Here are some quick tips you should think about while creating your ebook – or even if you’re having someone else do the work for you. Especially in Smashwords.
In e-books, there is no page.
E-readers are not static; they don’t read like paper with the words in fixed positions unless you’re dealing with what’s known as a “fixed layout” epub – or your pages are all full sized images (such as in a comic book). And even if you are dealing with one of those, the older readers still can’t do it. It cuts your audience size if you don’t consider that while putting your ebook together. Ereaders are personalized pieces of equipment, giving the reader the option to change font size, color, and sometimes even page size. Your book is going to look different to everyone.
Tables do not convert in most ereader formats, and the same goes for the majority of other “special” formatting. Smashwords does not support these things in their platform. Please make sure your book is formatted to accommodate for that. Otherwise we may have to convert your tables into images at a cost of $1.00 per image.
Page breaks: is this pretty style okay for eBooks? Some people say yes. Some people say no. I use them in my formatting, BUT! Having them come through to the reader cannot be guaranteed. As per the Smashwords Style Guide itself: If I insert page breaks into your document to have a section such as a chapter start on its own page, “the PDF and RTF versions will honor them, but these commands will be lost in most other formats, which strip page breaks and section breaks.” Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Them’s the breaks.
Your book will also lose special fonts and ability to keep fonts at a fixed size. Make sure you have adapted any special formatting like that into something you’re going to be happy with that will translate well. Try to use typical fonts like Times New Roman as 10 or 12 pt size. Don’t go over 14 pt size: this can and most usually will look terrible on the tiny ereader screen, and Smashwords might reject it.
Smashwords has a file size limit of 5MB. For graphic novels, this can be a problem if your book is too large, so be aware of your book’s content before you ask us to format it for you! The good news is epub and mobi compress to smaller sizes, making it easier to work with Pubit and Kindle.
Graphic Novels and those with illustrations: I do realize there are a lot of people over the internet who have said Smashwords can not do heavy graphics. Well, yes they can. It’s just that there are limitations that keep you from making the book too thick or “heavy” as it were. You’re also limited in format. But I’ve been doing comics with Smashwords since I first found them years ago. Back then the books looked terrible. Then again my formatting skills were terrible. (Which is the true problem with many “ugly” Smashwords books: the level of skill.) These days? I’ve caught on and work constantly to improve the look of the Smashwords comic. Why? Because comickers deserve this service, too. By Odin, or Pan… or… something.
(When sending your file, you have the option of sending your graphics separately for us to put into the document or putting them into the document ahead of time. Be advised that embedding the images yourself does not guarantee we will not have to “process” them. Your best bet is simply to read my article on how to prepare the picture and have them properly ready to go.)
For graphic novels and anything that has lettering over the image, make sure it will be readable at approximately 3 inches wide. If you need us to letter the pages for you, inquire and make a reasonable offer in regards to financial compensation.
Do not insert images that are smaller than 100 pixels wide. Images that are too small can get your document rejected for premium distribution. For full-size images, we recommend a standard size of 7 x 5 (approximately) at 72 dpi resolution.
Don’t insert images large then 5 inches wide or 7 inches tall. This will also create problems.
Testing your file
So you have your file and you want to take a look; make sure it’s to your liking.
Each ereader model has a different program inside that allows them to read in the first place, which is why some only read epub format and others only read mobi. Or pdf. Or doc. Etc. This means they’re each going to interpret that information differently. If I give you a file that’s meant for the Nook, testing your file in a different program may give you undesirable results.
To help avoid such misunderstandings, I am composing a list below of the different reader types and the files they read best. Most of these will be ereader programs for the desktop and smart phone, but I will add as I get confirmed information. Keep in mind that I am testing standard page size files that are meant for Smashwords only: obviously if I coded strictly for Kobo for example I’d have different results.
Adobe Digital Editions – can read epub but expands the page to maximum screen size, which can affect images negatively. Reads pdf neatly and appropriately.
BEBook – reads prose epubs well, slides images off screen to the right when they are centered; reads mobi like a charm, including images; PDF files look great; reads RTF okay but loses any images.
Kindle for Droid – reads mobi appropriately
Kobo for Droid – reads imported books but stretches images a little out of proportion despite coding to control size
Nook for Droid – reads epub appropriately
Nook Touch – reads epub appropriately but likes to die 3 months after your brother buys you one for your birthday. 😦