As I considered whether or not to self-publish a book, I faced many daunting challenges. Not least among them was selecting a self-publishing platform. There are many alternatives, each with its own set of trade-offs. Below are the reasons why I am glad that I chose Leanpub to self-publish You Are What You Decide: Eight Keys to Better Decision-making.
When you sign up, Leanpub links to your Dropbox folder. From then on, you save all manuscript files to your Dropbox. You must use Markdown, a very simple plain text format. Because your manuscript is written in Markdown, Leanpub can — with a single click — pull your manuscript from your Dropbox and produce EPUB, MOBI and PDF versions of your book. All formatting issues are taken care of by the magic of Leanpub’s publishing platform. From the first few words, you can preview your book on a Kindle, iOS or Android device. Very slick and efficient.
Further, you, the author, have total control regarding where your book is published. You can sell it through the Leanpub Bookstore. However, if you want to make it available on iTunes, use the EPUB file. Amazon for Kindle? Use the MOBI file. Google Play for Android? The EPUB file. Is there demand for your e-book as a paperback? If so, you can even generate a “print-ready” PDF to use with services such as CreateSpace or Lulu to publish a print-on-demand paperback. Really, how sweet is that?
Some aspiring self-publishers may be intimidated by having to learn Markdow. Don’t be. You can learn Markdown in a few minutes. There is no special text editor required to write in Markdown: you can use applications such as Notepad for Windows or TextEdit for Mac. And there is free or extremely inexpensive software available to make it even easier. I bought MarkdownPad Pro for a whopping $14.95. If only all my software were as inexpensive and simple to use. Take that, Microsoft.
Financial and ownership flexibility
Self-publishing with Leanpub is free. Leanpub books don’t even need to go into the Leanpub bookstore. You can write your book for free and then use the e-book files however and wherever you like. But there is good reason to put your book into the Leanpub Bookstore, where the terms are pretty favorable to the author. For example, a $9.99 sale generates a royalty of $8.49. Just a tad higher than Amazon pays. Further, Leanpub allows you the flexibility to set a minimum and recommended price. A slider allows buyers to select the price they want to pay, including a price higher than the recommended price. According to Leanpub’s reporting, I have earned approximately 25% more in royalties than I would have had all buyers paid the minimum price for my book.
Significantly, Leanpub considers you the owner of your intellectual property and therefore they do not restrict you from taking your files and publishing them through other services such as Amazon, iTunes, Google Play or Lulu. My e-book is available in the LeanPub bookstore (for Kindle, iPad/iPhone and Android devices), on Amazon (Kindle) and in Google Play (Android). My paperback is available on Amazon and in the the CreateSpace e-Store. (Note: the paperback is print-on-demand, which means there is no inventory and therefore no upfront investment.)
Publishing a book is a lot of work. So don’t underestimate the effort required to self-publish with Leanpub. In effect, you have to learn new software (i.e. their web service). And then there are fiddly issues such as adding charts or graphs. For example, I spent the better part of three days to figure out how to make the three charts in my book render properly in all e-book formats and in the print-ready PDF.
Like any new learning, fluency comes after some effort and practice. That said, it is pretty easy to learn how to use the Leanpub platform. Their help files are excellent. I chose to download their complete manual to my iPad so that I could search easily whenever I needed an assist.
When I did have one issue that I could not troubleshoot myself, I emailed [email protected] and had a response with a clear answer within an hour. Over the period of time that I worked on publishing my book, I never waited more than a day for a response to a query and in most cases responses came within an hour. More impressively, the Leanpub team is very agile. Twice, they made changes to their service based on my suggestions for improvement. How often does that happen with a software or web service provider?
Give Leanpub a serious look
Leanpub’s ability to flexibly produce EPUB, MOBI, PDF and print-ready PDF comes with a cost. You have little control over formatting and limited options for inserts, bullets, asides, etc. On the other hand, as the Leanpub folks suggest, this is probably actually a benefit for most writers who would waste a lot of time unnecessarily trying to improve the template’s format rather than spending time trying to improve the quality of their prose.
In addition, the workflow does not always match the pulldown menus so, for example, the print-ready PDF is not available under the Publish option. Leanpub’s managers tell me that they are soon to release an improved version of the service simplifying the workflow for their authors.
Finally, their checkout process makes it difficult for a buyer to buy multiple copies easily, something that frustrated a number of my clients who then waited for the release of the paperback to place bulk orders of 10, 20 or 30 copies.
But these are minor issues. Interested in self-publishing? Definitely give Leanpub a very serious look.