Like any great piece of software, Google Docs is simple, yet powerful.
One of those things that’s easy to use, but you know it can do more, like using it to create an ebook.
While Google Docs lacks the functionality of a full-fledged design program like Photoshop and some of the benefits of other ebook design options, learning how to create an ebook in Google Docs is fast, free, and surprisingly easy.
And we’ll show you exactly how to create an ebook in Google Docs step by step. Each step will be accompanied by demonstration videos and images showing you exactly what to do.
We’ll also show you a few bonus tricks that will turn you into a bona fide Google Docs power user.
So, let’s get started with the first step of how to create an ebook on Google Docs:
As we emphasized in our tutorial about how to make an ebook on Canva, it’s strongly recommended that you use templates whenever you have the option in whatever software you’re using.
Fortunately, there are several templates available that make it easy to get started with creating an ebook in Google Docs.
To access them you’ll need to open Google Docs by going to docs.google.com and selecting the “Template gallery” in the upper right-hand side of the screen. Then, select a template design you like from the available options. We’re fans of the simple “Newsletter” design:
The great thing about using a template to create an ebook in Google Docs is that it gives you a nice header and footer design with page numbering. These will be automatically applied to every new page of your ebook. Here’s how a new page in our “Newsletter” template would look:
Next, we’ll setup a table of contents. This is crucial in using Google Docs to create an ebook.
First, we create a new page. We’ll need to set the typing cursor to the end of the first page. Do this by clicking just after the last word on your first page. Then, select “Insert” from the top navigation menu. Go down to “Break” => “Page Break”:
Now we’ll go back to the “Insert” menu option and select “Table of contents”. You can choose between having your table of contents with or without page numbers:
The neat thing about the table of contents in Google Docs is that it automatically populates as you add content to your ebook. As you create headings and subheadings, the table of contents automatically fills in.
Think of headings as chapter titles and subheadings as section titles. To designate a portion of text as a heading or subheading, you’ll need to designate it as a “Heading 1” or “Heading 2” using the text options in the top navigation menu.
Let’s look at all of this in action:
Also, you’ll notice the navigation menu on the left side of the screen also automatically updates as you add headings and subheadings. This is a nifty feature when you create an ebook with Google Docs as it allows you to instantly jump to the heading/section when you click on it:
Note: if you don’t see a navigation menu on the left like in the video, select “View” from the top navigation menu and make sure “Show document outline” is checked.
Assuming you’ve already written your ebook, now comes the most time-consuming part of learning how to create an ebook in Google Docs: adding your ebook’s content.
At this point, Google Docs will function just like any other word processor, like Microsoft Word. If you’re writing your ebook within Google Docs, then you can begin your content with your first chapter title and start typing. If your content is already written, you can import the document into Google Docs or copy/paste the content over.
For a quick rundown/refresher of Google Docs’ full functionality as a word processor, check out this useful explainer video from David Lee Tech:
Once you’ve finished creating an ebook in Google Docs, all that’s left is to turn it into a digital file that can be sent to other people or downloaded from your website.
The most common format for ebooks is the PDF format. And it’s super easy to download your finished ebook as PDF. Select “File” from the top navigation menu and select “Download” -> “PDF Document (.pdf)” as shown here:
Here are a few extra tips that can come in handy when creating an ebook in Google Docs.
Figuring out how to create an ebook on Google Docs can feel very restricting if you limit yourself to the templates they have available. So, we suggest expanding your horizons with one of the hundreds of free templates you can download online.
You can try this template site for a good selection of Google Docs templates. Once you select a template, you can easily copy it into your Google Docs account and start editing:
There’s always a chance you might encounter formatting issues when copy/pasting from one place to another.
And this can be a major frustration when trying to make an ebook in Google Docs, making you need to fiddle with the formatting of your text every time you copy/paste.
The solution is Google Docs’ “clear formatting” option. This removes any styling from the copied text and, instead, gives the text the same style as the document it has been pasted into.
To apply, simply highlight the text and select “Format” from the top navigation menu. Then select “Clear formatting” from the dropdown:
Ever wish you had a time machine? Well Google Docs’ “version history” is the next best thing.
It allows you to see all changes over the lifetime of your ebook, so if you make a mistake or need to see an earlier version of your ebook, it’s only a click away.
To access version history, simply click “File” in the top navigation menu and select “Version history” -> “See version history”, as shown here:
You should now be able to create an ebook in Google Docs for whatever you need.
Whether for a personal project or you needed to know how to create a fitness ebook for a client, this tutorial should serve you well in creating a basic PDF ebook that can be referred to again and again.