The 5 Pillars of a Successful Ebook

Almost every business I know could use an ebook as part of their overall marketing strategy. They’re an effective way to:

  • Establish your authority on a topic
  • Build a relationship with your prospects
  • Add value to the product or service you already offer
  • Build an email list
  • Spread your ideas, and get your business name in front of lots of people

Plus they’re relatively inexpensive to produce, and once they’re done, you can continue to distribute them with no extra effort on your part.

But you can’t just write any old thing, put it out there, and cross your fingers. To set an ebook up right, you must have a supporting structure beneath it.

This post outlines the five pillars you must have in place to build a viable ebook.

Sound daunting? Don’t worry: most of these concepts are common sense.

Think of the time you spend getting them right like the investment a builder makes to prepare the site and the structure of a building. When the underlying structure is sound, the result will be, too.

A great ebook has an underlying structure made up of these parts:

1. A purpose that guides your actions

Before you type your first word, you need to be clear about the outcome you’d like to see from your ebook. Is it:

  • To build recognition for your business?
  • To establish your authority on a specific topic?
  • To spread your original ideas as far and wide as possible?
  • To add some income to your bottom line?

Your purpose sets the tone for every word you write, and every decision you make about the format, length, structure and marketing you’ll do.

2. A topic your reader finds irresistible

It’s not easy to accept, but the ebook you write can’t be about what you feel like talking about. In order to achieve greatness, your ebook must cover a topic that captivates the audience you’re trying to reach.

Because those are the readers you have to please. Help them solve a problem, discover a solution, take action on something they’ve avoided, or accomplish something they thought they weren’t capable of.

Inspire them, and you’ll have an easier time finding an audience for your work.

3. Solid writing

Your ebook must be well written. There’s no way to get around this. You’re using words to communicate your information, and those words must be engaging, accurate, polished, and free of distracting grammatical errors.

They also must use a structure that’s logical and easy to follow. Does that sound like a tall order?

Go back to your high school days, and remember what you learned about how to write a paper. Follow these steps:

  1. Outline: This can be an A. B. C. and 1. 2. 3.-style outline, or it might be in the form of a mind map. Use whatever works for you to get your basic ideas registered in a format that you can tweak.
  2. First draft: Write a rough first draft. Do not stop to edit and this point. Get your thoughts down, fill in the missing pieces, and add any research or outside sources you need to bolster your information.
  3. Let it sit: Leave it for a day or two. Even better, put it away for a full week. (OK, I’ll bet you didn’t learn this one in high school. Unless you were one of those students who got everything done a week ahead of time!)
  4. Edit, and write a second draft: Your time away will give you a fresh perspective, and you’ll see the areas that need rewriting. Edit, tweak and build on your first draft, and generate a second, tighter draft.
  5. Have it proofread: Put your ebook in front of a couple of people who can proofread it for you. Don’t skip this step. Your proofreaders will help you fix grammatical errors, and — more importantly — they may point out areas that are confusing or need more explanation.

4. A design that invites reading

Start your design thinking by being open to a variety of formats. You don’t have to write the typical Title > Intro > Chapters > Summary ebook. Think about what format will complement your topic and give meaning to the information you present. What would make your content easy to use and practical for your reader?

PS: Need ideas about ebook formats? Sign up to see the Brown Bag Webinar held on July 11. Kelly Kingman and I shared 11 Unexpected (and Easy) Ebook Ideas. When you sign up I’ll send a recording you can watch when you’d like.

In addition to finding a format that works, make sure you design your pages with the concepts we talk about here at the Big Brand System:

  • Use no more than two fonts
  • Stick to a reduced palette of two colors
  • Use plenty of white space around your text

5. Widespread distribution

Your wonderful ebook can only live up to its full potential if you get it in front of as many people as possible. You’ll promote it differently depending on which ebook pathway you’ve decided to take.

  • Viral: This pathway has one, singular goal — to spread your ideas. To facilitate this, you place no barriers between your ebook and the audience you want to reach. This means no opt-in form, and no charge.
  • Opt-in: The goal with this style of ebook is to build an email list. If people want your ebook, they must offer their email address in exchange.
  • Paid: This ebook pathway leads directly to money in your pocket. Because you plan to sell the end product, you’ll want to create a dedicated sales page, look for affiliates, and promote it in social media as part of a formal launch.

Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. eBook Evolution walks you through the steps, and gives you customizable ebook templates that make designing your pages a breeze. It’s the next best thing to having a writing and design coach sitting next to you while you put together your ebook!

Question of the Week

How about you? Which of these five pillars is the most challenging? Let’s talk about it in the comments: I’d be happy to help support you as you get your ebook written.

Comments

  1. says

    What a great, simple outline of the process – you’ve really boiled it down to the essential questions. I love Ebook Evolution, and have recommended it often to others. I’m going to be using it myself over the next few weeks as I finish writing my own ebook on productivity for solopreneurs.

  2. says

    You make some great points. I am currently publishing monthly e-books and I am offering them for purchase. The problem I am running into is protecting them from the search engines. They are sold on a protected site at e-junkie but when it comes to distributing them to my monthly subscribers I have to email the members the pdf directly. I am having trouble figuring out how to protect them from the spiders. I am wondering if your eBook Revolution covers anything about this.

    • says

      eBook Evolution touches on how to protect your ebook. One easy fix you could try is to place the link on a password-protected page. You could also shorten it so the spiders don’t pick up that it’s a PDF. You can use services like bit.ly or goo.gl to do that.

  3. says

    This is really useful. Im about to start making some ebooks for my websites, and this is really nicely presented info. Thanks a lot :-)