Everything you need from concept and content development to design and promotion

It finally happened — the moment you knew was bound to come, but you were hoping never would — your boss asked you to write your first eBook. But it’s a book! Can you really write a book? What does this process look like and how long will it take you? Let’s be honest, you’re no JK Rowling, how are you supposed to write a book?

What Makes an eBook an eBook?

Let us stop you right there. While an eBook is certainly more in depth than something like a blog post, it’s not as daunting as it might sound. Sure, the name conjures up thoughts of lengthy masterpieces people read on their Kindles and Nooks, but in the B2B marketing world, an eBook has a different connotation.

The truth is, marketing eBooks can come in all shapes and sizes. An eBook can be anything from a few “chapters” (re: sections) to an exhaustive piece whose page count really does resemble something like a short book (emphasis on short). But most often, it’s the former.

So what makes an eBook different than something like a blog post or a white paper? For starters, an eBook is typically far more in depth and/or covers a broader topic than a blog post and it’s a designed piece of content. The differences between an eBook and a white paper are a bit more nuanced, and a lot of the differences lie simply in the branding, as an eBook projects a friendlier image for readers. Along the same lines, eBooks tend to have a more visually-friendly design than white papers and often feature less technical content.

Top Tips for Developing a Winning eBook

Now that we’ve assuaged some of your fears around writing an eBook, let’s finish the job by breaking down what this entire process should look like.

Concept and Content Development

Before you begin to develop the content to write your first eBook you need to set the direction for your efforts and validate that an eBook really is the best way to go. Specifically, you need to determine your target audience, your goal for engaging with that audience and the topic you want to cover. Based on those factors, you should evaluate all of the opportunities you have to convey that message to that audience to achieve that goal. If you find that an eBook is your best option (you might find others that work too — more on this below!), it’s time to get started with these five steps:

  1. Develop a light outline: When we say light, we really mean light. This initial outline shouldn’t be much more than potential chapter titles (aka headers) that indicate what topics you’ll cover and the flow of those topics.
  2. Do your research: Once you have your light outline, you can use it to guide your research. Doing your research at this point allows you to keep your efforts focused on what you’ll need while also allowing the research to lead the content rather than the other way around. As you research, consider reputable online sources such as analysts and industry publications as well as subject matter experts from your own organization and partner organizations. You might even engage customers who can speak from a place of experience having gone through what you’re writing about themselves.
  3. Build out your outline: Now it’s time to develop a more robust outline. Since you’ve already done your research, you can be sure you have statistics and quotes to back up any hard-hitting points you want to make (versus trying to fit a square peg in a round hole by searching for information to support copy you’ve already developed). As you build out your outline, you should indicate any specific research you want to cite and where those details will go.
  4. Validate your outline: Before you start writing, it’s important to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Therefore, it pays to validate your outline with other members of your marketing team, any internal subject matter experts and even any salespeople who have experience speaking with prospects and customers directly about the topic.
  5. Draft the copy: Now comes the time to actually write the eBook, but if you’ve followed the steps above, it shouldn’t be as daunting as you expected. In fact, you’ll find that you’re already halfway there with all the researching and outlining you’ve done! As you write the copy, remember to keep design and structure in mind. In other words, pay attention for opportunities to develop “call out” elements within the copy and remember to keep your paragraphs short. Taking these steps will ultimately make it easier for people to take in the information from your eBook.

Design

Once you’ve completed the content development process, including any stakeholder revisions to your draft, it’s time to bring that content to life.

To get the best possible result here, it’s important that you work closely with your designer to ensure the layout and imagery properly reflect the original vision for the content. The designer may have ideas you never thought of, which is perfectly okay as long as those ideas reflect the intent of the copy. Of course, if you’re designing the eBook yourself, this step is a given.

Whatever the situation, it’s critical to keep your audience in mind. Beyond factors like imagery, this point extends to things like readability too, especially readability on different screen sizes.

Promotion

Your masterpiece eBook might be finished, but your work is far from done. Now comes the time to get it in front of the world and start converting those leads. In other words, it’s time to start promoting. The options for promotion are far from limited, so here are just a handful of ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  1. Social media: Once your eBook is up and running, head straight to your social media accounts and start socializing it. Develop a social promotion plan that covers all networks of interest to you and your audience, including any groups or other targeted opportunities, and that extends well beyond the initial release of the eBook. Thinking long term will help you extend the life (and benefits) of the eBook.
  2. Emails: Get your eBook directly in front of your target audience by including it in email campaigns of which they are recipients. Email promotion can include everything from a regular newsletter with new content that you send out to leads and customers to a nurture campaign targeting a specific group of people.
  3. Re-skinned content: Now that you’ve put all that effort into developing the eBook, it’s time to re-use some of that work by creating smaller pieces of content based on the eBook. For example, you might create an infographic or SlideShare highlighting key points or a blog post that tells part of the story. Whatever you create, your goal should be to pique audience interest and lead them back to the eBook to learn more.

Putting Your eBook into Action

One parting piece of advice: Don’t forget to gate your eBook! If you’ve gone through all of the steps listed here, then you’ve dedicated a lot of effort and created an informative piece that will add value for your target audience. In order to reap those benefits, you need to gate your eBook so that you can capture lead information in your marketing automation platform. If you defined your target audience and message correctly, then the people who you want to read your eBook should have enough interest to fill out a form. And, in cases where people need a little more of a push, that’s where your re-skinned, smaller content can help.