What I Learned From Writing An 80 Page Ebook

I'm a writer. You know this because you are reading my words! But it's one thing to call yourself a writer and another to take the leap into different formats. I've written plenty of tweets, blog posts, essays, and the like, but never...and entire ebook.

So when State of Email finally came into existence, I was relieved (and a bit proud) of months of work coming to fruition. 

In case you were wondering what the heck I actually produced, here's a quick abstract:

In the annual State of Email Report, Litmus offers the most comprehensive look at the trends and developments that defined email marketing over the past year. Arm yourself and your team with knowledge about new and updated email clients, get inspired to try new and innovative techniques in your email program, and ensure your messages reach the inbox—all while delighting your subscribers along the way.

Make the Most Detailed Outline You Can

What I love about writing on a computer is that the words can just flow out of my head and onto the page. I rarely take the time to outline a blog post because usually, the thoughts are already organized into an argument—I wait until the idea is bursting to get onto a page before I write, in an ideal world.

Similar to how you can't wing a marathon, you can't wing an ebook. You have to know exactly what the concept is, what data you need, and what other resources you're going to include from the get-go. When you're dealing with more than 50 pages of content, things are going to get lost in the shuffle. Get ahead of that by knowing exactly what goals each chapter should achieve, and what information you need to research, vs. what already exists in your ecosystem.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

It's not really a secret that to build an 80 page ebook, you need a little help. While there was quite a bit of writing involved, I didn't start from scratch. Much of what we cover in the ebook has already been talked about on our blog or in our Community. My job was to roll up everything that was important, synthesize it to determine the key points to hit on each subject, and present it in the ebook format.

Recycling current content and rolling it up into one ebook is a great way to make your content work harder for you without nearly as much work. And while it took forever to nail down exactly how I wanted to talk about everything from email client updates to email marketing trends, having the baseline of blog posts that had already been thoroughly researched and vetted by our team made my job a whole lot easier.

Related: Creating an Editorial Calendar

This works for any type of ebook. Any company has a variety of themes they riff on that relate to their product, there's a bullseye (aptly named the "Content Bullseye") of what your audience cares about the most. Without needing to do any additional research, you can roll up your oodles of content into one, cohesive guide, with a little finessing on transitions and design.

Proof, Proof, Proof, Proof

Pretty self-explanatory, but details are critical. The longer the content, the more eyes need to be on it. This is still one of the most difficult things for me—having the stamina to comb through 80 pages ain't no joke.

Your Designer Is Your Hero

This ebook is gorgeous. And that is not because of my prose (though I do like to pat myself on the back about that). Our designer Amir Hamdi made this sing. He turned my boring copy into something dynamic and worth looking at.

If you haven't bought your design team flowers, chocolates, beer, whatever in a while, might be a good time to recognize how good they make your content look.

Make Your Content Work Harder

On the flipside of recycling is content atomization, especially when it comes to promotion. When you create an ebook, you're starting with a small handful of snow. You already had a great idea and put together a ton of research to make it happen.

From there, start to think about how you can leverage that piece of content in every other channel. With each new channel you add, you're adding snow to your snowball...until it can have a mind of its own.

We typically:

  • Seed social promotions
  • Create 2-3 blog posts pulling out different key takeaways for our different personas
  • Send targeted emails to our subscriber base
  • Include the ebook in our newsletters
  • Talk about the ebook and takeaways on our podcast
  • Schedule a webinar

That's a lot of activity from one burst of research! And that's just some of what we do, as we adjust each activation plan based on the ebook content and audience appeal.

Read my ebook!

In case you're an email geek interested in getting a comprehensive (and I mean comprehensive) overview of email marketing tips and trends for 2017, here's a link to download the ebook. You'll have to provide Litmus your email address to read it, but I promise it's worth it (and that Litmus has great content anyway, so it's a win-win!)