What is an ebook and how do I write one?

in Ebook and white paper copywriting

In the previous blog post we looked at white papers. In this one we’ll look at their relation, the ebook.

An ebook could be defined a document that’s been designed to be read on a PC / laptop / tablet / phone (rather than printed out and read offline). But that doesn’t quite capture what we mean by the term in a marketing context. When we’re talking about ebooks in marketing, I think of them as a document, typically in PDF format, that covers a topic in more depth than a blog post would – enough depth to need to break the information into chunks (or chapters). On the other hand, it isn’t as detailed as a white paper (or its subject doesn’t warrant exploring in such depth).

What makes a good ebook?

At the heart of a good ebook is useful information that’s of value to your target market. You can use an ebook to sell a product or service, but the sales pitch should be over and above the useful content that forms its heart. To get the topic, think carefully about what expertise you could usefully share. For example – what are the questions you’re always asked? What advice do people find useful when you’re talking to them? What’s your take on the best way to tackle a common industry problem? All these make a useful subject for an ebook

Once you have the topic, take some time to think of the best way to structure it. Ebooks can be as long or as short as is needed to cover the topic in enough depth to be useful, but you should be thinking along the lines of it consisting of at least a few chapters or sections. That said, don’t make it any longer than it needs to be – a couple of thousand words that provide invaluable information on a topic is way better than dragging out the same information across 10,000 words.

The design of an ebook is crucial – it is a visual medium. There are lots of free ebook templates online if you want to tackle the layout yourself. Alternatively, you might decide your time could be better spent elsewhere and a hiring a designer is a good idea.

However you end up approaching the design, you need to have an eye on the visuals when you’re writing the content. Are there statistics / quotes / facts / top tips that could usefully be pulled out from the main body of the text to add visual interest? Could some information be illustrated in a table or a graph to make a page stand out? In the same way as a designer might be a good investment, a copywriter might make your life considerably easier and give your ebook content a professional edge.

What are ebooks used for?

Ebooks are typically used as lead magnets – that is, something that is valuable enough for interested readers to be willing to share their email address with you to be able get their hands on it. This is why it’s important that your ebook contains valuable information – you don’t want readers to feel cheated that they shared their information for nothing.

You can also use them anywhere else you think they’d be useful. Existing customers might like a copy as a thank you and to provide added value. Prospective customers might appreciate them too.

What’s the difference between an ebook and a white paper?

If an ebook is a lightweight but valuable guide, a white paper is akin to an academic article. To help you choose which format is right for you, here’s my take on white papers.

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