Formatting for a chapbook

I’m creating a poetry chapbook. The chapbook format differs from others in two regards.

  1. The page size is 5.5 x 8.5 - a letter-sized page printed 2-up, landscape
  2. The left and right side of each page are not sequential. They are ordered so that when the stack of pages is folded in half, the page numbers are correct, just like a folded brochure. So, for example, with a 20-page document, page 1 is on the right and page 20 is on the left of the physical page.

Is there a way to achieve this with Scrivener, for export to Word? And if not, how would I format the export so that it best lends itself to formatting it correctly downstream?

While you could do some of that in Scrivener, I would say all of this is better done in a full layout environment anyway. I don’t know if Word is right tool for actually creating the physical book layout, but if that’s what you have your disposal I believe it should work.

Scrivener’s main job is getting the text into a layout environment with minimal need for adjusting its formatting. So that’s where I put my efforts. The actual shape of the text on paper, and how the paper is stitched together is another matter.

I make printed chapbooks (aka booklets) all the time with text written up in Scrivener. In my workflow, there is nothing on the Scrivener side that determines or reflects the fact that my target layout will be for half-sheets and laid out 2-up in booklet order.

The most important thing to know here is that there is nothing in Scrivener like a “booklet function” which would do the disordered page imposition you need for making booklets. That is very much a typesetting function.

I don’t know where your knowledge stands about this kind of stuff, so I’ll just say all the things just in case…

I would say your first challenge here is identifying an app that does have that special booklet imposition function. To my knowledge (though you should certainly check yourself)there is no booklet function in Word, so you cannot get what you need there. InDesign has it of course — and for great typesetting you can’t do better than that. Turns out the full version of Acrobat has booklet imposition, too, so if you have that app then you just need to produce a pdf laid out in what I like to call “byleaf” format (formatted as you would like to see it as if printing on half-sheet sized paper).

FWIW, my own workflow is this:

  1. We start in Scrivener of course with the text. We use various Scriv features to specify needed things like short and long scene or section breaks, and custom styles to specify where to dropcap, things to be put in small caps, spans of inset text, etc.

  2. Compile to Word, preserving named styles. The resulting document is never actually opened in Word.

  3. The Word doc is dropped into an InDesign template doc set up for spreads of half-sheet sized pages, and which has matching style names and which thereby automatically does the actual styling that we set up for in Scriv.

  4. When all the typesetting work is done, InDesign’s booklet function does the page imposition and produces a postscript document which we then convert to pdf. The pdf is ready for printing as booklet using any app which can open and print pdfs.

  5. As a bonus, using InDesign’s pdf export function, you also get a byleaf pdf which (since pages are laid out by half sheet) is perfectly formatted for reading on your favorite tablet.

Don’t know if any of that helps, but there you have it.

Assuming the chapbook is not a single epic poem(!), but is a collection of poems, you have an additional need special to typesetting poetry. If you want the polished look of a well typeset poetry collection, you will probably want to follow tradition by page breaking between poems and manually adjusting the left margin of each poem so that the body of the poem (though probably set flush left) looks centered on its page. There is no substitute for visual intuition in this. This is again a quite special typesetting task that it would not be sensible to try to handle within Scrivener.


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Thanks for the replies. I understand now that the layout is best done with an app meant for that.
I’ve since discovered that Adobe Reader will take a PDF and print it as a booklet using imposition. I’ll try that for a start, exporting from Scrivener to Word, doing a few format tweaks, saving as a PDF and then printing that in Reader as a booklet.

I’m happy to learn that the Reader version of Acrobat has this functionality as well.

Sonnet forth, Abecedarian!

If you’re a Mac user, I’d recommend looking at

Does the job well to produce signatures of different sizes. Very capable.