May 9, 2017

5 Things to Ask Yourself Before Writing An E-book

Your sales team or marketing department says they need an e-book. They needed it yesterday. And your job is to write it. But why? It wasn’t even your idea. Aggravating is the life of a copywriter, but that’s one of the reasons you do the job anyway — for the challenge. For the thrill of the research, the fact finding, the hunt.

If it was easy, you never would have chosen a career in writing, the most beautiful yet aggravating thing in the entire world.

So you’re writing the e-book. The good news is, people will actually read it. According to the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of Americans read an e-book in the past 12 months — up 17 percent from 2011. As a marketer, this type of content is promising. E-books produce quality leads and highly shareable information. When done well, the content positions your company, your brand as leaders in the industry.

From ideation to launch to promotion is a long and arduous process that often involves a team of copywriters, project managers, content strategists and designers. But for now, let’s focus on the writing: the daunting task of turning a single idea into upwards of 10 pages.

Here are five questions to ask yourself before you put pen to paper — or in reality, before your fingers dazzle the keyboard.

What’s the Point?

Just because someone said you need an e-book doesn’t mean you actually need an e-book. Auditing your current controlled media — and competitor/industry content — will help you determine if the subject has already been thoroughly covered. If it hasn’t been, great. If it has, can you do it better? Content audits offer research fodder to get writing and will help you uncover holes in the coverage. Write to those holes. It’s there that you’ll find the point of the e-book — the reason the content provides value to its readers.

Can You Interview A Subject Expert?

The short answer is yes. Research and audits can only get you so far. The cold, hard truth is, you’ve been tasked with writing the e-book — interview experts if you can. You’ll gain insight into the subject matter and attract those that care about it. In order to provide value to your readers and avoid drafting 10-pages generic or boring copy, you need to truly understand the topic.

Who Cares About the Point You’re Trying to Make?

Even if there are holes in the content, if no one has written — or written well — about it, and even if you have a subject expert to provide amazing insights, you need an audience that cares. Not just one that cares, but one that will consume an e-book. Write to and for them. Always.

Can You Write It With Graphics?

Before you argue that this is a design and not a writing consideration, think again. Novels and biographies get away without graphics because they offer a narrative story and characters you can rally behind or ardently despise. Textbooks, manuals, reports — and yes, e-books — rely on graphics and charts to convey a point and keep readers engaged. If you can’t tell at least part of the e-book with infographics and visuals, don’t bother at all. As a writer, your job is to get readers in the right headspace, to visualize and understand.

What Should Readers Do When They’re Done?

The sales team or marketing department that requested you write the e-book in the first place has an end goal in mind, most likely a call to action for the reader. Keep it in the back of your head during the writing process. If the goal is to get readers to call your company, tease them with just the right amount of information. If the goal is to get readers to dive deeper into your website, give them a clear and interesting path to get there.

Now go write, you poor, beautiful sap. E-books are tough but with the right path and the right tools, they can be rewarding — and effective.

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