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As a marketer, you’re creating a lot of content, and you want that content to generate subscribers. To generate those subscribers, you need to create content upgrades your audience is chomping at the bit to download.
You also know that giving away free ebooks as a content upgrade is a great way to generate more subscribers. Why? Because ebooks provide a ton of value which can convince your customers to give up their email address.
At CoSchedule, we’ve generated as many as 2,625 new email subscribers from an ebook following the process you’re about to learn.
But are ebooks worth the effort to build?
And with the right template and outline, creating an ebook can be easy.
This post will walk you through the nine steps you need to take to create and write an ebook effectively. Plus we’ve included three templates, so all you have to do is fill the text and turn it into a PDF. There’s no need for a designer.
So you can throw the excuses of not having time to write an ebook out the window, and create content that generates subscribers and subsequently helps you grow your customer base.
Download your ebook template bundle to create ebooks at the drop of a hat quickly. Inside you’ll find:
With these three templates, you won’t even need a designer to help you wrap up your ebook. You can do it all yourself.
For marketing purposes, an ebook is a brief book on a specific topic that is available in a downloadable format such as PDF, .mobi (to read on Amazon Kindle), and .epub (to read on Barnes and Noble Nook and other e-readers). These ebooks provide a variety of benefits for marketers, including:
Ebooks provide something of value for customers while capturing information for the marketers who create them.
Ebooks allow marketers to dive into a topic and teach their audience about it. The fact of the matter is blog posts sometimes can’t be long enough to cover an entire topic, and if a topic is complicated, it can be challenging to cover in one post.
By creating ebooks, marketers can target their audience and build content upgrades that provide additional value for their readers. By ensuring that value, customers are then willing to share valuable information in return (ie. their email address).
Writing an ebook can be easy as long as you plan. Because these books are a bit lengthier than your average blog post, it can be easy to get off track. However, by using this nine-step process, you’ll be able to, as we say at CoSchedule, plan your work, then work your plan.
The first step in creating your ebook is to choose a topic. These topics should be something that your audience wants to learn more about. What questions do they have that you want your ebook to be able to answer?
Now, you may already know the topics that your audience is interested in.
If you don’t, you can use some necessary SEO keyword research skills to find out what your audience is interested in.
So let’s say for example, that your audience is interested in gardening. To find a specific topic that your audience is interested in, open a tool like Moz or Ahrefs and type your subject into the search bar:
From there, you’ll see a related list of keywords that match the topic you first entered. In the case of our example, our marketer might want to write an ebook on gardening tools, since it appears in list:
If you don’t want to use keywords to determine your ebook topics, you could also pose a question to a Facebook group (if your brand has one) and ask what your audience wants to see directly. You could also create a survey using tools like Survey Monkey or PollDaddy and send it directly to your audience via email.
Some questions you could ask your audience are:
Once you have determined what topic you want to cover, record it in your ebook outline template:
Once you have your topic decided, you need to figure out what major subtopics you want to cover in your book. These subtopics should help you zero in on the angle you want your ebook to cover.
By zeroing in on an angle, you can avoid rambling to fill space.
So let’s go back to our gardening example. The angles our example ebook could have may revolve around:
List out potential angles for your book in your outline template:
So for this example, our angle could be how to choose kid-friendly gardening tools. Once you have your angle figured out, you can create your title.
Your title should answer a question your audience has about the subject to spark your audience’s curiosity.
Here are five fill-in-the-blank ebook headline templates you can use to get started.
Write out ten possible titles in your outline and choose the one that fits the angle you want to cover the best.
Once your title is decided, you can move on to writing your ebook right?
Before you jump into filling the pages of your ebook with the information, outline your chapters and write your subheaders.
This is an essential step in your ebook creation process because it will allow you to decide the order you want to share your information in. Plus it can help you avoid rambling.
Remember, this ebook is not your end all be all, magnum opus of your marketing career. Only include as much information as you need to thoroughly teach your reader about a topic. That means your ebook could have three chapters in it or seven.
It needs to be as long as it needs to be to cover your topic and angle comprehensively. But no further.
This is also why it is so important to have your angle figured out before you start writing.
One way to do this is to create a mind map and highlight which portions of a topic you want to cover. Here’s an example of what a mind map could look like:
Let’s say our subtopic was finding the kid-friendly gardening tools for the job. After going through all of our research, the team decides this ebook is going to be broken into five chapters.
Our example gardening ebook could have the following chapters:
Fill in your chapter titles in your template:
Once you have your chapters outlined, you can create the headers and subheaders within each one. These headers will help guide your reader and allow them to skim through and find information on the topic they are looking for.
One of our own writers, Jordan Loftis, suggests creating your headers and subheaders as questions you want to answer in this chapter of your ebook.
Now let’s say you don’t know questions your audience may have, how can you figure out what they are?
You can send another survey or include questions in your initial survey that ask your audience what they want to learn about your potential ebook topic.
Include open-ended questions like:
In the first chapter of our gardening ebook, some example header and subheader questions that your audience may want answers to could be:
Take those questions and format them into statements that become your headers.
Once you have your chapters and headers worked out, you can transfer them into one of the ebook templates you downloaded earlier.
Now that you have your outline, you can start writing. For some, this can be nerve-wracking and cause writers to stare at a blinking cursor for hours on end, but not you.
You have your outline to follow, so you know exactly what you want to write about. Even though your chapters and headers are in statement form, use the question-style headers you came up with earlier to guide your writing.
Think of it like interviewing yourself; your reader has a question, and you are the expert with all the knowledge they need.
As a blog writer, I find that writing for shorter periods of time helps me knock out blog posts as quickly as possible. So as you write your ebook, try the following:
At this point, you could also recycle your blog posts and use that information in your ebook.
Once you’re ready, add your written content to your ebook template.
Once your chapters are written (but not edited), you can move on to drafting your foreword, introduction, and conclusion.
Your foreword should explain to your reader why they would want to read this ebook. It should answer the question, “Why should I (an audience member) read this book? What’s in it for me?”
For our gardening ebook example, the foreword would address how we always want kids to be able to help in the garden but sometimes they can cause a mess instead of being helpful. The benefit to them is that they will be able to find the right tools to choose for their kids.
Your introduction should summarize what they are going to learn reading this ebook. You should explain to your audience what they are going to learn and why they should care.
In our example, this book will teach readers how to choose the right tools that will allow their kids to learn about gardening, but not cause a giant mess in the process.
And your conclusion should summarize what they have learned from reading this ebook. It should tell your reader what they’ve learned and how this will benefit them.
At the end of our example gardening book, they should know what tools are great for kids who want to garden and how to properly store them to get as much use out of them as possible.
At this point, you should have a rough draft of your ebook template. Now you need to edit your draft. There are two steps to your editing process.
The first one is editing for spelling and grammar. This is the point where you need to make sure you used the proper form of there vs. they are or that you added commas in the right places.
Once your spelling and grammar check is complete, you can move on to line editing your ebook. Line editing is the process that allows you to ensure that your content is easy to read and you’ve thoroughly covered your topic.
Taking a break in between your spelling and grammar check before you read your ebook is essential.
You can line edit by reading your ebook draft line for line, or you can read it out loud.
When you’ve completed your line edits and you know your content is error-free, you can move on to formatting the text in your ebook.
Catherine Howard suggests you do three things when formatting your ebook:
The last step in your editing and formatting process is to call out quotes and statistics that you want to call to your reader’s attention.
You can do this by blocking the text or changing the color:
It’s important to remember that ebooks are displayed across a variety of different formats (PDF, .mobi, and .epub, for example) which means that how the book looks will be different in each one.
Best practice here suggests writing your ebook in Microsoft Word and use word styles. This video walks you through how to format your ebook:
If you choose to format your ebook for formats beyond the traditional PDF (which you can export from your Word ebook template that complements this blog post), the free tool Calibre will help you export your Word file into .mobi and .epub. This post walks you through that process step by step. If you choose to do this, you may opt to provide your subscribers all three versions in a zip file so they can choose their optimal reading experience (PDF, Kindle, or Nook).
The next step in your process is to create any graphics or other design elements that you want to add to your ebook.
Remember that graphics should not be added to your ebook at random; they should always be used to enhance your readers understanding of the concept.
Once you have graphics designed, you can add them to your ebook.
Ebooks can be hosted in a variety of formats to attract subscribers including blog posts, emails, and landing pages.
You don’t have to host your ebook on a landing page, but it can be a great place to direct your audience with little effort. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your ebook becoming buried in an out-of-date blog post.
As a marketer, building a landing page can get complicated, especially if you don’t know how to code.
Just start on a site and choose a template to build from. Both LeadPages and Unbounce have models created explicitly for ebooks. These tools also help you host the ebook file itself, so once a subscriber gives you their email address, the page will automatically deliver the ebook.
Simply select your template and start designing. Then follow the instructions from the respective tool to launch your landing page.
Once your landing page is complete, it should look something like this:
Some tips to keep in mind as you draft copy for the ebook landing page:
Once you have your book formatted and your landing page built, you can move on to adding your CTAs (call to action).
The primary purpose of creating your ebook is to generate subscribers, so you want as many people as possible to download your book.
Creating the right CTA is essential to making that happen. CTAs should ask your reader to do something:
Writing a great CTA is easy, you just need to tell your audience what they are going to get in exchange. According to Crazy Egg, there are six characteristics of a high-performing CTA button. They are:
Here are 54 words and phrases you can use in your CTAs:
You can even create multiple CTAs, and A/B test (which both Leadpages and Unbounce allow you to do) them to find which ones work best for your audience.
The last step in your ebook creation process should be to promote it. The likelihood of someone randomly stumbling on to your landing page and finding your ebook is a little too close to the “hope is a strategy” approach, so you need to give it a boost.
There are a few different ways you can do this.
One way that you can promote your ebook is through an email campaign. Set up a series of emails that go out to your general list or a list of people who you think would be interested in downloading your ebook.
Create a specific CTA for your emails and draft your content ahead of time.
You can add tracking links (via bit.ly) that lead to your landing page so you can see how many of your email subscribers have clicked the link and downloaded your ebook.
However, you can create the most compelling copy in the world but that won’t mean anything if your audience doesn’t see it.
Which is why you need to send your email at the best time.
Once your email is sent, track opens, clicks to your links as well as downloads of your ebook. Your email tracking data should be stored within your email service provider.
For a project of this magnitude, CoSchedule’s Head of Marketing Demand Generation, Nathan Ellering, suggests sending at least three emails to your existing subscribers over the course of three weeks.
Another way to promote your ebook to your followers is through a social media campaign. Social campaigns are an easy way to promote your content directly to your audience.
How do you know how often to promote your ebook on each of your social media channels? Here is an infographic on the best publishing schedule for your ebook landing page:
Using this promotion schedule will make it easy to maximize the reach of your content and get it in front of as many eyes as possible.
When you’re releasing an eBook, it takes a lot of hands to make it come to life.
CoSchedule makes it easy to manage all the moving parts of your marketing projects.
With the Kanban dashboard, you can create custom project workflows so you can easily see exactly what stage your eBook is in.
Here’s how it works…
First, navigate to the “project view” in your left-hand menu.
From here, you can see what phase your eBook is in. Ready to move it from design to promo? No prob – just drag and drop.
Keep that eBook project moving forward by focusing on the crucial steps. Everyone on your team is in the loop – which means fewer meetings and more time to get work done.
This can often be the most difficult part of writing an eBook.
Trying to figure out a topic that hasn’t been already talked about to death is no easy feat.
Here are 5 easy ways to compile your eBook.
As mentioned earlier, chances are you’ve got an eBook goldmine sitting right under your nose and you don’t even realize it.
One of the easiest ways to get your eBook going is to stitch together several of your blog posts to create an ultimate how-to eBook.
Say you’ve got a bunch of posts about marketing automation…
Create an “Ultimate Guide to Marketing Automation eBook” where relevant blog posts are fused together in a coherent way.
You can re-write the content so it’s different, without having to re-invent the wheel.
Who doesn’t love a good statistic?
Conducting original research is something more and more marketers are engaging in. It allows them to bring something unique to the table.
Here’s a stat from some original research, about original research:
This option is more time heavy on the front-end, but your efforts will be rewarded.
For starters, one epic piece of content can drive your entire content strategy for the whole year. You can spin off micro, industry-specific reports; chop up infographics for social media content; use the data for talking points and presentations; the list goes on.
Secondly, original research offers a great carrot for gated content and can be a lead magnet.
Lastly, original research is one of the best ways to get backlinks. A study from SEO PowerSuite found that original research is the best way to get backlinks to your site.
Reach out to the big names in your industry and ask them for an interview on a specific topic.
These interviews can be aggregated into an eBook to provide readers with exclusive insights from the best in the business.
Not sure what to ask?
Start with comments on any topics that have changed the industry recently; the challenges they face in their roles and how they have overcome those challenges; etc.
Why tell someone how to do something when you can show them.
People love templates because they save a ton of time. Going back to our marketing automation example – you could produce an eBook containing 35 (or whatever number you like) marketing automation workflows, to make every marketer’s life a lot easier.
There are tons of directions you could take this…
The “Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils” Kit
The Busy Parent’s Cloth Diapering Kit
The 2019 Content Planning Kit
Now that you have your ebook templates and a strategy to create killer content, you can start attracting new subscribers.
The main problem that will hinder your success is your ability to be organized. Learn more about how CoSchedule can help you get and stay organized (plus a lot more).
Do you have your own ebook template? Share it with us in the comments.
This post was originally published in April 2018. It was updated with new information and republished on Jan. 31, 2019.
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