Using Scrivener

Learning then using

I still use version 2 for MAC; a newer version 3 is out but I can’t use it on my old MacAir.
It took some time to get familiar using Scrivener as it is a rather unusual software. I had to view several times the many video lessons before I managed to use it correctly.
Once I started using it for the jokes and worked on my notes for the book no. 3 I fully understood the advantages of Scrivener. Simply said, Scrivener is a must.
Read more about it:

Back in Beijing it still took me some time to complete the final output. And then I did ran into a brick wall when I tried to deliver the print and e-book versions.

I needed to finish first the output for the print version because the cover design company needed to know how many pages the book had. It was frustrating. Nothing went right. I was close to give up but then tweaked and tweaked the settings till one day it worked. For the print I could not really finish the task as it turned out correctly setting the margins and the positions of header and footer were not possible within Scrivener. I solved it by exporting from Scrivener to MS Word, something that worked well. The Table of Content is a bit tricky to format correctly but one needs to keep in mind it is NOT a Word ToC but a list of links where one must “update links”. Inside MS Word I was able to fine-tune the choice of font type and size as well as the headers and footers. Also to fine tune all pages so they would look nice – e.g. no title of a joke at the bottom of the page, shifting it to the top of the next page. Last step converting into PDF – the format requested by Amazon for the print.

CreateSpace is now history and Amazon directly handles the print too, making it much more easy.

Finally getting there

Once the problems with the print version were solved, the output of the Kindle files was much easier. Basically the challenge is to get the settings right in the compile dialogue, combined with the right settings for each document in the chapters (the settings are pretty much linked). In my case, see the screenshot:

the compiling dialogue

There are some add-ons to Scrivener that allow you to test the Kindle version in the Kindle app on the Mac desktop. The only tricky thing was to delete the old versions in the Kindle app: one needs to go into the (hidden) folder of Kindle in the MAC and there manually delete the old files. I was also able to put the test Kindle file in my iPhone to see how it behaved.

You must have a table of content

Amazon requires your book to have a table of content, and – it must be at the beginning of the book, not at the end.
So I was forced to artificially create a table of content for the mountain of jokes. Obviously the result is rather artificial and not always logical… Well I had no choice but to be creative, inventing chapters and making sure the length of the chapters was not too unevenly spread. It took some time… and finalizing it was easy with Scrivener.

How I wrote my books

Everybody and every book is different

How I wrote my books is a personal experience; everybody is different. Here is my approach.
My first book “Toxic Capitalism” was written using MS Word. The file was sent to AuthorHouse who did the rest, except for the design of the cover page that we (read: my daughter) did ourselves. As that book involved tons of data, sitting in my computer or in piled-up cutouts from newspapers and magazines, there was little choice other than working at my home office. It was a crazy and frantic experience. Nobody can believe the book was finished in less than six months, all while I was still involved in doing business, and having Christmas, New Year and Spring Festival making a mess of my time schedule.
I guess I emptied quite a number of whisky bottles working until very late at night in a frantic way.

late nights…

Difficult to believe when one reads the book that has far over 500 endnotes with the references to the tons of data. Somehow the whole process on how to process and organize the data had been spinning in my head for some time. Processing the pile of paper clippings and data in my digital database was labor-intensive but also systematic. OK, I swear I will never do anything alike again. I hope.

Running away from Beijing

For the second book, the jokes one, I figured out I would never get anywhere staying in Beijing where I have a rather hectic life full of diversions. Basically I had 3 issues to deal with: learning Scrivener – entering all my written notes for book no. 3 into a Word document – cleaning up and organizing the collection of jokes.

the notes

So, I ran away to Phuket, Patong Beach (Thailand). It was a good decision. During the day I did not leave my room, just a quick snack for lunch while working. By the end of the day, a dip in the swimming pool or then gym. And a dinner outside and drinks in the famous bar street, to relax. Often it rained heavily during the day, even better to keep me working in my room.
I stayed in a nice hotel to have a quiet and comfortable environment.
In 2017 I was there twice for two weeks each time. In March this year, three weeks, all mostly in Baanlaimai Hotel.

It allowed me to basically reach my three goals. More about that in next post.

Why self-publishing

Why I write

Before answering the question “Why self-publishing?” I should explain why I write.
I felt an urge to write since I was a teenager. I wrote a short story when I was in middle school (Sint-Barbaracollege, Ghent). It was about a young man who invented some kind of beam (I called it then a laser I think) that helped him control the mind of other people. I forgot the details but it could be still somewhere in my archeological museum. Another short story was about an strangely-dressed lady I had seen on the tram when going to school. I shared it all with a Jesuit father of the school but received little or no encouragement, most probably because it looked pretty lame.

Later on I penned down a lot of personal thoughts, some kind of diary, all in scattered notebooks, mostly somber rambling. I have been trying to assemble the scattered notes into one computer file to prove to myself it was all repetitive garbage and how little has changed and how much has changed, yes, because that is in essence the story of our life.

I have now published two books. I never think it will make me rich. I simply feel the urge to write, to get it off my chest. I never write with the idea to please the readership. I simply write what I feel and think. Don’t ask me why. It’s just the way I feel and do.

Why self-publishing

I can simply refer to the excellent books by David Gaughran:His website:

Main individual titles are, see
Let’s Get Visible
Let’s Get Digital

I have bought several of the editions, and I have read them multiple times, considering it as my bible on the matter. I greatly recommend them to anyone who wants to understand self-publishing.

Another great set, not sure it is still available:
The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish & Market Your Book
by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, David Gaughran, Joanna Penn

One important lesson: if you think writing a book is difficult, well, that is just step one and the most easy one. Step two is getting published – for most an impossible dream. Then comes step three, the most difficult one: selling the book. An even more impossible challenge.

More about “Why Self-publishing”

There are quite a number of other books explaining the why and how. This one by James Altucher (ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SELF PUBLISHING) is freely available on his site:

The Ultimate Guide To Self-Publishing



Writing requires never giving up

Writing is really hard

And writing requires never giving up. The example of JK Rowling is so emotionally moving – and encouraging –  for a small writer that I am. I still can’t believe how the lady did it all. Impressive.

See: “This Animation Of JK Rowling’s Life Is Seriously Powerful”
Posted by Doireann Garrihy – 29 Mar 2017
An animation that follows the life of JK Rowling has gone viral.
Starting with her being rejected from college at the age of 17, it goes through the journey of her miscarriage, her marriage breakdown and her severe depression.

See here the clip directly:

How I came to write my first book

See the story here:
The problem was first of all to start the real writing. Jotting down ideas is not enough, one must start “the real stuff”. The way I managed to start was disappearing from Beijing, getting away from office and home. The first escape was near the Western Ming Tombs (Yixian County, Hebei), in early August 2009.

Some pictures of the guesthouse, its fabulous view on the lake (I think called Wolongshan Natural Scenic Area), and the tombs: Western Qing Tombs (Qing Xi Ling, 清西陵) in Yixian County, Baoding, Hebei. Pretty close to the new Xiongan Zone…

The second escape was to a small village in the far north east side of Beijing in Pinggu County near Hebei Province (late August 2009). See the “main road” that leads to a dam. the simple guesthouse and the local food. During the week the place is empty but in the weekend people from Beijing come in great numbers to eat the, yes, delicious food.
Later I simply retreated regularly to a modest IBIS Hotel not very far from home. No contact with others.

Another long night in IBIS

When I started working on Toxic Capitalism I somehow managed to do it all at my home office, mostly late at night and burning the midnight oil.

writing and thinking at the home office

The next challenge

I am working on a couple of books. I have set the goal of finishing two completely different books this year. I have scribbled tons of notes and collected newspaper clippings, plus some files in the computer.
But nothing really written yet for the “most important book challenge”. So, after months of doubts and overloaded schedule, I have finally decided: in May I will disappear… Hopefully to start building the foundations for the “Manifesto”.
The other book will be more easy, the main challenge will be to first master the needed software: Scrivener. The topic? Jokes… Yep. No kidding.

TOC must be in the beginning for Kindle

Table of Content and Kindle

I was about to be a victim too, planning TOC at the end. After reading David’s books I became convinced it was better at the end. Oh well, Amazon does not like it and you get punished hard by them.
Read the story:
Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors

Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors

As David points out the rule is indeed in the Kindle guidelines,
see here the link:
Kindle Publishing Guidelines (PDF)