If you haven't considered adding e-books to your sales materials, then learn more about e-book advantages and drawbacks.
But if you're ready to develop an e-book, the following tips will help you create more engaging and effective content.
Plan for longevity. An e-book will likely have a longer useful life than other marketing collateral, so plan for refresh cycles from the start of the project. For example, I wrote a primer on wide-area networking for a client that was so popular, we revised it annually for six editions until the topic became too large to handle in just one document. Depending on the topic of your e-book, a review and update of the content every 6-12 months will likely be appropriate.
Create an information design. Choose a page layout and graphical elements that are suitable for your audience and topic, and that comply with corporate branding standards. To increase the visual appeal of an e-book, the temptation is to be too clever with illustrations, color schemes, fonts, and other design elements. But an overly-cute design can distract from your information and perhaps even cause readers to overlook your book because it doesn't appear to be serious or credible.
Avoid the kitchen sink syndrome. Just because an e-book can be longer than a white paper doesn't mean it should contain every bit of information or every possible topic on the subject matter. Solution: Link to content such as other e-books or white papers that are targeted by topic, audience (e.g., business decision maker vs. technical decision maker), or vertical market.
Find the right writer. Not every writer can create the right type of content, with the right style, for an e-book. An e-book writer needs to understand how a more visual presentation affects the reader's attention and understanding, particularly for technical content. A technical e-book writer with information design skills can help you create engaging e-book content.
Outline with storyboards. An e-book page usually covers just one topic because the reader's attention shifts when they load the next page. This also means you need to watch for transitions and continuity of ideas from one page to another, which is easier to see in storyboards than traditional written outlines.
Highlight key content on each page. Use formatting and visual elements such as callouts and sidebar boxes to serve skimmers. The e-book format encourages reading online, so you need to make sure the key messages and content on each page will catch the reader's attention.
Add interactivity. Within the e-book, embed or link to multimedia content such as a customer testimonial video, webinar recording, or an interactive product demo. These elements will encourage the reader to explore more of your information, and to look through the entire e-book for other opportunities to interact.
Create a "real" book. Consider using a print-on-demand service to offer a bound, printed book as an option for site visitors to request or for use as a leave-behind piece on sales calls. Of course, this choice should be in addition to allowing the customer to print the e-book as a PDF file downloaded from your site.
What types of content, information design, or copywriting techniques have you used in e-books?