SIGIL Walkthrough – How to Create Your Own eBook

Ebook creation made easy – from text to rtf – epub – mobi with SIGIL (works with PC and Mac)

What you have found here is  a free SIGIL walkthrough, guiding you step-by-step through the process of creating an ebook first as epub and then as mobi file for Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), starting from a text written in any word processing program (Open Office, MS Word, Pages, …).

I have used this process myself to create my own ebooks as an independent writer.
I am very grateful for all the support I have been receiving from other independent writers in facebook groups and via direct contacts. The  free SIGIL walkthrough, written by Barbara Krauß in German was particularly helpful for me.

So now its my turn and I have translated it into English and added my own experiences in the process to share it with you.

On the internet there are many how to-books about, explaining how to create ebooks and how to upload them to portals like Amazon and many more. Most of them have been published as ebooks themselves and are out there to be bought.

You will find many good tips in them with respect to marketing, taxes, and many of them are worth their money and a lot of them go for € 0,99 or even $ 0,99 – so you cant go really wrong in buying them.

If you are looking for support to create a clean epub-file, which then can be easily converted into a mobi-file, then you are right here. This free walkthrough guides you through creating an epub-file with the freeware SIGIL and shows you how to easily transform a text-file into an ebook-file.

You do not need to know anything about HTML-code before to do this – I didn’t. 🙂 Because this is what SIGIL basically does for you: it translates your text automatically into HTML-code, which is the base of ebook-files.

This walkthrough is a gift to you. I am grateful to be part of the international online community of independent writers and received great support in the manifold and diversified forums and groups, I am part of. Now I’m glad to offer such support to you.


We do not claim that we cover everything in this walkthrough.
Everybody is responsible for creating his or her own ebook.
We accept no liability for possible damages.

You need:

An edited text in any word processing program
The freeware SIGIL
a separate style sheet
the freeware CALIBRE
a program to create a cover for your book
the free Sony Reader App to check your epub-file
the freeware epubchecker to check your epub-file
the free Kindle-Reader-App to check your mobi-file

Introduction, dealing with some FAQs

Your text:

Do not use any formatting, while writing the text in your word processing program. That is to say no hyphenation, no justification, no page breaks. You use enter for the paragraphs, if you want additional blank lines, use enter as well. Highlight chapter headings and other heading by following them with blank lines, to find them easily, when you do the formatting in SIGIL.

The Cover:

We do not provide a guide to create a cover. You can use freeware programs as SCRIBUS or GIMP to do so. I personally do my covers with Photoshop Elements. What is important here is the file size of your cover. To publish with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) the jpg or tif file for the product image = cover has to be at least 1000 pix on the long side. Recommended is a ratio of 1.6 for length by width. You might even consider 2.500 Pixel for the longer side.

Since recently you no longer get to choose, whether you want to upload a separate cover image for the content of your book, amazon seems to include one automatically.

The way we go about it is: we include a smaller cover image for the epub-file, and we produce and upload a separate cover image with a higher resolution. For the image in your epub-file, the file size should be 127 KB at the max. You get such small file sizes with putting you jpg options to 50 – 75 % on saving. Test it!

The style sheet

We offer a prepared a mainstyle style sheet that is optimized for a simple conversion into mobi-files (Amazon). You copy the text in the pdf-file, insert into text editor and save the fiel “as mainstyle.css”Therefore we chose Times as fonts for the normal text and Arial for the headings – you can change that easily in the style sheet-file we provide for you. (If you do this for the first time and are not used to work with HTML, you might want to skip this part 🙂

and here is how you change the fonts:
You open the style sheet-file and go to „p“; there you delete Times and insert another fonts, for example Verdana. Then you do the same with the different headings (h1, h2, h3, …). Please make sure, that you have the exact name of the fonts. SIGIL is no word processing program, so you are not offered any fonts to choose from and SIGIL does not accept all fonts. (You can add fonts to the folder „fonts“ – we have not tried that ourselves)

For all changes you make to the style sheet it is important to have the semicolon at the end of the attribute (for example fonts name), so that the command is executed.
If you change the style sheet, save it, for example as stylesheet.css and have it checked by W3C CSS validation service.

The style sheet we prepared for you has an indented text (text-indent: 10px;) – you can change that to your wishes.

The chapter all begin without an indent (text-indent: 0;), the first letter comes in dark red (Color-code #990000;) You find these styles under .p1 and .initial. To change the color, you have to know the correct HTML-code for it. Black would be #000000;.

We use no „drop caps“, since Amazon did not tolerate them so far and they did not look pretty on your Kindle. If you still want to go for it, you will find the required style sheet command.

Let’s get started!

Inserting the style sheet and your text:

Follow this link and save the style sheet as mainstyle.css on your pc/mac.

Open SIGIL. On your screen you see an empty „page“ with the title section0001.xhtml. To the left you have the column Book Browser. Right click there on the folder „Styles“, choose „Add Existing Items“ and upload the the mainstyle.css you saved to this folder.

Then you click on the “Chapter Break” icon in the menu above your empty „page“ and create so a new page with the title section0002.xhtml.

In the toolbar above your page, where you found the icon “Chapter Break”, you also find icon representing a small book and <>. At the moment, the book is highlighted, which shows you your empty page. We call this the WYSIWYG-mode (What you see is what you get), or in short: book view.

Click on the icon <> to get to the HTML-source code (Code View) of the page section0002.xhmtl. Now you open the source code, we have prepared for you here, highlight and copy everything. Then you return to SIGIL, put the cursor on the top and press enter three times. Put the cursor back up in the first line and paste your copied source code. Now it is time to delete the original source code SIGIL had waiting for you. (If you delete the old code first, you’ll get and error report form SIGIL, which can be annoying.)

You can paste either by right-clicking your mouse or by using the insert icon above your page.

Now you enter the title of your book into the source code, between <title> here you write your title</title>.

Now you have adapted the source code of section0002.xhtml. Switch back to the “Book View” – you page is still empty and maybe you notice that the cursor is a bit apart from the left border, since our mainstyle.css says that there is a text-indent of 10 px.
Now its time to save your document. Click on the “Save” icon (4th icon from the left) and keep your document open.

Note: In our style sheet we use the command <p><br /></p> for text and not <div><br /></div> like SIGIL does it, when it prepares a new file.

Ignore the green check for checking your file – we do that later, when you have finished and get the „OK= No Problems Found“.

Now you insert your text into the epub-file:

First you open your text in a word processing program and save it as rtf-file. Open the rtf-file: highlight everything and copy it.

If you are working on a windows based pc, I recommend you: open the text editor, paste your document there to remove all hidden formatting, then copy it in the text editor and continue.

Switch to SIGIL, to the book view of section0002.xhtml. Here you paste your copied text – use the „Insert“ icon to be sure.

Now you see your complete text already formatted in accordance with the uploaded style sheet. Times, each paragraph with an indent and followed by a margin.

If you ever should encounter any difficulties, we recommend that you go back and restart the procedure.

We are still in the book view of section0002.xhtml.

Now, you highlight the first chapter heading and assign it a format. To the left, above the book browser you can choose from a list: normal, heading 1, heading 2 and so on. The characteristics of these formats are ruled by your style sheet.

Test the different headings now, so that you can decide, how many different headings you need for your book and how big you want them to be. You are totally free here 🙂

Then you remove any additional free lines you had used to highlight your heading and put the cursor at the end of the first chapter (copyright page, introduction, …) and click on the icon „chapter break“. The whole remaining text will be moved automatically to a new page „section0003.xhtml“

Now you go back to section0002.xhtml and look into the “Code View” (<>)
If there still are spaces in the text, you don’t need, they will be highlighted in red now and with the command „&nbsp;“ (representing „whitespace“. Have a look at them and check, if you want them to remain or not.

Sometimes you may use additional blank lines between paragraphs for better understanding, legibility. They will be shown as <p><br /></p> now. In order for them to be represented correctly in your epub, it is important for you to delete that and to replace it with <p>&nbsp;</p>

Now, this is easy and done quickly. You copy the correct line and simply paste it wherever needed for the complete text.

And you repeat this procedure for each chapter of your book. And you want to save your document multiple times on the way.

Processing and Renaming

All sections, including mainstyle.css can be opened and processed with a double click in the book browser.

You can rename the sections by moving the cursor to their name in the book browser and right-clicking it with your mouse. So, if you want to rename the sections into Intro, Chapter 1, … be sure to include the file ending (.xhtml). (Note that this is not necessary.) You also can remove/delete sections that way. If you insert a new chapter break later on, this new section will be named with the next available number. It doesn’t matter that it may seem to be out of order. The way you name the sections does not influence the table of contents, which is created automatically by using the headings in your text. We come to that soon. Please do always save the mainstyle.css as mainstyle.css!

Section0001.xhtml is reserved for the cover, we deal with that soon.

Special Effects: Beginning of a Chapter, Capitals and Drop Caps

Everything in the text which is formatted as normal follows the commands in you style sheet after „p“.
If you want the beginning of a chapter not to be indented like the rest of the text, you go to the code view (<>) and replace for this paragraph the <p> with <p class =“p1“>.

If you want your first letter to be in a different color, the command is: <p><span class=”initial”>B</span>eginning

If you want to use drop caps, the command is: <p class=”p1″><span>B</span>eginning

Special effects: Cover

Click in the book browser on section0001.xhtml and when its open rename it to cover.xhtml by right-clicking the name with your mouse. Then you open the code view (<>) of the section.
Now you open the cover source code, we have prepared for you here, highlight and copy everything and return to SIGIL.
Here, still in the code view of section0001.xhtml, you place the cursor at the top of the page and press enter three times. Then you put the cursor back at the top and paste the code you have copied.
Now its time to delete the original SIGIL-code. Then you switch to the book view of the cover section, where the page is still empty.

Now you go to the book browser, right-click on the folder „Images“ and choose „Add Existing Items“ and find your cover image on your pc/mac and upload it. Then you go back to the book view of your cover.xhtml and click on the „Insert Image“ icon above the page (2nd icon from the right) or choose “Insert Image” in the toolbar. Find your cover image (as jpg or tif file) and upload it. The image is automatically uploaded to the first page.
Now this is important: you go to the book browser to the folder images and right-click your cover.jpg and „Add Semantics“ „Cover“.

Special Effects: Margin Between Paragraphs

If you want to change the margin between paragraphs, you open the style sheet and go to „p“ and change the last line of these commands:
margin-top: 0;
margin-left: 0;
margin-right: 0;
margin-bottom: 10px; or 5px; 15px;

Special Effects: Embedded Links

It is very easy to embed links from your ebooks to webpages in the HTML code. Go to the code view of the respective section and enter the following command:
<A HREF=””></A>
<A HREF=””>Click here!</A>
““ being the wegpage you want to link to and Click here! being the text displayed in your ebook.

Special Effects: Tables

Here we have prepared the model of a table you can insert into your epub file:

<table border=”1″>
Title of your table
<th>Heading Column One</th>
<th>Heading Column Two</th>
<th>Heading Column Three</th>

<td>Column One</td>
<td>Column Two</td>
<td>Column Three</td>

You enter the content for your tables, if you want more lines/columns, you use copy and paste 🙂

Special Effects: Insert Images to Your Epub Files

First please notice that Amazon will you charge you a fee, corresponding to the size of your file, for each of your ebooks that gets downloaded, if you opt for the 70% royalty scheme – so you want to keep the image-files as small as possible.
Step one is always: you go to the book browser to the left of your screen, right-click the folder „Images“ and choose „Add existing files“. You choose the files you want to use for your epub-file from your pc/mac and upload them.
Now you choose the section, you want to insert the image in, open it in the book view, put the cursor on the place, you want the image to be and click the „Image“ icon above and choose from the images, you have previously uploaded.

Special Effects: Fine Tuning

Once you have finished formatting you ebook, you can add the details like highlighting words, sentences, paragraphs by putting them into bold and/or italic for example. To do this, you go to the book view of each chapter and make the desired alterations there – SIGIL will automatically change the respective source code in the HTML.

All the time you keep saving your document.


At the bottom right of your screen you find the button „Create TOC from Headings“ and click it. You get to choose which levels of headings you want to include and the table of contents is created automatically.

If you plan to upload your epub directly to Amazon’s KDP you have to generate a HTML-TOC (since some platforms and e-Readers, like Amazon, will not use the TOC you created automatically).

So you use the menu Tools→Table Of Contents→Generate HTML Table of Contents to create an Inline HTML TOC for your EPUB (you need a current version of Sigil to do this, like 0.7.3) after that you save your file.

Then you go to „Tools“ in the toolbar and choose „Meta Editor“, click it and fill in the form and save again.

And now its time to hit the green check on the right of your toolbar, to check your epub-file and rejoice in reading: „No Problems Found“.

To be on the safe side, you add another check by using the freeware program epub-checker, where you can get a third party check on your new epub-file (and that’s what the distributors and sellers will do, once they receive your file 🙂

After saving your document once more, you open the Sony Reader and look at your epub-file.

As soon as you are satisfied with your product it is ready to be uploaded to your distributors or directly to Kobo and other portals.

To create free trial sections you rename your epub-file to freetrial.epub and delete all the sections/chapters, you don’t want to be included. This is easy and done fast. When you are done, hit the „Create TOC from headings“ again and be sure to hit the green check for a check to be told: „No problems found.“

Viewing your eBook on your Amazon Kindle

To check what your new eBook looks like on your Kindle you have to convert your epub-file into a mobi-file.

To do so, you start the freeware CALIBRE: There you open the settings (you’ll find them in the top right corner of your screen and open „general settings“

There you find „Extra Css“ and paste the style sheet you created with our help. You leave all the other settings the way, they are and click on the green check in the top left corner to apply the changes.

Now you import your epub-file, highlight it and click on „convert books“. You chose convert to MOBI.

In the folder „Table of Contents“ you check: „Use the automatically created Table of Contents”, in the folder „Mobi Export“ you insert a name for your table of contents and – if you want to – check that the table of contents is placed at the beginning of the ebook, in stead of being at the end of it.

Then you click „OK“

Congratulations, you have done it!

Now your ebook is ready to be uploaded to Amazon, Kobo and other bookshops and shortly, you are selling your first ebook!

Have fun!


Copyright of the original German edition: Barbara Krauß 2012
Copyright of the English edition: Thomas Oberbichler 2012/last updated January 2014

While this walkthrough is free and we are happy, when you use it to create your ebook, it is subject to our copyright and not in the public domain.
They are not to be duplicated or to be used in any other way for private or commercial purposes.
Feel free to share it with others – in setting a link to this page.

Feel free to comment and share any additional information you may have, it will be included.

We are glad that this walkthrough has been helpful for you and look forward to you visiting us on Amazon to have a look at our own ebooks – and yes, we’d love you to buy one or more of them and leave a review 🙂

Thomas Oberbichler on, on and
Barbara Krauß on

Here you find my latest ebook: “Secrets to Success in Writing and Self-Publishing”

Cover Secrets to Success in Writing and Self-Publishing: How to have lasting and sustainable success as an author and writer

Secrets to Success in Writing and Self-Publishing

When you’re looking for support in your writing outside of technical questions, to overcome writer’s block, and enhance your productivity have a look at Coaching for Writers!