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How to Make an Ebook:
Step 3 – Creating the PDF Ebook

This series will eventually become an ebook I’ll make available for sale once we complete the chapters and I can make time to edit them. Visit the chapter list if you want to read the prior steps. If you appreciate my efforts and find them useful, please consider a donation (top, right) to aid the continued work on this book. Thank you.

Now that we have the text of the file properly formatted, and the cover ready to go, we are ready to start creating ebooks. The first one we want to work with is the standard ebook format, the PDF. The acronym stands for “Portable Document Format,” and has become the most common way to share documents on the Internet. The cool thing about PDFs is they most closely resemble a printed book. That means they can usually display graphics and other elements that are generally harder for other ebook formats to handle. But that is also their downside as well. Because they are more “static” in format, they are harder to read on smaller devices like cell phones, and even on tablets are not ideal. Computer screens make the easiest reading device for these files.

But of all the formats, it is the one most anyone can open and read as the Adobe Reader software is free to download and the format is universally used across all platforms: Windows, Linux, and MacOS. It is hard to find someone who can’t open a PDF file. Because of that, it is a good format to have on hand and sell from your website.

And even if you don’t plan on creating a PDF ebook, you’ll need to do some of the items in this step to prep your ebook for the rest. I’ll let you know when to skip onto the next step.

What You Will Need

All you will need for this step is a program that we’ve already downloaded, Open Office. If you are using Word and didn’t download Open Office, you’ll want to go ahead and get that unless you already have the full Adobe Acrobat program on your computer. But the instructions for this step will be for creating the PDF in Open Office, as it is free, and it does an outstanding job creating it. And it never hurts to have a backup program in case your version of Word gets corrupted, as Open Office Writer can open all Word documents.

Also, if you are one of the very few who don’t already have it, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer so you can check the final product and ensure it is formatted correctly and the table of contents looks right. This is also a free program. If you can open PDF files, then you’ve probably got it. Otherwise, go to that link and get it.

Format for the Print File

“But I’m not going to create a paperback! Why do I need to do this?”

As mentioned above, the PDF is very similar to a print book in presentation. So the first step is to go ahead and prepare the print version of the book first, but not all the way. Just far enough that we can proceed with the PDF ebook. If and when you are ready to come back and create a paperback, you’ll already be most of the way there.

So open up your book in Open Office Writer, or Word as the case may be. Once open, preform the following functions.

First, save the print version of your file. Click on “File” in the menu and then “Save as….” Save under a unique file name for the print file. What I generally do is take whatever the name of the file is and add “-Print” onto the end of it. So we might have a file labeled “With My Last Breath.odt” on the hard drive which has the raw book that we’ve written and edited. I would then save this as “With My Last Breath-Print.odt”.

Second, add the front matter to the book. On the first page, add in the title page with copyright info, publisher info, ISBN if you have one for the print (you can leave it blank for now), any disclaimers, edition numbers, etc. If you’re not sure what should go here, pull out a few books and look the information they give. Modify anything you find useful for your book.

While you are on the first page, in Writer, press F11 to open the style window. Click on the fourth icon from the upper-left corner that shows an page with the corner turned down. These are the page settings. Double-click the “First Page” style to set the current page to that format. What this will do is prevent a page number from showing up on these title pages. Do this to each page until before the page you want the page numbers to start appearing.

Then add in any other front matter before the story proper begins, which can be acknowledgments, introductions, dedications, etc. One note: in the print version of the book, such things as acknowledgments are usually at the front, but for ebooks you will want them at the end of the book. Why? Because some programs like Kindle will automatically select the first few pages of your book as the sample that the reader will see. The more front matter you have, the less of the story they will be able to sample. So you really want as little as possible at the beginning of the book. If you want it at the front in the print and PDF version of the book, you’ll want to move those sections to the end of the book when we get to creating the EPUB and MOBI formats.

Do you need a table of contents? That is really up to you, but I wouldn’t worry about adding that at this point. Many fiction print books don’t include a table of contents, though an anthology tends to be the exception. It all depends on whether it will be helpful to the reader or not. But since we are not creating the full print version right now, you can leave that decision for another day. The table of contents for the PDF and other versions will be created automatically and be much more useful to the user than a manual table of contents you might create now. Plus, a manual table of contents would duplicate the automatically created one, and reduce the amount of story one would get in a sample by being up front. So don’t worry about adding one at this point.

Now set up the default page footer. In Writer, move to the first “Default” page in your document. Press F11 again, and click on the fourth icon from the top-left, which is the page settings. Right-click on “Default” and click on “Modify.” In the window that opens, click on the “Footer” tab. At the very top, click on the check-box labeled “Footer On.” Then click on “OK” and close out the Style and Formatting window.

Then go to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see a separate box across the bottom. Click in it. Hit tab to go to the center of the page. Click “Insert” in the menu, then move the cursor over “Fields” and select “Page number” from the sub-menu that pops out. This will insert a page number for all default page styles. The “First Page” styles will still be blank.

In Word, move your cursor to the first page where you want page numbers to begin. Make sure it is at the very beginning of the page. Press “Backspace” to delete any manual page break, or bring the text to the end of the previous page’s text. Click “Insert” in the menu, then click “Break.” A window will open. Select “Next Page” under “Section break types” and press OK. It will start a new page with a new section number, which you can see in the bottom-left of the window, right after the page number.

This creates a division that allows you to number the pages that follow while not affecting the pages before it. However, to keep it straight, you have to do the next steps in the exact order I’ve giving you, or the pages before it will also be numbered, and the only way is to delete the section break and start over to fix it. Word gets a little picky about how this is done.

While still on the first page that numbering begins in the new section you just created, click “View” and then “Header and Footer” in the drop-down menu. This will open up a Header/Footer toolbar, and place your cursor at the beginning of the Header text box. Click on the third icon from the “close” button on the far right of the toolbar, that shows a pop-out label of “Switch between Header and Footer.” This will move your cursor to the footer text box at the bottom of the page.

It should say on the left side, over that text box, “Footer – Section #” and on the right side over the box, it will say “Same as Previous.” Press the icon to the left of the one you just clicked on that is labeled “Link to previous,” to disconnect the new section’s footer from the first section. The text “Same as Previous” will disappear. It is important that you disable this before you enter any text in the footer text-box, or the previous pages will show the same footer, and you’ll have to start over.

Tab to the center mark, and click the first icon in the Header/Footer toolbar with the pop-out label “Insert page number.” It will put a page number in the center of the page. Click the “Close” button on the toolbar to end editing the footer and return to editing the main text of the page. Check to make sure the page number does not appear on previous pages.

We don’t need to worry about page margins and size just yet. In this file, we’ll save those settings for when you are ready to create the full print version, if you get that far.

Set the paragraph formats for print. Press F11 to open up the Format and Style window in Writer. Click the first icon in the top-left with the paragraph symbol in it. First, set the default style for the body of the book. Right-click on it and select “Modify” from the pop-down menu. Click on the “Alignment” tab and click on “Justified” in the Options section if not already set that way.

Click on the “Font” tab and select the font you wish to use. Don’t go with anything weird or abnormal. Best to stick with the classics. You can’t go wrong with Times New Roman, but many also use Garamond as well. You want to avoid the sans fonts, like Arial, which takes out the points on the ends of the letters. It may look cleaner in some regards, but the line endings make for easier for most people to read. Also, select the font size. Best to stick with 12 points, but you can go as low as 10 points if need be. Anything lower than that will get harder to read. Once set, click OK.

Now set the Header styles. Right-click on Header 1 first. On the alignment tab, you can tell it to center the header. This is the one I generally use for the Book title and major divisions in the book, like Part 1, Part 2, etc. An Arial font works fine here, but you can more freely select whatever style you feel matches the feel of the book. Since these are just headings, ease of readability isn’t so critical, as long as it is readable. Style and feel is more important on the headers. On the size, I wouldn’t go any higher than 16 points. Primarily because this is the max size that Smashwords will take. So setting it that size here means you won’t have to remember to change it later. In the “Indents and Spacing” tab, make sure all the boxes in the “Indent” section are zero. In the “Spacing” section, set the inches before and after the header to create space between the top of the page and the header, and the text that comes below.

Then do the same for Header 2, which I usually use for the chapter headings. You can use a different font from Header 1, but you don’t have to. I recommend setting it to a 14 point size, and bold-italics, but you can use your own judgment. Like the Header 1 style, don’t go higher than 16 points. In the “Indents and Spacing” tab, make sure all the boxes in the “Indent” section are zero. In the “Spacing” section, set the inches before and after the header to create space between the top of the page and the header, and the text that comes below. Set the alignment to however you want the heading to display. You’ll see chapter headings centered, left set, or right set, or even on the edge of the page, which is different between right and left pages.

Here is where the use of styles makes setting the formatting for various versions easy. While editing the Heading 2 style, click the “Text Flow” tab. In the section labeled “Breaks,” click the “Insert” box. Now chose from the drop-down menu labeled “Type,” “Page.” In the “Position” drop-down menu, chose “Before.” When you click OK, you’ll notice it automatically inserts page breaks before each chapter heading.

Modify the Header 3 style if you are using it as well, creating the same types of settings and how you want it to look on the page. These are usually used for section headings within a chapter.

In Word, the process is nearly the same. The difference is that with the document open, click “Format” in the menu, and select “Styles and Formatting” in the drop down menu. Instead of “Default” paragraph style, Word’s standard style is “Normal.” When you edit that style, you’ll be able to select the font, font size, alignment, and other standard settings right on the first window. However, for more advanced changes, click on the “Format” button at the bottom-left of the window and select “Font” or “Paragraph” to make changes as needed.

When you need to have the Heading 2 style insert page breaks, go to the “Format” button and select ‘Paragraph.” In the window that opens, click the “Line and Page Break” tab. Click the box next to “Page break before.” Once you click OK twice, the page break will be inserted before each chapter heading.

We have now established the settings for the print format that we will need for the PDF format. Click “File” and “Save” to save the changes you have made in your file. You are ready to start preparing more fully for the creation of the PDF file.

If you don’t plan on creating a PDF ebook, you can skip the next two sections and proceed to Step 4.

Format for the PDF Ebook

You may be thinking, “Didn’t we just do all the formatting?” Ah, not quite. That was for the print edition. Since the PDF shares many of the qualities of a print book, it saves time if and when you want to create a paperback through CreateSpace or another similar service, to create a file that contains the formatting shared by both types. Also, the print file you’ve just created will serve as the beginning template for the other ebook versions. But now we need to create a separate file specific to the PDF version.

One of my pet peeves revolves around what most people tend to do when they create a PDF version of a print book. What they usually do is take the file they used to create the paperback, and export a PDF version of that same file. Problem is, the place most people will read these is on a computer screen or maybe a smaller tablet screen. This totally destroys the feel that you are reading a book because the standard page size when taken to “full screen” in Adobe Reader is rarely easily readable. Go to a tablet and it creates a hefty dose of eye strain. Move to a cell phone and you’re talking impossible.

And if you zoom in so you can easily read the text, it means you have to scroll down the page, making it hard to keep your place at times, and losing the feel of reading a book. And on some occasions, I’ve even seen a double-column page printed to PDF exactly the like the print book, which is maddening, because it requires moving to the bottom of the page to read the first column, then scrolling back up to the top of the page to read the second column. Few will want to wade through a full book if they have to do that.

The way to fix this is to create a smaller page size and bigger font size. The goal is to make it readable on most devices, and give it as close to the feel of reading a book as possible. After some testing, I’ve settled on the following settings to accomplish that.

Before you move on, click on “File” in the menu and select “Save as…” Change the file name ending to “-PDF” instead of “-Print”. So now what read as “With My Last Breath-Print.odt” will read, “With My Last Breath-PDF.odt”. That will save the settings for the print version of the book should you need them later, and create a new file that will contain the settings specific to the PDF version.

First, set the page size to 4″ x 5″. In Writer, press F11 and make sure the fourth icon from the top-left is pressed, displaying the page formatting options. Right-click on “Default” and select “Modify” from the pop-down menu. In the window that pops up, select the “Page” tab. Under the “Paper format” section, in the “Width” box replace what is in there with 4″, and in the height box replace what is in there with 5″.

In the next section, “Margins,” set all the margins to 0.25″. The smaller the page, the smaller smaller the margin should be, both to give as much room for the text as well as to balance the proportion of the white space to the page. On the “Footer” tab, in the “Spacing” box, enter 0.05″. Press OK and the page size should change, along with the margins and footer placement. You may need to readjust the page number tab by clicking in the footer text box and dragging the tab marker in the ruler bar to the center of the page.

Proceed to make the same setting changes to the “First Page” page style, though you won’t have to worry about the footer settings here. If you’ve created and/or used any other page styles, don’t forget to change them as well. If you are unsure whether other styles have been used, in the “Styles and Formatting” window (F11), click on the drop-down box at the bottom and select “Applied styles.” Only the styles used in the document will show in the window.

In Word, you’ll click on “File” in the menu and select “Page Setup.” On the “Margin” tab, enter 0.25″ for the top, left, and right margins, and enter 0.5″ for the bottom margin. Ignore the gutter margin settings. Click on the “Paper” tab, and enter 4″ in the width box, and 5″ in the height box. Next, click on the “Layout” tab, and enter 0.25″ in the “Footer” box under the “Headers and Footers” section. Upon pressing OK. You will likely get a warning message that says, “One or more margins are set outside the printable area of the page.” Click the “Ignore” button to avoid Word changing the margins. Your page size and margins will be adjusted.

Second, set the font size. In Writer, press F11 if the “Styles and Formatting” window isn’t open, and make sure the first icon for paragraph styles is selected. Also, to make it easier, select “Applied Styles” in the drop-down box at the bottom of the window to make sure you catch all styles used. Right-click on “Default” and select “Modify” from the pop-down menu. Click on the “Font” tab. Change the font size to 14 points. Yes, that is big. Trust me, it works. If you use any other paragraph formats for the body of the text, like a centered style, make sure you change those as well.

For the heading styles, you can keep them at 16 or 14 points. But, make sure they are at least bolded so they stand out. You may want to have the Heading 2 style using 16 point as well if you use it for the chapter headings. If, however, you have any long chapter titles, you might want to keep them at 14, but bolded.

In Word, click on “Format” in the menu and then select “Styles and Formatting.” In the window that pops open at the right, click the drop-down box at the bottom of that window labeled “Show” and select “Formatting in use.” The window will show the formatting that is used in the document. But you will notice it is more cluttered than Writer’s list. This is because Word shows you all the variations of each base style. So if you’ve italicized some text in Normal, you’ll not only see a style called “Normal” but also one called “Italics“. But the thing to know is if you change the Normal style, it will automatically change the sub-styles connected to it without erasing their uniqueness.

Right-click the “Normal” style and select “Modify” from the drop-down menu. Under the “Formatting” section of the window that pops up, you will see a drop-down box for the font type, and a second box next to it for the font size. Change the font size to 14 and click OK. The font size across the whole document will change. Do the same for any additional styles that were created new apart from Normal. Then go and adjust the Header style font sizes as we discussed earlier with Writer.

Once these settings have been set, you should end up with a document containing the full text of your book, formatted to a 4″ x 5″ page size, and 14 point body text size. Save the changes you have made thus far to the PDF version of the file. Now for the last preparatory step.

Now it is time to insert the cover artwork. While in the open document, in both Writer and Word, press the Ctrl-Home key combination. This will take you to the very top of your document. Now press “Ctrl-Enter.” This will create a new page right before the first page, usually your title page. Then press “Ctrl-Home” again to move to the very top of this page.

In Writer and Word, click on the “Insert” menu item, and then hover over “Picture” in the drop-down menu, and select “From File” in the sub-menu. Find and select the JPG 600 pixel-wide cover we created in the last chapter and click OK. The cover file will fill the page within the page margins. If the width of the picture doesn’t fill the width of the page, click the picture so it is selected, and then click the center icon in the menu tool bar to center the picture on the page.

Save the PDF version of the file. You are now ready to export to a PDF.

Create the PDF Ebook

If you created your ebook in Word, once you’ve saved your work, exit Word and open up the DOC file in Writer. In the Navigation window, if the ebook was formatted correctly, you should see links to all your chapter headings, and any sub-headings you listed in the Heading 3 format. If not, go back to Word and make sure those are formatted correctly before proceeding.

But whether you created the ebook in Word or Writer, you will need the document open in Writer, which has an excellent PDF export tool. Once you are satisfied that the book is formatted correctly and ready for export, proceed with the following steps.

Click on “File” in the menu, then select “Export as PDF.” A window will open. In the “Range” section, you’ll want “All” selected. In the “Images” section, select JPEG if not already selected. Leave the compression at 95%. Make sure the “Reduce image resolution” is checked, and select “75 DPI” from the drop-down box. PDFs are usually read on a screen which can’t get any higher resolution than around 75 DPI, so there is no need to produce print-quality images.

In the “General” section, make sure “Tagged PDF” and “Export bookmarks” are both checked. The tagged PDF will make screen readers for the blind work better, and exporting bookmarks will create the PDF’s table of contents from your headings as you see it in the Navigator.

Now click on the “Initial View” tab. In the “Panes” section, click on “Bookmarks and page.” This will make your table of contents available when they first open the PDF.

In the “Magnification” section, select “Fit in window.” This will ensure one full page fits in the window, causing the use of the page-down button to move from full page to full page, which will give it more of a book-like reading experience and less searching to find their place.

Then in the “Page Layout” section, select “Continuous Facing.” This will cause the PDF to show two full, facing pages on the screen at a time. Using our reduced page size and increased font size, when they first open it up on a computer screen, it should produce a readable two-page view like a book. And the user will only need to hit page-down or scroll with their mouse to go to the next full page.

If this document is opened in a smaller device, like a small tablet, the user can change the view to one page at a time, and still get the benefit of an easier to read PDF on their device. Cell phones are likely to still be hard to read, but possible using this format more so than others. Still, most cell phone users know reading a PDF on their device is a pain and generally avoid it, opting for using other ebook formats instead.

If you have some strange fonts like foreign characters, which I would advise to avoid if possible, on the “General” tab under the “General” section, you can also click “Embed standard fonts” to avoid the reader seeing odd-looking characters or question marks replacing those.

Once all the settings are there, click the “Export” button at the bottom of the window, give the file a name (standard format is “<name of book> – <name of author>”), and click “OK.” The PDF file will now be created. Once it is done, open it in Adobe Reader to make sure everything appears as it should, the bookmarks section has the full list of your chapter headings, and the formatting appears to have exported out correctly. Or you may find an error at this point you want to correct.

If you need to, go back to the original document in the program you used to create it, make your changes, then re-open with Writer if need be, and re-export the PDF again. One handy feature is that Writer remembers your export settings from the previous time, so you shouldn’t have to reset those again until you make new changes. This is handy if you have several PDF books you need to format or you have to keep making changes and exporting the PDF file again.

Once you are satisfied with the results, you have an ebook that most anyone can read on their computer or tablet, formatted in a way that makes it easy for them to use it. These are especially handy for sending out for reviews or to sell from your own website. And there are very few people who don’t already have Adobe Reader on their computer, so without any other ereader software installed, anyone can use this file to enjoy your book.


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About R. L. Copple
R. L. Copple enjoys a good cup of coffee and a fun story. These two realities and inspiration from the likes of Lester Del Ray, J. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, among others, caused him to write his own science fiction and fantasy stories to increase the fun in the world and to share his fresh perspective.
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Step 3 – Creating the PDF Ebook

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