Is it just me, or do most free ebooks really…well…suck?
On one hand, I’ve always said, “You get what you pay for,” but on the other hand, the entire point of adding a free ebook to your editorial calendar is to give away awesome information to convert a one-time reader into a rabid fan. If your ebook isn’t awesome, epic content, why should I want to read your blog posts, stay subscribed to your email list, or pay for premium content?
If you want to get more downloads for your free ebook, you need to be above average. The more above average you are, the more downloads you’ll get. Makes sense, right?
The general process for creating an ebook is this:
- Write the content.
- Edit and proofread.
- Design and convert into a pdf (or format of your choice).
You can create an epic ebook using these same three steps; you just have to alter the process a bit to create something that will stand out above the rest.
Step One: Write the content.
You’ll get more ebook downloads if your content is awesome. Why? Because people will share it! Social sharing is one of the best ways to increase your downloads, but it takes more than a snazzy title to get your readers to promote your ebook. Think about it: if you see a free ebook online, what’s the likelihood that you’ll take the time to download it? But what if a trusted friend of yours recommends the ebook? You’re probably going to grab that ish before it is no longer free! Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising, in my opinion.
So step one to getting more downloads for your free ebook is to write better content. Already have great content? Cool. Make it better. If you think your content can’t be improved, you’re wrong. Online, stagnation is death.
How do you create better ebook content:
- Go into way more detail.
Most ebooks just skim over a topic, presumably because the author wants you to buy a product about the topic. Instead, give it away for free. You’ll blow people’s minds if your free content is just as good (or better) than the products most people charge for, and this starts with details. Whatever your topic is, create an ultimate resource, leaving no stone unturned. Give away your secrets and best tips. Trust me: there is always more for someone to learn in the future, so don’t worry about giving away content you could sell.
- Get quotes from people in your niche.
Your ideas matter, but more and more, people are interested in knowing what the collective thinks. Reach out to the a-listers in your niche and ask them for a quote on the topic. It lends tons of credibility to your ebook, and as an added bonus, the people you quoted will often help promote the ebook when it is ready to download.
- Add stats.
I don’t just want to know that “Lots of people like cupcakes.” I want to know the percentage of people who like cupcakes. I want to know whether people like cupcakes more in certain areas of the world. I want to know how many bakeries existed last year and how many cupcakes they typically sell on a given day. Stats add credibility to any argument, so adding them to your ebook can significantly improve your writing.
Step Two: Edit and proofread.
Last week, I was reading a new ebook from someone I admire…and then I saw a typo. And another one. And another one. Listen, we all make mistakes, and I can be the queen of typos in my blog posts, but an ebook is a little different. Too many typos can be so distracting to the reader that he or she simply gives up and moves on to the next shiny Internet object.
I highly recommend hiring someone to look over your book before you make it available for download. Not only will that person pick out typos, but he or she will also help you tighten your writing, making sure that your ideas don’t get lost in a sea of prose and that everything flows well.
If you are self-editing, the best tip I have is to try to cut our at least 50% of your words after you’re done with the first draft. It may feel like murdering your babies, but being brutal with the red pen can help you learn to keep only what is truly needed for the book.
Need an editor? I recommend Amber Avines, who has done a fantastic job of editing my work in the past and who has oodles of experience.
Step Three: Design and convert.
Just like it makes sense to hire an editor, it makes sense to hire a designer as well, unless you are exceptionally skilled in this area. It isn’t just about adding a few images here and there. If you really want your ebook to stand out above the rest, you need to have a truly beautifully-designed ebook.
Marketo is an example of a company that has beautifully-designed ebooks. Here’s where you can download one of their latest ebooks, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation. Even if you’re not interested in marketing automation, give it a gander to see how well-designed their ebooks are.
The good news? You can hire an ebook designer on Elance at a fairly inexpensive rate, especially for a shorter 20-30 page ebook. You can also have a designer make a template, which you can then use for all of your future ebooks, so you don’t have to pay a designer every time you want to release a new ebook.
If you do go the route of designing yourself, here are a few tips that will elevate your ebook:
- Add a little color.
Color can break up the monotony of an ebook. Even if you have the best information in the world, text only can feel like a chore to read. Color can help you highlight important stats, add an aside to any chapter, or pull out an important quote that you want to ensure people read, even if they are skimming.
- Keep the pages looking consistent.
Think of your ebook like a PowerPoint presentation. The best presentations use a template so even though not every slide is the same, they all fit together in a way that makes sense. If you use blue boxes to highlight quotes on one page, use them throughout the ebook, for example.
- Remember that you’re designing for multiple devices.
What looks good on your laptop might look horrible on an iPad. What looks good on your iPad might look horrible on a smartphone. Test your design across multiple devices to make sure it works no matter how someone likes to consume your content.
Here are a few more great tips for designing ebooks, especially if your target market likes to read on tablets.
Some Final Thoughts…
The very best tip I have for creating an ebook that you need to create something that…
- …people really need.
- …people can’t get elsewhere.
If your ebooks is extremely helpful, you’ll get more downloads. Likewise, if you can offer something that most people don’t offer, you’ll get more downloads. Unless you’re famous, people don’t typically want to give away their email address for an ebook that is nothing but opinions (rather than practical tips), and if the topic you’re covering has been covered before by others, it will command the attention of fewer people.
Ebooks, when done right, take a long time to create. Do yourself a favor and spend your time creating content that people actually want.
Need help creating your ebook? Check out my ebook package!