Suggestions and considerations on workflow from Scrivener to InDesign?

I use Scrivener for writing, and InDesign for layout and publishing (to a print-on-demand ready PDF file).

The last time I published a book (too long ago … 2008) I did all the writing in MS Word, with each chapter in its own docx file. I would then import those into InDesign, as chapters within the InD Book feature. The nice thing with that is it would handle footnotes and endnotes. In that project I made extensive use of footnotes.

If I am writing the book in Scrivener, and using its footnotes (and possibly endnotes) feature, what do you have any suggestions on the best approach to move all that over to InDesign once the writing process is complete? (N.B., I mention the use of footnotes and endnotes just in case that makes a difference to the suggested workflow)

I foresee two parts to this question.

  1. Is there a recommended (or best practice) way to export each chapter to its own file?
  2. Is there a best practice for getting the text from Scrivener to InDesign?

I imagine one option is to export from Scrivener to MS Word docx files, and import those into InD.

Questions that come to mind are whether this handles formatting well? Such as bold, italics, and headings.

I’d be very interested to hear from anyone else who works with a Scrivener and InDesign combo.

Thank you.

If Word styles convey to InDesign, Scrivener styles will.

I use such a workflow. The trick is just to create named styles in Scrivener for a few things — and have styles set up in an inDesign template with the same names. The styles in Scriv are just placeholding, as it were, and need not do any formatting there (you can have them tint the background so you can see they are applied however).

Then compile to docx with your compile format set to preserve the styles (i.e., keep the style markers in the output file).

At that point the process will be a familiar one for you. Drop the docx into your inDesign template, impose the inDesign-defined styling for your custom styles, good to go.

I do not generate separate docx files for different chapters — would be curious to learn if there is some good reason to do that. I just compile the whole book into one docx and drop it in.

I gather that you will already have a good idea of the sort of character and paragraph styles you should define in Scrivener based on your earlier Word-to-inDesign workflow.

Nothing I am typesetting has footnotes/endnotes, so I don’t have any insight there.


p.s. You do not have to do anything special to get simple rich text things like italics to go across. Things you put in italics in scriv will show up in italics in the result.


Remember that Pandoc supports ICML output directly, so another option is to uses Scrivener Styles > Markdown > ICML directly. The super benefit is the customisability, you get a full bibliography system, more complex transformations and can run a huge number of filters that can modify the manuscript in myriad ways, so it really depends on the material and what your needs are (i.e. for technical editing I think Pandoc would be a must, but for a simple manuscript, manual wrangling via Word should suffice). The downside is a more complex initial setup.


Thanks for your insights @gr.

Regarding using separate files … InDesign has a “Book” file feature which I find very useful. You can learn about it here.

My last book was around 420 pages. Using the Book feature, I had a separate file for the front mater (copyright page, etc.), preface, introduction, TOC, each chapter, and the index. For me, the advantages of doing it this way makes the whole publishing process. The Word files were smaller and chapter specific, which I found made them easier to work with. We could share chapters back and forth, rather than the whole book at once. Also, if (God forbid) major edits in a specific chapter needed to occur after layout had begun, it was a simple mater to have the editor work on the relevant Word chapter file, and then reimport it into its respective file in the InDesign Book system.

I imagine for smaller and relatively simple books using the Book feature may not be worth bothering with. For that particularly book, I found it indispensable. I suggest checking it out.

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I saw mention of Pandoc elsewhere during my research into a Scrivener ↔ InDesign workflow. I’m going to have to look more into that. My initial concern (or resistance) when I started looking into Pandoc was that it might take me down a rabbit hole of technicalities to get it working as needed. I’ll look into it more when time permits.

Thank you.

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It really, really will.

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It is certainly better be somewhat comfortable with the command line, but you don’t need to be a terminal wizard by any stretch. I know many non-geek users who with a bit of support use Pandoc to convert markdown at a basic level (and indeed Scrivener has several Pandoc workflows already built-in, no terminal needed). But it is certainly true as it is so extensible, you can get lost in a rabbit hole “tweaking” your workflow to do more and more automagical formatting…

@AmberV — I wonder whether setting up ICML as one of the Compiler outputs wouldn’t be a bad feature request for a future release. While the number of people using InDesign is probably small, allowing them to spit out ICML directly from Scrivener would be invualuable, and it should only require a few tweaks from your existing export paths?

That was my conclusion when I investigated it. Like using an A Bomb to swat a fly. Perhaps at some later point when I need an A Bomb I will revisit the beast. Not dissing the system, just that it is above my pay grade. :innocent:

This sounds like a good idea.