The Best E-book Software for the First Time Author

I talked a little bit before about choosing an e-book format and the benefits of PDF e-books. If you're a first-time e-book author, I'm going to absolutely suggest that you go the PDF route (as opposed to using e-book compilers to create an EXE file for your e-book).

Given that suggestion, here are the only two pieces of software you'll need to create your very first e-book:

  1. A word processing program
  2. PDF conversion software

In my case, I already have Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat (you'll need more than just their reader to create PDFs), so that's what I use.

If you don't have access to those two programs, there are free substitutes for each. To go the completely free route, you can use:

  1. OpenOffice - This is an open source office suite similar to Microsoft Office. It includes much more than just the word processor, but you'll want to use their Writer program for the basic writing and formatting of your e-book. If you use OpenOffice, the best thing is that you can skip the PDF converter altogether, because they have a PDF export option built right into Writer! It even carries your live links over to the .pdf version without any problem.
  2. PrimoPDF - If you already have a word processor, and don't want to download the whole OpenOffice suite just for PDF conversions for your e-book, why not go for the simplest solution possible? Forget about downloads and installations altogether, and use a free online file converter like PrimoPDF. It's easy, and incredibly fast... just enter your email address, upload your file, and you'll have your PDF in-hand likely in less time than it would take you to download a program (and if you can be online to download a program, you can be online to use this free tool, right?). Doing a test on my short e-book, I received the file in less than a minute! Oh, and unlike some other online file conversion sites, you will get clickable links from this one (I did at least). 🙂


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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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6 thoughts on “The Best E-book Software for the First Time Author”

  1. Thanks for the tips! I’m on a Mac. The word processing software I use is Scrivener. So far it’s the best software program I’ve ever used it’s more than a typical word processing program. The creator is a writer himself. The pdf feature is included. I think that is very cool! 🙂

    I’m hoping I can participate in this project I still need to make sure I have the time to commit.

  2. You’re welcome Kristi. 🙂 The PrimoPDF site is actually new to me. I used to use for quick conversions, but they don’t include the live links.

    I never reinstalled OpenOffice after the last hard drive reformat I did, so I installed it again yesterday. I don’t know if I’ll switch over to using it or not, but I’ll monkey around with it a bit. Maybe I’ll do my challenge e-book using that and PrimoPDF, just to show that it can be done as easily for free. We’ll see.

    @Opal – Yes, any word processing software should work just fine. 🙂 Does the pdf feature in Scrivener let you include live links? That’s a good thing to know for those who might also be on a Mac. 🙂

  3. Jennifer,

    I totally agree that PDF is the format of choice for a self-published e-book, as much I dislike it personally. 🙂 Actually, I don’t dislike PDF … just PDF e-books.

    I prefer to read HTML or rtf because I can read them on my e-book reader. However, I can usually convert PDF to one of those formats to import to my e-book reader. And most people who read e-books may not have a dedicated reading device, but everyone has (or can download for free) Acrobat Reader. If the PDF is encrypted so it can’t be converted to another format, I don’t read it unless it’s very short.

    FYI – Word 2007 has the feature to save as PDF as part of the program. Since I have Adobe Acrobat, I haven’t used the built-in Word function, so I can’t positively say whether it includes hyperlinks or not, but I believe it does.

  4. That’s interesting Lillie. 🙂 I’m a big believer in using protection options on pdf files to stop people from editing them (not password-protecting and such though). Does that mean they wouldn’t be able to be read on an e-book reader as far as you know? I’m not sure how it works with conversions as opposed to flat out edits.

  5. I’m not sure, Jennifer. Adobe has several levels of security. I’ve never used security on my own PDF documents, but I don’t think restricting editing would make the file unreadable in an e-book reader.

    Some PDFs can’t be converted to another format, but they can be copied and pasted into another document. That’s a little inconvenient but not a real problem. However, some e-books are so secure that copying is disabled. There’s no way to read those on anything other than a computer with Adobe Reader.


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