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Must-Have Author Software

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Today I thought I would highlight some author software that I use to make my writing experiences top-notch, creating happiness where there is work, and quality, finished products where there is so much to compile.

Author software is just one of those things you have to invest in. So instead of sending you down a wild goose chase of an app here, an app on your iPad there, this and that and everything else, I’ll boil it down for you on what the essentials are, (#3 is more optional but super cool) so you can save money and have less headache in establishing your writing to publish process.

There are three primary pieces of tech I use for my author career.

  1. Scrivener
  2. Vellum
  3. Book Flip WordPress theme

Scrivener – Author and Blogger Software

I use Scrivener primary for outlining, research, collecting notes, thoughts, developing my characters for a few pen names I write under, and for also backing up my blog posts offline from my hosting provider. (Super important to do). This way, if I get enough blog posts together on one subject, I can start compiling them and rewriting them for ebook or paperback book material.

Scrivener is a complex software, yes, but one you can easily learn from watching a few videos or reading their training materials. Or, you can pull a Kerrie and just dive in and learn as you go by trial and error.

I know so many authors that use Google Docs or Microsoft Word, and they have so many issues with computers crashing and losing their hard work. Scrivener has never crashed on me. Not once. And when my computer did decide to wreak havoc on me a few times for unrelated matters, Scrivener, which acts like a moving database, had already saved everything I had just typed.

It’s the Scrivener binder thing.

At the center of a Scrivener project is the Binder. Touted as an innovative means of keeping all your notes, research, and manuscript files in one place, the Binder is really just a sidebar full of files. While it is incredibly useful to have everything within easy reach, Scrivener didn’t exactly invent the idea — sidebars have been used in everything from email to file browsers to, yes, writing apps, for decades now.

Still, Scrivener’s Binder does the job very well. And since there are so many different types of files associated with a Scrivener project, there needs to be a means of keeping them organized. Files in the Binder can be grouped together in subfolders, labeled with different colors and icons to allow for easy categorization and organization. It even includes a Trash folder, so you don’t need to worry about accidentally deleting something.

It’s also the Scrivener Corkboard.

Notecards are a classic outlining and editing tool for writers. By writing down what happens in each scene and spreading the notecards out on the floor (or pinning them to a corkboard) authors are able to visualize their projects as a whole, and move scenes around until they have a plot that flows.

Scrivener helps you define and develop a workflow system that works for you. Scrivener’s Corkboard mode takes that idea and runs with it. Each file in your project gets a “card” that you can customize with colors and labels, and then rearrange with ease.  Like everything else in Scrivener, this feature is endlessly customizable, so each writer can develop a system that truly serves their workflow.

Templates

Because Scrivener has so many customization options, you may feel overwhelmed by the idea of configuring all those settings, only to do it again the next time you start a new project.

This is where Templates come into play. Scrivener lets you save all your options as a sort of “preset” that you can easily select for each new project you write. So if you’ve got a specific way you like your Binder set up for a long-standing non-fiction series, you can just select the template when you start writing book twelve, and all the customization you’ve decided on for the first eleven books is ready and waiting for you.

Of course, if Scrivener wasn’t so complex to set up you wouldn’t need to save a template. But since it is, it’s great not to have to reconfigure everything each time.

Final thoughts on Scrivener

Scrivener works best for professional writers who:

  • Have lots of notes or research associated with their books
  • Plan to write a lengthy, in-depth series
  • Want to save your work without hassle of losing it
  • Love binder systems that help you organize your books and blogs
  • Plan to do extensive self-editing, or collaborate with an editor in another program
  • Enjoy learning how to do new things on their computer

Scrivener may not be a good fit if you:

  • Aren’t very tech-savvy and have no desire to learn new software
  • Want to jump into writing faster without a learning curve
  • Write shorter pieces (essays, short stories, poems, children’s books)
  • Need to collaborate easily, especially across multiple platforms, and don’t like exporting or backups to send to other users

Scrivener is one piece of software I can highly recommend. Get Scrivener here.

Vellum – Author Software for Formatting

If you can’t afford both Vellum and Scrivener, then get Vellum. Vellum works somewhat like Scrivener, in that it contains your manuscript, but it’s more of a finishing type software.

Vellum formats your book for you. So all you have to do is copy and paste in your manuscript, and voila, all of your headings, section separators, chapter images, etc. are all there, beautifully laid out in all formats: .epub, .mobi, .pdf, and more.

I don’t know what I’d do without Vellum. Before Vellum came around, we were using Microsoft Word docs and InDesign templates to import our book formats and exporting to PDF.

Oh, how things have changed since I first started publishing in 2007. Vellum is a must. You must have it. You’ll save so much money on formatting services, because you can do it yourself. It’ll help you get so much more published in a shorter amount of time, too, and get back to the most important thing: writing. Get Vellum here.

Book Flip – Author Software for Online Reading

Yesterday I was taking a break from the 4th of July festivities and happened to stumble on something majorly awesome. What I would classify as a must-have in tech for authors and writers. Sometimes you just find some random author software here and there and this was a complete “yay” moment for me.

I had been searching high. And low. For 2 effing years for something that wasn’t clunky or cheesy looking. I didn’t find or discover this (God, have I been blind?!) until YESTERDAY. Game-changer.

I was drooling. This tech allows your readers to have a virtual book reading experience. Right on your website. I get a little excited in this video. Forgive me. I’m stoked.

Fast-loading, stunning, fun to play with, and gets people clicking around (key to getting visitors to stay on your site longer).

OMG look at this beautiful online book! It’s amazeballs.

When I saw the potential of this amazing author software, which you can install on a subdomain without impacting anything on your author website (so you’d have TWO sites with more traffic instead of just one and more SEO), I was floored. Beyond excited. Like, over the moon.

And then I was like… think of all the things I can do with this!

It’s perfect for creating an online e-book, magazine, personal resume or photo gallery, even selling products such as a “shop my favorites” type of thing. You can organize everything as a flipping book on your website, bringing your visitors an extraordinary reading and shopping experience!

The setup tech? Well, it’s not for a novice WordPress user. It does require an extensive setup process. Which will give you a headache. Once it’s set up, it’s a no-hassle thing. It’s the SETUP that is a bit of a pain in the arse. Again, not for the faint of heart.

But this gets my stamp of approval and recommendation. I’ve already started generating Pinterest posts to go straight to my subdomain for my readers so they can read a snippet like a first chapter from each of my books and have a cool experience doing that.

Conclusion on Author Software

The two pieces of software I use the most are Scrivener and Vellum. These are must-haves in the author self-publishing business to protect your work, collect your ideas, and self-publish like a pro. Without these two, you’re looking at a lot of extra steps and service providers to have to do a lot of this work on your behalf (or it’ll take longer for your finished product to get done).

I recommend starting with Scrivener, taking a class or at least reading the in-depth tutorials. From there, you can invest in Vellum, and an on-page reading plugin or theme go give your readers a snippet of your book or project.

Happy writing!


Also published on Medium.

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