Getting Started with Scrivener 3 Ebook Formatting

Formatting an ebook is a pain, even with the best tools you could possibly imagine. I had done it once with Scrivener 2 in 2017. Since then the software updated to the next version and the ‘compile’ service changed completely. Some bits are clearer, more user-friendly. But some others are… well, not that user-friendly.

Here’s the first part of a complete guide on how to format your ebook as an ePub or Kindle ebook with Scrivener 3. I hope it will help you go through the process. And if there’s still a bit of darkness after your reading, please let me know and I’ll complete the guide.

Part 1: Getting started with Scrivener ebook formatting

I think it’s important to specify that the formatting process of your book should happen at the end of the whole creative process. There is no need to do it if your book isn’t ready for the big step of publishing.

That being said, here’s how to enter the realm of formatting…

File > Compile

Once there, here’s what you should see:

scrivener ebook formatting screen

The ‘Compile for’ section at the top will display lots of different formats, from print to ebook, from screenplay to MultiMarkdown. What’s interest us here is the ePub or Kindle version.

scrivener ebook formatting screen

Once you’ve chosen the format in which you want to compile your book in, it’s time to actually do the job. To that end, you’ve got 3 columns to care about. 

The column on the left is for the formats. There are different formats by default, but you can also add yours via the buttons at the bottom of the column. 

The column in the middle is for the section layouts. Set up how you want your text to look, section by section. There are a couple of defaults layouts, but you’ll be able to change and duplicate them. I won’t lie: this is certainly the most difficult column to get right. I’ll talk about this one in more depth in the next part of this guide.

Pro tip: Scrivener 3 will assign a section type to each part of your book. Make sure each type is correctly assigned and you’ll gain a fantastic amount of time on your formatting.

The column on the right is for general layouts and features. In there, you’re going to select the part of your project that you want in your book. You’ll also be able to fill in the metadata (super important for your ebook), set up a book cover and table of contents, check if you’d like MultiMarkdown, hide de footnotes, etc.

When hitting ‘compile’

scrivener ebook formatting compile screen

Once you hit the compile and export buttons, check how your book looks like. If you’re on Mac, Books is certainly a good place to start, as it is a default app installed on your computer. And if you’re formatting for Kindle, I’d advise you to download Kindle Previewer 3. You’ll then be able to see how it looks inside your brand new ebook.

All you have to do is go back and forth with your default setting and the preview in order to make your book as perfect as you want it to be. I’ll explain how you can do just that in the next part of the guide.

Hope this helped you a little. Don’t hesitate to drop me your questions on Twitter at @vdvestelle.