Ebook Revolution

Part 2: How To Create Internal PDFs For Print On Demand

For the next couple of months I will be posting an 8 part series on how to produce and publish print copies of your book, also known as Print On Demand (POD). Hopefully this helps make your attempt easier and quicker than my own! For links to earlier parts of the series, see the bottom of this post.


Interior PDF E-book RevolutionThank God for programmers, those super smart people who understand that I don’t want to fiddle with margins or spacing or try to figure out how to change page size or how to make the conversion from Word to PDF less crappy. They understand I am more likely to fold all my bills into origami cranes than sit down and nut that stuff out. Just like I understand they’d like to live life without thousands of character voices running around their head turning them slowly insane (each to their own madness I always say). Programmers create tools that make my life, as an author on the road to independent publishing, so smooth I could be forgiven for thinking I was piloting a hovercraft. Seriously guys, I am making you all cake in the shape of lightsabers.

In this part of the series I’m going to show you how I created the internal PDF needed to produce my print book using. This tool-of-wonder has no need for you to read up on margin allowances, fonts or regulations; it does it all without you having to waste your time reading a thousand page design manual written in gobbledegook. It is set up not only to turn your novel into a print-ready PDF, but to also convert it into e-book formats for free. Meaning you only have to do the set up work for your e-books and print books once.

Back when I was first considering independent publishing I was resigned to doing everything in Word. Smashwords had been my first port of call, because once I’d formatted that, surely I could just use the same file to create my internal PDF, right? But then I read the Smashword’s style guide, then the CreateSpace guide and then the Lightning Source guide, and realised I needed to buckle on my superhero suit for that gauntlet. Potentially I shouldn’t have read all the manuals at once…I’d had enough trouble deciding how to format my YA novel to look like Facebook , and now I had to figure out how to stop the meat-grinder from turning my work into something resembling a 52,000 word experimental poem? Did I look like I want my fingers super glued to my keyboard? And that was just the formatting for e-books, print books have a whole different look about them.

I’m not too keen on the whole, do-the-same-thing-more-than-once-or-fall-into-the-unread-writers-hell-pit thing. I’d prefer to do it once and be done with it. So I set about looking for that golden ticket and that’s when I came across PressBooks, God’s gift to writers. No I am not an affiliate, nor do I work for them, they are just a damn good system that I trust and uses constantly.

PressBooks has taken the WordPress open source code and created a powerful tool to produce epub, mobi and print-Pressbooksready PDF files. The epub/mobi files it produces (for free) is directly uploadable to Kobo Writing Life and KDP, and for $100, you can unlock the PDF option and have your print book approved first go by your POD publisher of choice. Its templates work for Lightning Source, CreateSpace, and Lulu.

There are several reasons why I would marry PressBooks over my partner of six years:

  • The platform is free to use to create e-book formats. You can create a file for every one of your 100 haikus if you wish.
  • To unlock the PDF is only $100. I would pay that every time to avoid having to deal with contractors or Word document changes. If you find typos, you can go back and fix it instantly, no fuss, no magic incantation with wombat entrails necessary.
  • It is as idiot proof as blogging with WordPress. Basically you set up each of your chapters as ‘individual blog posts’. This makes it incredibly easy to fix your own typos and add extra scenes or features you thought up while singing in the shower. You can upload and insert images in the same way you would a blog, easily compressing or enlarging your author photo depending on the size of your narcissistic streak.
  • It allows you to place your front matter (copyright message, dedication, foreword), Novel (separated into chapters and, if necessary, Parts) and back matter (about the author, more books from the author and bonuses) on separate pages so it looks like a proper Big Six published book. You can select which components you want to include in the export with just one click, allowing you to create unique versions (making special edition versions of your book which you could give away as prizes in competitions).
  • It provides you with over a dozen template styles, all super professional. This allows you to choose different fonts, font sizes, flourishes and word justifications that you just can’t get in e-book formats.

 Pressbooks Themes (1)

  • It gives you the ability to easily change the size of your page/book. So you decide you no longer want your novel in US Trade size (6”x9”), but in paperback size (5.5”x8.5”)? You can do that with one click. (If you are wondering what size I use for my books, I go for the standard paperback ‘Digest’ size (5.5”x8.5”) which works well in Australia.)

Below is a quick introductory video to what Pressbooks looks like, its features and exactly how easy it is to use.

Creating an internal file for your POD book use to be a mountain (or a giant hole in the wallet), now the only (mother of) a mountain is marketing and the reader author connection. Sigh. Has anyone seen my Author Marketing Superhero Suit?

In Part 3, we’ll look at how to sign up for a Lightning Source Account, and validate it.


How do you create your PDF’s? How long does it take you? Please let us know about your POD journey in the comments below. Encouragement as I struggle through the process is also appreciated!

This is the second step in the journey to holding a real, shiny book in my hands *happy dance*. As part of this process I also want to be very honest in what it has cost me to set this all up. So at the end of each post I have a running total of project costs, so all you wonderful indies out there have a guideline not only to the process, but the mullah involved.


For Part 0: Damn It! Who Knew Print Books Were Still Important?

For Part 1: Creating Your Print On Demand (POD) Book Cover

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