8 Reasons Your eBook Seriously Sucks

By Hannah Stacey

In the bitter online battle to win the ‘thought leadership’ crown in your market niche, the eBook is one of most powerful weapons you can have in your digital marketing arsenal.

Aside from demonstrating how much more clever you are than your competitors, a well-planned, well-marketed eBook can deliver the goods when it comes to lead generation, turning the casual peruser into a red hot sales prospect.

Now I’m fairly certain we all have the picture when it comes to content creation: Unique, well-crafted, USEFUL content – tailored with pin-point accuracy to the needs of your target audience – is what’s going to bring home the bacon. Anything less is going to get lost in the Internet abyss.

Yet in spite of this, there are so many eBooks out there that turn out to not only be a complete letdown, but are unlikely to bring any real benefit to a business.

Here are eight of the worst eBook offenses:

1) You Haven’t Done Research for Your eBook

Sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many eBooks are based on massive (often incorrect) assumptions about what people are looking for. Some basic research can solve this:

  • The Google Keyword Planner tool is a brilliant (and free) way of finding out what people are searching for. Try looking up topics or long-tail keywords relating to your offering – those with the highest traffic, and ideally the lowest competition, are often prime fodder for an eBook.
  • Has someone already written on the topic and taken the words right out of your mouth? Don’t waste your time; pick a different subject that hasn’t been covered (skillfully) before. If what’s out there is terrible, go right ahead and dazzle the virtual world with how much of a smarty-pants you are.
  • Just because you find something fascinating doesn’t mean everyone else does. Why not poll your existing followers, asking them what they’re interested in reading about at the moment? Similarly, profiling your target markets, figuring out their specific pain points, and writing eBooks on how to address them can be a great way to prove you’re a valuable friend to have.

2) It Looks Like a Kid Produced it

You may be a modern day Dickens, but your wordsmithery counts for nothing if your eBook looks like somebody puked on a page. Don’t get me wrong: When you’re writing for lead generation purposes, ROI is incredibly important, so spending thousands on a designer might not be the best strategy. However, there are heaps of cheap (and even free) templates and tools out there that you can use to make your eBook eye-catching and readable – we love these free templates by HubSpot.

3) It Doesn’t Bring Anything to the Party

eBooks provide a great opportunity to show you’re a true expert in your field, not that you’re a master of copying and pasting from other sources around the Internet. Your readers are more discerning than you think – make sure your eBook says something new and interesting, and doesn’t simply regurgitate what’s been done before.

4) You Have the Title All Wrong

Every good content marketer knows a killer title can make or break the success of a blog post or eBook. A great headline will have people falling over themselves to hand over their precious contact details, while a mediocre one will simply be ignored. Undoubtedly the best resource for irresistibly clickable content marketing headlines is Jon Morrow’s “52 Headline Hacks” eBook (meta, eh?). My favorites from this include:

  • ‘How to Be [Desirable Quality]’
  • ‘How to Take Charge of Your [Unruly Problem]’
  • ‘11 [Blank] Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making’
  • ‘7 [Blank] Secrets Every [Audience] Should Know’

5) It’s a Saga

People read eBooks to become better informed, not because they want to be entertained by a good long yarn. Bullet points, lists, and conciseness: Yes. Thousand-page Tolkien-esque epics: A hundred times, no.

6) You Don’t Sell Yourself in the Right Way

Ultimately, you’re not creating informative eBooks out of the kindness of your heart – they’re there to serve a marketing function. And when it comes to promoting your product or service within your eBook, many fall into the trap of either being too promotional (essentially a sales catalogue in disguise), or not being promotional enough.

Striking a balance is key – eBooks should be carefully planned so they are genuinely useful, prove your expertise, and contain enough information about your business that readers come straight to you to solve their problems. Tricky stuff, but doable. Don’t forget to make it easy for people to get to relevant landing pages on your website by including hyperlinks.

7) It Never Reaches Your Intended Audience

Publishing the eBook signup form on your website, then sitting back and twiddling your thumbs waiting for downloads to roll in is unlikely to produce the results you hoped for. And, although there are many free ways of advertising your eBook (through your social channels, for example), it’s important to remember that paying to get your eBook in front of the right people isn’t a dirty concept. Facebook and LinkedIn in particular have great, targeted advertising facilities – use these to make your book visible to the people who matter most.

8) Not Capitalizing on Marketing Opportunities

People forget things easily. If you’ve put in the hard graft creating an eBook, don’t let yourself drop off someone’s radar the minute they’ve closed the book. If you make your eBook desirable enough, you’re unlikely to lose anything by asking for a few details in order for someone to download it (but remember, asking for too much info will put people off – a name and email address will usually suffice). Then you have a wonderfully warm list of people to target in the future.

What might you add to this list? Have you had success with an eBook? 

Hannah Stacey

Hannah is an account manager at integrated B2B marketing agency TopLine Communications. She really likes social media, small business, and pictures of angry cats. Baked beans, action films and inexplicably warm chairs? Not so much.

View all posts by Hannah Stacey