How to Create an e-Book in Seven Steps

Since publishing my new e-book, Creating Your Personal Life Plan, I have had several people ask how I created the e-book. Rather than try to answer these questions individually, I thought I would document the process here. You might want to try something similar.

Creating Your Personal Life Plan in Keynote

I first did this when I published my two previous e-books, Writing a Winning Non-Fiction Book Proposal and Writing a Winning Fiction Book Proposal. I used the same basic approach here.

One key thing to note is that I didn’t intend to create an e-book for sale. My sole purpose was to create a “premium” that I could use to build my e-mail subscription list. However, I still wanted the e-book to be excellent, so that it would add value to my readers.

The format of the e-book is a little unusual. It is landscape in orientation and resembles a “slidedeck” (or PowerPoint slideshow). I first got this idea from the ChangeThis manifestos. Other popular e-books use this format, too, including Digging into WordPress, Evernote Essentials, and Zen to Done.

Here are the seven steps I took to create the e-book. This, of course, doesn’t include the marketing, which I may blog about at a later time if there is sufficient interest:

  1. I wrote the manuscript in iWork Pages. I combined several popular blog posts I had written on life planning. I then created transitions and filled in the holes. I ended up having to add about 25 percent new material. You could also do this in Microsoft Word. I just personally like Pages better.
  2. I hired a professional editor. Once I was finished with the manuscript, I passed it along to Alice Sullivan to edit it. She used to work at Thomas Nelson. I didn’t feel that I needed a “substantive edit” (advice on the content itself); I just wanted a copy-edit (e.g., syntax, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc). She corrected several grammatical errors and made numerous helpful suggestions.
  3. I decided what e-book features I wanted. I looked at several other e-books for ideas, including the ones I mentioned above. I decided that I wanted hyperlinks in the text, simple navigation to move to various parts of the book, an easy way to print the e-book, and a way to display it full screen. I also wanted to include a version number, since I wanted to update the e-book from time to time.
  4. I designed a template in iWork Keynote. I created a custom “slide size” of 792 pixels x 612 pixels. This prints out nicely on 8½” x 11″ paper. I then decided on a nautical theme. I selected a photo from iStockPhoto for the cover. I selected another photo for the background on the pages. I then determined what typefaces I wanted to use. I selected Requiem Display, Myriad Pro, and Gotham. I then designed several page styles that I could alternate to keep the design visually interesting.
  5. I composed the pages. This is where the real work kicks in. I had to cut and paste the content in, one page at a time, designing various elements and callouts. This probably would have been easier in Adobe InDesign, but I am just not as familiar with that tool. This process took me most of one Saturday to do. Caution: You don’t want to do this until the content is really stable. It’s a pain to go back and change it.
  6. I exported the whole thing to a PDF. Once I was happy with the design, I exported it as a PDF file. Well, technically, I printed it from within Keynote and chose the “Save as PDF” option in the lower left-hand corner of the Print dialog box. This created a really large file: over 10 megabytes! However, not to worry. I fixed this in the next step. Sort of.

    Life Plan Export to PDF

  7. Enhance with Adobe Acrobat Professional. This is also some heavy-lifting. The first thing to do is to optimize the PDF file. You do this under the Advanced | PDF Optimizer menu option. This reduced the file size from 10 MB to about 2.5 MB—definitely an improvement. Next I started adding links to the navigation elements and the in-text hyperlinks. You do this with Acrobat’s “Link Tool.” This makes it possible for users to jump straight out to Web pages, download files, and other nifty tricks.

There are probably many other things I could have done. Some are still on my to-do list (e.g., create an Amazon Kindle version). Hopefully, this will give you an idea of what is possible. I feel like I have just scratched the surface.

If you have anything that would improve my process, I would love to hear form you. I am planning several more e-books like this.

Question: Do you need to create an e-book? If so, what are the possibilities? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.4PointsCoaching.com Joel Boggess

    Hi Michael,

    This blog came at the perfect time for my wife and I. We were getting ready to put together our second eBook and were looking into different formats.

    I think you know the ending of the story, we (let me say  this right – “she”) followed your guidelines step-by-step to get it done with a quick turn-around.

    Pei and I are so pleased with the look and feel of it and have gotten great feedback

    We’d like to share the eBook with you. What’s the best email to send it to? It’s an easy read. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1457359108 Karen Rilstone

    Thanks for sharing your process. I am working on my first e-book. ;)

    As a freelance copy editor, I was happy to see you mentioning the editing of your books. So much that I have read online, including web pages, is full of errors, which takes away from the content.

    Again, many thanks for all your suggestions.

    Karen

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  • http://www.pictureyourlife.com/ Lori Mercer

    Love your site! so helpful and informative. I just downloaded “Digging into WordPress” (already have your Lifeplan) and really enjoy the slide / graphical format as well. Wondering how this translates into the Kindle / Nook world where I’ve seen mostly text books.

  • http://twitter.com/ithackermike Mike Thacker

    Michael,

    Great post. I used a similar process but started out in Pages. I’m not sure if you’ve sorted out how to get in .ePub and .mobi but I thought people who read from the bottom up might find my “current” process useful. As someone mentioned about a year ago you can Export from Pages directly to .ePub and .PDF.

    File>Export>ePub
    File>Export>PDF

    From there I pulled the ePub into Calibre to convert it to .mobi for Kindle. I’d like to find a better workflow for creating the .mobi but for now Calibre will suffice.

    Issues I’m currently working through:

    1) Links work everywhere except the PDF on Kindle. I’ll try your tip with the link tool in Acrobat.
    2) Having minor layout issues with the Title page and images on the Author and Acknowledgment pages.

    The result is my wife’s eBook (What God Wants You to Know) to be given away as a premium on her blog
    http://www.29lincolnavenue.com/subscribe-to-my-newsletter/.

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  • Irene Olumese

    Hi Michael, I found this website through Jeff Goins. I am glad to read the very useful information both of you offered. I have gleaned so much for your article and from the comments as well. It is timely as I am in the process of writing an ebook. Thanks for sharing so freely.

  • Bill

    I like this my son is designing an e-book and this really helped. Thank you!

  • Ken

    Michael,

    I have a book published from Destiny Image and it is also listed on Amazon in a eBook. But, you have inspired me to write another eBook as a giveaway on my website, blog and email blasts. Also I have just joined “Platform University” and I am looking forward to gleaning from the expert, thanks in advance!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Ken. Welcome to Platform University!

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  • http://www.pauljolicoeur.com/ Paul Jolicoeur

    Thanks Michael, you are definatly a great resource I am writing my first e-book to give away for email subscribers.

    How to you automate giving the book to a person that signs up?

    Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I hired a developer to set that up. Honestly, I don’t know the details of what he did. Sorry.

  • Laurenhaha

    I’m considering writing an e book… Taking my erotic blog and making it an erotic adventure documenting what I do in real life… With photographs… So more explicit material… Are there any legalities I should be concerned with ?

  • http://josuemolina.com/ Josue Molina

    Found it. Need to look over this and get started.

  • jeanette

    How do I PROTECT my e-Book idea Michael?!

  • Kwin Peterson

    I just finished my first ebook and this post was invaluable.

    I, too, wrote the copy in Pages. About 20 minutes into building my masterpages in InDesign, I thought, “Why am I not doing the layout in Pages as well.” Pages in the “Page Design” mode worked great for Step 5; it allowed me to do some light photo editing, removed any problems with importing my text, and because it allows text boxes to link across pages, the inevitable post-layout revisions were much easier to deal with.

  • BVI-Shine

    Step-by-step process makes it so accessible. Thank you and Success forward

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Patrick McNease

    Another timely post! @mhyatt:disqus, I have struggled with this idea because I always thought that I needed new content to execute this feature. A friend of mine told me that I had enough material to write an ebook and that I should pull from my most popular blog posts. This post really brings things full circle. I am honored to be a reader of your work. Stay blessed.

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.

    How did you get the 3D eBook look? Was that a particular software, or did you hire someone?

    ps – On your “My Tools” page I sent a similar question prior to finding this post through search.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I use BoxShot 3D.

      • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.

        Three words: YOU. ARE. AWESOME!

        Thanks for your quick responses, Michael.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Ha! It’s my pleasure.