5 Steps That Make for a Great Whitepaper
Creating a whitepaper can seem daunting. It is, after all, the longest and most rigorous document you will ever produce. Not only does it have to read professionally from cover to cover, but it must follow a cohesive narrative, be economically unimpeachable, be mathematically and grammatically perfect, and be designed well enough to hold its own against the best. Anyone can write a decent blog post, but with a whitepaper, you have to be great for 10,000 words straight.
That’s a lot of pressure.
Just to reinforce the magnitude of the task, here’s a few statistics to note:
- Competition: Investment fund Pantera Capital was receiving 50 whitepapers a week at one stage – 2,600 submissions a year. Even if you’re not aiming for VC, that’s how crowded the marketplace for ideas has become.
- Saturation: Retail investors are more discerning than ever. While the total raised by ICOs in 2018 increased, the average raise fell by 13%. If you want to hit your funding target, an outstanding whitepaper is essential.
- Depth: The average length of a whitepaper, based on 2018’s most successful ICOs, stands at 38 pages. To succeed, your whitepaper will need the two Qs – quality and quantity – in equal measure.
Given the weight a whitepaper carries, the time and effort it entails, and the number of disciplines that must be aced (research, writing, proofing, design), it’s no wonder that most projects outsource the task to a professional writing team. It’s the only way to ensure that the finished document does justice to the company whose name it bears and whose vision it elucidates.
Your whitepaper must accurately communicate the market size and opportunity (finance), vision and execution plan (technical), development strategy (business/marketing), and value capture (token economics). Incorporating all this into a whitepaper demands multidisciplinary knowledge that few individuals or even writing teams possess. At AmaZix, we’ve assembled a team of entrepreneurs, private equity and hedge fund investors, computer scientists, marketers, technical writers and blockchain experts. Their skills and deep knowledge combine to create best-in-class client documents.
In the following guide, you’ll discover:
- The single most important component to a great whitepaper
- How whitepapers can follow a formula without being formulaic
- Why writing is one of the last things we do
To help you visualize the whitepaper creation process, we’ve decided to share the steps we follow from start to finish. If you’ve attempted to write a whitepaper for your own project, see how closely our approach mirrors yours. Alternatively, you might simply be curious about how a professional writing team constructs a whitepaper. We’re flexible about how we work, to accommodate the client’s preferences, but we’ve found the following approach to be highly effective. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have a deep insight into the creative process and an appreciation for projects that don’t skimp on their investor documents.
Step 1: Research
Before we write, we read. We’ll absorb all the client documents we can get our hands on, including web content, blog posts, pitch deck, financial statements, technical paper and current whitepaper, if one exists. To write authoritatively about a project, it’s imperative to know it inside out: strengths and weaknesses, USPs, roadmap, funding, token metrics and all the rest. Where necessary, we will request additional information on aspects of the project that are unclear, because if we have questions, it’s likely that investors will have them too. To create a compelling whitepaper, we require deep knowledge of every element.
If you’re writing your own whitepaper, of course, you can skip this step: you already know your business better than anyone. Despite your deep knowledge, however, there remains one distinct advantage that an external writing team will always possess: the ability to view the project through fresh eyes. A third party, scrutinizing the business as a prospective investor would, can identify areas for improvement, including elements that are confusing, overly complex or lacking in detail.
Step 2: Plan
The planning stage is arguably the most important phase of all, for it shapes everything that’s to follow. In our experience, the best way to create a great whitepaper is to approach it like a painting: start with a broad outline, sketch the scene, add color, and then finish with the fine brush strokes. In practice, this means meticulously planning out each section and subsection of the document, complete with proposed titles, contents, sample graphics, and citations. Then we’ll begin to fill in the blanks by adding bullet points that detail the key arguments for each section. The more attention you apply to planning, the easier it becomes to write the whitepaper, and the better the quality of the final document.
Step 3: Refine
Whitepaper creation is a two-way process that calls for close collaboration with the project team. Some clients like to monitor the progression every step of the way, while others take a more hands-off approach. Whatever their preference, we’ll check in with them once the planning stage is complete. That way we can ensure that the client’s vision for the final whitepaper is aligned with ours. At this stage, we’ll incorporate their feedback and refine the detailed outline. Only once the client’s completely happy with this document will we advance to step four.
If you’re writing your own whitepaper, you don’t have a client to consult of course, but you’ll still benefit from receiving feedback from a third party. You may wish to call upon fellow team members, advisors, or trusted industry experts for constructive criticism.
Step 4: Write
A great whitepaper is 90% planning and 10% execution. While an ability to weave winning copy is an asset, a whitepaper is primarily a logic test. How coherently can you lay out the business case for your product in a cogent and persuasive fashion?
By the time we begin writing the whitepaper, much of the hard work has already been done. Now it’s the task of our technical copywriters to convert the bullet point outline into long form. They’ll ensure that the finished document is fluent, easy to read, and couched in language that is suited to its target audience. Potential investors should be able to glide through a well-written whitepaper, focused on the message rather than the medium.
In writing the whitepaper, you’ll want to be mindful of your audience, of course. Regardless of who the end user of your product is, when it comes to funding it, you need to aim for the top; there’s simply not enough liquidity in the retail market to reach your hard cap. This means targeting investors with the deepest pockets – institutional buyers. They’re also the group that asks the toughest questions; that’s their job after all. As a result, we recommend writing a whitepaper that’s relatable to retail investors but which also includes the elements that institutional investors will be looking for.
Step 5: Design
Once the structure has been formalized and the document is looking shipshape, it’s over to the graphic designer to weave their magic. As a living document, a whitepaper evolves organically, with client feedback shaping each iteration. Thus, even at the design stage, revisions of both the copy and graphics are to be expected.
Blockchain projects often incorporate complex concepts, including components whose functions are difficult to convey in words alone. Clear diagrams are invaluable in aiding comprehension and enabling readers to visualize the architecture and core functions of the protocol.
Don’t underestimate the value of professional design in elevating a document from passable to unputdownable. Good design won’t save a bad whitepaper, but it will make a good whitepaper shine. From platform diagrams to team profiles and token allocations, strong visuals will enhance comprehension and branding, wrapping the whitepaper in an aura of professionalism.
One final task, before you can unleash your winning whitepaper on the world, is to have it inspected by an experienced crypto lawyer. They’ll scrutinize it to ensure that your token, business model and sale structure accord to the law and won’t attract heat from regulators. Full compliance is essential, especially for projects planning an STO, and at AmaZix we offer a full legal review to give teams peace of mind that their whitepaper will pass muster with regulators.
Research, Plan, Refine, Write, Design, Repeat
And there you have it: the five steps that make for a great whitepaper. It’s not rocket science, it’s not revolutionary and it’s not flashy. But it is highly effective, as our clients, who are raising hundreds of millions of dollars with the aid of AmaZix-authored investor documents, will attest.
A whitepaper of 10,000 words starts with one small step. When you’re ready to create your documents, talk to AmaZix and let’s take it together.