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Writing a book? No Sweat! Right? It’s what I do — 2 Comments

  1. I’ve written books from scratch in both Scrivener and InDesign. Which is best depends on what sort of book I’m doing.

    InDesign:

    Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas that Led to Nazism and World War II was far easier to do in InDesign. The book is a chronological collection of what G. K. Chesterton wrote on war/peace in the prestigious Illustrated London News from 1905-1922. That meant that the overall structure of the book was already defined–the articles themselves in order. I then wrote introductions explaining the background and with added commentary to explain century-old events few people know today. That meant of lot of complex formatting to distinguish what I was saying from what he said. Managing to keep that straight after importing into InDesign would have been an enormous hassle. It was best to write the book from the very beginning in ID.

    Summary: Writing in ID makes more sense as a book’s layout and formatting becomes more complex. You do that once in ID, rather than not doing in in some other app or doing it elsewhere (i.e. Word) but facing all the issues that come with importing into ID. In many cases, that would also include a book with a lot of pictures or graphic illustrations. It makes sense to get them right from the start by drafting in ID. Just be sure you won’t be moving material around much or, if you will, use ID’s book feature rather than one long document.

    Scrivener:

    My latest book, My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer, is based on my experiences caring for children at a major children’s hospital. While it is roughly chronological, much of what I wrote needed to flow in an order that I could only determine by doing the writing. For that, the ease with which I could move chapters around in Scrivener was a plus, as was the fact that I could write on an old MacBook at the library. I don’t feel comfortable using ID on anything other than a Mac with a large screen.

    Summary: If you’re less certain what you’ll be saying and, in particular, how the book will flow, it’s probably best to write in a writing app such as Scrivener, which makes major text relocations easy. I only move such books into ID when I’m certain that the chapter-by-chapter flow of the book is final. Then, I don’t look back. The Scrivener version is tagged Done and all subsequent editing is done in ID.

    It is true that My Nights with Leukemia has quite a few pictures, one at the start of each of the 49 short chapters. But that didn’t make the layout complex. To make the format work, each chapter begins on a new page with the title immediately followed by a picture. Since the picture illustrates the chapter, I couldn’t settle on what it was until the chapter was done. That meant that the layout wasn’t complicated. It followed a simple formula that was one of the last things I added to the book. That’s have been different for a book with illustrations inserted in the text flow.

    One final note. I do find it much better to do my final proofing in a format that looks like the final and more appealing format for the book, meaning I do almost all my proofing after the book comes into ID and is almost done. I find it also helps to follow that up with proofing passes done in a format that looks different from the final printed ID version. For that, I export it to ePub and look at the book on an iPad. That not only adds one or two more proofing passes, it provides a way to check the ePub formatting.

    Also, with each revision Adobe is making ID better at have a single text flow that can be used for both print and digital versions. That’ll save you a lot of time. In my latest book, I also decided not to complicate my life with lots of export formats and complicated tweaking.

    * Both the print and digital versions use the same basic layout. Each chapter starts on a new page, left or right, and the chapter’s picture immediately follows the chapter title. That spares me all the hassle that comes in print or digital when images mess up page breaks.

    * Lightning Source and CreateSpace got the same PDF version for the interior and slightly tweaked PDFs for the cover. Lighting has the best template creator so I used their’s to create the original cover. It’s always been a hassle that Lightning and CreateSpace use paper with different thicknesses and thus have different spine widths, but for this book I found that if I specified that the Lightning book use creme paper, the spine was only a inconsequential 7-thousandth of an inch different from what CreateSpace specified for their white paper. I turned the Lightning cover into a jpeg, pasted it over my CreateSpace template and, in a flash had a cover for them.

    *Apple got the ePub they want. My only hassle with them is that there’s apparently a very narrow gap between getting flagged for cover images that are too small and those that are too large. Complicating matters, their error messages don’t make clear that you’re sending them three cover images: one for the sales page, one inside the ePub for the book and one inside the book’s sample. It took me some time to figure out which was wrong.

    * Amazon, whether it likes it or not, got an ePub, which formatted quite well when I was careful enough to follow their rules and compress each image under 127K. Don’t do that and the image apparently disappears with no error message given. Sending them ePub seemed to work better than using the still-in-beta and rarely updated Kindle plug-in from Amazon.

    * Smashwords apparently thinks everyone should write and publish books with Word for Windows. I disagree. They get an ePub 2 file exported from ID. That means that on their own website, the only download option offered is ePub, but it does mean that the book is distributed as an ePub to B&N, Sony and the rest. That’s what matters most. I suspect that over time Smashwords will offer more support for ePub.

    –Michael W. Perry

  2. Thanks, Michael

    I’ve had no real problem with Smashwords using ePUB2 except that I cannot use embedded fonts and no tables. I tend to use small size variation in the fonts to tweak the look. Smashwords bounces that every time.

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