Behind the Scenes: Writing an Ebook or White Paper
By Sarah Malcolm, COO at The Content Funnel
“An ebook is just a longer blog, right?” Wrong! Well-written ebooks and white papers aren’t extended blogs. This original content must stand on its own. The amount of work behind creating an ebook or white paper catches people off-guard their first time. Here’s the work you don’t see when you click, “download.”
Strategizing the ebook or white paper
Don’t write one because “everyone else is doing it.” The ebook and white paper needs a definite purpose in your content strategy. Are you launching a radically new product that will require you to educate consumers? An ebook could be part of the launch strategy!
Your purpose positions the ebook or white paper for success. It informs its related marketing push, the landing page, and its presentation.
Picking the topic
Ebook and white paper topics need serious consideration. The subject matter must be relevant to your industry, worthy of exploration, and engaging.
How to find the right topics? You have some options:
Look at your best performing existing content. Audience interest indicates these topics could be download-worthy.
Get feedback from clients and your sales team. What questions are they asking?
Run a topic test. Write a related blog and see how it performs.
Use keyword research tools to see search interest.
Do the research
After selecting the topic, writers dive into research and note-taking. Readers prefer opinions backed by quality data. Finding these sources is crucial to informing and providing value in the ebook or white paper.
Always trace statistics and facts back to the original source. You’d be surprised what kind of facts sound true, have been shared across the internet by respected outlets, but have no actual basis.
Example: This fact, “Did you know that we can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text?” was published in an ebook by 3M Visual Systems Division and touted in contents from HubSpot. But when you dig to find the original source, you’ll find it’s false.
Be cautious of surveys. Not all surveys have valid data. The best surveys publish a section about their respondent pool: its size and who took it.
Good writers document all their sources and the relevant quotes because they’ll be referencing them in the ebook. Even paraphrased information deserves a footnote.
Ebooks and white papers naturally are longer pieces of content. The ideas need organization. Outlines group similar ideas and researched notes together. Outlining keeps the research phase on track and allows input from contributors on what’s missing. It helps streamline writing the first draft.
Layout and design
Once the copy is polished, the ebook and white paper still isn’t done. An attractive design will sell the ebook and make the ideas easier to read. The text needs to blend white space with imagery in a way that moves readers smoothly from section to section. Call boxes and enlarged block quotes highlight key conclusions. Pictures and graphs help readers quickly grasp dense data.
As this brief overview proves, there’s more to ebooks than “writing a longer blog.” While blogs can inspire ebooks, and you can use blogs to promote the content, ebooks and whitepapers are standalone content needing an expert touch. You’ll need to treat them differently and be prepared for the work involved.