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.

How to Read an Ebook

by C.K. MacLeod

EbookPbook

If you want to publish an ebook, you should probably read ebooks. This post will get you started.

  1. Set up an account with an ebook distributor or retailer if you don’t already have one. Accounts are free.  Some options are
  • Amazon
  • Apple iBooks
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • Lulu
  • Smashwords

2.  Choose how you will read your ebook. You can read your ebook on a

  • computer
  • designated e-reading device (Kindle, Nook, Kobo)
  • hand-held device (iPod/iPhone, Android phone)
  • tablet (iPad, Android)
  1. Choose a book to read.  Each of the distribution sites listed above will have free ebooks. Authors will often offer the first book in a series for free as a way of building a readership.

  2. Download your book. You have a few options here. If you’re reading on a designated e-reading device, you can download the book to your computer and transfer it to your e-reading device with the USB cable that came with it. Or, you can simply download the ebook directly to your device if you have wifi and your device is wifi enabled. If you’re reading on anything other than a designated e-reading device, go to Step 5 and download an e-reading app.

  3. Download an e-reading app. Use the table below to help you decide if your e-reader needs an app. Search your ebook distributor site to find the app you need.

E-reader Need an app?
Computer Yes
iPod Yes
Kindle No
Kobo No
Nook No
Smartphone Yes
Tablet Yes
  1. Open your ebook with the recommended app.

Image by Maria Elena