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8 Steps To Build Your eMail List Using eBooks

ebook-iconYou most likely are already using your email list effectively to communicate with your customers or audience. The challenge comes from growing the list – we’re always on the lookout for efficient ways to quickly build our audience.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by offering an ebook in exchange for people joining your email list. This is obviously not a new concept – it borrows from the old ‘permission marketing’ coined by Seth Godin. With a good ebook, this can be extremely effective.

The trick is creating an ebook that’s of value to your audience, and making sure your site is optimized to promote it and track the sign-ups and downloads. Here is a guide for creating and promoting an eBook that will help you increase your email list conversions.

1. Sourcing Content for Your eBook

The rule for content is to not hold back. Put whatever you have that is of value to your audience into this book.

If you have a blog, don’t be afraid to re-use that material. A lot of articles get missed here and there, so simply organizing it into one place is something that people will want. Still though, you’ll want to update, revise, and add additional material to whatever you have previously blogged.

If you’re not sure what to put in your book, try looking at what types of problems your audience is facing and present a solution to one of them. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes – how good or enticing does an ebook have to be before you’re personally willing to hand over your email address?

If you get the same few questions over and over again, particularly on social media, then consider developing in-depth answers to them for this ebook. Then when people ask, you simply refer them to the sign up form for your email list and let them know you’ve addressed the issue in detail in the free ebook they’re about to receive.

Don’t fret too much over the length of the book. If it’s 100 pages of amazing content, then great. If it’s 20 pages of amazing content, that’s great as well. The key is amazing content. No one gets excited enough to tell their friends about a 50 page ebook with average content.

2. Formatting the eBook

Your final product is a PDF that is being emailed out to people. That means you want to keep it under 10mb – i.e. you can’t have a clunky pdf with huge hi-res images all throughout.

Do what is within your means here. If you can get a professionally designed cover page, and have a fancy page layout done in something like InDesign, then go for it. It’s sufficient to do a simple PDF from something like MS Word or even Google Docs. If you want to be able to convert your PDF to actual epub formats later check out this formatting guide.

Most likely, you will just be sending your audience a PDF link or attachment. In that case these simple guidelines should help:

    – 1” margins all around
    – Size 12 or 14 font (Helvetica, Verdana, Georgia are all good options)
    – Title page with your branding
    – Header and footer on content pages
    – Clearly delineated subheadings
    – Make sure to have a Table of Contents

Once your eBook is ready, you’ll be ready to set up the auto-responder.

3. Set Up Email Auto-Responder

The key here, especially if you’re a bit new to this, is making sure your reader makes it through the double opt-in process. The final welcome email they receive should have the attachment or link to the PDF.

Follow these instructions if you use MailChimp for setting up the welcome emails appropriately.

Also make sure at this stage that you’ve got Google Analytics tied to your account.

4. Promote Your Sign Up Form

Before you set up the auto-responder to give your ebook to all the new subscribers, you need to take care of your current subscribers first. Send out a newsletter announcing the new ebook so that they can download it first. Let them know this is a special gift to people on the email list, and if they know someone who would benefit from the book, then to have them sign up to get their copy.

Let your existing audience get excited about it and share it with others

It’s easy to throw up a sign up form, or a pop up window directing them to the book. The real fun lies in testing different sign up forms to see what converts. The best plugin [for WordPress] I have found for this is OptinSkin. This comes with preformatted sign up form boxes that integrate directly with your email list service of choice.

You can test them out in different places – beginning and end of post, sidebar, fade in after user activity, and so on. Each sign up form you create will track statistics for sign ups and impressions.

The real bonus is that you can split test different sign up forms. This will allow you to tweak your wordings, colors, design, and call to action. Since it’s all built in, and the statistics are right in the dashboard, you don’t even have to be an analytics guru to use it. You can just keep testing away and monitoring your sign up rate.

Your email service may also have an option to embed the email sign up form directly into Facebook. Use every tool at your disposal.

5. Marketing Your eBook

Aside from the standard announcements on social media and a blog post on your own site, there’s some critical things you need to do for this book to take off. If you didn’t nail step 1 in this article though, you won’t be able to do this part.

Let’s pretend your eBook is about personal finance and it covers budgeting, debt reduction, college, marriage, and retirement.

What you want to do is start developing each individual subject from your book into it’s own blog post. This is where you can get killer content ideas for guest posting on other blogs. Take one chapter of your ebook, develop it out as an independent post, and then direct people to your ebook for more information. Doing this in multiple guest posts is extremely effective. If you can’t get traction guest posting elsewhere, do it as a series spread out on your own website.

This also re-emphasizes why it’s so important to put as much value into the ebook as possible. Your content marketing strategy for this ebook is going to orient around consistently reminding people about the value in it and showcasing that with excerpts, highlights, and additional resources.

You should also be regularly posting content from the book via social media channels. Post quotes or short excerpts on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. One way to make it easy for people to tweet take-aways is by building the tweet for them with a service like

It also helps if you can squeeze in a hashtag specific to your ebook for both Facebook and Twitter.

A YouTube video is an integral part of your marketing strategy. Avoid having a long detailed video, and avoid the hype-building trailer. The goal of a video should be to clearly show what the book is about and give a taste of the material that is in there. If they like it, they can subscribe to your email list to get more. The same goes for podcasting, or doing interviews on other well-known podcasts.

The important thing is remembering that this is something you will be promoting for a long time. In the beginning you will be monitoring your sign-ups daily, but once the excitement has worn down, set up regular check-ins at least monthly to monitor your stats. Keep tweaking your signup forms and see how you can convert your traffic to sign up for your list.

6. Tracking the Downloads

Connecting Google Analytics is the easy part. The hard part is seeing how many people actually downloaded your ebook. There isn’t a built in way to do this so it will take some tweaking on your part.

The short answer is to track them using a Event Tracking. This is essentially a way to record an ‘event’ when the reader clicks the PDF link, and then tracks it in your Analytics account under events.

If this sounds complicated to you, follow this easy guide to setting it up:
Having these analytics will give you a big picture overview of just how many raw downloads of the ebook there are.

7. Make eBook 2.0

Over time, you will start to find additional material and resources. You’ll get additional questions and problems that you want to address.

Keep working these into your ebook until you’re at a point that you can offer up an updated version. There’s no need to repeat all the steps above. Simply upload it to the same location (i.e. so your permalink to the file stays the same as the old version), and announce that a new version is out along with what has changed. These revisions will help give you spikes in traffic (and signups).

The timeframe for this varies based on your industry or subject. For some it maybe prudent to redo this in a month, and for some it might be 2 years. Either way, make sure that a process is in place to be continually working on it.

8. Additional Resources

Pat Flynn’s blog has a lot of excellent resources:


Chris Sparks, iSpionage Director of Marketing
Chris is an online marketing and content strategist here at iSpionage building awareness and engagement within our target markets. Connect with Chris or on Twitter.