Writing an e-book seems easy, at least when it’s the kind you give away. All you need is a short PDF that’s interesting or useful to potential clients. Yet few lawyers actually produce a good giveaway e-book.

I confess to planning a few e-books myself, none of which got far off the ground. I love to plan and think and analyze. But when it came to putting it together, I didn’t have much guidance. I didn’t have a map to my destination. Though a short giveaway e-book seemed like something I could bang out in an afternoon, that never happened.

Of course, there’s a big difference between a bad e-book and a good one. Writing an e-book that’s good is a bigger project than it seems. It’s not just a copy-and-paste task. It has a format; it needs certain components.

Thankfully, Carolyn Elefant has been sharing that format and those components in her 7-Figure E-Book webinar and workshop. I recently attended the workshop remotely. Here’s what I learned.

What Makes a Good E-Book

There’s a big difference between any old e-book and a good one. Bad e-books promise gold and deliver a pittance. They’re too short and shallow to be useful, and you feel duped for downloading them. The creators of bad e-books were never trying to help you. They just wanted to get your email address as quickly as possible.

A good e-book, on the other hand, is helpful above all else. The more helpful, the better. That’s what makes it work. A good e-book gives you an unlimited and free way to help potential clients, building trust and establishing your authority without you lifting a finger.

A good giveaway e-book:

  • Is as long as needed to be genuinely helpful. This probably means more than four or five pages—maybe twenty. It doesn’t have to be tome, but more detail will probably mean it appeals to more people.
  • Is narrowly focused on a specific problem of your ideal client (this will help with the length). One of the pitfalls of writing an e-book is making the topic too broad and trying to do too much. It shouldn’t be a comprehensive guide. Think about your ideal client and one problem you can address. Narrow it down—then narrow it down some more. (This is the same advice Meghan Zavieh and Jess Birken have about other types of information products.)
  • Is useful not just to your potential clients, but to other professionals who serve them. If your e-book will make someone else’s job easier, they’ll share it, and it will spread naturally. That’s what happened with Carolyn’s 7-figure e-book.
  • Uses an attention-grabbing opener, such as a surprising statistic or case study.
  • Includes an executive summary to set expectations and give the bottom line.
  • Includes a variety of content, such as:
    • FAQs
    • Do’s and Don’ts
    • How Tos
    • Checklists
    • Flowcharts
    • Tables
    • References to statutes, regulations, and other law
    • Sample legal forms and instructions
    • Links to important websites or forms (even if you think they are easy to find)

You Need Prompts

There’s a lot to think about when making a giveaway e-book. What I found most helpful was the workbook Carolyn made to go along with her 7-Figure E-Book workshop. It walked through the steps of writing an e-book, from brainstorming the concept, to outlining, to writing, to sharing and promoting. It had lots of space for brainstorming and had great prompts to get the mind rolling. I found it immensely helpful.

And that’s what I think most lawyers need to write a good e-book: a format and prompts. And a good chunk of time. Carolyn’s workshop delivered those. It gave me a real jump start on my own e-book ideas. Even though, regrettably, I could only spend half a day on it (I planned to attend the full day, but an emergency came up.)

Workshop: Worth It

I attended the workshop remotely—an option I appreciated. A couple of others did the same, while more in-person attendees filled a conference room in Washington, D.C. We all introduced ourselves and our ideas for e-books, and then got to work. After some time we came back to share outlines, and Carolyn gave feedback on each one. It was good to be working on a project like this around others and to see what each person came up with.

I hope Carolyn does this workshop again, and continues to follow up and encourage those of us who attended her first one. I think what she provided was valuable and unique. Writing an e-book is an effective way to generate business, if done right, and I haven’t seen others providing this sort of help in getting a project like that done, and done well.

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