The age of handwriting your ebook and typing it up later is long gone. While I am a lover of beautiful stationery, ebook writing software can be much more useful.
In our selection, we review the best editing, writing, dictation, and converting tools. Some of them take you from the first good idea to the virtual bookshelf. Others import your manuscript and transform it into a beautiful ebook. Of course, everyone knows Blurb, and we write a lot about Sigil. If you need your manuscript converted to an epub, PublishDrive can do it for you: simply save it as a .docx file, and drag & drop it to the “Content file” field.
So let's see all the other software out there that help write and publish, and even promote your ebook.
|2.||Ebook writing software|
(The article was updated on July 16, 2018.)
Dictation Tools for Writing an Ebook
When it comes to writing software, most writers still swear by Scrivener. We already have an article on what we liked and didn’t like about it. But writing a book is the hardest part. You’ll have to sit at the front of the computer for hours at a time. It is slow and needs your full, undivided attention. Thankfully, there is a way around it.
More and more professional writers decide to dictate their books. There are several software solutions able to do the job for you. This saves you from getting repetitive pain injury by the time you reach page 50, even if you can’t afford a secretary. Dictating your novel can be a great way to speed up the writing process and let your thoughts go relatively free. What is the best dictation software to use?
Google Docs Voice Typing
To use Google Docs voice input you have to open Google Docs with a Chrome browser, click ‘Tools’ and select ‘Voice typing.’ (Or use the shortcut cmd+shift+f on Mac / ctrl+shift+s on Windows.) You’ll have to allow the browser to use your microphone.
There are also around 100 commands you can give the app. Check out this help center for a comprehensive list. Dictation works in around 80 languages and regional accents in total, even in Hungarian! Voice commands, however, only work in English, and only if both the account’s language and the document are in English.
You can also use voice typing on any Android or iOS device with the GBoard (Google’s very own keyboard): I have never used GBoard to dictate anything longer than a note or text message, but it works just fine.
|Pros||contact your local ISBN agency for pricing|
|Cons||99 USD at CreateSpace|
Dictation on iPhone, iPad, and Mac
To turn on dictation on your iPhone, just open ‘Settings.’ Depending on your iOS version, look for ‘Keyboard’ or ‘Language and input’ to find ‘Dictation’ and switch it on. Once it is on, you will see the little microphone next to the keyboard. Just tap it to start dictating!
The transcription of your voice is done on a remote server, so you’re better off if you dictate in 30 seconds long segments. This is something I’ll probably need to get used to. Use a good mic (such as an iPhone’s noise-canceling mic you use for calls). If your Apple gadget doesn’t understand you, keep trying. With time, it gets better at recognizing your accent.
You can also use Apple’s dictation on a Mac computer. Go to ‘System Preferences’ and turn on ‘Dictation and Speech.’ (Depending on your iOS version, it could also be under ‘Keyboard.’) If you enable ‘enhanced dictation,’ your iOS will download a language package of around 400 MB, but it speeds up the recognition time and enhances accuracy.
|Languages||40 languages and dialects|
Dragon and Dragon anywhere
Dragon is available for Mac, Windows, and phones (Dragon Anywhere). It is the best app currently out by all accounts – but it comes at a price. Dragon for Windows and Mac starts at 300$ and offers no trial version. You do have 30 days to ask for your money back.
The app version offers a trial period of a week; then it is 15$ a month or 150$ a year. You’ll have to sign up online then download the app and log in. (If you don’t like it, don’t forget to cancel your subscription after the end of the trial period.) For this price, Dragon offers 99% accuracy, custom words, and brilliant and intuitive editing options. Just watch this demo:
|Pros||15$ / month|
|Cons||11 languages, including English, French, German, and Japanese|
Ebook writing software
- Pricing: free
- Platform: cloud
- Output formats: epub, mobi, PDF
For a WYSIWYG ebook editor that converts into a valid epub, we recommend Reedsy’s editor. Reedsy’s aim was to create an online marketplace where writers and publishing professionals can find each other. Their platform offers great collaboration opportunities without the usual pain of following up version numbers and more. With this ethos, their publishing platform is cloud-based: you can either write your whole book there or copy and paste it in once you are finished.
Just sign up with your social media account Facebook or Google to create your first ebook title. My favorite feature is the automated front matter with an auto-generated copyright page. You can, as expected, add pictures and notes. On the downside, the customizing options are insufficient.
|Pros||Valid epubs. Free and simple.|
|Cons||Maybe too simple?|
- Pricing: free to download, $199.99 to export books
- Platform: macOS
- Output formats: mobi, epub, PDF
Created with usability and elegance in mind, Vellum is a fantastic software for creating Apple-, Kobo- and Amazon-approved ebooks and POD books. While there are other, much cheaper software solutions to do this for you, some of them even listed in this guide, Vellum is unique. It creates not only professional but beautiful text-centric ebooks. If your goal is to create a book as elegant as a Penguin edition, Vellum can be your choice. The creators took care of everything. It’s simple to use and efficiently imports from Word.
|Pros||Beautiful, valid epubs.|
|Cons||It is a bit pricey.|
(Source: The Write Life)
- Pricing: free to $200 per month
- Platform: cloud
- Output formats: web, Facebook stories, several ebook formats
Their motto is ‘create once, publish everywhere’ (COPE). Just sign up with Facebook and decide whether to publish under your name or create a profile for your publishing house. You can use Creatavist to write and edit your books and stories, add pictures and audio, and publish it on the web or download it as an enhanced ebook. It is excellent for creating magazines and scrapbooks and lets you publish directly to Amazon or Barnes & Nobles.
|Pros||Create beautiful content easily. There is no need to write codes or have a developed sense of beauty, just choose a pre-designed layout. There is also a built-in translation service.|
|Cons||It is expensive. The Creative plan is only enough to have a look at the website and try out some features – if you would like to use it, you have to pay for it.|
- Pricing: free
- Platform: OS X
- Output formats: PDF, epub, iBooks
For those of us who prefer the option to work offline, Apple iBooks Author is an excellent choice with amazing personalization opportunities. And you get the option to easily sell in an iBook Store.
|Pros||Apple being Apple, you don’t have to be a genius to create beautiful multimedia content. Just flow in the text, drop in the pictures wherever you want them and you are done. And well, it is free.|
|Cons||It only works on a Mac. And while there is the option to export your content as an epub, you cannot be sure how that will look on an Android device.|
(Source: iBooks Author – App Store)
- Pricing: free (with watermarks) to $99 per book
- Platform: cloud
- Output formats: PDF, epub, mobi, XML
PressBooks is aimed for self-pub authors and small publishers. It’s a WordPress based application with limited personalization options unless you are familiar with CSS. You can write your book straight into the browser or import it from Word.
|Pros||The platform was designed with books in mind, easy to use for a simple and clear design. Ability to export your book and take it wherever you want to.|
|Cons||Watermarked epubs (if free), and limited storage for pictures – better for text-based books.|
- Pricing: free 30-day trial, $19.99 (iOS), $40 (Windows), $45 (Mac)
- Platform: Windows, OS X, iOS
- Output formats: PDF, epub, mobi, HTML etc.
Scrivener is a bit of an outlier in this list, being not a conversion software but the greatest text editor ever made. It is very complicated to write long and complex texts as a Word document. If you want to change or check something later, it is almost impossible to find the right spot. Scrivener was created for compiling complex projects: books, research articles, or screenplays. It’s great for working with footnotes and endnotes, or thousands of references.
|Pros||What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) text editor, inexpensive (one-time fee), amazing for working on long and complex projects and export it into literally any format you would like to. A writer’s best friend.|
|Cons||Limited collaboration options – your friend can only co-edit your book if they are also using Scrivener. There is no online interface for ease of sharing either. Scrivener is also very complex and has a steep learning curve.|
- Pricing: free to $14 per month
- Platform: cloud
- Output formats: PDF, epub, mobi
Zinepal is similar to Beacon in the sense that it recycles your existing material into ebooks. Using it is literally as simple as using a stick. Just give it your blogs RSS feed and click ‘create.’ It also lets you try it out without registering which is a great plus (I’m still receiving spam from everywhere else I ever subscribed to). After it created your book (it takes around five minutes), you can personalize the output. Don’t put your hopes high; all options look very “newspapery”.
|Pros||Easily generate Amazon compatible ebooks from blogs and existing web pages.|
|Cons||Outdated design, seems a bit pricey for what it does.|
- Pricing: free and open source
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, portable
- Output formats: PDF, epub, mobi
Calibre is the most popular ebook manager software ever created and is my personal favorite. It is mostly known as an ebook library manager: it pretty much handles every input and output format, can send your books to your reader on a wire or wirelessly, lets you easily edit metadata and is great to list your books according to specific information. It sends the right format to the right device.
It is also great as an ebook converter for personal use, or if you would like to send your books to your friends, but the codes it creates are cluttered, and stores (like Amazon) greatly dislike it. (Ebooks created with Calibre often fail the validation.) If you are using Calibre, check our manuscript preparation guide to avoid getting a cluttered code.
|Pros||It is free and amazing for all your conversion needs.|
|Cons||Often creates cluttered, invalid code.|
- Pricing: free limited trial, $39 (basic), $80 (plus)
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Raspberry Pi
- Output formats: PDF, epub, mobi, HTML
Although the user interface seems a bit off-putting, I have quickly fallen in love with Jutoh: it seems to be creating amazingly clean epub and mobifiles. The ‘Document Cleanup’ function is a must have: it offers one-click removal of all rubbish coming from the text editors (tabs, line breaks, etc.) It doesn’t even let you convert your book until everything is in order.
|Pros||Clean, clutter-free ebooks imported from pretty much every type of documents. What’s not to love.|
|Cons||There are only pros. This is a perfect paid alternative to Sigil.|
- Pricing: $19.99 per month
- Platform: Windows, macOS
- Output formats: PDF, epub, indd
In desktop publishing, InDesign sets the standards. No need can arise that cannot be solved using InDesign. The software today is used not only to typeset beautiful books but is here for all your publishing needs. ou can create presentations, forms, and websites using InDesign.
InDesign is by no means an intuitive, easy-to-use software. It takes some time and effort to explore and master it. InDesign is amazing to create print-ready, press-friendly PDFs. On the downside, however, exporting your beautiful book into an epub might not turn out as well as expected. Sometimes, it is just easier to start it over from scratch and ditch the extensive formatting.
|Pros||You can use the same software for all your desktop, web and ebook publishing needs. Can be used for both fixed-layout and reflowable layout books.|
|Cons||Creating an ebook with this one often creates cluttered, invalid code; has a steep learning curve.|
Once you're done writing your manuscript, it's a good time to start thinking about ebook distribution. Consider using PublishDrive! With free ebook conversion, built-in promo tools, and distribution to 400+ online stores, publishing your ebook has never been easier. Create your FREE account to get started!