At age 11, I dreamed of being an editor at a major magazine. I even put together my first publication, Teen Scene Magazine, using colored construction paper, yarn, and in-depth feature interviews with ... my dad.
Flash forward to today. I've swapped my colored construction paper and yarn for PowerPoint and InDesign. I've replaced my dad with marketing experts and influencers. Well, sort of. And week after week, I have the satisfaction of publishing ebooks.
But making an ebook can be overwhelming. Not only do you have to write the content, but you also need to design and format it into a professional-looking document that people will want to download and read. But with lead generation as the top goal for content marketing, ebooks are an essential part of any successful inbound marketing program.
So in this post, we'll walk you through the ins and outs of creating an ebook by ... well ... creating an ebook. And if you're worried about your lacking design skills? Fret not ...
Download 5 pre-designed, customizable ebook templates for free here. For even more options, download 13 more ebook templates here.
Got your free templates? Ready to create an ebook? Great -- let's get to it.
How to Create an Ebook:
Step 1: Choose Your Ebook Topic
Remember: The goal of your ebook is to generate leads for your sales team, so pick a topic that will make it easy for a prospect to go from downloading your ebook to having a conversation with your sales team.
For example, in listening to sales and customer calls here at HubSpot, I've learned that ebook creation is a huge obstacle for our audience, who are marketers themselves. So if I can provide resources to make ebook creation easier, I'm focusing on the right topic for opening up a sales conversation.
To get your creative juices flowing, here are some example ebook titles to consider. (Note: Replace "x" with an appropriate number.) You can also use our free Blog Topic Generator tool to come up with more ideas. Most blog topics can be made comprehensive enough to serve as longer form ebook topics.
- X Best Practices for [Insert Industry/Topic]
- An Introduction to [Insert Industry/Topic]
- X Common Questions About [Insert Industry/Topic] Answered
- X [Insert Industry/Topic] Statistics For Better Decision Making
- Learn From The Best: X [Insert Industry/Topic] Experts Share Insights
For this blog post, I'm going to use the PowerPoint version of template two from our collection of five free ebook templates. Through each section of this post, I'll provide a side-by-side of the template slide and how I customized it.
Below, you'll see my customized cover with my sales-relevant ebook topic. For help with writing compelling titles for your ebooks, check out the tips in this blog post.
Step 2: Outline Your Ebook Content
The introduction to your ebook should both set the stage for the contents of your ebook and draw the reader in. What will you cover in your ebook? How will the reader benefit from reading it? For tips on how to write an effective introduction, check out this post.
Some ebook creators say that an ebook is simply a series of blog posts stitched together. While I agree you should treat each chapter like an individual blog post, the chapters of your ebook should also flow fluidly from one to the other.
The best way to outline your ebook is by thinking of it as a crash course on the sales-relevant topic you selected. In my example of creating an ebook, I know I need to cover how to:
- write effective copy
- design an ebook
- optimize ebooks for lead generation and promotion
While my example has a few chapters, keep in mind that your ebook does not need to be lengthy. I have one golden rule for ebook length: Write what is needed to effectively educate your audience about your selected topic. If that requires five pages, great! If that requires 30 pages, so be it. Just don't waste words thinking you need to write a long ebook.
With that, let's move on to the actual copy you're writing.
Step 3: Write Effective Ebook Copy
Instead of trying to use sophisticated language to convey a point, write simply and clearly. That’s the most effective way to educate readers and help them understand the new material you’re providing.
This should also hold true for all your other marketing efforts, such as email marketing, call-to-action creation, and landing page production. “Clarity trumps persuasion,” as Dr. Flint McGlaughlin of MECLABS often likes to say.
Want to make sure you're keeping your ebook exciting for readers? Here are some key tips to keep in mind:
- Use keywords in the title that emphasize the value of your offer. Examples include adjectives like “amazing,” “awesome,” or “ultimate.”
- Keep your format consistent so you create a mental model for readers and enhance their understanding of the material.
- When appropriate, make use of formatting -- like bulleted lists, bold text, italics, and font size changes -- to draw people’s eyes to your most important content or emphasize certain points you want readers to remember.
Step 4: Design Your Ebook
Our downloadable ebook templates are offered in both PowerPoint and InDesign. For this example, we'll show you how to do it in PowerPoint, since more people have access to that software.
You'll notice that we only have one "chapter page" in the template (slide three). To create additional chapter pages, or any pages really, simply right click the slide and choose Duplicate Slide. This will make a copy of your slide and allow you to drag it to its proper place in your ebook via the sidebar or Slide Sorter section of PowerPoint. You can then customize it for any subsequent chapters.
Designing an ebook is primarily about content structure. One way to make it easy to create (and consume) content is to split a chapter into sections. For example, in our ebook about creating ebooks, here's how we'd divide our chapter about how to design ebooks in PowerPoint.
Step 5: Use the Right Colors
Ideally, our free ebook templates would magically matched your brand colors. In reality, they probably don't. To learn how to add your brand's colors to PowerPoint, check out this blog post. That way you can customize the color scheme in our ebook templates to match your brand!
Step 6: Incorporate Visuals
Images and graphics in ebooks are hard to get right. The key to making them fit well is to think of them as complementary to your writing. Whether you add them during or after you’ve finished writing your ebook’s copy, your visuals should serve to highlight an important point you’re making or deconstruct the meaning of a concept in an easy-to-understand, visual way.
Images shouldn’t just be there to make the ebook easy on the eyes. Rather, they should be used to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material you’re covering. If you need help gathering visuals, we have three sets of free stock photos that might help you along the way:
And if you're compiling a data-heavy ebook, you might want to download our free data visualization ebook for tips about designing compelling charts and graphs for your content.
Step 7: Highlight Quotes or Stats
Another way to enhance your ebook is by highlighting quotes or stats within your design. Just be sure the quote or stat you're using genuinely adds value to the content. In the words of HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe, “Always provide value. Value builds trust. Once you have that trust, you have the ability to do some selling.”
Whether you're emphasizing a quote or adding a visual, keep all your content within the same margins. If your copy is consistently 1-inch indented on your page from both the left and right side, keep your designed elements aligned using that same spacing.
Optimize Ebooks for Lead Generation, Reconversion, and PromotionNow that your content is written and designed, it's time to optimize it for lead generation, reconversion, and promotion! Here are the steps to follow.
Step 8: Place Appropriate Calls-to-Action (CTAs) Within Your Ebook
Think about how you got here -- you clicked on a call-to-action in an email, on a social media post, or somewhere else. A call-to-action is a link or visual object that entices the visitor to click and arrive on a page that will get them further engaged with your company. Since your ebook readers have probably converted into leads in order to get their hands on your ebook to begin with (more on this in Step 2 below), use the CTAs within your ebook to reconvert your readers and propel them further down your marketing funnel.
For instance, a call-to-action can lead to another offer, your annual conference's registration page, or even a product page. To hyperlink the calls-to-action in your ebook (or any image or text in your ebook) to your destination URL, simply go to Insert >> Hyperlink in PowerPoint.
We've even designed 50 customizable calls-to-action in PowerPoint you can download and use in your ebooks. You can grab them here.
Now, we don't have a dedicated CTA template slide in the PowerPoint ebook templates for you to customize ... but it's still simple! All you have to do is duplicate slide four (the Header/Subheader slide) and customize copy or add images as needed. You can also go to Insert >> New Slide and work from there.
Step 9: Create a Dedicated Landing Page for Your Ebook
Your ebook should be available for download through a landing page on your site. A landing page is a web page that promotes/describes your offer and provides a form that visitors need to fill out with their contact information in order to access your ebook. This is how you are able to convert your visitors into business leads that your sales team can ultimately follow up with.
Step 10: Promote Your Ebook
Once your landing page is all set, you can use that destination URL to promote your ebook across your marketing channels. Here are five ways you can do this:
- Advertise your new ebook on your website. For example, feature a CTA or link to your offer’s landing page on your resources page or even your homepage.
- Promote your ebook through your blog. For instance, consider publishing an excerpt of your ebook as a blog post. Or write a separate blog article on the same topic as your ebook, and link to it at the end of your post using a call-to-action to encourage readers to keep learning. (Note: This very blog post is the perfect example of how to promote an offer you created with a blog post.)
- Send a segmented email to contacts who have indicated an interest in receiving offers from your company.
- Leverage paid advertising and co-marketing partnerships that will help you promote your ebook to a new audience.
- Publish posts to social media with a link to your ebook. You can also increase social shares by creating social media share buttons within your ebook, such as the ones at the bottom right of this ebook. Here’s a blog post that shows how to hyperlink them.
Step 11: Track Your Ebook's Success
After your content is launched and promoted across your marketing channels, you’ll need to have marketing analytics in place that measure the success of your ebooks.
For instance, you should have landing page analytics that give you insight into how many people downloaded your ebook and converted into leads, and closed-loop analytics that show how many of those people ultimately converted into opportunities and customers for your business. Feel free to learn more through HubSpot's Landing Pages App.
Launch Your Ebook
Conclude your ebook with a next-step call-to-action. In other words, provide readers with the natural next step in their journey with your business. Ideally, this means moving them further down your marketing funnel.
In our example, once someone has learned what goes into building a quality ebook, they could use a free resource to actually start creating one! Therefore, we'll now send our readers to the free ebook templates we've mentioned to you throughout this post.
And with that, we've built an ebook, folks! You can check out the packaged version of the example I built through this post here:
Ebook Creation Resources:
- 5 Free Ebook Templates in PowerPoint and InDesign [Free Download]
- 13 More Customizable Ebook Templates in PowerPoint [Free Download]
- Data Visualization 101: How to Design Charts and Graphs [Free Download]
- How to Easily Turn Blog Posts Into an Ebook [Blog Post]
- A Simple Guide to Creating Social Sharing Links for Your Ebooks [Blog Post]
Do you have any other tips or resources for making ebook creation easier? Share them in the comments. And good luck creating future ebooks of your own.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.