What To Watch When Compiling A Kindle eBook in Scrivener

How to Compile a kindle ebook in scrivenerI’ve been using Scrivener as the software tool that I’ve chosen to write my books in. The reason I did this was because I read ages ago that it was the best tool for eventually converting your manuscript into a finished eBook version. After deciding to get it for that reason I thought I might as well write in there as well.

The benefits that I’ve seen, which I’m sure are minimal compared to it’s full capacity, are the ability to write in scenes, write in a non-distracted view, set daily word targets, and easily convert to which ever output you so desire. This baby covers all of the main formats; Kindle, mobi, ePub, and also produces manuscripts etc. But it’s converting to Kindle that I will cover here.

First of all, if you’re reading this because you are about to actually compile your novel then please watch this video instead. I watched it and it gave me all I needed to know.


Ok, so I’m going to make this blog post more useful for readers by explaining the pitfalls that I ran into that have taken a whole morning to rectify.  Most of these are things that if I’d known up front then it would have been much easier. It’s just part of the learning curve for me but if I can spare someone else a little time then all the better.

1) Chapter Layout 

There’s a few things to choose when you’re going to publish a book. One of the inconsequential biggies is what you want your chapter indicators to look like. Just a number, Chapter #, Chapter #word, Title etc. so you need to think about this. I wanted Chapter # but because I had written all of my chapters in just a different text file Scrivener would not collate these as chapters (or I couldn’t find out how to do it). What I suggest is that you create a new folder for every chapter and then hold a text file underneath with the words in. If you do this as you go then you won’t have to spend a mind-numbing session doing it for forty-six chapters in one go.

2) Formatting

This is totally my fault, hands up, sitting in the corner with the D hat on right now. I spent ages creating a special formatting for some flashback chapters that I have. I thought it would look cool if a different era looked and felt different on the page, but then I realised that when you convert to a Kindle format, or any other eBook format, that special formatting gets replaced by standard. Hopefully the printed version will hold the original plan.

3) Front Matter

This is the name given to all that stuff that comes at the front (and back) of books. You know the stuff that you flick past without giving it a moments consideration. I’m talking about Cover, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Foreword, Introduction, Note from the Author, Other titles available etc. I hadn’t thought of any of this, which I suppose is right when you’re up to your elbows in writing, but as you get nearer the business end don’t forget it.

4) Styling

I am one of the least observant people I know, my wife calls it ‘man-blindness’. I read books, I remember the stories (sometimes) but I pay no attention to how it’s laid out. I’m talking about things like how dialogue looks on the page, I know it’s different in different books but which one do I prefer? I have no idea. Do I want one of these ‘, or one of these “? Is there a correct one? You see both. How about a double space after a full stop? I don’t do it but I notice that some do. Indents for paragraphs, lines between dialogue… aaaahhhhhhhh. So, before I publish anything I need to work all of this stuff out. I’ll probably only have to do it once and then it’ll be set for all books in the future.

Now, I know that only part of this post was to do with Scrivener particularly and the rest were just formatting issues that occurred when I compiled, but either way if you want to save time at the end you’ll have answers for all of these up front.

Who else uses Scrivener and can pass on any other tips or pitfalls that I’ve yet to find?


11 responses to “What To Watch When Compiling A Kindle eBook in Scrivener

  1. Thanks for this article – actually useful. Was looking for exactly this sort of thing the other day. I have a few things I’m gonna compile next week.

    • Wow, that was quick. You commented about thirty seconds after I posted it. I’m glad it was useful in some way.

      • That woman’s voice in the video is scratchy and annoying but she’s covering all the things that you need to think about. Default text formatting and such and it’s a HD video which is good because you can see what’s going on … so I would recommend anyone to watch that.

        And yeah I’m Quick-Draw-McGraw!

  2. Pingback: Why I Use Kindle to Edit My Drafts | Michael J Holley – Writer

  3. I’m with you, Michael. I’ve probably just scratched the surface of Scrivener’s capabilities and I’ve taken myself down some blind alleys, but once I figured out the basic Folder/Notes approach to Chapter/contents, then properly formatting for Kindle (or PDF) was a piece of cake. And using Kindle Previewer (or copying the .mobi file to my e-reader device) is a great way to proof-read a manuscript.
    I would also say that having everything related to a single project in one place can get confusing, but if you spend a bit of time getting your organization settled, you can use your own approaches with Scrivener and avoid a lot of “where did I put that?” moments. In other words, Scrivener rarely makes you bend to its will (or limitations). While working on a script, I also discovered the big benefit of “Collections” to simplify the whole compile process.

  4. Pingback: How To Make The Most Of Scrivener For Your Manuscript | Michael J Holley – Writer

  5. I’ve been writing about related matters on my blog, and was just about to post about Scrivener compiling. I spent the last two afternoons tweaking my way through the compile process. I came across this entry of yours in the process of trying to figure out how to generate an ebook with page numbers (in which I haven’t yet succeeded). Some modern ebooks have them, though I normally never pay attention.

    One thing you might be interested in regarding front matter. When I open the (mobi) ebook that results from my compile run, I notice that it opens on the first page after the designated “front matter” section. This behavior is sensible, and I’ve read many ebooks that have obviously been designed in this way, but the problem is that some things are considered front matter (at least according to the relevant wikipedia article) that the reader will not want to miss. For example, the introduction and the prologue. What I’ve done is move these out of front matter and made exceptions for them explicitly in the “exclude prefix and suffix” multi-check dropdown.

    I’ve learned a bunch of other things in the process of poking at the compile process, but this isn’t the place. Maybe I’ll post them later on my own blog once I feel I have most of the knowledge I need. In case the link doesn’t show up below, it’s http://tunaforbernadette.tumblr.com. If you want to discuss this, feel free to contact me. It sounds like we’re at about the same stage. Thanks! RG

  6. Great article. 🙂

    I write lots of different material in Scrivener. When I first started compiling ebooks I had hassles too. (Most were of my own making, I just wasn’t paying attention.)

    Here’s my compilation secret: once you’ve got it the way you want it, make sure that you save your settings as a preset. You can have as many as you like.

    Then when you’re ready to compile, just click down to your chosen preset, and you’ve got it done in a minute or less.

  7. Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #29 — The Book Designer

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