"Thin" online content, such as low-quality guest blog posts, is out this year, thanks to the various Google algorithm updates of the past few years. Experts suggest that in 2015 and beyond, it will be all about "fat" content — such as ebooks.
"Fat content will become the focus of marketers everywhere," according to Jesse Noyes, senior director of content marketing for Kapost, who recently spoke with the Content Marketing Institute. "This includes content types like white papers, videos, ebooks, infographics … [and] content that can be broken up and used as the fuel for multi-channel campaigns."
Ebooks in general are hot, with sales expected to grow from $2.31 billion in 2011 to $8.69 billion in 2018, according to PricewaterhouseCooper LLP. Ebooks, as part of a content marketing strategy, can give brands and entrepreneurs opportunities to deeply connect with their target audiences.
Self-published titles — which many content marketers create and make available for free — represent an increasingly significant piece of the ebook ecosystem. Self-published ebooks (fiction and nonfiction) comprised 32 percent of the daily unit sales of ebook bestsellers on Amazon.com in the quarter ending October 2, 2014, up five percent from 27 percent in the quarter ending Feb. 7 of the same year, according to the Author Earnings report. These numbers are noteworthy because Amazon is the largest ebook marketplace, with 64 percent share, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Ebooks offer brands many potential benefits, but are they time-consuming and expensive to produce? Is the ROI worth the effort? We asked these questions and more to a handful of experts. Here are their top tips, best practices and advice on what to expect when you add ebooks to your content marketing strategy.
Reasons to Publish an Ebook
Ebooks "are one of the best ways to generate leads for business," according to Brian Carter, consultant, speaker, and author of multiple PDF ebooks and two Amazon titles, including The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice On How To Get Your Dream Job And Make More Money ($2.99). "The only more effective strategy is webinars, which can be more problematic and expensive."
"Our company has been working in the cloud since 2008 and blogging about trends and predictions," says Margaret Walker, marketing specialist, CohesiveFT. "We wanted to revive the content and ... call ourselves 'thought leaders' in cloud but back it up in a big way, with the best of our over 300 blog posts and some industry friends' exclusive content" in the ebook, Cloud Memoirs: Views from Below, Inside, and Above (free in most formats).
Help Potential Customers Learn More About You
Brecht Palombo, founder and president of Distressedpro.com, offers a $69 ebook designed to "educate my customers so they can decide if my software is right for them and know how to use the data inside my software should they choose to subscribe." (Distressedpro.com offers software for direct note and Real Estate Owned [REO] deals.)
Build a Personal Brand
"I always wanted to write a book sharing some of the expertise I have gained over my 25 plus years in business," says Anthony Gioeli, VP sales and marketing, KeyLemon SA, and author of International Business Expansion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Launch Your Company Into Other Countries ($9.99 on Amazon). "My main goals were to educate the market and start building up my personal brand for a future career as a speaker, consultant and teacher."
Offer Valuable Expertise to Your Target Audience
Nik Parks is co-founder of Launching Creative, which "teaches creatives how to become business savvy creative professionals." Launching Creative offers the ebook How to Price Yourself as a Creative Professional as a free downloadable PDF from its website.
"I've struggled with pricing my services [as a graphic designer] in the past and I couldn't find any helpful resources," Parks says. "After talking to a few fellow creatives, I realized this is a massive problem, yet most of us are feeling alienated. My main goal [in co-authoring the book] was to help creatives thrive in their careers. When we have concrete reasons for our rates, we can be more confident and lead the lives we want to live."
Creating Ebooks Can Take Time — but It Doesn't Have to
The time required to create and publish an ebook depends on a variety of factors, including the topic and ebook's length.
Carter says his most recent ebook on Twitter marketing will be between 15,000 and 20,000 words, and it took him less than one month to write. However, "with editing and promotion, it will be more like two months," he says.
KeyLemon SA's Gioeli says he spent about 1,000 hours total, including "creating the content outline, researching, writing the book, rewriting and editing."
For Dina Eisenberg, creating and publishing Fiverr: The Essential Buying Guide: Where Smart Buyers Find Top Talent, Write Winning Proposal and Save Tons of Time & Money ($0.99 on Amazon) took nearly three months. "I wrote every day, with several days where the book was my main focus," she says. "Using [the writing software] Scrivener was very helpful."
Other ebook authors offload some of the heavy lifting to minimize the time it takes to create a book. "You can produce an ebook in as little as an hour and a half," says Distressedpro.com's Palombo. "The way to do this is have someone walk you through an extensive interview, record it, and transcribe it. Then you hand it off to a professional writer [or] editor." An hour-long interview should translate to roughly 10,000 words, according to Palombo, which, he says, is "a solid base" for an ebook.