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May 19, 2014

The Essential Ebook Creation Methodology for New Inbound Marketers

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typewriterWhen your inbound machine has been chugging along for a while, the prospect of creating the content you need to keep feeding that machine isn't so scary. For people new to executing the inbound marketing methodology, however, there are resource constraints that make the idea of content creation seem out of reach.

No time is this more common than when businesses set out to create their first lead generation ebook. Sure, you've got some blog content published, and you have a nice arrangement with your team and/or some freelance writers that you're confident will yield you a few blog posts a week. But to turn that blog traffic into leads, you need an ebook to use for the end-of-post call-to-action. And you need it now.

This methodology will help you get that much-needed ebook created quickly. When your machine is chugging along more smoothly and you start to see results, you can repeat this process and even amp it up with other resource investments. But if you're just getting started, focus on shipping something good.

Not perfect. Good. Remember: Perfection is the enemy of done. 

The Methodology That'll Get You Your First Lead Generation Ebook

Step 1: Establish the topic of your ebook and curate existing content around it.

The topic should be whatever you have the most content already written for on your website. For instance, we have far less content on our website about advertising than we have about, say, social media -- so it'd be wise for me to select social media as the topic of my next ebook, since that provides me the most existing content from which to draw.

To find the existing content that will help you create your ebook, perform a Google site:search of your website and/or blog, and see what content exists around the topic you've selected. (A site:search is a way of searching your entire website for content about a certain keyword; if you don't know how to do this, read this instructional blog post.)

When you find content on your website that looks like it might contribute to a good paragraph or chapter of an ebook, copy and paste it into a Word doc. Don't worry if it's a mess with no cohesive storyline yet -- it's supposed to be. This is just the curation stage. We'll make sense of it all once you're done rounding up the content.

Tip: Don't have enough blog content already written to repurpose it into an ebook? Set out to write blog content with the aim to repurpose it into an ebook later on. By way of example, if I knew I had to create an ebook about how to generate leads from social media, the next 5 blog posts I'd write would be:

  • How to Generate Leads From Facebook
  • How to Generate Leads From Pinterest
  • How to Generate Leads From LinkedIn
  • How to Generate Leads From Google+
  • How to Generate Leads From Twitter

Step 2: Look for trends in the content you've curated from your site.

Now that you have a Word doc full of random paragraphs (maybe even entire blog posts) about niche subject matters, it's time to start looking for trends. Think of it like a game of "What in Here Is Like the Others."

You'll start to group together some paragraphs that can all work together to become an ebook about a certain topic -- and as you identify those groups that work together, you'll inherently find paragraphs that don't really belong. Cut those. They're outliers that don't fit into the storyline you're developing with the other content.

Step 3: Move content around to create a cohesive story.

Once you've figured out which content you want to keep to create one cohesive ebook, organize it into a Table of Contents. Let's use that hypothetical ebook we talked about earlier, How to Generate Leads From Social Media, as an example. If I had curated a bunch of existing site content about how to generate leads from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn ... well, that's a pretty darn good Table of Contents. I'd probably add on an introduction to that ToC, and then call this a 6-chapter ebook, with each social network making up their own chapter.

Once you have your Table of Contents built out, it's easy to move the content around in your Word doc to fill out the ebook. Find the most general content, and turn that into an introduction. Find the more specific content, and move those to other sections. As you move content around, you’ll see a Table of Contents become more solidified.

Continuing with our social media lead generation ebook example, if I was organizing the story for that ebook, I'd start by moving all the paragraphs I'd found about generating leads on Twitter. I'd take the paragraph from the blog post about Twitter cards and move it under the "Twitter" section. And then take that other blurb I'd copied and pasted from the blog post about what types of content performs well for lead gen on Twitter, and copy that under the "Twitter" chapter, too. And so on and so forth, until all your content is organized under the right sections in your Table of Contents.

Step 4: Edit, add, and rewrite where necessary.

Now that your ebook is built out, you need to do some fine-tuning. First, identify areas that are too weak to stand on their own, and either beef up that chapter or section with more information or details ... or cut it. For instance, if I only had a couple sentences in the section on Pinterest lead generation, I'd either write a little bit more on the subject, or decide to cut it entirely because the ebook is still valuable enough without its inclusion.

You should also be reading through the ebook copy you've just laid out and organized to make sure the paragraph transitions are natural, and that everything makes contextual sense. When you're Frankensteining together an ebook through a bunch of different authors, posts, etc., it's really easy to have different lingo, tones, even references that only make sense in their original publishing environment.

Audit for these things, and made edits to give your ebook a good, natural flow. 

Step 5: Lay out the content in PowerPoint and convert it into a PDF.

Once you've given a final readthrough and copyedit to your ebook, lay it out to make it a little more visually appealing than a simple Word doc -- PowerPoint is my program of choice, but if you have a designer on staff (or you pride yourself on your own design chops), feel free to get your groove on in InDesign or another program.

If you're looking to give your ebook a simple, professional layout, download these PowerPoint ebook templates. They make it ridiculously easy to copy over your content from the Word doc into a layout that's pretty plug-and-play.

If you want to customize the templates, you can. I'd recommend doing it by adjusting the colors and fonts used in the PowerPoint template to align with your brand colors. If you want to customize the cover a bit, you can insert a transparent company logo so the ebook is more clearly branded. 

When you've laid out the copy in the PowerPoint ebook template, simply link your social media accounts (these templates have social media icons in them already) and convert your PowerPoint file into a PDF if you're using a PC. If you're on a Mac, follow these directions to make your PDF have clickable links.

There's no quick fix for content. But there are shortcuts. If you use this methodology to create your first few ebooks, you'll find two things happen: 1) It gets easier and easier to create ebooks that get better and better the more often you create them; 2) You have ebooks! That you can use to generate leads!

Those are both really, really good things.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing Content Marketing

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