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The four most common questions about eBooks for small business

In the world of small business marketing, it sometimes seems like there is a never-ending tension between the “what’s hot now” social media to-do and the actual way to execute for maximum business benefit. Consider for example all the small businesses that have a Twitter account because they know they “should” but are really not using it effectively. The current darlings of small business branding — eBooks — are no exception.

Despite their meteoric rise in popularity — American publishers reported that in February of 2011, eBooks ranked as the #1 format among all categories of trade publishing — I still find that many small business owners are confused about the part eBooks play in their overall marketing plan. Here are the four most common questions I get asked about using eBooks to build small business brand.

1. What exactly is an eBook?

In short, an eBook (electronic book) is an electronic document that can contain text, images, audio and video. They can be viewed on a personal computer, smartphone  and eBook reader, such as a Kindle, and are sold through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and dozens of other outlets.

One important distinction to note, however, is that only eBooks that are created as PDF documents and downloaded as such retain their formatting and graphics. eBooks that are not downloaded as PDFs fall into the category of e-publishing, and when viewed on a Kindle, iPad or other device, they are simply a straight translation of the text only. Currently the Kindle and other such devices can only support the text from these documents, not graphics.

Most of my small business clients find that because they are creating eBooks primarily for branding and marketing purposes, they use the PDF format — being able to include graphics, format, audio, video, etc is a distinct advantage.

2. How could an eBook help my small business become better known?

eBooks can be the perfect calling card for potential customers. Offering an eBook free on your website in exchange for a prospect’s email, providing a link to a free downloadable eBook via your newsletter, or even having a link to your eBook in your email signature line provides a much greater opportunity to show your client your knowledge, expertise and point of view.

3. What’s the basic process for writing a small business eBook?

Step #1 Choose a topic: Brainstorm ideas that that use your expertise, knowledge base or specific information and/or research. Consider smaller slices of bigger topics for eBooks. Books that can fit into the “how to” topic area are some of the most popular.

Step #2 Create Your eBook Outline: Decide what five to ten basic topics you are going to address in your eBook, and then outline the three main points you are going to make under each of those topics.

Step #3 Begin Writing Your eBook: Oddly enough, the easiest part of eBook publishing is getting the finished product up and running for distribution. Many can be uploaded with just a click of a few buttons. But where most entrepreneurs face a challenge is in finding the time, or having the writing chops, to craft the eBook in the first place. I get weekly calls from small business owners asking me to ghostwrite their eBooks because, although they have great content and ideas, they don’t have the writing skills.

Even if that’s the case, it’s no excuse, since there are scads of eBook-savvy small businesses whose sole purpose is to ghostwrite, edit, design and publish your eBook.

Step #4 Edit and design your eBook: A few things to keep in mind:

Unless you were an English major, hire a proofreader to go through your manuscript to check spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Unless you were a graphic design major, hire a designer to create the layout, cover and formatting of your book.

Unless you are an illustrator, hire a graphic artist to add pictures or drawings to your eBook.

Consider embedding video in the eBook.

4. How do I get word out to my customers about my eBook?

Like any other marketing effort, creating something stellar is just the first step. Once your eBook is ready, your next job is to tell everyone. Some of the best practices include: writing about your new small business eBook on your blog, providing excerpts of your eBook to other blogs with a link back to the full eBook download, issuing press releases about your eBook, promoting your eBook in your newsletter, and offering your eBook as a follow-up to any webinars or live presentations.

If after reading this you are feeling like writing an eBook sounds like a whole lot of work, you’re right.  A professional, well-written, content-rich eBook requires a fair amount of effort and energy. But think of it like this: As soon as that eBook baby is born, it’s done and out in the world, helping to build your small business brand.

Have you used an eBook to build your business brand? What results did it produce? We would love to hear about your experience.

Karen Leland is a freelance journalist, best-selling author and president of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps businesses negotiate the wired world of today’s media landscape — social and otherwise.

 

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15 comments

Amanda
3 December 2011 #

Thanks Karen & Zero. I thought eBooks were only for the likes of Kindle & other ereaders. I really didn’t think they could be applied to my day job – bricks & motar business of retailing kids footwear. But I can see how they can be used in marketing my small business… do you think printed materials such as flyers & phamplets still have relevance in todays eWorld?

Rory Burkhart
6 December 2011 #

I spent nearly 1,200 dollars having an eBook designed. We put it out on the web, and nothing happened. I thought it was going to be like magic, but it was very disappointing. I thought I wasted my money. Then, I looked into what I could actually do with it. I started putting it in emails, on business cards, and our advertising in the local paper. The benefits have been exponential to the company. Ss, a word of advice, no matter how nice your eBook is, find the right way to market it to the people you want to have it.

Dave Wingert
6 December 2011 #

Thanks for letting me know that an eBook can be used for advertising my business. I only thought they were an option to paper books for people to read. Again, thanks.

Mike Kranz
6 December 2011 #

We recently opened an online door distributin company and we created a small ebook to outline the services we offer. It’s only been active for 2 months so we don’t really know the success yet, but business is getting stronger each week.

Marsha Sandoval
6 December 2011 #

eBooks are great. If you are thinking of using one, make sure you have a way to test it and measure it instantly. Do a search for Brad Sugars and read his FREE downloads on eBooks. He has one that outlines how to obtain a lot of information about the people accessing your eBook that can be very helpful to your business or redesigning of your eBook.

Ed Cohen
6 December 2011 #

I like your idea, but I am still a little confused. Is an eBook in place of a website of information or is it in addition to it? I am not sure how they would be that different other than being able to download the eBook so they can take it with them. I need to look into this more. Thanks for the blog, you have me thinking.

Melinda Loo
6 December 2011 #

My friend is a teacher and he recently self published his first book. He didn’t just want to send out a message that told people he wrote a book and where they could buy it, so he created an ebook that had the opening chapter in it so people could read it. He also attached a link to where it can be purchased. It was a great idea and he is on his way to selling more books than he thought he ever would.

Rick Bosl
6 December 2011 #

I haven’t done an ebook for my own business venture, but this blog has me thinking. So, I did a little searching on how to make an ebook and I came across a great article I want to share. If you need help, check this out. http://www.skelliewag.org/how-to-create-and-publish-your-own-ebook-with-a-0-budget-53.htm

Mona Boyes
6 December 2011 #

I attached a link to a tutorial on how to download any ebook for free. This way you can see how ebooks are being used for many things and then design one that helps you the most. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09YWTLwbxvU

Bruce Hardie
7 December 2011 #

That’s a great idea about adding a link to the ebook in the signature line on my email account. I am going to try that. Thanks.

Lisa Pound
7 December 2011 #

My wife’s day care recently put a link to an ebook on their website and business cards. They felt that they couldn’t put enough info about the center on the pamphlet that they have always had available , so they went the route of an ebook. It’s a very nice option for letting people know about your business.

Raymond Chip Lambert
7 December 2011 #

My first attempt at an ebook was mostly a word document. I did it myself and only included a few digital pics that I took. I didn’t get much response after 4 months so I went the route of getting help. The result was much more professional looking and I have clients tell me how much they love it all the time. Well worth the extra money I spent.

Pam Parton
7 December 2011 #

I need to check into the adding video thing you mention. I have text and images only in a pdf, but if I can add video showing how we manufacture our boats, then potential customers can see the attention to detail we strive for. Thanks for the idea!

Mickey Pascarella
7 December 2011 #

Yes, step four is crucial. Too many businesses have bad grammar, spelling, etc. in within their websites and advertising materials. If you want people to take your business seriously, make it look professional!

Sara
20 December 2011 #

eBooks are a great way to get email addresses, per-qualify leads, and help to create authority. My husband, Internet Attorney Mike Young, uses eBooks on his law firm blog (http://USInternetLawFirm.com) to entice people to opt in to his email list by offering the first few chapters of his Internet Laws Book (http://InternetLawsBook.com). He also uses the book as an educational tool to cover the basics so that when he consults with a client they already have a fundamental understanding about internet law and they can then get to the heart of the matter since his hourly fee isn’t cheap.

The one other thing you didn’t mention was protecting your ebook content using ebook disclaimers like those available at http://eBookLegalese.com. You’d be surprised at the number of people who try to steal good content you’ve spent time, energy and money developing.

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