eBook Writing Playbook
How to Write an eBook Visitors Actually Want to Download
The advent of the internet—and therefore online publishing platforms—means any expert can write and distribute a book, even if they don’t have a publisher. Sure, non-experts can put out books now as well, but we’re not talking about them. We’re talking to you: a knowledgeable thought-leader in your field who has important information to share with your audience.
When you produce a high-quality, educational eBook (not unlike the one you’re reading now), you can use it to meet several of your content marketing goals. So many people write and promote eBooks because they work. They have huge benefits, especially for B2B companies who sell high-ticket professional services. Three of the major things you can accomplish with an eBook are: building authority, positioning yourself as an expert, and generating leads for your business.
Authority is an important asset for B2B service providers. It makes it much easier for you to reach and influence prospects and customers. You earn respect and trust, which are crucial for developing and maintaining long-term relationships. Ultimately, authority means when someone has a question or problem in your area of expertise, they’ll come to you first.
Learn more about the importance of authority, the different types, how to start building it in the Authority Marketing Playbook.
An eBook goes along way in building your authority with customers and prospects. You can dive deep into a topic, provide your readers with a ton valuable information on that topic, and prove that you’re the go-to person or company on the subject. Next time that person has a question about the topic in your eBook, where do you think they’re going to turn? To you.
Position Yourself as an Expert
When it’s published publicly, an eBook inherently brings with it an air of expertise. By diving deep into a topic and educating your readers on it, you share your expertise organically and without being in-your-face about it.
Your audience wants to hear from an expert who has background and experience solving the problem they’re facing. Often times, they’ll skim through your eBook just to confirm you do have expertise on the topic. Share your experience, and success overcoming the issue detailed in your eBook so your audience feels they can trust your advice. Give your readers reasons to be confident in your ability to help them solve a problem.
The best way to get people to read your eBook is to talk about it. Share it on your business’s social media outlets. Share it with your email list. Share it with existing clients who will find it useful as an added benefit to their current and past work with you. When marketing to new audiences, generate leads by doing your best to collect contact information before users download the eBook. Ask for an email address, and for permission to send them periodic emails. Once they provide their email address, add them to your lead generation funnel, and follow up with anyone who expresses interest in your services.
In addition to sharing with your existing audience, be sure to set yourself up for success when trying to reach new audiences. Identify related keywords when publishing on eBook platforms such as Amazon Kindle Direct. This will help you reach new audiences who might not already be familiar with your work. Be sure to use keywords that relate directly to the problem your eBook solves to ensure you reach your desired audience.
Once an eBook is created, it can also be repurposed in a variety of ways, including:
Pull-quotes for social media
A blog series that breaks down the eBook into different posts
An introductory piece of content for guests you invite to your B2B podcast
Part of your pitch to be a guest on other people’s podcasts
5 Kinds of eBooks We Love
Not all eBooks are created equal. There are many different types of eBook formats, but here are the 5 types that work best.
Interview. Share an in-depth interview with another expert in your niche. Or, on the flip side, have someone interview you and use your answers as content. Publish the eBook in a cleaned up Q&A format to give your readers a look at your expertise.
Case Study. Did you help a customer with a success project? Talk about it—provide details about the problem, the solution, and your role in it. Tell others what you can do for them indirectly by showing evidence of a successful project. This type of eBook is especially helpful as you work on cold outreach or referral campaigns.
Philosophical. Show your thought-leadership by tackling a big-picture topic in your niche. Try to cover all sides of the issue, and provide experience that backs up your stance on the issue. Your knowledge of the subject, and ability to do research will help you earn the trust of your customers.
Roundup. Bring together resources from your niche into one place—your eBook. Find other experts who work in your niche or with your target personas and share their expertise along with yours to give readers a well-rounded look at a specific topic. (Bonus benefit: The experts you feature will likely share your eBook with their audience because it positively impacts their authority as well.)
How-to Guide. Walk your readers step-by-step through how they can accomplish one particular thing in their business. You may worry readers will take your expertise and implement it themselves, but it actually builds your authority with them so they want to hire you to do it for them.
No matter what type of eBook you decide to create, the steps and advice in this eBook can help you create an impactful piece of authority-building content. Learn more about the process we use to create eBooks, and you’ll be well on your way to seeing success, just like we do.
Focus on Your Niche
You can’t establish yourself as an expert and build your authority without focusing your efforts on a niche. Concentration on a niche saves you time, money, and effort because you are targeting your specific, desired network. You have a certain set of skills and knowledge to offer your audience, and your audience is best served with content related directly to their needs. When you identify your niche, gear your eBook toward that audience, and watch the high quality leads come in. If you need help determining your niche, review the niche section of the Authority Marketing Playbook.
When talking directly to your niche, be sure they know you have something new to offer them. In any positioning statement you write for your eBook, be sure to answer the following questions up front:
Who do you help?
What problem(s) does your book solve?
Why should readers in your niche listen to you? Have you faced the same problem?
How did you overcome the problem you’ve identified?
Write the eBook for your audience personas
Once you have identified a niche, the next step is to define your target audience persona(s). Within your niche, customers may have different needs. Using your already established customer base, you can build personas for potential customers to better target their needs. Learn about creating personas in the Authority Marketing Playbook. Here’s a rapid-fire version of the steps on how to build your audience personas.
Identify your top 5 clients.
Create a profile for each of them. Who are they? What issues do they face? What type of content have they found useful in the past?
Build off of these personas, and generalize them to potential customers. Your top 5 clients see value in your services; how can you target other potential customers like them and have a higher rate of qualified leads?
Once your personas are identified, search on LinkedIn and try to find 20 more people like your top five. If you can find 20, chances are you can find one hundred more.
Take your top 5 clients and remove the specifics to generalize the characteristics into a persona.
As you find potential clients that fit into the personas you created, use the general personas to guide the creation of your eBook.
What are your goals?
How will you know when your eBook is successful? Goal setting can help you quantify what you want to accomplish with your new content. In B2B, the major qualifier for success is leads—and ultimately turning those leads into customers. Learn more about goal setting in our webinar all about content marketing.
Here is a snapshot of metrics to focus on:
Leads - People who download your eBook.
Prospects - Leads who take the next step by contacting you, asking a question, or scheduling a consultation.
Conversions - Prospects who turn into paying customers.
Average Initial Sale - Of the conversions coming from the eBook, what’s the average value of the initial contracts?
What to Write About
Choose the right topic for your audience
When creating your eBook, you want to ensure it will be beneficial for your target audience. The only way to do that is to be sure the topic of your eBook is something your audience will care about. We’ve already talked about how to establish yourself as an expert. To keep that trust, you must create content relative to your audience needs, and they will keep coming back for more.
When you’re trying to decide what to write about, there are a few go-to places to look. One of the best places to get inspiration is from your customers. Dig back through your email to find questions your customers have asked—then build out your answer in an eBook.
If you don’t have customers yet to ask, you can look elsewhere. Google Trends shows data on what people are searching for. The national trends likely won’t apply to you, but you can search for any keywords within your niche.
Customer research and title testing
Once you have your topic nailed down, it’s time to choose a title to grab the attention of your audience. Using the personas you created earlier, research other types of content your audience is using, and what kind of titles are being used successfully. Are title short or long? Do titles include buzzwords or general language? Do they frequently include language that indicates lists of suggestions (10 ways to…)? Don’t copy someone else’s work, but use popular titles as inspiration to create a title that tells your readers what to expect, and appeals to your target persona.
Brainstorm 15-20 potential titles for your eBook using different keywords and title formats. Rapid-fire test these titles with A/B testing on Facebook. Create an ad variation with each title and see which gets the most positive attention.
Use a catchy title
You can create all the great, helpful content you want, but unless the right people download your content, you won’t meet your goals. Most readers download content based on a title. Make sure yours is catchy, concise, descriptive, and honest.
In everything you do for your customers, quality matters. eBooks are no different. The last thing you want is for a potential customer to download your eBook, view it as poor quality, and forever hold a negative view of your brand. Spend the time to be sure that every eBook you publish is high quality. Follow these steps to identify and create high quality content.
How much time will it require, you may ask? Well, creating an eBook that properly demonstrates your authority and expertise isn’t a one-day project. In general, you can expect to spend at least 40 hours on researching, planning, writing, designing, editing, and publishing your eBook. Not all of these hours have to be your time. We’ll cover outsourcing in more detail in the next section.
Repurpose high-performing content
It’s likely that an eBook is not the first content you’ve created for potential customers. What other content of yours has been successful? Is there more that you can add to that content to turn it into an eBook? That’s a great place to start. Use a high-performing blog to serve as the basis for an eBook. Expand on an infographic that has had lots of views. Use tips from a webinar to create a written guide on the same topic.
Once your eBook is created, you can then repurpose it as well. Break out sections of your eBook into separate blog posts. Turn pieces of the eBook into bite-sized, shareable posts for social media. Send a section of your eBook to subscribers as a weekly email. Use concepts covered in the eBook for podcast topics.
Build evergreen resources
Not all of your potential customers will find your content at the same time. As you write content for your eBook, be sure you content is applicable for any time your audience finds it. Avoid writing content that only applies to events or situations that only occur once. Instead, make your content general enough to apply to situations that come up at all times. This will ensure that readers who find you months after you publish will still find you as an expert and explore your other content.
Why create high quality content
If you are asking potential customers to read (or skim) a long eBook, you need to provide them with value. Inherently, an eBook has 0 value. The value of an eBook comes in its utility. Your expertise comes in how you provide/define value. Your eBook must goes above and beyond what already exists in your niche, and it must be unique in format, opinion, or case.
If your eBook is superficial content without evidence to back up your expertise, you may lose audience members for your future content. If readers don’t see the value in downloading and using your longer resources, they won’t stick around or take the next steps to hire you.
How to Create an eBook
Now that you have worked to identify your niche, and you’ve identified a topic, it’s time to create your eBook! Starting an eBook can be daunting. There are multiple steps: writing, editing, choosing a title, designing, publishing, and getting readers. We’ll help you through all of that. Follow these steps below that have worked for us, and you’ll be on your way to success in no time.
Step one in creating your eBook is documenting what you’d like your readers to learn. In order to write or repurpose content successfully, you need to know the end goal. What do you want your readers to get out of your content? Why should they use your eBook versus other available content? Identify your goals, and let that guide your writing.
Step two is to create an outline for your eBook. And outline will help you identify the order of the content you will provide, to ensure the end product flows well and makes sense to the reader. An outline also helps you get all your ideas in an easy-to-read format so you don’t need to wade through lots of other content as you get to the writing part of the process.
Step three is the fun part. It’s time to write. We have found that writing an eBook in sections works very well. If you can write one section at a time, following your outline, it will allow you to organize your thoughts and ensure your writing is cohesive. As you write a certain section, stay on topic, or move your content to the appropriate section of your outline. We typically use major headings and subheadings, and keep our sections short. This will allow you to write a table of contents to direct your readers to the section that most meets their need, without them needing to wade through all your content to find an answer.
Step four is to design your eBook and associated resources. Typically, eBooks live on your website as a downloadable item with an eye-catching cover and a layout with pull quotes, graphics, and other imagery. In addition to the actual eBook, you’ll want these additional items created:
Graphics to go within the eBook to help explain concepts or provide examples
Pull quote graphics for promotion and content repurposing
A mock-up graphic of the eBook to catch potential readers’ eyes
Tools for Creating Your eBook
A lot of tools exist to help you create your eBook. If you have a great topic, but don’t have the time, desire, or experience to create it, you have the option to outsource. There are three basic avenues for assistance.
Use eBook creation software. Many services exist that can help you create an eBook in no time by providing templates that focus on your keywords, and provide a design into which you can simply flow your text. Check out Beacon for a simple way to take existing content (blog posts, for example) and turn it into a full-fledged eBook.
Hire a full-service agency. Agencies will offer services to both write and design your eBook. They may even help with advice on distribution. You will still need to create a short outline for your agency to ensure they will cover all the sections you’d like to see created. You can expect to pay around $5,000 for the creation of a single eBook.
Work with freelancers. A freelancer can sometimes offer both writing and design, but in most cases you will need to find two separate freelancers for each job. Freelance writers typically charge by the word for writing. You can expect to pay around $0.10 per word. Freelance designers typically charge per design, and eBook designs can range from $300 to $500. We like FreeeUp for hiring freelance writers and designers quickly and cost-effectively.
If your eBook is simple and straightforward (mostly copy on a non-technical topic), you can use a freelance writer and a web-based tool like Beacon. However, if your eBook has more complicated sections (a workbook, charts, images, etc.) or is on a very technical topic, you may want to work with an agency or find high-level freelancers to help create your eBook.
Once your completed all these steps, and you’ve finalized a product you can be happy with, it’s time to get your masterpiece in front of prospects.
Your eBook is complete. Now what? You send it out into the world.
There are a lot of places you can potentially publish your eBook. The easiest and quickest option is your own website. You’ll need to decide whether or not you will charge or offer the eBook for free. If you are creating a B2B eBook, we recommend you offer the content free of charge. When offering the content for free, your goal is to build authority and generate leads who will become customers that provide income from other projects.
Asking readers for their name and email address before they download your eBook is the most popular way to collect contact information for your leads. Typically, the form is shown after the user has decided to download your work, but before they can access the full eBook.
Another option is to put all the content from the eBook on your site (like a really long blog post), and have the designed version available for download. Visitors can access the full eBook content without providing their contact information, but your eBook can get more reads and build more authority with this approach.
Amazon Kindle eBooks
To build big authority by becoming a published author, you can set up your eBook on Amazon Kindle Direct, which offers a step-by-step process that makes it easy to upload your eBook. If you choose to publish using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, there are additional tools available to you in the publishing stage. These include:
Helping create a cover for your eBook (if you don’t have a fully design PDF)
Setting up keywords so new customers can find your content
Recommending pricing for your eBook to ensure competitiveness
If you decide to charge for your eBook, the Kindle Direct Publishing algorithm is very helpful in recommending a price point. You should also look at other books and eBooks in your niche, or at least in your industry, and price your eBook similarly to what’s already out there.
As you follow the process to publish on Kindle Direct, the online system will ask you specific questions to 1) help determine keywords for your book so it can be found in searches, 2) price your eBook or offer it free 3) market your eBook, and 4) help release your eBook to an international audience. This can be especially important if you are trying to expand your customer base outside of your home country.
After completing all the steps in the upload process, your eBook will be available almost immediately on Kindle Direct, which makes you an official author—a great talking point for building authority.
You can further use your newly published eBook to build authority by soliciting reviews. Some of your target prospects may just see that you’re a published author, check the reviews on the book, and use that information to decide whether to work with you or not. The most effective method of requesting reviews is to provide the book to members of your target audience and asking for an honest review. During this process, be sure to follow Amazon’s guidelines by not trying to influence the content of the review or otherwise bribing the reviewer.
You can learn more about Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing by watching their introduction video here.
Other online publishing platforms include Apple iBookstore and Barnes & Noble Nook Press. You may find yourself needing different file types to publish through different avenues. Using a program such as Online-Convert can help you transform your eBook into any file type you need.
You’ve uploaded your content, and now it’s time to bring in those leads. Promote your new eBook to all your existing audiences. While this process may not generate all new leads, you may reach a new subset of your existing customer base to generate more work. Announce the new eBook on your website, send a link to your email marketing list, share it on social media, and talk about it when you meet with current customers or attend networking events.
In addition to marketing to your current audience, be sure to target new audiences relevant to the personas you identified. Reach new audiences by investing in paid ads on social media, search engines, or through retargeting. Do you partner with other service providers in the industry you are targeting? Invest in advertising specifically to their audience to get a higher return on investment and higher quality leads.
Use this checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.
Set up your eBook on your website, Amazon, and/or other platforms
Post shareable content from the eBook on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter with a link to download
Promote the eBook to your existing email subscribers; ask for reviews if you’re publishing on Kindle
Use the eBook in cold outreach as a conversation starter
Add a blurb and link to the eBook in your email signature
For more information on how to share and track your content with different customer groups, check out the Authority Marketing Playbook.
Turn Downloaders into Customers
Even though people who find your eBook are most likely downloading it for help to solve a specific issue, that doesn’t mean you should overlook using it as a source to highlight your company and your services. Are you helping them solve an issue that you also offer to solve as a paid service? Mention that. Provide a call to action for them to contact you if they need more in-depth advice, service, or a direct solution to the problem.
How do you turn downloaders into customers when your eBook is free? It’s all about the follow up. As mentioned earlier in this eBook, if you publish your content on your website, we recommend collecting an email address before the lead downloads your content. There are two approaches for getting the eBook to the lead:
Provide a download link on the thank-you page
Send the eBook to the email provided
With option 1, you have no way of validating people’s email addresses before they download the eBook. While this approach may be easier to set up, you won’t be able to stop fake emails (or even competitors) from accessing your eBook. With option 2, users must submit a valid email address to access the eBook. This approach requires additional setup to get the eBook in the user’s inbox automatically (and quickly).
When you have a valid email for leads, you can set up an email series to follow up with them and educate them further on what you do. Follow up a few days later to make sure they got the information they needed. Invite them to email you with question. Recommend your services if they still feel overwhelmed after reading your content. Send them future eBooks on related topics. Keep your name at the top of their mind so they think of you whenever they run across similar issues in the future.
Using bots as forms
An approach we’ve tested—and found success with—is using bots as the method for collecting lead information and delivering the eBook. The term “bot” may still be a little taboo for you and your customers. However, we believe that bots are the way of the future, and they can help you qualify leads faster and save time and money.
Through the use of autoresponders (immediate attention), and chat boxes on your website (only funneling qualified leads directly to your sales staff), you can use bots to start a conversation almost immediately with your customers. When leads engage with your bots, they can be qualified faster, and help ensure that your valuable sales personnel are spending time with leads who have a higher potential for conversion.
By using bots in lieu of forms for your eBook, your website visitors get information faster and without leaving your site. Plus, bots are more conversational by implementing the ability and encouraging users to respond. To see one of these bots in action, go to the Authority Marketing Playbook and click the Download button. This will initiate a bot that collects your email address and delivers the playbook. We use Drift for this and all our other bots.
Don’t Stop at One
Whew. Take a deep breath. That process of creating your first eBook was long, but worth it because you’re building authority, generating new leads, and are on your way to attracting new customers.
So, what’s next? Your next eBook! Continue creating content. Don’t just create eBooks simply to have them, however. You’re investing a lot of time, effort, and money to build each eBook, so it’s important to do so with purpose.
One way structure your strategy is to create different eBooks for different personas. You can speak to each group of prospects about the specific topics they care about. In this case, you won’t cross-promote your eBooks to the same audience; you’ll have separate promotion, messaging, and follow-up approaches for each.
On the flip side, you could create a series of eBooks that all speak to the same audience. Each eBook could build on the knowledge shared in the previous one, or you could separate eBooks by topic. With this approach, you will heavily cross promote the eBooks—if a prospect is reading one eBook, they ought to know about the others. If people should read the eBooks in a particular order, be sure to direct them accordingly at the beginning and end of each eBook. If order doesn’t matter, mention other eBooks within content as it makes sense.
Your eBook structure and plan should align with the goals you laid out in the planning phase. For example, if the purpose is to assist in cold outreach, create eBooks that are prime for explaining and promoting to cold prospects as a way to educate them about your services and entice them to engage with you. If the goal is to upsell or cross-sell your existing customers, build the eBook topics around information your customers need to know to buy more of what you do.
Continue building upon your eBook strategy, and periodically assess what’s working and what’s not. Track the metrics discussed at the beginning of the eBook (leads, prospects, conversions, initial sales value) and continually adjust and optimize to improve performance over time.
If you have questions about creating eBooks people actually want to download, contact us now.