Writing Leanpub Books in Word

by Peter Armstrong

published Mar 23, 2016

Update: As of October 2016, Leanpub books now cost money for most authors to create. To learn why we’re doing this, and the details of our pricing, please read this..


You can now write Leanpub books in Word.


Why are We Doing This?

Ever since Scott and I launched Leanpub in 2010 and Len joined in 2012 we’ve been working really hard to create the best way in the world to write, publish and sell in-progress and completed ebooks.

For technical authors like computer programmers, we think the best way in the world to write a book is to write in plain text which is formatted using Markdown. Our opinion here is unchanged. In fact, I love writing in Markdown so much that I created an open source dialect of Markdown called Markua. Markua is basically “Markdown for books”, and when we launch it on Leanpub later this year, Leanpub will support Markdown, Markua and Word.

However, while we love Markdown and Markua, we recognize that writing in either of them is definitely not for everyone. While Markdown and Markua are simple once you learn them, there definitely is a learning curve. If you already know Word, certainly the easiest way to write a novel using Leanpub would be to just use Word. This is especially true if you’ve already written that novel and if it’s just sitting on your computer unpublished!

If you have written an unpublished novel in Word, you can now create a new Leanpub book and publish your novel on Leanpub, for free, in less than 5 minutes.

And once you publish the first time it doesn’t stop there; you can make edits and publish new versions with one click, for free, while continuing to use Word. You never need to learn anything about Markdown or Markua – you just need to use Word and click the preview or publish button on Leanpub.

How it Works

Press save in Word on your computer, then press the Publish button in Leanpub, and all the changes you saved in your .docx file will be published in brand new ebook files, available to all your existing and future readers: PDF for reading on computers, EPUB for reading on iPhones and tablets and other devices, and MOBI for reading on Kindle.

The process for handling files when you’re writing in Word is the same as it is when you’re writing a Leanpub book in plain text. You share your Word files with us in a shared folder, and then you just write in Word as you normally would on your computer.


Writing in Word on Leanpub is optimized for people who are writing fiction. This usually involves no more formatting than chapter and section headings, normal text, and the occasional use of italics.

When you write in Word on Leanpub, you can also add images, use bold text, strikethrough text, footnotes, links to pages on the internet and email addresses, block quotes, and numbered lists, lower-case roman numeral lists and bulleted lists.

And of course you can use all the “global” ebook formatting settings Leanpub provides in our book tools.

This is a set of features that we think will cover the needs of almost all fiction authors, almost all of the time.

Please note that this is an exhaustive list of what you can currently do when writing Leanpub books using Word. If you’re looking for a formatting element that is not mentioned in this blog post, then we don’t provide support for it yet.

Short Example Book

Here is a download link to a folder that contains some sample files for you to look at. The Word file contains examples of everything you can do in Word that will generate successful PDF, EPUB and MOBI ebook files on Leanpub.

After you download and unzip the zip file, you will find the Word document in the manuscript folder just like you would in a regular Leanpub book folder. In fact, we made a free Leanpub book from this book here. Like any book generated using Leanpub, we produced PDF, EPUB and MOBI ebook files – but all from one click, and using the Word document.

If you created a new Leanpub book and replaced the contents of the folder that we share with you with the unzipped contents of this download, then the first time you clicked the Preview or Publish button you would get identical ebook files to these ones.

One Word Document or Multiple Word Documents

You can write a Leanpub book in Word either all in one Word document or in multiple Word documents.

While many fiction authors prefer to write a book all in one Word document, many other authors (say of business books or technical books) prefer to use one Word document per chapter.

So, we made two sample books:

  1. All in One File: The “all in one file” book is published on Leanpub here, and the manuscript folder for that book can be downloaded here.

  2. Multiple Files: The “multiple files” book shows how to publish a Word document with one file per chapter. It is published on Leanpub here, and the manuscript folder for that book can be downloaded here. By the way, the multiple Word documents don’t all have to contain chapters – they can contain whatever you want. We just stick them together when making your book, so for us it is as though you used one large Word document.


Over time, our plan is to add support for more Word features in Leanpub. For example, right now if you make a table in your Word document, it won’t show up properly in your Leanpub book. Now, for fiction authors this isn’t much of a problem – but it’s a deal-breaker for most authors of computer programming books. We understand this.

Word can save Word documents in the older .doc format and the newer .docx format. All current versions of Word save in .docx format by default. Leanpub only works with .docx formats. If you have a .doc Word document, just open it in Word and save it as .docx format and you’re good to go!

Get Started!

If you want to write a Leanpub book in Word, or if you have already written a book in Word and you’d like to make a Leanpub book from it, click here to get started!

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