My Leanpub Toolchain

I have a couple of books (so far!) published on Leanpub, and I often get asked by aspiring authors how it works. Everyone’s tools will be different, but this is what works for me

Storage and Collaboration

I did one book using Dropbox for storage because I didn’t have private repositories on GitHub, and that worked fine, but we did eventually move our book onto GitHub and I wished I had done it much sooner! The tools integration is really excellent and also since I and my co-author are developers, git makes far more sense to us for collaboration than a shared folder does. I would absolutely recommend going this route – the Leanpub manual has very clear instructions on how to set up useful hooks, and with those in place it will generate a new preview of your book each time you push to the master branch on your repo.

Words in Files

Leanpub works with a file called Book.txt which lists the filenames of the various chapters you’re going to include in your book. This is a nice way of doing things as it makes it quick to re-order chapters and keeps them separate and non-mammoth.

Leanpub likes markdown as its source, and I find it very easy to work with. There are some great markdown editors around but since I’m a vim user, I just use that with a markdown plugin and find that it works very well. My books are mostly prose so I keep the markup as light as I can and find that it all formats really well.

This plain text format also plays very nicely with git, it’s a really excellent setup – the only way it could be better would be to support ReStructuredText as well as markdown, because I love RST and use it for all my slides, documents, and everything else.

Book Covers

Art is really not my thing so both times I’ve just looked around for people who specialise in ebook covers and can turn around something like this quite quickly. The cover for Git Workbook came from someone offering this type of service on PeoplePerHour and I was happy with how that worked.


If in doubt: publish. The whole point of Leanpub is that you can publish a book while it’s incomplete, or you’re unsure if you’re finished, or you want to share an in-progress project. One of my books we knew wasn’t finished, it’s now about twice the size that it was before – the other has only had a couple of chapters added but it’s nice to be able to do that and to know that all our existing readers will get the updates for free – you have the option of whether or not to notify readers when you update, so usually I try to send only a few updates – I don’t notify for layout fixes or typos.

Who Should Self-Publish?

Anyone with something to say! I was published the traditional route before I self-published, and if it weren’t that I love working with O’Reilly so much, I think I’d self-publish everything via LeanPub for the rest of my life. You get such insight into the process, and you keep all the money …. the big downside though is that you have to do all the marketing yourself, and that’s not exactly my strong point! It’s something I want to work on however, and in the meantime you can check out all (both, but there’s a third one in the works) of my books on my author page:

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