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For authors and bloggers, the journey from “I’ve got a great idea for a book!” to “Have you read my latest book?” is long. But the internet has made it easier than ever to avoid the trials and tribulations of corporate publishing, and put the control back in the hands of the creators.
To make your journey easier, I’ve collected the very best resources and tools that will help you get this done. From sites that inspire your writing, to creating your final eBook design — even how to publish an eBook, it’s all the information you’ll need to get started.
Step 1: Creating an eBook requires ideas
I won’t lie to you, ideation can be a doozy. How do you figure out what you’ll write? If you don’t know him yet, I recommend that you check out the work of James Altucher — author of Choose Yourself, and also an entrepreneur, podcast host, and investor. Modern Age wisdom at its finest.
Altucher recommends the “Daily Practice.” It comprises a few to-dos, but the one I’ve found most helpful is writing down 10 ideas a day. It doesn’t matter what they are, just make sure that you write 10 a day. It’s meant to exercise your brain and get your thoughts flowing — and it works.
Give yourself two or so weeks to get into the habit of writing out 10 ideas a day, mash a few of those ideas together until you find something interesting, and you’ve got the big idea for your book.
It’s that simple.
Step 2: Want to be an eBook creator? Then write!
If you’re creating an eBook, there’s just no getting around this part: you have to write it. Do not fall for the myth of the easygoing writer that tells you this part is easy, or “everything just flows.” This is largely untrue and damaging to people who may otherwise be inclined to write, only the words just aren’t flowing.
Just. Keep. Writing.
On the positive, writing tools and plugins can help keep you on track.
750words.com: This site stems from ‘morning pages’ from Julia Cameron, in her classic book, The Artist’s Way. The basic idea is to set aside 15-20 minutes each morning to write your thoughts, to get out the chatter that’s in your mind, so you can approach the day with a clear mind and fresh batch of creativity. 750words.com encourages you to write every day. Have a seat, type, and the site lets you know when you’ve hit 750 words. (They’ll even give you badges for hitting goals!) If you’re interested in writing a book, you can use this time to flesh out ideas or themes. Sure, some of it may not be useful to your topic, but just the daily discipline of writing is a great habit to practice. And if you have 200 words every day are relevant to your book, that adds up.
NaNoWriMo: But maybe you need the push of a serious deadline. Some people work better under pressure. If this is you, check out NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Every November, NaNoWriMo encourages authors to write 1,000 words a day; adding up to 30,000 words over the course of the whole month roughly translates to an entire novel. You enjoy the support of the greater NaNoWriMo community, and you’re only committing to this “novel writing life” for a month. Plus, at the end, you have a manuscript of 30K words.
Step 3: Organize it
This tip is simple. Use the Evernote plugin to manage of your eBook info in one place. Create a Notebook for your eBook, create a separate note for each chapter (keep older versions of the chapter at the bottom of the notes if you’d like to have a record).
Evernote supports multiple file types, so you can add the cover art, and any photos, graphs, or illustrations you’d like to include. You can even snap photos of handwritten notes for those moments when you’re hit by inspiration mid-happy hour.
Too, because Evernote is cloud-based, you’ll be able to access these files on any device, so you can’t use the “I didn’t have my laptop” excuse. Evernote is so helpful for organizing a lot of info, that no list of software for creating eBooks would be complete without it.
Step 4: Clean it up
There’s just no stepping around this — grammar matters. As do correct punctuation and spelling. You’ve just committed untold hours getting your words on paper, and they deserve to be polished.
Think of Cinderella at the ball. Would she have been as lovely if she’d just been wearing peasant frock and flats? Probably, but the billowing ball gown and sparkling glass slippers sure helped her catch the prince’s eye.
Proper grammar is that dress, and fortunately, you don’t need a fairy godmother, you just need a couple extra tools. If you use Microsoft Word or Google Drive, you’ve got access to a quality spell check tool — just look for any word underlined in red and right-click on the phrase to pull up the dictionary.
Another great free writing tool is Grammarly, which you can add to your browser, or download to your desktop. It works hard to catch those tricky grammatical errors that Word or Drive may have missed.
Step 5: Make it fancy: eBook template designs
Whoever said not to judge a book by its cover certainly wasn’t trying to self-publish an eBook in today’s crowded marketplace. While it’s much more important what’s inside the book, the outside matters too — and you want a cover image that will catch someone’s eye and attract their attention. It doesn’t need to be fine art, but it does need to be appealing.
Canva offers a huge catalog of free fonts, icons, and stock photos to create the perfect front and back covers for your book. It’s a design software with a friendly interface and a drag-and-drop feature so you can customize your design with ease. For an even larger collection of royalty-free images, you can browse the offerings at Unsplash.com.
Step 5: Convert it
Now that you’ve got the elements created, it’s time to pull them all together into a final version for publication. By now, you’ve got several text documents, image files, and your cover art that need to be combined into one file. Use PDF Pro’s free Word to PDF converter and PNG to PDF tool to change the format of your text documents and image files.
Once your eBook files are converted to PDF, use the Merge PDF tool to create one complete PDF document.
And then congratulate yourself – because you’re one step away from becoming a published author.
Step 6: How to self-publish an eBook
Holding a physical book in your hands — one you wrote — is rewarding, but if you need to keep initial costs low, self-publishing your eBook is a great way to go. Plus, eBooks are more eco-friendly, so it’s a win-win.
With the PDF version of your eBook, you can sell directly from your own WordPress website by adding a PayPal button, and then use your Facebook page, or other social profiles to market your eBook to friends, family and relevant groups.
If you plan on offering your book for sale through a larger marketplace like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you’ll need to convert your document into a KDP-friendly format such as Mobi or Word. (You can convert PDF to Word using PDF Pro’s free online tool, while still keeping your original formatting intact.)
You can list your book for sale on established e-publishing sites like Lulu.com or Smashwords.com — both of which offer global distribution for small, independent presses, plus tools for authors that help with marketing and sales.
Now that you know how many free resources are available to help you in creating an eBook, it’s your turn. So, grab a hot java, find a creative space and get to writing.
Sophie Knowles is the founder of PDF Pro, a SaaS platform for editing PDF files in the cloud. A software engineer by trade, Sophie is dedicated to helping others be more productive. In her spare time, Sophie enjoys playing with her cat and discovering cake shops.