position yourself as the expert in your industry? Are you offering tips on a niche topic in hopes that your prospects will contact you to learn even more? Are you looking for a more interesting way of sharing your story or trying to establish your profile in the business community? Or maybe you’re looking to create awareness for your brand/product in a way that is helpful to your audience rather than promotional. Knowing your objective will help you set the tone for your ebook.
2. Figure out what will be of most interest to your audience and develop an understanding of how they consume information. Remember, you aren’t writing a sales manual or company promotional material; instead, you are writing to capture and engage readers. With that in mind, don’t write in over-complicated jargon when things can be explained simply. If you know your target audience likes lists, charts or case studies, consider including these of immediately capturing their attention. Also, address topics that will appeal to your audience now and try to anticipate those that might be of interest in the future.
3. KISS. Keep it short, stupid. No one wants to read your 300-page ebook, and keep this in mind as you decide on a topic. Identify narrow categories and subjects that will limit the scope of your writing. Fifteen to thirty pages should be more than sufficient for most ebooks.
4. Name your ebook. Done in tandem with identifying your goals and settling on a topic, choosing a title will give your ebook some structure. You won’t be tempted to go too far off message if you’ve already figured out your very clever title. And don’t be afraid of subtitles, especially if this is a business ebook. Subtitles boost your SEO and better describe what the reader is in for.
5. Be prepared to write quality content. Yes, ebooks are downloaded for free (or in exchange for your reader’s email address), but people are coming to your site for a reason. Give them the goods and show them that you’re as smart as they think you are (or you want them to think you are).
6. Begin writing. Well, duh. But seriously, it’s easy to get so caught up in the strategy that you’re nearly paralyzed when it comes to actually starting to write. Some jumpstart ideas: It’s always helpful to start your ebook off with a story or anecdote that is relevant to what the reader came to read. Stories grab the reader more readily than a business-speak introduction and can serve to humanize the author or company. Another one? Start in the middle with the chapter or subsection that is clearest in your mind. It’s easy to get hung up on the perfect opener, but it might make more sense to come back around to it once you have more of the book written.
7. Keep the tone light. Remember that your goal is to connect with members of your audience, so don’t use a tone that distances you from them. This doesn’t mean you have to be folksy or slangy, it just means writing in an accessible, open, and somewhat conversational way. For inspiration, check out some of the blogs that are most popular with your target audience. This will give you a good sense of the writing style they enjoy and help you hit the right note.
8. Hire an editor. Though an ebook may not seem as “official” as a white paper, you want to be sure to edit it thoroughly. A professional editor can check for consistency of tone, grammatical errors and anything else that might make your reader dwell more on the writing than the content.
9. Design. E-book design is just as important as–and sometimes even more so than–ebook copy. A text-heavy, badly-designed ebook is likely to turn off your online readers, who have grown accustomed to stimulating, interactive online content. In order to engage them, look to a professional designer to establish the look of your ebook. Some important tips: Put your ebook in landscape, rather than portrait, format, make good use of graphics and images in addition to the text, and don’t try to pack too much text onto any given page.
10. Add a Creative Commons license to your finished ebook to let your audience know that they can share your copyrighted material.

Now your e-book is done and ready to go up on your site. But wait… One final question…. Do you want to generate leads with your new ebook?

If so, include a form on your site that readers can fill out with their hard-to-get contact information like name, email address and company. You may even want to ask a question about your readers’ top concerns or interests so you can get a more complete sense of how to better serve your audience.

If you’d prefer that your work of genius go viral, eliminate all barriers to entry (like forms or large file sizes) and make the ebook as accessible as possible. Links to the ebook should be clean and simple.

Either way, you should promote your ebook anywhere and everywhere that you can. Tweet about it, post it on Facebook, share it with your LinkedIn groups, blog about, and send it out to your established network. Exchange links with bloggers in your field to access their networks.

Now pat yourself on the back for your completing (and promoting) your first ebook. Well done!

Leave a Reply