The Quick and Dirty Guide to Making Kindle Books with Sigil

Probably the best kept secret of the e-book publishing world. It works on everything, but it’s a little complicated.

So, I’m not going to get into all of the features of this wonderful gem, because there is way to much going on with Sigil to make a comprehensive guide in a blog post. However, a friend asked me about e-book publishing software, and I wanted to put up this quick guide for first time users. I’ll show you how to convert your book into a simple ebook, and I’ll let you take the reigns.

Sigil is available for Windows and MacOS through download links everywhere. Linux users, you can usually find it in the package manager for your distro, and if you can’t, the source code is available on GIT.

You can find the relevant download information here, or just do a Google search for your operating system. I understand that Mac users may find a headache or two on the way.

I should also note that Sigil isn’t fully up to spec with the latest EPUB3 formatting, but the epub it produces works just fine for Kindle’s upload page on KDP.

The very first thing I did, which makes the whole process easier, is to export my book in HTML format, you can do this from Word or Libreoffice, and most of your formatting will stay consistent. Then open Sigil, and take a look around. There are a lot of cool features, but not everything works exactly like you would expect. What you want to do first is right-click the first item on the left, and rename this file. Call it whatever you want, we’re going to delete it.

Now click the little plus-sign in the top-left, and you can import the html version of your document. You are going to lose a little formatting, and the fancy fonts are going to get discarded, but usually that isn’t an issue for kindle books, because the user can pic their own fonts and stuff.

Chances are, things aren’t going to look exactly as you plan, and this is where a little fiddling would come into play. You can edit inside sigil, but as I said, it behaves a little, weird, so for in-depth editing, either make sure your file is right before you import (as I do) or go to the guide to learn how to manipulate text. In theory, you could actually write your ebook in Sigil.

Now, that new file needs to be changed to Section0001.xhtml, the same file that you changed the name of. I’m not sure about kindle, but if the first section isn’t named that, then you are going to have problems later.

The next step is to highlight the opening text of any text that starts a new page break, (such as “Chapter One”) and click the little “H1” button. This will tag the text as a style element for the table of contents. There are multiple ways to do this kind of formatting, but this is the quick and dirty guide. Scroll through the whole document, and segment it this way for any text that you want in the table of contents later. Certain kinds of text will become bold when you do this, which might be frustrating, but again, that’s something for the manual about formatting. For short E-books and basic novel layouts the H1 trick should work just fine.

After you finish highlighting and taking all of your page, you need to put in your page breaks. Click the cursor into the body wherever you need a manual break added, and hit the funny little “one page to two pages with blue arrow” button. It’s called “Split at cursor” and it will break the rest of the document off, leaving only the stuff above the cursor in Section0001. Continue doing this throughout the text, anywhere you need a manual break.

Once you finish, you will have a nice long list of files. You can also indent all of the paragraphs you would like indented by clicking at the start of them and hitting the tab key. HTML formatting strips them out, and there are actually better ways to put in indentation schemes, but for short documents, tabbing actually works with this program, most of the time. I’m sure there is a plugin or setting that will auto-indent, but that’s probably best left to another program once you have a working epub file.

Next, rename everything on the list, and change the extentions from .xhtml to .html

Why do you need to do this? I have no freaking idea, but I’ve seen documents kicked back from Ingram if it isn’t done, I think. Then you need to add a table of contents. Two icons to the right of the heart is an open book picture with lines on it. Click it. It should find all of you H1 headers, double check the information it gives you and generate your TOC. The final copy for Finish the Damn book looks like this:

That’s pretty much it. You might notice that Appendix D has several files. I did this because it was a formatting example for story submissions, and I wanted my “header” information at the top of each page. In that case, I split the document several times but only made one H1 header in the group. I uploaded this file, tabs and all, to Kindle, as an epub file, and got no feedback from them.

If you are submitting anywhere else, I highly recommend using some kind of translator software to fix any source code things that might not be consistent with the distributer you are uploading to. Epub2 was the standard for a while, but now everything is Epub3, and even though the two are pretty friendly on nearly all readers, places like Ingram will insist on Epub3 with the latest bells and whistles. I use Calibre to tidy up any final formatting, and it’s slightly more friendly for doing big stuff, like fixing little formatting quirks and setting margins, and that kind of shit. Kindles are nice in that you don’t have to worry about most of that.

Putting every single indent at the start of a paragraph is a pain in the neck. Another solution is to import your file as an RTF document, I think that’s how we lined up Viral Fire. RTF files play very nicely with Sigil, iirc, and will cause you a little less stress. The stressful part is getting the RTF if you’ve already done interior formatting.

That’s it for today. Quick and simple kindle setup with free software. Check out Calibre if you want to do extra things with the epub files. It’s pretty powerful, and it’s also free and works on all kinds of computers.

Hope this helps. There’s a lot of head banging against the desk when it comes to ebook formatting, and if you are doing a simple project or a Novella, this strategy works well. Especially if you just want to put out a free or 99 cent Kindle book.

For some more depth with Sigil, you can check out this guide that a friend referred me to.

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Author: spottedgeckgo

Writer. Making my living on my pen, and working to turn a raw chunk of land into a future homestead.

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