Learning Curves

There’s no feeling quite like finishing your book/screenplay/project. It must be something like the high from childbirth; you forget all the pain and just love what you have created.

And then the hard work starts:





Last week, I finally finished my second novel, TEMPORARY, which I was hoping to have done by the end of November. (Best laid plans and all that.) This was the first full book I’ve done writing in Scrivener and the first time I’ve used Vellum to format. Both platforms have learning curves and quirks. Here’s what I stumbled upon:

Scrivener Autocorrect Formatting Goofs

There are oodles of YouTubes on how to set up Scrivener before you compile and export to Word. What I think they don’t mention (honestly, I’ve never watched one all the way through because they tend to be looooooooong) is that all your special little autocorrects will be obliterated. Your smart quotes will be no more. Your double-hyphen-to-emdashes will disappear. Your three periods to condensed ellipsis will also be jacked. I didn’t use any superscripts, but I would assume those would be trashed, too. It was an un-fun discovery to make when you are just this side of a 300-page book.

Solution: Simply Find/Replace All

Take the cruddy version of the quote/dashes/ellipsis and copy/paste it into the Find field, then correct it in the doc and copy/paste that into the Replace field. Hit that handy “Replace All” button and Bob’s your uncle.

Vellum vs. The Super Picky Formatter

I went ahead and purchased the full Vellum for both ebook and print. I have to say that I LOVE the ebook formatting, how easy and elegant and super smart it is, and how quickly and effortlessly the multiple formats for your selected vendors are created. This was the FIRST time I got my upload onto iBooks accepted on the FIRST try. Worth the price of admission just for that. However…

When it comes to print, I want/need more options. If I want to move a line lower and change the font size for that section (specifically, the front and back matter), I need to be able to do it. And maybe this is my ignorance to the product. To be very honest, I didn’t do a whole lot of research on it because I just wanted to get the book done. Perhaps the solution would be to have one version for ebook and a second for print and configure as needed (you can have both versions in a single Vellum file and choose what is used for each, and that’s pretty genius). But, as the frustration mounted, I figured it would be faster to go with what I know rather than spend time researching a solution with Vellum that I feared did not exist (yet).

Solution: Pick Your Battles

After a bit of profanity, I decided to simply format the ebook in Vellum and do the print version in Word.

Word, I Wish I Know How to Quit You

Word is not something we love; it’s something we’re stuck with and forced to use because it is ubiquitous…and no one’s really come up with anything better that can be used on both Mac and PC (which is super important when you write on Mac and your proofreader is totally PC).

Probably one of the smarter things I’ve done is create a template for a 5×8 book with the layout just how I like it. Yes, I had to copy/paste each chapter/section into it, and that wasn’t exactly a blast, but it went quickly and it was easy. The next step setting the Drop Cap and then hyphenating in lieu of kerning to rid a paragraph of awkward gaps. While Word purports to offer this feature, it is far from perfect. Doing it by hand is far from perfect either, but it’s pretty easy to eyeball.

Final Semi-Pro Tips

Clean Copy  Keep a “clean” copy of your book for future changes. By “clean”, I mean formatted only to paper-size and chapter/section breaks. No hyphenation breaks. No Drop Caps. This is your safety net. This is the copy you will use to re-import to Vellum (though you can make changes in Vellum itself) if you’ve done a major overhaul. This copy can also serve as a template for your next book.

Lists  Keep a record of your ISBNs and store codes for each of your books for easy entry into Vellum because one of the more stellar offerings of the platform is entering store info for your other books. So, if your reader is viewing your book on Kindle and they want to buy another tome of yours, when they touch that hyperlink, it will take them to Amazon. On a Nook, it will take them to B&N, etc., etc. Pretty sweet, yes? Therefore, put all this information in one place to make life easier. Same for ISBN entry in each vendor/platform setup. And, while you don’t always need an ISBN, you should seriously consider getting your own and not relying on freebies.

ISBNs If you are going to continue as a professional, independent author/publisher, you should have proper ISBNs that link your books to your imprint and not that of the vendor giving you one for free. Are they pricey? Yep. But you can get a bundle from Bowker that makes it less painful in the long run. I opted for a 10-pack that came with 5 barcodes. That should cover 5 books — one ISBN per version (paperback and ebook), one barcode per book. Sign up with Bowker/MyIdentifiers to receive sale information to save even more. There’s a 100-bundle offer that I missed that really was a sweet deal; maybe next time. The ISBNs are not transferable, so keep that in mind before you purchase.

There are always going to be frustrations and learning curves as software changes and new platforms are offered. I’ve come to find that when you find something that works, keep it. Writing is hard enough; getting your book to market should be as easy as possible. That being said, don’t be afraid to try something new. And don’t be shy about investing in yourself. I wince when I think of the “investment” I made into SAME ink in 2017, but I do feel like it’s paying off already. Not a bad way to start off 2018.

Now, on to writing novel #3.

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