Essential Free Software for Self Publishing An eBook

Following my own steps into self publishing a few weeks ago with The Unremarkable Book and Other Stories, I though I’d share my own experiences with preparing an eBook for publication.

There are lots of different ways you can self publish, from fronting the cash to pay for cover design, print costs and publicity to the free side of things where you do the hard graft yourself. If you’ve got the time and the patience there is no reason why you can’t do it all yourself and all it’ll cost you is the time it takes to complete it.

The following software is all free (although Mention has a paid side to it) and it should be all you need to self publish your own ebook. I’m no real expert in any of this, this is what I’ve picked up in my experiences, so if you think I’ve missed anything let me know in the comments below!

The Unremarkable Book on Amazon UK


Open Office Writer – Free download here

This is the most basic element within the mix really, without a decent piece of word processing software, you’re going to struggle to type out your book in the first place. Writer is pretty much the standard in open source word processing and it’s part of the Open Office Suite (to compete with Microsoft’s considerably more pricey version), whilst it isn’t perfect in any sense, it’s a great way of getting your transcript down and applying the basic formatting you’ll need for your ebook.

Keep the styling to a minimum, remember ebooks have to adapt to font size, device width/height and other factors, the more you add to the book the more likely it is to ruin the formatting later.

  • Use page breaks to divide chapters, because there are no fixed page heights this is the best way to make sure everything is neatly separated.
  • Whilst you can add a dynamic table of contents in Writer, it’s best to leave that to other software.

Formatting Your Ebook in Open Office Writer

Sigil – Free download here

Sigil is a free editor for epub files, it is probably one of the most comprehensive ways of formatting and editing your ebook and from my experience it usually works well once converted into other formats. For anyone who is used to editing HTML, they’ll recognise a good portion of what Sigil does as you can edit the eBook’s source code (HTML) as well as the standard view.

Use Sigil to ensure that everything is laid out as it should be and enter in all the extra details such as contents, cover, meta data etc. It’s worth noting that as this is effectively editing HTML, you can also add hyperlinks to reference your sites as well as anything else interesting/needing referencing.

  • Whilst you’re editing epub files, these can be converted into other formats later.
  • This is where you assign your book it’s cover.
  • You can create a table of contents here, just ensure each of your chapters or titles are marked as a heading.
  • Make sure and input all the meta data of your book – it may not seem obvious at first, but you’ll want to ensure the title, author, publisher, language, etc are entered in correctly.

The Main Editor View in Sigil

Calibur Ebook Management – Free Download Here

Calibur eBook Management is another essential tool for those looking to publish to ebook, for me it was one of the last pieces of software in the process, mainly because it can covert them into virtually any other format – very essential if you want to offer them up to users sporting the major ebook readers (Kindle, iBooks, Nook etc). One of the other great features of Calibur is how it can be used to sort libraries and edit information of an ebook (something which can be done in Sigil, but it works equally as well).

I found that once I’d made the correctly formatted ebook using Sigil, Calibur was then really effective for checking all the formatting and meta data was being displayed correctly and then saving it as a .mobi file (which is the format of choice if you’re working with Kindle Direct Publishing).

  • Depending on where you’re publishing your ebook to, this stage may not be 100% essential – because I put my ebook up for free download as well I wanted to provide it into as many different formats as possible for those who didn’t download it direct from Amazon.
  • Calibur is also an awesome piece of software just for managing your existing ebook library – especially if you’ve got a collection of indie literature without correct metadata, you can format it so at least your library will be organised.

Editing meta data in Calibre

Kindle Previewer – Free Download here

As you may have guessed, Kindle previewer is provided by Amazon and is of most use if you are going to be publishing your ebook through the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing services. The idea behind the previewer is that it lets you see your ebook displayed on the different resolutions for Amazon’s readers (Kindle, Fire, Fire HD).This is a great way of making doubly sure that your eBook is formatted correctly, not just Kindle devices but most readers in general.

Like everything else on this list, the Kindle Previewer is available for free.

Mention – Set Up Your Free Account Here

This isn’t part of making the ebook itself, however, it plays a huge part in the publicity following the release. Mention is free piece of software (or should I say, App/service?) which monitors the web for specific mentions which you specify. What this really helps you to do is keep tabs on who is talking about you or your book.

Whilst it’s nice to know how people talk about your work, the main strength of monitoring mentions is your ability to then go and interact with whoever has been talking about you. Whether it’s just thanking them for their kind words, answering some criticism or networking, this is the best way to help capitalise on any momentum following the publication.

I hope that was some help, as I mentioned earlier, If you can think of anything I’ve missed, let me know in the comments below!

Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, my collection of short stories, The Unremarkable Book and Other Stories, can be found here.


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