Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New Tools for Self-Publishing

I've been using Scrivener for ebook design since I started doing it 6 years ago. When I began doing printed books I used Microsoft Word. For a long time, if a client wanted both printed and ebook I'd have two source files to maintain if post-publishing changes were needed. I liked the extra control I got from Scrivener for the ebook process (though I had to use Sigil to get the table of contents just right), but could not get the Createspace formatting done through Scrivener.

Now, Amazon has come out with Kindle Creator. I can convert a Word document formatted for print, without removing the headers, footers and special formatting (e.g., drop caps). It works quite well. You can choose from a few themes to give your Kindle version a really nice look. The only downside: no EPUB file, which clients are more and more asking for.

I've also become unhappy with the way Word handles images. I have to go to what I consider ridiculous lengths to get my PDFs to contain images at 300 dpi or better. Word has a couple of settings where you can tell it not to compress images, but the Save As PDF option seems to ignore that. I tried third-party PDF printer software, but my PC began to shut down, completely, randomly. I uninstalled those programs and no problems since. I felt like I was screwed!

Some friends recommended Adobe's InDesign, but it's expensive and I'm cheap. I considered Acrobat too, but with the PC crashing issue I thought that would be a bad idea.

I read online that some formatters were happy with Libre Office. First, it's open source and free! So far, the Writer program has worked out great.

  • Page styles work just like Word's sections, giving me the control I need over headers, footers and page numbering.
  • Text and paragraph styles work the same as Word.
  • Images put in at 300 dpi stay at 300 dpi after the export to PDF - without any third-party PDF converters!
  • The export to EPUB works great too. I don't have to remove all the print formatting! I still need to use Sigil to tweak the table of contents, and the Kindle Previewer to create the .mobi file.

One source document and I get all three: PDFs for print with the images done right, EPUB and .mobi files. I'm sure I'll discover some things I don't like, but so far I'm quite pleased.

July 31 update: I discovered that the export to EPUB does not support images. Normally this isn't a problem, but sometimes it is. Supposedly, the 6.1 version, due out August 12th, does support this. We'll see.

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