How to Format a Book in Scrivener 3

Scrivener is known as one of the most powerful book writing software on the market. But did you know that you can also format a book using it?

In fact, it’s a better word processor than many others, such as Microsoft Word, at formatting the finished manuscript.

Nevertheless, Scrivener is a complex if powerful program, and it’s almost impossible to figure out how to format a book with Scrivener on your own. Allow us to help.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. Scrivener’s capabilities for formatting
  2. How to format your book in Scrivener
  3. What elements you should include

Is Scrivener a Book Formatting Software?

Yes and no. While Scrivener was not built as a formatting software, it has acquired a lot of functionality in later releases, especially in Scrivener 3.

While a lot more complicated than programs like Vellum or Atticus, it is also quite powerful, and can do virtually anything that either alternative can do.

The only downside is that sometimes it can require a mountain of tutorials, video trainings, and experimentation to get it just right.

But it can be done, and the flexibility is hard to match. Scrivener is a powerful formatting tool.

Step 1: Prep Your Manuscript

The first step in formatting your novel is to ensure that the manuscript is prepped correctly. This will simplify the compiling step later.


Scrivener templates

First, when you are just setting up your Scrivener project, you should make sure to select the Novel template, if that is what you’re doing, but there are built-in templates for Non-fiction and several variations of both.

Note: while there are many templates to choose from, we are going to continue this tutorial using the Novel template. Once you know how to format your novel, it is relatively easy to adapt these steps to non-fiction or other types of books.

Manuscript Organization

There are a few simple steps that should happen while you are writing your book. These include:

  1. Getting your scenes and chapters in order
  2. Arranging the hierarchy and table of contents
  3. Ensuring each chapter is complete and ready to publish

Front and Back Matter

The Novel Scrivener template will come with these, but if not, all you have to do is create folders titled Front Matter, and Back Matter, respectively. You can then add whatever content you intend to include in either.

A useful feature here is that you can also setup sub-folders within your front and back matter folders, one for ebooks and one for print books. This way you can have front and back matter that is specific to each format.

While you prep your manuscript, this is all you will need to do here, but this step will be important later on during compiling.

Step 2: Choose Your Format

Once you have your manuscript ready to go, it’s time to format it for either ebook or print. There are other ways to format, but we’ll stick to these two for the purposes of this article. Rarely will you need anything else.

To start, go to File > Compile. There you will see a dropdown at the top of the pop-up window that says “Compile For:”

  • If you are looking to format for an ebook, select “ePub 3 Ebook (.epub)”
  • If you are looking to format for a print version (for uploading to KDP Print or IngramSpark, for example), select “PDF”.
Choosing templates in Scrivener

Once you have selected either of these, you will see a variety of formats listed on the left-hand side. Select the one you want and right-click or hit the plus sign at the bottom.

Select “Duplicate & Edit Format”

Scrivener duplicate and edit format

This will then bring up another pop-up window with additional compile settings for each type. Let’s walk through each of these.

Step 3A: Formatting an EPUB Book in Scrivener

EPUBs are relatively easy to put together. After you’ve selected the correct format and duplicated it, you’ll need to rename the preset and save it under “My Formats”. This will enable you to edit and use the same format again if needed.

Scrivener ebook template name

There are few modifications you need to make to this format, unless you have very specific needs that are not covered in this tutorial.

That said, here are some additional concerns you may need to address when compiling to an EPUB.

  • EPUBs need a cover image. The basic Novel template that comes with Scrivener will provide a dummy image in the Front Matter of the book, which makes the most sense. Simply swap out that image for one of your own.
  • You only need to worry about an EPUB file when compiling for an eBook. MOBI is another file that was previously used by Amazon. Scrivener still supports it, but you most likely will not need to export to MOBI in order to create a kindle book.
  • An EPUB should also have a table of contents included in scrivener file. The template you are using, assuming you copied it from the standard EPUB template, should have what you need here. However, it always pays to check the final file and ensure that the table of contents is there.

While you will need to check your kindle book for errors, there is not much that you will likely need to change.

Step 3B: Formatting a Print Book in Scrivener

Setting up the print version will take a bit more work when establishing the formatting guidelines.

Start in the compile window by selecting PDF in the “Compile For” dropdown, then select and duplicate one of the formats on the left side. Currently, Scrivener only has two main paperback formats commonly used in KDP Print and IngramSpark: 5.06” x 7.81” and 6” x 9”.

For this tutorial, we selected the 6” x 9” paperback and duplicated it.

Next, be sure to rename it and list it under “My Formats”.

We renamed ours as Paperback (5” x 8”) because this is the format that we wanted to create.

Next we need to edit that format and select “Page Settings” from the edit menu. At the top of these settings you’ll see Page Setup and Margins. These will be important in formatting your book.


For margins, you will need to know the correct layout for whatever book you are trying to produce. This usually involves clear margins on all sides, and an extra-large margin in the inside margin or “gutter” margin.

Scrivener margins

Trim Size

Scrivener trim size

Trim size is the overall height and width of your book. There are a variety of trim sizes, and you’ll need to adjust them here, unless you're looking for the 6” x 9” format that is already included in Scrivener.

See Amazon’s guidelines for how you should adjust your margins and trim size for KDP.

Step 4: Check Additional Data

There are a number of additional areas that you should check before compiling, to ensure that you’re covering all your bases.


Scrivener metadata

Metadata is a crucially important step, because the slightest typo can easily mean that your book’s name is spelled wrong across every page of your print book, for example.

Note: the metadata is not the same as the Title Page of your book, which you should have setup in the initial manuscript. Instead, the metadata is what Scrivener uses along the headers or footers of your book.

You can find the metadata in the compile settings on the right-hand side, where you’ll see a number of small icons. Click the one that looks like a small tag.

That brings up a new set of options that include your book’s name and the author’s name.

Front and Back Matter

Scrivener front and back matter

In the compile settings, you’ll see on the bottom-right, a place to add front or back matter. There will be a dropdown available for each that will allow you to select where these come from.

This is why it’s important to have this setup earlier while you’re constructing your novel. If you’ve done this properly, all you need to do is select the appropriate folder. If you’ve created folders specifically for ebook or print versions, you should select the appropriate one here.

Step 5: Assign Section Layouts

Scrivener assign section to layout

One important step before you compile is to assign section layouts. This area is quite different in Scrivener 3 than in previous versions.

At the bottom-center of the compile settings is a button that says “Assign Section Layouts”. Click on this and you’ll see a list of section types, along with layouts for each one. This is where you’ll select the design for each “section” or element of your book.

For a fiction book, these sections are pretty standard. They include things like Chapter Headings, Scenes, Front Matter, Part Headings, Table of Contents, etc.

The nice things about Scrivener’s section layouts is that if you change the style for one element, it will change it for all matching elements. That means that all your Chapter Headings, for example, will look uniform.

Make sure that each section type has an assigned section layout. Simply scan through what they have and select what looks good. Then hit OK.

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Step 6: Compile and Check

Lastly, it’s time to compile and check your file. From the compile settings, simply hit compile, and Scrivener will produce a file for you.

Ebooks can be checked through an ebook reader software like Calibre.
Print books can be checked with any PDF reader.

Because Scrivener is such a complicated program, you will likely find elements of your book that you will want to change. Perhaps you don’t like the font, or you need to adjust the margins, or your table of contents is not showing up the way you expected.

There will undoubtedly be some tweaking that will need to be done. But the good news is that almost all of this can be done from Scrivener’s compile settings. Simply go to File > Compile, find your specific book format, and play around with it until you have what you need.

You’ll have your book in the hands of readers in no time!

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