How to Create Ebook Files with Scrivener – And Why You Should!

2016-01-20 books ebooks ereader ipad kindle reading readerI’ve been quickly falling in love with Scrivener, a word processing software specifically for long-form projects like novels. But I originally bought it because I heard it could be used to create your own ebook files – meaning I didn’t have to depend solely on the conversion processes at retail sites like Amazon and Smashwords. If I had my own, private ebook files, I could do a number of things with them, such as send copies to book reviewers, use free copies as incentives to email list subscribers, maybe even sell books directly on my website.

2016-03-23 How to Create Ebook Files with Scrivener

So I bought Scrivener …

Then I basically let it sit and rot on my laptop. Truth be told, I couldn’t find the energy to learn yet another piece of technology. It seems like that’s all I’ve been doing since I became an indie author!

A couple of months ago, I finally sat down with a small project – a short story I wanted to give away on my author website – and looked up a tutorial on how to create ebook files with Scrivener.

I could not believe how easy it was. Here’s the tutorial:

So, why should you generate your own .mobi and .epub files?

Build Your Mailing List

2016-03-23 mail boxes, letters, mailing listLet’s say you want to give readers a free book in exchange for their subscription to your newsletter. (Building your email list is THE number one thing you should be doing to secure long-lived sales, by the way.) For the longest time, I was sending my subscribers over to Smashwords with one of their handy-dandy coupon codes.

There were a few problems with that, though. For starters, people have to create a profile with Smashwords before they can download their book. Extra steps involving a third party? Bleh! I consistently noticed a difference between the number of subscribers I was picking up and the number of people actually downloading my freebie.

Another problem lay in the terminology. A really good Facebook ad or popup will say, “Just tell me where to send your free book.” And then it’ll have a field for you to fill in your email address. They then get an auto-responder … which does not contain the ebook. It sends them to Smashwords with a coupon code. Well, la-de-da. You could have given them the link up-front and they wouldn’t have had to give you their email address!

It’s just smoother all around to be able to include the book itself as an attachment in an email. They give you their email address. You give them the book. Boom. Done.

Send Copies to Book Reviewers

2015-04-01 KindleHave you ever been offered a book in exchange for an honest review and been given a PDF? Great. Now you’ve got to read it on your computer – which just isn’t as cozy as curling up with your Kindle! You can always sideload or email the PDF to your ereader, but the formatting on a PDF is fixed – meaning the text won’t reflow and you can’t change the font size. The PDF page will be squished on your ereader, forcing you to squint. (Trust me, I’ve done this!)

Wouldn’t it be so much simpler to send .mobi and .epub files so your reviewer can comfortably enjoy your book on any reading device? Who knows, maybe a more comfortable reading experience will even result in a better review!

Sell Books Directly on Your Website

2016-03-23 coffee mug book ereader kindle tablet ebook pen paper journalI’m getting a little purist here, but I will not consider myself to be a truly “independent” author until I’m not entirely dependent on ebook retail platforms like Amazon to sell my books. It is possible to sell your books directly from your website. So in the case of an Amazon apocalypse, you’ll still be set to go! But you need to be able to format your own ebooks in order to sell them. Again, Scrivener comes to the rescue with how easy it is to create your own .mobi and .epub files!

All of these are the reasons why I decided to buy Scrivener and learn the trick. Like I said, it was infinitely easier than I anticipated – by far one of the simplest tech hacks I’ve picked up in years!

What would you do with your own ebook files?

A Punch Clock App for Your Writer’s Office

2015-06-17 Clock fleur de lisHere we go – the latest installment in my forever-ongoing series on time management. I found the coolest new tool to help keep me on track – one of my favorite hacks yet!

It’s an app for your smartphone called, simply, Time Recording. It basically works like a punch clock – but with lots of other features that help you track how you’re spending your time.

Checking In, Checking Out

Screenshot_2015-09-27-09-27-35 Check In Check OutIt’s most basic feature is to simply clock in and out with the push of a button. The screen will tell you what time you clocked in, how much time has run since then, and how many hours you’ve clocked total for the day.

Forgot to clock in or out? No problem! The app makes it easy to edit your hours with the “Add Check In” and “Add Check Out” buttons.

Task Tracking

Screenshot_2015-09-26-21-23-38 Tasks HighlightedThis has got to be one of my favorite parts about the app. Not only can you track your hours, but you can also track what exactly you were working on during those hours. For instance, the app is running right now as I write this, and I have the task tagged as “Blogging.”

The task tracking feature gets even better, but I’ll elaborate on that later.

Work Unit Notes

Maybe tagging your hours with a particular task isn’t enough. Yes, yes, I’m blogging. But which blog am I blogging on? (I have two.) If I want to be more specific about what I’ve been working on, all I have to do is tap the little notebook icon, and it brings up a window where I can wax eloquent on what I’ve been up to.

Screenshot_2015-09-26-21-23-38 Work Unit Notes Highlighted Screenshot_2015-09-26-21-25-25 Work Unit Notes Dialogue Box

Data and Number-Crunching

This is where it starts getting REALLY good.

So you’ve put in your hours for the day. Or the week. Or the month. There’s a bar across the bottom (labeled “day,” “week,” and “month” where you can review the hours you’ve put in. Once those tabs are open, you can choose which day, week, and month you want to review.

Two of these tabs have some special features:

  • Both “Week” and “Month” will let you organize your work according to “task.” (So yes, use that “task” label!)
  • “Month” will tell you, at the very bottom, the average number of hours you work per day.

And then there’s my FAVORITE feature. The Task Matrix.

Under “Day,” “Week,” and “Month,” you can click on “Task Matrix.” This will break down your hours according to task, telling you not only how many hours you spent on each task in the given time-frame, but what percentage of your time  was spent on a given task.

Screenshot_2015-09-26-21-21-12The reason I love this feature is because it lets me set certain goals for how much time I’m spending on certain tasks. For instance, blogging is a time-eater. I love my blogs, I want to keep working on them, but I want to do it in as efficient an amount of time as possible. The Task Matrix lets me see what percent of my time I spent on blogging every month. So far this month, I’ve spent just 13% of my time on my blogs. Not bad! If I can keep it down around the 10% mark, I’ll be happy.

Writing is currently sitting around 17%. That can be explained by the fact that I was putting out and marketing a print edition of Journaling to Become a Better Writer. But still, I’d rather have writing in the 25% – 50% range. Something to work on!

This app lets me see right there on my screen that I’m not allocating my time correctly. I can browse the rest of the spreadsheet to see where I’m spending too much time, and make adjustments during my next work day.

Conclusion: Get the App

2015-06-17 HourGlassThis app has been a real boon to my work as an author. It goes above and beyond merely tracking my hours, and makes it easy to see not only how long I’ve worked  but what I’ve been working on, and thus how productive I’ve been. I love data, but hate number crunching. This app does it all for me! The design isn’t particularly pretty, but I still give it five stars. Go check it out! You can find their website right here: Time Recording app

 

 

How to Use the Revive Old Post Plugin to Tweet Old Content

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d installed a new plugin on one of my blogs. Revive Old Post. For those who are interested, I thought I’d share more information about it.

The Revive Old Post plugin is available from the WordPress plugin repository. It’s a free plugin that comes with a paid add-on, which makes it ideal for trying out. The free version is very useful, but there are a couple of features that make the $10 upgrade fee for the Pro version very cost effective.

I installed the plugin on my old writing blog. Carrie Lynn Lewis Writing Well was my first writing blog. When I upgraded design and moved my writing blog to a new domain, the old blog was still popular enough that I decided to keep it going as an archive base.

But I wanted to continue presenting evergreen (always useful) content without having to log into the blog every day or week or manually schedule through an app like HootSuite.

So I looked around for a suitable plugin. After a rabbit trail or two, I found Revive Old Post.

Revive Old Post

Formerly known as Tweet Old Post, Revive Old Post allows you to present old content to your tweeps.

It’s very easy to install and set up. It took me about 20 minutes, but I like this sort of thing. The average, non-tech inclined user can still install and configure the plugin quickly. The default settings are very functional, so unless you really enjoy getting into the guts of a plugin, install it, activate it, and go. If that describes you, you can install it and have it tweeting old content in ten minutes or less.

For those who are interested, here’s a step-by-step on customizing Revive Old Post.

Accounts

Link to your social media accounts here. The basic free version includes options for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, and Tumblr.

Select the ones you want to link to. You’ll be asked to sign into each account remotely, but this is just so the plugin knows where to send your content.

See the little blue bird to the right of the Twitter option? If you have multiple Twitter accounts, you can link to each one, but only if you have the Pro version.

General Settings

On the General Settings tab, you can customize settings for tweet frequency, minimum and maximum age of posts, the number of posts to share each time, and the categories and tags you want to exclude from posting.

One of the options I most appreciate with this plugin is the option to set frequency for less than one hour. For example, notice I’ve typed in .45 on the first line. My posts will go out every 45 minutes. With almost 200 posts from which to choose, I can post at that rate and still not duplicate posts for several days.

It also causes tweets to appear at different times around the clock. For most of my scheduled tweets, I prefer to stick to the top and bottom of each hour. This rotating schedule gives me the flexibility to post in between those times.

The plugin automatically loads all the categories you’ve used. From that list, you can select those you want to exclude.

What should you exclude?

Posts that are time sensitive such as giveaways or limited time offers are good candidates for exclusion. The giveaway or offer has expired, so there’s no sense in advertising it. If you do tweet those posts, you run the risk of confusing tweeps at best and maybe even alienating them.

I’ve selected a few here to illustrate the process.

Tags are also loaded by the plugin and you can select tags to exclude by checking the boxes.

If you haven’t been using tags on your posts, there will not be a tag list or it will be limited to the default tag, which is Uncategorized with WordPress. If that’s the only tag showing, don’t check it. If you do, you’ll have nothing to post!

Post Format

On this tab, you determine how your tweets will look.

Post content defaults to the title only, but you also can choose body only, title and body, or a custom field. Click on the blue down arrow to access the drop down menu and make your selection. If you choose the custom field option, you will have to tell Revive Old Post what field to use. That setting is line 3 on this tab.

You can also set the length of the post (140 is the default), add additional text and position the additional text, choose whether or not to include a hyperlink (the default is yes), and decide whether or not to shorten the link.

Finally, if you so choose, you can have hashtags added to the tweet. I tried a couple variations on this, but was unsatisfied with the control provided by the free version of Revive Old Post. I either had too many hashtags or none.

One note here, if you haven’t been paying any attention to the way you title your posts, now is the time to start. When the title of a post is all a tweep sees, they need to have a clear idea what the post is about. You also need to give them as many possible reasons to click the link and read more as you can. Clever, cute, or humorous titles usually aren’t the best way to go.

Don’t worry if you haven’t given post titles much thought in the past. I never used to, either, and I was a big fan of clever titles. But choosing the right title is important when the post first publishes and it’s even more important when you start using a republishing plugin of any type.

Now, back to the regular programming…

Post Previews

This feature is another of my favorite things about this plugin. After you’ve customized the settings, click on the Preview Post link at the bottom of the page and a sample post will appear in this pop up.

If you like what you see, click the Post Now link and off it goes.

If you don’t like it, close the preview, change the settings you want to change, and try another preview.

This is an invaluable tool, in my opinion. I went through this process three or four times before getting things the way I wanted them. Without being able to preview posts, I would have had to have my Twitter account opened to see tweets and would have had to delete anything I didn’t like.

Going Pro

The Pro version costs $59 per year for personal use (one blog). For that price, you get the options to upload images as well as post titles. You can also do more precise scheduling. Even for a frugal person like me, that’s a good buy.

Conclusion

I’m very happy with this plugin on my older blog. I had no difficulties in installing it–the entire process took less than 20 minutes and the first seven minutes was watching a video review. I’ve been using the plugin since May 2 and so far, it’s performed flawlessly.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s the video review. It’s from Brett Bumeter at VidMag. Brett has upgraded to the pro version so you get a little more information on that option.