How to use Scrivener to generate a PDF for CreateSpace

Hi, everyone.

After using Word to compile three books for print, I got fed up with Word’s evil ways and decided to try Scrivener as a last resort before taking the plunge into InDesign. And Scrivener made PDF compilation much easier than I could’ve hoped for. So here’s what I came up with: a five-step process for using Scrivener 2.2 to compile PDFs for CreateSpace and other on-demand publishers. It’s posted here:

One caveat: I don’t claim to be a book design expert, but in this process I tried to come up with as simple, clean, and professional-looking a layout as Scrivener would allow. That said, I know some of you ARE experts, so if you have any suggestions in that department please let me know and I’ll see if Scrivener will allow me to incorporate them.

Thanks much.


Thanks for writing this up, Ed! Very well written and easy to follow. One thing that I should point out is that you absolutely can use a different header for the front matter of the book as opposed to the main matter. This is a Mac only trick though. The trick is to employ Scrivener’s dedicated Front Matter feature. Basically:

  1. First move your dedicated “Front Matter” folder out of the main Draft area. This feature was primarily designed so people could very easily switch between e-book, PDF, and submission style compiles with a single drop-down selection. So the alternates should all be stored out of the draft as this feature brings them into the draft only during compile. For this particular single-purpose usage, the only reason we’d be using it is to take advantage of a few nice side-effects like alternate headers/footers.
  2. Now go to the Contents compile option pane and select “Add front matter” at the bottom, then choose your “Front Matter” folder from the selection pop-up. If you have a folder called “Front Matter” in your project, Scrivener will sort that to the top of the selection list for you, to make easier to locate amongst the other binder items.
  3. Go to Page Settings now, still in compile, and click the “First Pages” tab in the header/footer section.
  4. Enable “Different first pages header/footer” and disable “Page numbers count first pages” if you wish to start counting 1 at chapter one of the main matter.
  5. Make sure “Start regular header and footer on” is set to Automatic.
  6. You can leave the fields blank if you need no headers, but if you want lowercase Roman numerals used here, so you can use the <$p-r> token in whichever corner of the page you wish it.

That’s it. The option, “No header or footer on single pages” (in the first tab) is useful so that your title page doesn’t get a number on it, and you might also want the other option here—not sure what CS’s policy is no that.

Also note that the “Paperback Novel” compile preset is tuned to work within the CreateSpace guidelines, and has much of the above already set. It also has the Formatting pane set to nicely title any front matter sections that should be, such as a preface. Since front matter material gets inserted as level 1 text files, we can treat those special from level 2 text files (presumably scenes or sections within chapter folders) but it could be tweaked to work with your part-folder/chapter-file schema fairly easily.

Again, this is for Mac only at the moment, so describing these features would bias your article a bit further. On Windows you would need to use the multi-compile method, and if one needs a back matter section, there is no feature for that on the Mac either.

Hi, Amber. Thanks for the reply and the good words. I’ll have to explore the “front matter” feature in depth. For a simple novel layout with no introduction it might not come into play very often, but I can definitely see its usefulness for more comprehensive works.

One question re: field codes / tokens like <$p-r>: is there an official reference table for these that I can link to within that procedure?

Yup, it’s in `Help/Placeholder Tags…". And yes, if the novel just essentially has a title and copyright/ISBN page, one could just put those into the draft, and then specifically set the page count delay to trigger on a certain literal page, rather than setting it to “Automatic”. So if you’ve got two pages before you start counting and printing headers/footers, you’d set that pop-up to “Page 3” (which would become page one with the right option selected above). So that might be a good alternate technique to share for those that have minimal front matter to deal with.

Excellent. Thanks again for your suggestions. I’ve updated that procedure to reflect them.

Got any quick tips on generating a “Table Of Contents” for the front of your book? Scrivener does it automatically for Kindle and ePub, of course, and it works great, but I seem to have to do it manually for paperback.

There is a chapter, “Creating a Table of Contents” in the user manual, starting on page 325.

I’ve been following Ed’s steps, or trying to:

In Page Attributes, there’s no option for 6x9 Paper Size. Do I choose A4, or US letter? Or do I have to custom size it?