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Using Scrivener for Mac to compile a PDF for print on demand

blind fury POD books

With Print-on-Demand (POD) services like CreateSpace, Lulu, LightningSource and others, you can make your book available to your readers with no upfront cost to you. Even better, with Scrivener you don’t even have to use Word to do it. You can just set up everything in Compile and create a POD-ready file. If you’re not interested in POD, the following steps still apply to creating a PDF for other purposes.

By necessity, this lesson requires some familiarity with the parts of Compile, though I do try to explain as much as possible. It’s geared for those who have experience with Compile, but can’t quite figure out how to get their PDF to be upload ready.

You’ll need to do some reading to determine the formatting requirements for the POD service you’re using. All of them publish guidelines on their websites. For this lesson, we’ll follow the guidelines for printing a 5.25”x8” book for CreateSpace.

NOTE: This example assumes a project with chapter folders and one or more scene documents within each chapter. You’ll have to adjust your settings accordingly if you have your project set up differently.

(Sorry, the full capability is Mac only until 3.0 comes out, but I get this question so frequently I figured I should finally write it up. 🙂 )

Preparing Your Project

For your PDF, your title page and other front matter may be formatted differently than for an e-book. You may also want them in a different location. For example, I put my acknowledgments and copyright at the back of an e-book, but the front of a print book. It’s up to you. It’s probably easiest to have two versions of the front matter items with each in its appropriate spot, which you can include/exclude in the Contents tab as desired. For the purposes of this article, I have my front matter in the Draft/Manuscript folder.

TIP: For documents with non-standard text and layouts (title page, dedication, copyright, embedded titles of front or back matter items that aren’t marked As-Is in the Contents pane), you might want to preserve the formatting before you compile. To do so, select the text that needs to be preserved in the Editor (before you open Compile), then go to Format—>Formatting—>Preserve Formatting.

If you need to force a blank page to get your first chapter to start on a right-hand page, you can insert a text document with only the following at the top of the page: <$BLANK_PAGE>. Without that tag, Scrivener will remove the blank page during the compile process.

  1. Once your project is ready, go to File—>Compile.
  2. From the Format As drop-down, choose Paperback Novel. NOTE: This will change to Custom once you start making adjustments to the settings. Do not change it back to Paperback unless you want to start over (i.e. lose all changes).
  3. In the Compile For drop-down, choose PDF.
  4. Select the Contents tab.

Ensure that all desired files are selected for inclusion, have forced page breaks if needed (for exceptions to your Separators rules like front and back matter items), and are set to As-Is if needed (for exceptions to the rules set in Formatting).

contents tab settings

Choosing Your Options

Print Settings

This tab lets you choose which type of layout to produce when working with PDF files.

  1. Choose the Print Settings tab.
  2. If you’re not using columns or end-of-page footnotes in your book, choose Publishing. This option gives you more control over layout, and is best for self-publishing.
  3. Deselect Underline Hyperlinks. If you have hyperlinks in your text, it’s best to spell them out as URLs for POD purposes, since the user can’t click them. Because they’ll be written out, there’s no need to underline them. (If you were creating a PDF to share online, you could leave this option and the next one selected.)
  4. Deselect Color Hyperlinks. Since our POD book won’t be printed in color, there’s no point in coloring them.


The separators tab is where you set the rules for what Scrivener “prints” as it transitions from one file to the next. Select the Separators tab and make the following selections.

  • Text Separator: Empty Line (to provide a blank line between scene documents)
  • Folder Separator: Page Break (doesn’t really matter since I don’t have back-to-back folders, but if you have both part and chapter folders, this will put a page break between them)
  • Folder and Text Separator: Empty Line (to provide a blank line between chapter folder title and document text)
  • Text and Folder Separator: Page Break (to start chapters on a new page)

separators tab settingsFormatting

This is where we can set the formatting for each type of file at each level within the hierarchy. We can adjust the settings for chapter auto-numbers, titles, and text.

  1. Select the Formatting tab.
  2. Select folder Level 1+ (row 1). This applies to our chapter folders.
  3. Uncheck the Title box to prevent the folder titles from printing. (In this case, I’m only using chapter auto-numbering, not folder titles. Leave this checked if you want both. You might find this post helpful for understanding how to work with titles and auto-numbering.)
  4. Click in the Format Editor on the line that says “Chapter One.”
  5. Click the “Aa” button to view the Fonts window. Choose your desired fonts. For mine, I’m using Helvetica, Light, 18. Close the Fonts window.
  6. Click the Section Layout button.
    Formatting tab selections
  7. Under the Title Appearance tab, ensure the Title Prefix is set to Uppercase (or whatever case you prefer for your chapter auto-numbering). Click OK.
  8. Leave the Page Padding (far right, center) at 8 lines. This will force Scrivener to start printing the chapter number about 1/3 of the way down the page.
  9. Select text Level 1 (row 3). This will affect the settings for your front and back matter documents (those directly below the Draft/Manuscript folder, same level as your chapter folders) that are not marked “As-Is” or fully preserved (i.e. Scrivener does not apply Formatting tab settings to documents marked As-Is.)
  10. Deselect the Title checkbox. NOTE: Marking a document As-Is on the Contents tab also prevents Scrivener from printing titles. For front and back matter documents that are marked As-Is, and for which I wanted a title, I typed the titles directly into the document in the Editor and preserved their format.
  11. Click on the block of text in the Format Editor, then click the “Aa” button to get the Fonts window.
  12. Choose your desired font and size. I’m using Garamond, 11. Close the Fonts window.
    Formatting Level 1 text
  13. If necessary, change the line spacing and space after paragraphs (available under the Line Spacing dropdown by choosing Other). I left mine as single spaced with no space after the paragraphs.
  14. Change the Page Padding to zero. (Because we want front/back matter to start at the top of the page.)
  15. With the third row still selected, press Command+C on your keyboard to copy the settings of this row.
  16. Select the text Level 2+ row (last row) to allow for changes to our scene documents.
  17. Press Command+V to paste the previous row’s settings onto this row. This saves us some time when two rows need to be similarly formatted.
  18. Click in the Format Editor, then change the line spacing to 1.1. (I feel like the extra .1 of space between lines improves the readability of the book, and is pretty common in most print books, POD or not. Again, you can change it to suit your preferences.)

Formatting level 2 text

Other Settings Tabs

Title Adjustments: Use the Title Adjustments pane if you need to suppress title prefixes (chapter auto-numbering) or suffixes for any specific document (this only applies to those not marked “As-Is”). Just click the gear button to choose the documents to suppress. This is most useful when you have a prologue or epilogue and don’t want it to be marked “Chapter One.”

Layout: I suggest you leave the Layout pane as it is. It’s good to have a * * * inserted when a scene break falls on a page break to avoid confusion.

Transformations: You shouldn’t need to make any changes to the Transformations pane unless you need to remove highlighting, text color, or hyperlinks.

PDF Settings: Leave as is. The Generate PDF Outline doesn’t really apply to POD. It just allows a PDF viewer to have an outline of the document.

Footnotes & Comments: All should be as needed unless you’re using footnotes. We mainly just want to ensure comments and annotations are removed (so readers can’t see our notes to ourselves).

Page Settings

This is where you set up the correct paper size, header space, and margins for you document. Read the publisher guidelines carefully to determine what you need.

  1. Select the Page Settings tab.
  2. Click the Page Setup button in the upper right corner.
  3. In the window that opens, click the Paper Size drop-down and choose Manage Custom Sizes.
  4. Click the [+] button at the bottom to create a new custom paper size and name it CreateSpace5.25×8 (as shown below).
    Creating a custom paper size
  5. Set the paper size to a width of 5.25 and a height of 8 inches (see image above). These are the outside dimensions of the book.
  6. Under Non-Printable Area, choose User Defined, if necessary.
  7. As shown in the image above, make the Top .5 inches and the rest zero.
    This is not the same as a margin. We are defining the area within the 5.25 x 8-inch page space that cannot be printed on. We are doing this to force our headers to print ½-inch below the top of the page. I had to play with this forever to figure it out. 😉
  8. Click OK to close the Custom Paper Sizes window, and click OK again to close the Page Setup window.
    In the future, you’ll be able to choose your custom page size and won’t have to create it again when making a PDF for the same size book.
  9. Now, we’ll set our margins. Keep in mind that we want our inside margin (left margin on a right-hand page) to be larger than our outside margin, to allow for binding. When setting this up, think only of a right-hand page. In the next section, we’ll turn on the “facing pages” option, which will automatically flip the margins for the left-hand pages. Set the margins as follows (you can always adjust them to your own preferences later):
    Top: .75 (If you want more space between the header and the book’s text, make this 1 inch.)
    Bottom: .75
    Left: 1” (To allow .5” extra space for binding the book)
    Right: .5”

Margin settings


How you set up the headers and footers is up to you. I’m walking you through what I did for Blind Fury and Blind Ambition. I based these settings on a major publisher’s book with a layout that I liked.

  1. Still on the Page Settings tab, click the Header and Footer button at the center.
  2. In the center header box, remove the placeholder tag and type the book title. I did mine in all caps with an extra space between each letter, and two or three between each word: M Y   A W E S O M E   B O O K.
  3. In the right header text box, type: <$p> (remember, we’re setting this up for the right-hand page; we’ll set up the left-hand page in a minute).
  4. Remove the <$p> from the center footer box.
  5. Ensure that the two checkboxes are selected. The first one suppresses the header on the first page and all new pages (front and back matter items and chapter first pages). The second option won’t print a header on any single page (most front and back matter items, as well as any documents short enough to encompass a single page).
  6. Change the Header font, in the text box at the bottom, to Helvetica, Light, 9. Your Page Settings pane should look similar to the one below.
    header settingsI didn’t change the footer font because I don’t have any footers. Obviously, if you do, you’ll want to change that too.
  7. Click the First Pages button at the center. This section lets us set up a different header/footer for the front and back matter.
  8. In our case, we don’t want any headers or footers to show until the second page of chapter one. To do that, ensure that the Different First Pages Header/Footer checkbox is selected.
  9. Click the Start Regular Header and Footer On drop-down and choose a number that will get you to the first page of chapter one. Since I have five front matter items, I’m choosing Page 6. If any of your front matter items are longer than one page, you’ll have to adjust accordingly. NOTE: The reason we want to start this on the first page of chapter one is so that the numbering is correct. Remember that we already suppressed headers for pages following page breaks, so the header won’t actually print on that first page, but the computer will start counting pages there.
  10. Ensure that all of the text boxes in this section are empty, as shown below.
    first pages settings
  11. Click the Facing Pages button at the center of the Page Settings pane. This section is where we turn on and set up the left-hand (i.e. verso) pages of our book.
  12. If it’s not already, check the box to Use Facing Pages.
  13. In the center header box, remove the placeholder tag and type the author name. I’m using all caps with an extra space between each letter, and two or three between each word: G W E N   H E R N A N D E Z.
  14. In the left header text box, type: <$p>.
  15. Delete any text from the other text boxes in the verso (left-hand) header/footer section. Your Page Settings pane should appear as in the image below.
    facing pages settings NOTE: Verso means left-hand. Right-hand pages are called recto pages. You may see this in some documentation.


Whew! We’re ready now. You can add/change any of the items in the Meta-Data tab, but it’s not necessary. Also, we’re not using the Quick Font Override in this instance because we’re using different fonts for the headers and the book text.

  1. Click Compile.
  2. In the Save As text box, type the title of your book (taking care not to delete the .pdf extension). I used My Awesome Book.pdf.
  3. Choose a location and click Export.

Viewing the PDF

Here’s where we get to check it for issues. Locate your PDF file and open it in Preview (this should be the default unless you have different Adobe PDF viewer or creator, which is fine). Here’s what mine looks like in Two Page view.

Sample PDF pages

sample PDF pages, chapter 1

sample PDF pages right and left pages with headers

NOTE: Depending on how you view it, the margins and headers may appear incorrect, but remember that we’ve set it up so that the bound side of the page has an extra .5” margin, so everything will look a bit off center. Also, when you upload the file to create your book, the first page (title page) will be on the right, but in preview it may appear on the left (mine usually displays on its own page).

Another thing to notice is that Preview has set the page size to match the 5.25×8 settings. If you print this on letter-size paper, there will be a lot more white space around it. This preview is how the book pages would look before binding.

TIP: I’d also recommend you print out the first chapter or so to make sure everything looks correct in print. In your printer settings, make sure the Scale is set at 100%, not “Scale to Fit: Fill Entire Paper.”

If everything looks good, you’re ready to upload!

Good luck creating your PDF! Need more help? Sign up for an online class, check out Scrivener For Dummies, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.

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    • Reply

      Greg: Yes, there’s a lot more you can do. The Compile section in my book is 70+ pages, and I figured this post was long enough already… But I’m happy to discuss more here in the comments.

      Under the Section Layout button in the Formatting tab, you can click on the Title Appearance tab and set the Prefix (e.g. chapter auto-number), Title, and Suffix to whatever case you want for the level you’ve selected. Makes it nice that you don’t have to change the titles in your Binder if you didn’t start out with them in uppercase. Or if you change your mind later. 😉

      Thanks for sharing what you like! I have a post on adding images in Scrivener that covers how to include them via Compile that you might find interesting.

    • Reply

      Good point, Robert. This was definitely written with a slant toward novels which generally don’t have them. To add a TOC, create a blank document in your Binder where you want the TOC, then select the desired items in the Binder (to include in the TOC), and go to Edit>Copy Special>Copy Documents as TOC. Then paste into your TOC document.

      That will give you a list of the selected items along with a page number placeholder tag.

      If you wanted to create a TOC for an ebook where you’d want links instead of page numbers, choose Edit>Copy Special>Copy Documents as Scrivener Links. HTH!

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