One of the more recent crazes in the online marketing world is eBooks.

The idea behind it goes something like this. You write a PDF booklet with handy hints or tips designed to give readers some valuable information. To get it, they surrender their name and email address to you. You get their details for email marketing purposes, they get your book, and boom! – a wonderful relationship is born.

Or at least, that’s the theory. But lately I’ve seen examples where this great idea hasn’t turned out so great in practice. And that’s why I’m writing this post: to say STOP! Think first! Because if you don’t dedicate careful forethought and planning to the eBook creation process, your eBook might HARM your relationship with prospective clients, not help it. Here’s why…

Honey, I’m Writing an eBook!

Occasionally, I see businesses approach online marketing in a way that really concerns me. They latch onto the latest online marketing fad (be it blogging, information videos, Twitter, Pinterest, eBooks or something else) and dive in without any forethought or planning. Everyone’s doing it, and apparently it works for everyone, so they do it too. But that’s akin to jumping out of a plane without a parachute, and hoping there’s a trampoline below to soften the landing – it’s not necessarily going to be successful.

The Secret Recipe for Good Online Marketing

You see, the truth is that good online marketing requires forethought, effort, and planning. You need to sit down and consider how you can offer prospective clients REAL value. And then you have to deliver it. That applies to blogging, it applies to information videos, and it sure as hell applies to eBooks too.

Unfortunately, some businesses (or the marketing companies they employ) write eBooks simply for the sake of writing eBooks, with zero thought or planning behind them. And that’s bad. Very bad. Don’t make the same mistake.

Writing an eBook for the Sake of it is Bad News

The reason writing an eBook for the sake of writing an eBook is bad is that it directly impacts on your clients and prospective clients, and their opinion of you. Let me explain:

When I surrender my email address in exchange for an eBook, I expect the eBook to provide me with valuable information. When my expectations are met, it’s usually the beginning of a wonderful relationship between me and the eBook creator. I have good, warm, fuzzy, charitable feelings towards the author. I might not even unsubscribe from their emailing list. And even if I do, I’ll do it with friendly feelings still warming my heart. (You can find an example of a good, value-adding copywriting eBook that created happy, friendly feelings in my heart here.)

BUT, if I swap my email address for an eBook that doesn’t add value, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The unsubscribe button receives an immediate call, and my feelings towards the creator of the eBook are anything but good, warm, fuzzy, or charitable.

And that’s the problem. If you write an eBook for the sake of writing an eBook, 99 times out of 100 it won’t be providing the reader with any valuable information whatsoever. Zilch. Nix. Nothing. When that happens, your eBook download creates a disappointed potential client. And disappointed potential clients shop elsewhere. In other words, writing an eBook simply for the sake of it can damage your brand and business.

So Why Are Businesses Writing eBooks? Should They?

Businesses are always looking for new clients. But cold calling sucks. Life is a lot easier when clients come to you, and if they make the first step by signing up to your newsletter, then it’s a whole lot easier to bring them through your marketing funnel until they engage your service or purchase your product. That’s why businesses are offering eBooks online: to gather potential clients’ contact details. And that’s not a bad idea. Actually, it’s a great one. But you MUST offer real value.

eBooks CAN be Good – They Can Even be Great

Now don’t go away from this post thinking that eBooks are bad or dead or something like that. They’re not. Actually, eBooks are great! Or they should be. It’s just that if you’re going to have an eBook, it needs to add value. In some industries, it can be easy to come up with a way to share something valuable with your potential clients. In other industries, it’s harder. You have to be more creative. And in the meantime, you need to wait, because until you can add value, your business should not have an eBook yet. Once you can add some value, however – go for it! Your clients will reward you.

(In either case, a good copywriter or internet marketer can help you out. If you need help writing a value-adding eBook, I can help…)

A Word to Internet Marketers and Copywriters

Don’t be that internet marketer that encourages a client to get an eBook for the sake of having an eBook. Guide your client along the process, work with them, brainstorm with them, and do what it takes to get the information you need to create a truly awesome book that will knock the socks of your clients’ clients.

How to Write an Awesome eBook

As I’ve said already, the key to a great eBook is that it must give the reader something of value. So when deciding on what to write about in your eBook, consider your clients. What are their problems? What are their interests? What are their needs and wants? Brainstorm, write lists, talk to your clients and find out what they think. When you know the answers to these questions, you can write an eBook that solves your clients’ problem, is related to their interests, or fulfils one of their needs. If you do this, they will love you for it.

For instance, as an SEO copywriter, I could offer my clients an eBook with tips about blogging for business that included basic templates for structuring a blog and integrating relevant keywords into the copy. Or, I could write an eBook about 10 SEO Tricks you can implement in an hour to improve your website’s SEO. The more value I can give, the better. Sure, some of my readers will sign up for the free tips and never actually use my services, but that’s fine. In other cases, the eBook will create a relationship of trust, which could lead them to use my services, or recommend me to their friends.

eBooks – a Warning Reiterated, and a Hope Repeated

If you can’t provide potential clients with value, then you’re better off not having an eBook. Sure, you might get fewer people signing up to your newsletter or voluntarily surrendering their contact information to you. But at least you’ll know that those who do really want you to have their contact details, and you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that they won’t be going elsewhere with a bad taste in their mouth after their interaction with you.

Which would you prefer?

If you can provide value, go for it – write an eBook! The internet and its users will thank and reward you for your effort.

Your Say

If you’ve had a bad eBook experience, please share your story below. Together, we can make sure that the only crap eBooks on the internet are value-adding virtual-tomes from companies in the sewerage-treatment business.

Have I gone a step (or twelve) too far in my condemnation of the humble eBook? Or have I hit the metaphorical nail smack bang in the centre of its metaphorical head? Have your literal say in the comments below, or share this post on social media to start the conversation.

Learn More

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