Last month Mike published a kickass article entitled “How to Create Your Own Infograph Using Canva” and, as anybody familiar with our relationship will know, I tend to one-up Mike as much as I possibly can.
(See Mike’s article “Why You Should Opt Out of Facebook Ads” in 2013 and my concurrent article “Why You Should Opt Into Facebook Ads” in 2014.)
This article will dive into how I’ve used free software to create four marketing ebooks which are currently on the Wishpond website driving leads and sales. I’ve made all of these ebooks in the past year without any design experience or training, and you can do it too.
Please read the section below like I’m the host of a late-night infomercial:
Ebooks! The’re awesome. They’re full of amazing and educational insights and lessons.
And you should be making them! If you did, you’d be able to generate leads, increase your brand authority, and boost your reputation like a boss!
But it’s impossible!
Image Credit: https://heavyeditorial.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/922.gif
Ebooks require a huge team of writers, designers, researchers and coders, let alone the cost of Photoshop and inDesign.
WELL, what if I told you that there was a brand new way to create awesome ebooks in a couple days for less than the price of a cup of coffee?!
And here’s where I have to stop because I’m making myself ill.
Basically what I’m saying is that ebooks are an incredibly valuable piece of content. Email-gating an ebook generates your business valuable and qualified leads who are already segmented and inches away from a final paid conversion.
But ebooks are also intimidating. They’re big, full of visuals and a huge amount of content. You wouldn’t even know where to start.
Here’s the thing. A) They’re easier than you think and B) As Zig Ziglar said “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
So let’s get started.
Step 1: Decide on a Topic
You want to create something your prospective clients want to read. The best way to do this (I’ve found) is to create something your current clients want to read. After all, they’ve got to be pretty similar, and one of those groups you already have the contact details of.
Send an email, something like:
“Hey [First Name], James Scherer here from Wishpond. I’m just reaching out because I’ve been thinking about creating an ebook, and I’m wondering if there’s a subject you’ve been dying to learn more about?
Feel free to choose from these five options, or reply to this email with your topic.”
In order to add a poll to your Mailchimp mailout simply put your ebook subject ideas within the survey merge tags, which look like *|SURVEY: [your subject idea]|*.
Alternatively, place a poll on your blog or most trafficked page. In order to do this with WordPress, check out several poll plugins, or if you use Blogger, here’s a simple how-to guide.
Step 2: Write Blog Articles
This might sound a bit counter-intuitive. Why would I write blog articles when I want to write an ebook?
Silly reader, don’t you know an ebook is just a massive, somewhat visual blog article?
To be more specific, an ebook is a comprehensive look at a subject. The reason it’s valuable is because it’s downloadable, complete and easily referred-to.
For instance, let’s say that the majority of my email respondents replied that they’re most curious about finding success and calculating ROI from social media.
I’d look back over my blog to see if there was any content that could be reused or compiled for my new ebook. Let’s say I had:
- How to Market your Business on Facebook
- How to Find Success with Google+
- 10 Steps to Twitter Excellence
- Calculating your Social ROI to Maximize your Investment
I’d update any older pieces of content with new information and write a couple more, one focusing on LinkedIn marketing and (depending on my target market) Pinterest as well.
So long as you’re not copying your articles verbatim, your blog content can be re-animated for a kickass ebook.
Step 3: Decide on a Design Platform
On to the part we’ve all been waiting for. The secret to my success.
So there are two primary (free) platforms which can be used to create a professional ebook worth downloading: Canva and Google Slides.
I prefer Google Slides for ebooks and, like Mike, Canva for infographics.
Both these platforms enable marketers without any design experience whatsoever to create something beautiful. They’re free and are growing in capability constantly.
Seriously, I use the Slides platform for everything, from image editing to content banners to, yep, ebook creation.
That said, in almost every way Canva and Google Slides are identical platforms. My fondness for Slides is personal (I’ve been working with it longer and am, perhaps, stuck in my ways).
Let me show you what you can do after investing a bit of time into learning your way around this simple platform:
For the point of this article, this morning when I came into work I downloaded Visual.ly’s recent Guide to Creating Compelling Ebooks. I’ve included the link as a kindness because the next few paragraphs unashamedly discuss me copying the hell out of them.
I think we can all agree that Visual.ly is one of the leading visual content marketing organizations out there, so I knew their ebook on creating good ebooks would probably be a beautiful thing.
They likely paid a graphic designer with years of experience a pretty penny to make the ebook they did. That talented individual likely used either inDesign or Illustrator, both of which require a serious investment of time and money.
I created something in about 45 minutes this morning which looks identical.
The page on the right I screenshotted from Visual.ly’s ebook. The page on the left I created with Google Slides:
Here’s what it would look like without all the objects selected (which I did to prove to you I wasn’t messing around):
And here’s one a bit more complicated to prove my point again:
You might notice I wasn’t able to copy the jagged bottom edge of Visual.ly’s text box. Unfortunately Google Slides only has 23 options for a text box shape that might have worked there. The jagged edge wasn’t one of them (that was sarcasm, by the way).
To create those pages I needed three small things beyond Google Slides itself:
- Flaticon.com (a free website which gave me the icons you see within the red circles in the first page)
- A free Chrome plugin called Eye Dropper (which allows me to select colors within any webpage and find both their hex and RGB codes – enabling me to match the colors of Visual.ly’s ebook exactly).
- A $6/month premium subscription to PicJumbo.com (which delivers high-quality stock images on a monthly basis). Pexels is also worth checking out.
Inspiration, not Copyright Infringement
To be honest with you I genuinely believe this is the best way to create your first visually-appealing ebook: take inspiration from an existing ebook you love. Here’s how I might go about it for a Facebook ad ebook drawing inspiration from Visual.ly’s guide:
So long as I use my own images and content, drawing inspiration as I have here is entirely legal and gives a quality to your ebook you might not otherwise attain. Visual.ly does not own the rights to a color-coded toolbar at the top of their chapters, nor to the Arvo font or the concept of dimming an otherwise bright background image so it contrasts with white body copy.
For those of you wanting a quick and easy snapshot of the tricks of the Google Slides trade, check out this Slideshare, which includes all the shortcuts and manipulations you need to know (P.S. I made it in Google Slides):
I encourage you to explore Google Slides (and Canva, for that matter) for yourselves. These free platforms make it easy for graphic newbies to create truly beautiful pieces of content. They make it possible to put your years of experience into a piece of content which (once email-gated in a landing page) will generate you leads and sales.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about creating your first (or first awesome, at least) ebook in the comment section.