Posted in Scribbling

Writing & publishing a novel with Scrivener® (Part 2)

My novel is finished!!! Quickly, upload the Kindle and PDF versions to Amazon. The sooner it’s up there, the sooner the dollars will roll in and the critics line up to praise me. Next step order 50 author copies to sell at the Saturday market. Pick up the box from the post office and proudly open at Page 1…

Oops. I found a typo. Oh well, what’s one typo?

Oops, A friend read the copy I gave her and she found 50 more typos. Oh no, I have 49 more copies full of typos. Sad story.

All the eBook and print-on-demand services tell you IN CAPITAL LETTERS to proofread your book before pushing the PUBLISH button. Spellcheck is a wonderful invention, except it is not good at recognising the wrong word rather than the spelling mistake (their/there, all ready/already, assent/ascent, its/it’s) and as for apostrophe’s… If you’re like me, proofreading from a screen is a task fraught with pitfalls—I need to follow the text with my finger on real paper and mark it up with a pencil.

Moral: print your book out, damn the expense.

Amazon offers an author’s proof copy for this very purpose (the equivalent of galleys), except… not in Australia. In fact, during Covid-19, Amazon doesn’t even want to sell a book to Australia. Which is where I am. So I ordered my proof copy from Blurb in Melbourne and press-ganged my wife to proof-read it. This was the result!

Typos marked with PostIt notes

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is the most straightforward path for making your book available. If you’ve used Scrivener to compile it as a .mobi and .pdf (see Part 1 of this topic), it’s as simple as drag and drop and then decide on a price for the eBook and Paperback. Within a few days your title is on sale in the Amazon Bookshop; within a few weeks it will be on sale in all the Amazon Bookshops (even Australia).

Amazon offers an expanded distribution option called KDP Select, which will make your title available in more on-line bookshops and give you access to the Kindle Lending Library. However, in order to join KDP Select, you have to give Amazon the exclusive rights to your title for a period, and lower your royalty percentage.

While Amazon is the world’s largest eBook publisher, it is not the only one. If you don’t mind being a little more “hands-on” you might like to include Smashwords in your sales arsenal.

As of writing, Smashwords is distributing 544,188 eBook titles. Its main format is .epub, which is the standard sold through Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and a dozen other outlets. Smashwords has good links with libraries and it offers time-based promotions. If you don’t take up Amazon’s KDP Select offer, it’s worth uploading a copy of your novel to Smashwords as well.

Remember, Scrivener will compile your book in both .mobi and .epub formats.

As for printed copies of your book, price control become more slippery. Unlike publisher distribution, where the bookseller orders in the number of copies she can sell and takes about 40% of the RRP, on-line outlets print your book on demand—one copy at a time, if necessary. As you can see above, I priced “Ben” through Amazon at US$15. The printing cost per copy is US$4.62 and my 60% Royalty (which appears very generous if you are being published by Penguin) of the nett price is US$4.38 per copy. The royalty drops to 40% if you choose KDP’s expanded distribution.

Strange to relate, Amazon Australia has priced the eBook at Aus$4.34 and paperback at Aus$28 (presumably because it includes Covid-19 postage from the USA).

I printed 20 copies of Ben through Blurb in Melbourne. The print cost was higher than Amazon (AU$7.40 per copy), but the delivery time is under a week. (currently Amazon quotes 6 weeks to Australia, but a friend in Canada got her copy in a week). Blurb’s main output appears to be high-quality photo books, cookbooks, etc, but they do an exceptionally good gob with “trade books” (ie. my novel). I listed “Ben” in the Blurb on-line bookshop and set the price at $16.

Blurb will also list your book in the Global Retail Network, which is a branch of Ingram Spark, the global book distributors. The GRN will make your paperback available through a wide variety of on-line booksellers such as Booktopia and A&R. However, the price of a copy will be set by the bookseller. I’ve seen my 320 page paperback listed at both Au$18 and $38.

So, if it all seems too hard, you can always buy yourself a box of books ($7.40 each through Blurb, plus postage), set yourself up at the local market  with a sign:

Special deal, signed by the author. Just $20
Discounted today only $15!!!

Or you could beg local booksellers to stock it (some will).

Posted in Scribbling

Writing & publishing a novel with Scrivener® (Part 1)

Once you try Scrivener®, you will erase Microsoft Word from your life. Give it to the dog to eat, along with your homework. My young adult novel, Ben was created entirely in Scrivener®, from first draft to published eBook and paperback. Scrivener is not so much a word processor designed for writers (which it is) as a creative writing environment that you live in while you are working. There’s no need to move outside it to organise your work or to worry about formats, fonts, or page payouts until it is time to publish your book.

This is not a ‘how to use Scrivener’ blog: there are any number of well-produced, helpful, hand-holding videos on the Literature & Latte web site as well as lots of hints and tricks from users on innumerable blogs. This is more of a ‘thank you’ to Keith and the team who put this amazing application together and now support it. (BTW, the developers will respond to your questions in the User Forums!)

I use Scrivener for writing screenplays, stage plays and, most recently, novels. This is just about my experience with writing a novel in Scrivener.

At first glance, the Scrivener desktop looks a tad intimidating, but think about it as a real desktop and the comforting things you like to have around you when you’re writing: notepad, index cards, research folders, character sketches, maps, photos, useful web pages, dictionary, coffee, teddy bear… (Maybe not the coffee). You can push it around and arrange it how you like. Have a look at Figure 1, below, which is the (pretty standard) layout of my desktop. The basic unit is a text file and you can have as many of them as you like, whatever size you like. You can visualise these units as parts, chapters, scenes, character sketches, insights, or whatever takes your fancy; you can display them as blocks of text or library cards, if that’s the way you like to write, and rearrange the cards as scenes or chapters or even paragraphs, or you can view it as an Outline; or string all your units together and read it like a continuous document; while Scrivener keeps track of your writing targets, counts your words, makes automatic backups. checks the spelling and the thousand things that we writers like to do to keep ourselves on the ball. Scrivener can manage multiple drafts for you, put versions side by side for comparison, maintain a library of images and other resources; you can even drag lumps of text, images and whole web pages into a Research folder.

There are a million ways of using the Scrivener toolbox, and you will doubtless settle on a desktop lay-out and a way of working that suits your style. Hint: if you tell Scrivener to keep the backup folder in Dropbox, you’re safe even if a passing steamroller flattens your laptop.

Fig 1: Scrivener working page layout (for compiled version see Fig 3)

Here’s a screen capture of Chapter 1 from my manuscript. I’ve put the “Binder” column (with all my text files) on the left; the Text in the centre and the Synopsis and Notes column on the right. In the Binder, the Folder “Neighbours” contains text files that will eventually become the chapters that make up Part 1. Ben has four narrators—each one of them only knows part of the story—so the most obvious strategy for keeping track of who is telling the story at any time was to colour-code the chapters.

If I wanted to experiment with changing the order of the chapters, it’s as simple as dragging the text files up and down in the Binder, or I could look at my chapters as library cards with synopses, pinned onto a corkboard. This is particularly handy if you’re writing a script rather than narrative prose (Fig 2).

Fig 2: Scrivener “Corkboard” layout

When I’ve finished writing and I’m satisfied with everything, Scrivener gives me a number of ways to compile and output my novel. If I’m sending it to a publisher or agent, they will want a double spaced manuscript in 12 point Times Roman with my details, word count, date, etc. on the cover page. Scrivener provides all this metadata and formats it professionally. If it’s a film script, the producer will want it formatted precisely for Hollywood in 12 point Courier (the poor darlings don’t know how to read a script in a more adventurous format).

But back to my novel. At the “Compile” stage I told Scrivener to number each of the text files as Chapters and use the titles in the binder as Chapter Headings. I also decided to add an image of the narrator at the top of each chapter so the reader won’t get confused about who is speaking. Rather than pasting each image in and formatting it, I put the portraits of my four narrators into an “Images” folder and added a line of HTML-style code at the top of each chapter: <$img:Biff;w=100> (see Figure 1). The code is pretty self-explanatory, it means “Insert the image file “Biff” from my Images folder and make it 100 pixels wide). This is what Scrivener did with Figure 1 when I compiled it as a PDF for printing as a 6×9 paperback.

Fig 3: Compiled page, justified and formatted for paperback, PDF (See Fig 1)

I decided to submit Ben to both Amazon and Smashwords for sale as an eBook and a paperback. This meant formatting it for Kindle (.mobi), eBook (.epub) and a 6×9 paperback (.pdf). Amazon/Smashwords have software that can handle the eBook conversion for you from a Word file, but you’ll probably need to re-submit several times until you get it right. Alternatively, Scrivener can compile it for you on our desktop and you can play around with it until it looks the way you’d like it. Then you simply upload the appropriate file to Amazon, etc. I have never been asked to re-submit—the Scrivener .mobi, .epub and .pdf files were correct every time.

Scrivener can also include the cover art in your compiled file, or you can upload it separately with your eBook file. Just check with the publisher what size and proportions they require. For physical paperbacks, it is important use a high-resolution image and add bleed to the edges—if you don’t know what that means, ask a friendly graphic designer to help you.

Submitting my manuscript into the hands of the AI programs at Amazon and Smashwords was the easy bit, thanks to Scrivener. Selling your book to actual paying customers is another story entirely. I’ll discuss the trials and vicissitudes of self-publishing in a later blog.

[Scrivener® can be downloaded from the Mac App store or purchased from Literature & Latte ]