Publishing Toolbox

Marketing Toolbox: 3 Step Book Marketing Plan

Over the past few weeks, we ran a series called “Writer’s Toolbox” aimed at revealing some of the more useful tools a writer can utilize to improve their productivity. There are other programs writers use but we’ll have to consider those another time. Today we’re looking at marketing your book.

If you’d like to read the Writer’s Toolbox series, you can find them here:

Writer’s Toolbox: Overview

Writer’s Toolbox: Microsoft Word

Writer’s Toolbox: Scrivener

Writer’s Toolbox: Evernote

Selling your book (or books) can be as challenging, or even more challenging, than writing. There are a number of specific things you can do as a self-published and independent author to promote your work, but there is never a guarantee any of these will result in sales. So many factors go into selling a book, and transitioning initial sales into regular sales, that laying out a definitive plan is almost impossible. The genre you write in, the style you write with, the people you know, the time you have to spend on marketing, the appetite of readers, the price you set, the design of your cover…I could go on and on listing factors that play into how well your book sells.

In an effort to be useful to our readers, I’m not going to advocate for a specific or definitive plan. I don’t think there can be one. Your marketing strategy will have to be unique to you, your goals, and your work. What we can do with this series is examine some best practices and consider the ways others have found success in marketing their  books, while retaining the understanding that anything I suggest (or anyone giving market advice suggests) should be taken as broad suggestions based on past experience.

That said, let’s think about marketing in three phases:

  1. Planning – developing a plan based on your book, your goals, and your audience
  2. Acting – following through on the plan
  3. Maintaining – retaining readers through consistent efforts after the initial release of your work

This week we’re going to focus entirely on the first phase. Let’s develop a marketing plan!

Continue Reading »

Writer’s Toolbox: Evernote

Evernote is a powerful note taking and organizational tool. It features a simple and easy to use word processor, but you shouldn’t begin using Evernote with the idea that you’ll craft an entire manuscript using this software. Instead, think of Evernote as a tool for recording and recalling information quickly.

Since all writer’s will have a different process and style for gathering and making sense of information, Evernote will not be for everyone. If you’re the type that needs paper notes piled high into a sort of impenetrable fortress of information on your desk, you will probably find Evernote too concise for you. Or if you already use another piece of software for writing with built in note taking options (such as Scrivener, mentioned in last week’s article), you may find Evernote unnecessary or redundant.

But if you are a writer who spends a lot of prep time and enjoys taking multi-media notes, Evernote is the tool for you.

Continue Reading »

Writing Toolbox: Scrivener


Scrivener is a writing focused tool developed by Literature & Latte. One may question the usefulness of having a dedicated writing tool when Microsoft Word is a perfectly serviceable word processor and features all the layout and design tools you’ll need to prepare your manuscript for publishing.

What Scrivener offers is the power of focus. Word is a diverse tool with many applications. Scrivener is a tool just for writing.

The features Scrivener offers help writers gather information into easy to access locations, and refer to information as needed during the writing process. Then it’s all about word processing.

The Basics

Scrivener is primarily a word processing tool. Sit down, limber up your fingers, and let the words pour out. That’s the primary function and use, and after only a short time using the tool, you’ll realize why Scrivener excels at this. Their word processing tool provides some options for layout, fonts, sizing, and spacing, but you’ll get the most out of Scrivener when you ignore most of that and just write. If you have a font, size, and spacing your prefer, you can easily build a template and start from there, so that each section you add will use your preset options.

I personally like to set my template to 6 x 9 and use Garamond 12 point to see an approximation of how the paragraphs will look in a print ready size. If you’re more accustom to the standard 8.5 x 11 (MS Word and Scrivener default to this size) you can always keep that sizing too. Remember, the major formatting and layout work will be done later, so don’t get hung up with settings at this point. Scrivener’s strength is in writing and word processing, with little interest in the final formatting choices.

The writing tool itself is simple and elegant. The word count runs on the bottom, and if you’re goal oriented like I am, you can set a word count target and the tool will update every few seconds so you can track your progress. I aim for 800 words a day, so when I sit down to write, I set myself a goal and Scrivener tracks my progression so I know how I’m doing and when I’ve exceeded my total. You can also set an overall target and see your progress toward completing the manuscript word count goal.

A surprisingly helpful and seemingly small feature is the “Typewriter View.” When this option is selected, the cursor and line of text you’re typing re-position to the middle of the screen when you type. Unlike MS Word’s word processor, which shifts down the page as you type and jumps to the next once the the page is full, Scrivener doesn’t care about pages as you write, and with the Typewriter View the balance of text and white space on the screen is maintained as you work. It may seem like a little thing, probably not even important enough to mention, but once you’ve used it, you’ll see how helpful it is to keep your eyes on the same level while typing. Not only did the Typewriter View help with focus while I write, it also left me feeling less strain on my eyes after prolonged writing adventures.

Scrivener is all about these little benefits to the writer. The developers clearly had writing as a focus when they created this software, and it shows in the simple tools and little elements designed specifically to enable and engage the writing process, with very little emphasis on design and layout.

Powerful Organization

Scrivener brings with it one more incredibly compelling reason to use it as your primary word processor. Organization.

Before I encountered Scrivener, I would create a file folder on my desktop, then generate a multitude of Word files and save them in this folder. This included at least one file for the main body of the work, an outline, a timeline with my word count goals, and at least four files for research. Often times the number of individual research files would exceed twenty. For a non-fiction piece, this would compromise source material, reading material, reference links, and a file with quotes copied in and sourced so I could easily use them in the body when the time came. For fiction, I would create a character worksheet for every main character, a short list of info for secondary characters, research about location(s) based on the setting of the story, and some number of theme or character trait research documents. Is my protagonist an aspiring athlete? Then I need a research page with details about that lifestyle, the work out routine, the income, the means an amateur converts to pro, etc..

By the time I finished a piece, the folder for that manuscript would be massive and often times needlessly confusing.

Scrivener does away with this. When you work in Scrivener, you’re not writing a single file, you’re working within a project. They call the project a “binder” and envisioning it this way can help clarify how it works. Your project is essentially a three-ring binder, and you’ve got dividers and labeled sections, with the various pieces stored in the correct locations. The goal here is ease of use.

The binder is managed with a column on the left, and provides nested style lists with all your content, easily organized into folders. Everything here can be customized. Design folders to suit your needs. Create templates to organize your research into coherent and easily referenced files. Add images, video, audio, and text files so you can include any and all material you think may be useful in writing your manuscript.

Once you begin to learn the ins and outs of Scrivener, you’ll find that creating custom folders and templates helps to keep you background work highly organized and accessible. Writing a scene with a secondary character you thought up a month ago? Forgot how you imagined them appearing? No worries, just expand the Character folder, click on the Character Sketch template you used when you dreamed this character up, and reference the information. Then click back to the scene you were writing and carry on!

Having important and useful information that close to hand not only saves time and gets you back to writing more quickly, but it also fosters good research and crafting habits. Your work will benefit from consistency in the earlier drafts, aiding in the editing process later.

Scrivener offers one more cool way to organize and prepare your writing. It’s called the “corkboard” and it allows authors to organize different pieces within the binder, to begin piecing together the manuscript. The most useful feature of the corkboard is the ability to add a synopsis to each element. You can write a short description or piece of reminder text for each scene or section, then organize with the corkboard to your liking. Need to move a character’s first scene to an earlier spot in the manuscript? No problem, just drag and drop the scene to the right spot on the board and the order is updated!

Cloud Power

The last key feature of Scrivener we’ll look at today is the Cloud storage design. All files for Scrivener use a unique file type and store as a folder through Dropbox. It can take a few minutes to setup and get used to accessing and saving files this way, but once you learn the process, you’ll have the protection of knowing your documents are safely stored online. No longer will you need to fear file loss because of a computer crash or any other technical difficulty.

Scrivener syncs with Dropbox automatically, and will default to backing up your project five times. This means the most recent version, plus the four previous versions, are all saved to your Dropbox for you. On top of that, you can keep your current version saved, and Scrivener will always open the most recently updated file when you load the program. And you can do this across platforms. That means I can work on my Windows machine, save the binder to Dropbox, and if I think of something I want to note or I need to look up a piece of information, I can open Scrivener on my iPhone and see the same synced version.

Cloud storage provides reliability and ease of access, while ensuring the security of your files. Yes, of course you can upload your files from any word processor to Dropbox or another Cloud storage tool, but Scrivener requires it, and in doing so makes it that much more likely that your work will consistently updated and retained.

The Next Step

Alright, you’ve got your manuscript written, and you’re ready to send it to an editor or begin formatting for print. Scrivener’s role in your writing process is likely at an end.

Once you’ve prepared the manuscript, you’ll need to compile it into a single file, and select the file type to export. This, like most features of Scrivener, is relatively easy and painless. The “Compile” command provides some options about formatting and file type, but I find it easiest to export as a basic .DOCX file and work in MS Word to perform the layout and design.

It is worth noting Scrivener can export EPUB files. You can find the instructions for EPUB export, along with a wide range of tutorials, on this page.

 

And that’s Scrivener – a tool for writers to help them write. It is a potent and simple program that will aid in productivity and streamline the research and organization phase. I encourage any serious writers, particularly those with procrastination issues like I have, to give Scrivener a try. They offer free trials on their website, so you can experiment a little before you make up your mind.

Next week we’ll conclude the Writer’s Toolbox series with a look at Evernote, a cool application that can help keep your writing (and your life) organized and on track.

Opening the Writing Toolbox

We’ve come a long way from pen and paper. A long way. In fact, with modern technology we have more options for writing than any one person can easily process. With this excess of choice, it’s wise to take some time to consider the different tools available to you and make informed decisions about how to spend your writing budget.

Today, we’ll look over a few of the ‘standards’ in terms of writing software.

Microsoft Word

MS Word is one of the most accepted and versatile writing tools in the world. Despite Word’s perfectly adequate word processing, it is the tool you’ll want primarily after you’ve written. Word, at its core, is a formatting and layout tool.

Because the word processing is relatively easy, many writers will use Word exclusively as their writing tool. And for most this will be just fine. But for some, the tools and style controls will be cumbersome, and the sheer volume of options overwhelming. For the writer who demands a simple, versatile writing tool focused on just getting the text typed up, Word may be too much.

The best way to use Microsoft Word is as an editing and design tool. You can take a completed manuscript and give it the final touches it needs prior to publishing, as well as export a PDF in a variety of formats to accommodate your printing needs.

It is also worth noting that Word, as part of the Microsoft Office Suite, is one of the more expensive writing tools on the market. Thanks to all the editing and design tools built in, along with the utility of the entire Office Suite, Microsoft’s product is important for any serious writer, and is generally considered the standard for word processing tools.

Libre Office

A free, what you see is what you get, Microsoft Office replacement. Libre Office offers much the same functionality as Microsoft. For those who want the editing and design power of Word without the price tag, you’ll get that same functionality with Libre Office. The controls and navigation will differ, so a user familiar with MS Word may be put off by the learning curve when using Libre Office’s word processor. If you’re very comfortable with Word, the transition to Libre Office may be jarring. But as a completely free to use, open source alternative, Libre Office is a powerful tool.

Another difference to note is that Libre, being free and open source, doesn’t have any dedicated support in the way MS Word or other commercial software d0es. If a problem arises, you’ll have a fairly thorough wiki page and a community forum to rely on, but nothing more.

Scrivener

While Microsoft and Libre Office offer tools for writing alongside layout and design, Scrivener is a writing focused tool with a multitude of functions to assist in the creation process. This includes storyboard layout, utilizing a ‘Binder’ to contain all elements in one easily navigable location. Focused Mode puts all other tabs and programs in the background, allowing you to avoid distraction while writing.

Scrivener is a complete writing tool, though it should not be relied upon for formatting or layout details. Many common features (page sizing, margins, font control) are present, and allow you to play with some of the layout, but the real power of Scrivener is in organizing your ideas and generating the initial content. The utility Scrivener offers, coupled with the clean, no nonsense writer will appeal to writers of all sorts.

As an added benefit, the software stores your files through a Dropbox link, meaning you can work on your content across multiple machines, and even with an iOS app on your iPhone or iPad. What Scrivener lacks in versatility, it makes up for in utility.

Sigil

Sigil is a unique program designed specifically for working with EPUB files. It is also a fully functioning word processor and if you plan to release your book primarily as an EPUB, the option is there to work solely in Sigil.

For most writers, I would not recommend using Sigil as your Word Processor. The tool will be too foreign, and the output can only be an EPUB file, so working in Sigil alone will not produce anything appropriate for print ready use.

But, for a more advanced user interested in fine tuning a book for EPUB use, Sigil is a powerful, easy to use tool with all the options you’ll need to create a high quality EPUB. Unfortunately, Sigil does not have an option to import a text file from other word processing tools like Word or Libre Office, but text can be copied into Sigil. More often than not, users will find Sigil most beneficial for editing and fine tuning an existing EPUB file.

If you are planning to only create an ebook (no print files necessary), you might find Sigil a nice tool for writing and editing, as the simplified text tools will limit you to only the options an EPUB can support. And once you’ve completed your ebook, Sigil can be used to generate the necessary metadata and table of contents for your work.

Evernote

Evernote is a handy note-taking and organizational tool. You probably won’t be composing a complete piece within Evernote, but you can easily write on the go and export to standard file types. You’ll have the security of cloud storage, so your Evernote files will be secure and accessible.

The real power of Evernote is in its versatility. If you are already an Evernote user, you’ll know how handy it can be to have an App capable of organizing your calendar, holding your notes, reminding you to go to the grocery store after work, and so much more. Evernote is a one stop, cross platform, multi-purpose productivity tool.

With an array of features, Evernote is really a very powerful tool to have available. But it is not the best when it comes to being a useful writing program. Yes, it’s helpful for catching notes on the run (using mobile) and syncing to your devices. Organizing and writing up anything more than a few hundreds words is going to be tedious, and probably beyond the purpose of Evernote. Same thing goes for formatting. Evernote is a not a formatting tool.

The bottom line? Evernote is a great tool for note taking and organizing, but not ideal for layout or story boarding.

FocusWriter

FocusWriter is less well known than the other software we looked at today, but it boasts a couple of useful and unique features worth mentioning. FocusWriter, like Scrivener, stores your files in the cloud, allowing for easy cross platform use and the security of knowing your files are safe. FocusWriter also features a focus mode like Scrivener, allowing you to push all other functions on your device to the background and focus on just writing.

The biggest upside of FocusWriter is that it is a free text editor and word processor. You can download the tool and begin writing immediately without paying a cent. Formatting and design will need to be handled elsewhere, but for a cost effective, clean, and efficient first draft tool, FocusWriter is well worth a look.


These are just a handful of the more commonly used word processing tools out there. For a more in depth look at some of these programs, check out our complete series:

Writer’s Toolbox: Microsoft Word

Writer’s Toolbox: Scrivener

Writer’s Toolbox: Evernote

 

 

Pre-Publishing Checklist

Writing a book is hard work. We appreciate just how challenging and time consuming it is to outline, draft, revise, redraft, edit, proof, finalize, and in the end produce a manuscript ready for publication.

And once you’ve finally gotten to that stage, an entirely new set of tasks confront you.

The file will need to be formatted to conform with layout requirements. The basic rule for self-publishing is to layout your book as a PDF, with all front matter and back matter included. There’s a lot of work that goes into laying out your manuscript, like selecting fonts, spacing, inserting page numbering, setting pages to appearing in the correct location (left or right side pages), and orienting all text in the right locations on the page. Most of these elements come down to your personal desires. But there are a few things you absolutely have to do if you want to be sure your book will look professional when you print the physical copies.

Use this checklist to make sure you’ve hit all the critical points for your file prior to uploading:

Print Books:

  • If you create a PDF file for uploading, all fonts must be printable and embedded
  • Pages are sized to match the Book size and are in the same orientation (portrait or landscape)
  • Front matter (Title Page, Copyright, Acknowledgment, Table of Contents, etc.) included in file
  • Images sized properly and inserted at 300dpi resolution
  • Margins, header/footer, and gutter are properly set (min 0.5”, 0.5”, 0.3” mirrored)

Once you have your print book prepped and ready, you can easily take the source file and make an ebook. The first thing you’ll want to do is to open the file in Microsoft Word (or your text editing software of choice) and wipe all that formatting you added for printing. All of it can go.

With the file cleared of all formatting, use this checklist to reformat and prepare your file for ebook conversion.

Ebook:

  • Word Files: Remove headers/footer/page numbering
  • Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, are used to indicate titles, chapters, and sub sections.
    • Heading 1 is used for Title (which must appear on the first line of the first page)
    • All heading styles are used sequentially (1, 2. 3) in the document
  • All other text is in Normal Style
  • Automatic formatting turned off, and all automatically created elements removed or added manually (Such as lists or numbering)
  • Images sized approximately 500 x 500 pixels, at 72dpi resolution, and inserted “in line”
  • No text boxes or Borders.

These checklists are not the absolute and final list of things that have to be reviewed when making a book. A number of things can come into play based on the specifics of your project. The best thing to do is to review your files carefully once you’ve uploaded and converted. Then, once you complete publishing, order a copy to review yourself and give it a final look over.

We promise, the first time might seem like an insurmountable job, but with each book you publish, the process gets easier and more intuitive. As always, our support team is ready to help if you run into any problems you can’t overcome on your own.

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)