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Why You Should Write Your Book on LeanPub

ON Nov 15, 2012
POSTED IN Publishing
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If you are considering writing a book, especially a business or technical one, you might want to take a look at Leanpub. It is a digital publishing service that provides a easy to get started solution for creating your book. Leanpub also provide a way for you to actively promote your book – while you write it.

Here is how Leanpub describe their service:

Leanpub is your ebook solution. Leanpub helps you focus on editing, marketing and print book production, and automates almost everything else.

(via Leanpub)

The interesting thing here, is that they don’t mention the writing of your book. That’s because many people decide that they have so many blog posts that could become part of a book, that they use the Leanpub tools to import it. That gives you a great head start in getting a book written.

Also, because you only need to get the core of the book down before releasing it, the writing process feels much more fluid. And it drives you to get finished of course!

Getting Started

For the purposes of this article I’ll assume that you already have an idea for a book. You might have started to write it. I’m also going to assume that you have made the decision to publish your work as an e-book. We have an article here on that can help you decide about publishing options.

The process for publishing on Leanpub couldn’t be easier. You sign up for a free account and create your book with just a couple of mouse clicks.

What Leanpub then do, is create an invitation to a shared folder in DropBox. Obviously you’ll need a DropBox account! You’ll receive an email invitation to the folder a few minutes after sign up. Once you accept it, a basic folder structure is created to store your manuscript:

DropBox folder from Leanpub

The 5 Steps For Creating a Book

There are just 5 steps to getting your book up and running. After that, you just need to write it! Here are the steps:

  1. Create a Leanpub account
  2. Create a new book
  3. Add content to your book’s manuscript folder
  4. Let people know about your book by creating private previews
  5. Click Publish and make your book public

We’ll talk about step 3 in the next section.

Hello Markdown…

You write your Leanpub book using Markdown. If you have never used it, you are in for a treat. It is a far better way to format text that is meant for either the web, or for digital publishing.

What does it look like?

Well, to create a heading for example, you just do this:

#Here is my heading

Or if you want to make some text bold, you simply do this:

**Bold text**

You might be thinking: “Oh, why do I have to learn that? Can’t I just use HTML? Or can’t I just write it in Word?” Well, you can if you really want to. Personally, I think the effort of learning Markdown is minimal – and well worth it. However, if you really want to use HTML, here is what you need to do:

  1. Add your HTML files inside a folder called convert_html in your Leanpub DropBox folder. Leanpub will then convert your files to Markdown during the publishing process.
  2. If you insist on using Microsoft Word, you will need to convert the documents to Markdown before you can use them for your Leanpub book. Leanpub gives you an import tool to help with this. First, in Word, you have have to choose the save as web page option. Leanpub have a video tutorial on the home of their site which shows you how to do that.

Why not just use Markdown though? You won’t regret it…

Book Options

Leanpub offer a number of tools to help prepare your book for your audience:

Leanpub Options

One of the most important are the Landing Page options. You are provided with an browser editor text box so that you type up a description of your book. This text will populate the Landing Page that Leanpub creates for your book. The Landing Page is an important tool for promoting your book, so write the content for it carefully:

Landing Page

Under the Actions menu, there are options to import HTML files, import your blog (more on that in a moment), generate a preview, publish your book, and email readers.

Another important tool, under Settings is the option to set the price. With a Leanpub book, you set a minimum price, and a suggested price. That way, you offer readers a choice of what to pay.

You can Use Your Blog

If you have say, a WordPress blog that has lots of posts you want to add to your book, you can. Leanpub will import your posts via the RSS feed from your blog.

You can filter which posts go into your book, and Leanpub look after converting the whole thing to Markdown. You can choose whether to import any images, and you can filter posts by date range.

The Actual Writing

When Leanpub creates your initial manuscript, it will create a file called chapter1.txt. There will also be a file called book.txt. You can start writing straight away by changing the contents of the chapter1.txt file.

As you build up your content, you just create a new file for each chapter. Make sure to add each new filename to book.txt otherwise it won’t be selected for publishing.

One of the things that really nice about this setup is that you can write in a very free, unrestricted way. If you get an idea for a section of your book that doesn’t belong in the chapter you are writing, you can still create it anyway, and merge it into it’s proper place at a later date.

Also, because the files you are working with are just text files, you can write new content for your book on any device that has support for DropBox and an Internet connection.


There is still quite a lot of debate about e-book publishing. But there have been some high profile success stories lately. Digital publishing is on the rise, so it is less likely that complaints about authors not going through a formal editorial process, will matter that much. Leanpub is certainly a great way to get started.

Andy Hawthorne

Andy is a freelance journalist from Coventry, England. He is also an aspiring novelist.

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