Besides all the documentation below, we also have a shiny new help center which contains all our FAQs! So, if you have a specific question, look there first. If you can't find the answer there, you can ask us right from the help center by clicking on the smiling speech bubble or by emailing


In this book we will show you how to make and publish a book from scratch.

Rather than simply setting out some dry instructions, in this book and the accompanying video we hope you’ll follow along by going through the process yourself. (The latest video and more information can be found at

In the following chapters, we’ll walk you step-by-step through:

  • creating an account
  • creating a preview of your new test book that only you can see
  • editing that preview and your sample text
  • viewing the effects of your edits
  • publishing your test book on Leanpub

Since what you’ll be making as you follow along is just a test book, you can simply delete it when you’re done. So you don’t need to worry about any snafus along the way - just have fun playing with Leanpub!

One last thing before you get started: like many other Leanpub books, this one is also a ‘living’ book that will be changed in response to reader comments and suggestions. So if there’s anything you’d like us to cover that we missed, or if you have any suggestions for improvement, please email us at


The Leanpub Team

How to Start a Book From Scratch

This book follows the Leanpub video ‘How to Start a Book from Scratch’, in which we show you how to create a Leanpub account and take a new book from creation all the way to publication.

You’ll learn about a number of Leanpub features, like easily creating a landing page / web page for your book, setting the minimum and suggested price, and more!

You can watch the video on Leanpub’s Help page at and on YouTube.

The three steps to creating a Leanpub book from scratch are:

Step One: Create A Leanpub Account & New Book
Step Two: Create a Preview and Edit Your Book
Step Three: Publish Your Book

Step One: Create A Leanpub Account & New Book

Leanpub Homepage

The first step is to go to Leanpub’s homepage at and click ‘Sign Up’ at the top right of the page. This takes you to the ‘Create Account’ page.

Create Account Page

On this page, you’ll be asked to enter some basic information about yourself and about the new book that Leanpub will generate for you. All of this information can be changed later on, so you don’t need to worry about being stuck with the choices you make right now.

Enter Your Name and Username

You will be prompted to enter your first name and your last name and to create a username for your account. The name you choose is what the public will see, and you can choose a pseudonym if you wish. Leanpub will automatically generate a username for you based on your first name and last name, but you can change this if you want to, or if someone has already taken that username.

Enter Your Email Address and Create a Password

Next you enter the email address you’d like to use when you’re communicating with Leanpub. You’ll also be asked to create a password for your account.

Enter Book Name

Next you’ll be asked to create a title for your book. You can always change this at a later time. Since for now you’re just making a book to test out Leanpub, you can call it whatever you like.

Enter Book URL

At this stage you’ll also be asked to enter a URL for your book. This is the address of the web page that Leanpub will automatically create for your book. Until you have your first sale, you can change this URL at any time. It can’t have any spaces and it’s best to keep it all in lower-case letters, since that looks better in Internet browser address bars. This will be the landing page or public staging area for your book, and you want it to look great!

Select Book Style

The last thing you’ll need to do is select a ‘Book Style’. Leanpub has three default book styles, Business, Fiction and Technical, each of which has different default settings for things like page size, font size, and other parameters. You can change the book style at any time, and you can also play with a number of formatting options available within each book style. In the video, we went with the plain Business style.

Click ‘Create Account and Book’

Now that you’ve filled everything in, it’s time to create your new Leanpub account and the template files for your first book! Just scroll to the bottom of the page and click this button:

After you click this button, you’ll be taken to a page where you can start writing your book.


At this point, Leanpub has already done some background work such as setting up a folder for your new book, creating the web page for your book, and giving you access to Leanpub’s online services.

The page you are now on will guide you through the steps required to start writing your book. Once you are done, it will ask you to create a preview of your new book.

Progress Bar

At the top of the page you’ll also see the handy blue Leanpub progress bar, which shows up whenever you’ve given Leanpub a task to complete. In just a moment, you’ll see Leanpub complete all the steps in the creation of the files and folders for your new book! When it’s done, the progress bar will indicate that the book creation process is complete:


A Preview is a version of your book that only you can see. You generate Previews whenever you’ve made changes to your content or formatting and you’d like to see how they look in the ebook. Essentially, a Preview is a kind of ‘working copy’ of your book. When you’re happy to release your book to the public for the first time, or when you’ve updated the book and want to release the latest version to the public, that’s when you’ll go to the Publish page in the book tools - but more on that later!

Previews are created in all three ebook formats that Leanpub produces for published books, namely PDF, MOBI and EPUB. PDF files can be read on any computer using a PDF viewer like Preview (for Macs) or Adobe Reader (which you can download for free). EPUB format ebooks are for the iPad and a number of specialized ebook readers. The MOBI format is used for reading ebooks on the Amazon Kindle. So your Leanpub ebook will be available to be read on a number of different devices in a variety of formats.


Leanpub offers you two ways to write your book. You can use our online editor that we have already gone over, or you can use Dropbox.

Leanpub works with Dropbox by setting up a shared folder for your book online. Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers cloud storage and file synchronization, and you can sign up to use it for free. When you’re working on a shared folder in Dropbox, any changes you make on your computer are synchronized online. That means that the next time you save a change on your computer, Dropbox registers the change, and Leanpub will be working from your very latest files.

To access the shared Dropbox folder that Leanpub has created for your book, click on “Settings” in the navigation bar. On the following page, click on “Writing”. Here you can select the “Sync with Dropbox” button and then click “Switch to File Mode”. This action will send you an email with directions on how to access your Dropbox folder.

Open the email, scroll to the bottom and click the blue ‘View’ link and you’ll sync your Dropbox folder on your computer with the new folder for your book.

At this point you’ll be taken to a sign in page for Dropbox (unless you’re already signed in to your Dropbox account). Once you’re signed in, you’ll be prompted to accept a Dropbox sharing request.

You can also create a Dropbox account at this point, if you don’t already have one, and once you’re done setting it up on your computer, that’s when you’ll be prompted to accept the shared folder invitation for your book.

Once you’ve accepted the shared folder invitation for your book, Dropbox will get to work syncing your computer with the shared folder, which exists online. Whenever Dropbox has finished syncing the files on your computer with the online folder, you will see a green checkmark in the Dropbox icon in your computer’s menu bar.

Your Book’s Landing Page (Web Page)

Once the progress bar shows you that the generation of your Preview is complete, click on ‘Public Page’ in the book tools.

This will take you to your book’s ‘landing page’ or public web page, the one Leanpub created as soon as you clicked ‘Create My Account and Book’.

Here’s a screenshot of an example landing page:

On the landing page, you’ll see:

  • the book’s title (and subtitle, if there is one)
  • some text indicating that the book is currently unpublished
  • the author name
  • a section where a visitor to the landing page can enter their name and email address, and the price they’d be willing to pay for the book, and a blue button she can click so she can be notified when the book is published
  • an ‘About the Author’ section which will, by default, include any information about yourself that you’ve entered in your account (we’ll work on this a bit later)

About the Book

In order to enter some information for the ‘About the Book’ on your book’s landing page, click on ‘Settings’ in the book tools. This is the most important book tool you have for changing the parameters of the book you’re making, and for adding details to your book’s web page. It’s here that you can change the book title, add a subtitle, change the book’s URL (until your first sale!), font size, page size, and a number of other details!

If you click on the tab that is labelled “Landing Page” you will be redirected to the page where you can add information for your “About the Book” section.

When you scroll down a bit, you’ll find the ‘About the Book’ section, where you can enter information that will appear on your book’s landing page:

Whenever you’ve made changes to the Settings page, please scroll to the bottom of the page and click the ‘Update Book’ button to make sure the changes are implemented:

After you click the ‘Update Book’ button, you’ll can go back to your book’s landing page, where you can see the impact of the changes you’ve made on the Settings page. For example, in the screenshot below, you can now see the content in the About the Book section:

(Please note that any time you spot an error on your landing page you can just go back to the Settings page and correct it immediately).

Adding Content To and Editing Your Book

Now let’s take a look at the shared folder that was created for your book using Dropbox. In the video we’re using a Mac, so we navigate to different folders using the Finder; if you’re using a PC, this will look different, as you’ll be using Windows Explorer.

When you navigate to your Dropbox folder, you’ll find a folder in it for your book; in the video our example book folder is ‘howtogettomars’. In that folder you’ll find the ‘manuscript’ folder, which is the all-important folder where all the files with your book’s content are kept:

Before we start editing content in the manuscript folder, let’s first take a look at the Preview ebook that has already been created for you. In order to do that, go back to the Preview page in the book tools, and you’ll see that you now have links where you can download the ebook in the three formats that Leanpub generates:

You’ll note on this page that whenever Leanpub generates Previews, it makes Previews of both your ‘Full Book’ and your ‘Book Sample’. The ‘Full Book’ is, naturally enough, your complete book. The ‘Book Sample’ is an ebook that Leanpub generates from just a small part of your full book, and is made available for free download to readers who come to your book’s landing page. You can decide what to include in the Book Sample (we’ll be showing you how to easily edit its contents below), or you can decide not to make a sample available at all.

However, we do encourage you to make a free sample available. This replicates an important part of the traditional book buying process. In a physical bookstore, a reader can go in, browse the shelves, and actually take down your book, maybe read a blurb about it on the back, and see some information about you, the author. All of these ‘features’ are provided virtually on Leanpub, via its Bestsellers page and your book’s landing page. But the reader in a physical bookstore can also open up the book and take a look at some of the contents, to see if they like your writing. The Book Sample on Leanpub is the virtual version of this feature of buying a book the traditional way, and potential readers really appreciate the chance to get a look inside before they buy.

Now let’s take a look at the PDF Preview that was created from the template book files. The first thing you’ll see is the title page, which Leanpub generates automatically in black and white:

(Please note that in these screenshots, taken from the video, we’ll be looking at the PDF in Preview. This will look different if you’re using a different PDF viewer, like Adobe Reader).

The second page of your Preview will be the ‘verso’ page that Leanpub generates with some standard publication information, including the date on which this version of your book was created:

The next page you’ll see is the Contents page, which Leanpub also generates automatically. At this point, you’ll just see one section, ‘Chapter One’, which was created as part of the default new book template:

If you click on sections in the Contents page, you’ll navigate directly to that page in the ebook.

The next page is the default Chapter One text that Leanpub inserts in every new book template:

Next, we’re going to show you how to make some changes to your Preview. We’ll show you how to insert a cover image, how to edit the text in Chapter One, and how to create a new chapter.

Adding a Cover Image

Adding a cover image to a Leanpub book is easy, but you have to have a cover image ready in the first place! For now, let’s just use the default cover image that Leanpub provides in its sample books. To download the sample book for a ‘Business’ style book, you can click on this link:

Once you click on the link, you’ll download a file called ‘’. Once you unzip and open the file (you should be able to do this by just double-clicking on the file), you’ll see some folders similar to those in the book you’re working on:

If you go into the ‘manuscript’ folder and then into the ‘images’ folder, you’ll find a file called ‘title_page.jpg’.

When you generate a Preview on Leanpub, it looks in the ‘images’ folder to see if you have a cover image. Specifically, it looks for a file called ‘title_page.jpg’ or ‘title_page.jpg’ (jpg and png are two different image formats). So if you create a cover image, just rename it ‘title_page.jpg’ and put it in the ‘images’ folder for your book, and it will be the new cover image for your book.

For now, you can just copy the ‘title_page.jpg’ file in the current folder, and then paste it into the ‘images’ folder for the book your working on (in the video, once again, the book folder is called ‘howtogettomars’):

Next time you create a Preview, you’ll see this image will be used to create the cover for your book.

Please note that different book styles have different size requirements for cover pages. You can find these requirements in The Leanpub Manual and on the Leanpub Documentation page at, but don’t worry about it for now - just play around with this default cover image to see how this process works.

Editing a Chapter

Now let’s edit that default text in Chapter One. In order to do that, in the ‘manuscript’ folder for your book, go to the ‘chapter1.txt’ file:

… and double click on it to open it up. In the screenshots below and in the video, we use TextEdit, to edit .txt files; on your own computer you might have a different program set as your default text editor, so this might look different to you.

To change the text that appears in your book, just change the text in the chapter1.txt file. Here’s what we did in the video:

When you save your changes to chapter1.txt on your computer, Dropbox will synch those changes, so that next time you generate a Preview on Leanpub, Leanpub will be looking at the latest version of the file, and you’ll see your changes reflected in your next Preview.

Creating a New Chapter

To create a new chapter, go into TextEdit (or whatever text editor you’re using), open a new file and add some text. Save the file as ‘chapter2.txt’ and make sure it’s saved into your book’s ‘manuscript’ folder. Here’s what we did in the video:

If you take a look in the ‘manuscript’ folder, now you should see the ‘chapter2.txt’ file is there:

One thing you’ll have noticed in the ‘chapter1.txt’ and ‘chapter2.txt’ files is that the first lines were preceded by a number sign, like this:

# Chapter One

The number sign tells Leanpub that what follows is the text for a ‘header’. The ‘header’ appears in the Table of Contents and as bold text, in a large font size, before the text that follows.


Using the number sign to indicate that you’re invoking a ‘header’ is a part of writing in Markdown, the text format that Leanpub uses to generate ebooks. You’ll learn more about Markdown as you become more familiar with writing on Leanpub. Essentially, it’s a really simple way of formatting books so that the formatting appears correctly in different ebook formats (PDF, EPUB and MOBI). For more information about formatting in Markdown, you can check out the Markdown ‘syntax’ page at

Selecting the Content for Your Book

Now for the really important part! When Leanpub generates a Preview from the content in your ‘manuscript’ folder, it needs to know which files to include, and in which order.

This function is carried out using the ‘Book.txt’ file that Leanpub creates in your ‘manuscript’ folder. ‘Book.txt’ is a list of the files that you want included in your book, in the order that you want them to appear. Here’s what it looks like by default:

Pretty simple eh? Remember, the Preview we looked at just had one section: Chapter One. That’s because when the Preview was generated, Leanpub looked in ‘Book.txt’ and saw that the only item in the list was ‘chapter1.txt’, so that’s all it included when it made the Preview.

What this means is that you can actually have content in your ‘manuscript’ folder that isn’t included in your ebook. Only the files listed in ‘Book.txt’ will appear in your book. This is useful if you’re working on new chapters that you don’t yet want to include in the latest version of your book, for example. You don’t have to take the file out of ‘manuscript’; you can just take it out of the list of files in ‘Book.txt’.

So, in order to make sure our new chapter is included in our next Preview, we just have to type in ‘chapter2.txt’ in the ‘Book.txt’ file and save the change:

Now, when we create a new Preview, Chapter Two will appear after Chapter One.

Editing the Book Sample

Next, let’s confirm the content we want to be included in our Book Sample, which will also be created next time we generate a Preview of the book.

To tell Leanpub what to include in the Book Sample, you use the file ‘Sample.txt’ (which is also in your ‘manuscript’ folder) in exactly the same way you use ‘Book.txt’. ‘Sample.txt’ is a list of the files in the ‘manuscript’ folder that you want to appear in your Book Sample, in the order you want them to appear. So if we open up the ‘Sample.txt’ file currently in the ‘manuscript’ folder, here’s what we’ll find:

… which makes sense of course, because the PDF of the Book Sample we looked at earlier only had the one chapter.

In this case, we’re making a full book with just two chapters, so it makes sense to show just one chapter in the Book Sample. Therefore we can just leave ‘Sample.txt’ as it is, listing just ‘chapter1.txt’ for inclusion in the Book Sample.

Now we’re ready to create a new Preview of our book, to see the impact of these changes! To do that, just go back to your Internet browser and back to the Preview page in Leanpub, and click the ‘Create a Preview of My Book’ button.

About the Author

While Leanpub is working on the new Preview, let’s take a moment to add some ‘About the Author’ information to the book’s landing page. One way to do this is to add information to your account; since you’ve just created your new Leanpub account, it’s a good idea to add some information about yourself anyway.

When you’re signed in to Leanpub, at the top right of the screen you’ll see the name you entered when you created your account. If you click on your name, a little menu will appear with some options. To edit your account, click on ‘Dashboard’ and then “Account”.

This takes you to your ‘Edit Account’ page. This is where you can set up and change various aspects of your Leanpub account, like your Full Name, your Username, and your email address:

If you scroll down, you’ll find a section called ‘About You’. Any information you enter here will be used by default in the ‘About the Author’ section for all of your Leanpub books. Here’s the information we entered in the video:

Once you’ve made changes to the ‘Edit Account’ page, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the ‘Save Account Settings’ button to make sure the changes are registered:

To see one impact of this change, go to the top right of the screen again and click on your name, and then click on ‘View Your Profile’ in the menu that appears:

Then you’ll be taken to your Leanpub profile page, where you’ll see the text you entered in the ‘About You’ section just a moment ago:

Note that you’ll also see information about your Leanpub books (in this case, you just see the new book you’ve created). If you click on the blue title text for your book, you’ll be taken to the book’s landing page, where you’ll see that the ‘About You’ information is now appearing in the ‘About the Author’ section:

Setting Your Book’s Pricing

Since we’re almost ready to publish our book, it’s time to set the pricing. In order to do that, go back to the Settings page in the book tools, select ‘Sell’, then ‘Pricing’ and you will see the ‘Minimum Book Price’ and ‘Suggested Book Price’ sections. Let’s change the Minimum Book Price to $10.00 and the Suggested Book Price to $15.00:

The reason you set two prices is that Leanpub uses ‘variable pricing’. In the more familiar model of buying things, a buyer is just given one sticker price, and that’s it, take it or leave it. With variable pricing, a buyer is presented with a suggested price, and then chooses how much she wants to pay. She can just accept the suggested price, or she can pay less, down to the minimum price amount. But she can also pay more, and we find that buyers do often do that. We suggest you experiment a bit with your pricing, since you can sometimes get surprising results.

For example, lowering the suggested price can often mean you make more money, because people think the suggested price is too low, and they opt to pay more. That means that if your initial suggested price is, say, $15, people might feel that’s too steep, and go down to your minimum price of $10. But if you lower your suggested price to $12, people might feel that’s too low, and instead opt to pay you $17.

Please note that with Leanpub, your minimum book price can be as low as zero, but the next lowest price is $0.99 - that’s because financial transactions cost money, and at a price above zero but below $0.99, we’d actually be losing money on every sale.

Finally, as always, go to the bottom of the page and click the ‘Update Pricing’ button to make sure the changes you’ve just made are registered!

Note that when you go back to your book’s landing page after updating the price settings, you still won’t see them appear, because your book has not been published yet.

Review Changes To Your Ebook

So, we’ve generated a new Preview of the book after making some changes, and now it’s time for us to review the impact of those changes and confirm everything’s ok, before we go ahead and publish.

To do this, go back to the Preview page in the book tools and click on the .pdf link for the Full Book in order to download the latest version:

Right away you’ll notice a big change - now you have a title page for your book! In this case of course it’s the Sample Business Book image we downloaded from Leanpub, but now that you know how to do this, you can replace it with your own cover image anytime.

To see another change, check out the Contents page:

Now, instead of seeing just ‘Chapter One’, you’ll see the titles of two chapters, and that the titles are the same ones we typed into the ‘chapter1.txt’ and ‘chapter2.txt’ files, like this:

Here’s what the changed text for Chapter One looks like in our new ebook Preview:

Now let’s check out the Book Sample. We could download it the same way we just downloaded the Full Book, but instead, let me show you another neat Leanpub feature.

Go back into the Dropbox folder for your book, and now go into the folder called ‘preview’:

Here you’ll find that whenever you create a new Preview of your book, Leanpub automatically puts copies of the ebook files in the ‘preview’ folder that is kept in the shared Dropbox folder for your book. So you don’t have to download copies of your ebook from your Leanpub account - you already have them on your computer and you can just open them directly!

If you double-click on the PDF of the sample book and scroll down to the Contents page, you’ll see that it just shows Chapter One. That’s because in the ‘Sample.txt’ file, we only listed the ‘chapter1.txt’ file. Here’s a screenshot of the ebook contents page and the ‘Sample.txt’ file side-by-side:

So everything looks good! The book may still be in progress, but that shouldn’t prevent us from making it public, and starting to get feedback from readers, and develop a following. It’s time to publish our book!

Step Three: Publish Your Book

Publishing the Latest Version of Your Book

To publish the book, click on the Publish link in your book tools. This will take you to the following page:

One thing you’ll notice right away is that there is a section here for ‘Release Notes’. When your book is published, anyone who clicked the green button on your book’s landing page asking to be notified of publication, will be sent an email from Leanpub telling them that your book is now available. If you want to send them a customized message, you can enter it here - telling them that this is the first version of your book, or the latest version, or the final version, or whatever you like.

In this case we know no one has signed up for this book, so let’s just leave this section empty, and go directly to the bottom of the page and click the ‘Publish My Book’ button.

Now you’ll see Leanpub’s progress bar telling you that it’s on its way to publishing your book!

Leanpub’s Royalty Structure

In the meantime, here’s some information about Leanpub’s royalty structure. As soon as your book is published, people will be able to pay for it, so it’s important that you have some information about how much you’re going to get from each sale.

Traditionally, when someone buys a print book, they go to a book store and pay the sticker price. Let’s say that you’ve had your book published in print and the sticker price is $20. When someone buys the book, half their money goes to the bookstore and other middlemen, leaving 50% for your publisher, or in this case $10. In a typical publishing contract, an author might get 10%. But that’s not 10% of the sale price - that’s 10% of the publisher’s take. So in this example, when someone pays $20 for your print book, you get $1.

Now, let’s say you’re also selling your content as an ebook on Leanpub. Since it’s an ebook and not a print book, people would expect the price to be lower, so let’s say that in this case you set the price at $10 (which is the minimum price we set earlier for the book we’re working on right now). With Leanpub’s royalty structure of 90% - 50 cents (per transaction, to take care of transaction costs), you’d get $8.50 of the buyer’s $10.

Just to put that in some perspective, let’s say you sold 12 copies of your book as a Leanpub ebook. Then you’d make $8.50 x 12 = $102. But you’d have to sell 100 copies of your book in print form, with a traditional publisher, in order to make $100, since your take would be just $1 per print book sale. And that’s true even assuming that the price of a print book is twice the price of an ebook!

Let’s go back to the Publish page in Leanpub to see if the book we’re working on has been published:

You can see from the blue progress bar that the publication process is complete. So now you can just click on ‘Your Book’ in the top left to see the impact this has had on your book’s landing page:

As you can see things are quite different. Now the ‘Unpublished’ text is gone, and so are the boxes where interested readers could ask to be notified of your book’s publication. Instead, there’s a green button that says ‘Buy Now’, and underneath the button there’s a link allowing readers to download your Book Sample free, in PDF format. Also, readers can see the minimum and suggested price for the book.

When someone wants to buy your book, they click on the green button and are taken to the following page:

On this page, you’ll see something really cool: Leanpub’s variable pricing ‘sliders’. The top slider lets buyers set the price they’re going to pay for the book. In this case, the suggested price for the book is $15, so that’s where the slider starts. If the buyer wants to pay less, she can grab the slider and drag it to the left, until she gets to your minimum price:

But the buyer can also drag the slider to the right to pay more, or they can just type in the amount they want to pay by clicking on the price:

And when the buyer is happy with the price she’s selected, she just scrolls to the bottom of the page and can purchase via Credit Card or PayPal:

Just one last thing about pricing: you may have noticed that in addition to the ‘You Pay’ slider on top, there’s also an ‘Author Earns’ slider on the bottom. The two sliders move in tandem: when you drag the ‘You Pay’ slider to pay more, you see that the ‘Author Earns’ amount is also going up.

This is a really powerful tool, and a big change in the way people think about what they’re doing when they’re buying something. For example, one thing we found after we put these sliders on our site, was that people were paying odd prices for books, like $11.67. When we looked into it to see what was going on, we discovered something pretty neat. People weren’t selecting the price they were going to pay; they were selecting how much they wanted to give the author.

In the $11.67 example, what was happening was that buyers were choosing to give authors $10.00 even:

Which is pretty cool!

Marketing Your Book

Now that your book is published, it’s time to tell the world about it. We’re not going to spend a lot of time here telling you how to market your book. But since you already have a landing page set up for your book, you’re already well on your way. Just copy and paste the URL from the landing page and head over to Twitter, and/or Facebook, or whatever social networking site your prefer, paste in the URL and send a message to your followers to get the ball rolling.

Thanks very much for reading this section, and thanks for being a Leanpub author!