How to Format Your Book for Createspace using Scrivener

Scrivener is an application that can seem pretty intimidating at first, what with its 200-page manual, making the whole idea of working with Scrivener seem like a daunting prospect. Well, there are a whole lot of things you can do with Scrivener, but it actually doesn't take long to master the basics and start using it consistently for all your writing, and your book formatting as well.

This guide is going to take you through the process of formatting your book in Scrivener for Createspace in the drop-dead easiest way. I highly recommend spending about 30 minutes to an hour going through the interactive tutorial for Scrivener (launch it by going to Help → Interactive Tutorial). Although it isn't entirely necessary, going through that tutorial will help you understand the basic formatting functions of Scrivener, and will make this tutorial much easier to follow.

Also, this tutorial makes use of an important feature (add front matter) that is available only in the Mac version of Scrivener. If you are using the Windows version, check out Ed Ditto’s awesome tutorial by clicking here. So, before we begin, here’s a basic gist of what we are going to do:

  1. Split your text into parts, chapters, acts or whatever format that you like.
  2. Use Scrivener’s page formatting features to split your book into pages.
  3. Insert “deliberately blank” pages in the required locations to conform to recto/verso conventions
  4. Perform a lot of formatting (such as titles, page numbers, headers, footers, margins, etc.) during the compilation process.

If you did not understand the third step, you first have to understand the definition of recto and verso. Basically, in an open paperback book, recto means the right-hand side page, and verso means the left-hand side page. Sometimes, when formatting your book, you will need to insert a deliberately blank page in a location to conform with recto/verso conventions of particular pages. For example, the title page of the book always appears on the recto side. So, you will have to insert a deliberately blank page before the title page so that it ends up on the right. Here is an example from the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad.


Another thing that you have to note, is that there are two places where you can apply your formatting for the book: before compilation and during compilation. Before compilation means that you apply your formatting during the actual writing process. Before compilation is when you can apply your basic internal formatting such as bold, italics, bullet points, numbers, images, etc. During compilation (i.e. in the “Compile” window), you apply the rest of the formatting such as headers, footers, page numbers, titles, margins, etc. OK. So let’s get right down to it. I’m using my book 27 Un-Procrastination Tips as an example. Here’s how it looks like in Scrivener:

Now to go View → Page View → Show Page View to change to Page View. This will, by default, give you an A4 page view. Change it to your trim size of choice by going to File → Page Setup. In the drop-down Paper Size, click Manage Custom Sizes and set the size and margins for your chosen trim size. Click here to check the different Createspace trim sizes and their appropriate margin sizes.

Note: For some reason, Scrivener seems to use extra-wide margins when formatting the page using the above feature. So do this only to get the feel of the page. You’re going to be re-defining the margins and trim size during compilation.

Now, you have to define the front matter. Put your front matter pages in a folder called “Front Matter” and put it outside the draft. Format your front matter pages, such as the title page, copyright page and ToC, exactly how you want it to look like in the actual book. For example, here’s how I have formatted my title page.

Now, you are going to have to create a deliberately blank page. To do this, simply create a new text and insert a few spaces inside the text. This will allow Scrivener to identify the text as an actual page during final compilation, even if there is no actual text inside it. After creating the deliberately blank page, copy it as many times as you want, and insert it into the appropriate places to conform with recto/verso conventions. Createspace PDF requirements state that in the final PDF, recto pages should be even pages, and verso pages should be odd pages. Depending on that, you just need to insert the deliberately blank pages in the right places. The following screenshot should explain it clearly.


- To make the conclusion appear on the recto side, you may or may note have to insert a deliberately blank page here depending on the total number of pages of all the chapters combined. If the last page number of the last chapter in the PDF is an even page, then you will have to insert a deliberately blank page after the last chapter. If not, you need not insert the deliberately blank page, as the conclusion will automatically appear recto.

Note that unlike the front matter pages, each text in the middle does not automatically correspond to one page. You will have to compile the PDF at least once to find out the last page number of the last chapter. This is because internal chapters have a variable number of pages, unlike the front matter texts.

We are half done! Now to compile the book.

Compiling the Book

This is where we are going to apply some major formatting to the book. Go to File → Compile to open the compilation window. The first thing you have to do is to choose “Format As” as “Custom” and “Compile For” as “PDF”. Since you want the front matter pages to appear exactly as you have formatted them inside Scrivener, check the checkbox “As-Is” for all the front matter pages. Also check “Page Break Before” for pretty much every text. Note that you should also check “As-Is” for any deliberately blank pages.

Also, you should check the “Add Front Matter” box and choose the Front Matter folder. This is an important feature that is available only in the Mac version of Scrivener, and makes the whole job a lot easier. It ensures that the page numbering starts only after the front matter. If you have the Windows version of Scrivener, then you should check out Ed Ditto’s tutorial.

Now go to the formatting section. Here you will define how the titles and text will look like. If you went through the interactive tutorial, you should already be familiar with how this works. If not, here’s the basic gist: you can define separate formatting options for each type of document (folder, double-text, text) and also the level of document. You can add separate formatting for different levels by clicking the small + button in the top-right corner. For example, I have deliberately put the “About the Author” page on Level 2 so that I can define formatting options for it that are different from the traditional chapters in the middle of the book.

Here, the title will automatically be defined as the document name that you have given in the binder. You can define prefixes and suffixes for the title by clicking the “Section Layout” button. I gave given the following prefix and suffix for the internal chapters so that I get chapter names like “Tip #1: Set Crystal Clear Goals” where “Set Crystal Clear Goals” is the document name that I have given in the binder, and “Tip #1″ is the suffix that I have defined in “Section Layout”. I have also inserted a return in suffix so that I get a line break.

Next, go to page settings. Here you can define the margins and trim size. Uncheck “Use Project Page Setup settings” and click on “Page Setup” and define your trim size, and define appropriate margins. I’ve used the following margins for the 5×8 trim size.

In the Header and Footer tab, you define the header and footer for all the recto pages. You can use tags here. I’ve defined the chapter name to appear in the centre of the header of the recto pages.

Then go to the “Facing Pages” tab to define the verso header and footer. I have put the book name here.

Go to the “Separators” tab and define everything as “Page Break”.

Now click the “Compile” button, and you’re done!

Finishing Up

You will have to format, re-format and compile several times to get the exact results that you want. Then you will get the perfect Createspace interior PDF!

Remember, you will also need a separate cover PDF to publish to Createspace. I usually get mine done using a freelancer at Unless you are a designer, I recommend that you do the same. Once you get the cover PDF and the interior PDF, you have to upload both these PDFs separately during the book submission process.

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