If you are writing or have written your book in Google Docs and are working out a process for getting your book published via Leanpub, we hope the following descriptions of their own approaches from two Leanpub authors will be helpful.

The first approach is to use our Google Docs writing mode. You can select this mode when you create a new book, or you can switch to this writing mode in an existing book by going to "Writing" in your book's Book Tools menu and then selecting "Writing Mode." This workflow does not support all the features in Google Docs, but it supports everything you'll need to write 99% of books. (Here is a list of features we do support.)

The second approach is described below. It is taken from the Leanpub podcast interview with author Gordon Webster, author of Python For The Life Sciences. This approach is useful if you are using Google Docs to create a heavily-formatted PDF.

The description of the third approach was generously provided by Jutta Eckstein, co-author of Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space & Sociocracy. This approach is useful if you want to use Google Docs and write in Leanpub-Flavored Markdown or Markua.


Gordon Webster:

The entire book was actually built and edited in Google Docs, because we needed a collaborative platform. And I use Macs, and I use Linux and Windows as virtual machines on my Mac. But Alex is a Linux guy. We couldn't really use something that was primarily in the Mac world as a tool, and so we settled on Google Docs, and it worked really, really well - until we got up to about 250 pages. And then you start to see the limitations of trying to edit large documents in a web browser.

I've got to give the Google people credit. Google Docs is a great tool. But once we reached pretty much the maximum size that's practical for a Google document, around the 300 pages mark, we already started to see that it was unresponsive sometimes.

And the other issues that we had were - when you create a PDF out of the Google Doc, it does some silly things. For example, all of the internal links point back to the original Google document, and not to the new PDF. So if you have a link in your new PDF to page 100, it will actually point to page 100 in the original Google Doc. Which is kind of absurd. I mean, if you're exporting to PDF, you would hope those internal links would remain internal.

So what we ended up having to do, was to save the entire document as a .docx file in Microsoft Word format. And then we used the Mac Pages program. Well - initially, let me say - I tried using Microsoft Word 2011. Which is the version I happened to have on my Mac. And that does not preserve the links.

When we first published the book on Leanpub, all the links inside - the external links, were dead, because Word didn't handle those properly. And when we put it into the Mac Pages program, then it did a good job of exporting the document. And also, there were some other issues with Word. The images would stray. It didn't really know how to place images where we'd placed images in text. The images would stray into the margins of the page, and look kind of ugly. And you ended up having to go and do a lot of fixing of the positions of the images and stuff like that.

So in the end, the workflow was - Google Docs, save as .docx, import into Mac Pages, fix any kind of page formatting stuff that we needed to fix, and then export as a PDF. And that worked for us.


Jutta Eckstein:

My co-author John Buck and I recently finished our book (https://leanpub.com/bossanova) and we also used Google Docs to write it. John is a Mac person and I work with Windows. Our simple workflow was: have a Google doc for every chapter, write in Google Docs using Markdown, copy the Google doc file to a Markdown text file in Dropbox, then publish on Leanpub.

At the beginning, we had to get used to not using WYSIWYG in Google Docs and ensure it wasn't being too smart, e.g. trying to autoformat bullet lists. Moreover, we figured that we could also use some WYSIWYG stuff to make it easier for us to read and find stuff, e.g. using **bold** , or *italics* , or headings. Thus, we used the Markdown commands, plus made it visible using Google Docs formatting.

During the "heavy" writing phase, we strictly followed that workflow, which means it was always one way from Google Docs to Markdown. After stabilizing some chapters or the whole book, we were also happy doing small changes in Markdown first and then copy the whole chapter back to the Google doc (yes, this meant losing the Google doc formatting [explained above], but at that time we were not really working on that particular chapter anymore anyway).

For us the only difficulty was to ensure that both the Markdown files and Google Docs files are always in sync, yet this became so much of a habit that it didn't bother us, and it was plainly copying the chapters we've worked on that day.

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