Articles tagged "publishing"

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 you 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.

Writing Toolbox: Microsoft Word

Microsoft Office is a widely-used tool for creation, design, editing, and formatting. And Microsoft Word in particular is powerful, and being the most common word processor on the market, it is the software the majority of writers will employ. At least at some point during the writing and editing process.

MS Word is a hefty tool, and has a variety of uses for authors, from word processing, to format, to layout, to review and editing. Some authors even use Word to layout their book’s cover! With the huge variety of applications Word has, we’ll focus today on how to best use Word as a self-publishing author, the benefits and challenges of Word, and some important publishing specific tips.

To begin with, the basics. If you are completely new to Word, I encourage you to use Microsoft’s vast support literature to learn about the software. With a rudimentary understanding the tool, you can create a manuscript entirely from scratch, and prep that same file for publishing.

The first phase (writing the manuscript) is the area Word struggles the most. It’s easy to get sidetracked in layout, or to tinker with design, rather than focusing on the project. And with no stripped down focus mode, the risk of distraction is ever present. [Note – Microsoft is introducing a Focus View, and some may already have access to it, depending on their version and updates]

Where Word really shines is after you’ve written the content.

First, you’ll be editing and proofing the book. Word has a function called ‘Track Changes’ under the Review menu.

Track Changes creates a column on the right side of the document, listing any edits performed. This includes deleting or adding text, updating any existing text, new formatting, and provides the opportunity for in document notation. The notes (called ‘Comments’) allow you and your editors/proofreaders to make changes and have a conversation within the document, without making anything permanent. The file will be a true living document, and the flow of ideas can run back and forth until you settle on phrasing, organization, and other elements of the manuscripts design. If you like a change, or have acted on a comment, they can be ‘Accepted’ to remove them from the running list of Track Changes and keep the interface nice and clean.

Once you’ve got the editing done and you’re happy with the text, you’ll move on to the layout and design of the pages. This is the second piece of MS Word that brings a great deal of control and flexibility to your document.

The layout and design options are so vast, we don’t have the time to go over all of them. But really, I could write a book about all the ways you can utilize MS Word to customize and tweak your manuscript. For now, we’ll focus on a couple of necessities for printing.

The first being page size. Your file needs to be sized to match your book size. Use the ‘Layout’ menu in Word to set the page size for the entire document. I recommend doing a Select All (Command/Control + A) prior to resizing. It’s key to note that the standard US Trade size 6 x 9 is not built into Word’s page size presets, so you’ll need to add it as a custom size.

The second piece to be closely aware of are the margins. Word can automatically build in a Gutter margin for you, and align this to the correct side of the page. These controls live under the ‘Layout’ menu. MS Word has a great help section about how to set up and manage Margins.

Along with the critical layout and design tools, Word can be used to manipulate the content on the page. Breaks (both Page and Section) give you control over the positioning of content, and images can be placed in line with text, behind text, or nested with the text through Word’s ‘Picture’ menu.

Here’s a quick list of the elements most relevant to self-publishing you should familiarize yourself with:

  • Page Size
  • Margins/Gutter
  • Styles
  • Font and Line Spacing
  • Header/Footer Control
  • Breaks (Page and Section)
  • Page Numbering and Table of Contents
  • Inserting and Positioning Images

Using the variety of tools within Word, you can control the line spacing, fonts, sizing, space between paragraphs, and so much more!

 

Share Your Sound

Independent publishing is so easy to do, and the costs are so low, that a wide variety of artists and professionals can take advantage of Lulu’s free publishing tools online. All manner of individuals and groups you might not think of as “authors” have found uses for Lulu’s publishing tools.

For example, musicians. One does not commonly associate musicians with publishers. Self-publishing can help musicians monetize their work in alternative forms, to offer products for their fans, and to share their musical creations.

Create custom songbooks for your fans. Publish tabs, chords, sheet music, lyrics, and more. Expand your audience by reaching a new group of potential listeners, earn extra income at the best rate in the publishing industry, and offer your fans more of what they want.

Visit publishmymusic.lulu.com to learn more!

 

Bookend Your Book: Front Matter and Back Matter

Books consist of many components, all of them important when creating a full, complete, and professional work. One of these components that often causes self-published authors pause is the Front Matter and Back Matter.

While these components are in two separate locations in the book (the front and the back), they serve essentially the same purpose: they bookend you content, propping it up with important information that your reader may not need, but should have available. Allow me to elaborate.

Front Matter

The front matter is everything on the pages leading up to the actual content. This will include title pages, copyright, dedication, acknowledgments, and a table of contents. Now this is self-publishing, so none of this content is mandatory (except the copyright page for a book in distribution) but it is best practices to hold to some publishing industry standards.

A common layout for front matter pages might look like this:

  1. Half title
  2. Blank
  3. Full title
  4. Copyright
  5. Dedication (Optional)
  6. Also by {{Author Name}}
  7. Acknowledgments (Optional)
  8. Blank
  9. Table of Contents

From here, you’ll start your contents, remembering that odd pages appear on the right, so you may have to insert a blank page to locate your first contents page on the correct side of the book. Again, how you organize and utilize all of the front matter materials is up to you. The above example is a common layout and one many authors use. You may need to edit to suit your specific needs. For example, some authors prefer to add the Acknowledgments to the back matter.

Its also common to use a different font or a slightly smaller font for the front matter. This serves as a visual clue for readers, so they’ll know when the book’s contents begin.

Back Matter

The back matter should be after the contents end. This material serves to prompt your reader to continue engaging with you and your work. The back matter consists of the following pieces:

  • Acknowledgments (Optional)
  • About the Author
  • Advertising for back list or upcoming titles
  • Sample from a forthcoming title
  • Connections to your social media, author website, and Newsletter

You can be creative with your back matter more so than your front matter. The goal is to prompt readers to continue to engage, so a call to connect is a very good idea. Using images here can be very effective too. Include an image with your about the author page. Show an image of your forthcoming title’s cover. Even if you’re printing in black & white, having an image will catch your reader’s eye. If they pause only a moment on the page, they might see your call to connect, like you on Facebook, subscribe to your newsletter or blog, and be that much more likely to buy your next edition.

Remember, there is no strict formula for setting up the front and back matter for you book. These elements bookend your content, the front matter providing specifics related to the content primarily, and the back matter focuses on keeping your reader invested after they’ve consumed the content. Make the most of your book, include high quality front and back matter.

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. Over the next few weeks, we’ll feature a detailed look at these tools every Friday, starting next week with the prolific tool Microsoft Word. Look out for that and more details as we delve into the writer’s toolbox!

 

 

Book Publishing: The Economics of Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is a demanding project to take on. As a writer, you’ve already labored over the words and phrases of your book, researched and studied the ins and outs of writing effectively, developed plots and characters…you’ve done a lot of work! Now to get the manuscript published, you’ve got to take on even more roles, notably laying out the book, designing a cover, ensuring the content is error free, actually publishing, establishing an ISBN, claiming a copyright, distributing…AND THEN you’re just at the beginning of the sales portion of your self-publishing journey.

Once the book is finally done and published, you’re new task is pushing your book, establishing contacts, leads, engaging readers through book signings, and selling both online and by hand. Publishing itself may seem easy at this point. Profitably publishing, now that is a challenge.

You might stop at this point and think “why bother?” Why go the self-publishing route? Why take the time, energy, and money to do all the work yourself (or hire designers/editors to assist you) when you could pitch the book to traditional publishers, hand the book over to them, claim a nice advance, and sit back while they do the heavy lifting?

There’s one really good reason to go the self-publishing route. And what better way to convey that reason than an infographic!

That’s a lot of information, I know. Let’s break down two of the most important points:

1) Revenue – Self-Published authors earn 80% of their revenue for each sale with Lulu. In the above example, selling 3,000 copies resulted in four times the revenue earned! Earning power and potential is one of two differences that will lure a writer to self-publish (the other being editorial control). When you sell your work, you want it to truly me your work and you want to earn what you deserve. We agree, and by putting the author in the driver’s seat, we can direct substantially more revenue to the author.

2) Sales by Publisher – This is interesting enough to be worth looking again at the specific segment of the inforgraphic. Look at those Yellow portions. That’s the piece of the book selling market (ebook and print) including just Indie and Single Author publishing. 41% of ebooks, and 27% of Amazon print bestsellers. Think on that a moment. An idea (self-publishing) that is only fifteen years old has already taken over more than a quarter of the biggest bookseller in the world. And that doesn’t even include small and medium sized publishers.

 

Traditional publishing is out there. And if you can get your book picked up by a publisher, it might be right for you. But if you’re looking to make the most from each sale, to retain control over your work, and to have the freedom to publish just the way you want, Lulu is the only real option. The book is yours! You wrote it, so you should see the profits.

If you need some more information to get started publishing, check out the Lulu Toolkit!

Selling Your Book – Synopsis

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Synopsis – a brief summary or general survey of something.

Might seem like a simple thing. You wrote an entire book! Now all you have to do is write summary of said book.  Should be no problem, right?

Well, not exactly.

You see, the synopsis is more than just a general summary or description of the book. It’s also a pitch for the book. Be aware too, that in the world of traditional publishing, the synopsis is a bit different than for self-publishing. When you’re pushing your manuscript out to traditional publishers or agents, they will likely ask for a synopsis following a specific format, with a specific word count to summarize your book. In self-publishing, you’ll be using the synopsis in a different way; primarily as a guide for the description and back cover text, or as that text itself.

Think of your synopsis in the same way you think about your cover. Its the first piece of text your potential reader is likely to read. This is (after looking over the cover) the hook that will make your potential reader either buy this book, or keep browsing.

The element that is unchanged is the purpose: your synopsis is meant to sell your book.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a high quality cover, and we’ll talk more about that in a future post (and we have talked about it in past posts as well).  Today is just synopsis.

Accepting that the synopsis is a critical piece of marketing material for your book, how should you go about writing one that will hook readers, convey the message of your book, and only take up 400-500 words (about one printed page) of text?

Here’s a quick list to help you get the most out of your synopsis:

  1. Set up the premise, define the plot, and introduce your protagonist. This may not be as critical for a work of non-fiction, but for the fiction author, you’ll need to clearly define for your would-be reader the plot and the hero. Now, this does not mean telling us every precise detail about the story, nor does it mean painting an elaborate picture with words so we can visualize the main character. Brevity needs to be balanced with concision. Tell your reader enough to spark their interest, to make them curious enough to read more.
    For non-fiction, this is most often expressed in terms of the premise. You may not have a character (though if you do, be sure to let your reader know about them), so you’ll focus instead on the purpose of the book. Is this a field guide to bird watching? Why is it more relevant or useful than other, similar works? Or what specific elements does it add that other books do not?
  2. Clear, concise language. It is critical that your synopsis be free of any spelling errors. A spelling error or grammar mistake in the body of the book can be accepted. A reader expects a mistake here and there. But not in the synopsis. This piece of text is how your reader will decide to pay money for your book, so you need to put your absolutely best foot forward. You want your reader to quickly see that your book is worth read, and to regard you as the professional you are.
  3. Keep it focused! Your synopsis is going to be short. When writing for an agent or publisher, you can get away with 800 words, possibly even more. But self-publishing is a fast paced world, and you need to get the maximum impact with the minimum number of words. Hook your reader with the key elements of the plot, weave in introductions to your main characters, give us a hint or two about the conflicts, and do it all with a sense of urgency.
    The same advice applies to non-fiction works. Outline the premise or argument you’ll be making, give us enough details to make the reader want to know more, and be absolutely sure you give us a good reason to read your book over another that may address the same concerns or issues.
  4. Perspective. The general consensus is that the synopsis should be written in an active voice. Use present tense and third person point of view, even if the novel utilizes first person. Remember that the synopsis is a tool for drawing in readers. While the story might hinge on the inner workings of your protagonist, the synopsis is a detached overview of sorts, and will function most provocatively when the reader is at a remove.

Lastly, realize that there is no definitely correct formula for writing a synopsis (or anything for that matter!). The above points may help create a synopsis in line with the general market. Use this advice to help create a marketable blurb, to entice and excite your readers!

 

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