How to Generate Effective Ebook and Whitepaper Ideas


Downloadable ebooks, whitepapers, and guides are extremely powerful pieces of content. You’ve seen how well these items work from a lead generation standpoint, and now it’s your turn to get a piece of the pie.

Problem is, you have no idea what to write an ebook about. Or if anyone would find your industry whitepapers worth reading, much less clicking a pop-up or opting into an email list for. And no matter what you do, you can’t seem to brainstorm an idea for a piece of content that hasn’t already been addressed by twenty different websites.

Business owners struggle with this brainstorming process all the time. But it’s entirely possible to learn how to come up with ideas for ebooks, whitepapers, and other downloadable content — and to make this a repeatable process that you can do over and over again. In fact, the methods I’m going to share in this post have the potential to last you for years.

Let’s explore some of the best ways you can generate effective ideas for your content and get more qualified leads than ever.

Read the comments

Comments on your blog aren’t just a way to engage with your readers and answer questions. They’re a fantastic source of ideas that are practically guaranteed to be successful.

Why do comments lend themselves so well to brainstorming whitepaper and ebook topics? It’s because they’re from your readers — the audience of engaged, interested followers you already have. When someone asks you a question, you already know your target audience is interested in the answer, and the topic that surrounds it.

For example, when we made a post about Facebook’s (temporary) removal of Instagram insights and the “boost” option, we got a great question in the comments:

“How do you get the people that have actually liked your Page to see your posts?” Aha! This could serve as the inspiration for a fantastic ebook called “How to Get More Facebook Fans to See Your Posts.” We know many of our followers work with Facebook (or manage someone who does), so this is a perfect fit.

You don’t have to limit your research to your own site and readers, however. You can poke around websites in your industry to find questions posed to other bloggers or businesses. As long as they’re relevant to what you do, they’re likely to appeal to your readers.

Sticking with the social media theme, I found this comment on a recent QuickSprout postabout getting more social clickthroughs:

Since QuickSprout’s readership is similar to ours, we could always produce a guide based on this comment with a high amount of confidence in its success. We could do something broad like “How to Reach Your Ideal Target Audience on Social Media,” or finely targeted like “How to Reach Seniors on Social.”

Check Google Analytics

What are the most popular pages, articles, or blog posts on your website? The answer to this question can help you create incredibly successful content that comes with a captive audience.

If you have a piece of content that ranks well on search engines, you can capitalize on it to both come up with ideas and direct traffic to an ebook or whitepaper. The idea is to expand on your original content (even just a little!) and offer a new version that visitors are likely to show interest in downloading or purchasing.

To use WebpageFX as an example again, we have a post on the cost of advertising nationally that, according to GA, is currently very popular. The information offered is kept up to date, and presented in a neat format. But aside from a spreadsheet version of the data, we don’t offer visitors to this post all that much.

If we wanted to capitalize on the traffic coming to this post, we could think about what visitors are looking for (the cost of advertising) and the intent behind their search (can I afford…?). We could then create something based on that, like a PDF guide to planning a balanced advertising budget, or an informative whitepaper on the current cost of marketing methods in the US. Finally, we could add the link right to the post, so readers can access the information immediately.

Take a look at your most popular pages in Google Analytics, and look for opportunities to turn more of the visitors you’re already attracting into leads.

Look for gaps

This next tactic can be used for blog post ideas as well as ebook and whitepaper ideas, but it’s one of my favorites — despite being a bit more time-intensive — so I feel it’s worth including.

Every now and then you might go out and read blog posts or articles written by others in your industry and feel… less than impressed. Sometimes a writer will cover a new topic, but they’ll do so in a manner that doesn’t even come close to cutting it.

Rather than getting irritated, you should take action. Look for the gaps in their content and jot them down somewhere. For example, if someone writes a guide to dog training but completely leaves out the absolutely necessary section on teaching a dog to heel while walking on a leash, make a note of that and don’t forget about it.

When you’ve noted a couple of these gaps, look around online. Has anyone written anything useful about this topic? Or are all the guides and blog posts out there missing this substantial amount of information? Is it something that people would be interested in, and a topic that would help you generate leads?

If you’re a dog trainer, and you can’t locate any substantial guides to teaching a leashed dog to heel, this is a perfect opportunity for you. Create content that fills this gap and promote it everywhere you can think of.

Combine multiple pieces

If you write content or maintain a blog about a specific industry or topic, you probably have several pieces about specific, targeted ideas. One way to create download-worthy content in a flash is to combine these smaller pieces into one cohesive document.

For example, someone who runs a fashion blog may have individual posts like:

  • How to Repurpose the Clothing in Your Closet
  • How to Match Your Outfit to Your Shoes
  • How to Pair Clothing Colors and Patterns

It wouldn’t take much work to combine these three individual pieces into one cohesive ebook called “How to Put Outfits Together” or “How to Create Looks That Work.”

As a bonus, it would also be easy to add links to this new piece of content at the end of each of the three individual pieces. So if someone gets to the end of the post about pairing colors and patterns, the blogger could say “I have much more advice on creating outfits from the clothing you already own in this ebook!” and provide a link. Someone who’s already consumed (and enjoyed) your content is much more likely to click on a call to action like that.

Think about how you can combine some of your best content into a more cohesive piece, and who that new piece would appeal to the most.

Other ways to get ideas


Apple's bold move into the ripe-for-change textbook market has introduced more questions than answers. Here's a look at some out biggest ones.

Textbooks aren't a terribly sexy topic, but give it to Apple for trying to make it sexy.

Yes, today Apple officially rolled out an upgraded 2.0 version of its iBooks app that now supports interactive textbooks while also releasing a free Mac application, iBook Author, that lets people create electronic textbooks on their computers.

Seems clear enough, right? Apple jumps headlong into an entrenched, inefficient industry, threatening it with "digital destruction," or, to put it another way, textbook go boom.

But the truth is, the announcements stirred up more questions than they answered. So with that in mind, here's a look the six biggest questions we had after Apple's presentation in New York.

1. Who will pay for hardware and software? 
There were a lot of questions about how Apple's electronic textbooks would actually be deployed in schools. Since we assume Apple won't be doing an Android version of its iBooks app anytime soon, we presume students will need an iPad to access e-textbooks, but the question is, who is going to pay for those iPads? Will Apple subsidize the cost? Will kids be forced to buy an iPad? And will students be given the option of choosing between the digital version and the printed version (again, will students be forced to go digital).

2. Copyright issues (re: course packets)--will Apple enforce copyright? 
Call this the "course packet" problem: students are well-accustomed to getting photocopied packets of articles for their university classes. Many times, these packets are made without properly paying for the rights to the articles. What's stopping a professor from cutting and pasting someone else's content into an e-book made with iBooks Author? More importantly, how will Apple enforce proper copyright protection on educational content? It's all too easy to envision a flood of content featuring lectures and chapters cut and pasted wholesale from other sources. It's a problem plaguing some self-published books already, and if Apple's serious about opening up the floodgates of textbook content via iBooks Author, the situation could skyrocket if not properly handled.

It's also unclear how easily independent authors will be able to submit iBooks Author-created books to the iBookstore. Perhaps iBooks Author will be more of a tool for locally shared content than a platform for wide-scale publishing, at least in the short term.

3. Will Apple curate/censor textbook content? 
Textbooks have to be approved through a state certification process, and in a lot of cases different versions of the same textbook are approved for schools in different states. There have been reports that Steve Jobs wanted to circumvent the state certification process by having Apple release its own free textbooks (we're not sure how the economics of that would work), but that opens up the debate over just what textbooks Apple would allow to be sold in its iBookstore. Does it allow books that, say, teach creationism or a controversial philosophy? And how heavily will it scrutinize the potentially huge trove of new e-books created in iBooks Author, rejecting e-books for content it deems objectionable? Nothing was said about Apple's role as arbiter of content at the press conference.

Read more ...

Useful Books for Principals and Teachers Infographic

Useful Books for Principals and Teachers Infographic

As educators work to maintain New Year’s resolutions, this resource will provide them with the support they need to improve their practice and promote academic success for their students. The Useful Books for Principals and Teachers Infographichelps educators determine which professional development publication meets their specific goals. Intended for teachers and principals, the infographic outlines the common challenges facing today’s educators and provides book recommendations as solutions. some of the goals listed in the infographic are achieving work/life balance, improving grading, motivating teachers, and improving school culture. This is perfect for the educator looking to improve their practice or find a new read.

New Principal Bundle

This set of four titles will help new principals work more effectively at every level. The set includes the following books:

Insights into Action: Successful School Leaders Share What Works by William Sterrett: Each chapter of Insights into Action carefully examines a particular topic of relevance, translating research and experience into replicable, sustainable practices and offering ways to overcome barriers to success.

Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom by Robyn R. Jackson: With the help of this book you’ll learn how to meet your teachers where they are and help every one of them—from the raw novice to the savvy veteran, from the initiative-weary to the change-challenged to the already outstanding—develop the mind-set and habits of master teachers. Real-life examples, practical tools, and strategies for managing time and energy demands will help you build your leadership capacity as you raise the level of instructional excellence throughout your school.

The New Principal’s Fieldbook: Strategies for Success by Pam Robbins and Harvey Alvy: Surprises, obstacles, and opportunities characterize the leadership path. Within the chapters, the authors use research and specific examples from recognized practitioners to create a road map for navigating the complex challenges of the principalship.

Qualities of Effective Principals by James H. Stronge, Holly B. Richard, and Nancy Catano: Throughout the book, the authors provide readers with helpful tools and extensive research that will help them to develop a blueprint for sustained school leadership, create an effective school climate for learning, select, support, and retain high-quality teachers and staff, assess instructional high quality, build a foundation for organizational management, create, maintain, and strengthen community relationships, make contributions to the professional educational community and define their critical role in student achievement.

Professional Development Books for Principals

The Tech-Savvy Administrator: How do I use technology to be a better school leader by Steven W. Anderson: In this book, award-winning blogger and educational technology expert Steven W. Anderson explains how and why leaders should use technology and outlines what should be in every leader’s digital tool kit.

Short on Time: How do I make time to lead and learn as a principal? by William Sterrett: School leadership expert and former principal William Sterrett comes to the rescue with practical advice on how principals can make the most of their time to achieve real success.

Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom by Robyn R. Jackson: In this book for school leaders, Jackson presents a new model for understanding teaching as a combination of skill and will and explains the best ways to support individual teachers’ ongoing professional development.

Books on Addressing the School’s Need

Effective Teacher Interviews: How do I hire good teachers? by Jennifer L. HindmanIn this book, Jennifer L. Hindman provides practical advice on how to conduct hiring interviews that reliably predict a teacher’s success,

Closing the Attitude Gap: How to Fire Up Your Students to Strive for Success by Baruti Kafele: In this book, Baruti Kafele makes the case that the “attitude gap” that often affects underperforming students can only be closed if educators first help students develop the will to strive for excellence.

School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It by Steve Gruenert & Todd Whitaker: In this book, education experts Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker offer tools, strategies, and advice for defining, assessing, and ultimately transforming your school’s culture into one that is positive, forward-looking, and actively working to enrich students’ lives.

100+ Ways to Recognize and Reward Your School Staff by Emily E. Houck: This book provides school administrators with practical, easy-to-use, and inexpensive ways to reward and recognize the efforts of their staff.

Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literacy Success by Regie Routman: Drawing on her experience as a mentor teacher, reading specialist, instructional coach, and staff developer, author Regie Routman offers time-tested advice on how to develop a schoolwide learning culture that leads to more effective reading and writing across the curriculum.

Helpful Guides for Teachers

When Teaching Gets Tough: Smart Ways to Reclaim Your Game by Allen N. Mendler: The book offers practical strategies you can use to make things better right away. Veteran educator Allen Mendler organizes the discussion around four core challenges: i. Managing difficult students. ii. Working with unappreciative and irritating adults. iii. Making the best of an imperfect environment. iv. Finding time to take top-notch care of yourself.

The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out by Mike Anderson: Teachers need to take care of themselves in five key areas to keep themselves in shape to care for their students. In addition to paying proper attention to their basic needs for nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, and emotional and spiritual refreshment, teachers also need to feel positive connections with other people, both in school and outside school, want to know that they make a positive difference through the work they do, enjoy their work, they have great energy and passion for their teaching, set boundaries and create routines so that they can have rich lives both in the classroom and at home.

Hanging In: Strategies for Teaching the Students Who Challenge Us Most by Jeffrey Benson: In this book, veteran educator Jeffrey Benson shows educators the value of tenacity and building connections when teaching the students who most need our help.

The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core by Harvey F. Silver, R. Thomas Dewing, & Matthew J. Perini: Thanks to more than 40 years of research and hands-on classroom testing, the authors know the best strategies to increase student engagement and achievement and prepare students for college and career. Best of all, these strategies can be used across all grade levels and subject areas.

Books on Assessment Strategies and Techniques

Checking for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom by Douglas Fisher & Nancy Frey: In this book, Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey show how to increase students’ understanding with the help of creative formative assessments. When used regularly, formative assessments enable every teacher to determine what students know and what they still need to learn.

Grading Smarter, Not Harder: Assessment Strategies That Motivate Kids and Help Them Learn by Myron Dueck: In this book, educator Myron Dueck reveals how many of the assessment policies that teachers adopt can actually prove detrimental to student motivation and achievement and shows how we can tailor policies to address what really matters: student understanding of content.

Technology in the Classroom Bundle

This bundle of four titles tackles issues related to using technology in the classroom, including integrating digital tablets, teaching students 21st century skills, addressing the “E” in STEM instruction, and using technology to improve teaching.

Titles in this bundle:

Engineering Essentials for STEM Instruction: How do I infuse real-world problem solving into science, technology, and math? by Pamela Truesdell: In this practical introduction to engineering for elementary through high school teachers, you’ll learn how to create effective engineering-infused lessons that break down the barriers between science, math, and technology instruction.

Digital Learning Strategies: How do I assign and assess 21st century work? by Michael Fisher: Digital tools continue to be used primarily for the utilization of available resources rather than in the creation of something new. This publication explores what types of assignments are worth engaging online, how teachers and students can leverage global interactions to improve their work, and how teachers can assess digital projects and other work.

Teaching with Tablets: How do I integrate tablets with effective instruction? by Nancy Frey, Doug Fisher, Alex Gonzalez: With the help of this book you’ll learn how to ensure that tablets are integrated into high-quality instruction, including strategies for using tablets for modeling, guided instruction, collaborative learning, independent learning, and formative assessment.

Ensuring Effective Instruction: How Do I Improve Teaching Using Multiple Measures? by Vicki Phillips & Lynn Olson (The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation): Teachers and administrators will learn how and why it’s critical to (1) measure effective teaching, (2) ensure high-quality data, and (3) invest in improvement.

Books on How to Improve Instruction

The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners by Carol Ann Tomlinson: In this updated second edition of her best-selling classic work, Carol Ann Tomlinson offers these teachers a powerful and practical way to meet a challenge that is both very modern and completely timeless: how to divide their time, resources, and efforts to effectively instruct so many students of various backgrounds, readiness and skill levels, and interests.

Managing 21st Century Classrooms: How do I avoid ineffective classroom management practices? by Jane Bluestein: According to award-winning author and classroom management expert Jane Bluestein, it’s long past time for our strategies to catch up to the kids we’re teaching. In this book she identifies seven of the most prevalent classroom management misconceptions, discusses the tried-but-not-so-true practices that result from them, offers positive, research-based alternatives that take into account how students learn today.

Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe:  Combining provocative ideas, thoughtful analysis, and tested approaches, this new edition of Understanding by Design offers teacher-designers a clear path to the creation of curriculum that ensures better learning and a more stimulating experience for students and teachers alike.

Books on How to Reach Special Populations

Understanding How Young Children Learn: Bringing the Science of Child Development to the Classroom by Wendy Ostroff: The author shows you how to harness the power of the brain, the most powerful learning machine in the universe. She highlights the processes that inspire or propel learning—play, confidence, self-regulation, movement, mnemonic strategies, metacognition, articulation, and collaboration—and distills the research into a synthesis of the most important, takeaway ideas that teachers will need as they design their curriculum and pedagogy.

Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners by Jane D. Hill and Kathleen M. Flynn: The strategies discussed in the book include homework and practice, summarization and note taking, and use of nonlinguistic representations, among many others. For each strategy, the authors provide a summary of the research, detailed examples of how to modify the strategy for use with ELLs in mainstream classrooms, and teacher accounts of implementation.

Teaching/Engaging With Poverty In Mind 2-Book Set byEric Jensen: This two-book set provides practical insights into the effects of poverty on learning and what strategies teachers can use to better engage students in the face of these difficulties.

Causes & Cures in the Classroom: Getting to the Root of Academic and Behavior Problems by Margaret Searle: This book reveals new neurological research about the root causes of these obstacles and lays out a comprehensive five-step protocol designed to help all educators identify and address common student academic and behavior issues.


21 Free eBooks That Made Me a Better Teacher

Yearly Review: Looking Back at the Biggest LeadPages™ Updates of 2014 (and a Sneak Peek of What’s to Come in 2015)

Here are some awesome free ebooks on teaching and learning I thought you might enjoy!

On Teaching and Learning

Stop Stealing Dreams: What is school for? by Seth Godin

Preparing Students for Work in the 21st Century by Rob Mancabelli and Will Richardson

Classroom 2.0 Book by Steve Hargadon, Richard Byrne, Chris Dawson and the Classroom 2.0 community.

Mobile Learning by Jackie Gerstein

Learning, Knowledge, and Meaning by Julian Stodd

From the Education Is My Life Group Blog

What’s the Best and Next in Education by Education Is My Life Authors

Education by Design by Education Is My Life Authors

Education Leadership 101 by Education Is My Life Authors

On Passion and Becoming Better at What You Do

Focus by Leo Babauta

A Theory of Human Motivation by Abraham Maslow

How to Motivate Creative People (including yourself) by Marc McGuiness

On Writing and Blogging

Time Management for Writers by Thursday Bram

The Definitive Guide to Blogging by Diggy

The Simple Web by Skellie Wag

Epic eBook Creation by Jonathan Wondrusch

Success Secrets of 28 Professional Bloggers by Steve Roy

The Writer’s Manifesto by Jeff Goins

Other Free eBooks I’ve Really Enjoyed

The Recession Proof Graduate by Charlie Hoehn

The Flinch by Julien Smith

The Art of War by Sun Tzu (about way more than war…)

100 Books Every Teacher Should Read

I am by habit a bibliophile. I read at least 25 pages of a book per day which usually turns in to 40-60 books per year. I’ve written a few books myself, and plan to write more.

But this list is not about me, it’s really about us as an education community. What are we reading? Are we slowly shifting to reading only blogs and short pieces online? I love blogs (case in point of what you are currently reading) but there is something special about the thought, effort, and depth of a book. I hope that we can continue to read books that push our thinking, and share them widely.

This list is a start. If you are wondering what book to read next, this may or may not help you decide! I’m going to leave the comments open for book recommendations with a short synopsis, and rationale. This list will not be limited by number, and at this point in time is only limited by the number of books I’ve read (and would recommend), so any recommendations are appreciated!

If you’d like to join my newsletter, sign up up below and you’ll get my free guide, “21 Free eBooks for Teachers”, as well as a new book recommendation each month!

Table of Contents: Each section is hyperlinked to a list below.

I. Start Here

II. Non-Fiction Books for Teachers

    1. Books on Learning
    2. Books on Teaching
    3. Books on Curriculum
    4. Books on Leadership
    5. Books on Creativity
    6. Books on Writing and Craft
    7. Books on Psychology and Behavior
    8. Books on Philosophy and General Wisdom
    9. Books on Self-Help and Personal Development

III. Fiction Books for Teachers (coming soon)

    1. Children’s Books
    2. Young Adult Books
    3. Fantasy and Science Fiction
    4. Classic Fiction Books for Teachers

IV. Recommendations from Readers (Comments)  


Students can access free textbooks that are open-sourced OER through sites like Project Gutenberg, Open Library, and OER Commons.

Source: Boundless. “Free Textbooks.” Boundless Education. Boundless, 27 Jun. 2014. Retrieved 08 Feb. 2015 from

See also