A couple of nights ago, I hammered out the first part of this post, about my worries and doubts concerning the details of just how to get a book onto the Amazon Kindle Store. As I allowed Mr. Cubbon to illustrate in his video, my fears turned out to be completely unfounded. . . almost comically so.
But, as I was writing the first draft of Blue Daunia Issue #1 back in early June, other fears as a first-time indie author began to creep in to take the place of those that had been placated. And, as it turns out, there was a collective name for those fears: “ebook formatting.”
Yes, I had done a modicum of research in the past, and what I knew off-hand from those past browsings amounted to this: Uploading a Word document to Kindle is possible (and possibly tricky); Amazon uses the “mobi” format, preferably with a hyperlinked table of contents; PDFs are doable but extremely tricky when it comes to Amazon auto-converting to its native mobi; and then there’s epub, which is the easiest format for Amazon to auto-convert.
But, when the time came, how would I get my final draft into one of the better two formats: mobi and epub (I just didn’t want to take chances with the possible conversion errors of Word or PDF)? And, almost more importantly (to perfectionist me anyway), how would I go about hyperlinking my table of contents, so that, when I finally see my book-baby on the kindle screen, I could tap on a chapter name and be instantly transported to that chapter?
Other authors dabbling in the ebook format had hyperlinked their TOCs… heck, almost all of them! The small handful of books I had seen on my kindle which weren’t hyperlinked, looked extremely cheap in other ways as well, from typos to poor cover designs to outright public domain rehashes done with very little care. In other words, early on in my readership of ebooks, I almost instantly began to equate non-hyperlinked TOCs with lousy, time-wasting quality. Therefore, if my then-“future” self were ever to write and publish an ebook, it had to have a hyperlinked TOC. . . it just had to. I considered it an absolute necessity!
Ah, hyperlinked Tables of Contents and ebook formatting. . . from the research I was doing, it takes a modicum of technical knowledge- the tiniest bit of coding savvy- which, as a writer in the 21st century, I felt almost required to have, and which, as a writer overall who just wants to pound out stories and not worry about computer details, I don’t really possess in the least. I had seen programs and apps which would take flat text and convert it to mobi or epub, but the details I craved, like hyperlinking, still required other measures. But I have a limited attention span when it comes to such things. . . more like an impatience. . . so what was I to do? I considered it a hurdle I would have to cross. Where to turn? Was there to be no “magic bullet”?
Enter the Scrivener program, from Literature and Latte. I found out about it during that worried fit of research, and I’m here to tell you, it was like a godsend. One of the best parts was, for a good bit of time, it is actually free! Here’s the blurb from their own website:
“The trial runs for 30 days of actual use: if you use it every day it lasts 30 days; if you use it only two days a week, it lasts fifteen weeks. Before the trial expires, you can export all of your work or buy a licence to continue using Scrivener.”
And here’s another cool thing about it: although there is a rough tonnage of things you can learn about the features of the program, there isn’t really all that much you really need to know in order to churn out a mobi or epub ebook, complete with my coveted hyperlinked TOC!
When you first open the program, and select the “Fiction” category followed by the “Novel” template, there will be a tab in the upper lefthand corner titled “Novel Format.” Take the ten or so minutes to read and digest that, and you have basically everything you need (except for text and talent) to get yourself well underway.
At $45 US to own outright, it’s not the world’s cheapest bit of software, nor is it the world’s most expensive. But, for what it does for you as a hopeful indie author and publisher. . . for all that it can do, this program is to ebook formatting what Mr. Cubbon’s video is to Kindle uploading. It makes things just that drop-dead simple, and the results are spot-on. There are things I am still learning (it’s nearly as limitless as the game of chess), but all you need to get yourself up and running are right there on that one screenful of primary instruction.
With the guidance of video content such as Rob Cubbon, and the ease, convenience and near-perfection of tools such as Scrivener, there is, in my inexperience and my humbled opinion, no better era in which to enter into the world of self-published ebooks.
More Scrivener goodness to follow. . . .