My wildly inefficient workflow

So I start in Scrivener, which I love for its instant outline format, and write a book. I think that is the hard part. It isn’t.

My Scrivener is a mess, with pages of notes. Plus all the research is saved on my hard drive, except when it isn’t and is saved in Shaarli (social bookmarking) using excellent cross-referencing (“mystery2”, “Wells”).

Already inefficient, I can’t figure out the complexities of Scrivener’s export, which they don’t even call export but rather “compile”. It is so complicated I can’t even get the size I want, or figure out how to fix things it won’t do.

So I save it as .docx and open Word. Then I edit it myself, twice, saving each version with a slightly different name. I have to print it out to do this cuz I’m old. Then I send the third (fourth? fifth?) draft to an editor, who sends me back an edited version (commented in Word) and a clean version.

I load the edited version into Word and try to click on Accept or Reject for each edit, but some really need to be batched somehow (because I want to change all of x back to y) and there isn’t a way to do that. So I do each change one at a time, then realize Word hasn’t really gotten rid of those edit boxes — they are still in the document, just hidden. Little artifacts pepper my document. So I open the clean version and try to change back everything I want changed back.

And while doing that, I see some things I want changed, so I change them. Then I think I don’t like a couple of the scenes, so I rewrite them. Then print again for another self-edit, and by this time I am getting a little lost. I am distant now from my research and my original book in Scrivener. As George Carlin said in A Place for My Stuff, supply lines are getting longer and harder to maintain.

So I decide to focus on the publishing for a bit. I want to publish the e-book in one place and the paperback in another, and I don’t want either of them to be Amazon cuz, you know, Amazon. Lots of research later, I decide (though not absolutely) on IngramSpark for paperback and Draft2Digital for e-book, plus more places later if I need to.

I am done with changes (I hope), so I need to format it for upload at Ingram, and I want to do the final proof in the final format. Book size! How to decide? I would love to go small, but then it wouldn’t look like books look now, so I go looking at my own books, measuring for size. Ingram has a list of sizes, so I pick one I like. Well, sort of like. I don’t realize till later that cream pages (as opposed to white) only come in certain sizes.

I can’t make Word look good with the size I’ve chosen, and the kerning (letter spacing) doesn’t look right — it looks amateurish, like I’m doing a newsletter. So I look into formatting programs, and Vellum is $249 and only has eight formats, although it’s so easy to use I am momentarily enchanted. I surf around and some people use Pages. I’m on a Mac, so I import the Word file into Pages.

Take a break to think about the cover. It will be both e-book and paperback, so I need a cover. People design covers in Adobe InDesign, a terrifying graphics program for those of us who live in word-land. I go to Canva and get a free cover, but it is only one image so can only be used for the e-book. To do a paperback cover, I have to go to Ingram, download an InDesign template that’s exactly the size of the book. This means I need the final page count. I can’t do the page count unless it’s formatted already. And it isn’t. Back to Pages.

My scene dividers have been achieved in Word by using a wingding-type font, so Pages doesn’t see them and changes them all to the letter “k”. Find and Replace won’t work because it’s a different font, so I go through them one at a time (there are many) and replace each one myself (having just done the same thing in Vellum). Then I export as PDF.

Only then do I discover, via a Facebook author group, that Macs only export as standard PDF, but Ingram printing requires something called PDF/X, which this isn’t and Mac cannot do. I open programs to try, and finally borrow Acrobat and I think I’ve exported it correctly, so I can print it now for the final proof. And now I have the number of pages, so I can do the cover. Except it’s InDesign. I start scrolling Fiverr for someone to do it for me, and I find a good candidate.

He needs all the information, including the copy for the back cover. Is that the same as a blurb? Yes, I think so. But my blurb is lousy — I used it to try to get an agent and I didn’t get an agent. That’s not why, probably, but it still doesn’t make the book sound exciting. Trouble is, the book isn’t exciting. It’s kind of a quiet little novella about a historian researching H. G. Wells (so the genre is clearly Fantasy, because who would be crazy enough to do that?).

No blurb, no cover. No cover, no book. And that’s where I’m at, starting the final (?) edit. I haven’t written anything in weeks while I’ve been doing this self-publishing stuff by the seat of my pants. It’s getting a little cold in here, and I’ve been in the 21st century too long . . .



2 comments to My wildly inefficient workflow

  • jmm

    This is a charming essay, and it makes me think I’ll never ever ever try to self-publish. It seems like it would be easier to type-set it, or engrave the sentences on thin sheets of boxwood.

    • Lisa M Lane

      Hey, when I’m finally done, I will know enough to do it for you! But yes, at this point I’m considering learning how to use a linotype machine. 🙂