I have become fascinated by the technology to support writing and publishing. My first book Still Stupid at Sixty (published under the pseudonym Blake Stevens) was written in Microsoft Word and converted into Amazon Kindle format using Calibre. That is how easy it is to self-publish these days. Anyone who can type claims they are an author these days, including me!
But my current book Wine Sense is a different matter. It will be published electronically and as a physically printed book. It is almost twice the size at 125,000 words or the equivalent of roughly 350 pages based on format. It will contain almost forty photographs, multicolored tables, and a couple of QR Codes to link to videos. I researched over twenty other wine books and multiple research papers, therefore requiring numerous citations for the original source. The total effort involved is estimated to be ten times what was required for my first book.
I started to use a cloud-based approach in order to work more appropriately across multiple platforms. The apps used included Dropbox and Evernote on my laptop, iPad, and iPhone, along with some ongoing collaboration with my wife’s desktop computer. It also included converting from using a word processor to using a real writing management system called Scrivener which tripled my productivity for addressing a more complex project such as Wine Sense. And I learned some basic HTML and CSS to have more direct control over the final formatting of the book in electronic format so it would work properly across multiple devices and eReaders..
It is still my intent to still involve a support team, especially a graphic designer. While I am somewhat innovative and creative when it comes to systems and technical problem solving, I lack creative visual design skills. However, the more and more I worked to develop and optimize an integrated writing and publishing workflow, the more I fell in love with computers and technology again. I wanted the ability to work collaboratively with my graphic designer and editor in an interactive and back-and-forth manner without having to pay designer for multiple changes in final layout. Nor did I want to pay heavily for small tweaks to a basic layout design when I could do that myself.
Therefore I started to study and become more intrigued with some of the freeware tools to manipulate photos and other images. My initial reaction is that the Adobe products were too high-end and too expensive. I felt I had neither the budget nor the capabilities or experience to utilize these products. But then I found out about Adobe Creative Cloud which includes Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver and about twenty other products for publishing and it was all for $49 per month if I signed up for one year. I took two months reviewing strategies, continuing to optimize my writing workflows, and thinking about the commitment of time required. Ultimately, I felt the $600 or so I would spend per year was well worth it in terms of what I would save by reducing the charges from graphic designers and much more in the time it was taking fiddling around with integrating and trying to get precisely what I wanted from the freeware apps available.
So I have committed to the Adobe Creative Cloud. Be aware that these products are extremely high end and have a very steep learning curve. The products have matured over 25 years and they have thousands of features and thousands of different ways for doing things. Some of the keyboard shortcuts require the use of three different keys and a mouse click! These apps require some serious investment in time to become proficient. I have read books, viewed online videos by Adobe, and tried to play around with the apps myself. What is really getting me up to speed though is the tutorials I am taking with Lynda.com. This is a great training site to provide training in many different areas including outstanding training courses and videos for the Adobe Creative Cloud product suite.
While the tools take some getting used to, they provide amazing capabilities to do exactly what you want. It takes years to become a professional in just one of them and I am trying to come up to speed on four of them quickly. But I am certain the savings in time and money for my current book and many books in the future is worth it. While this approach works for me, I understand it may not work for everyone. But if you need to have high-end design and want control over what you are doing, then the Adobe Creative Cloud is worth considering. And if you want to learn the Adobe apps as quickly as possible, I would recommend signing up for Lynda.com.