Want to create ebooks? The whole jig is now ultra easy for content marketers, thanks to some excellent resources and tools. There are clever tricks in this article, grouped into 4 sections – planning your ebook, creating your ebook, protecting your ebook and promoting your ebook. The section on protecting your ebook has a nifty tool that can stop ebook pirates in their tracks and force them to do a rethink!
Remember, ebooks are amongst the most popular Content Types and Formats that most content marketers like to begin with. As a content marketer, you may want to create a free downloadable ebook – or one for sale. We’re talking here of books to sell through your own site, not on Amazon Kindle or via other online outlets – which are a whole different ball game.
Planning and writing your ebook
Never ever forget that the real goal of your ebook is to generate leads for your business. As a content marketer, you’re goal is neither to build a reputation as a best-selling author, nor write a book that’s gripping and enthralling from cover to cover.
What you should be aiming for is to pick a topic that will make it easy for a prospective customer to become a purchasing one. Your ebook is meant to generate leads and business, so keep that one goal in mind. Now let’s see how to pick the right topic, plan your book outline and actually do the writing.
Choosing the right topic
The first tenet is to take care and choose a topic that aligns with your target audience’s needs or pain-points. What this means is that your ebook shouldn’t meander away into topics unrelated to the content you are creating for you other marketing channels. In fact, your ebook should ideally be a “deeper dive” into some subject of your niche that calls for depth of understanding. Educating your customer should lead to more purchase behavior.
Let’s take an example. If, for instance, you are in the health foods niche, and you sell spirulina (a form of algae) as a superfood, it’s a topic new to most of us who may never have heard the name “spirulina” and may not have the faintest idea of how to consume it or why. Even if your blog posts do suggest ways of eating it, you could perhaps publish an ebook with all the scientific studies done on spirulina and its health benefits – because people who know more, will adopt the eating of it more readily.
Creating your ebook outline
What will you cover in your ebook? How can you plan the outline of your ebook to cover the topics people are most interested to know?
Writing an outline for your ebook is the easiest thing to do. Go to Amazon and look up a lot of books on the same or similar topics. Thankfully, Amazon allows you to look inside books at the Table of Contents, right? So see the flow of chapters and the sequence that other writers have followed. That should start shaping your own thoughts into some structure.
But don’t stop there. Go to the online course sites like Udemy and see if there are good courses on the topic you want to write about. See the curriculum list for all the courses. You’ll find some excellent sequential structures there too. The more examples of books and courses you research, the more your own thoughts will become refined. Previously unsuspected ideas will begin to occur. Note all this down.
When you’ve done all the spying you can, see how you can use your notes to develop the outline of your own book. Take ideas from other but put it all into your own original plan “inspired” by the research you’ve done.
Most importantly, see how other authors have started with topics that make sense to beginners in the early sections of their books or courses, and then progressed it to the levels of advanced readers by the time they reach the later sections.
Writing to a pattern
Very few writers good writers write in a unsystematic way. You can do one blog post or one article that way, but unless there’s a clear pattern and consistency to your writing, it will neither benefit you nor your readers.
What is a consistent pattern to follow? There is no one ideal pattern. What is important is that you follow some pattern that readers can get familiar with and comfortable with – and you too can use and reuse as your template for giving your writing some structure.
For example, in my case, after much evolution of my writing patterns, I have evolved a template I always use, to both think and write out my ebook chapters. It goes something like this:
After the title of the chapter, add one introductory paragraph about the meaning and value of the chapter to the reader and a second paragraph on what the chapter contains. Then divide the contents of the chapter in 4 main subheadings, with 4 sub-points to elaborate on the point made by each sub-heading. In each sub-point (under each sub-heading), explain 2 benefits and 2 usage examples. After the four subheadings are completed, end with a summary of the chapter with bullet points. And finally add three quotes from famous authors to support the points made in the chapter.
When I have this pattern set in my mind, even my thoughts begin to flow like fill-in-the-blanks. I know what to add next, and next and next. My research on the subject follows this plan too.
The advantage to the reader is also immense if I write my chapters to a framework that’s set. When they need to re-read a particular passage, they’ll know where to find it, because they have gotten accustomed to my pattern of writing.
The human mind likes order and arrangement, because these are how the mind stores information. Writing to a pattern thus helps the reader’s mind, because his mind doesn’t have to try and create order and arrangement out of my information.
Designing your ebook
Although many people say “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, unfortunately that’s the way things usually work! How your ebook looks is a big part of its potential for delivering its objective. So let’s see what goes into great ebook design …
Designing your ebook cover
Fortunately you don’t have to do the whole designing of an ebook look and feel from scratch. The Internet is replete with ebook design templates. Here are just a few of the best sources:
- 13 Beautiful New Ebook Templates [Free Download] – HubSpot Blog
- Ebook Templates – Visme
- Free eBook Templates & Examples to Help Build Your Brand – Lucidpress
- [eBook Templates] How to Create a Fantastic eBook in 48 hours – ConvertKit
- Free Online eBook Creator. Find Templates & Design For Your Own Ebook – Crello
- Free Online eBook Maker: Design a Custom eBook – Canva
- Huge List of eBook Templates You Can Download for Free – GrowTraffic
- Top InDesign Templates to Showcase Your Ebook – Envato
Each of these “ready-to-use solutions” above comes with a gallery of examples and detailed instructions – so you don’t really need to pay someone to design the cover art of your ebook for you.
Just one thing to bear in mind: if you plan to publish a series of ebooks under your brand name, see that you choose a design that is capable of endless adaptation with different colors and images, but with coherence in design as a series. Brands acquire memorability through consistency of look and feel!
Using the best colors
Ideally, experts will tell you, your ebook should reflect your brand colors, albeit in a new and refreshing way. You ebook cannot look like your website design has been reduced to an ebook cover, but a hint of your brand colors on the ebook cover design, used strategically, is a very powerful idea.
Aside from using brand colors, the psychology of color is one of the most talked about and controversial areas of online marketing. The notion that certain colors can evoke specific emotions is already very interesting, but the further idea that colors can actually change purchase behavior is absolutely compelling for brands.
A lot of recent studies indicate that online marketers can use the psychology of color to instigate very specific user behaviors – they can send positive or negative messages, encourage sales, calm a social crowd, or even push people to click on the “Buy Now” button.
Why is psychology of color more important online than offline? Experts believe that in the offline world our perception of color gets muted because we always tend to see the foreground colors against the backdrop of myriad other background colors. Online, however, when we are glued to the screens of our laptops, mobile phone or tablets (as with ebooks) the focus of our attention is much narrower on what we are looking at – and so the impact of the colors we are exposed to hit us harder and more exclusively.
There are lots of books on the psychology of color on Amazon, so pick up one or two of the latest ones. The effect of different colors on people is an area of research that is changing its tune every couple of months or so. So if you want to be “with it”, blend the most recently recommended colors for audience-behavior-shaping with your brand colors – and you may be steering in the right direction.
Inclusions and CTAs
When you are using charts and graphs from various sources to illustrate your text, it’s hard to find consistency. Every chart and graph will tend to look different, and if there are many in your ebook, they can mess up the look and feel of your carefully formatted text if you just use them as they are.
But even if you cannot alter their colors and contents, you can surely bring in your own standardization to the inset images you use. You can make them all of an even size, or you can give them all a colored border of a certain thickness so they all look in harmony with each other. You can also standardise the way you number or caption them.
In addition to images, you may like to intersperse your writing with source-attributed statistics and quotes (if they are really relevant), and also with Calls-To-Action (CTAs) that help people take some next action or engage with your business, beyond just reading your ebook. For instance, a CTA can lead to another offer, or your annual conference’s registration page, or even a product landing page.
Protecting your ebook
If you’re distributing free downloadable ebooks it doesn’t matter, but if you’re trying to sell ebooks, theft and piracy are huge problems. There have been all manner of solutions suggested – ranging from software locks, specialized hardware for reading ebooks, changing the laws, and naming and shaming ebook thieves on the social media.
Unfortunately nothing has worked till date – but I think I have found an answer that at least totally discourages ebook theft … prevention is better than cure. Read on …
Securing your ebook
Yuwanda Black in her article “Ebook Theft: 12 Things You Can Do To Stop Someone From Copying And Selling Your Ebook” says:
Any time an industry matures, the bad apples come out and start lying, stealing and cheating to get their slice of the pie. Here, I’m talking about ebook theft. Unfortunately, the short answer is, no, there is no 100% fool-proof way to prevent someone from duplicating your downloadable ebook. Ebook piracy, copyright infringement, content theft, etc. is alive and well and it’s never going to disappear.
Yuwanda is right, isn’t she? All of us who find it easy to convert our ebooks into PDFs (for ease of customer reading on laptops, tablets and mobiles) are perennially worried that PDF-encryption-cracking is an industry that’s enjoying itself.
Apart from the pirates who crack the encryption codes of pricey ebooks, there are of course the well-meaning people who like to buy our low-priced ebooks and then email it to their friends and family, so everybody can get the goodness.
Gosh, it’s no place for the genuine ebook writer with small means and reasonable expectations that the self-same ebook will not soon be on the market as if written by another author!
In her article Yuwanda suggests many ways to prevent theft, so these ideas from her are good practices to follow:
- Corner the thief’s payment provider
- Name you file in a way that’s hard to copy
- Use a secure digital service provider
- Keep changing your download link often
- Prevent file sharing (as some tools allow you to do)
- Use encryption methods/software
- Use password protected ebook files
- Do periodic online checks to see if your ebook has appeared under another author’s name
- If your book is valuable considering suing the thieves
- Get the thieves’ websites shut down if you can prevail upon their hosting providers
- Secure your ebook PDF from copying or editing
- Promote your ebook aggressively so that word proliferates that it is your work
These are simple enough ideas, but we now need to go into a more elaborate subject called DRM …
DRM pros and cons
DRM (or Digital Right Management) provides a form of digital content protection, set out by booksellers, which works in addition to traditional copyright laws, to keep your intellectual rights intact. As Kotobee, a full-service ebooks publishing company, write in their article “Ebook DRM & Security: What is it and How it Works”:
You can use DRM much as a security system protects a house, in that it’s a protective barrier for your artistic property. It works in the same way as digital music and films are protected against file-sharing tools by their own forms of DRM. In a nutshell, DRM stops users from copying, printing and sharing ebooks – and protects revenues coming in from each sale. In the capitalist context, to protect sales and revenues, you need DRM to restrict how, when, and by whom the books are used, to make sure people keep buying the ebook.”
DRM can help your ebook in several ways, including: controlling ebook distribution (e.g. preventing downloading, uploading, accessing, lending); controlling how many devices you can download the ebook onto; restricting the copy-paste feature; and so on.
Unfortunately DRM has not been as successful as expected. Just Google the search keyword “DRM cracking” and see how many tools there are now to make mincemeat of DRM! I just saw “Top 5 DRM Copy Protection Removal Software”, “How to remove ebook DRM”, “How Do I Get Rid of the DRM on My Ebooks and Video?” and “eBook DRM Removal”. So much for any kind of protection!
But don’t lose heart. As I said, I have found the near-perfect psychologically-discouraging way to protect my ebooks. Read on …
Using WP PDF Stamper Plugin – your lifeline!
In my search for a near-foolproof PDF protection system I came across this absolutely nifty WordPress plugin called the WP PDF Stamper Plugin from the company TipsAndTricks.com. Look at the clever little idea it uses …
When a person buys your ebook from your site, he naturally has to give you his postal address, his email address and so on, doesn’t he? Now, at that stage the PDF Stamper kicks in … and just before he is about to download his ebook, it stamps all the pages of the ebook with his personal data (in the clever guise of licensing the book to him).
It takes his personal data from the data he gives you at the time of purchase, to complete the purchase online. What is this personal data that gets stamped on all pages of the ebook like a licence? Look below to see the result …
Image courtesy: TipsAndTricks
Tell me, who’d ever want someone else even seeing this ebook, much less borrowing it or stealing it, when his very personal details are indelibly stamped on every page? The buyer (who is often the first culprit of re-distribution) will be your safest ally – because he has to protect his own personal details from other eyes!
Isn’t this kind of preventive tactic far better than suing thieves after they have done the piracy? Works for me every time!
Promoting your ebook
As a content-marketer, I am sure you know that writing a book and publishing it is just half the story. Every ebook needs fairly strong and aggressive promotion. Here are a few things you must do, to see that word about your book spreads across the Net, and reaches as many potential buyers as possible.
Give you ebook a dedicated landing page
Your ebook should be available for download through a separate landing page on your site. What is a landing page? It is a web page that describes your book in a bit of detail so people know what the ebook contains.
There needs to be a “BUY BUTTON” if it’s a book for sale – or if it’s a free downloadable ebook, there needs to be a form, that visitors can fill out with their contact information, in order to access your ebook.
One other objective of having a landing page is that most landing pages are stripped of all unessential information (like sidebars or other links to other parts of the site) so that a buyer is not distracted by trivia at the time of making a focused purchase.
Here’s an example of the landing page for an ebook … notice how there’s nothing clickable on the page except the SUBMIT button!
Image courtesy: JustPositionIt
Promoting your ebook
Once your ebook is set on its landing page, you need to start promoting it. Here are just a few things you can do for starters …
- Advertise your new ebook on your website, through your email signatures, and via your social media profiles …
- Write a related blog post and offer the ebook as “further reading on the same topic” … it’s called a “content upgrade”.
- Remember to email all your subscribers by writing about your ebook in your newsletters.
- See if you have the budget to leverage paid advertising, or any co-marketing partnerships through other powerful influencers.
- Liberally post social media updates on your ebook – and if possible, make the social update on your ebook a pinned post (always stays at the top of your stream).
- Offer the opening chapter of your ebook as a free download, to encourage people to buy a copy.
Tracking your analytics
What’s the point of writing and promoting an ebook if you’re not quite sure how it’s performing? Particularly if it’s not selling as well as you expected, you need to know where the needle’s getting stuck. That’s why you need ebook analytics.
Kotobee, who as we explained earlier, are a full-service ebook publishing company. They have a system that allows you to track your ebook performance in Google Analytics. Among the things you can track are the following:
- The date/time that a certain title was opened.
- The name of the chapter that was navigated to.
- Any video that has been clicked to play.
- Any audio component that has been clicked to play.
- Any interactive image that has been clicked to animate.
- Any image that has been clicked to open in a media panel.
- Any book widget that has been opened.
- Any self-assessment quiz component that was solved, along with the user’s answer report.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Types & Formats”:
- 9 Types Of Content To Master To Be A Content Marketing Crackerjack!
- 6 Terrific Inspirations To Make Your Own Engaging Instructographics!
- How To Make Case Studies Work Really Hard For Your Brand!
- Make Money Blogging: The 3-Step Way To Monetize Your Mind!
- How To Choose, Edit And Optimize Blog Images To Maximize Impact!