Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
For Indie Authors, there are a lot of elements to master on the journey from ‘I’ve got a great idea for a book’ to ‘have you read my latest book?’ Happily, the internet has made it easier than ever to avoid the trials and tribulations of corporate publishing, and put the control firmly back in the hands of the creators.
To make your journey a little easier, I’ve collected the very best resources and tools that will help you get this done. From sites that inspire you to write, 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, this is a doozy. How do you figure out what you’re going to write about? If you don’t know him yet, I highly recommend that you check out the work of James Altucher – a successful writer, entrepreneur, podcast host, and investor. This is Wisdom of the Modern Age-type stuff.
In addition to his book Choose Yourself (which is incredible and definitely a recommended read), also check out this article from his blog on how to have great ideas.
He recommends what he calls the ‘Daily Practice’. This practice consists of a few to-dos, but the one I’ve most most helpful is the process of writing down 10 ideas a day. It doesn’t matter what they are, just make sure that you write down 10 a day. It’s meant to exercise your brain and get your thoughts flowing – and it works.
Give yourself a couple of weeks to get into the habit of writing down 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 really is that simple.
Step 2: Want to be an eBook Creator? 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 “it just flows out of my head”. This is largely untrue and damaging to people who may otherwise be inclined to write, only the words aren’t flowing.
Just. Keep. Writing.
On the upside, there are tools that can help keep you on track.
This site stems from the idea of ‘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 words, to get out all the chatter that’s in your mind, so you can approach the day fresh. 750words.com elegantly encourages you to write every day. Just sit down, start typing, and the site lets you know when you’ve hit 750 words. (They’ll even give you badges for hitting certain goals!) If you’re interested in writing a book, you can use this time to flesh out ideas or themes. Sure, a lot of it – maybe even a great deal of it – may not be useful, but just the daily discipline of writing is a good habit to build. And if you have 200 words or so, every day, that could be put towards your book, that adds up.
On the other hand, maybe you need the push of a serious deadline. Some people just work better that way. If this sounds like you, check out NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Every November, participants are encouraged to write 1,000 words a day. Adding up to 30,000 words over the course of the whole month, which roughly translates to a whole novel. You enjoy the support of the greater NaNoWriMo community, and you’re only committing to doing this ‘novel writing life’ for a month. Plus, at the end of it, you have a manuscript of 30K words that you wrote.
Step 3: Organize It
This tip is simple. Use Evernote to manage all 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 also add the cover art, and any photos, graphs or illustrations you’d like to include. You can even snap photos of hand-written 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 a ‘I didn’t have my laptop’ excuse. Evernote is so helpful when it comes to 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. And so do correct punctuation, and spelling. You’ve just committed untold hours getting your words down on paper, and they deserve to be presented with polish.
It’s similar to Cinderella at the ball – would she still have been lovely and kind, if she’d just be wearing her peasant frock and flats? Yes, probably – but the billowing ball gown and sparkling glass slippers certainly 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 already got access to a quality spell check tool – just look for any word underlined in red and right-click on it to pull up the dictionary.
Another great free writing tool in Grammarly, which you can add to your browser, or download to your desktop and works beautifully at catching 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 cover for your book. It’s a design software that’s incredibly easy to use, and allows you to drag and drop elements until you get it just so. For an even larger collection of beautiful, royalty-free images, you can also browse the offerings at Unsplash.com.
Step 5: Convert it
Now that you’ve got all of the pieces completed, it’s time to pull them all together into a final version for publication. By now, you’ve probably got several text documents, image files, and your cover art, so you’ll need to combine them 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 all of your ebook files are converted to PDF, use the Merge PDF tool to create one complete PDF document.
And 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 that you wrote – can be incredibly rewarding, but if you’d like to keep initial costs low, self-publishing your ebook is a great way to go. (eBooks are also better for the environment, so it’s a double win.)
With the PDF version of your eBook, you can sell it directly from your own 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’d like to offer 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 like Mobi or Word. (You can convert PDF to Word using PDF Pro’s free online tool, while still keeping all of your original formatting intact.)
You can also list your book for sale on established epublishing sites like Lulu.com or Smashwords.com – both of which offer global distribution for small, independent presses, and provide tools for authors that help with marketing and selling.
Now that you know how many free resources are available to help you in creating an ebook, it’s your turn. So, grab a coffee, sit down and get to writing.
About the Author
Sophie Knowles is a software engineer and co-founder of PDF Pro, an online platform for editing PDF files. She is based in London.