How to Publish Your eBook from Word to Kindle in under Ten Minutes

by Joel Friedlander on January 18, 2013 · 156 comments

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by Ed Ditto (@BooksByEd)

Ed Ditto, an experienced author and ghostwriter, has developed an extremely fast way of moving his books from Word, through Scrivener, and into the Amazon Kindle’s Mobi format for uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing. Here he steps you through the process so you can do it, too.

Author’s note:

After receiving several comments from disappointed users of Scrivener for Windows, I’d like to make it crystal clear that the process below is primarily written for Scrivener’s Mac version. While it’s adaptable for use in Scrivener for Windows, it’s not identical. That said, Literature & Latte, the developer of Scrivener, is working towards feature parity between the two versions. For more information see this thread in L&L’s discussion forum.

My e-book formatting guide is likewise Mac-oriented. I’m currently working on a Windows version, but I’m postponing its release pending upgrades to Scrivener for Windows’s ability to compile PDFs, since I consider CreateSpace and other print-on-demand services to be essential outlets for independent authors.

Thanks for your understanding.

If you’re an independently-published author then you’ve likely beaten your head against the Great Wall of Amazon that is the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, or KDP. When following the standard do-it-yourself process, your objectives may seem mutually exclusive:

  1. Trying to force Microsoft Word to generate the lowest-common-denominator format required by the KDP, while
  2. Attempting to produce your e-book in a pleasing design that reflects the care and craftsmanship you put into your writing.

It’s a bit of a Sophie’s Choice; small wonder the exercise often degenerates into tedium and frustration. You upload a .doc, check it in the KDP’s previewer, discover problems, fix them, re-upload, re-check, re-fix…ad nauseam and all too often, ad infinitum.

So how would you like to accomplish this in under ten minutes? If you’ll trust me and step back from Word, I’ll show you how to cure your KDP headache forever. (Note that what I’ve written below is Mac-oriented. It’s adaptable to Windows with some experimentation, but certain features–most notably Front Matter–are either reduced in functionality or missing altogether.)

Setup: Install Scrivener

Scrivener, the writing suite from Literature & Latte, has a trial version that’s free and fully-featured for thirty days of actual use, meaning that if you use it two days a week it’ll last for fifteen weeks. So go ahead and start the installation.

As the process runs, let me explain what makes Scrivener my application-of-choice for e-book production.

What you’ll shortly be seeing in Scrivener’s Text Editor may make Scrivener look like a “What You See Is What You Get” word processor, but Scrivener isn’t technically WYSIWYG.

In Scrivener it’s possible to write in one format and publish in a totally different one without changing the on-screen appearance of a single character. So when you decide you want to change publication formats…say you’ve imported a Word manuscript and published it to Kindle, but now you want to re-format it for CreateSpace…you simply create a new set of formatting instructions using an intuitive compilation wizard, and Scrivener does the line-by-line format conversion for you.

This means you never have to suffer through the grunt work of a document-wide formatting exercise again. Got that? NO MORE MANUAL CONVERSION. As my grandfather, a skilled framing carpenter, used to say: “Let the tool do the work.”

When the installation’s finished, you’re ready to get started.

Step one: Import your manuscript into a new Scrivener project

Time required: three minutes

Start Scrivener. From the “Project Templates” pane choose “Fiction / Novel.” Name your new project and save it, and Scrivener’s main working window will open. It’ll resemble other word processors; a menu/toolbar sits above a text editor. But it’s the Binder, circled in the image below, that you’re concerned with in this step.

Scrivener 1

Think of the Binder as a three-ring binder where you store your project materials: manuscript copy, research documents, character sheets, photos, etc.

Click-and-drag the “Chapter” and “Scene” dummy documents from the Binder’s “Manuscript” folder to the Trash. Then open a Finder window and click-and-drag the body of your manuscript into the “Manuscript” folder, as shown below. Just the body—everything between the first word of Chapter One and the last word of the Epilogue.


Here I’m using my novel Gunrunner Moon, which I’ve stored as individual chapters in .doc format. See how the chapters have fallen neatly into place in the Binder? That’s because I numbered them sequentially.

(If your manuscript is stored as one long block of text, you’ll need to split it into individual chapters before importing…or after; using Scrivener’s easy and intuitive “Documents / Split / at Selection” function. See page 191 of Scrivener’s built-in manual, available under the Help menu, for an explanation. Remove the chapter titles from the manuscript as you split—you want each chapter document to contain only its text, not its title.)

Once the importation is complete, feel free to click around in your manuscript but—and this is very important—do NOT change any of the formatting. Not because you might mess something up, but because, as I mentioned, you simply don’t need to. You’re about to set up the guidelines Scrivener will use to take care of the formatting for you.

Step two: Populate your front matter

Time required: one minute

Now open the “Front Matter” folder and click-and-drag “Title Page” and “Copyright” from “Paperback Novel” to “E-Book.” While you’re here, send the dummy “Cover” to the trash. From a Finder window, click-and-drag the cover of your novel to the “Front Matter / ” folder. When you’re finished you should see:


Step three: Edit your meta-data and enter your ISBNs if appropriate

Time required: thirty seconds

Scrivener will automatically populate your title page, copyright page, etc. using what are called “placeholder tags,” AKA field codes. These are fed through the “Meta-Data Settings” pane, accessible by choosing the “Project / Meta-Data Settings…” menu item and clicking on the “Project Properties” button. Now fill in your name, title, etc., as I’ve done here:


When you’re finished, hit “OK” to dismiss the “Meta-Data Settings” pane.

If you now click on the “Title Page” document in the Binder, you’ll see the year and author placeholder tags, and you’ll also find space for you to enter your book’s ISBN and ISBN-13 if you have them. Here I’ve entered dummy information. (You can delete the ISBN and ISBN-13 lines if they’re unnecessary.)


Step four: Start the Compile wizard to compile your e-book

Time required: thirty seconds

Believe it or not, it’s time for you to produce your e-book for upload. Click “File / Compile.” The Compile wizard will open into its “Contents” pane. This is where you tell Scrivener which documents to include in your output version, and how to include them.

Make the selections I’ve circled below:


Here I’m instructing Scrivener to publish an e-book in .mobi format (Amazon’s standard, in case you’re not familiar with it), including the front matter documents “as-is” and the balance of the novel according to the formatting instructions I’m about to issue. Note that I’ve included the “E-Book” front matter.

Step five: Set your “separators”

Time required: fifteen seconds

Click “Separators” from “Compilation Options” and make the following selection:


Scrivener will now insert a page break between the individual documents that comprise your manuscript, e.g., causing a new chapter to begin on a new page.

Step six: Set your cover

Time required: fifteen seconds

Now click “Cover” from “Compilation Options” and choose your e-book cover from the drop-down box.


Step seven: Issue formatting instructions

Time required: two to three minutes

There’s a lot of aesthetic power packed into Scrivener’s “Formatting” pane. What you’ll be setting up is a plain-vanilla e-book, but experimentation here will definitely be rewarded.

First, make these selections from the main pane:


Then click “Options” at top right. My manuscript includes centered text (a poem) so I’ve checked “Preserve alignment” and “Centered text only.” Note that by default Scrivener removes the indent from the first paragraph of each chapter.


Hit OK to return to the main “Formatting” pane, and click “Section Layout” at left of center. Under “Title Prefix and Suffix” enter the following (note that the dot indicates a space):


This will automatically generate chapter headers within your e-book (“Chapter One” and so on).

Now click “Title Appearance” and choose what follows to dress up each chapter’s title:


And finally, choose “First Page.” Here you’ll set the number of leading uppercase words for the first paragraph of each chapter…in this case, three.


Again, hit “OK” to return to the main “Formatting” pane.

Finally, select “Chapter Title” in the lower window, hit the “A” button to summon the “Fonts” pane, and click “Bold Italic” and “18.” (I like Bold Italic for chapter titles, but that’s a personal choice.)


Then dismiss the “Fonts” pane by clicking the red circle in the upper left-hand corner.

Step eight: A slight Title Adjustment

Time required: fifteen seconds

Since Scrivener will automatically generate a Table of Contents for your e-book, you need to de-check the “Override title prefix separator for updated links:” box, as shown:


This will ensure that the individual items in your TOC appear properly.

Step nine: another slight adjustment to “Transformations”

Time required: fifteen seconds

One change here: click “Convert multiple spaces to single spaces.” This is a cleanup measure to eliminate double spaces between paragraphs.


Step ten: Finish up by installing Kindlegen

Time required: varies, but nonetheless quite speedy, and only has to be done once

If this is the first time you’ve used Scrivener, the final step in your compilation will be to install KindleGen, which is essentially an intermediary application that helps Scrivener produce .mobi-format e-books. KindleGen is a “set it and forget it” app; follow the link on the “Compilation Options / KindleGen” pane, complete the installation, and you’ll soon see:


And now, believe it or not, you’re finished! Hit the “Compile” button at lower right. Scrivener will ask you for an output location, and will then get busy producing a .mobi for you. With practice, your elapsed time to this point should easily be ten minutes.

Review: Open your .mobi in the Kindle Previewer

I find it much quicker to review my e-books in the Kindle Previewer than in the KDP. Install the Kindle Previewer if necessary, start it, and open the .mobi file Scrivener just created for you. Here are a few samples from my demo version of Gunrunner Moon.

First, the book opens directly to the beginning, where the chapter title, first paragraph indent, and capitalized words all appear correctly:


Checking the cover, we see that it’s correctly sized (although unfortunately the Kindle Previewer’s display is too big to fit into my laptop screen, so all you see here is a truncated version):


And Scrivener has automatically generated a Table of Contents.


The TOC settings are governed by the “Title Adjustments” and “Layout” panes of the Compile wizard; again, I encourage you to experiment.

Here’s the Title Page:


And finally, here’s the Copyright page. Notice that the placeholder tags have been filled in with the appropriate meta-data.


And there you have it. You can now go back and make changes, or—when you’re happy with what you see—upload your .mobi directly to the KDP.


The process I’ve just shown you produces a simple, clean layout in .mobi format in a few minutes, but for a much more valuable and comprehensive approach—one that’ll have you publishing like a pro to every major distributor in just a couple of hours—please pick up a copy of my guide: How to Format Your Novel for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and CreateSpace…in One Afternoon.

As one reviewer reported: “This book is very well thought out, planned and easy to follow. I highly recommend it to anyone facing the otherwise daunting task of formatting for different eBook publishers. Thanks Ed, you have saved me many frustrating hours with your excellent book.” And I invite you to visit my website at for all things authorship, and to follow me on Twitter.

Ed DittoEd Ditto Since fleeing corporate America in 2005, Ed Ditto has written over a hundred feature articles for local newspapers, sold two novels, edited and/or ghostwritten five fitness books, produced seven e-books for other authors, and helped clients win upwards of a million dollars in grant funding. His latest book, How to Format Your Novel for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and CreateSpace…in One Afternoon, is now available from Amazon. Visit his website,, for Ed’s take on self-publishing, grant writing, and good words.

Photo credit: nitot via photopin cc.

I am an Amazon affiliate, and links to that site use my affiliate code.

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    { 142 comments… read them below or add one }

    Steve Beamish February 11, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Hi most of the steps were pretty easy for me but when I try to publish everything I get the following message “Warning(prcgen):W14016: Cover not specified” and then my book cover won’t upload. Any help you could provide would be much appreciated.


    Susannah Gautier January 30, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I had had great success with your instructions. There was a learning curve but not I format and update my books in minutes for kindle. Then I convert the mobi file to an epub in Calibre (free) in about 10 seconds. The only issue I have had is with a pdf file for Create Space, but I don’t sell many print books so I don’t stress over it much.
    Now I am looking to bundle two books and have no idea how to do that in scrivener. Any suggestions? I’ve googled around but haven’t come up with the solution yet.


    Jacelyn October 7, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Hi there, every time i used to check blog posts here early in the dawn, as i like to find out more and more.


    Denise September 19, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Can Scrivener accept InDesign files instead of Word files? I’ve tried converting to Mobi using InDesign plugin but get a lot of error messages. Also, we do not use “Chapter 1”, etc. for chapter titles. Each chapter is a separate topic and that topic is used as the chapter title. Can Scrivener be set up to something other than using “Chapter __”?


    Steven Greffenius July 26, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Outstanding article!


    Clare May 18, 2014 at 7:39 am

    I have followed these instructions to the letter twice – but unfortunately my chapter headings are not centred and my tavle of contents just lists the words – Title Page and The title itself – no links to chapters of other front matter.
    Im using a Mac OS x 10.9.2 and am a Scrivener user (although to date have used it only to write)
    Can you tell me what I’ve done wrong? I am going slightly crazy! I thought your instructions were very helpful and clear – yet it hasn’t worked!


    John March 27, 2014 at 8:04 am

    I love this article and got your formatting book. It’s really wonderful helpful little user guide. I imported from MS Word Mac 2011. I had Scrivner and hadn’t really used it much, but now I’m appreciating it’s power.

    I have two questions:
    I’ve got everything the way I want, except in my output file, the Contents page is right the Cover image page and before the copyright page and dedication page. Is there a way to put the Contents page after the other front matter pages?

    Also, i tried importuning from MS Word Mac 2011 and I had written with tabs i word, which did not import well and looks funky when compiled. Is there a way to clean that up without doing it manually – or import so it cleans that up.

    Thanks for writing a great article and user guide!


    Ed Ditto March 26, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Hi, Bobby. Make sure that in File > Compile > Transformations that you don’t have the “Convert italics to underlines” box checked.


    Bobby March 26, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Wow Ed. That was easy, after a year of not being able to figure it out. Love Scrivener. Look forward to reading your book!


    Bobby March 26, 2014 at 5:55 am

    Ed (or anyone),
    First, I’m planning to buy both your’s and Michael’s e-books, thanks for the leads! I have worked with Scrivener for about a year. The one thing I can’t seem to accomplish in a conversion is that, if I italicize a word or sentence in Scrivener, and then compile it to Word or Kindle, it comes out as underlined rather than italicized. I am using the Windows version.
    Any idea?


    Eve December 1, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Hi Ed, thank you for this very informative post. I’ve read through all the comments but haven’t seen my particular problem discussed: I can’t figure out how to get KindleGen installed. I’ve tried to follow the directions in their ReadMe, which is opaque to say the very least, with no success. I feel like an idiot. There’s not much you can do about that, but perhaps you can suggest a way (or direct me to a site that can suggest a way) to get this ever-lovin’ blue-eyed utility to install?



    Eve December 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    (And, by the way, I am using an Intel Mac with IOS over 10.5, which they specify.)


    Ed Ditto December 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Hi, Eve. Have you tried what I’m about to describe?

    The first time you use Scrivener’s Compile wizard to create a .mobi, it’ll walk you through the installation process. So try it now: in Scrivener hit File > Compile, choose “Kindle eBook (.mobi)” from the “Compile For” dropdown box, and click the KindleGen option. You’ll find the instructions right there.

    Hope that helps.


    Eve December 1, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Ah. Well. In the (amazingly short) time it took you to answer my question I had a lightbulb go off and I dragged the KindleGen icon to my Utilities folder. Bingo. In addition to my practice file I also got some stuff I didn’t want (like Scrivener’s sample pages), but that’s easily fixable. Thanks!


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