There are dozens and dozens of book writing apps in the digital universe, and they all have pros and cons: some are free writing apps, some are paid, some are expensive and feature-rich, some are inexpensive and basic, some have high learning curves and some low, some are designed for fiction writers, some for screenwriters, and some are for bloggers. I could go on and on listing their differences.
But they do have one thing in common: all of the above can quickly become a big distraction for entrepreneurial authors like you. If you’ve come across my previous article on the best writing habits for nonfiction book authors you’ll know that keeping a high focus whenever you write and being distraction-free is key to your success.
Now, the app makers are going to be furious with me because I’m not taking the time to do a proper and fair comparison among apps, listing all their features and benefits in a long, aggregated post so that you can be well-informed.
Here’s the thing: I’m not here to sell you an app and I’m not here to dis one either. I’m only here to help you write the best nonfiction book that you possibly can so that you can take your business to the next level, convert more prospects, land higher-paid speaking gigs and become the go-to expert in your field in the eyes of the media.
Everything else takes a back seat, including app research and selection.
What I hope to achieve by the end of this article is to provide you with a clear solution that, in my view, will work the best for your book project.
Book Writing Apps
When it comes to choosing the best software for writing a nonfiction book, what you’re looking for is an app that:
Will get the work done with a minimal learning curve.
Will not be distracting or awkward to use.
Will automatically save your changes so that you never run the risk of losing your content should your device crash.
Will save your text on the cloud so you don’t have to worry about creating and maintaining backups.
Sharing & Collaboration
What You Don’t Want Is:
Too many formatting options.
To Many Templates
Lots of book templates to choose from.
Too Much Complexity
Highly complex book outlining tools.
Too Many Bells and Whistles
A large number of features you’ll never need (like advanced HTML formatting, story development, character tracking, plotting, etc.).
What you need to look for is an app that is super easy to use, has just basic formatting options (bolding, italics, underlining, etc.) and will get the job done without ever taking center stage – your writing has to take center stage at all times.
What Should I Look For In a Book Writing App?
Your only job with your nonfiction book is to write compelling content for your target audience. Content that solves a high-pain problem that they have in a unique way, using your personal touch and leveraging the years of advanced knowledge in your field that you’ve accumulated through your business, practice or consultancy.
That’s where 100% of your time and effort should go. Everything else that needs to be accomplished in support of your main job should be left to other professionals: the people who will take your creative output and give it the treatment it needs to become a premium product.
There are talented folks who can design beautiful charts and diagrams for your book, create any tables that are necessary to support your thesis, format your book using best industry practices, choose the best fonts and do the typesetting, and last but not least, edit your manuscript to create a top-notch product.
The reason you don’t want to do any of the above (which a lot of feature-rich writing apps will allow you to do) is that, aside from the fact that it’ll distract you from your writing, your book will become by nature your professional legacy in the eyes of the world and as such it’ll become an outward representation of who you are, your knowledge and above all, your reputation.
So, being an amateur in the above book-design areas (no disrespect), why would you try to do those jobs when there are already seasoned professionals ready to assist you?
This is really no different that choosing an accountant or a corporate lawyer. Even if you’re a natural with numbers or understanding legal jargon, you’ll never choose to do that yourself, right?
That’s the reason why you should stay away from any type of feature-rich apps, which – although they may do wonders for fiction authors, professional screenwriters and avid bloggers – will become detrimental to your goal of putting out the best nonfiction book you possibly can.
What Program Should I Use To Write a Book?
Having said that, now is the time to recommend what, in my opinion, is the best tool for the job.
This tool is (drum roll please…): Google Docs
Here Are The Main Reasons Why:
Free Writing App
It’s as easy to use as the ubiquitous Microsoft Word but it’s free (you’ll need a Google account – if you currently use Gmail you’re already set: just click on the “Google Apps” icon on the top right).
Frequent Automatic Data Saving
It automatically saves your work to the cloud as you type and it’s linked to Google Drive (cloud storage) which offers a very generous amount of free storage – side note: the online version of Microsoft Office has some of these capabilities as well, but most people use the Word version that came with their computers, which is stored locally and not backed up on the cloud.
Built-in Collaboration Features
It allows for easy online collaboration with co-writers, advance readers and most important of all, your editor (incidentally, you get to control access at all times and you can easily revoke access if needed).
Uncomplicated to Use
If offers simple formatting only, which removes the temptation to spend time doing things that don’t add value to the main writing task.
Since it’s associated with your Google account, you can switch devices to your heart’s content (at home, in the office, using different computers, switching between your iPad and your laptop, etc.) and your writing will always be there for you.
Fantastic Deletion Recovery
And finally, here’s one of the least known and yet most important features: whenever you delete text, that information is never permanently lost. Google Docs keeps all deletions stored and easily accessible through a powerful change history feature that allows you to reclaim, say, a block of text you deleted a month or two ago but that you need now for a different chapter.
For all of the above reasons, I feel that you’ll really appreciate this app when it comes to ease of use, efficiency, redundancy (read: automatic backup), availability across platforms and cloud storage – even if you lose your device to a fire or theft, your data is always safe.
Of course, if you’re already married to another app like Word, please continue using it if works well for you. Just make sure you make regular backups, store them both in your device and in an external drive or USB stick and if your app doesn’t auto save, make sure that you save your data frequently.
What’s The Best Device for Book Writing?
Some people like to use their desktops or laptops, some people like to use their tablets and some people like to use their phablets (oversize smart phones).
In my view, the best device is the one that:
Offers a screen that’s large enough that you that you never have to scroll side to side.
“Normal” Size Keyboard
Has a keyboard (physical or touchscreen) big enough so you don’t struggle to hit the right key.
Has portability so that you can write your book on the go if your job involves regular travel.
I personally prefer to use a laptop because it has a physical keyboard that gives my fingers instant feedback, but if you have an large tablet like a full-size iPad or an iPad Pro without an external keyword, you’ll do fine as long as the on-screen keyboard approximates the size of most physical keyboards.
What you want to avoid are disruptions to your flow due to poor ergonomics.
If you decide to use Google Docs to create your manuscript, don’t write the entire manuscript in a single document. Instead create a different document for each chapter and number them sequentially. This will allow you to share one chapter at a time with your advance reading group, as they become available for feedback.
You’ll also be able to create a numbered outline of your book in Google Drive, which will make it easy to re-arrange chapters as you develop your manuscript.
If you’re looking for an overall roadmap for your book project, I have a article that might be of help. It’s entitled How to Write a Compelling Book in 12 Steps: A Must-Read Guide for Nonfiction Authors and it’ll show you a proven, efficient approach to creating a great book with minimal writing experience.
Best of luck!
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, book design, printing, distribution and marketing.