The Nuts and Bolts of Digital Publishing: Formatting an e-Book on Scrivener



In keeping with my usual practice, I like to pass along tidbits of  information that Indie authors may find useful as they navigate the digital waters.

I spent the day formatting a book on Scrivener.  I have written a couple of other blogs about Scrivener, but this one is a little more technical. If you aren’t a Scrivener user, you need to check it out.  At this point in my writing journey, I do all my book writing on Scrivener.  I have forsaken Word, which was my word processor of choice for quite a few years. Scrivener is a powerful writing tool that is a turn key way to write and produce an e-book. Priced at about $50, it is a real steal.

The book I was working on came to me as a Word file, already edited.  That sounds like it would make the process simple, but it presents certain challenges.  First you must copy the Word file into Scrivener. I do this by simply selecting the whole file and pouring it into a blank Scrivener screen.

The next step is to organize the text into chapters. The way I do this is that when I reach the end of a chapter, I place the cursor at the bottom of the text and use the keyboard command of Ctrl-K.  This chops the text off at the point in the Word file where the chapter ends and the next one begins.  I follow this procedure for each chapter and name and number the chapters in the “binder” as I go.

When I finish this process, I add pages for the title, the copyright and any other front matter.


After the last chapter, I use the same procedure as if I were dividing the text into chapters and create a section named “About the Author.”  I also add links to the author’s Amazon author page and other connections on social media after I include the author’s bio.

The remaining step is to add the book’s cover.  There is a trick to this.  In order to use the “compile” feature of Scrivener to create a cover, the cover image must first be in the “Research” folder.  So, I select the cover art file and copy it into the research folder.  Once that image is in the research folder, Scrivener recognizes it and allows you to choose it from a drop down menu in the compile interface.

One other trick is that in the “compile” menu, you should select “add page break” for each chapter to ensure that page breaks occur at the end of each chapter in the formatted file.

When you have done all this, you can select the type of file you want Scrivener to create for you.  The two most common selections will be mobi and epub files, but you can also create a Word file as well if you want it for archives. If you decide to create a Word file, you need to select “As Is” in the compile interface as well as the page breaks.  This will create a Word document that maintains the look of the text you see when you are viewing your work on Scrivener and also adds the chapter breaks as they will appear in the mobi and epub files.

Scrivener will ask you whee you want to save the files it will compile for you.  I use Dropbox for this purpose, so I can access the files from any location.

This may sound like Greek to the non-Scrivenerians out there.  But, believe me when I tell you that Scrivener creates great looking mobi and epub files.

All you have to do is master the learning curve.

If you have any questions, drop me a note in the comments, and I will share what I know about this process.  Maybe we can figure it out together.

(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author.)



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