8 Steps to Styling Your Ebook in Sigil

by Corina Koch MacLeod

In a previous post, I described how to get your ebook from Word into Sigila free EPUB editorso that you can create a nice looking EPUB that you can upload to a variety of distributors. 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 last week’s post, you will have pasted your ebook into Sigil’s composing or editing window. It will look something like this:

My ebook in Sigil

After you’ve copied and pasted your document into Sigil, scroll through your book to see if it has retained its formatting. You can adjust any formatting using the toolbar in Sigil. I’ll walk you through the major features of the toolbar below.

To review, Sigil has two “views”: the Book View and the Code View. We’ll concern ourselves mostly with the Book View for now because working in Book View is very much like working in Word.

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

If you’re familiar with the ribbon in Word, you’ll find the tool bar in Sigil to be quite similar. It has all the features you need to style your ebook.

Let’s begin.

Styling Your Ebook in Sigil

1. Align your text.
Check your 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 headings. 
This step is really 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 have a nonfiction book, you’ll have lots of headings, subheadings and sub-subheadings. If your book is fiction, your headings will be your book title and your chapter titles. I like to style headings first because it helps me to see where I need to break up my book. 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.

3. Break up your book into chapters. 
Up until now, your file is just one continuous “chapter” 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. To access your “chapters” at any time, double click on the .xhtml the files in left menu bar, or on the tabs at the top of the middle window.

4. 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
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 imagesand deciding on format, size, and resolutionis a separate set of considerations and deserves a post of its own. For now, consult your distributor’s formatting manual for image 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 future posts, 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!

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2 thoughts on “8 Steps to Styling Your Ebook in Sigil

  1. This is very timely. Although I’ve uploaded books in the past to Amazon and Smashwords, I’m now going to be uploading directly to Kobo this time around, and Kobo only accepts EPUBs. I thought about using Calibre, but from different things I’ve read, that’s more for readers who want to rip from one format to another.

    And thanks for the link to the Sigil ebook – I was surprised to find it was free. 🙂

    1. Nancy,
      Thanks for your comments. Calibre is a wonderful ebook library management tool, but I’ve heard it’s a bit problematic if you’re using it to convert EPUBs to the mobi format for the Kindle publishing platform. You can read more about this issue at JW Manus’ blog:


      Sigil creates nice looking ebooks, and yes, Sigil is free!

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