How to Use Scrivener to Format an e-Book for Kindle and Nook

You all know how I feel about Scrivener, but it is truly the best program for novelists out there.  For $49 it’s a steal and it is really not that complicated to use.  Today I thought I would show you how to format a Kindle .mobi file and an .epub file that is used on most other digital readers.

Front matter tells Scrivener what to insert as the first few pages of your book.

First thing is front matter. In the Scrivener “binder” which is the cool side bar on the left of your document, you have a place to insert front matter for an e-book.  This will include the copyright page, the title page and maybe a dedication.  Don’t bother with the cover art because you simply upload that file separately when you fill out the step by step on Amazon or Nook or Smashwords’s website.  You should get a front matter pull down tab in the binder and it should have an “e-book” front matter section.

Next we have to click “File” and then “Compile”.  Make sure that beside “Format As” you have selected “e-book” and you have ticked the box that says “Add Front Matter” at the bottom and selected “e-book” from the pull down window as shown in the picture below:

Select the book format and then tick "add front matter" and select "e-book"

Next choose which type of e-book you wish to produce.  If you want to publish to Amazon, Nook and Smashwords you will have to produce two texts.  Smashwords will take a Word document, and then it will convert it to several different formats.  Scrivener will automatically save it as a Kindle (.mobi) or Nook (.epub) file and will insert a table of contents with links to all of your chapters.  You don’t need to do anything at all other than “Compile” it.

Choose which format you wish to compile the document for: Kindle or E-Pub

The final step is to sign on to Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook and Smashwords and start uploading.  In moments you will have published an e-book.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

34 thoughts on “How to Use Scrivener to Format an e-Book for Kindle and Nook

  1. Hi Roger, Great article, Really it was the only one that seemed to make sense! I wonder if you could answer these two questions;
    1.) What font Size should I write in in Kindle or does it not matter?
    2.) Within a ‘scene’ can i use bold for headings?
    ( Apologies if you already received this, the original message did not seem to display)
    Kind Regards Alex

  2. Hi, there, I have my novel all finished, it’s in the editing stages, but I want to start formatting now. I’ve done most of that, but I’m wondering, in my “About Author” section I’ve included, I have various internet links to my facebook page, twitter, etc. For some reason, when I convert it to mobi and look at it on my iPhone on my kindle app, the only link that shows up where I can click on it is my goodreads file. Anyone know why one of my links works and the other 6 or 7 don’t? I tried to look it up on literature and latte and couldn’t find anything on it.

    Thank you for your help!

    p.s. I have the windows version of Scrivener as well, and there is no “front matter” setion in my fiction formats either. I’ve never seen that… ;D

      1. Actually, I was able to figure it out. I found a youtube videon on it. All I had to do was copy and paste the URL’s on a Wod document, hit enter after I had it on the document so the link would be active and then I copied, pasted and put it back into my Scrivener document. When I made a new mobi of it and looked at it on my phone through my kindle app it brought me to each of the links. So it worked beautifullly! ;D

      1. I discovered that, but you also need to set the separations so that you still get the page breaks, and you need to set up your files so that it works when you do it that way.

  3. Like you I am an absolute Scrivener fan. And am very glad to have found your post on the TOC, because I was running around in circles trying to find out how to go about that. Now that I’m almost ready to compile my collection of twisted Fairy Tales I need it to have a working TOC and you might just have helped me find out how-to go about it. Now I’ll need to find out if it works on my Mac like you describe it here.

  4. I formatted my document for Kindle, and it looks great, but there’s a first page that has a sample front cover and index etc. that I can’t remove. Any suggestions. It’s not under ‘front matter.’ Also, is there a way for it to appear on my kindle with the front of the book on top, or do I have to wait until Amazon processes it?

    1. This is done in “compile”. If you will make sure that Kindle E-book is selected at the bottom of that screen, select “cover” and you will see what the cover image looks like. You can change it there or delete it all together. I hope this helps.

  5. Ouch, Roger beat me to the other way of doing it, which I forgot about before posting. I should have said that if you’re writing the entire thing as one long document (which defeats the whole purpose of using Scrivener to make things easier, you can simply drop all the front matter right in at the top.

  6. Roger, It probably doesn’t make sense to suggest an “easier” way, then throw in another, but after having gone through the formatting and conversion process for three novels, I’m going to try to learn how to use HTML. I swore I’d never do that, but it was reading my sample in the HTML online version on Smashwords that told me I had a problem with my front matter. Using “show invisibles” hadn’t revealed the problem, which was lines squashed together with no spaces between them. It was easy to correct once I figured out the formatting mistake, but if I’d saved the file first as HTML and opened it in my browser, the problem would have shown up before I sent it through the meatgrinder, and I probably could have found the fix more easily.

    It seems there’s no end of learning.

    Jen, I’m not sure what you mean by “I don’t get a “Front Matter” tab when I open a fiction file.” I’m not familiar with the Windows version of Scrivener, but I’m guessing you’re using a template. If you are, or even if you’re not, there are several ways to handle the front matter. If your book is divided into chapters in the binder, just create a document at the top and label it “Front Matter.” When you look at the whole project with Scrivenings, Front Matter will be the first thing you see and will be included in the compile. That’s assuming that the Windows version uses the same terminology as the Mac version, and works the same way. “Scrivenings” may be confusing. In the document I have open right now, a “Chapters” folder comes right under “Draft.” All my chapters are separate documents in the Chapters folder. When I click on either Draft or Chapters, all the chapters are shown as one document, with a dividing line between each one.

    1. Oh man. My hat’s off to you, Catana. HTML is something that sounds to me like the forbidden beast in the cave. Good luck to you and you are a better man than I.

      1. I know how to use the most basic HTML, so at least I have a start on it. And I bought a book that claims it isn’t that hard. (We’ll see about that) The advantage of using HTML, as I understand it, is that it makes it much easier to add little touches that make books look better, and ensures that they look exactly as you intended through all formats. Now all I need is the courage to start using it.

  7. I adore scrivener, and have tried using Word to make my book for Kindle. Being rather computer dumb, I couldn’t make it look the way I wanted too. I love that you pointed this feature of Scrivener out. I’m a rather new user and hadn’t seen this. I just have a question. I don’t get a “Front Matter” tab when I open a fiction file. How do I get that or add that? I have Scrivener for Windows, is that a difference between the two formats? I really want to know as I’ve been trying to figure out the whole e-book format for a while.

    1. When you start a new project, select “Fiction” and then “Novel” as a template and it will be in your binder to start with. If you don’t want to do that, then click the little green plus sign at the top of the window near the binder to create a new sub file, right click on it and “convert to file” then right click again and choose “front matter”. This will tell Scrivener that you want it to be front matter. Add another folder and title it “E-Book” and that will tell Scrivener that it should be an e-book. Hope this helps!

  8. I don’t know about Nook, but KDP accepts .doc files. If you use Smashwords and let them distribute to Nook, etc., you never have to bother with anything but .doc files. The only additional thing you need to do for the Kindle copy is make sure you’ve removed all references to Smashwords in the front matter.

    1. Yes. I love that Scrivener will export to so many different formats. I used Word for years to write novels, but as someone who is not the most technically savvy guy in the world, I found it cumbersome. I’m also strictly a Mac user, so Scrivener is much better for me in that respect. I know that you can create a sort of side-bar in Word to place each chapter into separate “files” like Scrivener, but Scrivener seems to be the most user-friendly of the two for me. I simply love the cork board feature! Nook accepts .doc files as well, but their conversion software needs work. Sometimes the titles (if they are in larger font) convert as overlapped words. I haven’t solved this problem yet, so I’ll use Scrivener’s e-pub compiler until then. Thanks for the reply!

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