IWSG – HTML and E-Books – Quick and Dirty

When you’re on a budget, sometimes you want to do-it-yourself. That includes e-Books. With some practice, you can create your own e-Book with free tools. The two I use are Sigil and Calibre.

Sigil is an ePub editor that lets you build e-Books from scratch. It has two views: Book view and Code view. Book view is what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG), and Code view is for those more comfortable with editing HTML.

One of the dangers of Book view is using it in conjunction with an existing rich text editor, like Microsoft Word. If you type up your book in MS Word and paste it into Sigil’s Book view, it may look pretty on the outside. But beneath the covers, you might see something like this:

<p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;"><span style="font-size:14.5pt;font-family:&quot;Garamond&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;mso-bidi-font-family: Garamond"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></p>

Do you know what that means? It means you have a heavily styled space (as in, you hit the space bar, once). There’s nothing of value in there, and it’s all courtesy of Microsoft Word.

That extra code isn’t necessary, not to mention it can create formatting issues in your e-Book (and other places). It’s not Sigil’s fault. Any WYSIWYG editor which converts text to HTML will do this, including WordPress and Blogger.

A quick way to clean HTML is to use one of the online tools. Since several pop in over time, try searching clean ms word html. Some will have options to get rid of those useless paragraphs and make your document web friendly. What do you lose? Font choice. But embedding fonts directly into paragraphs isn’t a good idea anyways, unless you’re sure it’s a CSS Web Safe Font. Otherwise, it’ll look horrible for anyone who doesn’t have that font installed. Plus, you have the option to embed fonts in Sigil.

How do you go from ePub to mobi (Amazon) format? That’s where Calibre comes in. Import your ePub into Calibre, and use it’s conversion tools.

That’s the quick and dirty way to create an e-Book. If you spend some time, you can learn other formatting tricks, such as using Small Caps, changing the indents, or adjusting justification.

Loni Townsend at Squirrel Talk
Author of Thanmir War
I give my permission for use of this entry
Title: Quick and Dirty HTML and E-Books
Topic: Publishing

Do you create your own e-books? How do you do it? Do you have any other suggestions?

InsecureWritersSupportGroupThis post is for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which occurs the first Wednesday of every month.

You can find the sign up for the IWSG here. Today is the website’s 1 year anniversary, and to celebrate, they are creating an e-Book to assist other writers on the journey. Hopefully some people find my entry helpful.

Many thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh for thinking this blog hop up.

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

28 thoughts on “IWSG – HTML and E-Books – Quick and Dirty

  1. I’ve learned a little about formatting, but I’m so very lucky to have one of my critique partners that is a wiz with it! πŸ™‚

  2. This is useful information for anyone wishing to create an ebook. Thanks for sharing. And thank you for stopping by on my blitz day. I really appreciate it!

  3. Darn Word!!
    Great information, Loni. Thanks for contributing to the book.

  4. Thanks for the very useful info! I was just reading about Calibre the other day and wondering if it would be a good option for creating eARCS to send out since it can convert files to several different e-reader file types. Have you used it for that purpose?

    • I’ve used it to create different versions for winners of contests. I haven’t done eARCs, but yes, they’d work for that.

  5. Yes, I do my own formatting. I now use Jutoh $40), which makes my life easier. And I use Sigil to edit my epubs the way I want them after they’re created in Jutoh. Jutoh will create .mobi and epubs for me. Yay!

    Smashwords style guide, which is free, is a great basic course in formatting.

    • I’ve heard of Jutoh, but have never used it. It does sound like a cost-effect and format-effective tool.

  6. Emma Adams

    Thanks for the info! I’ll be bookmarking this for sure! πŸ™‚

  7. I’ve never created an e-book, but I am asked frequently how to do it. This sounds like great advice!

  8. Awesome. Thank goodness I have a publisher to do this stuff, but man, I’m keeping a tab on this post in case I need it. =)

  9. Hi there! I’ve never e-published but I’m thinking about it. I’ve learned new things here. I used to upload free books to Calibre, but have since learned to upload via Kindle. I like the sound of Sigil and Jutoh. But as I use MSWord, hmmm. I hate seeing badly formatted e-books.

    Thanks so much for visiting/following me Loni.

    Denise πŸ™‚

  10. Quick, yes; dirty, hmm. Not so much dirty as GREAT. I am not at all surprised to find a post full of clear, smart techie help here πŸ™‚ Thanks, Loni!!! I just go old school and paste my text into Notebook when I need to clear the formatting – but your way is probably much better.

    • When I’m not looking to keep italics or bold, I typically drop my text into a plain text editor. It’s nice to strip out the odd paragraph spacing too.

  11. I promise myself monthly to learn more about HTML, and then deny that promise, feel guilty and recover with chocolate. Some day maybe, and I’ll start with this as a guide.

  12. great advice! i hate how code can get so complicated – why is that!? do they want us to stay confused so they are needed? hmm?

    happy iwsg day!

    • πŸ™‚ I like to think of HTML as little boxes. If I’m looking for a full paragraph, I’ll use <p> tags. If I want to work with a span of words inside a larger one, then that calls for a <span>.

      But that’s the nice thing with tools like Sigil. They take words, and give a view of what it’ll look like, and take care of all the tags for you. Though they’ll still need programmers to make those tools, hopefully it’ll provide a nice middle man.

  13. I wish I knew more HTML. I used to know Latex back when I was formatting my dissertation, so I’m not incompetent, just interested in using my time in other ways. I had no idea that there were tools for cleaning up useless formatting from Word. That’s good to know.

  14. Thanks for sharing. If you are formatting your own books you need to know this. There’s nothing worse (speaking as a reader here) than having a book that’s formatted poorly. It totally ruins the whole reading experience when the indents are wonky or there’s a weird line break.

  15. Word processors are evil when it comes to creating HTML. Looks like you’ve found a process that works for you.

  16. I’m definitely going to need to strip my manuscript clean before I convert it to epub or mobi. I still double space between sentences, and I know I’ve got so much crap stuffed inside that Word doc that I’ll have to work hard to clean it up for conversion. Thanks for the suggestions.

    • The nice thing with the double white spaces is doing a replace all, typing the two spaces in the find box and one space in the replace with box. πŸ™‚

  17. I got really good at converting Word documents to HTML for upload to Amazon, but then I took the plunge and started using Scrivener. It’s an improvement that’s for sure as it allows a bit more formatting options without needing to manipulate code. There are so many ways to make e-books, which is all part of the fun and frustration of the process πŸ˜‰

  18. I didn’t know there were tools to clean up html online. Thanks for passing that along!

  19. When e-publishing I uploaded my formatted documents straight from Word, but I’ve since learnt there are other more efficient methods, and this is one of the most helpful posts I’ve seen. Thanks!

  20. Very useful information, Loni. I know just enough HTML to be dangerous. I try to keep all formatting to a minimum for fear of how it will translateβ€”even on my blog. Fortunately, I haven’t had to do e-formatting on my own, but that time is coming.

    VR Barkowski

  21. Hi Loni! One thing I’m learning from the IWSG is that I have a whole lot to learn! Thanks for sharing this helpful information. Have a good week!

  22. It’s like you’re trying to speak to me, I know it.

    Brilliant post. Techie. πŸ˜‰

  23. Thanks for sharing this information. I’ve never used Sigil or Calibre. Thankfully, I’ve never had any problems just loading MS Word documents into Amazon’s system. (HTML code et al. kind of scares me. πŸ˜‰ I just use a free Amazon guide and follow the step-by-step directions. But it’s good to know there are other options out there if I ever run into difficulties.

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