Using Scrivener to create e-books


I was reading an excellent blog today by writer and Scrivener user David Hewson about Why Apple and publishing don’t mix. In fact, it was David’s enthusiasm for Scrivener which first tempted me to try it – and, before I move on, David’s blog is one of the best ‘blogs on writing’ out there.

David had spotted something I’d missed in Scrivener 2 – the fact that it can output directly to a range of e-book formats.

This had me immediately excited. When I published The Well, I created the Kindle and ePub files by coding the XHTML/XML directly. I just wasn’t happy with the output of the various tools available.

I did enlist the help of Mobipocket Creator and Sigil along the way. Both have strengths, but you still need to do some manual tweaking of the XHTML/XML at the very least. But they are yet another step in the publishing process. Because there isn’t one e-book standard, I’ve had to create files from InDesign (PDF for print) and a Kindle file for Amazon along with an ePub for Adobe Digital Editions and other platforms which support that format. It was complex and time-consuming, hence the excitement when I spotted the export facilities from Scrivener on David’s blog. I commented on David’s blog and about an hour later got a tweet from David (a different David) at Scrivener:

“ScrivenerApp: @labrow Noticed your response to @david_hewson (thanks!) post. This video http://bit.ly/byqpvq will probably help your quest. Cheers, DJ.”

Rather than repeat the contents of the video, I’m embedding it here for you to watch.

The video is a revelation. I’d expected Scrivener’s support for e-book export to be perhaps basic, but far from it – it’s a very comprehensive and well-executed export workflow. In fact, I’d say it’s so good that even if you wrote using another tool, it would make sense to use Scrivener for e-book creation anyway. Of course, why would you do that when Scrivener is – hands down – the best long-form text creation tool available.

This is incredibly useful for me and, I suspect, for other writers. On a practical level, I now don’t have to mess about creating and editing multiple file formats – I just need to export my manuscript from Scrivener in the correct format. My hard disc is awash with different versions of The Well, created either by hand, using an additional tool, or both.

In fact, for someone whose aim really is to (at some point) publish entirely electronically, Scrivener is almost the only tool I need. I say almost, as I still need to output copies for my editor/proofreader, who works on a PC using Word – but I’m looking at ways of getting around that, too.

I can’t tell you how much this discovery has made my day. My thanks to the observant David Hewson and my hat is well and truly off to the good people at Scrivener.

(The above just shows how much the Scrivener team care about their customers. Can you imagine the Microsoft Word team getting in touch with a writer after reading something on another writer’s blog? No, me neither.)

About Peter Labrow

Peter Labrow has worked as a copywriter, writing non-fiction, for around twenty years. His output includes copy for websites and brochures; for around a decade he wrote a regular column for IT Training magazine. He has published one non-fiction book about learning within the corporate environment. The Well, Peter’s first novel, is available on Kindle and in print from Amazon. View all posts by Peter Labrow

2 responses to “Using Scrivener to create e-books

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