Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR QUICK START GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING and to be notified when the 3rd Edition of the Indie Author Survival Guide releases!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How I Use Scrivener To Organize Research and Marketing For My Books

I'm a big fan of Scrivener - it's an indispensable and inexpensive tool for professional writers (or heck, any writers, but ones who plan to make money from their work? You need this.).

See the taglines above? Outline. Edit. Storyboard. Write. I only use Scriv for one of those (Outline), and yet it's still incredibly valuable. Let me say that another way...

I use less than 10% of Scrivener's capability, and it's still incredibly useful.

Quick and Dirty
Sometimes people get overwhelmed with the mere idea of opening and learning Scrivener. I get this. I really do. Which is why I recommend starting really simple:
Step One: Watch this 10 minute Scrivener Get Started Tutorial (heck, I would listen to this for ten minutes just to hear Keith's adorable accent, but as a bonus, you will actually learn the basics of how to open up a new project and move around Scriv, using the basic features)
Step Two: Open Your own Scrivener project for your current WIP
Step Three: ???
Step Four: PROFIT!! (where "profit" = "reap the organizational benefits")
Seriously, it's pretty much that simple. 

I don't compose my books in Scrivener. I don't format them or storyboard them or write out of sequence and rearrange my chapters in Scriv. I did use it once to format a screenplay, which was pretty rocking, but that's as crazy cat as I've gotten. Scrivener is capable of doing all these things and more... I just simply don't use it that way.

I use it to organize.

Before you say, "But I have Evernote and notebooks and my awesome collection of sticky notes, real and virtual! I have a system already!"... I'm willing to bet you virtual donuts that whatever your system is now, it's not as powerful as using Scrivener.

Let me convince you with examples.

Using Scrivener for Research
For each book/series, I have one Scrivener file where I keep everything related to that book: images for cover art, names of characters, outlines, research notes... everything.
Mindjack Scrivener File

The key is having folders and subfolders that hold everything from links to images to text.
Totally a water pumping station waiting to be taken over by rebel mindjackers, don't you think?

Some of the ways I use Scriv for research
  • storing images that give visual inspiration
  • storing links to research material
  • brainstorming plot lines
  • checklists for revisions
  • notes during conferences
  • general plans for story development
  • character names/bible
As you can see, I basically use it as an organizational tool - a way to keep everything book-related in one place. This is incredibly helpful when coming back to write the NEXT book in a series, especially when I've taken off a year or more from writing in that universe. I can quickly look up what the plasma lights in Mindjack were based on, or where did I get the design specs for the skyship in Dharian Affairs, or where are the links to that 1940's recording of submariners calling out their stations that I used in creating a mariner feel in that one scene? 

This saves time. And sanity.

Using Scrivener for Marketing
Just yesterday, I finally put 2 and 2 together and came up with PROFIT!!! for organizing my marketing for all my books as well. I have a lot of books - moreover, I have a lot of book series, often in different genres. Keeping track of marketing for all those different books is... complicated. I'm constantly evaluating which ads work best, what new strategies there are for capitalizing on Amazon's algorithms, where the good blog tour companies are (and for which genres), etc. And those are just the general market-driven ideas. Then there's specific campaigns for individual books/series, new approaches to try. Heck, just keeping track of what I want to submit to Bookbub next takes a whole text file to itself, cross-coordinated with all my series. And trying not to lump up too much at once (hello, releasing two books at the same time? Really not a good thing for my sanity) requires that all of this work together. 

Add in that I spend most of my time writing (logged 500k written words in 2014), and I was starting to lose my mind with juggling the marketing for all the different series/books I have. 

Then the brain spark hit: use Scriv and your life will be better (that's about the sum of my thought, too).

First, I have an old-school paper calendar that I use to cross-coordinate everything. This way, on any given day, I know what I have to do to keep the wheels on.

releases, ads, and uploads, oh my!
Old school, in pencil, mostly

Actually, the calendar comes last, gleaned from all the work within my one central Scrivener file for all my marketing efforts.

Marketing File for ALL MY BOOKS
This page is for Mindjack. That series is OLD... and yet, still marketing it. #IndieFTW

In my Marketing File, I have my Overall Plan, a page for each advertiser with notes on how well they performed, blog tour organizers, and a page for each book/series that has a detailed chronology of what I've done vis-a-vis marketing, and what the overall thoughts/plans are. This way I can quickly stash an idea I have for marketing the Dharian Affairs books ("hey, these are really sweet romances!") then come back later to pull it all together in some kind of plan - I usually try to have one dedicated day a month for financial/marketing stuff, when I tally up sales, make plans for the month, pay my translator, etc. I'll execute on marketing throughout the month (see the paper calendar above), but the planning part, I try to keep to that once-a-month day. Or else, I spend all my time on that and not writing. And I have LOTS of plans for writing, so that has to get done.

{Note: I also have a page just with notes on stuff to check out later (just today, I got wind of a post on the affiliates program on iBooks - so I stashed the link in a text file so I can come back later to check it out).}


This post is already too long, and this is supposed to be the SHORT post to get you up and started. Actually, I really just wrote it for Jessica Keller. The rest of you are just reaping the benefits of this tweet:

Write on (and organize) my friends!


  1. Has anyone told you lately that you are amazing? Anyways, thanks so much for the post. I tried scrivener once and got lost in it - worldbuilder's disease I'm afraid - but you've made me think I ought to try it again.

    1. It's hella intimidating at first. I think it took me three tries before I actually got past the installation to using it. But you can totally do it, Math-brain-Rebecca. #noproblem

  2. Can I buy you a puppy or lick your toes or something? Thank you for all you do and share!

  3. I'm totally the person who owns Scrivener and has never opened it. Not even once. But I keep all these random files in Word and lose notes all the time and have notes saved in my email this could really help me save time and be better organized. THANK YOU for writing this.

  4. I had never heard of it until I signed up for NaNoWriMo. I installed the free trial, watched the tutorial, and wrote all 50,000+ words in it. It is SO much easier to reorganize chapters, keep your research handy, character info (what did I name Pearl's sister two chapters ago?)--I love it. Totally buying the official version.

  5. I lovelovelove Scrivener! Everything on one screen at the same time! :)

  6. Wow! Great post. I just started writing end of 2014 and I'm using Scrivener. I have to agree that it is AWESOME. You've given me much food for thought. I had not considered having a project for my marketing plan and tracking efforts. I will soon! Thanks!

  7. I love Scrivener, but hadn't thought of these uses for it!! Thanks again for being your brilliant self!! :)

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