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Mobi Dick

Falling back to the famous opening line from Shoot and The Mist (which King admits he stole from Shoot), this is what happened:

Last night was Formatting Night at the casa, and it was time to play with the Table of Contents.  Almost every ebook needs one, particularly if you’re hawking a novel, and you want your readers to jump to chapters quickly.  I’ve done this for Kuntilanak, and I started playing with it for Her Demonic Majesty.

I discovered quickly, however, that while you can set up a text file in Scrivener for you ToC, you can’t link to things as you would in Word.  That functionality simply doesn’t exist.  But wait!  After doing some research using this strange tool that a lot of writers seem to be unaware of called “Google”, I was reminded of something Scrivener does, and that’s compile your documents into epub and mobi formats.

For the less and tech savvy out there, epub is a common ebook standard that’s been around a few years.  The other format, mobi, has been around even longer, and is what’s used by Kindle.  When you compile into either of these formats, if you have things set up right, you’ll build your Table of Contents automatically.

With that being the case, why not give it a try?

I decided to try out mobi, since I could shoot this straight up to my Kindle Direct account when the time came to complete this magic.  So I selected a few things to test this out, and . . .

Wait a minute.  Since you need a way to see your ebook before it becomes an ebook, I needed a little tool for that.  I downloaded Kindle Previewer from the Kindle Direct page, so once I had my mobi file, I could pull it up and “read” my story.  Great!  I get that on the machine, then I start the compile . . .

Oh, wait.  In order to compile anything as a mobi, Scrivener needs to know where you store your KindleGen program.  KindleGen lets you convert files that could be ebooks into mobi format, and even though I’m creating a mobi file, Scrivener wants to know where this magical program resides on my computer.  Which meant I needed to go and download that–

I have all the tools in place.  I selected my text, click to Compile, say I want mobi, and do it.  A few seconds later–success!  I have a mobi file!  It was that simple.

With the mobi file in place I started Kindle Previewer, loaded by file, and–there it was!  My test book, all nice and . . . well, not exactly neat.  The ToC was a mess, but this was due to how I named things rather than something Scrivener did.  But things were in place, and the pages looked great . . .

That was when I noticed the page count:  1,452.  What?  What is his insanity?  It seemed that when the mobi file was created, all sorts of pages that I can’t see were created, and this led to this incredible page count, rather than the 72 pages which should have been.

Obviously, there is something I did when writing that brought about this issue.  That means more investigation and research, and more testing.  But when the time comes, I’ll have this book made.

Oh, yes, I will.

7 thoughts on “Mobi Dick

  1. Hello fellow Scrivener! The topic of the fabled ToC – nice article. When reading this, I wasn’t clear on what you were referring to when you stated that you can’t link to thinks in your ToC like you could in word. I’m assuming you mean linking to various chapters and what not – if I’m mistaken, then my apologies. I’ve been meaning on whipping up a basic set of instructions on setting up a custom ToC, but I’ve taken a slight break from blogging – and will resume when I’m done with my current round of revisions for Pallitine Rising.

    Now, I’m not an expert, the information I share is from trial and error – and the random article found on the interwebs. And this is for the Windows version – the Mac version has more features, etc that I’ve no experience in. I won’t bore you with the details, but if you do happen to build your own ToC, then you will need to manually remove the automatic ToC that is generated after you compile.

    Short version- when you have your custom ToC file / text set up, you can link the chapters by doing the following (Windows version): Highlight the word(s) you want linked, click on Edit, scroll down to Scrivener Link (towards the bottom) and a side menu will pop out when you hover, showing your manuscript. click on the chapter / section you want, and walla. Link made.

    If diving in and tweaking the xhtml that is generated with the compile to remove the automatically generated ToC seems yucky (it is), then the default one is probably going to work for you. The only real reason I go to the hassle of creating one is that I don’t like where the default ToC is placed in the front matter. That, and I like being able to customize it however I wish.

    It has been unofficially said on the Literature & Latte boards that any features that are present for the Mac version will be migrated over to the Windows version – which includes the ability to customize the ToC, unfortunately there’s no official word on when that may take place.

    Good luck, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions – or to tell me that I’m a total noob. I’m good either way. 🙂

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