Which "Formatting Toolset" is Best for EPUB & MOBI Novels?

Hey Novel eBook-Crafting Scriveners,

Which Scrivener formatting toolset(s) do you focus on while crafting eBook novels? Which is the “best” choice(s) for a novelist?

Format Bar?
Format Menu Bar?


Formatting Section of the Compile Step?

This newbie (me) is having difficulties getting the formatting of my MS to compile the way I envision; I suspect that I’m creating formatting impedance by improperly applying a format choice in one area (e.g., Format Bar) when, perhaps, I should be applying formatting elsewhere (e.g., format choices in compile provisioning dialogue).

What “Scrivener Novel eBook Formatting Workflow” do you find easiest and most useful?

Many thanks!
Plane Wryter

PS: Across ScrivenerLand, to what degree is formatting a novel eBook the same as, or different than, formatting a novel intended for print? Tx!

The Format Bar, Presets, and the menu bar are in essence all the same thing, when you consider them in terms of what they produce; the end product. All any of these tools do is alter the appearance of the text. Presets can be thought of as formatting “macros”. They contain one or more instructions which can then be easily applied later, but they fundamentally do the same thing as if you had set all of that stuff by hand using the Format Bar and the Format menu tools.

The Formatting section in the compiler is a different animal. This is where you can apply fairly global formatting instructions that will alter the look of your document in a variety of fashions and scales. You can do everything from tweaking the indent to blowing away every aspect of the editor’s formatting. It’s particularly useful if you write in Scrivener without much thought for formatting, as this allows you to write in whatever manner is most pleasing and easy to use.

But technically speaking, in terms of the actual underlying codes, Formatting is doing the same exact thing as the Format Bar tools as well—it’s just doing them automatically for you. The end result is still going to be identical to going through and replicating all of the compiler’s instructions on your core text. The main exception to this is that the Formatting pane can generate content that doesn’t exist in the editor and binder, like title prefixes, or even just the existence of titles at all for that matter.

In other words, all of these tools use the same underlying mechanisms, and so you are free to choose from any of them.

The main difference, and what you might be running into when you say you feel things aren’t coming out the way you expected, is that e-books are traditionally a bit authoritative when it comes to formatting. Take for instance the Kindle: it will indent your paragraphs and produce no spacing between them, no matter what you do in the compiler. That’s just how the Kindle displays paragraphs, and it alters its typesetting templates depending on the device, too. A Blackberry will use a small indent, but on the larger Kindle screen it uses about a 1/2" indent—a width that would look awkward and be wasteful on a Blackberry or iPhone screen. This is the reason for why e-books are less flexible. Being a good “citizen” in the e-book world means giving up a little control because it is impossible to predict whether your readers will be on a black and white ink screen, full colour glowing screen, something the size of a postage stamp, or something as big as a pad of paper—not to mention all of the desktop applications you can use to read e-books, too.

There are ways of forcing format, but Scrivener does not employ them save for one exception, when publishing a script as an e-book. For normal usage it supplies all of the formatting hints that can be supplied via the HTML format (which is a great deal) and from that point on it’s up to the device and software that opens the e-book to choose if it should honour those styles, or supply its own typesetting. Unfortunately these are rather advanced. You need to understand at least a little XML, a good amount of CSS and HTML, as well as how to use the command line, to really pull this off.

Chances are, if you make a change (like indents) in Scrivener, and nothing happens—it’s for a good reason.