Way back in the summer on Kindleboards and in other places I kept reading about people laying out their print books for CreateSpace using Scrivener. Long term readers of this blog will know that I can’t praise Scrivener enough. It is the single best program for long form writing I know. Now it seemed Scrivener’s utility had expanded into an entirely new arena. I knew it could create ebooks easily and well, but print books? I have always used Word, or if the need arose, InDesign for that.
Being the sort of man that I am, I thought I should investigate the possibilities. I set myself to writing a template that would automagically lay out my own indie books such as Stealer of Flesh. It took me three days but I managed it. By the end of that time, I had a template that I could load a Word file into and 10 minutes later have a print ready PDF. There were a few hiccups along the way, the usual problems that arise when you’re doing anything on a computer for the first time but I got it done.
I wish I had read indie writer Ed Ditto’s ebook, How to Format Your Novel For Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords and CreateSpace in One Afternoon, before I turned my hand to that project. It would have saved me an awful lot of time. That title is a bit of a mouthful and its a big claim. It’s also true.
Ed lays out everything you need to know not just about how to lay out print books but nicely formatted ebooks, and,hallelujah, a way to get a properly formatted file for uploading to Smashwords, including the annoying copyright declaration Smashwords insists on. Not only that, he shows you to do it all from one file, with the push of a button (well OK, the adjustment of a pulldown menu). That’s right, you can take your Scrivener file and within 5 minutes export a mobi file for Amazon, epub for the other retailers, a doc file for Smashwords and a properly formatted print PDF as well. He does this simply, clearly, in words a total novice can understand.
Granted you’ll need to put in a few hours of setup before Scrivener can work its compiling magic but once the grunt work is done you will have a template into which you can load all your future work, ready for export. That’s the afternoon Ed is talking about. Once the work is done, you’ll never need to do it again– barring awful hard-drive accidents. Put in that afternoon’s work and you can look forward to laying out all your indie writing projects in five to ten minutes flat for as long as you are a Scrivener user.
Does this mean you can run your workflow entirely within Scrivener from start to finish, from writing a manuscript to publishing a book? Well, yes and no. You could if you wanted to but only if you can convince any external editors you use to work on Scrivener as well. As usual, editing remains the final frontier for Scrivener users. You will still most likely have to use Word and its track changes function for editing. That said Scrivener can easily reimport Word files. With a couple of minutes of tidying stuff up you should be good to go.
At the moment, Ed’s book only covers the Mac version of Scrivener and sadly he has recently announced that he won’t be doing a Windows version, but should you have a Mac and any interest in creating your own ebooks and print books, I can’t recommend How to Format Your Novel For Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords and CreateSpace in One Afternoon highly enough. You can find it on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
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