How To Self-Publish An Ebook On Leanpub

by Len Epp

published Aug 22, 2015

This short article will introduce you to the basic things you need to know to write, publish and sell an ebook on Leanpub. For more information, we have an FAQ for authors and a searchable manual. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to email the Leanpub team at any time.

A Brief Introduction To Leanpub

Leanpub is building the best way in the world to write, publish and sell an ebook. We specialize in providing authors with the opportunity to publish their books serially or in-progress, which is why it comes naturally to us to provide tools for writing, publishing and selling your ebook all in one platform. With our in-progress publishing workflow, you can publish a novel or a non-fiction book chapter-by-chapter, as you write it, finding an audience and gathering feedback before your book is finished.

Leanpub is free to use. You can use our writing tools to make your ebook and then sell it elsewhere if you like. If you do sell your book through our bookstore, we pay a royalty of 90% minus 50 cents per transaction. When you sell your book on our bookstore, you set a suggested price and a minimum price, and the reader chooses what to pay. Combined with our 100% Happiness Guarantee, this means that through Leanpub you establish a relationship with your readers based on trust and support.


When you create a new book on Leanpub, you can choose from among five different ways to write your book:

  • In a Dropbox folder on your computer
  • In your Internet browser on Leanpub
  • “Bring Your Own Book”, which lets you upload a book you have made yourself
  • Using Git and GitHub
  • Using Git and Bitbucket

We provide all these options because we know how seriously writers take their writing processes. Some people will enjoy writing in a browser-based writing tool like the one we have provided (which means you can write your book on our website), while others will prefer writing in their preferred plain text editor on their computer, and syncing with Leanpub through a service like Dropbox (if you’ve never done this, it’s really simple!). Still others will have an entirely closed writing process, and will just want to upload their finished book onto our bookstore.

Please note that we also have a process for importing from Microsoft Word and a few other sources, such as blogs. We know that many people still use Microsoft Word to write, though we hope that within a few years no one will be using it to write books anymore. If you have already written a long book in Word, you can import it to Leanpub, but you will have some conversion work to do.

If you do choose to write your book using Leanpub (rather than uploading a book you have made your own way), then you will be writing in plain text. This is as simple as it sounds, and we believe it is how all books should be written. When you write this way, you type the formatting right into your text. For example, if you want some words to be in italics, you *surround those words in asterisks*. Then, with one click of the “Preview” button, you can turn your manuscript into three ebook formats: PDF (for computers), EPUB (for iPad etc.) and MOBI (for Kindle), and the words inside the asterisks will appear in italics. You can think of this like punctuation for writing in the digital age: just like quotation marks enclose words we are meant to read as speech, so do these asterisks enclose words meant to be produced with emphasis.

Writing your book using Leanpub lets you easily produce ebooks in multiple formats from a single source text. This is because writing in plain text on your computer or in the browser really is the best way to write an ebook. For those interested in making a print book, we also provide you with print-ready versions of your book. You can even export your book in HTML to make it into a web page.

Leanpub books can be written in any language, and if you find our support for your language is lacking, we will quickly improve things for you.

DRM-Free Books

Leanpub books are DRM-free. “DRM” stands for “Digital Rights Management”, which is a euphemism for limiting people’s access to ebooks and other digital things. A DRM-bound ebook is the digital equivalent of a paper book printed in ink you can only read under an approved brand of light bulb; in other words, it is a perverse absurdity and an affront to the role books ought to play in a good society. Some DRM services even add self-destruct mechanisms to books, which means you can only read them a certain number of times. In effect, these are self-burning books. In case it’s not clear, at Leanpub we are strongly against DRM, primarily for ethical and intellectual but also for what ought to be very obvious practical reasons. We have more to say about this here.


Publishing your book on Leanpub is as easy as clicking a button. If you’ve used Leanpub to write your book, it will be available for sale instantly in PDF, EPUB and MOBI formats on a great-looking webpage you can customize. At any time, you can update your book with an entirely new chapter, or just a single typo fix, and hit the publish button again, making the new version available to all your current and future readers.

The ability to update your book instantly, and make the new version available to all your readers around the world, means you can publish your Leanpub book serially or in-progress. Publishing your book before it’s finished strikes some people as a radical idea, while for others it just seems like the obvious thing to do. Those familiar with the history of fiction usually fall into the latter category, since they are already familiar with the idea of serial publishing, where you publish your novel a chapter at a time (many great novels have been published this way, particularly nineteenth-century English and Russian novels). For non-fiction books, in-progress publishing lets you test your ideas and start building an audience when your contributions are still fresh, without the conventional delay imposed on authors by the standard twentieth-century publishing model.

There’s a lot more to the idea of in-progress or “lean” publishing. For the whole story, check out our manifesto.

Publishing Your Book Elsewhere

If you publish your book on Leanpub, we don’t have any rules to prevent you from publishing your book elsewhere at the same time (though other companies may place restrictions like this on you). In fact, we encourage you to sell your book on multiple platorms. If your book gets picked up by a conventional publisher, you can easily “retire” it from Leanpub. And if you do take your book to an exclusive online publishing service, and then decide you want to come back to Leanpub, getting your book re-published is easy.


Our bookstore doesn’t have the same reach as Amazon (yet), but we do offer some big advantages over selling your book on other publishing platforms:

  • You earn a royalty of 90% minus 50 cents per sale
  • You can sell supplementary material with your book (like videos)
  • You can sell your book as part of a bundle of books
  • You set your price using our powerful “variable pricing” model, and you can change it any time
  • Since customers choose what they pay, you can make a book available for free, and still give people the option to pay if they want to
  • Our 100% Happiness Guarantee means readers can get a refund with two clicks, which makes buying a Leanpub book risk-free and encourages more sales
  • We encourage feedback and the development of a community around your book

We are working on a number of new features to improve the reader and author community experience around Leanpub books. If you are publishing your book serially or in-progress, then writing, publishing and selling are all parts of a continuous process. Right now, readers can share their email addresses with you, get email notifications when you publish new versions, and even email you directly. In the future we’re going to be releasing robust and fun review and feedback features, which let readers tell you what they’re thinking, and even report small errors so you can fix them instantly.

– Posted by Len Epp

Originally published at

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