Scrivener for iOS, part 2: the Awesome

Yesterday, I brought up the problems I had while testing the new Scrivener for iOS. Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about how great it was.

The in-app keyboard is awesome. Yesterday I lamented typing in the app isn’t ideal on an old iPad. Your fingers may be large, pudgy sausages like mine, but that’s ok, because the Scrivener in-app keyboard has the means of moving between words and characters so you don’t have to be able to pinpoint where you put your finger perfectly a thousand times until it’s right. I know I said typing with it is a pain, and I stand by that, but the actual on-screen keyboard as a unit is great.

Word progress is maintained between apps. Assuming you follow the synchronization mantra – sync from your desktop, synch onto your device, synch when you’re done, then synch again on your desktop (it really isn’t as onerous as it sounds) – you are in for a treat. In addition to the expected – words transferred! Structure changes reflected! Profits!! – you will also be delighted to see that your word counts (if you’re tracking) are maintained. Progress made on the go will be carried over to your desktop. Of course, this works best in a scenario where you are moving from one environment to the other in the course of your working, but still.

Scrivener iOS NotecardsNotecards like you wanted them. There are plenty of apps that offer a means of using notecards on your iPad or iPhone, and a few of them even synch into Scrivener. But as far as I know, none of them let you move back and forth easily – it’s all about importing and exporting. You have the power now to move cards around and have it immediately affect your project (well, as immediate as dropbox synchs on both devices). While notecards are not my thing – and I’ve have the piles of physical and digital ones to prove I’ve tried them – if they are your ideal method of organizing, you are going to love this. There is something about being able to physically move cards around and have it automagically affect your project that is just liberating.

Editing my way. Writing, it turns out, I do best on a computer, with a lagless keyboard in front of me. I’d probably sing a different story if I was using a faster, more powerful iPad and there was no lag with my bluetooth keyboard. When it comes to editing, though, my ideal method is to be able to hold the story in front of me, either as a print out or on a device, where I can make notes, make edits, etc. Scrivener for iOS gives you that. Load your entire project, scroll through it, make changes, fix mistakes, take notes, and it’s all in your project. No transferring, no duplicating from one format to another. It’s done. And it’s as awesome as you think it might be.

Would I recommend it? Mostly, with a leaning towards an all out yes. If you are on old hardware and looking to do content creation, you might want to think a little bit more on it. Then again, if you are on older hardware, it’s not a bad option. The iOS app will let you create new projects, export them to different formats, and do most (but not all) of the things you can do with the desktop app.

More importantly, it’s Scrivener on the go. If Scrivener is the way you work, this is a welcome extension. It wasn’t a replacement for me, but it was a welcome way to let me work on the go. Isn’t that what we all wanted in the first place? Look for it tomorrow, July 20, in the Apple Store! Not using Scrivener for you’re writing yet? Give it a whirl – they offer a 30 day trial of the desktop app, and really, that’s the best way to know if it’s right for you.

Scrivener for iOS, part 1: the meh

Later this week, Scrivener for iOS will be hitting the Apple Store. After years (and years) of holding out hope and using makeshift solutions, we will finally have Scrivener on the go. For Scrivener users, this is a great opportunity, something we’ve all longed for for a while. The last few months, I’ve had the privilege of being a beta tester for the app, so let me share some impressions. Today, I’m going to talk about the meh’s I experienced with the app.

The Meh

Breaking with tradition, but let’s start with the meh in order to get it out of the way right away. My device for testing was an old iPad 2. This is pre-retina, pre-bells, whistles, or features. It’s an iPad that has served me well, and with any luck will continue to do so for a long time. Scrivener for iOS was built for modern hardware, which could make it a little funky at times. Sometimes fonts are grainy (solvable by zooming, but you should be aware). While the app is by no means slow, there were occasions where it took a second to respond. Nothing repeatable, so the delay could have easily been in my imagination as on the screen.

Dropbox sync is great, but there are times it can be annoying too. If you start up the app already in a document and want to sync, but forget to completely exit the project, you will find yourself in a loop where it wants to exit the project to sync, but it only seems able to go back one level. So if you were in a sub-sub-sub folder, it could take a few tries before the app has backed out far enough that it can run the synch with dropbox. On the same note of synchronization, I have found the conflicting copy resolution to be iffy. Even when you resolve the conflict, if you don’t take steps to delete the files created because of the conflict it will just repeatedly warn you of conflicts. As I type this I realize that’s a bug I should have submitted. Ack.

Scrivener binder in iOSThere is no outline mode. If you work like I do, haphazardly and in no repeatable fashion, then you know being able to work with the outline is great for those times you have a quick idea you need to shove in, or you want to rearrange some things on the fly. It’s ironic, I know, that as a pantser I miss the outline feature, but while I don’t do outlines, I do use notes and structures. Being able to switch over to outline mode real quick to arrange things, or get a glimpse of structure, works for me in a way notecards and binder views don’t.

The biggest meh, though, is that it turns out typing on a screen is not ideal. Being an older iPad 2, external keyboards tend to show lag over bluetooth (even at my mediocre typing speeds, its noticeable when you type a paragraph and it doesn’t show up until 30s later). Screen typing is fine for quick edits, but for writing long blocks of text on the B.A.R.T., it was a pain. This was the first time I’d attempted long text blocks on the iPad in a long, long time, so this was as much my not enjoying the general experience as anything specific to Scrivener. I found it cumbersome and hard, and frankly, it slowed me down immensely to be tapping on glass to make words. I’d joke about first world problems, but since I’m complaining about writing software on a tablet, I’m pretty sure I’ve already passed that bar a long time ago.

These are my complaints, trivial as most of them are. Tomorrow, I will take post part two of this article, highlighting some of the features I think deserve a shout out. See you then!

Sad but true, numbers don’t lie – free sells. 

When I put my first self published book up on Amazon, I knew I was doing it all wrong from the get go. In the course of about a day I went from “Hey, I think I might do this thing” to “Hey, I just bought a cover, generated an e-book, and put it up there.” What did I do wrong?

A Scent of Roses

Copyediting – I don’t know how people can afford this, but I recognize 100% the value of it. I have another novel that will be copyedited (Chrysalis, the novel I wrote earlier this year), but that’s largely thanks to a special program at work. I know even more now how badly this is needed because I’ve received some feedback from friends that found problems a copyeditor would have caught that I completely missed despite a half dozen runs through the novel.

Cover tease and lead up talk – I had none of this, and I think it hurt me. The book came out of the blue, there was no preamble, and if folks missed my initial post about it going live, they likely didn’t know about it.

Turns out, they won’t all laugh at you. Before publishing, a fear I have always harbored is the classic, “What will people think?” And not just people – friends and family. I can honestly say that is no longer a fear. My sales indicate that there are too few readers to worry about that. But all of that changed when I made the book free for a few days – and even that I did wrong. Why? Because there are mailing lists dedicated to helping you promote your book while its free, and I didn’t plan far enough in advance to get on any of them. What I did see, though, was a dramatic increase in sales. They were all free sales, but I went from 1 or 2 max a day to an average of 40 a day while it was free. My pages read in Kindle Unlimited also skyrocketed during this time.

Categorization. I also learned a lot about categorization during the sale. I thought my book fit one or two niche genres, but it turned out it was really, really popular in the Suspense/Paranormal subgenre. This wasn’t a complete surprise – the book certainly fits – but what was a shocker was that at its peak, it was #18 in the free Paranormal books. When my free sale ended, I saw a return to 0 sales and 0 pages read – so I’ve recategorized my book (based on its success during the free sale). While I haven’t seen an increase in sales yet (yay 0), I have seen an increase in Kindle Unlimited pages since the change, to the tune of @200 pages a day being read.

Reviews are everything. While making the book free certainly had an impact, my biggest uptick was when the book was free and had a review. I admit, I’m desperate for reviews right now, and I don’t know how to get them. Good reviews, bad reviews, mediocre 3 stars, it doesn’t matter. Without any reviews, nobody wants to take a risk. I so far have earned 1 review, a 5 star review, and I’m very grateful for that. What I should have done is put the book up for pre-release and then gotten some people lined up for some unbiased reviews ahead of time. I do not advocate poisoning the well here – I really do want unbiased reviews, no matter how bad or good, because reviews tells the reader someone else read this book and finished it. They didn’t stop part way through, didn’t get a chapter in and decide they’d rather scrub the toilet than continue on. They took the time to read it all the way to the end.

Where to from here? Well, obviously I’m still writing. I haven’t given up on trying to be traditionally published with other books, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that self publishing has changed in the last 5 years, and that some books might sell OK that way when they wouldn’t be able to find a publisher at all. Right now I have one book I’m doing edits on before sending to a copyeditor (another paranormal suspense, the first in a series) and an epic fantasy based on some short stories I wrote. The thing, slumbering in my trunk are some other books, books I finished and set aside that might need to be revisited.

To anyone thinking about taking this plunge, this is the question I asked myself after years of sending the same books around and either getting no response, or kindly “not a good fit now” rejections:

If you don’t think you’re going to find a publisher for your book, is it going to earn you more money sitting in the trunk or sitting on Amazon? At least with the latter it might earn back some coffee money.