Formatting Your EBook Using Sigil and Calibre

Sawyer Bennett SmallI took an awesome self-publishing course recently because I was too afraid to try the perilous waters of formatting my book.  After the course, I was armed with enough knowledge to be dangerous but I was ready to navigate those waters.  I spent several hours figuring out a few different programs so I thought I would share my experience, as well as some basic formatting instructions I created.

This blog post will apply only to publishing to Amazon, however, because we will be working originally with an EPub file, you can use these instructions for any of the vendors that accept EPub.

First, note that you can just upload your Word document directly to the Amazon Previewer and it will convert it to Mobi for you.  However, after trying this numerous times, I found that I was not happy with the formatting and it didn’t look professional.  I decided to move towards the tricky steps of using Sigil which is an HTML based program.  The advantages of Sigil include being able to create your Table of Contents and all of the links pretty quickly, plus you can do some fancier font work with your Chapter headings.

After ensuring I had a clean Word manuscript (and by that I mean no Tabs or wonky formatting), I took that document over to Sigil where I created my Table of Contents.  Sigil will then turn your document into an EPub.  At this point, you can take your EPub file and again, try the conversion to Mobi.  I tried this and still was not happy with the formatting.  It looked better than when I just used the Word document, but still had some spacing issues.  So I researched and saw a lot of good things about the Calibre program.  I decided to give it a try.

Calibre is very user friendly and the conversion process from EPub to Mobi was painless.  Better yet…when I tested the Mobi out on my Kindle, it looked perfect.  Amazing.  Stupendous.  I was so psyched.  Cue dramatic music…for when I tried to upload the Mobi to KDP, I kept getting error messages.  What. The. Hell???  After doing some more research, I found out that Amazon will not accept Mobi files created by Calibre.  Aaaaghhhh…I was ready to pull my hair out.  I was stuck having an almost perfect conversion using Sigil but wasn’t completely happy with it.  And Calibre was apparently blacklisted by Amazon (still no clue why).

But then it hit me… Calibre can convert most file formats.  I wondered, what would happen if I ran my EPub file through Calibre and just chose to “convert” it to an EPub file.  In other words, just run the file through the program and get a new EPub that hopefully had the remaining formatting issues stripped.  So that is exactly what I did and…cue heavenly angels singing…it worked!!!  I uploaded the new EPub file to the Amazon Previewer to convert it to Mobi, and that Mobi’s formatting and spacing were perfect.  I got the benefits of my lovely TOC that Sigil created, and even though I have no clue what magic exists inside of Calibre, running it through that program seemed to get rid of any other bugs the file had.

I am by no means saying this is the best way to do things.  Just that it worked for me.  This method has produced three well formatted novels for me so far.  As such, I took screen shots while formatting my latest novel, Forever Young and did up some quick instructions.  Hope these help and happy formatting!!!  Formatting Instructions

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Sawyer Bennett

Sawyer Bennett

New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Sawyer Bennett uses real life experience to create relatable stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. Continue Reading