Scrivener 3: Compile Formatting for Ebook and Print

By | 2017/12/06

It’s been 2 weeks since the arrival of Scrivener 3, and I am pleased to report that so far, it has been an absolute pleasure to use. No crashes, no real surprises. It is a very solid release, so kudos and thank you to the team.

I’ve had an item on my todo list for the past six months or so: Produce paperback editions of my books.

That doesn’t sound particularly onerous, but previously, the one print version I had of Trajectory Book 1 was done in Adobe’s InDesign. Let me tell you, that was not an experience I wanted to revisit. First, I’d have to use a separate program outside of the thing I did the work in. Second, I need to produce an intermediary format (generally, a Word-alike) to import into InDesign and make sure all the formatting gets preserved along the way. Setting up pages in InDesign might be trivial for someone who uses it all the time, but for me, for a once every six months task, it’s like setting foot on the moon. It took hours to produce the final copy, which ended up looking pretty good, I must admit.

Now that Scrivener 3 is here, and there was a much-improved Compile option, I figured I’d give it a try to see if I could output a print edition of my books that would survive the trip into Amazon.

tl;dr – Scrivener 3’s new Paperback output format is fantastic and I was able to do the entire thing – except for the cover – from inside one program.

Here’s How I Did It:

1) Open the Compile sheet (File menu > Compile or Cmd-Opt-E). You will see a bunch of formatting presets In the left hand column. At the top is a drop down that lets you select Print as your compile target.

The Compile sheet. Select Print, Duplicate Paperback 5.06x7.81.

2) Clone the Paperback 5.06″x7.81″ setting with the little + button at the bottom of the Formats pane on the left. You can save to Project or My Formats. Select “My Formats” to make this template visible to all your projects.

3) I edited the new preset to create a 5.25″x8″ option for Amazon’s trade paperbacks. When you’re in the template’s settings, go to Page Setup and create the page size. You might need to do some conversion to millimeters, (133×203). Adjust your Margins too, though the defaults should be good enough. Note that Scrivener 3 can do “facing pages” on output and setting the gutters (inside margins) for print. If your book is particularly large (like 500+ pages), you may have to increase that left margin here. Scrivener mirrors those margins for left and right pages, so the left margin here becomes the right margin on left-side pages. Confused? Don’t worry about it.

Page Setup, Margins and Facing Pages

4) Adjust styles to taste. I have a particular look for my books with sans serif, left justified chapter and section headers. This part’s a bit fiddly as you have to identify the different parts you’ll be using and tweak to taste using the formatting toolbar in the lower right preview section. You might want to check the title prefixes and suffixes and how Scrivener is going to handle your first paragraph formatting.

Formatting adjustments in the presets editor.

5) Once your styles are to your liking, Save the preset and click Assign Section Layouts at the bottom of the Compile page (see graphic in step 1 above) and you should be ready to build your book.

assign styles to each section in your book.

6) Click Compile (again see graphic in step 1 above), you’re presented with something that looks suspiciously like a printer dialog. This shouldn’t surprise you, because you had “Print” selected in step 1. You’re not going to a printer though, unless you have a lot of 5.25×8 pages in there (hint, that’s half of an 8.5×11 printed in landscape). Have a look at the preview and if it looks good, click the little PDF drop down in the bottom and select Save as PDF.

A Printer Dialog! Save as PDF unless you want a print job with hundreds of pages going to your printer.

You should now have a PDF version of your book that will happily load into Amazon for printing. You’ll have to figure out your cover using their Cover Creator, though as of yesterday morning, Amazon has released a new desktop application called Kindle Create for formatting print books. You might want to check that out as an alternative, but really, the whole point of this blog post is to tell you that you can do everything you need to without leaving Scrivener. Saves time and complexity, not to mention the unwanted duplication of effort and potential creeping errors of exporting to intermediate formats.

Note that this is pretty much the same as what you’ll want to do for an ebook compile. Using Amazon’s Kindlegen, you can output to a mobi file that you can upload directly for publication.

This is a REALLY BRIEF overview of what I did. It may be confusing to you unless you have Scrivener right in front of you and you’re able to decipher these instructions. Once I went through the initial pain of setting up the Preset, it’s just a matter of selecting that and assigning Section Layouts in each subsequent book you’re producing. It took me less than 30 minutes to compile a book for print once I knew what I was doing. Try it out and let me know how you make out. Drop me a question if in the comments if you have problems. Hopefully there’ll be some new books available in print.

And that brings me to the punchline: All three of my books, Trajectory Book 1, Trajectory Book 2 and Seedfall are now available (or soon will be, Trajectory Book 2 is stuck in approval jail) in print format on Amazon US, UK, EU and JP. In Canada, you’ll have to order from the US store, click See all Formats and Editions if you don’t see it.

Put your words in the talk hole!