When did e-books become a content marketing staple? It’s tough to say when, exactly, but they are just that—a staple for your content marketing efforts.
But e-books are also incredibly daunting, especially if you’ve never written one before. Just the sound of the project is intimidating.
There are also other fears—what if you spend your precious time and resources creating this masterpiece and no one reads it and it generates zero leads?
Worry no more. Here’s a step-by-step guide for creating your next e-book and ensuring it gets read and shared:
1. Choose a topic
There are three criteria to keep in mind as you set out to choose a topic for your e-book:
1. Relevance: Does it make sense for your business to be publishing something on this topic? Make sure the topic you choose is relevant to your business.
Tip: If you’re writing your first e-book, pick a more general topic to begin with and zero in on specifics. If, for example, you’re a lighting company, write about energy-efficient lighting solutions before you write about the best light bulbs for a fast food restaurant.
2. Shelf life: Content marketers love to throw around “evergreen” as an adjective. What does that mean, exactly? Evergreen content—or content with a long shelf life—remains relevant for a long time. If the topic you’re writing about could lose its relevance in the near future, avoid it. Unless you’re pumping out multiple e-books every month, always opt for more evergreen e-book topics.
Tip: Talk with internal subject matter experts to determine the evergreen quality of the topics you’re considering. Perhaps there’s something on the horizon that could dilute a topic and your subject matter expert is privy to that something.
3. Industry specificity: Conglomerates aim to be world leaders. You simply want to be an industry leader. How do you do that? Set yourself apart by publishing long form content like e-books that demonstrate your expertise.
Tip: Keeping shelf life in mind, try to identify emerging topics to write about—things that you’re certain will get a lot of airtime in the days ahead. Those things are what people will be clambering to understand and your resource could well materialize as the go-to resource on that topic.
2. Source internal content
If the topic you chose is relevant, evergreen and industry-specific, you’ve probably written related content before. Call all of it up and scour it for repurposing. Are there blog posts, other content offers, or sections of other pieces you’ve written that could be repurposed for your e-book?
Grab all of that text, copy and paste it into a master document, and proceed to the next step.
3. Develop a skeleton
Talk with your team about the order of the information you’re presenting. Look for natural progressions. Write out big ideas and order them and identify connections between them. Make sure there’s little overlap between them.
Bullet out each big idea and use numbered lists where they’re fitting. Make sure you can find clear calls to action for the e-book itself and each section individually.
4. Add flesh to your skeleton
Here’s where you’ll go through that master document and look at your repurposed content. Look at that side-by-side with your skeleton; see if you can plug any of it into your e-book-in-progress.
Start to fill out the skeleton with meaty pieces of text. That could be repurposed stuff or new ideas you conjure as you run through the skeleton.
This step is where your e-book begins to develop a look and a feel. Look closely at each section of the skeleton and add as many strong ideas as you can. Add punchy, weighty sentences that the sections can lean on.
Tip: As you add repurposed content, look for areas to paraphrase to better fit the context. Maybe your e-book has a theme that the text from the original blog post or content offer doesn’t carry. Figure out how to integrate it naturally, so there are no awkward sentences that might detract from the overall readability of your e-book.
5. Write with your head down
Now is when the real flesh-adding happens. Add as much relevant content as you can in this step. Don’t stop to edit. Don’t nitpick. Just go. Dump all of your thoughts here.
Look to elaborate on the points you’ve made thus far. Add illustrations and data as best you can. How can you give readers the best content possible?
6. Edit and polish
“Edit and polish.” Does that sound redundant? It’s not. Here’s what you want to do:
• Edit: Make sure your e-book is error-free and clean. Cut out redundancies and smooth out transitions.
• Polish: Look closely at verb choice—strengthen weak verbs like “get” and “are.” Look for out-of-theme areas and try to integrate e-book-native language as best you can throughout.
7. Publish and promote
Whew. That was a lot of work. Now you need to focus on getting people to your e-book. How? Here are a few ideas:
• Create a compelling cover: If you don’t want to use a designer, use a site like canva.com to create an aesthetically-pleasing e-book cover.
• Create a landing page: Use a landing page and a lead-generating form dedicated to your newly created e-book.
• Create and disburse call-to-action (CTA) buttons: Carefully design CTA buttons for your e-book and integrate them into past and future posts.