Update: I have shared 2 templates for eBooks – the 3D cover and a PowerPoint template. you can get these here.
I’ve had quite a number of people in the FBC Facebook group asking me how to make an eBook. This post is specifically focussed on simple ways to make professional looking ebooks to give away to readers of your blog, presumably as incentive to sign up to your mail list.
Making an ebook to sell (successfully) is a whole other ball game. You need to step up the quality and that means professional looking design, graphics and layout. Then you need to think about how to get people to buy it, how to price it, how customers will pay for it, how to deliver it…the list goes on. It is too much to cover in one post, so I am not covering this in this post.
I’ve made two ebooks that I give away as mail list sign up incentives on my blog, RecipeTin Eats. You can download copies of them here:
How to make an eBook
1. Choose an app to create the ebook
2. Do a test run with the chosen app
3. Design or buy a template for your ebook
4. Writing the ebook & file logistics
5. Promoting the ebook as a free giveaway
6. Getting the ebook to readers
1. Choose an app to create your ebook
For an easy way to make ebooks, I recommend Pages (Mac) and Powerpoint (Windows and Mac). These two apps tick the following boxes which are important to factor in when creating an ebook:
- Quality of images
- File size without compromising image quality
- Ease of creating and adjusting layouts
- Ease of editing text
Pages is the Mac equivalent of Word for Windows. Powerpoint is available for both Windows and Mac.
Mac has a presentation app called Keynote which may be suitable – I personally never clicked with this app.
Other apps you could use include the following. I’ve shared my thoughts on each of them.
a) InDesign – this is the Adobe software that is used by graphic designers to design cookbooks, magazines etc. If you want to go “all the way”, you will need to invest the time to learn how to use InDesign, or hire a professional. I can tell you that I have spent a good chunk of time on InDesign and found it even less intuitive than Photoshop i.e.. Difficult to use because it is so powerful and has so many functions.
b) Word (Windows and Mac) – this is what I used to make the first free ebook I made. It’s fantastic from a word processing point of view (i.e. ease of editing text – don’t underestimate how much of that you will need to do) but terrible from a layout and design point of view. If you are happy to have an ebook that looks more like a report than a cookbook, then Word is a good option for you.
The other thing I had an issue with was file size. My first ebook made with Word was 39MB for a 33 page ebook with a photo on almost every page. My second ebook made with Powerpoint was 16MB for 38 pages. For both, I reduced the image sizes before inserting them into the document.
c) Keynote – as commented above, this is the Mac equivalent of Powerpoint. Traditionally it is used to make presentations. I never got comfortable using this so I am not sure how convenient it is for ebooks. But in theory, it should work as well as Powerpoint.
Photoshop isn’t practical to use for ebooks because each page would need to be a different file.
2. Test Your Chosen App
This is an important step. Different apps work differently on different operating systems, Mac vs PC etc. So before you go an create your entire ebook in an app, only to find that the file size is 60MB for a 20 page book, do a test run!
Here’s what I do:
- Create a 1 page document. Don’t worry about layout and design details, but at least get the orientation right (landscape or portrait)
- Do a mock up of a recipe. Write out the recipe, including hyperlinks to your blog or other URL’s (if you are planning to have them in your ebook) and put the photo in.
- Now save the document as a PDF and check the file size.
- Consider how many pages your ebook is going to be. Now multiply that by the file size. How big is the file? What file size is too big? My first ebook made with Word was 39MB for a 33 page ebook with a photo on almost every page. I was not happy with this file size but I didn’t have the energy to remake the book in another app. My second ebook made with Powerpoint was 16MB for 38 pages. I was happy with this file size.
- Are you happy with the image quality?
NOTE: You will need to play around with the image size vs quality vs document size and find the right balance for you because the quality of everyone’s photos will differ. I reduced my images to 1,000px wide before inserting them into Powerpoint. This provided the right file size / image quality balance for me.
3. Ebook Design
I designed the cover and layout of both my ebooks myself. For a freebie, I could not justify paying a designer and I did not know where on earth I could find e-cookbook templates for Word or Powerpoint.
All I did was go onto the Apple iBooks Store and Amazon kindle store. I browsed cookbooks and found ones that I thought were laid out cleanly, easy to read and were simple to replicate. Then I recreated simplified versions of them to use as my ebook template.
This is the layout I used for the 15 Minute Meals cookbook I created in Word. This was created using tables which I found really tedious and difficult to use (because not every recipe is the same length!). I created one template and used that for every recipe.
And here’s the layout I used for the Fast Prep, Big Flavours ebook. This was MUCH easier to work with than in Word – both design and text editing. I had much more fun designing this one!
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN DESIGNING A RECIPE TEMPLATE
- Font size and spacing – for ease of reading on computers and tablets;
- Landscape or portrait? I opted for portrait for the cover (so it looks like a book in thumbnail form in iBooks etc) and landscape for the book itself (so it displays best on screens);
- Include prep and cook time and servings?
- Are you including notes to recipes? Like little tips.
- What about chapters? I put the chapter name in the top right (see below)
- Create a template for short vs long recipes. Here’s an example of a template for the Fast Prep, Big Flavours cookbook for long recipes.
Don’t forget to create a cover as well!! For the 1st ebook I made in Word, I designed the cover in Photoshop, saved it as a PDF then inserted it into the ebook. For the 2nd one, I was able to make it in Powerpoint (which I used for the ebook) which was much easier.
As with the ebook layout, I browsed the Apple iBooks store and Amazon Kindle store and copied an e-cookbook cover that I thought suited my style, could be rebranded to fit with my blog’s look and feel and was easy to replicate.
Here’s the cover I designed for the Fast Prep, Big Flavours ebook.
4. Write the eBook and file logistics
Now the real work begins – writing the ebook! Don’t forget to reduce image sizes before inserting them into your ebook otherwise the file size will be enormous! (Refer step 2 for tips)
Tip: If you are using Powerpoint, you will have an option to compress images. Choose the resolution “Best for viewing on screen”, which assumes the readers are viewing it on screen rather than printing it out. This makes a huge difference to the file size.
Because my ebooks were intended to be free for readers, I mainly included recipes on my blog. Which you might think means it’s just a copy/paste job, but it’s not! I found I had to condense the recipes, remove or change the way tips were phrased etc.
But I also included a few recipes exclusively for the ebook.
After you have finished your ebook and have had it proofread many, many times, convert it into a PDF file (simply by going to File > Save As, then select PDF as the file format).
Then you need to upload the ebook somewhere where you can provide your readers with a link to download it. If the file size is small enough, you might even be able to upload it into WordPress. I just use Dropbox because that’s where I store all my files anyway.
Remember: If the file size is too large, people will struggle to download it! My first ebook is 39MB which I think is far too big. Personally for me, I think 25MB is a reasonable file size.
5. Promoting It
After all that hard work, make it front and centre so visitors to your blog see it!! I use my ebooks as incentive for visitors to my blog to sign up to my mail list. Here are all the places I promote the free ebook:
- Blog sidebar – right at the top, including an image
- OptinMonster Pop up
- Facebook page, using the MailChimp Facebook app
- Within my most popular posts (I created a banner “ad”)
6. Getting the ebook to readers
As part of the sign up to a mail list, the readers will receive confirmation emails. I use MailChimp and I simply edit the last “thank you” email that new subscribers receive to provide a link to download the free ebooks.
This is what mine looks like. If you use a mail list manager like MailChimp, you will also have the option to direct new subscribers to a page on your blog instead of receiving a thank you email. So you could embed the download links there instead, if you preferred.
Wow! That post was longer than I expected, and I have so much more to say!
I’m actually in the middle of creating an ebook that I plan to sell. So once I get that out, I’ll have first hand step by step instructions for you for how to sell an ebook!
Hope you found this useful! Thanks for reading – Nagi x