Category Archives: Writing Software

This Book Cannot Possibly Make Any Money — Getting Started: Software

As was in my “Future Plans” post, I’m currently working on three writing projects simultaneously:  The third Law of Swords book, the Fennec Fox Press House Style Guide (which is typically added to only as issues come up) and — in those times when I NORMALLY work on this blog — a book entitled “This Book Cannot Make Any Money.”

Work on “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” won’t prevent this blog from being written, however.  Instead, it is intended as its own blog series, allowing me to go through the process of self-publishing a book in a tutorial form, or (since I intend to actually publish the end-product of this series) maybe more like a “lets play” (to borrow from the Gamer vernacular) of self-publishing a book for my blog readers.  This is my second try at this kind of project; the first time it got bogged down and eventually swallowed by the need to deal with other things, but this time I have a more developed plan for how to handle this.

So let’s begin.

Once you’ve completed your first draft, I recommend setting a budget based on your projected worst-case-scenario projection for sales. I should add the caveat that I mean REALISTIC (not optimistic, not pessimistic) worst-case scenario.  If you mishandle things, yes, it is possible to never sell a single copy of a book, but that’s a pessimistic projection.  From past performance, I would project the worst case scenario for any of my sci-fi\fantasy genre novels as two hundred fifty ebook sales.  At $4 profit per sale (when I set the eBook price at $5.99), that means I could set a budget of $1000 and realistically expect to break even in a worst-case scenario.

But this isn’t one of my genre novels; this is a collection of material that I’ve read, or for which I’ve been told, or which I’ve even decided for myself “Cannot Possibly Make Any Money.”  With that as the premise for this project, I (at least for purposes of this blog series) project earning… no money from this book.  So my total budget is zero dollars, of which I can spend zero dollars on software, zero dollars on the cover, zero dollars on the editing, zero dollars on the book design, and zero dollars on marketing.  Okay, that was easy!

The rest of this blog series is going to be on overcoming the obstacle of having zero budget when self-publishing; how, with no budget, I can acquire the necessary software, create an original cover, get the book edited, and (easiest of all, though you might not believe it) market that book without spending one penny.

I have, or can and have borrowed from my mother:

1.  Microsoft Office Suite 2007 (IIRC, it was bought at an extreme discount through a program my workplace at the time was offering)

2.  Adobe InDesign v.6 (received as a gift; the last non-cloud version of InDesign.  I recommend sinking the costs of any software you buy in a purchase rather than creating a recurring cost by leasing it over the cloud)

3.  Scrivener, purchased during one of their half-price sales.  (I think that, with NaNoWriMo just around the corner, that’s about to come up)

4.  Photoshop Elements v. 10 or v.15 (I may be purchasing Photoshop Elements 2018 soon; v.10 came packaged for free with other software, and v.15 is borrowed from my mother)

5.  Corel Draw (whatever the latest version is; it’s on my mothers computer)

…and probably a few other pieces of software I’ve bought for my writing business (or my mother has bought for her quilting business) that I’m not thinking of right now.

But, since we’re maintaining the rule that I have zero budget for this project, I’m going to pretend I haven’t bought ANY of this, yet, and find substitutes.

I do have to make certain concessions for the series as a whole before we begin:  I have a blog, access to the internet, etc.  My blog is on a paid-for site, but its using a resource that is free and can provide a free host if necessary (WordPress).  These things I could manage to access from my local library, but the library usually won’t allow you to install software on their computers.  They might, if they’re equipped well enough, have some similar software installed on their computers you can borrow, but you can’t count on that.

So, it is a bit of an assumption that — even with zero budget to produce your book — you own or have access to a computer on which you can access the internet and are permitted to install software.  If you don’t, well, I’m sorry, I’m not sure what to suggest.

So, with the limitations of zero budget (minus that concession), what options in the software department are there?

In place of Microsoft Office:  Anything that I would normally do with Microsoft Office, I will instead — for this project only — do with the LibreOffice suite.  Now, both Microsoft Office and LibreOffice are suites of tools, but to replace the ones I actually use for my publishing work, I only need LibreOffice Writer (for word processing, replacing Microsoft Word) and LibreOffice Base (simple database software replacing Microsoft Access.  I use Access to maintain some of my notes, such as character records, which need to be kept across books of a series; due to the nature of “This Book Cannot Possibly Make Any Money,” however, I won’t be using it for this book).  LibreOffice is available for free (it better be, or I’m already breaking the rules), and will work with Windows, Macintosh, or even Linux.  (You do need to download the correct version for your operating system, of course).

An alternative to LibreOffice is Apache OpenOffice.  LibreOffice was, in fact, originally OpenOffice, but (skipping one long, complex, boring story to explain why) they split up into two organizations developing similar suites of software from a common ancestor.  LibreOffice is generally considered to be the better option, containing much of the original design team, but some people still prefer OpenOffice

To replace InDesign I’ll choose Scribus.  Scribus is also free, open-source software designed specifically to do, well, the same things InDesign does.  It’s been going strong for many years, now, and most of the bugs are already worked out!  (A word of warning:  They recommend that you install ‘Ghostscript‘ first.  I made the mistake of not doing this the first time I installed Scribus, and it caused several problems with my initial set-up.

Outside of Scribus, the only other free software I can think of that works as a replacement for InDesign is… InDesign.  A couple years back, Adobe offered a free download of a no-longer-supported earlier version of InDesign (in fact, a whole suite of programs InDesign was part of a package of), version 2.0.  It’s a bit hard to track down, and requires a software key (they provided one for the public domain at the time) which may no longer be listed anywhere, but if you can find it you can get the entire Adobe CS software suite for free.  Because of its obscurity, however, I’ll stick with Scribus.  (Scribus has a few more modern features, anyway).  If you do have the budget to BUY this sort of software, however, I wouldn’t recommend the current, cloud-only version of InDesign; instead, I would go with QuarkXPress.  A bit expensive, but it has a lifetime license (and thus is a sunken cost).

Scrivener is an odd one.  It’s a word processor designed specifically for creating books, but the Windows version (which is the only one I have) is missing several key features available on the Mac version.  Scrivener has promised a new, updated version soon (Scrivener 3.0) which should EVENTUALLY bring them up to near identical versions, but even with that the Mac version will be the first release.

The long and the short of it is that I only use Scrivener for eBook building, after the book has been edited.  Since that’s all I use it for, I will compare it not with other word processors but rather with other eBook-making utilities.  I’m at least somewhat familiar with Sigil, so that’s what I’ll be using, but I understand Calibre is popularly thought to be more intuitive and will likely have more tutorials for its use.  Nevertheless, I’ll be using Sigil to produce an ePub, which I will then convert to .mobi for uploading to Amazon.  (Calibre can do the conversion itself; Since Sigil can’t — at least not as of the latest version I’ve downloaded — I’ll instead be using a simple tool called ePub to Mobi).

The graphics suites are all that we still need to worry about.  As a substitute for Photoshop I’ll be using the popular (though a bit tricky-to-use) GIMP.  As a substitute for Corel Draw, I’ll try Inkscape (an open-source vector-based graphics utility I first saw in a package of “best open-sourced software” back in 2009.  I’ve often installed it but never used it, so this will be a bit of an adventure).  Not sure if I’ll need both of these programs, but at least I’m set up if I do.

Okay, software is taken care of.  Next time on “This Book Cannot Possibly Make Any Money,” I’ll start using these bits of software to ‘create’ the book’s content (which is already written… or is it?).  See you then.

Self-Publishing Roundtable Addendum I

INTRODUCTION

I have been very busy working on In Forgery Divided this week (the sequel to In Treachery Forged). Because of that, I haven’t had as much time as I usually do to work on my blog. The blog I was planning for this week (Weird Research Part 5) is half-finished, but it doesn’t look as if I’ll get it done in time for my usual Sunday post.  Not because it is especially long, but because it requires I replicate some of my old research in order to complete it, and I just haven’t had time for that.

But I will not go content-less this week. I thought I might lay out some “quick-hits” addendums to my Self-Publishing Roundtable series.

#1: KINDLE PREVIEWER

I look through a lot of blogs on writing and self-publishing. Some I give more attention than others, but even some of the less-relevant to my needs blogs have useful information from time to time.

Such is the case with Aaron Shepard’s Publishing Blog.  By the time I discovered his blog, he no longer felt as if he was an “authority” on self-publishing.  With the words “The Party’s Over,” he effectively went into semi-retirement as a self-publishing guru, and a lot of his articles have been left aging and out-of-date.

He does still publish the occasional blog post, however (mostly on things like the paper quality of Createspace vs. Ingram POD books, if you’re interested), and every now and then he has new news to share.

Last week, he pointed out something I was unaware of:  That the “virtual proof” you can get for your Kindle eBooks from Amazon’s Kindle Previewer no longer resemble the final version of the ebook your readers buy.  This is apparently because of Kindle’s still-in-progress attempts to improve typographic features for their .kf8 proprietary ebook file standard.  (keep in mind that, as far as 99.999% of writers are concerned, it doesn’t matter what the file standard it.  It just matters what the book looks like in the end.  Some book designers might have issues with it, however, and sometimes as a self-publisher you need to handle both jobs).

What this means is that — at least for the moment — you should probably buy at least one copy of your own eBook after release, just to double-check and make sure things look the way you intended them do.  I suspect it won’t make a noticable change for most of you, but there’s always the chance of something going wonky.

#2:  TRENDS IN SELF-PUBLISHING BLOGGING: FONTS

There are a few issues in self-publishing which rise up on occasion.  Some of these are bred by controversy, and I tend to avoid saying much on those topics (I usually have an opinion, but I rarely feel strongly enough — or well-informed enough — to get into an argument over these topics), but there are other topics which very well might be “trend by coincidence.”

For example, I saw, over the course of two weeks, five or six articles on font selection.  I doubt this was a co-ordinated effort by this blogs, but by happenstance a trend was developing among self-publishing blogs.  So, I guess I’ll follow suit.

Keep in mind — it generally isn’t advisable to use a specific font in eBooks; you might (as I do) use something a touch fancy as a title font (the font used on your title page, chapter headers, etc.; this can be, and frequently is, identical to the font used on your front cover), but otherwise leave fonts alone for your eBooks.

If you are designing your own print books, however, you’re going to need to pay attention to your font choice.  In print, for the interior of your book, you probably want a serif font rather than a san-serif because it’s easier on the eyes (this is reversed on an electronic screen, though probably not an eInk eReader).  And you don’t want the font choice to distract your reader by being too fancy, too stylistic, or too, well…

Book designers, in particular, have issue with certain fonts such as Times New Roman because they are “boring” (or rather, because they make the interior of your book look like it was printed on your home computer on default settings).  They think these styles are so boring that they can throw the reader out of the story.  I’m not sure how much stock I put into these pronouncements, but I do agree there are fonts that look more stylized than TNR without breeching that “too fancy” line.

When picking a font for the inside of your book, you should ensure you’ve picked something that displays all of your punctuation correctly.  It can be a particular issue if you’re using a more obscure font; some fonts were designed for “Display” or for particular specific uses, and any unneeded punctuation (like, say, an apostrophe) simply was never designed for it.  And some fonts have a complete set of punctuation marks that look quite nice… until you see, for example, an em-dash placed next to a curvy letter like b, p, u, g, etc.  (I know that specific one because it is a known issue with the print edition of “In Treachery Forged.”  For some reason, the kerning — the space between letters — looks far too wide with the font I chose)

You also want to make sure you have the right to use these fonts you choose commercially.  Don’t trust that, just because you can pick it in the font selector of your computer, you can just use any old font.  Most fonts are copywritten, and some have very peculiar restrictions for their use.  I like using nice, free fonts without commercial restrictions, such as Alegreya, which can be found on Fontsquirrel.  There are some fonts that come with software, however, and you are still permitted to use some of them… but you had better check before you do.  There are some fonts that come with Microsoft Word, for example, that you are not allowed to use on commercial projects.

Beyond that, I don’t really have much advice.  Just use stuff that you think looks professional — don’t do something “fun” and use Comic Sans or a similar font in your interior because “it makes the book look handwritten.”  Maybe it does make your book look handwritten… but it also makes it hard to read, and that discourages your customers from wanting to finish your book.

Try and get it right the first time, though.  Changing a font after the proof has come out can be very daunting — if you change the font you change the font size; changing the font size means you’ll have to re-do all of those corrections you made for justification, widows and orphans, etc.; re-doing all of those corrections will change the page count; changing the page count changes the thickness of your book spine.  Basically, after a certain point, if you change the font you have to completely re-design your book.

#3: BOOKS OFFERED ON EBAY, BUT NO-ONE BOUGHT IT!

I see people in this scenario a lot:

They do a search for their own book.   Surprise, surprise, they find a copy of their print book for sale on eBay… but they have yet to sell a single print copy, so how can it possible be offered on eBay?

Well, the thing to remember is that your book is Print-on-Demand, and that many legitimate small-business book dealers use eBay as their storefront.

If your book is made available on expanded distribution, any dealer can buy the book for resale.  Some dealers will list books they don’t yet have on eBay, knowing that they can buy those books on-demand, if someone orders it from them.  It is only after someone buys the book from them that your book would be sold to them.

So, if you see your book listed on eBay even though it hasn’t been sold, no, it doesn’t mean that the seller is “ripping you off” and should be reported to eBay for fraud.  Most likely, they’re trying to sell your book for you, and you should be thanking them.

#4: FUTURE SELF-PUBLISHING ROUNDTABLE PLANS

I’m very busy with In Forgery Divided, but I have a plan to continue the Self-Publishing Roundtable once that’s out the door.

On Facebook (and in a few other spots) I’ve talked about an anthology (or rather, in this case, a compilation; the difference is the number of authors involved) entitled “This Book Cannot Make Any Money.”  It would consist of various things (poetry, experimental fiction, an inside joke, story fragments, etc.) that were too small to sell on their own, too wierd to sell on their own, too incomplete (and never-to-be-completed) to sell on their own, or some combination of the above.  In other words, it’s a compilation of a bunch of things that will never make any money (as the title says).

What I was thinking I might do (extreme emphasis on the ‘might’) is compile that book, and make a set of blogs dovetailing off of both this Self-Publishing Roundtable Series and my still-to-be-debuted Writing Software Review Series.  I would blog the entire process of going from “I’m done writing; time to find an editor” to “Ebook and Print Book Both Published, Copywritten, and the First Month of ‘Marketing’ Complete” completing this project with zero budget and in my “off hours.”

The idea would be I’d walk people through the process.  I would also try building the same book multiple times (using different software; I’d build the eBook once with Scriveners, once with Sigil, maybe even once with Jutoh or similar paid-for software (again, if you want me to buy Jutoh to review it, I need AT LEAST ONE COMMENT asking about it).  Then I’ll build the print book in Adobe InDesign (CS6), Microsoft Publisher (2007), and Scribus (1.4.5).  Then I’d walk through the process of setting prices, assigning ISBNs, and publishing through Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, Draft2Digital, Apple, various niche stores, etc.

Again, this is a very tentative plan.  It will go very, very slowly, because I’ll be trying to manage it around the writing, publishing, and marketing work I’m doing that I hope can make some money.

CONCLUSION

Well, this is the first “unplanned” update for the Self-Publishing Review.  There’ll probably be others in addition to item #4, above… but not for a while.  Expect another Weird Research post next week.

 

Edit:  Comments on this post have been disabled because of spammers; contact me if you’re a real person and want me to re-open comments.

Software Reviews Series (0/?)

I mentioned this in my last post, but didn’t explain.  A problem with Windows 10 had me downgrading to Windows 7; unfortunately, that downgrade didn’t work right, and I wound up having to wipe out my C drive and reinstall all my software) ate most of the time I had to work on my blog this week.  It did, however, remind me of another series I was considering:  Reviewing “Software for the Author.”  It was never my intention to only run one series at a time, especially as open-ended as the Research series is, so I figured I could introduce this new planned series even if I’m not ready to start the actual articles.

Now, DO NOT EXPECT THIS SERIES TO START NEXT WEEK.  It requires research (hm…), and I’m not prepared for it.  I’m only adding this post now because I didn’t have time to do any of the other blog posts I have planned.

Keep in mind I am not a technical expert on these pieces of software. There are things I will not, or do not know how to, test (for example, I can’t test cross-platform compatability for many of the products that claim this as a feature).  There are things that you might think are vitally important in a piece of software, but I don’t even think to look at them because (in my experience) they’ve never come up.  This is just based on my personal experiences with this software (or, at least, simulations of my normal experience, if I’m doing a comparison with something I haven’t used often).

In some cases, I will be comparing the latest version of a freeware program (such as Scribus or LibreOffice) with older versions of professional software (I intend to do a review of Adobe InDesign, but I refuse to use their latest, cloud-only offering.  I have access to Microsoft Office 2003, 2007, and — if I borrowed my mother’s computer — whatever version of Microsoft Word she got off the cloud, though not any of the other parts of the suite)

I also have no intention of testing every feature of this software.  These will just be reviews of how I use them, why I — as a writer — might choose them over various alternatives, and what I think a writer would be most interested in with them.

Now, I reiterate — don’t expect me to start this next week.  I hope to go right back to the Review Series (with something on Constructing Languages and why I’ve only made rudimentary efforts, so far) — but below you will be able to find an index for what I plan on reviewing (not necessarily in order; depends how long I have to test some of these things), below.  I’ll add  hotlinks when I start.

  1. The Hemmingway App (vs. Grammarly, perhaps?)
  2. Scrivener
  3. Sigil
  4. InDesign vs. Publisher (2003 and 2007) vs. Scribus (this one may be bumped down, folks; I’ll need to figure out something I can use as a sample to compare these with)
  5. EPub to MOBI
  6. LibreOffice (vs. OpenOffice vs AbiWord vs. WPS Office Free vs. Microsoft Office 2003 vs. Microsoft Office 2007 vs. whatever other free Office packages or word processors I can find between now and then, perhaps?  Recommendations might be nice)
  7. Jutoh, maybe? (I haven’t bought it, yet, but I will if there’s interest.  Yes, that means I need at least ONE comment, somewhere, if you want me to test this)
  8. ???