It’s time to get those creative juices flowing. Here’s how.

[Image courtesy of David Salafia at Flickr Creative Commons]

They say everybody has at least one book in them – and in most cases, that’s where it should stay.

You only have to look at the self-published masterpieces on Amazon to realise that the bar has been placed so low, virtually anybody can get over it nowadays. 

If the Muse hasn’t yet struck, and you’re feeling creatively frustrated, you could always turn your attention marketing-wards, and consider writing a non-fiction e-book.

Gone are the days when you could just broadcast a sales message and your audience would flock to your door. Today, you have to engage and entertain them, inform and impress them. And e-books a great way to do that, letting you fly under the radar and connect with your reader.

They’re also easier than writing a lad-lit pot-boiler, or a triumph-over-tragedy family saga.

For a start, a marketing e-book is much, much shorter than a novel. Typically, it’s 2-3,000 words, which is only as long as a short story. You also don’t need to work your imagination quite as hard, as you know all the facts already.

It’s really just a case of arranging them in a way that captivates your reader. 

So how do you go about it? One step at a time.

Here are my 10 steps for writing an e-book that has them turning those pages faster than any bodice ripper. 

  1. Define your audience. Are they customers or prospects, and where are they in the sales cycle? Can you conjure up a typical reader? If it helps, try creating personas and supplying as much detail as possible to make them seem real.
  2. Set an objective. Is this a high-level piece that aims to give a broad overview of the market and issues? Are you educating readers and making them aware of the big picture? Or are you solving a specific problem? Sometimes, you’ll want to helicopter out and other times, you’ll want to zoom in, depending on where this piece sits in your sales funnel. 
  3.  Write an outline. This is a crucial step, and one that you don’t want to miss out (believe me, I speak from experience here). Creating an outline for your e-book will let you break the story down into manageable pieces, and move them around if you need to. It can be just headings and subheadings, or a little more fleshed-out. The important thing here is not to simply dive into the writing, without an overview of the structure.
  4. Keep it short and simple. We all have reduced attention spans nowadays, so make sure your book is broken up into small, easily digested pieces. If the total length is 2,500 words, then aim for sections that are 300-400 words. You should help the reader through the copy with headings, bolded text, bullet points and boxes.
  5. Include quotes. Nothing builds credibility more than input from third parties. They could be experts in your field, or industry commentators – or even clients. Weaving quotes into your copy also provides variety, so it’s easier to read. 
  6. Find the stats. There’s no shortage of figures out there to help you build your case. Whether you’re writing about the unstoppable rise of the Internet of Things, or the latest trends in customer satisfaction or mobile marketing, there’ll be a survey, a study or a slew of charts and graphs to help support your argument. 
  7. Say it with confidence. Whatever the message you’re getting across, and whatever the audience you’re addressing, nothing sells like confidence. Not swaggering confidence that’s just a bit too pleased with itself, but quiet, low-key confidence that keeps a friendly smile on its face. 
  8. Lead the pack. Try to find an angle and take an approach that shows you think differently. Tackle big problems and be bold in suggesting solutions. Thought leadership has become a bit of a hackneyed term over the last few years, but that’s really what we’re talking about here. Get out in front, and show them you know your stuff.
  9. Be human. Way too many e-books take themselves way too seriously. If you turn yours into a friendly chat with your reader, you’re far more likely to keep them reading to the end. Some of the most effective e-books are the ones that talk about complex subjects in a simple way, using language that’s informal and pared-down. They connect with the reader on a human level – which, when you think about it, is all any of us wants.
  10. End with a bang, not a whimper. Too many e-books simply fizzle out at the end. Remember step 2 – set an objective. Do you want your reader to register for more information? Set up a meeting? Attend an event? Join your mailing list? Contact a reseller? Just like a novelist knows how a book is going to end before they write the first sentence, so you should know what happens on the last page of yours before you start.

And when you’re finished, push your book out through every available channel. Put it on your website, either gated (fewer downloads, but more info on readers) or freely downloadable (more downloads, less info).

Publicise it on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Turn it into a Slideshare. Atomise it for blog posts, tweets and articles. Release it into the wild, letting anybody, anywhere put it on their site (with attribution, of course). 

Then start on the next one. Because when it comes to marketing e-books, we all have more than one inside us. 

And they definitely shouldn’t stay there.