You’ve finished writing your ebook. You sit back in your office chair and breathe a sigh of relief. It’s a long document, brimming with a mix of wit, personality, and (of course) your expertise on the topic. You’re certain that it will offer your readers the insight they’re looking for. But something’s not quite right.
After you look at it again, you start to wonder: Is it just a giant “wall” of text? Does the ebook really pop the way you’d like it to pop?
A common, initial temptation is to google “royalty free images” to shoehorn throughout the content to break the up the text (and add to your page count!!!). But is that really the right thing to do? It’s tempting. It’s easy. But it doesn’t add value.
Instead, here are 9 ways that you can add value to your next ebook. These ebook elements will help to break up that wall of text, they’ll add some visual interest, and they’ll help your ebook to really pop in the mind of your reader.
Ebook value-add #1: Callout boxes
These are boxes that you see in magazines all the time. They’re filled with additional information, facts, tips, and hints. They’re often pretty “listy” (bullet lists or numbered lists) although I’ve written plenty that were formatted as paragraphs. Use these to add extra context or background, or to add some additional tips that your readers might want to learn or be reminded of. Don’t add more than one per page and try not to add one on every single page. Check out some of your favorite magazines for ideas. In some of your callout boxes, you can reiterate ideas that were spread across several pages, or you can show how the current point fits into a larger list. This is also a good place for an anecdote, quick tip, or to highlight a special link that is related to the topic.
Ebook value-add #2: Examples
Although you’ve probably used examples in specific situations throughout the body of your text, (for example, in this sentence) it doesn’t hurt to pull together several concepts into a longer example that is formatted in a different way. I tend to use examples to illustrate several concepts with a fictional story. But on a related note, I also use…
Ebook value-add #3: Case studies
Case studies are (usually) true life examples (perhaps “anonymized” to protect the subject of the case study). These can be used in a similar way as an example. However, since case studies are usually true life, I tend to use them less as illustrations of a point and more as inspiration or proof of the content. So I tend to use both in my ebooks. Strike a balance so you don’t overwhelm your readers, but remember that everyone learns differently, and some people respond better to examples while others prefer case studies. (Personally, I’m a case study person).
Ebook value-add #4: Appendix
One appendix (or several appendices) at the end can be a great place to put all that background information that you want to write but that you doubt your readers will always want to read in the body of the text. It’s the stuff that is important to know but, once you write this, you think that most of your readers will probably already know quite a bit of it. Chances are, you’ll write it into the body of your text and pull it out. (In many cases, I’ll write the first 5 chapters of an ebook, then pull out the first 2-4 chapters and put them in an appendix because my good sense and experience tells me that those first chapters were just warm-up and the real reason people bought the ebook started in chapter 3, 4, or 5.) There are other things you can add into an appendix: Industry information, lists of tips and ideas, a long reference list, step-by-step instructions, interviews with people, etc.
Ebook value-add #5: Templates
I love adding templates to an ebook. I like templates because, if you are a business trying to build a brand, templates are a great way to get people printing and using stuff that has your brand imprinted right on it. On the other hand, templates that have been shoehorned into ebooks can look funny if the header, footer, and page number of the ebook appear in the template. Often, I’ll create a file that has the ebook plus individual PDF documents that are each a separate template. The sky’s the limit with templates.
Ebook value-add #6: Resource lists
I like to add these usually at the end of a chapter. These can link to other content in the ebook, other content online (including specific blog posts you’ve written, which is something I advise my clients to do), Squidoo lenses, Amazon books, and other digital products (via affiliate links). The goal here isn’t to replace your wall of text with a wall of links. I wouldn’t have more than half a page of links at the most, preferably less. Think of it like this: Many of your readers might skip over this resource list, but some of your readers will want more information, now or in the future. They’ll look to your chapter and they’ll dig into some of your links for more information or another perspective.
Ebook value-add #7: “You will learn” overview
We all learn in different ways. I learn best when someone gives me an overview of what I’m about to learn and then gets into the lesson. If I don’t get an overview first, I struggle with trying to fit each individual piece of information into the big picture. So devote the first part of each chapter to an overview (a bulleted list or a couple of “big picture” paragraphs) outlining what the chapter is about.
Ebook value-add #8: Glossary
You’re an expert but not all of your readers are. They need a little extra hand-holding, and that probably includes definitions and explanations of key concepts. A glossary can be arduous to write (trust me! I’ve written a ton of them) but your readers will find it helpful.
Ebook value-add #9: Now it’s your turn
I find that my ebooks tend to become a little academic after a while. They might start off with lots of practical advice but I’m just wired to talk about concepts over practice… and most people who are sharing their expertise will probably trend that way, too. So, by adding a “Now it’s your turn” element periodically throughout the ebook, you’ll force yourself to step back from the concepts and consider what your readers will want to do in this situation. Then give practical, step-by-step instructions.
A WARNING TO LAZY PEOPLE
Most ebook writers will read this post and hopefully find some ideas to inspire them to add value to their ebooks. But some writers — the lazy ones! — will see this as a way to add bulk to ebooks for a padded page count. That is not my goal here. You could use these ideas to add bulk to your ebooks, but that won’t generate customer loyalty or long-term profit. It won’t wow your buyers with extra value. It only wastes your time (time you could spend adding value) and pisses readers off.
But to the rest of us — those who actually want to build a loyal and happy readership — these are useful ways to make your ebooks more valuable to readers. So, on your next ebook, why not add a couple of these elements!