Breaking Down Our Ebook Launch Strategy
Dave Schools, Former Digital Strategist
The launch plan that led to 500+ downloads in 5 days and the lessons we learned
We just wrapped up our launch of The Book of CMS, an ebook about content management systems, and I’d like to share the strategy and lessons learned from the launch experience that may help you with your next ebook launch.
If you’re thinking about launching an ebook, it’s important to first understand why you’re making an ebook before you launch it. What are your goals? We had three:
To pool together our knowledge and experience in content management and create one shareable resource to help people in the process of selecting a CMS.
To create an attractive, well-designed, and organized ebook that we can use for lead generation and email audience growth.
To demonstrate thought leadership and build awareness of our brand.
With our goals set, we threw ourselves into the vast knowledge base of the Internet to research what has historically made an excellent ebook. Here’s what we found:
3 Parts to a Great Ebook:
It addresses a relevant problem to your audience and delivers a viable, practical solution (source: Jim Kukral). In our industry (digital), folks often ask us about which content management system (CMS) is the best and how to choose one for their particular organization. It's a significant problem, and if misdirected, can lead to costly frustrations down the road.
Its design, format, and content are aesthetically pleasing, accurate, and educational (source: Hubspot). If you write a wonderful solution to a pressing problem but then publish it in an ugly, hard-to-read, or boring format, the impact will be lost. Marshall McLuhan coined the popular phrase, "The medium is just as important as the message." If you can't ensure your publication will be easy and helpful to read, then you may want to wait until you have the resources to do it.
It's clear why it's more than a blog post (source: Smart Blogger). More words for the sake of more words is not helpful to readers. Ebooks are meaty. Blog posts make a single point whereas a book knits together an ecosystem of points to address a larger problem.
To create the content we knit together a 72-page document of our existing blog posts on the topic of content management. By leveraging existing content, the bulk of the writing was already done. We then organized the writing and edited intros and outros to make it flow seamlessly.
(Retrospectively, I don’t recommend this. Original content flows more naturally, whereas piecing together separate blog posts and sales documents creates disjointedness, tonal inconsistencies, and unnecessary repetition.
However, it is neat to have all of your content on one topic in one place. It makes sharing easy and puts forth a good impression.)
We underwent weeks and weeks of editing rounds and design iterations. This was a catch 22 — the more people involved in editing and designing, the richer the content and better the design, but at the cost of more time to meet everyone’s approval.
Looking back, I recommend taking it slow, involving many people, and making it as perfect as possible (it’s a book, not a blog post that can be easily fixed).
Pro tip: Make sure the PDF download is less than 10mb for fast downloading and data plan-preservation on mobile devices.
Once the ebook was finished, we wrote out the following plan to get our team on the same page to prepare for launch day.
LAUNCH DAY PLAN
For easy access, we put the most important links at the top of the launch plan doc.
Folder of ebook screenshots
Spreadsheet of contact list
Blog post announcement
(The landing page should be finished well in advance -- we recommend 3 weeks -- of launch day. If you don’t have a landing page yet, see: 20 Ebook Landing Page Examples Used by Today’s Best Brands).
2 Weeks Before Launch
Ask a Product Hunter to hunt the ebook
Create a spreadsheet of at least 50 prospects to send personalized emails to with a link to the landing page
In the same spreadsheet, list the online communities you are involved with where you can post a link to the landing page (Designer News, Web Design Depot, Reddit, etc)
1 Week Before Launch
Send an email to remind your team of launch day and ask them to add client contacts to contact list spreadsheet
Load social posts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Medium, Dribbble)
Email media contacts with embargo-ed announcement
Create and schedule email newsletter announcement
Promote via social channels (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, Medium)
Publish announcement blog post
Email contact list
Submit to curated (e.g., sidebar) sites and community sites (Product Hunt, Designer News, Reddit)
Send newsletter announcement
Tweet at relevant accounts
Stand up and announce at event that day (meetups are great)
Have ebook authors tweet from their accounts
Run a paid ad campaign (we used Adwords)
We wrote this content to make it easy for our team to share in their networks and to keep the messaging consistent.
The Book of CMS
(A note on formatting: be sure to use “The” before “Book of CMS” whenever possible and always italicize the title whenever possible.)
How to select the right content management system for your organization
Everything you need to know about content management systems
A comprehensive guide for choosing the right content management system for your organization.
With today’s endless options of content management systems, how do you choose the best one for your organization? The Book of CMS addresses everything you need to consider when selecting the most appropriate CMS for your company. From custom-built to off-the-shelf solutions, to Wordpress vs. Craft, to security and ecommerce, we compare the most popular choices for CMSs. Written by over seven authors from veteran digital agency Viget, The Book of CMS is comprehensive and well-designed ebook, and filled with examples, screenshots, and case studies. Download The Book of CMS and learn how to choose the best CMS for your organization today.
Subject: Announcing The Book of CMS
Hi [First Name],
We’re releasing our first-ever ebook, The Book of CMS, and wanted you to be one of the first to see it. With over seven authors, the free ebook includes everything we’ve learned about content management over the years and serves as a comprehensive guide to help you choose the best CMS solution for your organization.
Our designers did a gorgeous job with the ebook and I’d love for you to take a look.
We’re releasing our very first #ebook! It’s about content management systems. Download it here for free: https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms #BookofCMS
We wrote a comprehensive guide for choosing the right CMS for your organization. Download The Book of CMS here for free: https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms #BookofCMS
We published an #ebook. 7 authors. 72 pages. Everything you need to know about content management systems. #BookofCMS https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms
We’re excited to announce the launch of our first-ever ebook, The Book of CMS. Over seven Viget authors contributed and our design team did a beautiful job crafting the ultimate guide for choosing a content management system. This is a topic we’re passionate about and in which we have a lot of experience. We’d love for you to take a look. Download the free Book of CMS here: https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms
For anyone wondering which CMS is best for their organization, we wrote an ebook to help you decide! We work a lot with CMSs and wanted to put together everything we’ve learned into one place. We’re happy to announce The Book of CMS! A comprehensive guide for selecting the right content management system for your company. Learn more here: https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms
Our ad campaign targeted relevant keywords and phrases around the subject matter, including cms, content management system wordpress, cms comparison, choosing a CMS, content management system comparison, best cms, CMS guide, Drupal vs. Craft, CMS security, cms tool, web cms, etc.
We set up Google Analytics event tracking (read how to set up event tracking here).
In the first week, we received the following numbers:
Individual downloads: 677
New email signups: 504
Landing page pageviews: 2,166
Product Hunt upvotes: 57
Post Launch Survey
We sent a post-launch survey to the the 677 downloaders with the following 6 questions:
Did you read it? [yes, no, not yet]
How satisfied were you with the ebook? [scale from 1 to 5]
How helpful was the topic and content? [scale from 1 to 5]
How can we improve the ebook? [long answer]
What topics would you like to see in future Viget ebooks? [check all that apply]
Any overall feedback for The Book of CMS?
We received 12 responses.
Conclusion: Did it work?
Revisiting our initial goals, we were hoping to increase email subscriptions, generate leads, and create a resource that demonstrates thought leadership.
Based on the data and feedback from the survey and community, we’d say this marketing initiative was 67% successful.
Our email list grew by 500. That’s always great.
The local and digital communities complimented the book and the survey results were positive (83% gave it a 4 or 5 out of 5).
No, it wasn’t viral, but it raised positive awareness about the Viget brand to over 2,000 people.
We can continue to use this resource in the future, and the template laid the foundation for future ebooks.
It took a loooooong time to produce (over two months), which made us question seriously if it was worth the time, or if we could’ve used the time more effectively elsewhere.
We didn’t receive any immediate qualified leads directly from the ebook launch in the first month.
Sooner is not always better. We could’ve launched earlier, but we waited an additional week and we couldn’t have been happier. It’s worth it to delay the release of a product if it means you have well-planned launch strategy. For us, the additional week to prepare made all the difference.
Take it easy on design. We thought we were finished after one month but completely scrapped the entire first design of the ebook. While the end product is gorgeous to look at, it doesn’t read like an ebook. Ebooks are first about the copy, and second about the design (colors, layout, pictures, etc.). Next time, we’ll err on the side of light design over heavy art direction.
Make sure an ebook is the right form of lead generation for your particular business. As our first ebook, we’re still learning if this is the right medium for digging up new business for a premium design and development agency. If we were selling a $30 software product, this probably would’ve generated more sales. The point is, it was a bigger challenge to quantify the ROI of the ebook than we expected, as a service agency.
On a practical note, I’m super glad we added the “Company” and “Role” fields in the download form. Without it, the data would’ve been just a name and email address and we would’ve had no idea who we were reaching. The only thing I would’ve added is a checkbox that said something like, “Let Viget contact me about my current CMS.” This would’ve allowed us to feel confident in proactively reaching out to the 24 noteworthy leads that came in to see if we could help.
Lastly, the survey was critical. While the numbers were encouraging, the feedback from the survey helped flesh out how the community received the ebook. We were glad to see the positive responses and the constructive criticism and going forward, we’ll incorporate the community’s feedback into our next ebook.
In the end, we learned a lot from launching The Book of CMS, and we hope you found our strategy and lessons helpful as you plan your own ebook launch. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or ask any questions in the comments below. We’d love to hear what has worked well for others.