Format an Ebook with Sigil

Sigil logo

by C. K. MacLeod

@CKMacleodwriter

Updated July 24, 2016: Sigil's newest version has a different interface from the one you'll see in this post. While Sigil is a great tool for the right price, I've begun to use Jutoh instead. Jutoh is better supported, and it allows me to create epubs and mobis.

It's possible to build an ebook that's straight fiction with a tool that many writers already have: Microsoft Word. But for more complex books with headings, endnotes, pictures, and other advanced style features, there's a better way.

Sigil.

Sigil is a free, open-source epub editor that allows you to create an epub file that you can upload to most distributors (all but Amazon, actually). It's surprisingly easy to use and if you're at all interested in having more control over how your ebook looks, Sigil allows you to do a bit of tweaking under the hood.

Here's how to get your book from Word into Sigil:

Quick Steps

  1. Open your book in Word (I use Word 2010). Go to File, Save As, and save your file as Plain Text (.txt). Select "Other coding" and choose UTF-8 encoding (you'll need to scroll down in the menu), Click OK.
  2. Now that you've saved your document in a form that Sigil can read, copy and paste it from Word into the middle window in Sigil's Book View.

You'll find more information about how to begin with Sigil at the Beyond Paper blog.

Use Cross-Eyes to Prevent Ebook Formatting Problems

Use CrossEyes to Prevent Ebook Formatting Problems, by C.K. MacLeod

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Hidden formatting in a Word document can cause trouble in the ebook conversion process. In Word, what you see is not always what you get. This video will show you how to use CrossEyes—a format revealer—to reveal hidden formatting in a Word document.

Have you ever worked with WordPerfect? If you have, CrossEyes works just like WordPerfect’s Reveal Codes feature. It's a free Microsoft Word add-in for Windows, and you can get it at Levit & James, Inc. Once you download CrossEyes, you’ll find it under the Add-Ins tab in the Custom Toolbars area in Word.

Note: CrossEyes doesn't work in Mac versions of Word (sorry!) or Word 2013.

Formatting Codes

If you’re not familiar with formatting "codes," CrossEyes will seem a little foreign to you at first. But with some practice, you can become adept at reading the formatting codes and deleting the ones you don’t want. It helps that the codes are featured in bright colours and colour-coded according to type.

CrossEyes window; codes are in colour (Click to enlarge)

A quick peek in the CrossEyes window tells you that in the first line of the document paragraph, the author introduced a different font to the document. The font is similar to Times New Roman used elsewhere in the document, but with an unpracticed eye, or without the help of CrossEyes, it can be easy to miss. CrossEyes exposes the font so you can delete it.

How to Delete or Change a Style

To change a style in CrossEyes, double-click on a coloured formatting code in the CrossEyes window, and hit the Enter key to select a new style. A Styles dialog will pop up, allowing you to choose another style option. You can also hit the Backspace key to delete a code, which will then delete the applied style.

CrossEyes Styles dialog box

CrossEyes can also help you to see formatting that you can’t see, but that can cause problems for ebook conversion later on. If you click on the white space in a document, you’ll discover if different fonts are lurking, or if "illegal" ebook spacing (tabs and extra paragraph spaces) have been applied. You'll want to remove unwanted formatting so that it doesn’t alter text in undesirable ways on an e-reader.

If you have a Word document that behaves in strange ways on an e-reader, or an ebook that's getting error messages after you upload it to a distributor, such as Amazon or Smashwords, CrossEyes will help you to see what’s going on.

Image by Charline Tetiyevsky

How to Find the Hidden Formatting That Will Mess Up Your Ebook

20090823-Typewriter-10
by C.K. MacLeod

Remember the days of the typewriter? Authors of a certain vintage are nodding their heads. If you began your writing career on a typewriter, (and even if you didn't) you might be guilty of "typewriter" formatting. (Editors everywhere are now nodding their heads.)

"Illegal" typewriter formatting can create unpredictable results in the ebook conversion process. This two-minute video will show you how to use Pilcrow, or the Show/Hide feature in Microsoft Word, to find instances of typewriter formatting in a Word document.

And what do you do when you find typewriter formatting in your Microsoft Word manuscript? You blast it away using Microsoft Word's Find & Replace codes listed in Advanced Find and Replace for Microsoft Word, by Jack Lyon. Or, if you're looking for a method that's more efficient, try the Microsoft Word add-in, Editor's Toolkit Plus.

Image by rahego 

This article was originally posted at the Beyond Paper Editing blog.

A Quick Way to Apply Heading Styles in Word

Did you know that you can apply heading styles using keyboard shortcuts?

Doing so is much faster than digging around in menus to find the Styles menu or the Styles Palette. This trick is especially helpful for formatting ebooks. Here's how it works in Word 2010:

Click in the heading you want to apply a style to, or select the heading:

Word keyboard shortcuts for headings

Then choose from the following keystrokes:

Heading 1: Ctrl + Shift + 1
Heading 2: Ctrl + Shift + 2
Heading 3: Ctrl + Shift + 3

Get the idea?

If you're on a Mac, try the Command + Opt key instead of the Ctrl + Shift.

Getting Started with Jutoh

Jutoh website

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated, December 12, 2015

Jutoh is an inexpensive ebook editor that allows you to convert Word docx files to mobi or epub formats. Below are resources and a cheat sheet to help you find your way around Jutoh.

Jutoh Resources

Manual

Julian Smart, the creator of Jutoh has written a detailed manual titled, Creating Great Ebooks Using Jutoh. It's available as a free download in a variety of formats on his website. I prefer to access the online HTML version because I can find answers to questions fastest if call up the manual with search terms in Google.

For example, if I key in the terms "Jutoh" and "pictures," Google will call up Chapter 11: Working With Pictures in a matter of seconds. If you prefer to scroll through a PDF or view the manual as an epub on your tablet, those options are available, too.

Video Tutorials

There are a few detailed video tutorials that demonstrate how to Jutoh:

How to Format .epub and .mobi (Kindle) Ebook Files, by India Drummond is about twenty minutes long and will give you the fastest way in to setting up a fiction book with limited styling in Jutoh.

Geoff Shaw has a short seven-video Jutoh training  series that walks you through creating an ebook in Jutoh, and John Griffin shows you how to use a template in Jutoh. Templates are useful if you'll be creating a lot of ebooks in Jutoh.

Dr. Julian Smart

If you've combed the available resources for an answer to a conundrum, but you've come up with nothing, don't worry. I was delighted to discover that the Doctor was indeed in. Dr. Julian Smart, that is. If you have a question that the manual and videos don't answer, you can email Julian Smart for help.

Jutoh Cheat Sheet

After viewing the videos, searching through the manual, mucking about in Jutoh, and contacting Julian Smart, I compiled a cheat sheet—a list of how-do-I questions that I can return to the next time I use Jutoh to create an ebook.

While this is not a comprehensive list, I do believe that it contains some of the tasks you'll want to accomplish in Jutoh. Feel free to let me know if I've missed anything.

The items in this list are alphabetical. I'd recommend reading through the left column quickly so you know what's there, and later, when you have a question, you'll be able to find that item quickly. 

You'll understand the items in the table better if you know what Jutoh looks like when you're working in it. Here's a screenshot of the various panes:

Jutoh panes

One final thought: the first time I converted an ebook using Jutoh, I did everything in Word—applied styles, inserted hyperlinks, and so forth—and then exported the file to Jutoh.

The second time, I created a document in Word, stripped out all of the formatting, exported it to Jutoh, and then applied all of my styling in Jutoh.

I found the first method more efficient, probably due to my familiarity with Word. Both methods created a nicely styled ebook.

8 Steps to Styling Your Ebook in Sigil

by C.K. MacLeod

In today's post, I'll discuss how to style your ebook in Sigil.

Many of the steps in this post are based on Paul Salvette's excellent tutorial, How to Make an Ebook with Sigil. I've broken down the steps further and provided more screen shots in those areas where I think it's easy to get stuck. I've also suggested some "how-tos" and "why-tos."

If you followed the instructions in this post, you will have pasted your ebook into Sigil's editing window. It will look something like this:

My ebook in Sigil

To review, Sigil has two "views"— the Book View and the Code View. We'll concern ourselves mostly with the Book View for now.

Book View (red arrow) and Code View (highlighted in yellow)

Styling Your Ebook in Sigil

The toolbar in Sigil has all the features you need to style your ebook. Follow the steps below to style your ebook.

1. Align your text.
Check your ebook distributor's guidelines for how their conversion software handles text alignment. Generally, it's a good idea to left-justify your text (also called ragged right).
Left-justify your text
2. Style your paragraphs using the Paragraph button.
This sets your paragraphs to "normal style" in the same way that you would set your paragraphs to Normal using the Word Styles menu in Word 2010 (if you don't use Word Styles, it's a great habit to get into for the purposes of ebook building). Again, if you already styled your paragraphs to Normal in Word, you can skip this step.
Use the Paragraph button to style paragraphs

3. Style your headings.
This step is important because Sigil will use your styled headings to generate an external table of contents (NCX) that readers can use to navigate your ebook. Style a heading by selecting it, or clicking in the middle of it and then clicking on one of the heading buttons:

I used the h2 button to style this level 2 heading

If you already styled your headings in Word, you can skip this step. I've noticed that heading styles are retained when you convert your Word .docx file to a plain text file.

Note: Style your chapters headings as H1s.

4. Break up your book into chapters.
Up until now, your file is just one continuous stream of text in Sigil. You want your book to be divided into chapters. Place the cursor where you want to split your book and click on the Split at Cursor button:

Split at Cursor button

Look what happens:

From one file to many

Don't worry, your split parts haven't disappearedeach chapter has become a new file. Note the highlighted parts in the screen capture above. You can rename these .xhtml files to meaningful chapter titles, by right-clicking on them and selecting Rename.

To access your chapters at any time, double click on the the files in left menu bar, or on the tabs at the top of the middle window.

Tip: If you've styled your chapter headings as HIs, you're in luck. In the course Creating Ebooks for the Kindle, Tony Harmer explains that you can search for H1 headings quickly in Code View, using Sigil's search function (Ctrl + F). This makes splitting your books into chapters a quick task.

5. Style any lists using the Bullets or Numbering button.
This will ensure that your lists are lined up neatly on the left. If you've styled your lists in your original Word file, using the Bullets and Numbering buttons on Word's ribbon, check to see whether that transferred to Sigil.
6. Insert hyperlinks.
If your ebook contained hyperlinks in Word, they may have transferred intact to Sigil. If they haven't, select the URL and insert a hyperlink using the Insert Link button on Sigil's tool bar.
Insert link button

7. Insert any images using the Insert File button.
Inserting images is a separate set of considerations and deserves a post of its own. For now, consult your distributor's formatting manual for image size and quality guidelines.

8. Create a table of contents (TOC).
Open up the TOC pane by going to View,Table of Contents, if you don't have this pane open already. Click on the Generate Table of Contents button:
A menu will pop up:
All headings are selected by default
Decide which headings you'd like to include in your TOC and click OK.
Your file now looks something like this:
Sigil's TOC pane with your new TOC
You can use your newly created TOC to navigate your Sigil document. Click on a TOC entry and give it a try.
Congratulations! You've now successfully styled your ebook in Sigil. In a future post, I'll show you how to check the quality of your EPUB and troubleshoot problems using Sigil's Code View. Don't worry: it's not as difficult as you think!
Revised and updated. Originally posted at beyondpaperediting.com

How to Format an Ebook the Simple Way

Word iconby C. K. MacLeod

@CKmacleodwriter

One of the easiest ways to format an ebook is to begin with the tool you probably already have—Microsoft Word. 

I know, I know. HTML & CSS enthusiasts and InDesign evangelists everywhere have just engaged in a collective shudder. 

But hear me out. Not all self-pubs have access to expensive design software or the time or interest for the required learning curve. Many of them do have access to Microsoft Word, though. Why not begin where they're at? That's what Joel Friedlander and Aaron Shepard have done. You're welcome to take it up with them. wink

So, having gotten that out of the way, if your manuscript is in Microsoft Word, there are several things you can do to ensure a smoother transition from Word to ebook. Your first step is to clean up your book in Word. Here's what you need to do:

Quick-Steps

  1. Remove headers, footers, and page numbers.
  2. Remove underlining in headings.
  3. Remove footnotes.
  4. Remove two spaces after end punctuation.
  5. Remove manual tabs and spaces.
  6. Remove text boxes.
  7. Remove tables formatted in Word. Reinsert them as images instead.
  8. Avoid using the list buttons on the ribbon to create bulleted and numbered lists.
  9. Choose photos over clip-art.
  10. Decide if you need an index.
  11. Use italics to emphasize words—but sparingly.

Read more at the Beyond Paper blog.

Ebooks Made Easy: Word to Jutoh in 10 Steps

Jutoh Ebook Editorby C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Have you discovered Jutoh? Jutoh is an elegant and inexpensive piece of software ($39 USD) that allows you to convert Word docx files or ODT files to epub and mobi ebook formats.

Jutoh will work for fiction that's mostly straight text, but it will also handle nonfiction texts with

  • pictures
  • headings
  • bulleted and numbered lists, and
  • internal and external hyperlinks

Word to Jutoh Workflow

Below is my Word-to-Jutoh workflow. Unless otherwise stated, I perform most of these steps in Word 2010.

1. Tag any special formatting that you'd like to retain, such as headings, italicized and boldface words, and hyperlinks. JW Manus suggests a system for tagging special formatting. Use what works for you. The idea is that you want to be able to search and replace for these items later.

2. Nuke your Word doc. Word is infamous for creating formatting gremlins that can show up in your ebook. Zap 'em. Copy your entire book into Notepad (comes with Windows) or another text editor and paste it into a brand new Word document. I then execute a Clear All from the Word Styles menu for good measure.

A bit much? Maybe. But I've noticed that a nuke doesn't always remove hidden fonts. How do I know? CrossEyes (free for PC users) helps me to see what lies beneath...

3. Clean up any extra uses of the space bar and Enter key, such as extra spaces between words and after end punctuation, or extra paragraph spaces. Clean up tabs, too. You can use a copyeditor's trick and do this automatically by using tools like the Editorium's File Cleaner or the Wiley Publishing Cleanup Tool (free). You can also use Word's Find and Replace feature to clean up extra tabs and spaces.

4. Set heading and paragraph styles in Word. If you want to use an indented paragraph style, be sure to set your indents in your paragraph style. Use fonts that are ebook-friendly and copyright free. Times New Roman is always a safe bet. Remember, readers can adjust fonts on their e-readersyou want to choose a font that plays nicely with conversion software.

5. Resize images in an image editor. I use Paint.NET, but GIMP is another good free option. Check your distributor (Amazonor Lulu, for example) for image width and height restrictions.

6. Insert images into your Word file (Insert, Image). Images can really increase your file size so you may need to compress them. You can compress them in your image editor by setting the image quality to 75%.

7. Insert external, or off-book hyperlinks where you've tagged them. Shorten links using a link shortening service, like bit.ly or Pretty Link. Shortened links have a better chance of surviving your chosen distributor's converter.

8. Address any cross-references, or internal hyperlinks in your book using Word's bookmark feature. If you forget to do this in Word, you can use Jutoh's indexing feature.

9. Page through your document with with the Show/Hide feature activated (Pilcrow). Look for any extra spaces you may have missed (or re-introducedit happens).

10. Export your file to Jutoh. If you've carefully formatted your document in Word, your file will export almost seamlessly, with styles, images, and hyperlinks attached. Tip: some font styles won't export. If you use the ebook-friendly fonts recommended by the Jutoh manual, your fonts will transfer over.

Jutoh is designed to play nicely with Word. If you follow good ebook formatting practices in Word, your book file will convert seamlessly.