Who doesn’t love seeing those words? “FREE EBOOK!” We are all thirsty for knowledge and at the same time wary of spending money to buy a book and then realizing it’s not what we’d hoped.
As a consumer, I love free eBooks because I can look at the content and see if it’s what I need. If not it’s no big deal, I just delete it and move on.
As a marketer, I also love free eBooks. For one, it helps get my name out there, and positions me as an expert in my field. It’s a great credibility boost, as I mentioned in last week’s radio interview with Dale Little. For another, it can be a great motivator for a call to action on a landing page or web site.
Some may disagree, but using a free download of any kind is a great way to get people to sign up for a mailing list. As we all know, getting people to opt-in to our lists is no easy task, and is near impossible if they see no clear and immediate benefit to doing so. Having a free eBook to offer just makes it all that much easier.
In fact, I got an email from a young university student in the UK yesterday telling me she downloaded my ebook and wanted to include it in the bibliography for one of her research projects. Even though it’s academic, it’s still a form of sharing, and as such it adds a social element to the ebook.
Free ebooks can take another form. This kind is completely free with no restrictions except the reader is not allowed to plagiarize the book or accept money in exchange for it, or any part of it. It’s freely distributable, and the author/publisher does not require an email address or mailing list sign up or the submittal of any other information about themselves in exchange for accepting the book. The purpose of this form is to promote yourself, or a product or service you provide.
I created three types of eBooks recently.
In January I published a complete guide for small business owners to help them understand what goes into the process of designing a good web site. This book is available in the Amazon Kindle store for $4.
Then I cut out the details and left only about half the content, which included the core concepts and a little bit of meat, but not too much. I also added more promotional content at the end of the book, to include more information about how the reader could benefit by using my services (or reading my pay-for book). This version is called the abridged version, and is available for free as a gift when the reader signs up for my mailing list.
And finally, I made a completely free version of the same book, which anybody can simply download from my web site and freely distribute. This version has the most promotional information in it. I completely cut several chapters, and a lot more of the meat. I sprinkled various promotional messages throughout the content which tell the reader how they can get more info about that particular topic at various and sundry online locations. Those web sites further attempt to sell the visitor my services.
This last book just came out two weeks ago and I have not done a good job of promoting it… yet. But you can get it here if you want.
So you can hopefully see the various levels of usefulness for each of these different types of eBooks. Try them all to see what works for you as a marketer. You may get different results depending on the type of customers you have, but you won’t know until you try.
We spent an hour talking about how I’ve used both pay-for and free eBooks, as well as free monthly webinars, to add value to the lives of my small business customers, build credibility about my internet marketing expertise, and drive sales to my business and traffic to my web site.
I finished my new e-book yesterday. It took a lot longer than I had anticipated, but I learned some lessons that I want to share. These insights apply to any large project that you have a personal stake in, so even if you’re not planning on writing a book any time soon, hopefully you can take something valuable away from this.
One of the reasons the book took longer than I though it would is because I kept making revisions. I read it over and over, analyzing every sentence and paragraph, questioning myself. Is this clear? Will anyone be offended by this statement? Is this part relevant? Should I move this part down there?
I’ve read lots of e-books and many of them are terribly written. The content is good but the poor structure and grammar is so distracting the value is half lost. It’s really annoying to me, and I don’t want my book to be like that.
On the other hand, the minutiae I was focusing on got to be ridiculous. I simply lack confidence, having never written a book for publication before. So at some point, you just need to stop, and say, “It’s good enough.”
At first the book was just a text document in basic portrait mode and Times New Roman Font. It just looked boring, but I didn’t know how to make it look interesting.
So I went and looked at some other e-books that I had in my files, from people who I admired, and who are successful. There seemed to be a trend in the ones that appealed to me visually.
Most of the nice-looking ones are landscape format, with a wide margin on either the left or right. The margin contained snippets of interesting phrases or sentences from the content, kind of like the callouts you see in newspapers and magazines. It also contained a smattering of other nice visuals, such as diagrams and photos that enhanced the copy.
So I spent a day completely reformatting the book, and it made a huge difference. It was worth a day of my time to do that.
This book is not going to make me a lot of money. That’s not its purpose. The purpose is to generate interest in my company’s products and services and attract new clients to my business.
In order to attract new clients, you need to tell the reader three things:
So there you have it. My three lessons learned about writing an e-book. If you have similar stories to share, we’d love to hear them!
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