Formatting with Scrivener Compile

I am currently in the final stages of editing A CROWN OF CHAINS, which means I have also begun formatting, which is a big challenge to do by myself and well, and something I never quite figured out perfectly with my previous novels. This is a big reason why many self published authors chose to hire someone to format their novels, to ensure they have not only a professional looking cover, but a professional interior as well.

But! I have learned so much about formatting with Scrivener Compile, as opposed to just exporting the whole thing to word and pain-stakingly figured it out one page at a time. So I figured I would share the tidbits here:

I will cover:

  1. Section types
  2. Font Styles
  3. Front & Back Matter
  4. The Compile Menu
  5. Formatting Sections
  6. Section Styles
  7. Page Settings
  8. Margins
  9. Duplicating & eBooks

Section Types

Having your manuscript set up correctly in your metadata is essentiel to using Scrivener to format your manuscript for publishing.

Section Types can be used in all sorts of ways, telling the formatting how to assign attributes to this section of text. Seperating your manuscript by Scenes as opposed to just chapters (if your chapters feature multiple scenes) is also good to do here. Making sure the Titles are correct (if you are using numbers, spelled out numbers, or named titles) is also very important to save yourself time later on.

I use “Section” for the top scene (start of a chapter), and “Sub-Section” for additional scenes within that chapter. I titled my top scenes with spelled-out numbers, and my sub-sections with ◆ ◆ ◆. If I decide to replace the ◆ ◆ ◆ with a illustration, it will be easy to find all of them within my manuscript in Word later on and replace them simply by searching ◆ ◆ ◆. Other authors use *** as a placeholder.

All of my core manuscripte (the story itself), I put in the “Manuscript” folder. This will let Scrivener know where to put Front and Back Matter.

Checking “Include in Compile” is also a step you don’t want to miss or you may be missing chapters and scenes!

Paragraph Styles

While the compile formatter does have options for setting the text of your manuscript, I like to have a back-up by using Paragraph Styles to set my body text. If you use font styles from the very beginning, this makes formatting a lot easy on the end. As I have parts of my story that are written or sung, and those sections have different styles than the main body text, using Paragraph Styles ensures that each part is formatted correctly in font and size.

Then, to change all of your body text, songs, letters, etc. to match, you can simply change the style in the Paragraph Style menu, and it will apply that style to your entire manuscript.

You can easily create new styles simply by formatting a paragraph as you want, selecting it an then in the Paragraphy Style menu, click that little + sign to add it to your style options.

Front & Back Matter

Front Matter includes everything before the start of your story, whether that is a quote, prologue, or chapter one:

  • (optional) “Acclaim for” page”
  • (optional) Fancy Title Only page
  • (optional) List of other works
  • Title page
  • Copyright
  • (optional) Dedication

Back Matter includes everything after your story ends, including the epilogue:

  • Acknowledgements
  • (optional) Teaser for next book
  • About the Author

*everything is optional, but I have included what is standard.

Put your Front and Back Matter into their own separate folders, as opposed to lumped in the front or back of your manuscript. This makes it easier to manage, arrange, and edit those pages without digging pages (in my case) 70 scenes.

Label the Section Type for your Front and Back Matter accordingly if you would like them to have different standards for formatting (think headers and footers).

The Compile Menu

If you are unfamiliar, this little square and up-arrow guy on the top navigation menu is the Compile button.

We have finally reached the Compile Menu!

You will see first off here that on the left side you have Formats. I have two Project Formats (created for this project specifically) and then the Scrivener Formats, which are a good starting point for you to customize.

In the middle, you have an area where you can preview your formatting, but don’t use this preview as perfection. You will always want to double check in Word, and then also by printing out a couple pages to make sure that everything is as it should be. Save time by double-checking your formatting as much as you can before sending it to a printer to ensure that your proof copy is as error-free as possible.

On the right side, you have everything that will be included in the compile (exporting to PDF, Word, eBook, etc.) This is a good area to double check that all of your top scenes and additional scenes are included and given the correct Section Type.

At the bottom of this section, you can assign your Front and Back Matter by selecting the folders you put those pages in. Scrivener will automatically put these pages where they belong.

Formatting Sections

Double click the Format you want to customize to pull up this window.

The Formatting Window is where the bulk of your work and customization for formatting is to be done! There are lots of different options you can play around here, but the main areas I use are Section Layouts and Page Settings.

You will also want to double check your Separators, but that is pretty self-explainatory (feel free to send me a message if you have questions about Separators!)

Section Layouts

Depending on what kinds of Section Types you have used, you will have different options available here. First, you can select that text you want shown in the compiled document:

  • Title: the title of each note, scene, etc. that you previously have labeled.
  • Metadata: if you have used Metadata (see my previous blog post about Metadata), you can have that included at the top of each scene. (don’t include if formatting for publishing)
  • Synopsis: what shows up on the notecard for the scene. I use this quick overview of what the scene is. (don’t include if formatting for publishing)
  • Notes: what you have written in the “notes” part of your info. (don’t include if formatting for publishing)
  • Text: What is actually written in your manuscript.

You can start customizing what things look like on this menu. Selected above, I have Text Section with Heading: this allows me to customize the formatting of a Top Scene (start of a chapter) with a Title, and for the text and title to have thier own rules and styles.

To change font specifics, select the text and click the ‘Aa’ on the little menu. You can also do line spacing, etc. from here. I also love the other tabs of customization: Title Options, New Pages, Prefix, Suffix, and Settings. I love how I am able to add the word “Chapter” to each Section Title Heading from the Prefix tab, and remove the indent on the first line of text for a Section or Sub-section on the Settings tab.

Page Settings

The Page Settings menu is also monumentally helpful! Here you can set up your page size to be exact for printing, as well as add your headers and footers. I love that they make it easy to have different headers/footers (or remove them completely) from not only your Front and Back Matter, but also from the first page of a new Section.

This really enhances the professionalism of interior formatting, and something I have struggle to achieve in Word alone.

Also, make sure your Options tab is set up appropriately as you want for your book.


The Margins Menu is also a God-send! It makes it easy to set your margins for facing pages, especially that pesky gutter! This was always the worst process in Word, but now it’s simple!

Duplicating & eBooks

And, of course, once your have all of your settings down for your first Format (such as a Hardcover or Paperback), it is easy to duplicate all of those settings to a second Format, and then just as necessary (page size, marings, etc.).

Plus, did you know Scrivener has built in settings for creating .mobi files? I got several encouraging comments from beta-readers about the ease of reading the manuscript because of literally this setting alone. I just clicked it and didn’t even change anything and it created something beautiful! Of course, for the final eBook, there will be customizaiton, but this is a great resource.

I think that’s everything…

Although I am sure there is a lot more to learn! Feel free to comment with any other great discoveries you have had in Scrivener, especially for compiling and formatting, or questions you may have! If I don’t know the answer, I am happy to assist in the discovery!

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