What is the best software for writing a book? The best book writing software in 2021 is Scrivener. (Sorry, spoiler alert!)
However, there are various novel writing tools available that cater to different authors. For example:
- Google Docs would be great for a shorter work with multiple co-authors.
- Bibisco may satisfy your need to develop the heck out of your characters.
- yWriter is for all those data-hungry authors out there.
- Apple Pages comes free for Mac users. Not all writers have that extra $50 to spare.
Every author asks themselves if they are really using the best book writing software to effectively organize their novel, as well as their writing process.
Thankfully, the right tools can save you time and frustration and may even make the long process of writing a novel or nonfiction book more enjoyable.
- The best book writing software (plus the cost and pros/cons of each)
- The best book editing software
- Other software every writer should have (to help with everything from focus to book marketing)
Table of contents
Check out this table of the 11 book writing software we’ll be talking about, along with how much each one costs:
Best Book Writing Software Comparison Table
|Program||Cost||OS||Formatting||Check It Out|
Scrivener is an amazing writing software developed by Literature & Latte that lets you view multiple documents at once, set writing goals, leave yourself brainstorming comments for later, and even import research files to keep on hand.
What is the best program for writing a book? The best program for writing a book is Scrivener. It’s inexpensive and its myriad features more than make up the price tag.
Read my more in-depth review of Scrivener version 3.0.
How much does Scrivener cost?
- Scrivener costs $49 (one-time) for Mac or Windows.
- It’s $19.99 for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch).
- If you use both Windows and Mac, you can buy the combined bundle for a discounted price of $80. You get a separate license for each platform.
- Reduced pricing of $41.65 is available for “students & academics.”
- Use Kindlepreneur’s unique discount code (KINDLEPRENEUR) to get 20% OFF your purchase.
Before you purchase it, you can try Scrivener’s full trial for 30 working days, for free. 30 working days means that Scrivener only counts the trial days when you actually open the app and work on it.
Within Scrivener, you open projects, not documents. Its developers realized that one project itself can entail endless files and folders and spreadsheets, so they made it incredibly simple to navigate through multiple documents within the same Scrivener project.
Unfortunately, when I imported a TXT file into Scrivener, it seemed to undo all italics I had in the file. I had no formatting problems when importing DOCXs or RTFs.
Pros of using Scrivener:
- Organizes entire projects in one file with easy access to countless documents and research
- Corkboard with index cards, split-screen, and outliner working views makes it ideal for longer or more complicated works
- Comments, notes, and synopses are all simple to make for future reference
- Composition Mode erases all distractions and lets you write on a screen of nothing but text
- Customizable toolbar
- More affordable than its competitors
- Can export (or “compile”) projects as EPUB, MOBI, PDF, RTF, RTFD, DOC, DOCX, OTD, HTML, TXT, or even FDX, MD, or FOUNTAIN files
Cons of using Scrivener:
- Can open DOCX files but not DOC files or ODT files
- No real-time collaboration or co-author capabilities
- There’s a learning curve to learn all of Scrivener’s advanced features (check out this crash course tutorial on Scrivener)
One of my favorite aspects of Scrivener is that you can customize the toolbar.
Some authors will want the Dictionary feature on their toolbar, while others want the Insert feature. When editing, you may add the Comment button to your toolbar, or the Add button when you’re first compiling your project.
2. Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word is the industry-standard word processor — for better or worse. When you ask the average person what they think of when you say word processing, a majority will say MS Word.
What software do most writers use? Most writers probably use MS Word because it is the gold standard of word processors, even if it shouldn’t be.
The famous DOC and DOCX file formats come from Microsoft’s ubiquitous software. Many publishers ask for manuscripts to be submitted in DOC or DOCX files, and nothing else. (It’s easy to convert another file format into DOC or DOCX.)
Can I write a book in Microsoft Word? Yes, you can write a book in MS Word. However, I would not recommend it.
The biggest problem for Word? It was designed for writing anything — not specifically for writing novels or long nonfiction books. It was not created by authors, nor for authors.
Word is tolerable for shorter works; however, if you're really looking for the best book writing software, Word does not measure up to its competitors.
Interesting fact: Stephen King uses MS Word writing software to draft his book manuscripts. He uses Final Draft to write screenplays.
How much does MS Word cost? Microsoft Word costs $139.99 as a one-time purchase. You can also spend $6.99/month (or more) for a subscription to Microsoft 365, which includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and 1 TB of cloud storage on the OneDrive.
You (and up to 5 other people) can try out Microsoft 365 for FREE during a 1-month trial.
Pros for using MS Word to write a novel:
- “What you see is what you get” formatting
- Many book editors prefer Word documents (DOC, DOCX)
- Customizable toolbar
- Comes with a bunch of handy templates for books, essays, resumes… you name it!
- It’s industry-standard, so you’ll find this software on public library computers and company computers and everywhere in between
Cons for using MS Word to write a novel:
- Difficult to use if you don’t work in a linear fashion
- Cumbersome for writing lengthy novels and other books
- Must use a separate tool, such as Calibre, to export as ebook (EPUB/MOBI, etc.)
- Updates every few years, which creates a brand new learning curve each time
3. Google Docs
Google Docs is a useful browser-based tool that is free and available to anyone with a Google account. However, Google Docs may not be able to handle a lengthy manuscript.
Our team uses Google Docs for writing our blog posts because it’s the easiest way we’ve found to all work on one document at the same time, add comments, see revisions, and even chat. (Google spreadsheets can also be a useful tool, especially for outlining.)
What is the best free software for writing a book? The best free software for writing a book is Google Docs, if your book is short. Apple Pages or yWriter may be better for longer books, as far as the free stuff goes.
Many users experience major lag when editing a document with more than 15,000 words — not even half the length of a novel.
I’ve known authors who used Google Docs because it was free and convenient, then had to give it up. Why? Because you have to wait five seconds for every sentence to appear after you type it once you surpass 15k-25k words.
Pros for using Google Docs to write a novel:
- Autosaves every change you make and every version of your manuscript along the way
- Free to use with a Google account
- Accessible on any device
- Built-in Headings and Title functions make navigating your document simple using the table of contents
- Designed with real-time collaboration in mind
- Probably the most convenient word processor on this list, especially for bloggers and coworkers
Cons for using Google Docs to write a novel:
- Cannot handle large documents (15,000 words plus) without huge latency problems
- Cannot export to PDF at a higher word count
- The grammar checker is not as robust as MS Word, let alone Grammarly or ProWritingAid
As you can see by this screenshot, Google Docs offers a whole host of formatting options, constant autosaving (as long as you’re online), and extensive sharing/collaboration capabilities.
Simon Hayes (AKA Spacejock) developed yWriter to be the best free, standalone app for fiction writing.
It encourages writers to write scenes, not chapters — since scenes are smaller and more manageable. Also, you can input data into multiple fields concerning each scene and chapter. This provides authors with a wealth of raw data they can analyze at any time.
You can even set goals for words per day or words per hour.
How much does yWriter cost?
- Free on Windows/macOS
- $3.99 on Android
- $4.99 on iOS
All in all, yWriter is great for authors who love analyzing how many chapters each character is in, how many scenes are in each chapter, etc. For authors who don’t care about that, this may sound foreign. But I know a lot of writers who pour over the metadata of their novel almost as much as they pour over the actual story.
Pros for using yWriter to write a novel:
- Breaks down novels into chapters and scenes
- Stores snapshot backups of your work automatically
- Great tools for character development
- Offers the data-hungry author a wealth of useful data points
Cons for using yWriter to write a novel:
- Does not come with templates
- Doesn’t export EPUBs or Amazon Kindle’s native file format
- Not for minimalist writers
- Not the most elegant design — looks dated
Ulysses is a simple, clean, yet customizable app for writing longer projects. Your work syncs automatically between your devices, or you can choose to store work locally.
Unfortunately, Ulysses works only on Apple products.
The price has gone up in recent years. Ulysses now costs $5.99/month or $49.99/year. They also offer a free 2-week trial.
Pros for using Ulysses to write a novel:
- Clean interface for distraction-free writing
- Drag and drop functionality concerning scenes and chapters (called the library)
- Ability to add filters to scenes and chapters
- Export to PDF, DOCX, HTML, or EPUB with ease
Cons for using Ulysses to write a novel:
- Only available on Apple devices (macOS and iOS)
- Price is a yearly or monthly subscription model, instead of one-time
- No collaboration functionality
- No built-in templates (though you can find them online)
- Steep learning curve if you are not familiar with markdown
- Not available for PC users
Vellum is a book formatting tool developed by 180g, a company originally founded by Pixar employees. Their mission is to “create beautiful books”.
This piece of high-end software is not cheap. Fortunately, the free trial of Vellum is unlimited until you want to generate copies of your book. That way, you can figure out if you are comfortable with its user interface and what it has to offer.
Its high price is offset by the time you will save posting and paying for Fiverr contracts to professionally format your manuscript.
What does Vellum cost?
- Vellum starts as a free download. You get familiar with the software and see what it's capable of. You still can't generate copies of your book, but testing its functionality before you spend a cent is reassuring.
- Vellum Ebooks costs $199.99. This allows for unlimited ebook generation, but no print editions.
- Vellum Press costs $249.99. This allows for unlimited ebook and printed book generation.
You can get a full refund within 30 days if you're not satisfied with the full-price product.
Pros for using Vellum to write a novel:
- Great for formatting your book before distribution
- Excellent tool for editing front matter, back matter, and metadata
- Can create box sets to give you a marketing edge
- Although the price is steep, you can use its free version until you’re ready to publish, and you get a money-back satisfaction guarantee for 30 days after your purchase
Cons for using Vellum to write a novel:
- It’s probably the most expensive book writing software out there
- Limited customization capabilities
- Available for Macs only, not Windows and not iOS or other mobile platforms
Pages is Apple’s free text editor which lets you write, edit, comment, and collaborate. It is streamlined, yet versatile.
Like most basic word processing programs, Pages can apply text styles and formatting to your words. You can insert images, graphs, and more. And they look great with Pages’ layouts.
Similar to Google Docs, Pages allows real-time collaboration via iCloud. The original author can decide who is allowed to edit or view only.
However, Pages is all about making every page look fantastic — hence the name. It’s not meant to be a strong word processor.
Pages is free for anyone with an Apple account from the Apple Store. Pages comes pre-installed on Apple devices.
Pros for using Pages to write a novel:
- Probably the easiest-to-use word processor on this list
- Absolutely free with every Mac or iOS device (Or use it on a browser)
- Has helpful “Track Changes” and “Smart Annotations” features
- Comment features can be used by an author trying to organize their thoughts or a collaborator editing the work
Cons of using Pages to write a novel:
- Every real-time collaborator in Pages needs an Apple ID
- Lacks a Draft View that displays text without page headers or footers
- Not meant to process words, so much as produce good-looking pages
As you can tell from this apple.com screenshot, Pages works cross-platform and seamlessly collaborates between devices.
Apache OpenOffice is a free, cross-platform writing software meant to rival Microsoft Word. That’s right, OpenOffice is basically MS Word, but for free.
Seriously, though, OpenOffice has been known to run just as well as Word, and with similar features.
However, it does look and feel outdated and old and offers zero collaboration functionality.
OpenOffice is completely free — $0. There is no premium version.
Pros for using Open Office to write a novel:
- It is FREE
- Shares a lot of beneficial features with MS Word
- Cross-platform capability
- Every year, more applications can import and export OpenOffice files (ODTs)
Cons for using Open Office to write a novel:
- Looks outdated, doesn’t feel modern
- User interface (especially menus) can be needlessly complex
- No collaboration — only 1 user can work on a document at a time
Something weird — when I went to install/download OpenOffice for this article, the first Google result took me to openoffice.org, which took me to sourceforge.net. My Mac would not allow me to open the app because sourceforge.net was not a trusted site.
I’m pretty sure it’s a misunderstanding, but this is the sort of outdated, cheap vibe you can expect from OpenOffice.
FocusWriter is a free book writing software released by Gott Code. Like a few other word processors on this list, FocusWriter is focused on offering a distraction-free writing environment.
The most notable feature is the big, calming (customizable) background image that sits behind your wall of text. And nothing else lives on the screen. Sure, you can move your mouse to make the toolbar or your word count goal appear. But if you’re typing, all you see is what you’re writing.
Depending on what gets you in the right frame of mind, this app lets you turn on typewriter sound effects or mostly invisible timers.
What is the best free writing software? FocusWriter is the best free writing software for short fiction, or flash fiction — or if you enjoy a distraction-free writing zone. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles that come with other word processors, FocusWriter is very simple.
Although FocusWriter is FREE and has no premium version, donations are welcome and encouraged.
Pros for using FocusWriter to write a novel:
- Customizable backgrounds and themes that are soothing, relaxing, and distraction-free
- The toolbar only appears when you hover over it, which makes for an uncluttered screen
- Like IAWriter, FocusWriter can grey out everything but the sentence/paragraph you’re working on, further decreasing potential distractions
- Ability to set daily word count goals or time goals
Cons for using FocusWriter to write a novel:
- Only works in fullscreen
- May look odd on larger displays with lots of wasted space
- Incredibly simple, missing features many authors consider necessary
- Cannot export to EPUB, MOBI, or PDF
Novlr is a simple word processor with just a few added perks.
The Novlr Proof Reader (grammar and spell check) is on par with Grammarly, which is amazing — a lot better than Google Docs or MS Word. And Novlr offers in-app writing courses to help get the most out of its features.
It doesn’t come with story templates like other premium word processors. And its formatting options are surprisingly limited.
A subscription to Novlr costs $10/month or $100/year. They also offer a 2-week trial for free — no credit card required. In my estimation, though, Novlr is not worth the money.
Pros for using Novlr to write a novel:
- Constant autosaving
- Can sync with Google Drive and Dropbox
- Offers Day, Evening, and Night mode to set the mood with color schemes
- Tracks progress with the Analytics tab
- Works both online and offline
Cons for using Novlr to write a novel:
- Limited formatting options, including for front matter and back matter and print-friendly formatting
- The analytics tab is nice but very limited — only gives stats for today, this month, and this year
- No collaborative editing
The creator of bibisco, Italy’s Andrea Feccomandi, believes that character-driven novels are superior to plot-driven novels. (It’s actually a preference, not so much a fact, but we’ll let it slide.)
So Feccomandi developed bibisco word processing software to focus on character creation. bibisco helps you create every aspect of every important character in your story — from physical traits to personality and emotional state.
What’s truly unique is the interview-style prompts that bibisco uses to extract information from your protagonist, antagonist, and everyone in between.
It also lets you give character to each setting with the Locations tab, as well as important items with the Objects tab even if Objects is only available in the premium version.
Speaking of, how much does bibisco cost? Basic bibisco (called bibisco Community Edition) is completely free. Premium bibisco (called bibisco Supporters Edition) is, at minimum, a $17 purchase. However, the premium version is on a pay-what-you-want basis.
Pros for using Bibisco to write a novel:
- Character-focused and dedicated to helping you flesh out your characters
- bibisco is a passion project made out of love, not for profit — some authors would value the opportunity to support that
- Distraction-free mode immerses you in your story
- bibisco is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux
Cons for using Bibisco to write a novel:
- Not plot-focused, which is important for some authors (about half of them)
- Not very user-friendly or simple to learn
- Limited formatting options
- bibisco doesn’t seem to be available for Android or iOS
The Best Book Editing Software
Editing and proofreading software can fix typos, check grammar, and improve your readability. Premium editing software even checks for clichés and passive voice.
Here are the 4 best book editing softwares that any writer would benefit from:
- ProWritingAid ($40/year or $140/lifetime) checks not only your spelling and grammar, but checks for readability, filler words, and clichés. It works with Scrivener, Google Docs, and MS Word. Check out my full review of ProWritingAid.
- Grammarly ($0 for the free version, $139.95/year for the premium version) is a neat editing tool that finds spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes (as well as handy explanations) that works as a browser extension or an app to download onto your computer. Even the free version is a great tool for any writer. Check out my full review of Grammarly.
- Hemingway is a FREE website and desktop app that highlights and color codes passive voice, adverbs, complex words, and difficult-to-read sentences. However, it does not give you suggestions on how to improve your writing. Check out my full review of Hemingway.
- AutoCrit ($0 for free version, $30/month or $297/year for premium version) is an online book editing software that offers writers unique editing suggestions. AutoCrit shows writers surprisingly insightful problems to change in their book, such as filler words, unintentional repetition, shifts in verb tense, and even slow paced paragraphs. You can compare your work to famous authors’ works, too, with AutoCrit’s Summary Score — which is why AutoCrit is ideal for fiction writers in particular. Check out my full review of AutoCrit.
Other Software Every Writer Should Have
Writing your book is only half the battle.
If you'd like to learn more about the art of writing, be sure to check out the masters at MasterClass. These courses are led by prolific writers like James Patterson, Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell, and more.
Also, we authors have got to market and sell our book as well as write it.
Below are several tools to help with not only writing but being a successful author:
- Publisher Rocket is a must for your book marketing research, including hot keywords and AMS advertising.
- Evernote allows you to share countless “notes” with beta readers, collaborators, other authors, classmates, family members. It is the coolest app for note-taking and -sharing.
- IAWriter’s minimalist, award-winning design cuts out distractions, like rulers and toolbars, and even blinds everything out except the sentence/paragraph you’re writing. Its Focus Mode might just change your life.
- Ommwriter offers a calm writing environment and meditative tracks to listen to while you write.
- Freedom productivity app helps you stay focused by blocking distracting websites and apps for scheduled writing sessions.
- Write or Die is a somewhat humorous and perhaps helpful tool that gives writers “tangible consequences” if they don’t meet a word count goal or time spent writing goal. Consequences include annoying sounds (such as “Never Gonna Give You Up”) or Kamikaze mode which deletes whatever was just written.
Which software should you use to write your next book?
You should use Scrivener’s word processing software to write your next book. If you’re looking for a free download, use Google Docs for smaller works, or Apple Pages if you’re a Mac user.
I use Google docs to write my articles because it allows me to coordinate with my team and my editor. For blog posts and intracompany documents, easy collaboration is key.
However, that doesn’t cut it when I have a 30K or even 100K-word book to write. When writing a book, I need the best book writing software out there. Google Docs just can’t handle it.
Scrivener is the only writing program I use for writing my books. Download your free trial today.
I need book writing software that will easily help me to research, outline, reorganize, write, collaborate, and edit. Scrivener has me covered.
No monthly or annual fee? Scrivener is a one-time purchase. Plus, you can use my coupon code to save 20% and it's even more of a deal with my coupon code for Scrivener: KINDLEPRENEUR.