Posted Under: content marketing,eBook,marketing manager,process of writing,white papers
Marketing managers looking for a new content vehicle should create an eBook, halfway between the brochure and the white paper. Here are 3 tips on creating an eBook.
Have you created eBooks as part of your content marketing mix? It’s a relatively new category, still evolving.
eBooks are the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. A good marketing communications writer can put the couple thousand words into them that might otherwise go into a white paper, while maintaining the visual appeal of a brochure. You can combine depth and even some technical detail with design elements that might not fit in the white paper format.
In fact, a recent Hubspot post by Emily Haahr argued that eBooks are better than white papers. I don’t systematically agree with that, but I agree with a Shaun Pinney post describing an eBook as a good way of generating leads with content you already have.
Creating your eBook
I gave this format a try last month, to repackage and improve on text I had previously put into a MS Word document called, “How to Buy a Writer (Or at Least Rent One).” Some of the copy was getting long in the tooth, and I had been looking for a good excuse to improve the original and show it off better.
First, I studied a few examples:
- “Eight Reasons You Should Play with Your Child,” from toymaker Rokenbok and Brenda Sullivan
- “The Big Easy Guidebook to Marketing Automation,” from marketing platform provider Marketo and Edwin Susanto
- “The New Rules of Viral Marketing,” from marketing consultant David Meerman Scott
I referred to these pieces frequently as I wrote, drawing inspiration from things I liked and discarding bits I didn’t like.
The process of writing the eBook is less arduous than that for other formats. It lends itself to discrete blocks of text like FAQ, Q&A, one-page explanations and 10-step lists in which readers turn to a new page for each subsequent chunk.
All told, I spent between 16 and 24 hours on the project, about one-third of which I probably will not have to repeat the next time I write one.
I’ve posted a link to the eBook in the upper right-hand corner of my blog and at the bottom of this post.
3 eBook tips
There are probably 85 or 90 tips you could collect on putting together an eBook, but these days I favor short list-posts, so here are my top three:
- Use landscape layout. This is the most impressive way of pointing out to your readers that you understand and are actively taking advantage of the difference between traditional content and an eBook. It also has the inestimable advantage of displaying each page properly and entirely on screen, without the need to page-up and page-down. Note, however, that if your writing gets too lax, your eBook may start to feel like a comic book, and landscape layout will only magnify that, so maintain control.
- Use color. Your goal is to emphasize interesting content with a judicious use of color. Be careful how many colors and background elements you use, though; otherwise, your eBook will look like just another noisy slide presentation.
- Use light writing. “Light writing” is somewhere between “whimsy” and “humor” and it’s a knife edge you must tread carefully. The alternative format of an eBook will support light writing better than a traditional format (like a white paper) will, and it will render the writing more conspicuous and more effective. The goal of the paper is not to show off your skills in light writing, but to use that style of writing to make your point.
I hate telling people what not to do, but…
…here’s a big don’t:
- Don’t just reformat boring copy in landscape and call it an eBook. This goes for your brochures, your Web content, the slide presentation your sales managers trot out on customer visits and, above all, your press releases.
Why is this important? eBooks are still uncommon, so you can take advantage of your readers’ curiosity by telling your story effectively in this format. But if your readers open your eBook and don’t find valuable, relevant content, then you’ve lost a chance to build a relationship with them.
So are you ready to create your eBook? Have you created some already? What works for you?
John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”
photo credit: Djenan