Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scrivener for Windows: Self-Publishing

Want an easy and fairly inexpensive solution for creating files you can upload to Kindle Direct Publishing, read and edit on your tablet computer or eReader, and send to reviewers or beta readers? Look no further than Scrivener.

While I'd hoped to switch to a MacBook this year, it just wasn't in the budget. I needed a notebook computer I could use in my business as well as at home, and my business software is available only for Windows. I'm writing this post on my new Dell Inspiron, a great buy at Costco for only $500. Scrivener for Mac is far more robust than Scrivener for Windows because it's been available on the Mac for several years now.

I have two novels on Amazon, both were written with Word then uploaded to KDP in .html format. I followed the style guide published by Marc Coker at Smashwords in formatting my file. Despite significant efforts to ensure good formatting, I was recently told my The Mighty T file has formatting errors.

The problem with formatting a document with Word is it leaves gunk in the basic file. Gunk turns into font changes and formatting problems, even if you think you've done everything perfectly, as I had thought I'd done.

Scrivener gets your formatting right because it uses Amazon's own Kindlegen program. (You'll need to download and install Kindlegen before you can produce .mobi files. Good thing it's free.)

From now on, I'll use Scrivener to write my books and produce the files I need to self-publish my ebooks. Print books will still need to be formatted in another program. Currently I'm using MicroSoft Publisher for that.

In a nutshell, here's how I plan on writing and self-publishing my books:

Write my manuscript using Scrivener.

I use the example format Scrivener provides for writing novels, with a few changes. Each file folder is a chapter and I name them Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. In the text panel for the file folder (chapter) I write whatever I please. My current novel will have chapters titled "Chapter 1 - Monday".

Below each file folder I insert a text placeholder for each scene in the chapter. This has been great for easily getting around in the manuscript. No more using the search function in Word to find a scene.

If I've written a new scene on my iPad, I can import it into Scrivener and format it as I've formatted everything else in the MS in less than a minute. Editing scenes I've created in Scrivener on my iPad isn't a simple process, however. The scene must first be exported into a .txt file. I use DropBox to sync up such files with iA Writer, my iPad writing app. I'm told Mac users can edit files, or parts of files, on their mobile devices by using another app. I think it's called OneNote, but I'm not positive. They don't have to export their files first.

Edit either on paper or on my iPad.

Once I've editing my MS a couple of times on the computer, it's ready to be either printed or compiled to a format that can be read on my iPad. Editing on my iPad went so well with my WIP that I may skip the printing stage next time.

I compiled my MS into .mobi files this time, then emailed them to my Kindle email address. They showed up on my Kindle app in 5-10 minutes. I could then edit them on my iPad wherever I please without having to carry a folder of paper around with me. If you're in WiFi range, each edit is uploaded and saved.

I may play with the Stanza app next time as it allows me to read and edit in Courier, my favorite typeface for writing. It takes .epub files, which Scrivener makes, of course.

I have one beef with the version of Scrivener I'm currently using, when printing. You need to remember to tell it to print page numbers because by default it doesn't. The page numbers won't help you find your place in Scrivener, because there aren't any page numbers in Scrivener. But just imagine you've printed, say, 100 pages to edit and, klutz that you are, you drop them on the floor. You're out of luck if you didn't have the program print page numbers for you.

Publish to Amazon with Scrivener.

There's a bit of a learning curve to do this, and I'm afraid the Scrivener manual isn't much help. I'm not one who likes to take a lot of time writing posts with screen shots and tedious step-by-step instructions. Plenty of editors and writing have already done this: Google is your friend for finding their posts.

The only thing Scrivener won't do is help you create your book cover. You'll need a graphics program (I did mine in an old copy of MS Publisher) for that, or better yet, hire someone to do it for you.

When you're ready to format for print, Scrivener will compile your MS to a .rtf format for easy importing by your layout program.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Using Your Kindle and Scrivener For Editing

I've blogged a couple of times recently about the editing process. I've written than I edit my first few drafts on-screen because they are very rough drafts. When I think I'm done editing on-screen I print a hard copy, in courier typeface. I catch many errors when editing on hard-copy that I missed when editing on-screen.

In the past, hard-copy-editing would be the end of the line for me. I'd go through a couple of printouts, then publish the ebook version of my book (after designing the cover, of course). I published my first two books to Smashwords and would download copies of both the EPub and Kindle versions to browse through, to ensure I'd gotten the formatting down. But I no longer publish to Smashwords because I got so few sales there and have come to believe that Amazon is my path to better sales.

I've recently discovered another beneficial mode of manuscipt editing: editing on my iPad using the Kinle app. Here's why I think self-published authors shouldn't ignore this valuable tool.

You should view and edit your work in every form your readers will be exposed to. 

CreateSpace will tell you to scrutinize the proof copy of your printed book; you should donthe same for the Kindle version.

I wrote my current novel completely in Scrivener for Windows. This software allows you to "compile" your novel in the Kindle format. (It does require you to download and install a free piece of software from Amazon.) Once the Kindle file has been produced, email it to your Kindle email address. In about ten minutes, your file will be downloaded to your device. Keep in mind you have to have approved the email address you use to send files to your Kindle. If you fail to do that, your file will not appear on your device.

Once you have your manuscript on your iPad, read and edit away. I highlight words or text I want to delete, without adding an explanatory note. If something's highlighted and there's no note, it means delete. If I want to change one word, I'll simply add a note to that word; no need to highlight anything. If I want to rewrite severals words, even a paragraph, I first highlight the text, then add a note with the changes I want made.

I haven't finished my Kindle edit, but I suspect what I'll do is set my iPad next to my computer and go through the file page by page, making edits and corrections where indicated.

I don't know if this can be done, but it'd be cool if I could send one of these Kindle files to a beta reader, have them make suggestions or notes on their device, then email the file back to me. I can't see how this would work on a regular Kindle, but it seems it would be possible on and iPad because you have access to many files on the iPad when it's plugged into a computer. Come to think of it, you also have access to files on a regular Kindle via a PC, as well. I'll have to look into this and report back.

The takeaway message is, try and view your work in every format your readers might view it in. Don't just edit, also check your formatting. See how the text looks on the page. Are there any huge spaces or tightly-bunched words that make the text look ugly. If the page looks ugly, it won't be inviting to read.

Now, get to work!

(No pictures or fancy formatting this time. I typed this post into Blogger from my iPad. We recently moved out of state and neglected to pack our monitors and keyboards. My wife will be here in a couple of days with the goods.)