Format an Ebook with Sigil

Sigil logo

by C. K. MacLeod


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 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.

Creating and Checking Your EPUB in Sigil

by C.K. MacLeod

This is the third post in a series on using Sigil, a free epub editor that will allow you to build epubs for Apple iBooks, Lulu, Smashwords, and Kobo.

In previous posts, I explained how to get your ebook from Word to Sigil, and from there, how to style your ebook so it looks and operates like you want it to. In this post, I'll show you how to create an epub and do a quality check so that you end up with an ebook that looks great!

How to Create an Epub

  1. Add your metadata.

In Sigil's Book View, click on the Metadata button on the toolbar:

Sigil's Metadata button in yellow

A box like this will pop up:

Metadata helps readers find your book

Fill out your book's metadata. Metadata is information that search engines will use to help readers find your ebook, so it's important that you fill it out. You can also click on the Add Basic button to include more details about your book, such as the date of publication.

2. Convert your book to an epub.

Simply go to File, Save as and save your book. Sigil will automatically convert it to an epub with a .epub extension. That was easy wasn't it?

How to Check Your Epub

1. Click on the Validate EPUB With Flightcrew button to check if your EPUB is working properly:

Sigil's epub validate button

If all goes well, you'll get a message that looks like this:

This is what you're hoping for!

If your epub doesn't pass Sigil's EPUB validator, you'll get messages that look like this:

Errors show up in red

Don't despair. In a future post, I'll address how to handle these error messages so that you can create an epub that looks and works great!

2. Do one more epub check.

If an epub passes Sigil's validation process, I like to run it through IDPF's EPUB validator. If your file passes this final test, you're ready to upload your epub to a platform that will accept it.

Originally posted on the Beyond Paper Editing blog. Revised and updated.