Sunday, January 20, 2013

Using Scrivener to Produce Your Own eBooks?

Where to begin. No, I have not actually tried Scrivener yet but I am going to. In my search to cut costs, which for me is usually a painful learning experience that costs me money, I stumbled upon ebooks (Kindle books actually) touting the virtues of Scrivener and using it to create your own ebook.

I have been suckered into buying numerous books claiming to be able to teach me how to convert my Word document into a nice looking Kindle book with great ease. The results of these purchases is the authors made some money off me, I became more confused than before about the entire Kindle/ePub conversion process than before and the final product was unsellable.

The closest thing to success I have been able to find has been to use iPages to create ePub versions for Nook, then convert the ePub to a mobi. file for Kindle. The results were OK for books I sell for .99 or 2.99 but I would never charge more for these books. The other challenge is the niche I write for requires extensive use of diagrams created by a specific software and inserted into the body of the book.

This is absolutely no problem for my POD paperback editions, the process is easy and the final result looks fine in actual print.

The problem is converting that type of interior to an ebook. Every approach I have haphazardly tried has resulted in disaster.

So if the book really needs to be converted to Kindle and ePub, I use eBook Architects for the conversion. For one price I receive files for both the Kindle and Nook, everything works like it should and I have the backing of eBook Architects' guarantee. While I definitely get what I pay for, it is not inexpensive.

CreateSpace provides a Kindle conversion service for books printed using their POD service. It is less expensive that eBook Architects but only provides a Kindle file and my experience has been books with a more complicated format, require a functioning table of contents or have hyperlinks inserted, can have issues with the finished Kindle file. CreateSpace will honor their warranty and redo the file, but with one book I finally had to pay eBook Architects to convert the file.

After it has been all said and done, I still find myself looking for a way to convert some of my own books to Kindle and ePub that will produce an acceptable end result and the only investment I have is my time.

So once again I purchased a pair of Kindle books about using Scrivener to convert your finished book to an ebook. Promising myself to give each book a quick scan and get a refund if the books were as useful to me as the others I had paid for and kept, I sat down to read How to Format Your Novel for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords and CreateSpace in One Afternoon (for Mac) by Ed Ditto and Beautiful eBooks with Scrivener by N.R. Wick.

I purchased Ed Ditto's book first and in the opening pages was introduced to the fact there existed a software for authors to write their books called Scrivener. Mr. Ditto stated I could download a free trial of the complete software for 30 days. Interestingly enough, the 30 days is not 30 calendar days, but 30 days of actual use. If you only use the software one day a week, your 30 day trial will last for 30 weeks!

As I read through How to Format... it became quickly evident this book makes no attempt to show me tricks of how to deal with Word, understand coding, HTML or how the conversion process works. Granted, I was skimming through so there may be some of that type of information included.

What this book does describe is how to use Scrivener. Included are numerous screen capture photos of the software, its features, and which function to actually click on for a specific task! Wow! Just what a non-techie like me needs, step-by-step written instructions combined with actual photos of how the screen will actually appear during the process!

Scrivener apparently has been designed to do the actual converting once you get everything uploaded in the correct manner. Mr. Ditto states quite clearly you need to check the finished version and you will find mistakes - usually typos, grammar, etc. 

Intrigued I sprang for the second book Beautiful eBooks with Scrivener. More of the same in a different writing style. Step by step instructions with screen shots of the actual step involved.

An actual 30 days of use of the non-stripped down version for free before purchasing. Two guidebooks I can actually understand. 

Well, I am either a sucker or hopelessly optimistic, but I am about a week away from finishing a book that I would like to make available as a Kindle version in addition to the POD edition. I will download my free trial version of Scrivener and give it my best shot.

I doubt everything will be as easy to use as the authors describe, if for no other reason than I manage to make things more difficult than they need to be.

Hopefully, the end result will be a nice finished ebook. For what's worth, the two books I mentioned were done in Scrivener. They looked OK on my small Kindle, great on my new HD Kindle which is larger and great on my Kindle Ap on my Mac. The larger the screen, the better the result of the conversion.

Of particular importance to me was the appearance of the graphics in these two books as my books are so graphic intensive.

For better or worse, I will share my experiences with Scrivener in a future post.