Editor's note: This article was originally published by HubSpot and curated by Closer Spot. Please subscribe to get actionable news and advice delivered to your inbox each week.
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 (in the office, that is). And week after week, I have the satisfaction of being an ebook creator.
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. With lead generation being the top goal for content marketing, however, ebooks are an essential part of an successful inbound marketing program.
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 ...
How to Create an Ebook
- Choose a Topic That Matches Your Audience's Needs
- Outline Each Chapter of Your Ebook
- Break Down Each Chapter as You Write
- Design Your Ebook
- Use the Right Colors
- Incorporate Visuals
- Highlight Quotes or Stats
- Place Appropriate Calls-to-Action Within Your Ebook
- Convert It Into a PDF
- Create a Dedicated Landing Page for Your Ebook
- Promote Your Ebook and Track its Success
How to Create an Ebook
Step 1: Choose a Topic That Matches Your Audience's NeedsRemember: 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.
This means your ebook shouldn't deviate much from the topics you cover in your other content marketing channels. Rather, it's your opportunity to do a deep dive into a subject you've only lightly covered until now, but something your audience knows they need to learn more about.
For example, in listening to sales and customer calls here at HubSpot, I've learned ebooks for use in content marketing is a huge obstacle for our audience, who are marketers themselves. So if I can provide not only this blog post, but 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
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 Each Chapter of Your EbookThe 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
With that, let's move on to the actual copy you're writing.
Step 3: Break Down Each Chapter as You WriteGet writing! Here, you can approach each chapter the way you might write a long blog post -- by compartmentalizing each chapter into smaller sections or bullet points, as shown in the picture below. This helps you write simply and clearly, rather than trying to use sophisticated language to convey each point. It's the most effective way to educate readers and help them understand the new material you’re providing.
Be sure to maintain a consistent structure across each chapter, as well. This helps you establish natural transitions between each chapter so there's a clear progression from one chapter to the next (simply stiching blog posts together can rob you of this quality).
These practices should hold true for all your other marketing efforts, such as email marketing, call-to-action creation, and landing page development. “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 EbookOur 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 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.
Step 5: Use the Right ColorsIdeally, our free ebook templates would magically match your brand colors. But, they probably don't; this is where you get to truly personalize your work. However, because ebooks offer more real estate for color than your logo or website, it's a good idea to consider secondary colors within your brand's color palate. Ebooks are where this color scheme can truly shine.
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 VisualsImages 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:
free data visualization ebook for tips about designing compelling charts and graphs for your content.
Step 7: Highlight Quotes or StatsAnother 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.
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.
Step 8: Place Appropriate Calls-to-Action Within Your EbookNow that your content is written and designed, it's time to optimize it for lead generation, reconversion, and promotion.
Think about how you got here -- you clicked on a call-to-action (CTA) in an email, on a social media post, or somewhere else. A CTA is a link or visual object that entices the visitor to click and arrive on a landing 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 CTA can lead to another offer, your annual conference's registration page, or even a product page. Depending on what this next action is, CTAs can be an in-line rectangle or a full page teasing the next offer (see both images below).
To hyperlink the CTA 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: Convert It Into a PDFOnce you've finished writing your ebook -- CTAs and all -- it's time to convert it to the right file type so it's transferrable from you to your recipient.
To convert your ebook to a PDF, click File >> Save As in the ebook template you have open. Under File Format, select PDF and select a destination on your computer for this new file.
Why can't you just attach what you have to a landing page and be done with it? Word documents, PowerPoints, and similar templates are perfect for creating your ebook, but not for delivering it. Because these templates are editable, the contents of your ebook are too easily corrupted, distorted, or even lost when moving from your computer to the hands of your future leads. That's where PDFs come in.
You've seen these letters at the end of files before. Short for Portable Document Format, the .PDF file type essentially freezes your ebook so it can be displayed clearly on any device. A popular alternative to PDFs is the .EPUB file type. See a comparison of EPUB to PDF here.
Step 10: Create a Dedicated Landing Page for Your EbookYour 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.
For instance, you went through this landing page in order to access this ebook template. To learn more about how to optimize your landing pages for conversion, download this free ebook.
Step 11: Promote Your Ebook and Track its SuccessOnce 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.
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. Learn more through HubSpot's Landing Pages App.
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:
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, having landing page analytics that give you insight into how many people downloaded your ebook, or show how many of those downloaders converted into opportunities and customers for your business.
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]