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How to Build a Professional eBook in 9 Easy Steps Using Scrivener

When it comes to eBook formatting and production, most authors have been led to believe it’s a more complicated procedure than it really is. With the use of a $45 program, you can eliminate dozens of formatting hours, (potentially) thousands of dollars to pay a professional, and a lot of frustration. All you need to know is How to Build a Professional eBook in 9 Easy Steps Using Scrivener.

1. Start a project.

Scrivener doesn’t have “documents”; it has projects. Click File, then New, then the template you wish to use – the blank one works best – and then name your project. Once you’re in, you can either compile the whole thing into one document – more on that in a moment – or you can export individual “drafts,” which I usually call “chapters,” into their own separate file outputs (and yes, it is compatible to Word).

  • Click File and New Project…
  • Then, name your project.

 

2. Create your chapters.

By simply right-clicking “Drafts” on the left sidebar (or clicking “Drafts” with two fingers if you’re a Macbook Pro user), you will get a drop-down menu. Select “Add,” and then “New Text.” Do that any time you wish to break chapters. (Trust us, it’ll make the table of contents go like a dream on the final compile.) From here, you can write out each chapter. And that’s the last thing we’re going to say about the actual writing part because, after all, this is about producing a professional quality eBook as easily as possible.

  • Right-click Drafts and select New Text to add a chapter.

 

3. Proof your final text.

Now we’ll be skipping ahead, and assume your 50,000 to 100,000 words are out of the head and onto the screen. What next? Well, before you even think about creating an eBook and putting it up on Amazon’s or another bookseller’s site, you need to have it proofed and edited. Make sure you haven’t written an embarrassment that will equate your name with crap for the remainder of life. Remember, this is about building a professional eBook. We can’t emphasize step three enough.

 

4. Add the images you want.

Fancy decor isn’t necessary for eBooks. People don’t buy them to see what kind of header image you have announcing Chapter 2. However, if you want to add a touch of flare, it isn’t difficult, though you may need some help from design programs, such as Gimp, Adobe PhotoShop or Apple’s iPhoto. These programs will help you get the sizing and effects right. Try to keep any images at a reasonable file size (around 500KB is fine if you’re not going too image heavy). Do your homework, and ensure you’re not violating anyone’s copyright. Your own skills with a camera or places such as Flickr’s Creative Commons, Fotolia, and Stock.XCHNG are great sources for free or low-cost images. Once you’ve decided where you want those images to go within the document, click “Edit,” “Insert,” and “Image from File,” or simply copy and paste the image into the document. Both methods have worked effectively in my own efforts. Note: This does not apply to your cover. For that, make sure you have the full cover image uploaded into the “Research” section along the left sidebar. We’ll tell you why later.

  • Move your cursor to where you wish to position the image in the document, then click Edit, Insert, and Image from File. Select the picture you want to use.
  • Don’t forget to add your cover to the Research portion of the project.
  • Your cover will show up in the main pane in its true resolution size when you click on it on the left sidebar.

 

5. Open ‘Compile.’

Under the “File” menu at the very bottom, you’ll find the option to “Compile.” Click this. A dialog box should come up along with a host of options to the left and a drop down menu at the bottom. Go first to the drop down menu, find .epub or .mobi, click one, and then turn your attention to the left sidebar of the dialog box (“Compilation Options”). These options start with “Contents” and end with “Meta-Data.”

  • Click File and Compile.
  • At the bottom of the dialog box, note the Compile For: drop down menu. Find the .epub or .mobi option.

 

6. Set your front cover.

When you get to the “Cover” option, here you will be able to choose the photo you want to include as the eBook cover. But again, you can only do this if you’ve uploaded your full-sized cover to the “Research” section – see Step No. 4. If you have, just click the drop down menu by “Cover Image:” and select.

  • When you get to the Cover Compilation Option, you can only pick from the images in your Research field. Aren’t you glad you added the Cover already? Now all you have to do is select it from the drop down menu.

 

7. Do your final checklist.

There are about nine more options to go after this. Move down through each and determine whether what is applicable – it’s all very self-explanatory at this point.

  • Work through the remainder of the options.

 

8. Compile.

Find the “Compile” button in the bottom right corner of the dialog box. Click it. The program will now download the .epub or .mobi to your folders. You can check formatting in Adobe Digital, but we recommend using the real deal. Grab an eReader, hook it to your computer, and drag the .epub or .mobi file – not the Scrivener project – into the device’s files. Note: Extensions here are very important. The Scrivener Project would not be readable on the Nook Color, Kindle Fire, iPad, or other reading device, and it would likely fail to open at all.

  • Click Compile in the bottom right hand corner of the dialog box.

 

9. Play with the formatting.

Remember when transferring files – it’s .mobi for Kindle devices, .epub for everyone else. Once you have the file transferred to its corresponding device, open that bad boy up and take a look. It’s not enough at this juncture to look at how the cover displays (though you should). You should also flip through each page, pay particularly close attention to how your images are displaying, and play with text size to make sure that it doesn’t throw anything off. Once you’re convinced everything is ready to go, find some fellow writerly types and strike up a good rapport with them on Google+ or one of the other social networks. Offer to send them a free digital copy in exchange for their honest opinion as well as their comments on any formatting or text errors they notice. (You never know. You may just find your first positive review in the process once you’re ready to upload to Amazon. Remember these people. If they enjoyed the book, they’ll have no problem posting a review at your request later on.)

Epublishing facilitator Mark Coker of Smashwords has written a lengthy manual on how to format your eBook for mass consumption. It goes on for about 32 pages. Why put up with all that? Get Scrivener. Follow these steps. Save your money and the headache. Mission accomplished.

What have been your experiences with Scrivener? Share your thoughts below!

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