Yes, you CAN publish your comic with Smashwords – and have it look good, too.

Something I know I’ve mentioned here before: I’ve been putting comics up on Smashwords for years. Since the very beginning, as a matter of fact. There have been hurdles, and trials. There have been times I took my comics down from Smashwords because their platform wasn’t very friendly to it just then. And I’ve been inundating them – INUNDATING them – with feedback on the matter for years. YEARS. Mark Coker must want to have me assassinated by now.

Well, he can try. I’ve a personal team of ninjas that are very thankful for my efforts, albeit small and often ignored, that will lay down their lives to protect me. Come at me, Herr Coker. Fie!

Lately I’ve been doing my occasional research to catch up with the indie-publishing world because I’d fallen a bit out of track. I’m also Up To Something ™. These actions will always lead me back to comics, my personal ground zero. Then I read articles, submission guidelines, and shake my head. I am often confused, when I meet an aspiring comic creator at a convention who has a real good comic, why they never go digital. As of a few minutes ago I think I see part of why.

There’s apparently this broadly-spread idea that the only way to put your comics up digitally is to go through an ebook aggregator that specializes in comics. One article I just found mentions Comixology and the now defunct Graphicly as possible resources only to go on to say that places like Smashwords do not do comics.

Graphicly apparently pulled in something like 2 million with their idea that started a year after I began to publicly suggest that someone should make a comic aggregator. 🐱 Then they were bought by Amazon I believe… correct me if I’m wrong… and now they are no more. Coincidence? I dunno. You decide.

Comixology had (or has) an exclusive arrangement with two of the comic book big guys, Marvel and DC. So if you want to use them as your aggregator, you have to go through their submission process. Your book could get rejected. The Heavenly Bride was rejected – although I admit it was rejected two years ago because I found their submission process to be a big pain in the behind with too many items that I felt were utter BS, so I never went back to correct my submission. I’m indie because I hate the submission process. Intensely.

So now I read that if Comixology, the only real comic aggregator left standing, rejects you you’re pretty much SOL. (Insert silence. Insert crickets chirping.) Wut. (Silence) Okay okay. No. Please review what I’ve been telling you. I can wait.

The problem is that some of the people who choose places like Smashwords to publish their comic book have no idea how to make it look good. I even formatted one comic that used Word as the base upload platform. I tried to tell the creator that this would hurt the look of their comic, but they weren’t listening. The end result is their book looked terrible.

Here are some tips on how to publish your comic through Smashwords (and possibly other places as well).

  1. Don’t use Word. For the love of GOD. When it comes to the ebook comic book making process, I use Word for one thing and one thing only. To make an epub.
  2. Use an epub. Please. Smashwords accepts epubs, as do most of everyone else. I’ve explored a lot of aggregators in the past few days. My Heavenly Bride Book 1 epub has uploaded without a hitch to almost everyone – except one who had a ridiculously low file size limit. Catch up with the rest of us, China. No. Really.
  3. When creating your comic you want your pages to look crisp, clean and be of good quality. This means the pages are probably going to be sized a wee bit bigger than your standard ereader screen. So there’s a trick to getting your epub to resize across the ereader board. The key to this is the word “resize”. Basically I took what little CSS I know (trust me, it’s not a lot) and I created a code for pages that resizes my pages the way I wanted them too. In the case of ereaders with wide but short screens the pictures might distort a wee bit if I get it wrong. (I don’t have one. I don’t know.) But in the case of my android phone, My Nook Touch, Nook Color, Kindle Gen1, Kindle Fire, and Kobo Reader the book always looks great.
  4. Once you have an epub that has your code in place, you can use it as a template to make further comics. How neat is that?
  5. When it comes to your pages, you don’t want to put them at 300 dpi. I put my page resolution at about 150 dpi. That does the trick and my file sizes aren’t usually too terribly large. I just uploaded a four chapter comic book to Smashwords, for crying out loud. Now this is mostly thanks to Smashwords raising their file size limit because I couldn’t do that before. Still.
  6. Amazon has a free comic creator program that you can use to make comics for their indie platform. This is great if you only use Amazon (which I don’t recommend). However, once you make that epub, you can use their Kindle Previewer to convert it to mobi and keep most of the functionality. The only thing is, Amazon being Amazon, you’ll need to watch that carefully and always test on a real Kindle. Amazon is always changing things, and the more they change the the more they step away from being compatible with *anyone*. Smooth move, Amazon.

I have other tips I can think of, but really it’s common sense. You CAN put your book out there. Just don’t use Word, use epub. And learn! You don’t have to become a CSS master to do this. I do quite well. You will however have to be willing to keep up with things enough to keep building and able to add things as you go. That’s the only real challenge, at least for me.

(As a side note, yes I can create your Smashwords ready epub for you.)

Well, I hope that helped. As for me, now that I know the comic aggregator position once again needs to be filled I might just open my own business. :-p

How to Upload Your Document to Smashwords

I get asked by overwhelmed clients from to time for help in uploading their book to Smashwords. I get it: when you’re new to self-publishing in today’s changing book market it can be a bit daunting. You’re not just worrying about sending a book to a publisher anymore. You *are* the publisher and it’s up to you to worry about everything from editing to marketing.

Look on the bright side. Your publisher didn’t send you a form rejection letter. (And if you have sent yourself a form rejection letter, please read it thoroughly to see where you went wrong and ask yourself how you can improve. Then make an appointment with your health care provider as soon as possible.)

This verbose, little tutorial is, I hope, going to make your life a little easier if you’re one of those overwhelmed creative folks out there. I’m going to go through the steps of getting your book onto Smashwords and out to the proper channels in order so all you have to do (hopefully) is follow along. I’m even going to use pictures sometimes. Praise me.

So let’s get to it.

Step ONE!

Do you have an account with Smashwords yet? No? Oh for the love of… WHY?!?! How could you DO this to me??  Okay. okay. I’m cool. Just. Go to, look at the blue navigation bar near the top of the page, click “join for free!” and create an account. This tutorial isn’t about creating an account, so I’m not going to go into the steps on this one. From here I’m going to pretend you have your account ready to go.

You have an account ready to go. M’kay. There is more than one type of account you can have, but for the sake of moving along we’re going to assume you’re uploading your book as if you’re just one little person, IR Writer, going into business just for himself. If you are opening a mini-publishing house or using pen names you can still follow this tutorial but there are settings you will need to put into place. It’s easy but you really should get to know your Smashwords interface.

So Step One: know your interface. Moving along.

Step TWO!

Okay, so you have your account open. You have your book written, edited, formatted, and *completely* ready to go – in that order. You have an appropriately-sized cover of at least 1600 pixels wide ready to go. Let’s do this.

Sign into Smashwords. Suddenly, like magic, you’re whisked away to a home page with a complete navigation bar! Your quest has begun. Do you… go north, go south, or click “publish” in the navigation bar? You click publish.

Image1Step THREE

You have clicked publish. Now you stare at a long form which looks strangely devoid of information. You feel a stirring in your breast, as if you… want to fill the information gaps with specialized information only you know. Do you? Yes. Yes, you do.

From here it’s a very simple process of reading carefully and putting what’s needed into the slots. This page is basically a long form to fill out. Sometimes what to put where gets a little confusing – and in my case I often sit at a loss for want of what to say. But you can duuu eeet. Here we go.

Image1The warnings at the top: Read them, even if they don’t pertain to you. Why?  You’re getting to know your interface, that’s why. Also you never know. If you had your book formatted or have formatted it yourself in the right way, #1 is only something you should keep in mind. #2 (Do not use this page to publish an updated version…) is important. If you already have a book in the system, don’t upload your new copy here. You can overwrite by editing your first copy. #3 is also pretty self evident. Don’t steal.

Part #1, Title and Synopsis

Title: Put the title of your book here. Do not type your title in all caps. Capitalize as you would if you had learned grammar in school. Try not to misspell things. Don’t put the wrong title. Etc.

Release Date: You can upload your book and then tell Smashwords to release it at a later date. For example, if I were to upload Book 9 of The Heavenly Bride tomorrow but I didn’t want it out until Christmas Day, I could tell the system to hold it for that long. This is really good for you, the author. You can set a preorder schedule and release date so your readers can have time to get all pumped up over your latest work. Apparently readers love that. (Not I. Give me your book now or I’m going to glare at you.) A lot of people just choose for their book to be released immediately, and that’s fine as well.

Synopsis: The synopsis area comes in two parts: long and short descriptions. If you are vague on what a synopsis really is, pick up a pulp paperback and flip it over. Lookit! There’s a cute little catchy explanation of the plot there on the back! THAT is your synopsis, and it is your friend. Your cover is your fishing lure, and the synopsis is your hook. Don’t talk about stuff that has nothing to do with the main plot. Don’t use too many long words. Stay away from the passive tense if you can help it. Drive to the point. Don’t try to be too mysterious. And other marketing tips… if you’re as terrible at writing your synopsis as I am mine, I highly recommend you hire someone or at least do some research on the matter. A bad synopsis can chase away readers.

When it comes to the difference between a long synopsis and a short one, I think of it this way: A long synopsis is your synopsis. The short synopsis is your blurb; the short and catchy phrase you will see on the movie poster when your book is a success. “Tall man grabs long drink of water. Short lady punches hole in bag.” Because the short synopsis is the one that goes to your retailers, you really want it to make sense and catch attention.

Image1Language: Most of the people uploading to Smashwords are English speaking, but Smashwords supports other languages. This is a neat thing if you can get your book translated!

#2 Price and sampling: Yes, you can choose to let your book be free. I know I’ve chosen to do so once or twice, especially with old pieces that I hate with a passion. You can also allow readers to simply donate what they want for a copy of your book. Sometimes they’ll choose nothing, sometimes they’ll be kind. Also you can, of course, just set a price for your book.  I do recommend you consider your book. Is it large, fat, or just 10 pages? Readers are very vocal about their independent book reading experience. If they feel they paid too much, they’re going to tell the world. If they don’t trust your book because the price is too small, sometimes they won’t buy the book.

#3 Categorization

Primary Category: Smashwords allows your book to be in 2 categories. This little section is a selection tree that will allow you to place your book as accurately as possible. So let’s say I’m uploading a copy of my essay, The Future of Powwow Dancing in Native America. I’m going to click on essay, and other sub-categories are going to pop up. I’m going to keep picking until I get my essay into the right place.

Secondary Category: This is the same situation as your primary. I recommend you choose a secondary if you can. Get your book out there!

Adult content: Very simply put, is your book naughty or nice? Yes or no? What does the LAW say? There’s no room for philosophical arguments in this slot.

Box set: If your book is more than one book bundled into a single tome, then click yes. Otherwise click no. Click no if it’s a book of short stories, as that would be called a book of short stories and not a boxed set.

Tags: Oh! TAGS! I hate TAGS! I hate doing TAGS! They’re HARD! But here we are, at the tag section. This is the part where you’re going to think to yourself, “Hrm. If I were looking for a book about a rabid wolf that falls in love with a rabbit’s foot, what words would I use to search for it?” And then you’re going to choose what you HOPE are common search terms like ‘wolf’, ‘unrequited love’ and ‘rabbit’s foot’.

Add your tags one at a time. Don’t type a bunch of words and expect the system to sort them out, because it won’t. You’re only allowed a finite number of tags – 10 I believe – so a lot of people will bunch various words into one tag, hoping that this will get their book found. I might be mistaken, but this will only hurt your book’s ability to be found. If you put in the tag ‘wolf eats rabbit and regrets it’ and I only put in ‘wolf’ as my search tag, it might skip your long tag altogether. I hate metadata.

At this stage you’re getting to the nitty gritty. You’re at #5, where you’re going to see a list of formats to choose from. For future reference, you can upload a Word document or an epub. Most people upload a Word document. These options here are what your Word document will be converted into. If you are uploading a Word document, you can choose them all or only choose one. I recommend you choose them all unless your book is a coloring book or anything else that needs to be printable. I also highly recommend that unless your book is a pattern, choose epub because that’s the most universally read format out there at this time. Keep in mind even though Smashwords converts to Kindle format the book won’t necessarily be going to Kindle.

If you are uploading only an epub (which I do with my comics), unclick all the formats except epub.

Now you’re at #6, uploading your cover image. Read this carefully. It said COVER image! Don’t make my mistake and try to upload your book document in that slot!!! Also, make sure your cover image is the correct size. I can’t count how many people came to me upset because their cover image was rejected, and it turned out they had uploaded their sample.

#7 – Select file of book to publish. We’re almost there! NOW is the time! The moment of truth! Click browse, browse in your computer, find your book file, and select it! Your publishing days are about to begin!

Publishing Agreement: Read it, okay? I know it’s boring, and boring sucks, but read it. At least skim it. It says what you agree to do and not to do. If you accept this agreement and it just happens to say that you have agreed to sell your soul to Satan, you’re agreeing to sell your soul. Know what you’re agreeing to. Then click agree, cuz if you don’t you can’t upload your book.

Finally, #9. This little area does not pertain to you if you’re uploading the book under your name. For example if your account name is “Fred Frederickson” and the book is written by Fred Frederickson, you’re good to go – providing your cover also says Fred Frederickson. You can’t upload a book to Fred Frederickson’s account if the book is by Marlow Marles. That’s why this part is asking about ghost accounts. Some people will set up a publisher account and create “ghost accounts” beneath their official name. (This can be done in your account settings. Know your interface.) So if Fred Frederickson were publishing a book by Marlow Marles, he would first set up his account as a publisher account. Then he would create a ghost account for Marlow Marles. Then he’d upload the book by coming to this page and choose Marlow Marles for this book and this book only from the drop-down list this part of the form would provide. Confusing enough for you?

And that’s it! Now you’re going to hit….

PUBLISH! (or publish immediately, or schedule, or whatever that yellow button has to say according to your settings.)


Oh you thought it was over, did you? Ha ha ha ha, I scoff. From here you’re either going to be brought to a confirmation window that has a list of formats with a yellow button to click that reads, “convert to these formats” or it’s going to go straight to formatting. Click the button. Or wait. Or do both.

You are going to be told, “Your book is now converting”. You can navigate from this page if you like, but I hate to do that. I just open new windows and go about my business while the Smashwords conversion machine, the Meatgrinder, does its work.


Congratulations! (The next page will hopefully say.) Your work, (book name) has been published on Smashwords and is now available for readers to sample and purchase.

If the book has failed conversion, you’re going to get a notice and an email. Fix your book and try again.

Please note: for some strange reason once a book fails, your book dashboard will show the failure notice in the book’s history after you have uploaded a new version. This does not mean your book has failed a second time. When you upload your book, it’s always a good idea to read the automatic email that Smashwords sends to you as THAT will have your book’s true status in it.

Are you done? No, not really. You can be if you want to be, but there are a couple of real important things you need to do from here.

Step SIX: The little things. Let’s say your book passed the test 100% and you’re definitely good to go. In your navigation bar near the top is a link for your dashboard. Click it and go.

Image1Suddenly, everything has changed! What is it now?!? Are you being attacked by Vikings? Ha. No. Only in the SCA. THIS is the meat of your account, this area you need to handle the most. This is where you take care of your ISBNs and look at your book statuses. In this page you should see your book listed. The list will grow the more books you add. Nifty.

At the top of this page in the middle, you’re going to see a list of links:

Metadata Management

Click on ISBN Manager.

You’re whisked away to a confusing page full of big words. Fear not! These words cannot hurt you. They’re here to help. Read them. But more importantly know that your book hasn’t been assigned its ISBN yet. It’s through this page you need to handle those particulars. No amount of images from me here can help you. Good luck.

I can tell you that Smashwords will give you an ISBN for free. You can also buy your ISBN independently and use that. A lot of people after they assign their ISBN will edit their original Word document to have the ISBN in the copyright section, as per tradition. Then they re-upload their book using the dashboard interface (not the publish form). I know I do.

Once done with that, you need to go back to your dashboard. Click the dashboard link provided in the navigation bar at the top of the page. From here you can handle your book’s pricing by clicking Pricing Manager, which is beneath ISBN Manager. And.. oh no! More words! AAAAH!

But see why I wanted you to get to know your interface?

What’s really cool here is you can set different pricing scales. So let’s say I want people to get Black Wolf, Silver Fox for whatever price they want but I also want it to go to Barnes and Noble. I can simply tell the system to set it to a certain price for retailers and let the SW peeps handle it themselves. Wootage.

Another important thing here is you can set a different price for the libraries than you would a retailer book. My personal preference is to give the libraries a huge discount or even to let them have the book for free. But ya know. I love my local library.

Now go back to your dashboard and find in the upper right:

You really really want to go into your channel manager. So click it.

WTF! More words! Yes! READ THEM!

Past the words is your book in a chart that’s waiting to grow.

Image1This chart, my friends, is your distribution channels. If you don’t want your book sent to one of these areas, opt out. If you want it sent, opt in. You’ll notice I’ve pretty much chosen full coverage for my little guys. I’m thorough like that. I love this area, because it sometimes seems like Smashwords is always adding someone to it. You should have seen how few channels SW had when I started out with them. My, have they grown.

Take note that Amazon is listed as ‘limited distribution’. I don’t know the entire drama llama tale. SW used to work with Amazon, and something happened during one of the book publishing scandals that happened a few years ago. And then SW stopped working with Amazon and matters were “in negotiation”. These days I’ve heard a rumor that your book will only go to Amazon if it’s a mega bestseller, but don’t quote me on that. I don’t know what’s happening with that. All I can tell you is that to get your book into Amazon you need to go to, sign in (you can use the Amazon account you already have if you have one), and do the thing. With the things.

From here that’s pretty much it. There are other things to handle of course, but this is the bare bones of it. And now my hand is tired. I’m going to have some tea and read a book. Maybe it’s going to be your book.

Quick Tip: Those pesky missing covers in your Nextbook2

A friend gave me a Nextbook when she upgraded to a different ereader. I was delighted. I live on a small budget, so buying things like the Kindle Fire or the Nook color just to test with is not in my possibilities. But when I loaded my content onto my Nextbook I was a little disappointed to discover that instead of seeing the pretty little cover images in the library for me to browse with, I got ugly rectangles with the word “epub” on them and no hint at all of what book each one even was.

The solution? I like my pretty pictures, so I set out on a Great Quest ™ across the spider-infested paths of the internet to discover what I could do. But no Holy Grail did I discover. No glass tower could I climb. Rather, I found myself in Merlin’s position – there is this problem but there is yet to be a Once and Future Answer. I would have to wait for it or invent it on my own.

I’m not the most savvy coder in the world. When it comes to eBook creation, I’m still a student in many ways. Today, for example, I feel pretty special because I leveled up a bit.

With the help of a Great Wizard, the solution, quite by accident, was discovered. So now I no longer am Merlin, but the hapless hero or the accidental queen. Or just the bumbling fool. I’m more in favor of the latter description.

So I went on another Great Quest to make sure I wasn’t the only one who knew.

So far it appears that I am.

As this accidental solution can be used for good, I have decided to share it. However, I share this at great risk to my soul – for when the evil forces discover that I not only know this secret but have revealed it so as to make it, in fact, no longer a secret they shall be wroth. I probably should fear for my life.

So if you could shield your screen from prying eyes and read this very, very silently to yourself with a standing guard of no less than fifty strong knights, I may be a bit more comforted that some precautions have been taken. For you should fear for your life, as well. You’re reading this, aren’t you?

Are you ready?

Lean closer.

No, closer.

Okay, take a deep breath. Here it is.

Change the cover image’s file extension from jpeg to jpg. To be precise, the file has to be named “cover.jpg” and has to have the association/scematic of “cover” attached to it.

Can’t Afford a Cover Designer?

Yes, I do pay my bills through m ebook cover designs and formatting. However, I also understand that we are all on a tight budget. (Which is why I sometimes have to work for under minimum wage.)

Well, if you can’t afford the $25 it takes to get a cover done by me or someone else there’s a new resource for you. It’s a free ebook entitled, How to Make a Simple Book Cover for a Non-Designer by Kate Harper.

The description reads, “This is a tutorial with illustrations will tell you how to make a simple book cover for a non-designer. It is a step-by-step guide with generous images to explain exactly what digital tools you need, how to do it for free. All you need to is a photograph.

Author Kate Harper is a product designer who is inspired by the merging of art and technology, and is active in the new media, art licensing and DIY communities. She is also interested in web based mobile apps, creating street art maps, and collaborating with indie artists on how to bring their vision into the marketplace. She has designed over 700 gift and greeting cards, and licenses her designs to over a dozen manufacturers on products including greeting cards, magnets, t-shirts, coasters, placemats, rubber stamps, coffee mugs, paper pads, and embroidery .”

But don’t tell the others I told you.