The first time I had to write an ebook, I was scared -- really scared. Sure, I had been writing blog posts every single day for the better part of a few months, but actually sitting down to write and design a multiple-page, downloadable ebook was frightening. Would I have enough content? Would my design look like I used Microsoft Paint? Would my boss like the ebook? Would the results from the ebook actually pay off the time I invested in it?
Yup, I was terrified ... but there really was no reason to be. I'm going to let you in on a secret here: You are not the first person in the world who has ever needed to create an ebook. In fact, there are lots of resources and templates available to you to help you cut down on the time, effort, and budget you're going to put into your ebook.
The problem? These resources and templates are scattered all over the internet, so the time you're saving on the content creation is used up in finding them. To make sure that your ebook creation is as painless as possible, we decided to compile these resources all in this blog post. You should have no problem creating an ebook after checking out all of these templates, blog posts, and free resources.
So take a deep breath and relax -- we've got you covered. Here's everything you need to create an awesome ebook.
Get started with a free ebook template.
If thinking about design makes you go into a sweat or you're on a really tight deadline for an ebook, you better download one of these five free ebook templates. That way, before you put a word down on paper, you've got a beautifully designed layout that's ready to adapt to pretty much any page layout you want to have in your ebook.
If you find that you want tweak the layout or color or pretty much any other design aspect, you can edit the templates in both PowerPoint and InDesign. If I had had a flexible, no-hassle template back when I created my first ebook, 99% of my worries would have evaporated on the spot.
Once you have a set template, you've got to actually write the thing. Awesome, right? If you're an inbound marketer who loves to write, that sounds like a dream ... but if you're one of our numbers-focused friends, this could be the part you're dreading.
First things first: You need a working title. This is a very rough (and definitely not final) title that should give you a direction to write, and that's about it. Don't try perfecting it just yet -- that'll come later.
Next, if you're feeling a bit stuck on what you should actually write in your ebook, follow the tips outlined in this blog post. You shouldn't be using flowery or jargony language -- your readers' eyes will glaze over and there could be a serious possibility of nappage. If you're having trouble making your writing sound down-to-earth, try reading it aloud and mending parts that sound funky.
After you're all done writing the copy of the ebook, you've got to turn your working title into a finalized, kick-ass title. That title could be the make or break of someone downloading your ebook, so make sure you've done your due diligence coming up with it. If you need help, check out this simple formula for thinking of amazing titles.
Install custom fonts.
If you're going to be distributing your ebook in a PDF format (which you should, most of the time), you should definitely try to spruce things up with custom fonts. Though a small detail of your ebook design, custom fonts can make a big difference in how your ebook is perceived. People recognize the fonts they've seen their whole life: Fonts like Arial or Times New Roman aren't going to look fresh compared to a custom font.
Try choosing two different typefaces for your ebook: one for headers and one for body copy. Of course, there are lots of free fonts out there you can try -- check out this post to see 28 gorgeous fonts you can try. Then, if you want help installing fonts, here's a quick step-by-step to walk you through the process.
Support your written content with abstract icons.
Okay, now your text is pretty much set -- it's been written and designed -- so now it's time for you to start adding in visuals to make your content more scannable and easy to understand.
With abstract concepts, using icons to convey your idea is a great idea. Since icons aren't as realistic, you can use them in ways that just won't work for stock photos. For example, check out the image on this landing page -- it's a set of icons. An actual photo of an editorial calendar (most likely a photo of Excel pulled up on your computer) isn't that engaging ... but those icons are.
Add stock photos to help support the rest of your text.
For the parts of your ebook that aren't quite that abstract, stock photos (the non-cheesy variety) can be a great addition to visually tell your story. Want to know how you should and shouldn't be using stock photos? Check out this SlideShare that focuses on the biggest dos and don'ts for using stock photos. Then, just make sure you're not doing those don'ts. Deal?
But wait ... aren't we forgetting something here? Stock photos can be expensive -- not an expense every boss wants to approve. Enter our free stock photo collections, featuring general, business-themed, and holiday stock photos. Check 'em out, download 'em, and use 'em whenever and wherever you want -- including within your ebook or even on your ebook's accompanying landing page. Seriously, go wild.
Link to internal and external content using UTM parameters.
I like to think of ebooks as really long blog posts that group sections into chapters. Obviously, that's a very simplified version of an ebook, but thinking that way makes me think more about the ebook reader experience. When people read on their computers, their reading habits don't necessarily change -- they want to click links, scan, and maybe even jump to additional sections.
So you should make it easy for people to do just that by linking to external content like your blog posts or even linking to other sections in the ebook. All of that should be easy to do in your PDF software.
If you want to track to see which external links people are clicking on, be sure to add UTM parameters to the end of those URLS (here's a quick tutorial in case you want to know how). Unfortunately, you're not going to be able to track clicks on internal links as those internal document links aren't connected to your website analytics, but they still help make your content easier to read.
Make the content shareable.
Besides clicking around on links to learn more information, people have become so accustomed to sharing any content they enjoy through social media -- and you want your ebook to be one of those super shareable pieces of content.
How do you get people to share your ebook, you ask? You gotta get right up in their face and ask for it. Use social media share buttons on every page in your ebook -- that way, if people find something they would like to share within the ebook, they don't even have to leave the page to post it.
Okay, you're ebook is about 80% done at this point. Like any other piece of content you create, your ebook should have a call-to-action (CTA) at the end -- but it should lead to a piece of content that will bring readers further down your marketing funnel. This means that if someone has downloaded your ebook, they're already a lead -- so you've got to try to convert them to become closer and closer to becoming a customer.
This CTA could lead to a product demo, trial, free consultation, or even a collection of case studies. Regardless of what you're going to link to, just know that the CTA at the end of an ebook should lead to content that will help someone become a customer of your company.
Last, and certainly not least, you have to give your whole ebook an edit -- both for copy and design. Obviously, you want to make sure grammar, spelling, and formatting are all consistent and your objects are aligned and color-coordinated ... but that's just scratching the surface of editing.
Whether you decide to self-edit (which I strongly suggest not doing) or enlist the help of a coworker to give it the editing it deserves, you can use the ultimate editing checklist to make sure you're sending out polished and quality content into this world. At the very least, you'll save yourself a facepalm down the road when you realize an egregious error fell through the cracks because the ebook was never edited.
And that's about it! With all of these resources, you should be well on your way to creating an ebook that your leads love -- and convert on.
Do you have any ebook creation tips? Share yours with us in the comments below.
Originally published Nov 13, 2013 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017