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.

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