It seems you can’t go far on the Internet without being offered a free ebook on every imaginable subject. If you’ve always wanted to add one to your own website, you’ve come to the right place. This article will show you how to create an ebook for free.
An e-book is simply an information product (most commonly a PDF file) that you can offer on your site, on social media, or to your email subscribers.
The process of creating an e-book is pretty straight-forward. I’ll explain it in detail further down but here’s the summary:
- Decide on a topic
- Research or prepare the content
- Choose what software you’re going to use to write it
- Think of a good title
- Break the topic down into sections
- Write each section
- Proof read it
- Add images to make it more appealing
- Design a nice cover to use as your promotional image
- Post it on your website and/or social media profiles and re-market it periodically
Before we get to the process, you might want some motivation for creating one in the first place.
Why you might want to create an ebook
Although writing an ebook sounds like hard work, the potential benefits far outweigh the work involved and, once you get into the swing of things, you might find you really enjoy it!
Here’s some reasons why you might want to create an information product to offer your readers.
To promote your brand or business
An ebook full of useful information can really help to establish your brand as an authority on a subject.
When you design your e-book, make sure that you include your branding so that people associate it with you!
Some people include a small logo and the URL of your website in the footer of each page, others just do so on the cover and inner page. How you choose to do it is up to you but what’s important is that your brand is clearly visible to the reader.
If you encourage people to share your ebook, it could expose your writing to a much wider audience than you previously enjoyed.
Another advantage of giving people something to download is that it will be there, on their hard disk waiting for them to see it and open it. Once they’ve closed your website tab, it’s gone from their consciousness.
As a subscription gift
I’m sure you’ll have subscribed to at least one newsletter just so that you could receive an ebook on something.
I know I have.
Sometimes I’ve been really pleased with the ebook that I received as a result, finding it really helpful.
Other times, I’ve felt cheated.
Yes, I know the ebook was technically ‘free’ but if the ebook turns out to be a four-page badly-written pamphlet, it quickly becomes clear that the website owner made a minimal effort just to get my email address.
If you’re going to offer an ebook, make sure it offers value to the reader or it could actually harm your reputation.
To establish authority
When you write about a subject, you are showing that you an authority within that niche.
When people read your book and get something from it (even if they just enjoy reading it), they will want to read more of your content and your website is probably the first place they’ll start.
Your authority is built upon trust. When people trust that you know about the subject you’re writing about, they will begin to see you as an authority within that domain.
To enhance your website
Sometimes, you might want to offer ebooks for certain blog posts to make it easier for your readers to take something away from your blog posts. It might be a printable worksheet, a PDF version of the blog post, or an extended version of the blog post with additional information and bigger screenshots.
Whatever the reason, anything that sets your website apart from your competitors will help you to increase your traffic and more importantly, increase your returning visitors.
Did you know that returning visitors are more likely to make purchases via your website?
To improve your writing
Writing a longer format of content such as an e-book can be a fantastic way to develop your writing.
You’ll improve your ability to break up longer content into short sections, you’ll get better at pacing your writing and you’ll find creative ways to avoid using the same words too often.
Writing short e-books can also be a gateway product that might give you the taste for writing a full book that you could sell on Amazon KDP.
Types of ebooks
Collected stories or posts
Collating your best posts into an e-book can be a really easy way to create your first e-book.
You’ll need some quality posts to begin with, of course.
Whatever you do, avoid the temptation of using other people’s content in your e-book.
Sooner or later someone will recognize the content (even if you reword it) and once they do, they’ll probably be very vocal on social media about calling you out. This could destroy any authority you’ve gained. Only use your own content!
It’s probably a good idea to start your book with an introduction that explains that the book is sourced from your website posts. If you don’t do this, you might alienate your regular readers that have already enjoyed the original posts.
In addition to being easy to create, this kind of book can bring new readers to your blog. If the reader enjoys your ebook and knows each chapter was originally a post on your website, they’re very likely to go and read your latest posts.
Tutorials or guides
Writing a guide that teaches someone, step-by-step, how to do something is always going to be a popular e-book.
The great thing about tutorial style e-books is that they’re fairly easy to write too.
Just write it as if you’re explaining how to do something to a friend and add screenshots and photos as your images.
One of the most popular searches on Google is “How to…” so if your e-book can satisfy one of those searches, you might be surprised how many times it’s downloaded.
Try doing an alphabet soup search using “how to” as the start of the keyword for ideas of what you could create.
If you’re writing a longer book already, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of giving away part of it for free.
A teaser is when you release a small part of a larger product for people to try so they can see if they’ll like the full product.
It doesn’t have to be a direct copy of part of your bigger project. I could be a summary or a simplified version of it.
Either way, at the end you can build a desire for the finished product at the end of your teaser by telling your readers what will be in it. If they liked the teaser, there’s a strong possibility of them becoming customers of the full product.
Printables are downloadable files (usually in PDF format) that the user can then print on their own printer at home (or at the office).
You can find printables for calendars, daily planners, quotes for the month, and more.
The key is to create something that looks attractive and relevant to what people need. Have you ever wished you had a specific type of sheet for something? Perhaps a shopping list, a car maintenance checklist, or a pet dog’s inoculation planner.
Whatever your printable is designed to do, you’ll need to make sure it looks good when printed out on a home printer so don’t forget to do some test prints of it yourself.
What your software needs to create an ebook
It’s actually really easy to create an e-book. You just need a software application with the right features and the best news is that these are available for free!
Your software will need to allow you to write your content, including using headings and sub-headings.
There are lots of word processors you could use that enable you do this but for the practical part further down, I’m going to use Google Docs. That’s all you really need, it’s free, and you can write the entire e-book in your web-browser.
Unless you’re writing a book that doesn’t have any pictures in it, you’ll need to be able to position images where you’d like them. This might be between paragraphs or it might be left or right aligned.
Again, for simple image placement, most word-processors (including Google Docs) are fine.
If you want really cool image placement where the text follows the shape of image (e.g. following the curve of a circle) you’ll need to use a desktop publishing application such as Affinity Publisher.
Export as PDF
This feature is particularly important – you need to be able to output your document as a PDF file.
Most modern word-processors enable you to do this so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Google Docs, certainly does!
I’m going to use Google Docs for the practical demonstration below (and on YouTube) but there’s no reason you couldn’t use OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Microsoft Office, or pretty much any other word processor.
They should all support these three features.
The technical aspects of e-book creation
Before I jump into the step-by-step guide to creating your e-book, there’s a couple of technical details you’ll need to know.
Understanding page sizes
If people are only viewing your e-book on their tablet or computer, this might not be a problem but for printables, it’s really, really important.
If you want someone to be able to print your PDF, it needs to be created at the right size.
There are two standard sizes that you should consider:
- A4 – 210mm × 297mm (8.27″ × 11.7″)
This is considered to be the standard paper size across the world, except for a few countries that use Letter (see below).
- Letter – 215.9mm x 279.4mm (8.5″ x 11″).
Used as the standard paper size in the United States, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines.
Personally, I don’t think it really matters which paper size you use. A4 is slightly taller than Letter and Letter is slightly wider than A4. If you’re expecting your primary audience to be in the US, it probably makes sense to use Letter but if you’re aiming for a global audience, A4 might be more appropriate.
If your readers aren’t going to be printing the e-book, it doesn’t really matter which one you choose.
Incidentally, if you’d like to offer your book to be printed via a print on demand service like Amazon KDP, you will need to be aware of their page sizes and how trim sizes work. I’m not going to cover that here because this article is about e-books.
When you use images in your ebook, they’ll need to be a certain size (i.e. width and height in pixels) if you want them to look good. Images that are two small will look block or pixelated when printed or when displayed on certain device screens.
Resolution is defined by the term DPI or “dots per inch”. The number of dots per inch you need depends upon how the image is going to be displayed:
- For a computer screen, a DPI of 72 (72dpi) is usually sufficient.
- For low-quality printing, a DPI of 150 (150dpi) is enough.
- For high-quality printing, a DPI of 300 (300dpi) is required.
If you are using A4 as your page size, that means that your page will be 210mm wide. If your margins are 1.5cm wide (15mm) then the actual content area of your document will be 210 – 30 = 180mm.
If you want an image to occupy half the page width (left or right aligned, it doesn’t matter) then you’ll need to make sure your image looks good on 180 / 2 = 90mm.
The trouble is, DPI is measured in inches, not millimeters!
You will need to convert the value into inches from millimeters by dividing by 25.4. So 90 / 25.4 = 3.54331″
Now you know how wide your image will be on the printed page (3.5 inches), you can calculate how many pixels wide the image needs to be. If you consider each pixel to be a ‘dot’, you can calculate how wide, in pixels, the image needs to be for screen, low-quality printing and high-quality printing:
- For screen display (72dpi) the image will need to be 3.54331 x 72 = 255 pixels wide
- For low-quality printing (150dpi) the image will need to be 3.54331 x 150 = 532 pixels wide
- For high-quality printing (300dpi) the image will need to be3.54331 x 300 = 1064 pixels wide.
The good news is that you don’t need to do these calculations for every image you need!
If you know that an image that takes up half the width of an A4 page needs to be 1064 pixels wide, you now know that an image that takes up a quarter of the width needs to be 532 pixels wide (for high-quality printing) and a full page width image needs to be 2128 pixels wide.
The super-shortcut to avoid calculations
If you’ve got 15mm margins, the largest your image needs to be for an A4 page is 2128 pixels wide. If you’re not worried about high-quality printing, 1064 pixels wide is more than enough.
Just make sure any images you use are at least 1064 pixels wide and your page should look good on screen and okay when printed.
Writing your e-book
You’ve finally got to the part where I’m going to walk you through creating your ebook. Don’t worry, this will be as painless as possible!
Decide on a topic
The first step is going to be figuring out what you want to write your e-book about.
This is completely up to you but it’s probably a good idea if it’s relevant to your niche!
You might find my article on finding something to write about useful, if you’ve not already seen it.
For a collation on your best posts, you might want to choose a specific category of posts to include or you might just want to offer your best ten or twenty posts.
If you’re writing new material, it will need to be something that you’re fairly passionate about, otherwise you may struggle to actually write it!
Research or prepare the content
Before you start writing, make sure that you’ve got all the information to hand that you’ll need.
Do you have any references that you want to include?
Do you need to fill in any gaps in your knowledge?
You will need to know the subject comfortably enough to be able to explain it to others. I’ve read some ebooks that were clearly written by someone that barely knew the subject and to be honest, I never visited their site again.
Don’t forget that you might need to have a list of references to include at the end of your document (if appropriate).
This might also be a good point to prepare any images you’re going to use (but you won’t insert them until you’ve finished writing and editing).
Break it down and start writing
Some people believe that you should just sit down and start writing, letting the words flow onto the page.
That might work for some people but I personally need a little help.
Think about what your message is. That’s the destination of the journey you want to take your reader on.
You need to consider what the start of the journey is.
If it’s a tutorial book, do you assume that the reader is an absolute beginner? Are you expecting them to know certain things if they’re going to be able to follow your content?
In the introduction, you’re going to tell the reader where you’re going to take them (e.g. learning how to write a blog post), what you expect of them (e.g. you expect them to have already installed WordPress and how to log in to the dashboard).
The rest of the book needs to be broken down into steps from the introduction to the destination.
Each of these steps is going to become a section of your book.
Type each section into your word processor as these are going to become the framework for your writing.
I’ve found it is infinitely easier to write twenty blocks of one hundred and fifty words than it is to sit down and try to write three thousand words in one go.
One of the best bits about breaking your document down like this is that you can write a section at a time, as and when you’re able to do so.
Don’t worry about perfect writing at this stage. Just write what you’re trying to say and leave in grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and so on.
Right now, the most important thing is to get the words on to the page.
Writing your book for free in Google Docs
Point your browser at Google Docs using this URL: https://docs.google.com.
If you don’t already have a Google account, you’ll need to create one (don’t worry, it’s completely free).
Depending upon if you’re logged in or not, the page might redirect to a slightly different address.
Create a blank document
Once the app has loaded in your browser, you should see a number of large tiles at the top.
Click the one that says, “Blank” as you’re going to be creating a blank document.
Wait a few moments for the blank document to load and you’re good to go.
Rename your document
The first thing you should do is give your document a working title (so Google Docs saves it with a sensible name).
At the top-left, click on Untitled Document to change the name of your document.
Set your page size
Click on File, then, in the pop-up menu, select Page Setup.
In the dialog that appears, make sure the page size is what you want (mine’s A4 here but you might prefer Letter) and that the margins are how you’d like them. The defaults are fine for most purposes.
Make sure that portrait is selected and that the page color is what you want it to be.
If you don’t expect your readers to be printing your ebook, you could get creative with the page color that might compliment your brand.
Just remember though – if there’s any possibility that the reader might want to print your ebook, they’re not going to be very happy if they have to use lots of ink in their printer to print your background colors. 🙂
Prepare your section titles
At the start of your document, type a working title.
Don’t waste any time thinking about the title right now. It’s just a working title. You can’t afford to get distracted by coming up with the perfect title at this stage (trust me, I speak from experience).
Select the title and click the style selector on the menu bar (it will say, “Normal Text” right now). Choose Title to set the selected text style to the Title.
Don’t get too distracted by text formatting right now.
You’re creating the framework for your content to make it easier to write later on. Right now, you just need to title the sections.
Move the cursor to the end of your title (so it’s not selected anymore) and press Ctrl+Return (Windows) or Cmd+Return (Mac) to create a page break, leaving the title on its own page.
Now the fun begins – think about what you want to include in your book as you build up to the conclusion.
Set the style to Heading 2 and create the headings for each section.
Remember, you’re just writing the titles, not the content!
Write your content
Now that you’ve created the headings for each section, you’ve got a framework to build upon.
Go to the first section, place the cursor at the end of the heading and press Return.
The style should automatically change to Normal Text and away you go! Write as if you’re talking to someone, as a friend.
If you feel inspired to tweak the title as you’re writing the content, feel free but don’t spend a lot of time on it right now (you may be more inspired when you’re proof-reading it later).
Keep your sentences short and stick to language that a high school student would be comfortable reading.
You want as many people as possible to be comfortable reading your words.
Think of a good title
You might be wondering why I didn’t have this earlier.
There’s a really good reason.
If you spend too much time focusing on the title, it’s far too easy to lose enthusiasm for the project and never get beyond the title.
If you’ve already written the book, you should find it easier to think of a snappy title – especially as you may have had ideas during the writing process.
If you’re struggling to come up with a title, the same tricks that can be used to find something to write about can be used to find a good title (and help your SEO too).
If your ebook is only intended for free distribution on your website, the title doesn’t really matter too much but if you’re planning on selling it on one of the ebook sales sites (Amazon KDP, for example), the title can be very important.
Proof read it
Remember all of those spelling mistakes and grammatical errors?
They’re still in there!
Now you need to carefully proof-read your book and correct any mistakes that you find.
A tool like Grammarly makes this task so much easier as it highlights spelling mistakes and problems with your grammar, along with suggestions on how to fix them.
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to get someone else to proof-read it too.
Sometimes we can be too close to our work and overlook obvious mistakes that someone else will easily spot. Again, that’s where tools like Grammarly really shine as they have the objectivity that you might lack.
Watch out for awkward sentences that are difficult to read. It’s usually much clearer to use two sentences than a much longer one.
As I mentioned earlier, if you see that you’ve used any confusing or obscure words, try to replace them with phrases people are more likely to use in general speech.
Advanced vocabulary looks good to academics but your more average readers probably won’t appreciate it.
Add images to make it more appealing
You’ve corrected all the mistakes and your document is almost ready.
Now you need to go through the document and add images where you feel they will do the most good.
If you’re explaining how to use a piece of software, add screenshots of you performing certain actions to make it clearer to the reader what they should do.
If you’re talking about something less technical (such a personal improvement, productivity, or philosophy) you might want to include illustrative images that help to break up the text but are still relevant in some way to the surrounding text.
Just be careful how many images you add as they will increase your final document size.
A common rule of thumb is to include an image for every 150 words or so. This means that for a
In Google Docs, this is easy.
Position your cursor where you want to insert the image and, on the top menu, click Insert > Image > Upload From Computer.
Once you’ve selected your image and it’s uploaded, you will need to resize it by dragging on one of the squares around the edge of the image.
Your image will still look odd, with big gaps in the text around it. To fix that, click on “Wrap Text” in the box below the image.
Once you’ve done that, the text will flow nicely around it.
If you want the image on the right-hand side of your text, just drag it over there. The text should reflow automatically when you let go of the mouse button.
Remember to use images effectively. They should be relevant to what you’re writing about, be good quality, and you should also make sure that they look good without color too (people may be reading your ebook on an e-reader that only has a monochrome screen).
Design a nice cover to use as your promotional image
Some people have really nice first pages in their ebooks, some people don’t.
Personally I’ve always thought an impressive first page that looks like the cover of a book make the ebook feel more professional and, as a bonus, you can use the image on your website as the link for the book.
Some people design fake book shots where the cover of the ebook appears the be the cover of a real book (there are free templates you can use to achieve this look).
If you’re horrified about the idea of designing a book, don’t be. You could use a free tool like Canva to do it yourself (they have a handy guide on their site and a host of templates to get your started) or you could pay someone on Fiverr to create one for you.
Upload it and promote it on social media
Now that you have an awesome cover and you’ve inserted it as the first page of your ebook, you’re ready to publish it.
In Google Docs, on the top menu bar, click on File > Download As > PDF Document.
In a few moments, your ebook will be downloaded as a PDF file.
Congratulations, that’s your ebook!
You now have a file that you can make available on your website.
How you upload it to your website and make it available to your readers can vary a great deal from one website system to another so I’m going to leave that to you.
I’m afraid I also won’t be telling you how to make the file available to people that subscribe to your newsletter in this article as this can vary from one mail service to another.
I suggest that you create a landing page for you ebook that you can direct people to from social media.
That way, they land on your website after clicking the link and read something before downloading the book.
You don’t want to just drop the download link on your social media accounts as you’ll be losing valuable traffic that way.
You’ve discovered how an ebook might be useful to you and, more importantly, how to create one.
Google Docs isn’t the only tool you can use.
The steps I’ve shown you here could just as easily have been performed in Microsoft Word or Libre Office.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your software to apply interesting layouts and image placements.