Creating and Checking Your EPUB in Sigil

by Corina Koch MacLeod

This is the third post in a series on using Sigil, a free EPUB editor, to build ebooks that you can upload to distributors like 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 today’s post, I’ll show you how to create and check the quality of your EPUB so that you end up with an ebook that looks great!

Sigil has two views: Book view and Code view. If you’ve been following my tutorials, you’ve been working in Book view. To review: Book view looks and operates like a simple word processor. Here’s what your book will look like in Book view:

Sigil’s Book view

I have all three panes open. The middle pane is the working area where I’ve styled my ebook. The pane on the right is the Table of Contents pane, which I created when I generated a TOC using the TOC button in Sigil. I like to use the TOC pane to navigate the book.

The left pane is the Book browser. You can also navigate your book by double clicking on the files and folders in this pane. Each chapter in your book, the table of contents, and your images are listed here as separate .xhtml filesa format not unlike HTML that’s used for creating websites. You’ll notice that other information, such as style information, is stored here, too. Later, you will convert your book file in Sigil to an EPUB, and the resulting EPUB will be a container that holds all of these .xhtml files and folders together.

Let’s look under the hood and see what Sigil’s middle pane looks like in Code view:

Sigil’s Code view

Note the text in blue, between the angle brackets. For example, <li>. This is a tag. It means that the sentence between the <li> tags is in a bulleted list. If you’re not familiar with HTML tags, have a look at this glossary to decipher what they mean.

Essentially, tags are placed at the beginning and the end of a section of text, and they indicate how that section of text behaves (as a line, heading, paragraph, etc.). If you’d like to learn more about HTML, this free course looks promising, but be assured that you don’t need to know too much about HTML to create an EPUB using Sigil. A basic understanding of HTML tags will only become necessary if you’re experiencing problems with your EPUB file. More about that later.

Now that your book looks and behaves like you want it to, you’re ready to tie up some loose ends:

1. Add your metadata. In Sigil, click on the Metadata button on the toolbar:

Sigil’s Metadata button

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, like the date of publication.

2. Convert you 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?

3. Check your EPUB. 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!

4. 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. Congratulations! It’s time to throw a party.

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!

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4 thoughts on “Creating and Checking Your EPUB in Sigil

  1. I love SIGIL, but I’m having two problems with SIGIL. (1) After I build my EPUB in SIGIL I move it over to Calibre where I convert the EPUB to a MOBI file suitable for Kindle. Calibre ‘forgets’ my highlight font is Vedanna. It renders everything in Times New Roman. Worse, the Kindle application takes the Verdanna fonts downgraded to Times New Roman and reduces them in size. Can you help? I thought about embedding my fonts in the word doc file. But this adds an awful lot of weight to the publication. (2) The MOBI files I upload to the people at Amazon always include what I call an- ‘Internal Content Cover’. When I add (by uploading) the Marketing Cover the process strips off my Internal Content Cover, making it disappear (sp?). Do you think I should add my maketing cover in SIGIL? I’m thinking if I upload a file to Amazon with a Marketing Cover on top the upload process will strip off the Marketing Cover and leave the internal content cover in place. What do you think?

  2. Alan, have you tried uploading Sigil to Amazon as an EPUB, rather than converting the EPUB to a mobi with Calibre? Several ebook formatters and authors have reported that Calibre and the Amazon conversion software no longer play well together.

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