How to Create an eBook in Less Than 20 Hours (Part 2 of 2)

This post was written by John White on Wed, 08 Dec 2010 05:03:18 +0000
Posted Under: content marketing,eBook,presentations,value in content,white papers

More on writing an eBook, a relatively painless content vehicle that lies somewhere between a presentation and a white paper.

eBook - 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications WriterResuming from last week’s post on creating an eBook, I had chosen Microsoft PowerPoint as an adequate application with which to build an adequate eBook.

Start with a template…

The usual design guidelines apply to your choice of template: colors that suit your company’s palette, ample white space, dark (preferably black) type on light (preferably white) background, legible font, decent type size. PowerPoint comes with several templates, and there are hundreds more on line.

I used two different templates, or master slides: one for the content pages and a slightly different one for housekeeping pages (cover, intro, closing, about). The color schemes are identical, with the colors in different places. I’m no designer, but I think the reader’s eye welcomes the break.

I didn’t want to simply reformat my content in landscape and call that an eBook (although I’ve seen several authors do that). Landscape is a vehicle, and it puts your reader in a different mindset from portrait, so I assume that somebody reading in landscape is in a slide-deck reading mindset. I chose to take advantage of that by keeping the layout of the main content pages as consistent as possible.

Unfortunately, master slides in PowerPoint are not very clever. You can mistakenly nudge “Click to add text” boxes out of alignment from one page to the next, foiling your attempts at consistent layout. Also, once you’ve created the master slide, it seems to accept updates capriciously and doesn’t make them all retroactive to previously created slides.

I’m sure they’re working on it.

Meanwhile, don’t get frustrated if you decide to update your master slide, then find that you have to manually update all of the pages you’ve already based on it.

…add content…

Remember: you’re navigating between the bullet-soaked slide deck and the wall-of-text white paper. Take advantage of the best of each world.

I would like to say that I “poured” the content into the template from the original Word doc, but it was hardly that painless, mostly because I had so much editing to do.

I was determined to make each page be a unit unto itself, holding a single question and corresponding answer. This obliged me to be far more concise than I had been in the original document, to the overall benefit of the eBook.

Knowing that I was going to make the eBook available as a PDF, I avoided the temptation to fill the content pages with hyperlinks. They would take the reader away from my copy and be useless in a printed version, so I used them on the copyright page and the about-page, but not in between.

I used only one font, Georgia. It’s close to the Times New Roman war-horse, but distinctive. An unsympathetic reader might say that I used italics and bold type too liberally, but I had reasons for using them and I took pains to use them as consistently as possible, so that the same kind of content would be easy to find from one page to the next.

I didn’t number the pages (the PDF takes care of that), but I did number each of the ten questions.

…then summarize and tell them where to find you.

I wrote a summary page with more words than I wanted to, but it contains several incompressible truths I thought it was important to include. The summary page is not as eye-catching as a conclusion should be – something people will gladly read if they don’t want to read the pages in the middle – but the information it contains is useful.

The about-page is rather busy and contains seven hyperlinks, but I tried to ensure that each of them would stand out at a glance:

  • a link to my online portfolio
  • a link to this blog
  • a SurveyMonkey link on which to harvest reader feedback
  • my e-mail address
  • a RetweetThis link
  • a link to my LinkedIn profile
  • a link to my Twitter profile

It’s not likely readers will engage me on all seven links, but they can easily find their preferred method of engagement and get there from the page.

The final eBook weighs in at 2040 words, the equivalent of about 2.5 pages of 10-point text. It’s 18 pages long, and I don’t think I could make it any easier for interested readers to find what they’re looking for.

It took me several weeks to decide to use PowerPoint, but once I’d made that decision it took me about 15 hours over 4-5 days to design the templates, edit/rewrite the content, and create the about-page.

So, get started on yours! Feel free to contact me with any questions, and let me know how yours turns out.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to the final product, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer” (alternative titles welcomed).

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.”

Reader Comments

Dear John,

I did NOT take your advice to start with my e-book immediately after I read part 1 of this article. And I’m glad that I waited. Here’s why: There are 2 valuable pieces of information that you added here, that I would need to start my project.

One is the link to the ‘hundreds of templates’ available on PP – I’ve had the opp. to look at some of them, and I think I’ve decided which one I like.
Secondly, you added the 7 options for readers to engage with you after reading the ebook. I’d have thought of three or four of these but not all 7. I think that’s a smart move on your part – the more options you give readers, the more likely they’ll find one they like and therefore use it. Also, I like that you provided the time-span that it took for you to undertake this project. This is important because it gives me an idea of what to expect. Having said all that, I am now ready to make a move. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for this brilliant article! Merry Christmas.

#1 
Written By Patricia Redsicker on December 11th, 2010 @ 12:52

Patricia: Glad you disobeyed me! Let me know if you need more help.

#2 
Written By John White on December 11th, 2010 @ 17:43