I love the convenience and collaboration of online book creation tools. Because your book lives in the cloud you can easily invite others to edit or review them. You can work on them wherever you are from any computer with an internet connection, too.
Two tools I recommend a lot to authors are Leanpub and Pressbooks. Before I dive into how each platform works, here's a short review of their similarities and differences.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, Leanpub switched to a free
- They're both cloud-based tools.
- You can invite collaborators and editors to create and review your book.
- They both offer professional book formatting.
- They both offer one-click export to all the different formats you need to upload and sell in online retailer and distribution sites.
- They cost about the same to use (Leanpub's Pro Plan and Pressbooks' remove watermark)
- Pressbooks is built on WordPress so if you like WordPress you'll find it easy to create your book.
- You can import your blog posts to Pressbooks as a starting point for your book.
- Leanpub is a total publishing system, Pressbooks is an interior design tool that allows you to publish to the web.
- Leanpub's cloud system works with a shared Dropbox account (in the cloud).
- Leanpub allows you to write in their in-browser editor, upload a Word document, or write in plain text in Markdown or Markua (which are very simple text-editing formats).
- Leanpub offers a store and a way to communicate with your readers.
- Leanpub allows you to bundle your own books, sell bundles with other authors, create coupons, and package your book with other content like videos.
Okay, now for the details.
Leanpub is a combination book writing platform and online bookstore and you can also create courses with Leanpub. I think authors should use it more often to test their books with early readers by publishing your books in progress, serial books, group books, and books by subscription.
Leanpub is a fremium product, which means it's free with limited features and Leanpub branding. To upgrade costs $8/mo and there are a lot of great features you get with that. All plans offer you an 80% royalty on sales.
The publisher page holds common assets like a verso page, copyright message, company logo and other elements that can be applied to more than one book. This is handy when you've got a series because you don't have to update each book with the same information.
Check out this book by Leanpub co-founder Peter Armstrong, to see how a Leanpub book looks. You can read it in the cloud or download it to PDF, or download it to EPUB or MOBI and sideload it into your reading device.
Readers can sign up for a free account and when they purchase the book (you can set the price to $0), they'll get it in their library. You can see the download links below. Note that readers can choose to share their email address with you, be notified of new versions, share the book on social media, and even request a refund. This makes the purchase risk-free.
More about Leanpub:
- Pay a co-author automatically or set up a donation to a cause.
- Export to InDesign.
- Create bundles of your own books, and bundle your books with books by other authors.
- Create coupons, which is a really useful way to promote your book.
- Using the "packages" feature, you can sell your book along with other digital content you have created, like videos or presentations.
- Customers can read online and in their iOS app.
- Sync your files using Dropbox (easiest), GitHub or Bitbucket.
Take advantage of pay-what-you-want pricing by setting a minimum and suggested price, such as $4.99–$10.99, or even higher. Leverage your 1000 True Fans by asking for donations.
When you sell your book in the Leanpub store you'll get 80 percent royalty.
Find out more about Leanpub in my talk with co-founder Len Epp.
If you love WordPress you’ll love Pressbooks, an online publishing tool that produces beautifully-designed PDFs for print and print-on-demand. Use it to create print books and eBooks to sell using any of the self-publishing companies.
I like the Pressbooks blog-to-book import feature, which is awesome for creating the first draft of a book from a series of blog posts.
Simply log in to Pressbooks, paste in your text, add front and back matter, and choose one of their beautifully designed interior book themes. When you're ready, export your book to PDF, EPUB, and MOBI.
If you're intimidated by Pressbooks, start small by using it to create a short book to give away to your email newsletter subscribers. Or pay Pressbooks to do it all for you. Play for free and pay $20-$100 to remove the watermark from your book so you can publish and distribute.
Learn more about it in my talk with Elizabeth Mays.
How to Get Started on Pressbooks
To start, create an account (free). Open an account and describe your book. All the front matter for your book is created from this information.
Add your chapters, parts, front, and back matter.
You and other users you’ve invited can edit the book.
Choose a theme and export to PDF, MOBI, EPUB, or other formats. Check and repeat until you get it just right.
With Pressbooks you can insert page and line breaks and enjoy all the formatting options you get with WordPress. You also get widow and orphan control and customization of front pages.
Below are the front pages of an example book I created with Pressbooks. (Because I haven’t paid for the book, you’ll see a faint watermark on each page.)
Pressbooks generates a half-title in addition to a full title page for the print edition.
The pages that follow include the publisher page, with the city of publication, a copyright page (customizable), and the epigraph followed by the table of contents.
And here is a spread from the Pressbooks tool, using one about 40 possible themes as an example. Themes offer various ways of presenting header and footer text as well as font styles for chapter headings and body text.
I made this China Road demo book available publicly if you want to take a look at it online.
I like using Pressbooks to create web books that I can easily update and make accessible to my readers. It occurs to me that could use Leanpub for the same thing but my Consumer's Guide for Self-Publishers began life as a series of blog posts, so it was easier to import it into Pressbooks.
If you want to see how the lead magnet works—and feel free to copy the technique to create your own lead magnet to grow your email list—here's the link.
When you sign up you'll be redirected to the Consumer's Guide.
Which Online Book Creation Tool Will You Choose?
There you go! Leanpub and Pressbooks. Two great online book creation tools that are worth the money. Are you a fan of WordPress? Do you have a blog you want to make into a book? Do you like the idea of the Leanpub store and engaging beta readers as you complete your book? I'm curious. Which one will you choose? Let's talk about in the comments below.
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