Is Scrivener the right tool for a 'vbook'?

Hello all, first post here.

I am a published author (my publisher is Simon & Schuster) and I have three books out in the public domain so far. These have lots of photos, illustrations, and text. My books are self-help, and are accompanied by separate DVDs.

As we all know the publishing landscape has changed far faster than the publishers over the last 10 years or so, so I want to self publish my next book. The MS is written; all photographs and illustrations made, and only some additional videos are needed.

My question is, basically, is Scrivener the best choice for my next book, a downloadable vbook that will have embedded video, photos and illustrations, and text? I have only watched two or three of the tutorials so far and I have also been through the on-screen tutorial too. This cursory examination suggests that Scrivener is very text-oriented and that making spaces for embedded video and photographs will be more difficult—or am I completely mistaken here?

From what I have seen so far Scrivener will be a huge step up from TextEdit (which is what I’ve written my last three books in) for the writing side of the projects. And with the published books, we then used QuarkXPress (for the first book) and then InDesign for the next two to do the final steps of assembling text, Illustrations and photographs. It is this latter step (laying up in a second program) that I am trying to avoid—it would be much simpler if I could do this rough layout myself. One of the reasons is that there are literally two thousand photographs and fifty videos, and even to make a simple list of image names and put them into the text at the right places is a major piece of work. It would be much easier to be able to place a thumbnail of the picture itself, ideally complete with EXIF data; this would make the final assembly easier, especially if done by another person.

Finally, in this project the embedded videos will be the focus of the ‘pages’, and the bulk of the text hidden behind a “more…” hyperlink. I can see that Scrivener can do the heavy lifting on the text side (especially the rewrite I am knee deep in now), but what about the rest? I will very much appreciate comments. kl

I think Scrivener works okay for this in fact. You can drop pictures into the text editor just like you would in TextEdit, and like TextEdit you won’t be doing much with them, but they will indicate the position they should be in. For video you would just use a still thumbnail.

EXIF will unfortunately not be preserved as it doesn’t survive being embedded in an RTF file, but with ePub all you need are filenames named identically. You can easily open an ePub file and replace the contents of the images folder with the final copies, replacing the placeholders. Sigil is a good program for that, but even just unzipping the .epub file could suffice for that.

To answer your overall question, I think you are correct in that Scrivener is a replacement for TextEdit (or whatever text editor) and a mess of files in folders. To put it one way, Scrivener attempts to replace the author’s writing desk (if indeed their entire writing room). It doesn’t try to replace the printing press and the a/v studio—but that doesn’t negate the need for a good writing desk.

I would even go further and say that the sorts of things needed to perform what a printing press can perform are entirely incompatible with what an author needs to write, either creatively or technically, in the editing phase. That is in fact what gave rise the sub-genre that Scrivener occupies: a rejection of the notion that an author should use something that attempts to address final production, while they are writing—and I would say in most cases that holds true, even those that might intuitively feel as though they would be better done in a production tool like InDesign. We’ve got people writing graphic novels with Scrivener—because there are certain aspects of writing a graphic novel that are universal to all forms of writing. They obviously aren’t putting text into boxes and speech balloons, and probably don’t have art at all at that point—but that doesn’t negate the need for a good writing desk.


Thanks you for your thoughtful reply.

I have been sieging Scrivener these last few days, and have ported my present project (“Stretching, mindfully”) over to it. It’s ~90,000 words (100+ exercises), and the freedom to move sections around without constraint has been liberating and has already made a substantial impact on the MS.

I have not got to this part of the User’s manual yet, but I am assuming from what I have read that I can dispense with numbering, too, and let Compile handle that later.

Re. placing images: no problem with no EXIF date; file names are discreet. And a still thumbnail re. video is perfectly adequate.

And your

is spot on: as an ex-academic, this is crucial to me. Nothing replaces this need, and the idea of composing in (say) InDesign or Quark feels like Hell to me.

And I can report that having a copy of the MS on Dropbox and syncing to my MacBook Pro in the studio and the MacBook Air for all other times is working perfectly so far, and I have renamed local copies too, for redundancy. Even though I have only scratched the surface of what Scrivener can do, I have been truly impressed with the significant change in my approach to creating, simply by being liberated from (for one thing!) exercise numbers! I have blogged on how helpful Scrivener has already been, and I wish I had known about this program in my Master’s and PhD days.

Thanks you again, KL

That is correct. If you’d like to see a practical example you can make a temporary project using a template like the general non-fiction one, and examine the Formatting compile pane. Just click on each entry in the top list and see how numbering is printed in the mock editor below. To check the actual codes you can click the “Section Layout” button above the mock editor. It’s all pretty straightforward if you’ve ever used an outliner with level based styling before. If not, there is a section in the user manual covering the basics. Of course if you started with one of those templates, you might already be set up for numbering.

But as you surmise, this is the kind of thing you can save until later. For now you can just use Scrivener as you will.

Thanks for blogging about us!

Excellent, and I will report back later; I am assembling the catalogue for the 1996 images… A cull is needed.

I have used Media Pro for this job, and loaded that supervening catalogue up to Dropbox; I will test the ease with which I can pull thumbnails from this and place in Scrivener—if this can be done, a major hurdle overcome for me.

Great news about the numbering, too. Cheers and thanks, kl

Fast forward to 2022. I’m new to Scrivener. This conversation helped me to understand Scrivener’s role in my process. My intent is to create graphic novels and graphic non-fiction books (like Scott McCloud’s books). I see that Scrivener will help me get my thoughts together and write the content. I will then need to take content into a program designed for creating the graphics - like Clip Studio Pro to format and layout the pages.