Andrea Marchiotto

Oct 28, 2019



White papers at amazon, how to write a professional business document the amazon way, in the form of a six-pager, and why this is so important.

Disclaimer: Please note this article is a collection of personal thoughts, stories, and recommendations. The content hereby written is related to my personal professional …

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how to write a white paper amazon

How to Write a White Paper in One Day: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Powerful Marketing Tool (Updated Edition)

How to Write a White Paper in One Day: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Powerful Marketing Tool (Updated Edition) Audible Audiobook – Unabridged

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This book will take the non-professional writer step-by-step through the process of creating a convincing, problem/solution white paper of around 2,000 words (approximately eight pages). By doing the specified pre-planning, the first time white paper authors can complete their rough draft in a single day. How to Write a White Paper in One Day is built around the white paper in one day template, which takes the guesswork out of structuring the paper. 

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How to Write a White Paper in One Day includes step-by-step instructions for creating and professionally polishing the final document and how to distribute it once it's done.  

About the author

Brian Boys is an award-winning advertising copywriter who has worked for clients of all sizes for 25 nearly years. He provides free marketing writing instructions at, where he also blogs.

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Jesse Freeman

Jul 16, 2020


The Anatomy of an Amazon 6-pager

A deep dive into writing detailed planning docs from one of the most successful companies in the world, the amazon 6-pager.

I worked at Amazon for five years, leaving days before receiving the coveted yellow badge. Most people don’t make it past the first year. It’s an intense work environment, and the company revolves around specific leadership principles that provide a strict framework for how you interact with your co-workers. Because of this distinct culture, Amazon is unlike any company I’ve ever seen.

Perhaps the most challenging part of working at Amazon comes down to being able to write a 6-pager. While there are several types of documents you may need to write at Amazon, such as the backward press-release or the 2-pager, your ability to write a 6-pager will directly impact your status at the table and your ability to move up in the company. If you struggle to write detailed plans for your business, this may be a useful structure to emulate.

My plan here is to walk you through the anatomy of an Amazon-style 6-page document in granular detail. I was surprised to see that the few articles out there on the process mostly get it wrong. Even stranger, there doesn’t appear to be a single real example of a 6-pager outside of Amazon. So, I’ve decided to create one from scratch and share it with you. I based it on a structure I used when I headed up Framework Partner Marketing for the Amazon Appstore.

Each group in Amazon has its way of writing 6-pagers. While they may look or read a bit differently, they all share the same structure. Also, there are different approaches based on the goal of the document. The example I am going to share is from what we call an operational plan document. These are 6-month plans that outline the current state of the business, the historical data from the last period, the goals for this period, and how you plan on achieving them. There are two of these documents that cover the year called OP-1 and OP-2. Right about now, Amazon teams would be executing their 2020 OP-2 plan and beginning to draft the 2021 OP-1 plan.

It’s rare to write a large plan like this on your own. We usually work as a team to contribute to a single OP doc. One owner is responsible for cleaning it up and making it sounds like it came from an individual author. The heads of each team will have a plan for their group, and highlights from there will roll up into a master OP document used by the entire organization. I’ve had to write several tactical plans myself in various groups at Amazon, and it’s an incredibly time-consuming process that usually involves dozens of revisions. It feels like writing a master’s thesis, and a lot of care goes into making sure it is ready before presenting to a group of superiors.

How Amazon conducts meetings

Amazon is well known for its lack of using PowerPoint. The way this works is that before a meeting, you print out enough copies for everyone in the room. You’re not allowed to read the document from your computer unless you are remote. Also, no one reads the document before the meeting. You are usually given 20–25 minutes at the beginning of a 60-minute meeting to read the doc from beginning to end. Most people write down questions or feedback directly on the printout since using a computer during this time is frowned upon.

All print outs are handed back to you at the end of the meeting. The rest of the time consists of everyone in the room challenging your position, questioning your tactics, and digging through the data to make sure it is valid. It’s incredibly stressful, and when the meeting is over, it’s your responsibility to update and recirculate the document to everyone as a final version. There is no ideation or brainstorming during these kinds of meetings. You need to go into them with everything prepared ahead of time, which usually means you’ve had multiple people review it to ensure that you are ready.

The last thing you should know, which is perhaps the most critical part of the entire process, is that your 6-pager needs to stand on its own. One of the things I admired most at Amazon was their ability to transfer knowledge between different groups. Any time I interacted with a new group, I could ask to see their OP doc and get caught up on everything I needed to know. For this process to work, it means you need to write your 6-pager in a way that allows anyone, even people not familiar with the subject, to know what is going on without additional research. I’ll get into some of the ways you can do that later.

Since this may be your first time reading an Amazon-style 6-pager, the last bit of context I’ll give you is that I wrote this for a game development tool I have been building in my spare time called Pixel Vision 8 . There are a few things I dived deeper into than I would in a normal 6-pager to help make things a bit clearer. Also, some sections are more generic than I’d typically write, seeing how this isn’t a real plan I can execute on for a hobby project. Still, it was a good exercise in focusing my activities over the next six months. Writing a plan like this is one of the most powerful ways you can organize your thoughts to share with others.

After you finish reading the 6-pager, I’ll break apart each section and explain them in more detail. Don’t get too hung up on the actual contents if you’re not familiar with game development, marketing, or reading dense plans. I also won’t accept any feedback on this one, so there is no need to print it out and hand it back to me.

So, with that out of the way, take the next 20–25 minutes to read my 2020 OP-2 plan for Pixel Vision 8 .

Structuring a 6-pager narrative

How did that go, intense, right? I remember the first time I had to read one. It looked like a complete wall of text. I am going to assume you didn’t get through the entire thing so I’ll include some excerpts as we go. To give you perspective, that took me five days to write, and I did four revisions. Since no one else had to review it, I’d say the process was almost tolerable. I love to write, but even these are a challenge for me. While it may feel completely alien to you, I miss this detail and clarity these types of documents provide now that I no longer work at Amazon. And while 6-pagers are a chore to write, I can no longer sit through a PowerPoint presentation without questioning why it wasn’t put into a document for me to read through.

The first thing you probably noticed is that my 6-pager is using 10 point font. These things are dense, and there is a strict rule around it being exactly six pages. The goal is to fill up all six pages without any filler. The other thing you may have noticed is that the document isn’t six pages, it’s much longer. The perceived length of a 6-pager is a bit of a misconception. I’ve written 6-pagers that were over 40 pages long. The reason for this is because of the appendix.

The main goal of authoring this kind of document is to craft the entire thing as a narrative. That doesn’t mean it needs to be an entertaining story. It merely means there are no bullet-point lists, no graphics, and no fluff in the document’s core 6-pages. Since it’s difficult to sum up the contextual information like data, graphs, or examples in narrative form, you can add it to the end of the document in an appendix. This allows the reader to choose what to look up for additional information as needed. It also allows you to store bulky, complex data visualizations without breaking up the narrative’s flow.

At this point, we are ready to break down the skeleton of the 6-pager. Again, this might change slightly based on the document’s goal, but for the most part, it works like this:

Of course, each of these sections has a specific job in building the narrative of the 6-pager. To pull it all together requires a certain amount of finesse. Luckily, I’ve made it through meetings needing to make only minor changes, and I’ve been in meetings where someone’s entire document is ripped apart line by line. I don’t profess to have the experience to say mine were better than others, but I did have a few good mentors. So here is how I decided to write my sample 6-pager.

The introduction

I usually try to consolidate my introduction to two paragraphs. Since this 6-pager was probably the first you’ve ever read on a topic you probably have no background on, I indulged and added the 3rd paragraph to pack in some extra detail.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this section; it should be self-explanatory. I wanted to point out the two references to the appendix right off the bat. There is a lot of data to process upfront, especially if you’re not familiar with the subject. So you will want to add as much contextual data as possible in the document itself. You’ll notice there are no links in the documents to any websites either. The expectation is that you are reading a printout. So, if you need an offline copy of the entire internet for reference, put it all in the appendix.

Next up are the goals. The goal section is one of the only two areas of the document where bullet points are allowed. I follow a predefined structure for writing these, and I’ve seen it consistently used across several other groups.

You start with the actual goal, bolded, in as few words as possible. Then you follow with a single sentence that adds context to the goal. Finally, there needs to be a historical data point and a projected data point, followed by an explicit calculation of the change between the two. Not all goals end up with a positive outcome; I made my first one a negative one to show off two different types of results. But you want to have at least three goals which appear to be the magic number considering you will probably have multiple other priorities throughout the year from other groups since these plans do not exist in a vacuum.

I’ve seen all kinds of ways of writing goals at companies I’ve worked at, and this is honestly the only format that has ever made sense to me. It feels like OKRs are another popular one but I find it very difficult to adjust to them after spending years at Amazon.

After the goals, you declare the tenets. I’ve never seen another company so cultish in the way it requires employees to think according to a framework of rules. On the first day of orientation, they walk you through the leadership principles, and this way of thinking helps reinforce the documents you write.

I rarely put much effort into these. While the leadership principles become rules for how you engage with your co-workers, these tenets add nothing to the document. The people that write excellent tenets can link them back to the leadership principles somehow. Since one of the principles I liked the most is “disagree and commit,” I kept my opinion to myself and always added tenets to my 6-pagers since the decision to use them happened long before I got there.

Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

The state of the business

After the tenets, things get serious fast. The document begins with the state of the business. For this example, 6-pager, I decided to make it a single page. I would hardly call my hobby game engine a “business,” but I did my best to take it seriously.

Appendix references litter this section. In a real 6-pager, I would have cut out the first paragraph and jumped right into the numbers. This section is really about distilling all of the current activities and their intended goals. However, this is not a section to talk in the past tense. The state of the business should be a current snapshot of the data. Because of this, I usually keep all of the figures blank until right before the meeting. This way, my document is always as up to date as possible.

I still look at this section through the lens of the Appstore, where I was in charge of tracking the game engines that supported Fire OS, the game submission numbers, and my budget. I had to report weekly on the business’s health, so it was natural to have these numbers ready at a moment’s notice. Had this been a real 6-pager, I would have included a full snapshot of this data, which could go on for pages, in the appendix. Amazon is big on data; those are real facts. You are building a narrative around those facts so that we are not just skimming an excel spreadsheet.

The last thing I want to call out in this section was how I ended it. It’s a subtle detail, but I make sure to complete the section with a little summary of everything that has been done and try to tie it into the goals. Since my goals were core to the way I ran my business, they didn’t change much every six months. The only thing that change was the target numbers. This made it easier to keep a consistent theme on how I ran things and made sure my summary of the business reflected that.

Lessons learned

After summing up the state of the business, it’s time to reflect on what happened in the past. This is a snapshot from the last period until now and has to be even more factual with numbers, percentages of goal completion, and even additional references in the appendix.

This section is similar to the state of the business but with one exception; the tense here is always in the past. There shouldn’t be any forward projections or expectations. There is zero room for interpretation. The data will tell the real story. Part of working at Amazon is that you are encouraged to share your failures along with your successes. I’ve worked in many places where people try to hide what didn’t work. You can usually tell because they never have data to back up their claims. At Amazon, the culture understands that you will fail; in fact, there is a leadership principle called “deliver results ” to address that reality.

Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

Notice the “despite setbacks” part? That is very important because real leaders fail from time to time but learn from their mistakes. Those failures help inform the new set of goals and give you clarity as to why it failed, so you don’t repeat your mistake. That’s outlined in the “ownership” and “are right, a lot” leadership principles too but you can look those up on your own.

Strategic priorities

At this point, you should have a real clear picture of what is going on, what has happened leading up to this, and what we hope to achieve moving forward. It’s now time for the most detailed section of all, the strategic priorities.

There is a lot to unpack here, mostly because this is usually 50–70% of the 6-pager. This section outlines each activity you plan on doing and how it relates to one of the goals. I don’t believe the order makes a difference, you can structure the narrative how you like, but people in the meeting will calculate up each activity to make sure it matches up to the goal’s projected data point. This is also the section that is open for interpretation and will be the one you spend the majority of the meeting defending.

Up until this point, everything you have written has been facts, except for the tenets. The only questions you will get on those sections are whether the data adds up or they perceive the goals as not challenging enough. The strategic priorities section is all speculation. And at Amazon, they don’t accept anecdotes for an answer. That is why to write this section, you need to pull numbers from the lessons learned and state of the business that help prove your proposed activities will work.

I’ll admit, I didn’t fully back my assumptions up with data from the previous sections. Honestly, since I don’t have to report this to anyone, I don’t analyze my game engine data all that much. I just do it for fun. But what I did want you to learn from this section was how to structure these priorities. You’ll see they follow a particular pattern.

A strategic priority consists of two parts. The first part is a prediction. Think of this as your thesis on how you will contribute back to a given goal. The second part, however, is where you attempt laying out the actual plan to achieve it. These can get very detailed, and a lot of the plans I’ve put together use these to summarize the approach and the appendix for tactical execution steps. I’ve placed entire content plans in the appendix since they didn’t contribute to the narrative, but people will want to see the details.

The beauty of the appendix, and probably the most brilliant part of the Amazon 6-pager, is that it gives the reader the choice of how deep they want to go down the rabbit hole. What you read in the 6-pager narrative gives you a high-level overview. If you chose to follow an appendix, that reference goes right into the details. And since the meeting comprises of team leads from other groups, each one will have specific areas of interest to dig into and skim over parts that don't pertain to them. Since everyone at the table needs to understand the entire scope, they chose to follow an appendix reference for more information as needed. Either way, they still walk away with an overall sense of that part of the plan. It’s incredibly brilliant, and probably the one structural detail most plans I read at other companies don’t do very well.

Ending a 6-pager

Congratulations on making it this far. Luckily, we are almost at the end. Let’s take a look at the last strategic priority in my 6-pager.

There are two things you should notice. First, I wrote right up to the bottom of page 6 to stick the landing. Second, you’ll see there is no summary section or closing remarks. That would be fluff. I’ve never read a 6-pager that summed everything up. They may exist, but out of the hundreds I’ve read, I never felt like a summary was missing. I got a clear picture of the past, present, and future activities and what better way to end then on an actionable item.

I always make sure that the last sentence ends on a positive, forward-facing note. One that doesn’t sum everything up but at least feels like a natural ending to the document. Also, I didn’t add many appendix items to this example strategic priority section. That was on purpose; it would be more work than this example warranted. Regardless, you should now have a clear sense of how this section is supposed to be structured.

Some final advice

I think the last few bits of advice I’ll leave you with are how important the leadership principles come into play when reviewing a document and receiving feedback without taking it personally. The leadership principles give you a sort of rules of engagement on how to be direct with a co-worker and walk away civil. While I don’t fully drink the kool-aid, it’s impossible to survive at Amazon without weaponizing these principles in your meetings. Sometimes it’s to attack and others times to defend, but most of all, you want to always “dive deep.”

Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

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Jesse Freeman

Sr Director of Technical Marketing at Akamai & creator of Pixel Vision 8. These are my personal thoughts on gaming, productivity, and 25+ years of development.

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2023 Ultimate Guide: How to Write and Format a White Paper

The step by step guide to succeeding with white paper marketing.

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White papers are a popular and powerful tool for content marketers. They can be used to position your company as a thought leader, to present useful and persuasive research and information about your products and services, and to generate leads . This ultimate guide will teach you everything you need to make white paper marketing a formidable addition to your content marketing strategy .

How to Write and Format a White Paper Infographic

1. What is a white paper?

A white paper is an in-depth report or guide about a specific topic and the problems that surround it. It is meant to educate readers and help them to understand and solve an issue.

In the world of marketing, a white paper is a long-form piece of content, similar to an eBook . The difference between the two is that white papers tend to be more technical and in depth. The facts and opinions expressed in white papers are often backed by original research or statistics that the publisher has aggregated from reliable sources. They often include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data. 

The term "white papers" originated in England as government-issued documents. One famous example is the Churchill White Paper , commissioned by Winston Churchill in 1922.

Today, the term is most commonly applied to “deep dive” style publications. Businesses — especially in the consulting, financial, or B2B sectors — use them to communicate their organization’s philosophy on a topic, make the case for the superiority of their product, or simply to present research findings related to their field.

White papers are no less editorial than other forms of content, but the depth of research lends them an authoritative tone. For this reason, they are good candidates for promoting thought leadership .

Who uses white papers?

In the past, white papers were most often produced by governmental agencies, NGOs, think tanks, consultancies, and financial institutions that needed to present the findings of their ongoing research in a succinct format.

With the widespread growth and adoption of content marketing (the creation and distribution of non-promotional content intended to generate interest in a business and its offerings), white papers have become more common in other industries as well. Any organization that engages in content marketing can benefit from producing white papers.

Their popularity across industries is due to their versatility. While all white papers have certain elements in common, a B2B startup will use them differently than a large consultancy, and both will use them differently from a governmental organization.

Types of white papers

There are numerous types of white papers a business might publish.

Other types of white papers simply present a summary of useful statistics and information about the state of a particular field or industry. An example of this would be the Content Marketing Benchmarks Budgets and Trends from the Content Marketing Institute.

Whatever type you produce , the contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area. Your audience is searching for information, and will look for an authoritative source — a business they perceive as having in-depth knowledge of a subject.

The contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area.

The purpose of a white paper

White papers enable you to build trust with your audience. They show readers that you're reliable, experienced, and adept in a given domain. When potential customers search for information to help them understand a problem or opportunity they're facing, and you provide them with a quality white paper that helps, they'll turn to you again in the future.

This perception of authority can also serve to boost sales in an organization. More than half the respondents to the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey reported having read a white paper before making a buying decision. Buyers prefer to purchase from vendors they trust and see as experts in their field.

Finally, white papers are extremely useful for lead generation . The Content Preferences Survey from DemandGen found that more than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper — more than for eBooks , case studies, analyst reports , podcasts, brochures , or infographics.

With all of these potential benefits, utilizing white papers in your content marketing strategy can produce great results.

More than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper.

2. White paper examples

When you think about white papers, you probably think of PDF articles with thousands of words. But times are changing and so is the way we produce and consume content.

Nowadays, every marketing collateral (including white papers) needs to be well written, well structured, and designed for every type of visitor. 

Here are some great examples of white papers doing exactly that. 

White paper example - CodinGame

This unique one-pager presenting findings from the Developers at Work Survey demonstrates how a white paper should be done. The animated, interactive data charts show off just what's possible with our embed feature.

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White paper example - BDO GDPR

Privacy and the GDPR - BDO

This well-produced special edition produced by BDO and creative agency Monte Media does an incredible job of turning a conventionally dull topic into a piece of content that's engaging and comes to life.

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White paper example - content-marketing-strategy

This white paper is a step by step guide to succeeding with content marketing.

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3. How to write a white paper

Starting a white paper can be a daunting task. So much information and research are required that it’s easy to get lost in that portion of the work and let it become a roadblock to actually putting things on paper.

Even after the writing itself has begun, white papers are tricky to do well. Simply listing statistics without some form of narrative arc is a surefire way to keep your white paper from ever being read. Luckily, following a few simple guidelines can help keep a white paper engaging and make the process of finishing it much easier.

Pick the right topic

This might seem obvious, but without a topic that resonates with your audience, your white paper is not likely to be read. When choosing the right topic, you should consider three important criteria:

Naturally, finding a topic that brings points 1 and 2 together is vital. White papers are meant to be authoritative pieces of content based upon the author's experience and expertise, so it's important to write about what you know . But you must match this to the interests of your readers if you're to produce something they'll be eager to engage with .

Don't be afraid to crowdsource information from within your organization. If the topic of a white paper is related to engineering, why not interview an engineer or have them look over what you’ve written? The same goes for other roles. Crowdsourcing knowledge means having the power of a true expert in many fields.

Finally, filling a "content gap" will help your white paper get noticed and gain traction. By addressing a topic no one else has written about definitely, your white paper will be more likely to rank highly on search engines and even be featured elsewhere on the web.

Pro tip: You can even ask your audience what they would like to see in your upcoming white paper. You'll get ideas, make your topic more relevant, and you'll generate buzz around your content even before it's finished. In fact, we used the same method for this guide!

white paper promotion slack

Define your audience

Defining your audience goes hand in hand with choosing the right topic. But moving beyond your audience's interests, it’s important to think of the kinds of people who will be reading your white paper.

Knowing this helps establish the voice you should use and whether industry-specific jargon is appropriate. It also narrows the scope of the research you should include. It’s always important to ensure all arguments are logically sound and well supported, but the stats and information presented should be relevant to the specific audience you're targeting.

Part of defining an audience in the age of Google centers around how people will find the white paper. This means thinking about which platforms specific personas use for research and what search terms they put in. Not only will this help a white paper get found by the right people, but it is useful when outlining the white paper later on.

Optimizing for keywords is important, but remember to write for people, not for search engines. Google is getting better all the time at understanding and matching search intent with relevant content .

Wrap it in a great intro and outro

Like with all good writing, your intro should serve to captivate your audience, pique their curiosity, and entice them to read further. It's good practice to provide a brief summary of what they'll find in the white paper and to emphasize exactly what benefit they'll get from reading it.

Your outro is equally important, especially if you're using your white paper to market your products or services. You should avoid any self-promotion in the body of your white paper, but you can certainly mention your relevant product offerings and how to obtain them — perhaps using a compelling call-to-action — at the end.

Pack it with value

White papers are not meant to be advertisements for your company, and you should avoid any overt promotion. Instead, you should provide plenty of useful information that will be valuable to readers even if they don't become customers. Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.

Remember, white papers serve to showcase your expertise as a company or brand in a given field. Your readers should come away having learned something useful and with the impression that you're a reliable source of expert information. As pointed out earlier, generating this kind of reputation will lead to greater business success as buyers are more likely to purchase from companies they trust.

Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.

Don’t be scared of multiple drafts

No first draft is ever a finished work. Elizabeth Bishop, the renowned and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, wrote seventeen drafts of her poem “One Art” before it was completed. It’s now considered one of the best villanelles ever written .

While a white paper may not need seventeen drafts, there will undoubtedly be points missed and logical inconsistencies in the first version. Finishing a draft, stepping away, and coming back to it with a fresh mind is the best way to ensure quality. If there’s another good writer at your company, getting another set of eyes on it is even better.

Keep it interesting

White papers should be more detailed and thorough than blog posts or eBooks . This may cause them to be more dry and formal, but this doesn't mean they have to be boring.

A trap that white papers easily fall into is using statistics as a crutch and not maintaining interest throughout. Technical as it may be, you still want your white paper to be read. To make this happen, it’s useful to borrow techniques from fiction and creative nonfiction writers.

There are lots of resources for learning about a plot, but generally, it has five parts, as illustrated in Freytag’s pyramid:

White paper plot design

These won’t always correspond perfectly in a factual piece of writing like a white paper, but they can get you thinking about how to create and hold interest. Use those ideas to keep readers’ attention until the very end.

4. Mistakes a white paper should avoid

There are some pitfalls and common mistakes to avoid when writing a white paper. Each of these has the potential to make an otherwise stellar piece of content into a wasted effort. Here's a brief list of things to look out for.

Sounding like a sales pitch

When white papers are used as part of a marketing campaign where businesses showcase their product, a common mistake is to make them sound like a sales pitch. Don't let this happen; it will immediately turn your readers off. In a white paper, your audience is seeking unbiased, educational information that will help them, not try to persuade them. Save the sales pitches for other content, like product brochures .

Lack of adequate research

As previously mentioned, white papers should be well-researched documents. It’s true that conducting lengthy original research may be outside a marketing team’s budget, but merely including a few stats from the first page of a Google search simply won’t cut it.

Aggregating statistics and searching through scholarly work may take time, but the result will be worth it. For your white paper to achieve its intended effect, It’s important to establish your content as an authoritative source to which the audience would want to return.

Poor design

We'll go in-depth into design in the next section, but it's worth mentioning here. The written content of a white paper is what matters most, but neglecting design is a big mistake. Designmakes your salient points stand out and helps the reader understand what they're reading. Using visuals (like images, animations , videos, charts, and graphs) that support your arguments is crucial.

Check out this white paper example built with Foleon!. Open the white paper

Not telling a story

White papers are informative and factual. We’ve driven that point home already. That doesn’t mean they should be boring. Backgrounders, problem-solution white papers, and research findings all have a story to tell, and the reader is far less likely to make it through the entire piece without some form of narrative to keep them engaged. Setting up a problem, elaborating on a solution, and including some type of success story is a proven formula for making any type of content more story-like.

Leaving it abstract

Because most white papers will involve sharing research findings, it can be easy to leave them in the realm of theory without explaining how to utilize those findings on a practical level. This is true more of backgrounders but can be the case with problem-solution white papers as well.

A good example is the abundant amount of content on employee engagement. Many B2B cases have covered the importance of employee engagement and the pitfalls of getting it wrong. Too little of this content goes further and gives concrete examples of what companies in specific verticals can do to alleviate the problem.

5. White paper format

Before addressing anything else, we first need to talk about the format you'll use.

A picture is no longer worth a thousand words. Today, its value is in the number of eyeballs it can keep glued to your content and the ratio of those viewers it convinces to click through to other sections of your website.

Your carefully crafted copy and painstakingly gathered statistics won’t earn those clicks on their own. The average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish . And with 3.3 million Facebook posts, 448,800 tweets, and 149,513 emails sent every minute , competition for your readers' attention is intense, to say the least. Long form mediums like the white paper need serious sparkle just to compete.

You'll need more than just black text on a white background. Your design choices regarding things like color, typography, and the use of visuals will play a prominent role in the success of your white paper. Here are a few important principles to keep in mind for creating a quality white paper design.

Keeping mobile visitors in mind

More than 54% of internet traffic is now mobile , and web designers have adapted to this trend by creating what's known as responsive design . Before this, web pages simply scaled according to the size of a user's screen, retaining their layout. Naturally, this made most pages both unreadable and unnavigable on smaller devices.

Responsive design solved this by allowing elements on a page to rearrange, resize, or be completely hidden from view in response to the size of the screen. When a smaller screen is used, font-sizes increase, buttons become larger for touch screens, and the entire layout adjusts to make the page mobile-friendly.

But while this has become standard for web designers in a mobile-first world, producers of other digital content assets like white papers have generally not adapted . Surprisingly, most companies that offer white papers and eBooks on their websites still use PDF format .

The problem with PDFs is that they're unreadable on smaller screens . They're fixed-layout documents — they can't adjust or adapt to different screen sizes. Reading them on a mobile device requires excessive zooming and panning around, which is a terrible experience for users.

Mobile traffic is ever-increasing. If you decide to produce your white paper as a PDF , you risk excluding this vast segment of your audience. It's a design mistake that will cost you views and conversions.

Responsive white paper example - NGData

See examples of responsive white papers

Emphasis and readability

Because in-depth white papers contain lots of text and visuals, as well as supplementary information like footnotes, figures, logos and copyright info, the danger is that your design becomes cluttered. Clutter accumulates before you realize it. You may choose a clean layout and color scheme, to begin with, but as you continue to add content, things can get crowded. Often, you must make tough choices about what not to include to strike the right balance between completeness and readability.

Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information. These choices and priorities affect layout, placement, color, font size, page order and more. Use these design elements to create emphasis on vital pieces of information. But be careful. Emphasizing too many pieces of information — or too few — will cause readers to struggle to discern what’s important.

Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information.

Have a look at what's trending

Bold fonts and color schemes are in. If you look at the hippest tech companies right now, you’ll see lots of pastels and color gradients. Of course, all that might change tomorrow. But still, a great way to get inspiration when you're just starting is to take a look at what design trends are currently popular.

U2's frontman, Bono, sings "every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief." And he's right. Good designers are always drawing inspiration from other designers. The best way to create a successful design is to spend a lot of time looking at what others are doing successfully. Use Evernote , or a bookmarking service to save white papers and other exceptional designs that you encounter for future reference.

Don’t know where to start looking? Dribbble and Behance are two networks where great designers share their latest work. They consistently have material that’s on the cutting edge of what’s trending.

Design for your audience

While trends may inspire you, it's more important to align your design with your audience and your subject matter.

White paper format and design

Your design should support and strengthen your topic. The colors and typography should be consistent with what you're writing about, the tone you've chosen, and the audience you've defined. Writing a white paper for a funeral parlor? Hot-pink headlines might be a bad choice. Taking color psychology into account can help you achieve the look and feel you're after.

Brush up on the basics

No prior knowledge of design? No problem.

If you don’t have a designer working with you in-house, you can still teach yourself the basics of design and check work against those principles. A big part of the battle is knowing the search terms that will get you the knowledge you need. Luckily, good primers on basic graphic design are abundant.

After doing a bit of reading, start creating. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you create a white paper and don’t like the design, try to pinpoint what it is about the design that needs improvement. After the reading you’ve done, you’ll have the tools to critique your own work and the work of others. This is the best way to improve and create well designed white papers.

Choosing the right tools

At Foleon, we pride ourselves on providing a tool that makes creating responsive digital white papers easy, even for those with no prior graphic design experience.

Choosing a tool like this, which takes the guesswork out of design, will shorten the time it takes for you to produce great white papers. There is a vast ecosystem of tools out there, each of which is geared toward a different purpose and skillset. The right one will enable you as both a designer and a writer.

See how you can scale engaging content creation .

6. Gating your white papers

For most companies, lead generation and growing lists of contacts for the sales and marketing teams are important activities. Attracting visitors to your site and offering them something of value in exchange for their contact information is a proven method for filling the top of your funnel.

But for this type of inbound marketing to work, two things are needed: exceptional content that visitors are eager to acquire, and a method for gating (or walling off) that content behind a form.

Gated white paper

Many brands skip the first part and move straight to the second. They quickly produce something mediocre and put it behind a form. This might work in the short term for generating lists, but keep in mind that users expect more from content they “pay” for. The quality of your gated content serves as an indicator of the quality of your brand will affect your ability to turn prospects into customers down the road.

So how do white papers fit into lead generation efforts? They may act either as lead generation tools themselves or can be used to direct readers to other parts of a website that captures lead information.

What is gated content?

Walling expert content off behind a form designed to capture personal details is one of the most common techniques for generating leads. Gated content is any content that a reader cannot access until after they input some personal information, such as their name and email address. White papers and eBooks are two of the most common types of content used for this purpose.

Typically, a company will create a landing page that includes a description — and perhaps a preview — of what information readers can expect to find inside. The landing page will include a form for visitors to enter their personal information and thus gain access. After entering the required information, visitors are either presented with a download button or receive the gated content in their inbox.

There are plenty of variations on this formula, but the basic technique of providing “free” content and asking readers to “pay” by providing their personal information has been very important part of content marketing for a long time.

To gate or not to gate

While gating your best content is great for lead generation, there are some drawbacks as well. Walling off your white paper will mean it gets read by fewer people as not everyone is willing to give away their contact details.

An open-access white paper will be read by a wider audience. If it’s in-depth and authoritative, it may also do well organically and improve your search rankings. Gating it behind a form, however, will prevent search engines from indexing it.

It’s important to consider what the primary goal of your white paper is: disseminating information and gaining brand awareness or generating leads. If the latter is more important, then gating is a great option.


Another variation on gated content — and one that’s growing in popularity — is semi-gating . This can give you the best of both worlds by allowing your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.

Semi-gating gives readers a taste of your white paper without requiring them to give up any info. You can, for example, make the first few pages of your white paper open access, and then make visitors fill in a form to read more. This works well because digital content is so abundant and brands must offer more for free or risk visitors turning elsewhere.

Allow your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.

Offering more content for free also builds trust and brand loyalty among your readers. Let them know your white papers are valuable and helpful, and they’ll be more interested in giving you their personal information. You’re also more likely to gain qualified leads if readers have a chance to sample your white paper before converting.

Of course, semi-gating doesn’t mean giving away your entire white paper. Typically, there’s at least one section of the white paper that is exclusive to those who go through the gating process. Semi-gating can help reach a wider audience, build trust and loyalty, increase lead quality, and still help you capture the contact information you need.

There’s a concept in marketing and design known as friction . Friction is anything that causes the sales process to slow down. It’s like a roadblock that makes it less likely prospects will convert, sign up, download, or purchase. It can be caused by a multitude of things including poor design, confusing navigation, subpar copy, too many form fields, and more.

Your ability to generate leads with a gated white paper will largely depend on how much friction is involved. Asking for more information than you really need is one common and unnecessary source of friction that can lead to losing potential readers.

The entire field of conversion rate optimization is geared toward removing friction — or making user interactions easier. CRO specialists make forms simpler, navigation more intuitive, and design CTAs that are more likely to be clicked. Optimizing your landing page for conversions is a vital part of any lead generation campaign.

But the reality is, asking for personal information will always be an obstacle for a large number of people. So the key here is to make the process easy and noninvasive as possible.

An excellent way to do this is by reducing the number of form fields to the bare minimum and using mid-gating to ensure your ask is timely and yields immediate value for the reader: "Fill out this form to get access to the rest of this white paper, we've saved the best for last!".

Create white papers and eBooks that integrate with your favorite CRM or marketing automation platform. Get started

7. White paper distribution

So, after following the tips in this guide, you create an engaging, informative white paper that inspires readers to take action and deepen their relationship with your company. You mid-gate (or semi-gate) it to capture readers’ information and gain valuable insight into the interests and demographics of your consumer base.

Now, you publish it on your website, sit back, and wait for your Pulitzer.

Only, the traffic never comes… Where did you go wrong? You didn't think about your white paper distribution strategy . 

The importance of distribution

The internet isn’t the same as it once was. Thanks to the massive amount of content produced every day for and an ever-growing number of channels, it’s a lot harder to get noticed. Unless you’re Gabriel García Márquez back from the dead, simply writing something and posting it online doesn’t guarantee readership.

To get eyes on your white paper, you need to be smart not only about writing and design but distribution as well. Some content marketing thought leaders go so far as to claim that you should spend 20% of your time on content creation and 80% on promotion.

Distribution is all about identifying traction channels where your ideal customers consume content and making your white paper highly visible on those channels. Depending on the audience you defined in the beginning, some will be more relevant for you than others.

Social promotion

If you’re at all familiar with marketing, advertising, or online media, chances are you’re aware of how important social media is to visibility. People from all walks of life, and from all over the world, are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Ensuring that you share your content regularly on these platforms will give you a solid base of promotion on which to build.

But it's not enough to simply write a post and tweet it into the void. Try to find communities like Facebook and LinkedIn groups where your target audience is likely to congregate. Search for relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram . Find subreddits relevant to your industry.

Once you’ve found your audience, it’s much easier to connect with them. If you contribute to these spaces regularly, you’ll have an easier time keeping their attention and distributing your white paper.

Influencers and earned media

Public relations isn’t what it once was; influencer marketing has taken its place as the way to get noticed by the masses.

These days, influencers — people with large, engaged followings on social media and newsletters — are better equipped to amplify your content than traditional journalists. They play a growing role in shaping public opinion and even in setting business trends . Shares from an influencer can even help you land spots in major publications the way press releases used to.

Social media is the best place to find influencers in your vertical. When you investigate the best communities in which to promote your white paper, look for the content that people are already referencing and sharing. Eventually, you’ll start to get a picture of who’s putting out content that’s getting widespread traction. These are the people whose voices can amplify your brand.

Start by interacting with them. Begin a conversation, comment on their pieces with regularity, and give them feedback on their work. There are great tools, like Voila Norbert and ContactOut , to help you quickly track down email addresses.

After building enough rapport, try offering to collaborate on future white papers or other types of content. This process can take some time because your goal here is to build a relationship.

Eventually, you can ask an influencer to share your white paper. You might even consider quoting them in the white paper itself — anything that gives them an incentive to share your work is helpful.

Pro tip: Try to find an expert in your white paper related subject and interview them. It will add value to your white paper and you'll increase the chance that the expert shares your content with his or her extensive network.

Email marketing

The jungle of online content may thicken daily, but there are a few places you can still get readers’ attention. Email distribution has stood the test of time in this regard. It provides greater ROI than social , and it shows no signs of weakening.

If the purpose of your white paper is lead generation, email marketing will not be applicable. But for boosting sales, building trust, and establishing your brand as a trustworthy source of information, it's important not to neglect your existing contact base.

Although email may not have the appealing viral possibilities associated with social media, it does have other advantages. Namely, anyone who subscribed to your email list chose to be there. This means you can expect a higher level of engagement from this audience than those who come in via other channels. Capitalize on their loyalty and engagement by encouraging contacts to share your white paper with their networks and thus multiply your distribution efforts.

This was discussed in the previous section, but it's worth mentioning again here: another big advantage of Foleon's gating features is that when your existing contacts share your white paper with their contacts, those people will be confronted with a login form that will allow you to capture their info and expand your email list further.

Going beyond the basics

The techniques discussed above are essential items in your white paper distribution toolbox. However, they’re not the only ones. The best way to distribute your white paper depends largely on your target audience and the industry to which your content speaks.

Take some time to critically evaluate and research how knowledge is shared in your industry. Every industry will be slightly different. Reaching people in these places is the best guarantee of effective distribution.

8. Handling your white paper leads

As we've discussed, white papers can serve a variety of objectives. They’re commonly used for thought leadership and to disseminate important research, relevant to a specific industry.

When it comes to content marketing, however, the most common use for white papers over the last several years has become lead generation. In chapter 6, we discussed how to bring readers to your white paper and capture their information.

Once you've properly gated your white paper and set up a solid distribution strategy, it's time to think about how you'll handle the leads that come in. If not properly tracked and nurtured, leads will quickly become cold and won't lead to increased sales for your company. So how do you follow up with leads and maximize the opportunity you’ve created with your white paper?

How to track your white paper leads

The buyer’s journey outlines the steps a person goes through, from becoming aware of a problem they have, to learning about different solutions to that problem, to eventually purchasing a product or service (hopefully yours) that solves their problem.

White paper customer journey

To maximize the chances your new leads become paying customers, you must take the abstract concept of a buyer’s journey and map it to your specific content ecosystem. The actions your prospects take on your website can be indicative of what stage of the journey they're in.

For example, you may see someone read a blog post on your site, then come back a day later to get your white paper, and then finally sign up for a free trial or an email list. After that, they might decide to make a purchase. As patterns begin to emerge around the journey your customers take, you'll learn what actions on your part can help them to advance.

There are many tools available to help you analyze this journey for yourself. Google Analytics is probably the most widely used. It lets you track and compile data regarding user behavior on your website. You can define goals and generate reports that will show you steps users tend to take before completing those goals.

Targeting stages of the buyer’s journey

As it becomes more clear what actions visitors take before purchasing, you'll better understand where to use your white paper in the buyer's journey.

The question you should seek to answer is, where does it provide the most value to your potential customers? Do you see greater success when accessing your gated white paper is a prospect's first interaction with your company? Or is it perhaps more effective to use it as an offer once visitors have returned a second (or third) time to your site?

You can see that white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of an ecosystem. The related blog posts, landing pages, emails, social messages, and follow up sequences must all be carefully orchestrated and properly timed.

This process takes practice. It takes trial and error, and you must be a keen observer of trends . However, that effort will pay off.

...white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of a content ecosystem.

Following up with your leads

Depending on where in the buyer's journey you use your white paper, the way you'll want to follow up with leads will be different.

This is what it means to nurture leads. By proactively keeping in touch with leads and offering them more relevant content, you maximize the likelihood of them becoming a customer.

Be prepared to write a lot more content

By this point, you should have all the ingredients you need to make your white paper a rousing success. However, you’ll notice by now the reality that your white paper fits into a larger ecosystem of marketing actions and content.

In today’s business world, producing quality content is one of the best ways to get your target market's attention. But not everyone will be ready for the same piece of content at the same time.

From white papers, to blog posts, to podcasts, the type of content that will drive conversions for your business is something you'll discover over time. What’s certain is that one type won't satisfy all your audience's needs. Because of that, you should be prepared to fill the rest of your buyer’s journey with other appropriate content.

This means lots of writing. There’s no way around that. It means coming up with content ideas, creating them, distributing them, and measuring their success — then rinsing and repeating. After this primer, you should be fully equipped for success writing not only white papers but whatever content you choose along your journey.  

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How to Write a White Paper in 10 Steps (+ Tips & Templates)

How to Write a White Paper in 10 Steps (+ Tips & Templates)

Written by: Orana Velarde

how to write a white paper amazon

For businesses, a proven way to improve authority and establish thought leadership in your niche is to publish insightful and valuable content. One of the best ways to do that is with a white paper.

White papers can help move the needle for your sales team. According to a 2018 content preferences survey report , 71% of B2B buyers have employed white papers to analyze purchasing decisions.

White papers instill confidence in the minds of your readers about whatever product, service or idea you’re selling. When used effectively, it can help you acquire valuable leads and drive sales over the top.

In this article, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step tutorial on how to write a white paper. We’ve also included some great design tips for taking your white papers to the next level as well as advice on how to properly distribute and promote your white paper.

Want to skip the tutorial and get started? Use Visme to create a professional white paper in your browser using free templates, design tools and multiple download options.

Here’s a short selection of 8 easy-to-edit white paper templates you can edit, share and download with Visme. View more templates below:

how to write a white paper amazon

Table of Contents

What is a white paper, how to write a white paper in 10 steps, white paper design tips & best practices, 7 ways to promote your white paper.

A white paper is a document used by business professionals who want to share in-depth information about a specific topic.

For example, you can use a white paper to share marketing statistics, compare different campaigns, present a complex analysis of an industry trend, or share an in-depth explanation of a specific process carried out by a team or company.

Here's an example of what a white paper looks like.

how to write a white paper amazon

A white paper can be used for one or more of the following purposes:

Now, you might be wondering — how are white papers different from eBooks? Aren’t they both informational documents published by brands? True, but there’s a slight technical difference between the two.

People often ask, why is it called white paper? The term “white papers” dates back to years of practice where government color-coded papers designed for public access were published with white covers.

How is a White Paper Different From an eBook?

In many cases, you might find that the terms ‘white paper’ and ‘eBook’ are used interchangeably. However, there are a few differences between the two, and it’s important to know which one is best for your needs.

eBooks are electronic books that usually provide a general overview of a topic. They are more conversational in nature, and are normally directed at non-expert audiences who are new to a particular topic.

White papers , on the other hand, are targeted at more expert audiences who are already familiar with a topic and want to learn more about a particular aspect of it, such as a detailed analysis of a specific strategy. White papers are more factual, professional and research-based.

What Is the Purpose of a White Paper?

The purpose of white papers is to persuade prospects that a particular solution is a superior product or the best procedure for solving a problem. It’s commonly employed in B2B marketing to influence the decision-making processes of current and prospective customers.

3 Types of White Papers

Here are the three types of white papers used by businesses.

1. The Backgrounder (also called the evaluator's guide or product briefing) . They are used to simplify or explain new and complex technologies to technical audiences.

Backgrounders describe the features, functions, and benefits of a product or service. Because they help simplify complex information, you can use them to support product launches, technical evaluations or promote a product, service or idea.

2. The Numbered List. This whitepaper is organized into a list of points about a certain issue. It can also be used to present the key highlights of a new product or service in a format that’s easy to digest.

Here are some examples of numbered lists:

This white paper format can come in handy for grabbing attention and nurturing leads in your sales funnel.

3. The Problem/Solution. This white paper outline pinpoints specific problems and uses persuasive, factual, data-driven arguments to convince readers that a specific solution is the best. This example of a white paper can help you:

Now that you know what a white paper is and what it’s used for, let’s get into the step-by-step process of creating one for your own business.

Step 1: Choose Your Topic

Before you start creating your white paper or even looking at white paper examples for inspiration, you have to choose your white paper topic.

To choose a relevant and impactful topic, ask yourself:

Choose a topic that you know and understand well. White papers are expert documents, so make sure you have enough knowledge to share and sources or proof to back it up.

You also need to pick a topic that interests your audience. If your audience is not relevant or engaging for your readers, it might not bring you the results you hope to achieve.

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how to write a white paper amazon

Step 2: Conduct Thorough Research

Once you’ve chosen your topic, it’s time to collect information and data to create insightful content that delivers actual value.

You can use both internal and external sources to gather information for your white paper. The deeper you dive into your topic, the more unique and useful your content will be.

Here are several ways to conduct in-depth research for your white paper:

Find credible sources.

While researching the content for your white paper, keep a record of all the sources you use.

You can add these sources to your white paper in any of the following ways:

If you’re copying quotes and statements from thought leaders and experts in the field, be sure to mention them by name.

Read other journals, reports and white papers on the same topic.

Apart from your regular research online or at the library, a great way to find reliable sources is to read journals and reports already published on the same topic.

Reading up on content that’s already published on your topic will inspire you to come up with unique angles. It will also help you pinpoint content gaps, which you can address in your white paper.

Create a folder of all the research material on your computer so you always have it on hand.

Connect with experts in your industry.

For a more personalized approach, conduct interviews with people that work within the realm of your topic. Connecting with top-level personalities might be difficult, but if you construct and deliver your angle convincingly, they might just answer your call (or email.)

To find the right people to talk to, use a tool like BuzzSumo . The trick is to find the people talking about the topic you’re writing about in the white paper.

Put down a list of names, and use outreach tools like Respona to get in touch with them via email. Conduct interviews in the format that they’re comfortable with, it might be on a Zoom call, a meeting over coffee or maybe a written questionnaire.

Fact-check everything.

It’s in your best interest to share content that you’re sure about being reliable and true. Don’t skip this step, and fact-check the information you source in both previously published content and interviews you conduct.

There are plenty of online tools to help you fact-check your research — journalists and thought leaders use these tools regularly.

Step 3: Understand Your Audience

I mentioned above that a large part of choosing a topic and preparing the content for a white paper is to consider your audience.

But simply considering your audience is not enough — you have to go a step further and understand your audience on a deeper level. Ask yourself questions like:

You might need to do in-depth research to answer these questions. If your team has already done this work, that’s one step less for you. It’s helpful to create a visual user persona to get a snapshot of your audience’s needs and characteristics.

A user persona worksheet available to customize in Visme.

The idea is that you need to understand your audience well in order to make a connection. If your title interests them, they’ll start to read, but if the content isn’t up to par, you’ll lose the opportunity to make an impact.

Have your user persona on hand to stay in line with the intended messaging for that audience. Here’s a simple template for a user persona analysis if you don’t have one yet.

Step 4: Create Your White Paper Outline and Format

You’ve done the research and now you’re ready to write the content. But before you can tap into your inner storyteller, you must first create an outline. This whitepaper outline will most likely set you up for a great Table of Contents in the final design.

Here’s a simple outline for a white paper as an example:

If you’re looking for a more detailed outline for a whitepaper, check out this infographic that lists the most important sections to include.

how to write a white paper amazon

White papers are usually written in an uphill style with the conclusion at the end.

First, you lay out the playing field with the abstract, and then each section offers information that layers upon the one before it.

You can look at it like this:

In the end, a good white paper will give the reader an “Aha!” moment upon completion.

To create an outline for a white paper, work with document editing tools like Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Use high-level headings for the critical sections of your content, and then branch out into subheadings.

Jot down ideas and important points you need to cover under each section. These will be fueled by your internal and external research.

White papers are written in a standard document format. Think of a white paper more like a research paper and less of a report. The difference is that a report includes conclusions in the executive summary or introduction, while a white paper outline includes them at the very end.

Also, differing from an eBook, a white paper includes supporting data visualization apart from eye-catching imagery.

Step 5: Craft an Attention-Grabbing Title

The first thing your readers will see of your white paper is the cover. Make it eye-catching, interesting and welcoming. Your title or headline takes center stage on your cover, so pay special attention to that part.

To craft an attention-grabbing title for your white paper, our friends at offer some interesting tips:

Let’s take a look at the title below, “The Alarming Spread of Dengue - And What We Can Do To Keep Ourselves Safe.”

how to write a white paper amazon

What’s enticing about it? First, the design choices for this cover helps with the attention-grabbing aspect. The word ‘Dengue’ is in all caps and the entirety of the title is over a red splatter that resembles blood. The background is an image of a mosquito with a dark overlay. Instantly, your attention is piqued. This is where ‘being clever’ helps create a great headline.

This title also includes a subtitle, further informing the reader why it’s important they read the white paper. To be clear and concise, don’t use any fluff words.

This title also uses the adjective ‘alarming’ as a support word that makes the title more interesting without sounding exaggerated. Their research will probably prove just how alarming the spread of dengue is, so this is a perfect word choice.

You won’t always have a title that can be designed like the example above. Your title might be something like “The Army’s Framework for Character Development”.

how to write a white paper amazon

To make this title more enticing, there’s also a subtitle, “Integrating Character Development with Leadership Development.”

The title is clear and concise, and makes a promise with the subtitle. There is room for improvement for the cleverness aspect in this title, but it’s not necessary in some cases.

Knowing when to be clever depends on your audience and topic. This white paper, since it’s about the military, needs to keep a more serious tone.

Step 6: Write an Enticing Introduction

As I mentioned above, white papers include the conclusion at the end, which means that you’ll have to welcome your readers with a different type of introduction at the beginning. The most common is a summary or abstract of what’s inside the white paper.

If you or the author is a thought leader in the field, then you should also include an author blurb alongside the introduction. The example below uses one page to cover both instances — the author blurb on the left and the introduction on the right.

how to write a white paper amazon

Be concise and inviting when you write the introduction, be it a welcome note or an abstract. Don’t give too much away, but also make sure to point out the main factors. Include why you wrote the white paper and what you hope the reader will get out of it.

Step 7: Break Up the Content With Subheadings

Now it’s time to format the content in your white paper properly. Inside each main section, use subheadings to break up the text so it’s easier to read.

The example below shows how the main topic page is divided into subtopics. This page could work as an opener for a more extended section, which will be separated into three subsections, mirroring the first page.

how to write a white paper amazon

Using subheadings to break up content is vital for the reader. It helps with information retention and research purposes. Readers might want to highlight specific areas; subheadings will make it easier to find their notes later.

Step 8: Back Up Your Content With Data

White papers are meant to be informative, full of value and well-researched. And there’s no better way to support your findings than with solid data.

Using verified facts, statistics, quotes and other data as evidence in your white paper can help your business establish authority in its niche. It’s also important for ensuring your white paper has a powerful impact on your audience.

Make sure you properly cite all the sources of the data you use in your paper. To cite your sources, use either annotation with footnotes, or annotations and a final section listing sources. The most important thing to consider when citing sources is that they’re fact-checked and relevant.

To make your data more engaging, you can use data visualization techniques such as charts, graphs, widgets, maps and more. More on this later.

Step 9: Ensure Value in Every Paragraph

This tip is more important than you think. A white paper is not a magazine editorial or a fiction novel, so avoid adding any fluffy language that simply fills up the page. Every paragraph must bring value in some way.

As I mentioned above, the content of a white paper takes the reader on a journey from a base problem or statement.

It leads them uphill with researched methodologies, solutions and data to a conclusion that makes the reader feel like they’ve learned something important.

Step 10: Proofread and Edit

Never skip the proofreading and editing stage. All the work you’ve put in with the research and writing can be ruined with a silly typo in a heading or a duplicated sentence.

Yes, everyone makes typos, but pros have proofreaders to make sure they don’t.

If you can’t do the proofreading and editing yourself — don’t worry, hardly anyone can — ask coworkers to help or consider hiring a professional. It’s worth it!

Your content is ready and it’s time to put it all together in a concise document format. The design of your white paper is more important than you’d think. If you design well, you can make even the most boring topic look interesting.

To design your white paper, choose the tool you’re most comfortable with. Most professional designers prefer using Adobe InDesign, but it can be difficult to use for beginners and non-designers.

Regardless of the software you use, here are some design tips and best practices to help you enhance your white paper and make it more engaging.

1. Start With a Template

Creating a white paper from scratch can be tricky, especially for beginners. You’d need to think of a design layout that fits your content, follows visual hierarchy principles and looks great.

Thankfully, there are dozens of white paper templates available online that you can simply customize according to your needs. You can find ready-made white paper templates that fit your topic or content requirements in Visme’s white paper template library .

White Paper Templates

how to write a white paper amazon

Security White Paper

how to write a white paper amazon

Organic Food White Paper

how to write a white paper amazon

Digital Marketing White Paper

how to write a white paper amazon

Workplace Design White Paper

how to write a white paper amazon

Travel Guide White Paper

how to write a white paper amazon

Travel App White Paper

Create your white paper View more templates

It’s easy to customize the white paper templates in Visme. There are multiple pages of different kinds, including a table of contents page. Add, remove and duplicate pages with a single click.

You can also change text, colors, images, fonts and more. Or, take it a step further and add charts and graphs, embed videos, insert links and hover effects, add animated illustrations and icons, and more.

2. Create an Enticing Cover Page

Just like your title, your white paper’s cover page is the first thing your audience will see. Make sure it’s worth it and compels them to read further.

The design of your cover page should be engaging, and it should support your title by giving it context. It should also establish the theme of your white paper.

Here’s an example of a white paper cover page from a Visme template.

how to write a white paper amazon

In the example above, the background photo and color scheme of the cover page establish the topic of the white paper. You can tell at first glance that it’s going to be about nature or the environment.

Look for ways to make your title more enticing, maybe by making the text bigger, a different color or as a section in a separate line.

When choosing a visual for your cover page, make sure it’s 100% relevant. It could be a photo with or without overlay, an illustration or a graphic design with icons, shapes and colors. If you’re not confident in your design skills, stick to what the template offers.

Last but not least, add your logo on the cover page of your white paper to turn it into a branded document. That way, it will help increase your brand awareness and recall when your white paper is shared among your audience.

3. Add a Table of Contents

The table of contents is the next page after the cover. It lays out the top-level headings in order, along with the page number where that section starts.

Here’s another example of a white paper with a unique table of content layout

how to write a white paper amazon

Most templates have around 6 or 7 headings ; simply duplicate and extend each line item to add more. The final page numbers should be added at the end when you’re done formatting the content.

For digital white papers, add hyperlinks to the headings that will help readers navigate to the relevant page and make it easier for them to browse your document.

Don’t forget to add a link to your table of contents page on every page in case readers want to go back — a simple home icon in the corner would do.

4. Add Relevant Imagery

Your white paper needs visuals. Adding imagery can not only make your white paper look more engaging, but it can also help keep your document on brand.

Every piece of imagery you select must have a purpose; if you’re adding visuals for decorative purposes, make sure they are relevant and support the content somehow.

If your company has corporate photography, use that instead. Using branded imagery helps with credibility and thought leadership status.

When you don’t have brand photos to use, select stock photos that fully embody your topic and don't distract from the research you’re presenting.

how to write a white paper amazon

The white paper templates in Visme offer stock image placeholders to help guide your design. You can add photos by uploading from your own computer, or by tapping into Visme’s built-in library of free images, illustrations, icons, videos and more.

Other sources for visuals that we recommend include Freepik, Unsplash and Adobe Stock. You can also use data visualizations like charts, graphs, maps and infographics to add a visual touch to your white paper.

5. Choose Your Fonts Well

The typography on your white paper must be easy to read. The headlines, titles and subtitles must be more noticeable than body text. And this is where fonts come in — fonts are an important factor when creating a textual hierarchy for your content.

White papers are not the type of document for display or overly decorative fonts. Use classic document fonts like Lato, Garamond or Helvetica. Stick to one font style for the entire document — choose between serif or sans serif, and don’t mix them.

To differentiate the sections in your body text where you’re using the same font, you can play around with font sizes, add solid color blocks behind paragraphs and make footnotes smaller and italic.

6. Use a Consistent Color Scheme

The colors in your white paper must be balanced and harmonious throughout all the pages. Use color themes to change all the colors in a document with one click; it’s much faster than changing the color of every element one by one.

how to write a white paper amazon

You can also turn your brand’s color palette into a one-click color theme in Visme, which will show up in the color themes tab in the editor. This technique will not only keep your white paper on brand, but all other projects created by your team.

We recommend keeping color theory and color psychology principles in mind when choosing colors for your white paper design. Using clashing colors can negatively impact your brand image, as well as make your white paper difficult to read.

7. Make Your Data Beautiful

With imagery to visually support your content, you’ll need data visualizations to support your research and analysis. Use different types of data visualizations depending on your needs. You can choose from:

No matter which type of data visualization you use, it has to look good. We believe in making data beautiful, and that’s easy with Visme.

Inside the graph maker, you can customize the chart’s appearance with colors, typography and positioning of legends so it matches the rest of your white paper design.

For example, here’s a page from a white paper template in Visme. Notice how the bar chart design blends in seamlessly with the rest of the content.

how to write a white paper amazon

But data visualization is not only reserved for numerical data. You can also use infographics to visualize text-based information.

Don't simply present your data; tell a story with it! Data storytelling provides more context and makes your findings meaningful for your audience.

how to write a white paper amazon

The infographic example above visualizes the effects of arsenic poisoning in humans using a large illustration of a skeleton, lines and icons in an anatomy-style layout.

8. Keep it On Brand

Every visual project that your company or business creates should be branded, including your white paper. I mentioned above how to use brand colors for all the elements inside the white paper pages, but you should also consider the fonts, icons and other visuals.

If your brand has a set font pairing, use that. If your company has a set of custom icons, use those! You can easily upload your brand fonts, logo and assets to Visme and store them in your Brand Kit to use in any design project.

how to write a white paper - Brand kit

Apart from branding the visuals inside your white paper, also make sure that the content is on-brand.

A white paper’s purpose is to give your business credibility and good standing in your niche. If the way your content is portrayed doesn’t match your brand voice and tone, then it won’t have the impact you desire.

This is why proofreading and editing are essential, to make sure that every sentence and paragraph matches your brand voice.

9. Establish Visual Hierarchy

Just like there’s a flow to the content in your white paper, you need to create a visual flow to ensure your imagery is balanced and attractive.

Visual balance and flow are achieved with good use of hierarchy principles . The most obvious is de-escalating the sizes of your headings, subheadings, body text and footnote.

Watch this video to get a quick overview on visual hierarchy principles:

Moreover, a photo shouldn’t overpower the text unless the image is what you want the reader to focus on. Also, data visualizations with legends too small to read are useless, so make sure they’re easy to understand and the surrounding context is relevant.

Additionally, body text in large chunks might be hard to read; to make it better, try using two columns instead.

Test your visual flow with co-workers or people in your team. Ask them for honest feedback about the way the pages feel to them. Are there any confusing formatting problems or things out of order? Fix those issues and you’re ready to share your white paper.

What good is a white paper if you’re not sharing it with your audience?

Offering your white paper in exchange for an email sign-up is just one of the ways you can use it for marketing purposes and for generating leads.

Here are some ideas for distributing and promoting your white paper.

1. Publish Your White Paper

The first step to distributing and promoting your white paper is to publish it. With Visme, you can do this a couple of ways; digitally or as a printable document.

Create a live link.

Our favorite publishing and distribution format is digital. When you publish your white paper to the web, we’ll host it on the Visme servers and your readers will be able to read it online.

If you want to collect emails in exchange for distribution, simply add a sign-up form or create a password-protected entry. You can even add the option for viewers to download a PDF version of the white paper. You’ll find all these options in the sharing and privacy settings.

Share your white paper - create a live link

Embed into your website.

When you publish your white paper digitally, you can not only share it as a link, but you can also embed it onto your website. Doing this will keep readers on your site longer, and they’ll have a better opportunity of getting to know your brand.

Just like when you share a link, an embedded white paper can also have a sign-up form or password-protected entry.

Download as a PDF.

If you want to go the classic route, simply download the white paper as a PDF and send it to your readers in an email or a zipped file. Even though this is the general way of sharing a white paper, it’s not the most impressive or memorable.

When you share a white paper digitally and give readers an option to download it, you cover all your bases and make an impact.

2. Create a Landing Page

Promoting and sharing your white paper needs a launchpad from where it can be distributed. A dedicated landing page with a clear call-to-action is your best bet. Add a landing page to your website or with a tool like LeadPages or directly in your CMS.

Here’s an example of a white paper landing page from Meta:

how to write a white paper amazon

With this strategy, the white paper can be used as a lead magnet to collect emails . A white paper is usually top of the funnel content, perfect for connecting with potential customers and clients. Using a white paper as a lead magnet is great for brand awareness and topic authority.

Your white paper’s landing page can either have a CTA that directs readers to the digital version of your white paper, or the page on your website where you’ve embedded it.

If you prefer to offer it as a downloadable PDF, include the file in the thank-you message they see after they sign up on the form on the landing page. You can even add interactive elements to engage your readers better.

Use visuals from inside your white paper to promote the content, and create iPad mockups with your cover page inside it. The landing page URL can also become your go-to for sharing on platforms like social media and paid online ads.

3. Share It On Social Media

Sharing your white paper on social media is essential for your audience to learn about your document and the value they will gain from it.

Create social media graphics and relevant copy for each platform you’re active on. Use enticing and inviting language to convince people to download your white paper.

how to write a white paper amazon

Design social media posts right in Visme using your Brand Kit and the visuals from your white paper. Try placing the cover page of your white paper into an iPad mockup, so people know that you’re promoting a digital reading product in your post.

4. Run Online Ads

Apart from posting and sharing on social media organically, consider running paid ads. This is where your copy and visuals need to be on point as you’re paying per click and you’ll want your ROI to be positive.

how to write a white paper amazon

Create your ads with Visme easily . Try creating short videos with visual effects and enticing copy that will make people interested in clicking on your ad. A/B test some different styles of ads to find out what works better and then create more of those.

5. Send to Your Email List

A white paper is great for generating leads, but you can also send it as a gift to your existing email list. Send the link to the digital version or the PDF file to everyone on your email list with a small blurb and invitation to read.

Include a summary and add more info than you would on a social media post. You don’t need them to sign up in exchange for the white paper; you just want them to open it and read it, so it’s okay if you reveal more of what’s inside.

6. Create a White Paper Hub on Your Website

When you have more than one white paper or e-book in your repertoire, consider creating a hub on your website where your audience can see all your offerings in one place. Lay it out as a gallery or list, linking each item to its relevant landing page.

Here's an example of a hub we created for our graphic design eBooks .

how to write a white paper amazon

Share the URL of your hub in your social media posts, online ads or email newsletters. The more published content you have in the hub, the higher your authority in the niche.

7. Run an Outreach Strategy

Another technique to distribute your white paper is to run an outreach strategy. This practice involves reaching out to people in your niche who might want to share your white paper with their audience.

Distribute to influencers and publications.

Have your outreach team contact influencers and other publications with the news about your new white paper. If you mentioned any thought leaders in the white paper, share it with them as well.

Invite them to read the white paper with your live link or PDF, and ask if they’ll share it with their own audience.

Have your sales team share it with prospects.

Above, I mentioned that you could send the white paper to your email list. Take it further and have your customer success team share the white paper in a more personalized manner with your most loyal customers or good prospects.

Additionally, include a CTA to the white paper landing page on relevant blog posts on your site. This can help grow your potential audience and strengthen your internal linking at the same time.

Ready to Create an Engaging White Paper?

Using white papers as lead magnets, solving a problem or educating your audience is a great way to improve your marketing efforts while building authority in your niche.

You’ll collect leads which you can nurture into loyal customers who will be glad to share all the content you create.

If you’re ready to create your white paper , sign up for a free Visme account and choose one of our white paper templates to get started.

Thanks for reading our comprehensive guide on how to write a white paper. Visit our blog for more articles on creating visual materials for your business.

Create high-converting white papers in minutes with Visme

how to write a white paper amazon

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how to write a white paper amazon

About the Author

Orana is a multi-faceted creative. She is a content writer, artist, and designer. She travels the world with her family and is currently in Istanbul. Find out more about her work at

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