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Produce your own eBooks for no cost with Sigil

15 July 2011, Nick Peers

Everyone with writing sensibilities dreams of becoming a published author. Magazine publishing houses are full of frustrated novelists “getting by” writing magazine and online articles while trying to find time to cram in a novel or two.

The self-publishing route is nothing new, but it’s only now you can actually get published for no upfront costs by publishing digitally using a service like Lulu. The problem is, Lulu wants to distribute your finished work in the EPUB format, and if your manuscript is in Word format, how can you avoid paying a hefty fee in order to generate the required file? The answer lies in a simple, open-source and cross-platform solution called Sigil.

Sigil won’t help you write your novel – if you’re looking for a tool to help you organise and write your great novel, try Scrivener for Mac or yWriter for Windows. Instead, Sigil concentrates on helping you translate your finished manuscript into electronic form, suitable for publishing through the likes of Lulu.

Sigil employs a WYSIWYG interface, so formatting your text and importing images (if required) is relatively simple. If you’re expecting an experience similar to desktop publishing or even your word processor you’ll be disappointed as Sigil only provides basic formatting. EPUB is based on XHTML, and while you can play around with XHTML via Sigil’s Code View, you’ll probably find it simpler to stick to the limited options on offer, which ensure your finished product will work correctly on any device it’s viewed on.

The only slight blemish on Sigil’s horizon is the fact the author is looking to pass the project on to someone else – if you’re a coder interested in taking Sigil on to a bright future, visit the Sigil blog for details.

Sigil 0.4.0 RC1 is available as a 32-bit and 64-bit open-source download for Windows, Mac and Linux.

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