How To Create An eBook Using Free PDF Software And Your Personal Computer

What Is An eBook?

An eBook is an electronic publication readers store and "open" on their computers, using software such as Adobe Reader. Unlike a hardcover book, which uses paper and is manufactured with a printing press, an eBook uses no paper and is produced electronically with a personal computer. An author can produce an eBook with very little or no expense, publish it online with very little or no expense, give it away to readers or charge for it.

Is Writing eBooks For You? Qualify Yourself As An Author

Writing requires a commitment of time and energy. One need not have an advanced education to become an author and publish eBooks. If you have desire, focus and care about quality, you can use these assets to your advantage.

Qualify yourself by asking several basic questions:

  • Am I interested in language?
  • Do I enjoy writing and have average skills?
  • Do I enjoy reading?
  • Do I have knowledge I'd like to share?
  • Can others benefit from my knowledge?
  • Do I have a word processor and a PDF creator?
  • Do I have a domain name and hosting account?
  • If I intend to sell what I write, do I have a means of accepting payment and delivering the publication to customers?
  • Do I have a WYSIWYG editor and/or FTP software to upload web pages to my hosting account?

What You Need To Publish Online

All trades have basic sets of tools. A writer's word processor is the equivalent of a carpenter's hammer. A PDF creator, meanwhile, is the equivalent of a traditional publisher's printing press. You'll need all of these basic tools if you intend to publish eBooks online:

  • A word processor with a built-in PDF creator such as free Open Office or free Sticky PDF Creator. Open Office is free Open Source software. In the interest of full disclosure, Sticky PDF Creator is free, advertiser-sponsored software owned by the author of this Knol. Users will see an unobtrusive ad on the start-up screen of Sticky PDF Creator's word processor. The ad disappears when users begin to work on a document.

A look inside free Open Office Writer.

A look inside free Sticky PDF Creator.

  • A domain name. These generally are available at low cost and also are known as .com (dot com); .net (dot net); .info (dot info); and .org (dot org), for example. In general, eBook authors should strongly consider registering a dot com domain. The author of this Knol uses Netfirms to register domain names.
  • A basic hosting account. Many firms include basic hosting with the purchase of a domain name. For convenience' sake, it's often easiest simply to purchase a domain name and host it at the company from which you purchased it. As your webmaster skills improve, you optionally may choose to purchase a domain name and host it elsewhere. You'll need to understand DNS to do this, which is outside the scope of this Knol. The author of this Knol hosts some domains at Dreamhost.
  • A payment-processing account if you intend to charge for your eBook. PayPal is highly popular. Sign-up is free. PayPay collects a fee if you sell a product using its service. If you intend to sell digital products such as eBooks and eReports, you should register for a PayPal Premier or Business account. This will permit you to add payment buttons to your web pages and to conduct business online.
  • A WYSIWYG web-page editor. These give you the ability to create web pages. Many fine WYSIWYG editors are available free.
  • A graphics program such as free It is not necessary to include graphics in an eBook, eReport or eGuide, but readers enjoy them. Some eBook authors even hire graphic artists to create "covers" for their digital products. Such "covers" provide readers an experience similar to enjoying the cover on hardback book. can be used to create and manipulate graphics.

A look inside free

Why eBooks? Do eBooks Benefit Society?

eBooks can be produced cost-effectively. They serve virtually any area of interest and add to the world's knowledge base. Because software to create eBooks is readily available at no cost, an author no longer must rely upon a traditional publisher to enter the marketplace. eBooks serve authors by making marketplace access possible. Along those lines, they serve readers by providing unlimited choices -- not just the choices offered by traditional publishing houses, magazines, newspapers or websites. eBooks provide marketplace access to:

  • Teachers.
  • Professionals in all occupations.
  • Academics.
  • Hobbyists.
  • Trade experts.
  • Skilled craftsmen looking to add a publishing profit center.
  • Writers.
  • Editors.
  • Designers.
  • Experts and authorities in virtually all disciplines.
  • Work-at-home mothers and fathers looking to produce new income.
  • Retirees looking to supplement income by sharing their knowledge.
  • Merchants of all types.

Imagine more teachers having access to the marketplace through eBooks. Next imagine them sharing their knowledge with other teachers and parents. How about a doctor or lawyer? Increased marketplace access through the publication of eBooks means more specialized knowledge can be shared with more people.

Now imagine a talented person in a Third World country or a country whose population is oppressed gaining access to the marketplace and elevating his or her standard of living. A rising tide lifts all boats. ebooks and digital publishing help create that rising tide.

And what about hobbyists? Do you build model airplanes or play table tennis? Share your knowledge with the world by creating eBooks and eGuides and "How To" manuals.

PDF eBooks open with programs such as Adobe Reader.

eBooks help experts from all disciplines share their knowledge outside the local marketplace. At the same time, eBooks help work-at-home parents, retirees and others supplement income or simply share something they enjoy writing about without charging for it.

Writing eBooks can be a business or a hobby -- or a little of both. Software and modern computers give virtually and person with the desire to share a story the power to launch a publishing company.

Your Basic eBook Knowledge Base

Begin the process of becoming an eBook author by taking an inventory of your interests, areas of expertise and skill sets. A teacher who has found a long-division instructional method pupils embrace might want to write an eBook that explains the method, for example. Along those lines, a carpenter whose experience has taught him the best way to train an apprentice might want to create an eBook to help train master carpenters on the art of teaching apprentices.


Keep things simple. Use language your intended audience will understand. Some experts advise against using trade jargon. If your audience will not understand your eBook without jargon, by all means include it.

Say, for example, you're an expert in "lean" manufacturing. Your audience might get lost if you don't use terms such as Andon and Continuous Flow and Kaizen and Kanban and Value Stream. If you're writing about table tennis, your audience might need to know what a Loop is and what Racket Rubber and Racket Glueare.

Don't Be Afraid

Once you identify a subject, simply open your word processor and begin to write. Many new eBook authors fear the actual writing process. Scotch those fears. Sit down and start writing. Tell a story that serves readers well. Save your work frequently.

If you are a firefighter and are writing about fire safety, title your document "firesafety," for example. After you've written for a few minutes, save the document as "1firesafety." Save it the next time as "2firesafety." This way you'll be able to go back and check all previous versions of the document. Don't settle on a title for the eBook until you've completed writing it.

Consider Length

eBooks do not have to be hundreds of pages long. A short eBook, sometimes called an eReport, might have 14 or fewer pages packed with useful information. Meanwhile, some eBooks might have 100 pages or more. Length depends on your purpose. If your audience will benefit from a short eBook, create a short eBook. If the subject matter requires a longer eBook, write a longer one.

Consider using graphics, bullet points and subheads in your eBook. Such devices aid reader comprehension and help make the information more manageable. You may optionally choose to add links inside your eBook to other sources of information. If you are a teacher, your readers might be interested in clicking on a link that takes them to the website of your school, for instance. If you are the author of other eBooks, your readers might appreciate visiting the website or websites from which you distribute your other titles.

Define Your Purpose

Make it your goal to educate, inform and enlighten readers. Imagine the type of publication you'd like to read, and provide it to your audience. Explain who you are inside your eBook. List your credentials. Let readers know how to contact you for more information. Use your expert knowledge to improve readers' lives. Include tips readers need to know to get the most benefit from your publication.

Your goal in the very first sentence should be to "grab" readers and not let them go. Don't slave over your first sentence when you begin to write your eBook. Simply start to write. Return to the opening sentence and paragraph later to add some extra punch. Remember to use subheads and bullet points.

Get Free Or Paid Help

Have a wordsmith friend? Ask your friend to be your proofreader and editor. Husbands and wives, significant others, brothers and sisters and family members also can serve as your editors, proofreaders and test readers. Consider making your eBook a family project. Buy the gang a special treat for helping you. Your eBook project can be like a painting party. Return the favor your crew is performing with a favor you grant.

If no local help is available, seek editing and proofreading services from a paid professional or a member of an online writer's forum or business forum.

Many word-processing programs include a built-in spell-checker. Take advantage of it, but don't use it as your sole editor. Spell-checkers routinely miss homophones, words that are pronounced the same as other words but might have different spellings and different meanings. Knight and night are examples of homophones. Spell-checkers also might not call your attention to mistakes such as writing too when you mean two and writing your when you mean you're and writing loose when you mean lose.

Questions To Ask When You're Reviewing Your eBook

Readers should be your first priority. Many writers have big vocabularies. Even so, using a "big word" when a small one will do the job may alienate or confuse readers. In general, an average eighth-grader should be able to understand your writing. This is not universally true, of course, but it is largely true. Try to use the best "small word," as opposed to the most impressive "big word."

Here are some questions to ask when reviewing your work:

  • Does it serve my readers by increasing their knowledge?
  • Does it solve a problem for readers or add convenience to their lives?
  • Is it engaging or dry?
  • Will readers know who I am and what makes me tick after reading my work?
  • Have I been a good guide?
  • Have I done a good job of proofreading?
  • How will readers feel after they close my eBook? Delighted? Better for the experience? Disappointed?
  • If my eBook is designed to educate business people, have I shown them ways to make money or save money or gain efficiencies? Have I thoroughly explained my method and provided examples and definitions?
  • Would I buy this eBook? Would a fellow professional? Would a person interested in learning get a benefit?

One common mistake eBook authors make is to withhold information from readers. This often happens because the eBook author knows the subject so well that he or she skips steps when explaining things. If you're writing an eBook on termite removal, don't forget to explain what a termite is. If you're writing an eBook on tooth decay, don't forget to describe what a cavity is if there is any doubt your audience will not know.

Adding To Your Skill Set

eBook authors need to have basic knowledge about website design and electronic delivery of products. These things fall outside the scope of this Knol, but information readily is available online. Authors need basic knowledge of html, the language of the Web, and FTP, the process of uploading electronic files to a web server. Some WYSIWYG editors have a built-in FTP capability.

Supplement your eBook marketing efforts with a PDF News Release.

It is advisable for eBook authors to familiarize themselves with the key tools of the trade. The task is not as daunting as it might seem. Working with a WYSIWYG editor, for example, is very similar to working with a word-processing program. Although "uploading" is a fancy word, it simply means moving electronic files from a computer to a server from which readers can access them. Virtually all hosting companies provide Help Desks, FAQs and a Knowledge Base to help users master basic tasks.

Think. Act. Write. Save. Check. Convert To PDF. Distribute.

Getting started writing an eBook is as simple as determining what you want to write about, conducting some research and sitting down at your computer and typing the first word. This Knol includes tools to help you get started. Writing can become a source of great joy. The joy you experience also can result in profits. Don't permit yourself, however, to have unrealistic expectations. No person is guaranteed profits from his or her writing, something that is true for masters of the trade and beginners contemplating writing their first eBook.

Think of your readers first. Begin the writing process. When you finish the final draft, give it a very close going-over. Ask friends, family members or a professional to help you make it better. Convert it to a PDF, and start the process of sharing your knowledge with the world.

About Patrick Pretty: "Patrick Pretty" is a longtime writer and editor, and owner of the Patrick Pretty line of digital information products. Patrick has worked in offline publishing for more than 20 years. He embraced the power of the Internet for online pursuits in 2005.

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