iTunes Producer doesn’t play nice with Scrivener ePub exports

by AA on 28 August 2012

Just thought I’d share some of my recent experiences preparing Realms Unreel for the iBookstore, in hopes that this will help other authors grappling with the taciturn error messages of iTunes Publisher.

Using iTunes Producer 2.7.1, I was trying to deliver the ePub format of Realms Unreel to my iTunes Connect publisher account. I encountered the following problem.

Having provided all of my book-related information and assets, I reached the Delivery Screen. iTunes Producer said “Your package has validated correctly. Click the deliver button to upload your file.”

After clicking the deliver button, a series of messages flashed by indicating that iTunes Producer successfully logged in to my iTunes Publisher account, verified various assets, and uploaded the files. Afterwards, a big green checkbox appeared on the iTunes Producer Delivery section with the message “Uploaded Package to the iTunes Store”.

When I checked the package history in iTunes Producer, the status changed over the course of a few minutes from “Uploaded” to “Import Processing” to “Import Error”. When I logged in to iTunes Connect, my book did not appear in the “Manage Your Books” section.

I repeated this process several times, and each time I encountered the same “Import Error”. Based on information in the Apple Support forums, I tried:

  • resizing my cover photo assets (Incidentally, a number of other users discovered that their import errors were caused by invalid video files in their interactive books, but since Realms Unreel is text only, this didn’t apply to me.)
  • adding and removing my book preview
  • validating my ePub file using the Apple-recommended Book Proofer 1.0.1.
  • changing my delivery mechanism preference in iTunes Producer by checking and unchecking every combination of “Signiant”, “Aspera”, and “DAV”

None of these things seemed to have any effect. I emailed the Apple support address listed in iTunes Producer. (That’s [email protected] for any of you other unlucky uploaders.)

I took a break from the process for a couple of days. When Apple support didn’t write back, I broke down and did the thing I’d been dreading: rebuilding my ePub.

My original ePub file (which, I note with some indignation, opens fine on the nook and Apple devices, and has been uploaded successfully to the Barnes & Noble nook store) was generated by Scrivener. Unfortunately, there is no mention of Scrivener on Apple’s recommended products for producing ePubs. They recommend using the ePub export feature of Pages ’09 for this purpose. Sigh. After all the time I spent getting my ePub file formatted exactly how I wanted in Scrivener, I really didn’t want to work out the kinks in Pages.

So I exported a Word-compatible format (.docx) of my book using Scrivener’s export function. Since I don’t use Word, I then opened this .docx in Pages and saved it to .pages format. I tried exporting to ePub without doing anything else, just to see what I was starting from as a baseline. I synced the new Pages-generated ePub with my iPad using Book Proofer 1.0.1 (handy — wish I had known about that tool a few months ago) and skimmed a few pages to see how it looked. The text of the book seemed basically fine, although the default font size seemed a bit smaller than I had been getting with my Scrivener-exported ePub. Since iBooks supports font resizing, though, I figured this wasn’t a big deal. The main issue was that my book had no table of contents — just a “Section 1″ line in the Table of Contents section.

I’m familiar with Pages’ Table of Contents behavior, since I use Pages to write contracts for my business, so I just started going through my book text and re-assigning a Heading level 1 style to all of my chapter headings. After a few more syncs to my iPad to check how the formatting was evolving, the Table of Contents seemed to be working pretty nicely. However, the whitespace I like to have at the start of each new chapter page just would not seem to show up, and all of my front matter pages (copyright notice, title page, dedication, opening quote) were not separated by page breaks, despite the fact that I was using page breaks in the Pages document.

What I discovered is that the ePub export from Pages seems to only insert page breaks before Heading level 1, although it still won’t insert page breaks plus whitespace. (Slightly unrelated but possibly helpful point: the Table of Contents in the ePub export will include Heading level 2+, if you choose to use them.)

I came up with sort of a hack solution to get the whitespace how I like it. I create an “invisible” Heading level 1 on the first line of each new chapter page. I say it’s “invisible” because I set the font color to white, so you can’t see it while you’re reading on the iPad. After each invisible Heading level 1, I inserted several line returns to create the leading whitespace I wanted, then entered my “visible” chapter title, which used a larger font than the body text so that it still looks like a chapter title, but no longer uses the Heading 1 style, which is what the Table of Contents looks for to generate its chapter list. Making sure that only the invisible chapter title takes a Heading 1 style is important — otherwise, the Table of Contents will duplicate each chapter title.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

KB August 29, 2012 at 8:58 am


Sorry to hear that you had problems getting an .epub from Scrivener into iTunes Producer – this is strange, as we have had lots of users upload Scrivener-generated .epub files to iTunes Producer. I wonder if it is a change that Apple has made on their end? We have just had another user report that iTunes Producer rejected a Scrivener .epub file because it contained a file named “page-template.xpgt” which is not supported. This is a file that Scrivener adds to enhance layout in certain e-readers such as Adobe Digital Editions, which most e-readers are fine with. Could it be that this caused the problem for you, too – did you receive any more detailed feedback other than just a generic error?

Thanks and all the best,
(Scrivener developer)

AA September 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Hi Keith,

Thanks for your comment. An iBookstore Publisher Support representative emailed me back later, after I had resolved my issue, and said, “The issue was probably Scrivener because we generally don’t support third party EPUBs, so you were right to use Pages for your conversion.”

I’m not sure if that means something has recently changed on their end, but it is too bad that Apple doesn’t want to play nice with Scrivener! I ♥ Scrivener.


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