Nervous about writing your first e-book? Never fear. E-books are written in a conversational, informative style that's easy for the reader to understand, and easy for you to imitate as you write them. Whether it's ten pages about Smart Finances, 50 pages on How to Care for Your Cat or 250 pages covering Secrets of the World's Best Yoga Masters, there are several e-book formats you can write to that are thought-provoking enough to get your words flowing, and flexible enough to make them as long or short as you like. Each of these formats is extremely appealing to the readers for its breezy, informative style.
Format 1: Q & A. Question and Answer sections win major popularity points with e-book readers for their direct, no-nonsense approach. Pose a question, offer an answer. This format is extremely simple to create because right from the get-go, the copywriter is forced to jump into the mind of the consumer, isolate his concerns, and then offer solutions. Switching perspectives is also a great mental exercise that lets you to see both sides of a situation. Why would you want to do this? If you can empathise with the reader, you'll be able to answer in a way that keeps his best interests in mind... and that makes him happy. If he's happy, he'll keep reading. If he keeps reading, he may ask for more information like this. And presto, you just landed yourself more writing work!
The style in which you write your questions will of course depend on the subjectmatter. If your topic is a dry one, write your questions and answers in a formal tone. If the theme is light and casual, try a conversational tone, like this:
Q: How do I figure out what questions to ask? A: That's easy; do some web research! There are forums for just about any topic on the internet. Visit one or two, and find out what the most commonly asked questions are. Let's say your e-book is going to be about quilting. Locate some handicraft or quilting websites, sleuth around the boards for a while, and you might find someone asking this popular question: How do I silkscreen family photos to my quilt? There you go! Real concerns, from real people. Put them in your e-book!
Another good way to find questions is to scroll the annals of your mind for real-life situations. Maybe you're writing a book about senior citizen retirement homes. Your grandma was in one, wasn't she? What were her concerns? How about, "What do I do with all my stuff before I move in?" "What if I don't get along with my roommate?" "How can I ensure that my dietary needs are taken care of?" Train yourself to think like the interested consumer. Once you do this, you won't believe how quickly the ideas come.
Format 2: Numbered Lists. If you haven't noticed already, this article is written as a Numbered List. Even though it's not part of an e-book, it could easily be incorporated into one. The numbered list will suit your e-book quite nicely.
People are drawn to lists for several reasons:
1) The eye naturally wants to scan anything in list format from top to bottom.
2) Lists provide incentive, followed by accomplishment. If you're reading along and you come to number eight in a list of 11 items, you know you're 3/4 of the way home! That's surely a reason to keep on trucking.
3) Lists offer brief resting points that allow the brain to absorb what it just read before moving on.
Lists are just as easy to write as they are to read. Let's say you're writing an e-book, How to Enhance Your Children's Lives. In the e-book is a sub-section, Fun Activities for a Rainy Day. The time comes to write it, but you're drawing a total blank. Then you remember the numbered list format! It's worth a shot. In one burst, you scribble:
1. Bake cookies
2. Paint with watercolors
3. Teach them a new card game
4. Write poetry together
5. Plant some garden seeds
Look at that! In less than a minute, you managed to come up with 5 intriguing topics that can be developed at great length. And what's this, you just thought of four more! Once you're in the groove, it will be difficult to stop. That's the great thing about list writing. Can you see how this could quickly add up to lots of e-book pages?
Format 3: How-Tos. Your e-book reader is forever searching for new ideas, practical advice and solutions that work. She wants to be told, step by step, how to go about everything from home repairs to taxes, to raising her kids the right way. Give her helpful instructions, and make her day!
Fill up your e-book with instructions of all kinds. Imagine you're writing an e-book about knitting. This subject begs for how-to copy! "How to Do a Basic Stitch." "How to Knit a Scarf."
How-to sections can be written in numbered steps, but they don't have to be. It depends on the topic. Suppose you wanted to write a basic career guide. One major section of interest might be, How to Get Along Better With Your Boss. You can easily break this up into bits, like so:
- Put yourself in your boss's shoes
- Develop a positive outlook
- Start thinking of the department's needs instead of just your own
- Consider your own work habits from an outsider's viewpoint
- Open the lines of communication
- Take a problem-solving approach
You won't believe how quick and easy it is to fill in the details for each of these major points. If you keep it up, you might eventually need your own instructions: "How to Stop Writing How-To Lists!"
Format 4: Problem-Solution. The problem-solution format is a lot like Q & A. It's another perspective-switching technique that will sharpen your knowledge of the reader's needs and wants while establishing you as the person with the answers. Let's pretend you're writing an e-book for a life coach. She plans to include the e-book as part of her coaching kit to help clients achieve more in their lives. What are some problems a life coach's client might face? Stress. Boredom. Loneliness.
Tackle these issues from the reader's point of view, as so:
Things that Keep Me from Moving Forward With My Life
- I have too much to do, and not enough hours to do it all.
- My job is dull and uninspiring.
- I don't have many friends to keep my energy levels up.
Each heading will require a response on your part; a paragraph or two where you can expound on ways to solve the issues at hand and help the reader realize that she's not locked into any situation. Problem-solution formats are inspiring to write to because they replace negative, self-defeating thoughts with positive, energizing ones. You may find yourself catching the fever even as you write them for your clients! And that will inspire you to accomplish even more in your own life.
Format 5: Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing viewpoints is a fun way to play devil's advocate in your writing. Take the recent article I wrote on Copywriting: "11 Reasons Not to Hire a Freelance Copywriter (and Why They're All Poor Excuses!)." Throughout this piece, I set up points that the buyer might feel are valid reasons not to hire a writer- and then I "shot each one down" with solid evidence to the contrary. Some subheadings I used:
Excuse 1. "Why pay someone else when I can do the writing myself?"
Excuse 2. "I know my product/business better than anyone else."
Excuse 3. "I find it difficult to work with someone in a remote location."
This may seem like a sneaky format, in that you seem to be writing from one point of view when actually you favor the opposite; but it's a quick and effective way to hook the reader's interest and hold it. People love to argue; why not create an imaginary debate scenario that they can relate to! If your e-book is meant to persuade and convince people to try new things, the "opposing viewpoints" format is a classic way to develop a good argument and entice the reader to follow your lead.
Still intimidated about writing your own e-book? You shouldn't be! Whether you're a wet-behind-the-ears writer or an old, seasoned pro, writing e-books is an easy, fun and lucrative way to develop your credibility on the web as well as broaden your knowledge on a wide variety of topics. Use these tried and true formats to fill page after page with interesting information written in a friendly, conversational tone. Master the art of great e-book writing! It will win you new readers and keep the old ones coming back for more.
Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.
Dina Giolitto is a New-Jersey based Copywriting Consultant with nine years' industry experience. Her current focus is web content and web marketing for a multitude of products and services although the bulk of her experience lies in retail for big-name companies like Toys"R"Us.
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