3 Things I wish I’d known before writing an Ebook

Like a lot of you out there (and certainly those fellow ex lit students and ex journalists), I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that I had a book in me. So when my manager at Justinmind revealed that she wanted to try generating leads through the creation of a free-to-download eBook, I was excited; ok, it probably wasn’t going to be the Great American Novel, but I’ll take what I can get.

That was 3 months ago. Now it’s all done and dusted — and available to download here, FYI — I can confirm that writing and publishing ‘Making an Enterprise UX-Friendly’ was a positive and professionally enriching experience. However, if you’d asked me in the middle of the project, my answer might have been less enthusiastic. The learning curve was steep, not just in terms of having to dominate the subject matter at high speed, but also in the team having to learn the publication and promotion process while we were live on air, so to speak. Kind of like life, there’s no rehearsal for an eBook launch!

Reflecting back on the production and publication process, there are definitely some things I would have done differently, and some things that, as a team, we wish we’d been aware of prior to getting started. In no particular order, here are 3 things I wish I’d known before writing an eBook.

Talk to your target audience, or someone who knows them and their needs

Confession time: even though the eBook I was supposed to be writing was based around user experience, we didn’t ask our potential users (our target readers) what they were interested in reading about. So the content team went round and round debating titles and themes, trying them out on each other, thinking everything sounded great and being incapable of picking a final idea. It wasn’t until we spoke to Justinmind’s Product Manager that we actually heard what potential readers were interested in, as he gave us the skinny on what he heard from clients. We could have saved ourselves a lot of fruitless musing by starting out thinking from a user perspective, rather than our own end goal as marketers.

In fact, since then we’ve tried to open up more of a hotline to Justinmind’s blog readers by carrying out regular surveys on trending topics or tools, blasted out via social and MailChimp: the responses have enabled us to tune our content much more finely to what readers are interested in, or to their pain points. It made me think that nurturing a ‘community’ of readers might actually turn out to be a useful resource for the content team, as well as driving engagement with the site in general. TweetChats or Live Q&As might be ways to do that in the future.

Start relationship-building with influencers now

Promoting our one little eBook in the vast and echoing halls of the internet was a daunting task. There is just so much competitor content out there, how was anyone going to find us if they didn’t go to our blog? Influencer marketing seemed to be a great option. We’d just email UX and prototyping celebrities and get them to promote the eBook, right?

I probably don’t need to tell you that our success rate wasn’t stratospheric, either with bloggers or with influencers. Those few who we did successfully get on board for promotion were those with whom the content team already had an established relationship. That showed me the importance of the softly-softly approach to relation-ship building: focusing on growing mutually beneficial relationships and providing value for influencers over the long term (such as offering them spots on our blog’s Q&A section, or other sweeteners) will pay off the next time we need to leverage the power of influencers. There are some ideas on how to do this on the Content Marketing Institute’s blog.

If you can see it, then track it

When we showed the eBook to our boss at last he was happy (phew). But he asked us why we hadn’t included tracking links; we didn’t have an answer, because we should have included them. As it stands, the book is traditionally ‘bookish’ in its structure and visual design. It looks great, but it’s not terribly helpful in terms of understanding how readers react to Calls to Action — we didn’t include tracking links in the CTAs, or enough CTAs for that matter, as we were more focused on producing outstanding content than on collecting metrics.

With upcoming downloadable content we’ll be more adventurous with both the presentation style of the information, and with tracking where readers click and where they convert. It would have been great to see whether readers converted when they read the chapter about Enterprise UX Strategy, or whether they clicked and shared our in-line tweets. Next time.