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Writing in InDesign is the only sensible choice for writers in the new paradigm of on-demand self-publishing — 5 Comments

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  4. I’m amused when I hear that writers are ‘supposed’ to write their books in Microsoft Word. Word was initially developed for business correspondence and it’s still clumsy for any other purpose, particularly for long documents.

    The professional writers I know tend to have a workflow that may start in a simple text editor, so they can concentrate on words rather than formatting and write on the go. As the book acquires some bulk, they often move into one of the specialized writers apps such as Scrivener, which runs on Macs, PCs and (by the end of the year) iPads. Those apps are designed to make the high-level complexities of writing easier. In Scrivener, for instance, you can tag scenes in a novel by what characters are present, then you can have Scrivener show you only those scenes, so you can see if what that character is doing flows properly and doesn’t have any problems. And if you need to rearrange those scenes, you can do so in an instant–no messy cutting and pasting.

    Word only enters into that workflow if an author is releasing his book through an established publishers. Most of those are a decade or more behind in their workflow and insist that manuscripts be submitted in Word according to some set of specs. And no publisher with any sense of taste publishes a book with Word. They import those Word documents into InDesign or Quark to do the layout.

    More recently, the addition of various ebook formats has made that process more complicated. With Scrivener, you can actually output your book in a Word format that can go to a traditional publisher, into ePub (for Apple and B&N) and in the mobi format for Amazon Kindles. For books without a lot of complex formatting that may be good enough.

    For more complicated formatting and for high-quality self-publishing you need apps like InDesign and Quark, which are specifically designed for laying out complex and often lengthy documents. Until InDesign 6.0, quite a bit of work was involved in reformatting a complex document for different output formats. With 6.0 that changed. The same document can include print versions, as well as various digital versions in portrait and landscape modes.

    And in a feature that I consider utterly marvelous, the content in each can be based on a master document. Find a typo or an error, and fixing it in the master document fixes it in all of them. Unless you’ve had to wrestle with that sort of problem, you don’t know how marvelous that is. With 6.0, Adobe finally positioned itself very effectively as THE way to publish in all formats. David is 100% right there. InDesign (or Quark) belongs in any serious publishing workflow.

    The only fly in the ointment is the dogged insistence at Amazon and Apple of sticking with their own proprietary formats, particularly for the formats that can handle complex documents (Amazon’s KF9 and the one Apple’s iBooks Author creates). Both are, for the most part, just non-standard versions of epub, a hint that both companies know they’ll have to eventually relent and go with epub.

    But until then, author/publishers may experience problems creating complex books for Kindles and iPads. The good news is that Amazon has a special InDesign plug-in that creates Kindle documents straight from InDesign. It just hasn’t been upgraded for ID 6.0 yet and Amazon is not saying when it will. And the even-better news is that InDesign 6.0-exported epub displays quite well on my iPad, with only bits of the formatting being lost. If you know InDesign and don’t want the hassle of learning iBooks Author, which seems a bit quirky, you can bypass it.

    In short, while we’re still in the dreadful ‘interesting times’ when everything is changing and nothing works very efficiently, there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps within the next two years, author/publishers will be able to release attractively done books/ebooks for every outlet with few of the current hassles.

    I just wish digital publishing were more like print publishing. For print, I send two files, one for the cover and one for the interior, to Lightning Source in Tennessee. Within two weeks and without my doing anything, that book is available on almost every online bookstore on the planet and to almost any bookstore. That’s not even remotely true right now with digital publishing. Every major outlet wants me to make a separate contract with them, for me to follow their often nasty rules, and for me to submit that book in their peculiar format. That’s going to have to change for digital publishing to truly take off.

    Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

  5. Great response. You have finally shown me a reason to even consider Scrivener. I do have a couple questions.

    1) KF9. The way you describe it I suspect that it’s a fixed layout tool. But for fixed layout, I’m not sure why I’d go with anything other than PDF.

    2) KF8. I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned that more. Right now, it is the only place where I can easily embed fonts and do a lot of the thing I on ly wish I could do with ePUBs. I am waiting anxiously for the new plug-in for CS6 from Amazon. More than that, I am waiting for the Mac,PC, iPad and Droid Kindle apps to support KF8. Once that happens it could become the new standard very quickly.

    I’ve been surprised that my normal choice for ebooks is a Kindle book to read on my iPad Kindle app. If that Kindle app supported KF8, I’d tend to abandon ePUB. iBooks and Nook are just too expensive. I also find them clumsy to use.

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