So you’re ready to step up your content game and create a truly valuable online resource for your audience. You know that ebooks are a fantastic way to build trust and demonstrate your authority as an expert, and you want to grow your email list with individuals you know are interested in a topic.
That’s awesome! There’s just one problem ...
The idea of creating an ebook is completely intimidating.
I get it. The word “book” conjures up images of thick spines, thin pages, and lots (and lots and lots!) of words. It feels like a big project. A project beyond your available time or resources. A project that is a comfortable idea for “one day…”. Just not today.
Well, keep reading. Because you’re about to get over those fears, procrastinations and excuses and write an ebook your dream family will love.
Here is a six-step process to creating a simple yet valuable ebook, one that will both help your audience and keep you top-of-mind with your targets:
#1: Find Your Topic
The key to writing an ebook your dream family will love is knowing what your dream family loves. You need to understand their challenges, their concerns, what they value. You need to have a solid audience persona to target.
Once you have a clear target audience for your ebook, you need to select a topic they care about. Some things to consider:
- What are their top questions or concerns? Write down the top five questions that prospective dream families ask, or the barriers that you have to overcome during their decision-making process.
- On which of those topics do you already have the most content? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. If these are common questions or concerns, you most likely have a lot of content that relates to them already. Think: emails, newsletters, blog posts, parent presentations, etc. The goal is to reuse as much of this existing content as possible.
- Which topic would require the least amount of new content? Once you determine how much content already exists, it’s time to identify the holes. You will most likely have to create some new content, even if you have a lot of content to work with. Make it easy on yourself by selecting the topic that has the least amount of blank spaces to fill in.
#2: Create A Hook
In order for your dream family to have an interest in your ebook, you will need to create a unique hook that appeals directly to the problem or the challenge they want to solve.
How can your ebook do that? How can you approach this topic from a unique, yet helpful, angle?
For example, Sewickley Academy helps its target audience solve the problem of identifying and analyzing prospective schools with its ebook, 27 Questions to Help You Evaluate a School for Your Child. While the book isn’t about Sewickley Academy directly, it helps its audience view the school as a trusted resource in the school search process.
Remember: you want to be seen as a resource BEFORE you even establish a relationship with this dream family, so that once they meet you in person, that trust is there. Your ebook’s hook shouldn’t be self-serving -- it should completely serve your audience.
#3: Develop An Outline
Once you have a hook and you’ve gathered together existing content, it’s time to create a rough ebook structure. One effective format to follow is the 4Ps Approach to Persuasion:
- Promise: You tell the audience what’s in it for them, starting with the headline and continuing through the introduction.
- Picture: You paint a picture of the outcome for the reader in order to hold their emotional interest. Use descriptive language to communicate the benefits.
- Proof: You back up that emotion with rational support. This could be facts, statistics, testimonials -- reasons to believe your point of view.
- Push: You reiterate what you’ve told them and lead them to take an action that seems completely logical and aligned with their best interests.
While this structure won’t work for every topic (for example, this may not be relevant if your ebook is a workbook or a resource), it is a great way to frame stories that aim to persuade readers to take a next step.
#4: Add & Edit
Once you have the arc of your ebook plotted out and you’re working with existing content in place, it’s time to fill in any holes and edit the content together into a cohesive narrative.
While this step highly depends on the content of your specific ebook, here are a few tried-and-true editing practices to keep in mind:
- Keep it light: As in white space. Ebooks shouldn’t be formatted like a novel. Because many people will read them on screen, they should follow online content best practices, which include short paragraphs, headers and subheads, bullets and callout quotes.
- Break it up: Add visual section breaks to help readers understand where they are in the book and propel them to move forward.
- Make it visual: Use imagery and graphics (such as charts, infographics, styled callout boxes, etc.) to create visual interest throughout the text.
- Stay active: Write in active voice (“Students learn Japanese”) versus passive voice (“Japanese is studied here.”). This makes for stronger, more interesting sentences.
If you need inspiration, open a magazine. Or a children’s book. Or, check out Blackbaud K-12’s library of ebooks and whitepapers.
#5: Lay It Out
If this project is important to your school’s marketing initiatives, it pays to have your ebook designed by a professional. So if you can, hire a graphic designer to create a polished publication that aligns with your school brand -- as well as all of the supporting graphics you’ll need to promote your ebook (see #6 below).
If you simply don’t have the resources to hire a designer, and you already have strong brand standards established, you can of course lay out the ebook yourself. I’d recommend creating a cover design using an online platform like Canva, and laying out the inside text in Apple Pages, which gives you more flexibility that Microsoft Word.
#6: Lead People On
Once your ebook is developed, you need to get it to your audience. You can start by creating a landing page on your website that is specific to promoting the ebook.
The landing page should make a promise to your ideal family by clearly stating the ebook’s value, and it should include a simple fillable form that integrates with your email database. Once someone requests the ebook, your system should automatically deliver it as a PDF via email or instant download.
Now that your ebook has a home online, you want to promote it as much as possible. Here are a few ideas:
- Add a graphic in the sidebar of your website or blog
- Include it as a graphic call-to-action within the body copy of related blog posts
- Link to the landing page in school emails
- Have faculty and staff include a link in their email signatures
- Promote it on social media (you can even consider a paid advertising campaign on Facebook if you have the funds)
- Create printed fliers that you can use during open houses or in-person meetings
By keeping your audience top-of-mind throughout the ebook creation process, you’ll be able to create a resource your dream family will love. So make sure you make the most of it by promoting it often!
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