8 Tips for Writing & Developing a Profitable eBook

Brian Honigman ,

An eBook is a type of long-form content used by individuals, businesses and organizations to educate their audiences. In many cases, an eBook covers a given topic in more depth than an article, but less than a full-length book. It’s a happy middle ground between the two mediums, proving value in 5 – 20 pages. As a business, eBooks can be used to fuel your content marketing strategy and build a more extensive ecosystem of content.

A Pew Internet Research Center survey found that Americans age 16 and older who read eBooks grew from 16% in 2011 to 23% in 2012. There is little doubt that the percentage of people reading content like eBooks, blog posts, articles, and white papers will continue to increase substantially each year.

Besides an increasing interest in this form of content from consumers, creating eBooks for your business can help generate more leads, increase long-term engagement with your content and build stronger relationships with relevant audiences online. Creating authoritative eBooks can impact the growth of your business, while taking your approach to content to the next level.

Follow these 10 tips for writing, creating and launching profitable eBooks for your business.

1. Craft engaging headlines.

The headlines of your eBooks are one of the most crucial aspects of your content because they help a reader decide if they want to read your content or not, which is typically an 8 second decision. Therefore, it is really important that the headlines of your eBooks inform the reader of its subject quickly whether they see your resource on your blog, on social media or in the search engine results. It is all about being informative, enticing and concise when creating eBook headlines.

Here are some top headline formats to consider:

The “How” headline
Example: How to Avoid Hype When Organizing Data

The “Why” headline
Example: Why People Struggle to Automate Workflows

More Open Loops
Example: What Drives a Successful Approach to Email?

The Context Phrase: Headline
Example: Scam Alert: How to Avoid Security Issues with Your Data

The Brackets Headline
Example: Take Control of the Cloud (Or End Up Hacked, Lost and Confused)

The List Headline
Example: 10 Ways to Make Your Creativity Work For Your Business

Looking for more headline inspiration for your eBooks, try Portent’s Content Idea generator for examples and insights on how much better your title could be.

2. Choose topics that educate, delight and answer questions for readers.

It is important to craft content that is of interest to your audience that deals with the consistent issues, concerns and common questions your target demographic deals with. Listen to the feedback you’re receiving from customers and write down the questions they are asking to help inform the type of content your eBooks should cover in the future.

It is also important to include content that is interesting to a larger audience and not just your current customer base. By also including content that is of interest to people that are potential customers, as well as people that interact with potential customers is an important means of getting your eBooks worthwhile traffic and your content more visibility online from the right types of people, not just existing customers.

This can be accomplished by discussing more general topics that are related to your expertise, but is also of interest to the people interacting with your potential customers. Think outside the box when it comes to moving the needle from just talking with current customers to those that interact with potential customers.

3. Don’t focus solely on text.

The visual presentation of your eBook is also a really important part of the entire process. Include screenshots throughout your eBook to help better illustrate your points with real world examples. Your eBooks should ideally have a similar look and feel to them to ensure there is consistency between your content and brand as a whole. Use the design of your eBook to better inform readers of the subject by drawing attention to quotes, statistics, facts and figures used throughout the content.

If you don’t have the design talent at your company, hire a designer off of Dribbble, oDesk, Elance or another quality market place that connects businesses with freelance talent. Your company will be able to review the portfolio of potential designers to best match their skills to your needs per project. The visual elements of your content should help create a cohesive experience that helps better provide value to your readers as they read an eBook, blog post, email or any other piece of content.

To find quality images that are copyright free and don’t cost anything to use, check out Flickr copyright free images, Free Range Stock, Unsplash or browse through the free stock images iStock releases every week. Alternatively, your company can purchase a subscription to iStock, Shutterstock, Corbis, Thinkstock or one of the many other databases of quality stock footage.

4. Data, facts and figures will help support your argument.

Each eBook your business produces should include a variety of facts, figures and statistics that are both incorporated throughout each section helping to support the structure of the content, but also as stand alone moments highlighted to break up the text with visuals. Statistics, figures and other forms of data can help support your argument and validate information you’re providing to your audience through the credibility of the sources of that data.

Use reliable sources during your research to ensure your efforts to include this type of information helps to make your eBooks more successful. Jeffrey Simonoff from NYU put together a list of reliable sources of data on economics, finance, social science, sports, entertainment and education, which is a perfect example of the type of sources your business should be pulling data from for your content.

These facts, figures and statistics serve as quick takeaways for people to associate with this piece of content and with your company’s content as a whole. A reader may not remember your entire eBook but they will more likely remember a fact, figure, statistic or sentence that stood out to them as original.

5. Create a content ecosystem around your eBook.

Build an ecosystem of content published before and after the release of your eBook that can help support its spread amongst your audience online. Create blog posts, emails, newsletters, SlideShare presentations and other short form content that can support your eBook by presenting parts of the same topic in a different format. All of this content should be about the same overarching topic to ensure it’s relevant to reference and send traffic to your company’s other content pieces, since each is focused on different aspects of the same topic shared in different formats.

Create a succinct strategy that outlines what content will be released before your eBook is published and what content will be published after. This other content should mention your eBook in some capacity with a link, image or other reference to help further tie together all of your content. This will ideally help bring readers to read and engage with multiple pieces of content from your business, especially your higher value content like an eBook. For example, create a call to action block like seen above to place at the end of your related blog posts that draws attention and traffic to your eBooks. This block will help readers easily find more relevant content from your business.

6. Further the eBook’s credibility with expert insights.

Include the input of industry experts in your eBooks by interviewing them about their given expertise. Look to receive deep insights from these thought leaders, while also getting quotes and more digestible content to incorporate throughout your eBook. These small takeaways can be included within each section or highlighted as a larger part of the content. Think about the thought leaders in your industry and identify which of them you’d like to ask to contribute to your eBook on a given subject. For example, if you’re writing an eBook on ways to hack your eating habits, then having food expert Michael Pollan include his insights in your resource could be extremely helpful at making your eBook more valuable and effective.

Ideally, the input of thought leaders and experts to your content should help make the information more sharable since these experts themselves will ideally share the resource once it is complete with their perspective audiences, plus the added credibility of their inclusion should help encourage more downloads of the content as well. If you don’t know what experts to include, locate these industry leaders using Twitter and LinkedIn based off of the subject matter your eBook is covering.

7. Finish with a strong call to action.

The end of your eBook should be a brief call to action about your products and services to ensure that there’s a sales driver attached to this long form content. Using both copy and images, share the value of the most related product or service to your readers as it relates to the subject of the eBook. Offer a free trial, demo or promotional code with the call to action to further encourage readers to continue through the sales funnel. If you decide not to end the eBook with a call to action to purchase your products or services, then add a call to action to read more insights from your company by linking to a related piece of content.

8. Create and optimize a landing page for your eBook.

A landing page is where visitors can sign up to access your eBook on your website. Create an optimized landing page for each piece of long-form content your company publishes to ensure the most amount of traffic to that page converts into readers and therefore, leads for your business. Include an engaging headline, a simple to use form, a bulleted list of the benefits of your eBook, logos of your best customers, awards your company has won, engaging visuals, an explainer video and other aspects to provide an experience for your visitors that will convince them to fill out the form and convert.

Always use A/B testing to experiment with different versions of the same landing page to understand which works best when it comes to converting visitors into leads. Compare one element at a time, like the headline, to understand which factors impact the success of your landing pages in increasing conversions. Once your company has created a few landing pages for your eBooks and other long-form content, you’ll be able to establish effective templates to use for future landing pages that only need minimal customizations to help promote different eBooks.

Images courtesy of Dribbble via Sacha Greif, Buffer App, Allyson Kramer & Quicksprout.

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Brian Honigman
Content Marketing & Social Media Consultant