Tag Archives: Scrivener

Print-on-Demand Layout: Is this the answer?

So as you may have noticed, I’ve been thrashing around trying to find something that will allow me to create e-books and plain-vanilla print-on-demand layouts with a minimum of technological whizz-bangerie.

Scrivener, we’re told, will convert your golden words to .mobi, ePub, and various other electronic formats. Unclear, though, whether you can use it to do hard-copy page layout. And the learning curve: steep.

InDesign: Well, let me put it this way. I’ve taken two formal courses in InDesign and still can’t figure out how to use it. It is way, way, way over the English-major head. And, btw, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

A reader here kindly suggested PressBooks.com. I checked that out. Brought to us by the folks who bring us beloved WordPress, it uses a WP-like platform to allow you to generate book-like things for print and electronic publication. On close inspection, it has some serious limitations. One is that they want you to have your author page on their site. Another: unless you cough up a chunk of dough, your “book” contains a honking big ad, plus their watermark appears every few pages.


Spent yesterday evening crawling around the Internet searching for some sort of program that would let me do my own e-books (the FireRider serialization is going to generate about 20 books in quick succession; the diet/cookbook is still sitting there waiting to be published, and the Old New Bad Novel will probably present us with 12 or 14 serial bookoids). And lo! What should I stumble upon but the latest enterprise mounted by Joel Friedlander, the dean of self-publishing.

What the guy has come up with is the soul of simplicity: professionally designed Word templates suitable for building camera-ready PDFs and Kindle-ready electronic files.

Okay, before you fall on the floor laughing, yes, it is true that Word a layout program does not make. MS Word (or Wyrd, for those of us who have come to know and loathe its weirdnesses) is a word processing program. Its fonts are not up to the job of producing high-end, fancy publications. It lacks the versatility of InDesign or Quark. There are things it just flat can’t do.

All those things are true.

But consider: most self-published books don’t need InDesign-level power. Most readers can’t tell the difference between an OK font and a great font. And if you’re not doing a lot of swell graphics, all you really need is something into which to pour copy, maybe a few tables, and some catchy heads and subheads.

Something with the correct margins for the correct trim size. Something designed by someone who knows what a gutter is supposed to look like. Something with a nice running header. Something that will break pages so chapters start on recto pages. Every time. Something, in short, built by someone with a modicum of design taste who understands what you need. And what you don’t need.

For that purpose, Word suffices.

Friedlander has selected a variety of fonts that work pretty well in the book-printing environment. Are they perfect? Well…no. You might be able to do a little kerning here and there to pull up a loose line, but by and large, that’s beyond the average writer’s ken and doesn’t do that much good, anyway.

Artistic perfection, however, is probably unnecessary for the genre novels and pieces of casual informative nonfiction most of us are putting out. Readers who find Kindle a desirable platform are not the kind of people who spend a lot of time caressing paperbacks and admiring the visual effect of the type. That’s not what they’re reading for.

These templates of Friedlander’s look nice. The margins are set up to accommodate whatever trim size you choose, of several possibilities. They guide you through the steps of setting up your front matter and back matter. And they use styles to build consistency throughout the document.

They’re easy, they’re efficient, the program is familiar…and the price is right. For $37, I got a template with a design that looks like it was made for Slave Labor. That’s far less than it would cost to have my designer lay out the book for print.

If it works, bully for me. If not, forty bucks is not going to put me in the poorhouse.

You can take just about any Word file and present it to Kindle for e-book conversion. Most or maybe all of Friedlander’s templates can be used for that purpose. He has several, though, that are specifically designed to let you prepare e-book and camera-ready copy in one swell foop, saving you a lot of time.

Since Slave Labor is my sandbox project — something I put on Amazon for the express purpose of learning how the whole Amazon enterprise works — I’m going to use it to try laying out a PoD version of the book.

And if it does work? It’s on to FireRider, at last!


Puh-leeze, Reality: Out of my fantasy life!

What an unholy day!

Dropbox_logo_(September_2013).svgFor the past week or ten days, “Download Scrivener & figure out how to use it” has been at the top of the to-do list. And day after day after day, one quotidian thing after another has soaked up the hours.

Some of the were very nice quotidian things — frolicking with my friends, spending far more dollars than anyone in their right mind could afford — and others were survival tasks — shopping and cooking and cleaning and yard care and dog care and car care and student care and all that. But today, I thought, was the day.

Five a.m.: up and at ’em!

From: Associate Editor
Sent: Saturday, 11:59 p.m.
To: Editor
Subject: CLS Part I (Revisited) and Part II

Weird! I don’t see the DropBox folder. It [a new set of edits on an article I just returned to the client] was just minor formatting stuff. You probably caught it and if not I can fix it when the author returns the next version.

Uhm…minor formatting stuff? Uhhhmmmm…. Don’t see the Dropbox folder?



Call up DropBox. Yeah…the folder I uploaded is there. Why can’t she see it? Why, why, why…?

Explore around.

5:30 a.m.: Discover Drop-freaking-Box “is not running?”

Not. Running. NOT? RUNNING?

6:00 a.m.: “DropBox is not running” turns out to be a pretty common issue. There’s a fix: it’s complicated as hell and requires you to know how to write code for the Mac.

6:30 a.m.: Maybe the free space is about full. I’ve been using DB like a handy-dandy all-purpose hard drive. Haven’t backed up for a long time. And it’s kind of a mess. I need to clean this up and then figure out how to get the copy to the client and the kid but while we’re at it this means she hasn’t gotten any of the other stuff I’ve thought I was uploading to her.

Delete junk files. Move old stuff to “Documents” on Mac hard drive. Organize surviving files. Copy to flashdrives. Copy to hard disk. Clone to other computer’s hard disk. Back up to Time Machine.

Do battle with DropBox. Try a work-around that looks like a possibility and demands null coding skill. Takes for effing-ever. Doesn’t work.

Eventually, it develops that shutting down the computer and rebooting causes both terminals to reconnect with DropBox. Looks like the system is working.

E-mail the client and the side-kick to let them know all is well. Five minutes later, DropBox goes down again.

Nine and a half hours later, I got up from the computer. DB was still half-functional, the dogs hadn’t been walked, the pool needed to be cleaned, the duck was taunting the dogs, and I hadn’t had a thing to eat.

Scrivener was (once again) not downloaded. Nothing (once again) was learned about about how it works. Nary a document was loaded into this worthy program. Not a line was formatted for Kindle.

My career as a soft-core pornographer is doomed. {sigh}

Returned to the office after walking the dogs. An e-mail from “Mom” of Maybe Someone Should Write That Down awaited. A “like: from a Writers P&S post with a machine-generated “check out this post”recommend. And…well..

By golly! Check out this post!

Mom reports on a WordPress product called Pressbooks.com: This thing doesn’t just create e-book formats. It also does hard-copy layouts! The thing has got layout templates — some of them very nice templates.

It looks like you can go straight to the chore at hand — formatting something that’s already written, edited, and ready to go — rather than having to go through the process of learning how to learn Scrivener’s whole “writing” and organizing program and then figuring out how to export something written in all new code into .mobi et alii, and then hire someone to do the print-on-demand layout. Or figure out how to do that myself, too.

This has the look of a piece of cake. Maybe even a coconut cream pie!