How to Create the Perfect Ebook or Digital Download – part 1
Maybe you’ve been there: It’s finally finished; that long-awaited shiny new opt-in page on your website; and your ebook freebie is polished and ready to be seen. You’re so excited to finally put your new product or service out in the world, and start reaching out and connecting with your tribe!
But after several sign-ups, and a few downloads, you don’t hear from any of those once exciting new prospects again.
So, what’s the problem? You know the content is great. It’s packed with value; and if only people applied your knowledge and expertise, they would get fantastic results. No question!
But now, you’re starting to worry if you may be talking to the wrong people. Or if they are even interested in what you have to say. Maybe they just don’t get it?
Before you start going down that road, though, consider something else: What if you’re talking to the right people, about the right stuff, but there is something about the ebook itself that is stopping people from reading it?
Have you experienced this? You’re reading someone’s opt-in freebie, and you can’t quite put your finger on what is ‘off’ about it. It’s not ugly. It’s not even bad. It just… grates on you.
It just doesn’t feel right, and you don’t know why. And it’s just too hard to keep reading past page 3. So, you get side-tracked, search the web to find out how many ways there are to de-fluff your cat, and by the time you’ve had that next cup of jasmine green tea, you’ve forgotten all about it.
I don’t like to see that happen; especially not to heart-centred business owners or entrepreneurs who have poured their heart and soul into their creations.
“Keeping a reader’s attention is about more than just great content.”
It’s a fact: Keeping a reader’s attention is about more than just great content. The way it is presented also needs to be clear, structured, and easy to read. It should take the reader on a journey of discovery, leaving them excited, or hopeful (or both!), and eager to find out more about the subject –preferably, from you!
Now, I believe that you don’t have to be a professional designer (or copywriter, or business strategist, or experienced multi-six-figure marketeer), to have professional and appealing business material. Whether they are free or paid, here are some suggestions to help you create your best digital downloads ever:
1.1 Always add your logo and contact details.
“Yeah, duh”, I hear you say. But I’ve seen quite a few documents without a sign of a logo or even a website on it; especially single page files such as infographics or flow charts are regularly guilty of this. People may not remember where they got your file if they find it in their download folder after 2 months; they need to be able to see where it came from without having to hire a detective!
Suggestion: Your visual brand is an important part of what makes your business recognisable, and stand out from the rest; use it! 😃 Remember though – it’s about the content first (people have signed up, so they know it’s yours!), so by all means add your logo, but don’t let it overpower the rest of the page. No need to shout 😉
1.2 Make it about them.
It’s tempting to lead into the great stuff you have to offer by telling people about yourself, and how you got to where you are. Of course, there is a time and place for all that. But first, it has to be about your reader. Ask yourself; why should they care?
Suggestion: Most people like to get to know you before they buy from you. Speak to them direct; make sure you know what their problems are, make them feel like you understand what they’re going through, and offer a solution rather than just your service. And put the ‘about the author’ section at the back of your ebook rather than the front 😉
1.3 Keep it simple.
It’s great to read material from people who love what they do. Stuff they are clearly passionate about. But what sometimes happens is that they try to include 40 years of experience and 20 years of training in one ebook. Rather than inspiring, it becomes overwhelming, and the best case scenario is that the reader will save it for later. What’s more likely is that they give up and move on. *sad face*
Suggestion: Break it down. Consider what you want this document to accomplish. As you write, ask yourself regularly if there may be material here for 2 (or more) ebooks, and restructure it if necessary. Once you start writing, you may find there’s an entire course developing! That’s great; just don’t give it all out in one go. Ensure there are no gaps, and things flow nicely – stick to your writing plan, or table of contents. Keep the language simple too; too much jargon, and your reader may nod off. Always keep a separate file with ALL your notes and scribbles in addition to your ebook file, in case you’d like to put something back in that you deleted half an hour earlier. Revise it regularly, and keep the old versions of your document (for the same reason).
1.4 Keep it updated.
An ebook can go a long way. Before you know it, it’s been gathering digital dust for a few years and you may have forgotten about it just a little… If a document says ‘© 2014’ – even if you’ve just made some changes to it – it’s likely your readers will wonder if the content may be a teensy bit outdated. *Awkward*
Suggestion: Read through your downloads regularly – at least twice a year – to check if the information is still up to date and relevant, and adjust it if need be. Also, make sure all the links still work, always include the copyright symbol, and update the year to the current one! 😃
1.5 Use the right format.
So, how do you decide what type of document is best? A PDF? Word document? Or an actual ebook that can be read on Kindle (mobi) or in iBooks or other e-readers (ePub)? All these formats have their own pros and cons.
Suggestion: Consider your ideal clients’ preferences, but also keep in mind the purpose of your document and make sure the format you choose is best for that. For example, are you creating a questionnaire? A Word document may be the easiest option, however, if the user doesn’t have the fonts you’ve used, the text will reflow and it will end up looking nothing like you intended it to. A PDF, on the other hand, doesn’t reflow, but you can turn it into an interactive fillable form, which can look very professional. Plus, all your formatting will stay intact. For creating worksheets with calculations, an Excel file may be most suitable, even if it’s not the most attractive. Priorities, folks! 🙂
1.6 Use hyperlinks.
Most people remember to use a hyperlink for their website in the footer, but don’t realise there is more where that came from!
Suggestion: Do you at any point make reference to a service your readers may find interesting, or an article you wrote that could be useful to them? Add a hyperlink to any appropriate and/or relevant subjects, if it provides a logical next step to guide your reader to further services and products. Ensure not to overdo this; you want them to take another step, not drown them in a sea of options (however tempting this may be). Oh, and always check the links work before publishing your document.
1.7 Run spellcheck, and proofread.
Suggestion: Run that spellcheck every time you update your document, and after that, read through it to pick up any correctly spelled words in the wrong context; here vs. hear, from vs. form; there vs their… The list goes on and on (personally, I blame the ever helpful and never annoying autoincorrect). I personally spend some time writing, then I go and do something else for a few hours (or more), and then I do the re-reading and editing. Take your time, but don’t procrastinate; get it out there, ok? *note to self*
1.8 Be clear and consistent.
Suggestion: When using technical or professional terms, use them consistently throughout your document. Ensure that any abbreviations are written in full when they are first mentioned, and perhaps again if appropriate (if people scan your document, they may miss certain paragraphs or chapters), so people don’t have to go searching for what it means. Also, think ahead to the documents and material you may be producing in future. I know it’s difficult to predict, but if you can come up with a naming system for your documents that is clear and consistent, your readers, clients or students will thank you.
1.9 Get the word out!
Last but certainly not least, people need to know about your ebook (or freebie offer, or lead magnet, or sign-up incentive; whatever you decide to call it) – it’s not going to download itself (though you might argue, it would if it could 😉 ). Check out how other businesses are promoting their products and services; does it appeal to you, or if it make you feel icky? There are some best practice guidelines for doing this the right way, but the most important thing is to do this in the way it works best for YOU.
Suggestion: I believe that the key to a successful heart-based business is CONNECTION,; and the key to connecting with like-minded people and building your tribe is GIVING. They need a darn good reason to give you their email address; most of us are already subscribed to many a newsletter. So, give value and offer support; this helps to build trust, and make it more likely that people will buy from you. More is more, in this case. Gather feedback to improve your services, and ask people who told you they really appreciated your help for a testimonial. A great way to make connections is to join Facebook groups where you feel ‘your’ people hang out. Careful, though; don’t just join, introduce yourself and start promoting your stuff – you’ll likely get thrown out. Instead, connect, help and share. This process takes time and some effort, but it’s rewarding, and will help your stuff to get seen by the people that matter to you.
You were probably aware of most of these points already, and these things may seem like minor details. But I hope you agree, they definitely matter! I suggest having a look through your documents to see where they could be fine-tuned. Once you get into this, dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ’t’s will become second nature, and it will take no time at all to create perfect digital ebook downloads.
Want more? Get specific visual design tips and a free checklist download [coming soon] in part 2 of this article.
Over to you – any lightbulb moments? Do you think I have missed anything that should be part of this list? If so, please leave a comment below (first, check if it’s not in part 2 of this article, though! 😃 )