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.