How to create a free ebook in just seven days

In last week’s blog, I talked about the value of e-newsletters for building relationships with your customers, creating warm leads and driving repeat traffic to your website. This week, I want you toSmall business owner writes ebook on her laptop consider how a free ebook, report or white paper on your website could be a great lead magnet for your business.

A lot of people I’ve spoken to have expressed concerns about creating a free ebook for two different reasons. One, that it seems counter-intuitive to give your knowledge away for free – after all, will people still pay to use your services (and value them) if they can get something from you for nothing? – and, two, that an ebook is time consuming and expensive to produce.


Build your reputation

To address concern one, yes, it does seem counter-intuitive to give your knowledge away but free ebooks or other downloads can be a fantastic tool for building your credibility and authority, while giving customers something they perceive as having value (just be sure to ask for their email address in exchange). This can create goodwill towards your company and build your reputation as an expert.

Free ebooks are great for getting people talking about you on social media. Grab soundbites from the copy and Tweet them, create a Facebook ad about your ebook or spread the news on Google+.

As for concern two, a free ebook does not have to be a weighty tome. Anything from 2,000 to 4,500 words is perfectly adequate – more than that and you would be wise to think about charging for your hard work. Whether you decide to write it yourself to save money or to outsource to a copywriter, the costs don’t have to be exorbitant. As for time, read on. It is possible to create a free ebook in as little as one week.


Day one: Pick your ebook topic

What is a pain point for your customers?

  • Are they short on time?
  • Do they want to know how to look after their skin, or plan a child’s birthday party?
  • Are they facing a challenge and need help to overcome it?

Identifying what would feel like a quick win to someone downloading the ebook – i.e. something that helps them with an immediate problem – is a great place to start. You could always think about questions you get asked a lot by clients and use that as a starting point.

Alternatively, you could look at content you already have – for example, a series of blog posts on a connected theme – and bring them together as a free ebook.

Make the title short and catchy, explaining exactly what it is your customers can expect from the content, e.g. Ten ways to transform your balcony garden or The five beauty time-savers every mum needs to know.


Day two: Plan your ebook’s content

As well as writing ebooks for my clients, a service I offer as a money saver is to create an ebook outline that they can work from to write the copy themselves. An outline is an amazing tool that keeps you on track with the content.

Let’s take the Five beauty time savers every mum needs to know title above. In the outline, think about what these five things would be (come up with a couple of spares in case some are stronger than others).

Break down what the headings in the ebook will be, including an introduction, and some information about your business and contact details at the end.

Next, write three or four bullet points about what you want to say in each section.


Days three, four and five: Write your ebook

Set aside just two hours a day and plan to write 850 to 1500 words a day, working from the outline you made on day two, which should help to keep you on track.

Think about your ideal customer and imagine you’re talking to them.

  • What do they want to know about this topic?
  • What would they find helpful?
  • What words would they use to describe what you’re talking about?

It also helps to think about your tone of voice. Will they expect you to be quite formal in your delivery or enjoy it if you deliberately break some grammatical rules in favour of being chatty? Different things work for different audiences.

Highlight ebook content you need to fill inIf there are blanks you need to fill in, highlight them in your first draft and keep writing. If you’re in the writing zone, the best thing you can do is to get your ideas on paper. They can always be refined, reworked or removed once they’ve had some time to percolate.


Day six: Edit and proofread, proofread, proofread

Once you’ve finished your first draft, the time has come to edit. Fill in any blanks, think about how the copy flows, whether sections need to be moved around, how you could add in quotes and examples. This will all help create a favourable impression.

I’ve mentioned this several times on my Facebook page but proofread with fresh eyes and proofread more than once. The danger when reading back your own work, especially straight away, is that you read what you think you typed, not what’s really on the page. Also, don’t rely on the spell and grammar check to pick up mistakes. Spellcheck cannot understand the context of words reliably or always identify correct usage of words such as ‘they’re’, ‘their’ or ‘there’. The grammar check is often wrong too, being unable to pick up the nuances of language.

At this stage, make sure that the content flows and is consistent. Also, ensure that any links in the document are correct and take people where you need them to go.


Day seven: Design and publish your lead magnet

At this stage, you might consider outsourcing your ebook for typesetting and a cover design. However, if you do want to do it yourself, making sure it’s laid out attractively can be achieved in a programme like Word. Remember, this is a FREE ebook, so people won’t expect the world from you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim for a polished, easy to read format.

Try to incorporate the following:

  • Put each section on a new page
  • Use catchy, attention-grabbing headings
  • Break the copy up with bullet points so readers can find the important content at a glance
  • Use a larger font size (12 or 14pt) of a sans serif (non-fancy font) such as Arial or Calibri
  • Think about images you can use that will appeal to your ideal customer
  • Add a cover

The cover image doesn’t have to be all-singing, all-dancing but it should reflect your company branding, if only in the choice of colours or image.

Once you’re happy with the layout of the ebook, convert it to a .pdf (Word has the ability to save as a PDF built in). This is so that people cannot change the content and because PDFs work well across all operating systems.

You can now publish your ebook on your website, in your newsletter, on social media, etc. by letting people download it by entering their email address to your mailing list.


Just think, seven days from now, you could have a free ebook on your website. If you find yourself staring at a blank computer screen and don’t know where to start – or you just can’t find the time – I have a number of ebook services that could help 🙂

(And if you’re wondering where my free ebook is, it’s coming soon!)


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