One of the biggest challenges that any self-published author faces is getting their eBook to format correctly. As someone who has published over 30 books I’ll be the first to tell you what a pain formatting can be.
Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. I used to write my eBooks on Open Office but fixing all of the conversion mistakes would take almost as long as writing the actual book. Links would go nowhere, text would get indented weirdly, and everything would become a jumbled mess.
There’s nothing worse than writing out a book, uploading it to Amazon, and then seeing that it looks like trash. The worst part was saving and rewriting files. It was mundane and I had to make all my fixes through trail and error. Often when one thing got corrected another would break.
Towards the middle of May I decided to treat myself to a little gift. I purchased Scrivener (link). I’d heard good things about the program, but was still a little skeptic. However, once I tried Scrivener I immediately became a fan. Right off the bat, everything I wrote would format correctly and cut back on my editing time.
(What OpenOffice to Kindle looks like, note the weird indent)
(What Scrivener to Kindle looks like)
What Is Scrivener?
If you’re writing a book, story, or research paper, you’re going to love Scrivener. Unlike most word processors (i.e. all of them) Scrivener goes beyond just being a glorified type-pad.
Here are just a few of Scrivener’s best features:
- Easy table of contents creation
- Charted progress to hold you accountable for your goals
- One-stop design allows you to import research material, ensuring that you never lose a source
There’s a ton of other stuff that Scrivener does well (don’t even get me started on their thesaurus and dictionary options which have helped spruce up a lot of my work) but these are the big three items I want to discuss. Each one is a huge game changer and will keep you from wasting your time trying to fix things that shouldn’t have been broken in the first place.
How To Make A Table Of Contents In Scrivener
If you’ve ever tried to make an eBook’s table of contents in Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, you’ve probably wanted to punch something. Converting a document to Kindle always seems to break every single link.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? Take a look:
(Table of contents correctly formatted in OpenOffice)
(Same document transferred to Kindle, notice the poor formatting)
In comparison, making a table of contents in Scrivener is easy:
1. Select all of the book sections you want to include
2. Choose “Copy Documents as ToC” from the edit bar
3. Open a new blank text section and paste the selected files inside
4. Enjoy your new and fully functional table of contents
There’s no big hassle and everything converts nicely. This means you don’t have to waste hours trying to figure out why your links won’t work and why they’re all formatted weirdly. It frees up a lot of time.
Using Project Targets Makes Writing Easier
If you want to become a writer you have to write every single day. This doesn’t mean you need to pen 5,000 words or type until your hands bleed, but you should be putting down at least 350 words a day. Why that number? Because 350 words a day, without writing on weekends, is the magic number for writing a novel. If you can produce a measly 350 words Monday through Friday, you’ll have enough material for a book by the end of the year.
Sounds simple, right? Well it is, as long as you hold yourself accountable. Unfortunately most people don’t track their progress and then give up, assuming that they aren’t getting any closer to their goals.
While I’ve never quit at writing, I will admit that I was far less focused before I discovered Scrivener. I’d type a few words and then take a snack break or go goof off. Then I got introduced to Scrivener’s project target tool.
If you want to write a book or pen something of value, the project target system is a great way to stick with your goals. You simply enter your overall goal and then add secondary goal of how much you’d like to write for the day.
This might sound cheesy, but it actually works wonders. I’ve used the system to crank out entire short stories in as little as a day. If you want to be held accountable, or just boost your productivity, Scrivener can help.
(You can track your progress with every session)
Special Bonus: Why Students Love Scrivener
If you read this blog and are in college you’re probably a bright kid. I’m even going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re taking some pretty tough courses. There’s probably a little more research and writing involved in your major than whatever most of your goofball peers are studying. I also know that it’s pretty easy to lose track of sources. I did some academic writing a while back and accidentally closed my browser without copying down all the websites I had quoted. There’s nothing more tedious than having to backtrack and hunt for all your citations.
Scrivener allows you to write, compile research, and correctly format your content without ever having to navigate through difficult menus or memorize complex shortcut keys. You can import whatever you want, giving you quick access to crucial information.
I personally use Scrivener for all my projects, including writing blog posts like this one, because of how effective its research tools are. When I’m working I can import all my sources and outside ideas right into the program, ensuring that I never misplace anything.
(You can import whole webpages so that you never forget a site address)
If you’re going off to school this fall, invest in a copy of Scrivener. It’s surprisingly cheap (less than a night at the bar) and you’ll save countless hours compiling your essays and research reports.
If you want a great writing tool, that clobbers other programs like Microsoft Word and OpenOffice, get your hands on a copy of Scrivener. This program makes book formatting and Kindle conversion a breeze. And it also reduces once complex tasks, like creating a linkable table of contents, to mere calk-walks. On top of all this, the ability to set your own goals and keep all your research material in one spot makes the program well worth its cost. I use it every day and can honestly tell you that it’s saved me countless hours of precious time.
P.S. I’d also highly encourage you to pick up a copy of Scrivener For Dummies (Amazon). It’s a good reference guide and has all kinds of tips and tricks to make sure you get the most out of the software.