Should You Create an Ebook or a White Paper?

There are many varied opinions about eBook and white paper effectiveness and popularity around the web. Some blogs claim eBooks are the hip cousin of stuffy white papers, while others claim white papers are all the rage and eBook’s are gimmicky. Both have a place in Internet marketing. Let’s figure out which one is best for you.

Before You Create, Are You Adding to the Noise?

A quality white paper or eBook needs some teeth. Those that are successful are ones that offer in-depth advice that simple blog articles can’t fully cover or present new information that the industry has never seen before.

Before you set out to create an eBook or white paper, ask yourself, “What is our main message?” and no, the answer isn’t just, “buy our products.” That might be what you want the end result to be, but no one wants to read a love letter to yourself and your company. Keep it simple:

  • This piece of content will teach marketers how to X
  • We want to show people outside of our industry the benefits of Y
  • We will break down the differences in Z

Raubi Perilli often tells writers to create an outline for an article and then only write about the top bullet point. More often than not, writers and marketers get overly broad in their content even though covering just one aspect thoroughly would suffice. Make sure you’re not being too vague in your pursuit of long-form content.

Ebooks: Use the Resources at Hand

shutterstock_147471086“Old content” doesn’t really mean old and outdated, it simply means content that has been buried in the archives. Depending on your publishing schedule, this can be content from last month or content from yesterday.

Bloggers are so furiously creating content that they’re writing thousands of words without ever looking back and taking note of their accomplishments. Before they know it, they’ve become experts on niche topics like Fire Safety During the Holidays or Working from Home.

Look for topics in your archives that you’ve thoroughly covered and consider turning them into an eBook. An eBook about Fire Safety During the Holidays could contain chapters like Prevent Your Christmas Tree from Drying Out, Keep Children Away from the Stove, and Limit Electrical Blowouts – each repurposed from a previous blog post.

That being said, eBooks shouldn’t be created simply because you have a lot of content. Use the blog articles as starting points and keep trying to dig deeper. How can you elaborate on each part? Does any data need to be updated? Ask yourself what else is missing from the eBook that you need to fill in. This adds value to your book and makes it something that your loyal readers will also find helpful.

White Papers: The Content that Keeps on Giving

shutterstock_171090377One of the main differences that bloggers have been able to agree on is that white papers focus on your company’s products or services as solutions, while eBooks are focused on general industry knowledge. Because the white paper is created with a product or service in mind, most of the content is created specifically for the document. This content can be broken down and reused after publishing.

Reviewing specific elements in a blog post and turning the data into an infographic are just two suggestions for reusing the content. This doubles as marketing for your white paper. Potential leads who see the infographic will click through to your (product or service focused) white paper and consider your brand for future purchases.

Characteristics of Both

Whether you’re creating an eBook or a white paper, there are certain characteristics that are ubiquitous for making them successful.

Multiple Sections

Very few forms of modern content are one long section – especially in text form. From blogs to infographics, our brains and eyes like observing bite-sized chunks of content instead of one endless post. Be sure to break your content up, even if it only differentiates between introduction, body, and conclusion.

Strategic Branding

Whether it’s in the form of an introductory section by your CEO or the whole thing reads like your graphic designer is saying it out loud, make sure the readers know exactly where this piece of content is coming from. After all, you’re trying to use this for lead generation. Why wouldn’t you include your name and logo all over it?

Also, because your branding is unique, adding your flair to the content will make it stand out above the other eBooks and white papers around the web.

Shareability

Surprisingly, the shareability of eBooks and white papers is hotly debated on industry blogs. One eBook advocate said white papers aren’t as shareable because they usually require the visitor to submit an email address before reading. Many marketers and eBook readers know that eBooks usually require at least an email address as well, if not more.

In order to make the content more shareable, open up part of it to the public. Whether you’re showcasing parts of the data in an Infographic or combining the main thoughts into a Slideshare. This increases shareabaility and spreads your brand name, while still requiring users to submit their emails for the full, in-depth content. It’s the best of both worlds, really.

1306-A206A Word About Length

Length was one of the main disparaging points about the differences between white papers and eBooks. Some marketers believe whitepapers are longer while others think eBooks are. It was generally accepted that white papers rarely exceed 15-20 pages, while eBooks range from 10 – 200+ pages. Really, it depends on which two pieces of content you’re comparing.

[Tweet “There’s no point in creating a 75 page eBook if everything can be said in 11 pages. “]

This same concept applies to the level of interaction or “fun” when reading these forms of content. Some say eBooks are more interactive and are easier to skim, when really, we’ve all seen bland eBooks and highly interactive white papers.

The creation of a whitepaper or eBook shouldn’t be based on word count. If you stop at page 14, you shouldn’t call it a whitepaper. The creation and length should be based off of what kind of content you have at hand.

There’s no point in creating a 75 page eBook if everything can be said in 11 pages.

Questions to Ask Before Creation

1. How long will this information be relevant?

Should your company set aside part of the budget annually to update the piece? Will the content be more topical (whitepaper) or evergreen (eBook)?

2. Should we narrow our target audience?

While it’s tempting to say that you’re audience is potential clients, industry peers, and recent grads wanting to learn more, those three subsections can be contradictory to achieving your goals. Focus on one audience and let the others take a back seat on this one.

3. Can we already find this information easily?

This follows the above section about whether or not you’re adding to the noise. If you can find long-form content with similar (if not exact) headlines and content, it might be time to reconsider your strategy.

4. How can we track the content’s success?

How will you know how many leads the white paper or eBook brings in? Can you track the numbers to figure out the total revenue brought in from this content? What numbers are you expecting to hit?

5. What barriers will we set up for the content?

Will readers have to pay to access your content? Will they have to give you their email addresses? Will it be entirely free? Will part of it be free and part of it be locked? The answers to these questions will also determine how you measure success.

6. How can we incorporate graphics into the content?

While some people argue that eBooks have more graphics than white papers, there are opportunities for illustrations, charts, and graphs in both. Throughout the process, flag aspects that can be visualized. Not only does this increase interest to readers, it also increases shareability.

7. Who (or what) will be the driving force to make us hit deadlines?

Creating a topical whitepaper for the beginning of the year can turn sour if deadlines start slipping away. An eBook might never be created if there isn’t a project manager to keep up with tasks.

Infographic3.cdrSo Which One Should You Use?

While this article was meant to highlight the differences between white papers and eBooks, it ended up showcasing their similarities. There’s so much disagreement on the Internet about which is better – and even the characteristics of them – that it’s impossible to pick a champion.

Look at the source of the content. Are you creating something brand new to highlight your products or services? Then create a white paper. Are you teaching a concept that can be shared with the industry and used as a guide? Create an eBook.

Everything else: graphics, length, promotion, tone, interactivity, etc. is up to you.