In the past I’ve used Pronoun for my ebooks, with fairly decent results. In fact, the first time I created an e-book with them I was delighted with the formatting. It was leaps and bounds better than a simple Word upload (mainly because I didn’t have Word – and still don’t – on my laptop). I loved the style options that made my book look a little fancier. A range of swirly or dotty scene breaks (depending on the style selected) added another touch of personality to my text. But … there had to be a but, didn’t there? I’ve since seen better. And, as always, I want better.
The easy option would be to pass the buck: find an established formatter and send my files to them. But, as with everything, it costs money. Assuming I did that each time I wanted to release a new book (which, granted, isn’t all that often) then it would be another cost to add to the growing list of necessary expenditure. After editing and proofreading there is little left in the coffers to justify further expense. So, the answer was to learn how to do it myself.
Well, I like a challenge and if it’s going to save me money and look more attractive and professional, then what did I have to lose? I know you’re going to say that Pronoun and D2D are free to use – and they are both perfectly good alternatives. Except, as I said … I’ve seen better. Besides, without Word on my laptop all files I uploaded to Pronoun always created problems. It is clear that using a LibreOffice file masquerading as a Word file is fraught with hidden issues.
Besides, I write in Scrivener anyway, so that always adds another step to the process. Of course, I can compile my Scrivener file as a Word document, but as soon as I open it to check in LibreOffice those pesky formatting gremlins come out to play. It’s not much fun, I promise you.
For 10 euros I purchased a Udemy course (on sale from 180€) which taught me how to format a file for a print run. I’m chuffed with the results, as you can see below. Not bad for a first attempt.
So, how hard could it be to adapt that same file for an e-book? Of course, firstly it was out with the headers and footers, but the rest should have been straightforward, don’t you think? Except, once again the incompatibilities between LibreOffice and Word came to visit, and they definitely outstayed their welcome. I was getting pretty cheesed off by now and considered buying a licence for Microsoft Office. But, I held my ground. Just after I saw the price and then knowing it was an annual cost. Hell, no! I’d master this formatting lark if it killed me.
With a file eventually fit for Pronoun, I uploaded it, only to find the choice of style options had increased (yay! you might think) and I didn’t really like any of them. I choose the one I disliked least and went for it. Firstly, the chapter headings fiasco I’d experienced last time returned with a vengeance. But I knew the solution – or rather a workaround. (Fortunately, this was a short book!!!) Then there was the issue of a first paragraph indent – which I didn’t want and hadn’t formatted it that way in my upload. Nothing enabled me to start chapter one without an indented paragraph. Nothing! That’s just not on. I didn’t want an indented first chapter. No-one does! So, I’m waiting on another workaround from the helpdesk (who are very good, I might add). I’d just rather not have a list of workarounds to use each time, especially with a style I didn’t really like. (I mentioned I’d seen better, didn’t I?)
In the end – while I’m waiting for the fudge – I decided to check out more options. Ideally, I’d love to have Vellum. But, it’s for Mac only, and buying a Mac is a step too far. However, I think I’ve found the very next best thing. It’s called Jutoh. It lets me import files from LibreOffice (no need for Word). I can apply the formatting techniques I learnt in the Udemy course or I can use the features within Jutoh itself. I can have fancy heading scrolls, glyphs galore, dropped caps … everything. It can create mobi, epub, and about 10 other different file variations. I’ve used the demo version to see if it can do what I want – and it can – plus more I haven’t even thought of yet.
Okay, so it’s not free. I need to buy a one-time licence for 33€ (39$) and will get free upgrades as they occur. But that’s cheaper than buying Word or a Mac (and yes, I could still use the other free options without all this hassle, but I like having complete control) I shall continue to write in Scrivener (which is the best software I own), compile my files to LibreOffice, upload to Jutoh and use my new formatting skills to produce a pretty e-book every time. I’ll post a photo on here of my next book as it appears on my Kindle shortly.
It’s going to be great – I just know it!
Thank you for reading!
PS – If you’re interested in knowing more, I learnt about Jutoh from MyBookCave. Check it out.
PPS – Pronoun and D2D also publish your ebooks to a number of sites in just a few clicks, so they’re definitely a great option for those with limited time.