Times New Roman – why I try not to use it

man-with-glass-writing-at-desk-clerk-thank-you-card-paying-bills-dot-is-pen-ink-drawing[1]The Smashwords Style Guide indicates that when formatting your book to use the all-too-famous Times New Roman font. It’s the dream font, the golden ticket to getting things correct.  Mind you, it doesn’t say to use only that font or your book will be excluded from their premium catalog. It only gives it as a suggestion.

But I try not to use it anyway.

Why?  Elementary, my dear reader. Nooks, Kindles and possibly Nextbooks don’t use it. (I have no idea what my Nextbook uses; it won’t let me change the font settings to find out.) Why would I employ a font in my formatting that’s not going to get used in the first place? I’m not allowed to embed it – that would be considered distributing. It’s not in the reader systems to be found automatically by command. It’s silly to rely on it.

What font you use in your formatting is, in fact, largely irrelevant for the Smashwords system. Unless you’re uploading an epub (which you now can do providing it follows the Style Guide) you can’t embed a font for use. And all of the ereaders will go to their automatic default when they open that Smashwords book which calls for Times New Roman. In some cases that’s going to be Gill Sans, and in others that’s going to be Georgia. No two reader models are alike, they rarely even repeat fonts from one to another, and yes those fonts choices tend to be slightly unimaginative.

Okay so you feel a serif font like Times New Roman is easier to read as opposed to a sans-serif type like Gill Sans… but that’s not going to make a difference. Let me reiterate: in most cases Times New Roman is not there. It’s so that I’m left scratching my head wondering why Smashwords would recommend Times New Roman in the first place.

Well the obvious answer is because of all the authors out there who think Comic Sans is a nifty font – maybe it’s very nifty, but it’s also not very readable and often comes off as unprofessional. But even so, why not recommend Gills Sans or Trebuchet, both of which are in use with some ereaders? Possibly because not everyone’s computer may have Gill or Trebuchet installed, but they’re most likely to have Times. Except of that’s the case it’s just as logical to suggest Arial or maybe to give the readers a choice between the two fonts.

The darkest part of me suggests it’s a dark plot on the part of Mark Coker to drive me insane with authors who read the Style Guide and want their money back because I formatted using Helvetica. He sips wine at night in front of burning, black candles plotting my doom, watching the wax dribble down from the sheer heat of his onerous temper, while his vetter slaves tack away at Commodor 64 keys in the background.

While formatting, I’m doing things in such a way I get an idea of how things will look on your Nook, Kindle or even iPhone. This means I’m going to choose various fonts the readers use and not what Smashwords says to use. I’m going to use fonts that make sense – fonts I see when I test that file on my Nook Color. Fonts you will see when you sit down to read that book on your Kindle Paperwhite. And I’m not going to cater to just the newest reader models, either.

From time to time I’ll do a web search to see what fonts are in use. Tonight I found another possibility for the suggestion of Times New Roman – Apple iBooks uses Times New Roman, as well as:

  • Athelas
  • Charter
  • Georgia
  • Iowan
  • Seravek

At last we know where Times New Roman is in use. Some.

Well I don’t own an Apple anything. I can’t afford an Apple anything. It’s a big deal if I buy an apple, being as they give me intense heartburn. And last I checked, not everyone uses Apple. So my reasons still stand.

Currently my favorite fonts of choice are Gill Sans, Helvetica, and Caecelia. Caecelia and Helvetica are used by both Kindle AND the Nook. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone. If you have those fonts installed, you get to see what your book is going to look like (a little) when I’m done.

To wind this down, here is a list of fonts that are in use by other systems that are not Apple. They’re in no particular order, and I listed where they’re used by memory after compiling the list so I might have some of that part wrong. Still. It’s a good list in case you want to format your books in such a way you see how things are going to look the way I like to.

  • Caecelia (kindle, nook touch)
  • Helvetica (kindle, nook touch)
  • Baskerville (kindle paperwhite)
  • Futura (kindle)
  • Malabar (kindle paperwhite)
  • Gill Sans (nook touch,)
  • Amasis (nook touch)
  • Palatino (nook touch)
  • Trebuchet (nook touch)
  • Ascender Sans (nook color)
  • Dutch (nook color)
  • Georgia (nook color)
  • Century School Book (nook color)

… not seeing Times New Roman in there… anywhere… keep looking…..


Steps to format your WORD document for Kindle

© Anankkml | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Anankkml | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

When it comes to publishing on Kindle, I personally prefer to make a mobi to do the job. Mobi, being the Kindle’s format, allows me to do a bit more than if I’m formatting for Smashwords alone. And it helps prevent conversion disasters.

However, if you’re not someone who knows HTML, CSS, and doesn’t want to then you can still publish to Kindle by preparing your Word document. I’m going to list some steps here that should help. I must warn you: this is only written for people who are familiar with Word or can catch on quickly. And it doesn’t cover endnotes or anything like that. This is only for a basic book.

Step 1. Familiarize yourself with Styles work in your Word program. This is not an essential step, but it’s a very important one that will allow you to do pretty things in your book like control indentations on quotations, font sizes, and sometimes even color. You see, Mobi (and epub) are built on webpage technology and they use CSS. Well that’s what your styles essentially are: a CSS sheet inside your document that tells Word how to do the layout. Control these and you have the keys to your ebook city.

Also make sure your book is 100% ready before you begin. All spelling should be corrected, front matter such as name, title, and copyright page should be where they belong. Your cover should be finished. Little things like that.

Step 2. Prep work. You have to clean up your document. There are a number of ways to do it. There’s the “nuclear method” of copy and pasting your book to a simple notepad text, copying that, and pasting it into an empty Word document. Or you can simply highlight everything in your document and tell everything to be “normal” using the styles. One method I occasionally use is to open my styles editor and delete any unwanted style I see in the document list. It all depends on how much cleaning you want to do.

Step 3. Remove the following things from  your document: tabs, headers, footers, page numbers, fixed spaces, and tables. Use the search and replace function to change all of your ” (quotations) to ” (quotations). Also make sure you don’t have extra spaces between words or before a paragraph end. Make sure you don’t have extra spaces before a paragraph’s beginning. While you’re at it, make sure all of your italics and bold places are intact.

This is also a good place to see how your layout works. You can change your page size to 3.5 inches wide, 4 inches high, with 0.25 margins to emulate the size of the Kindle. This will give you an idea of how your book will look on older Kindle models. Also, in your “normal” paragraph page style set your “tab” set to .3 or so. (Right click the style, select modify style, then hit the format button, select paragraph, and edit.) You can also change paragraph indentations and a lot of important things doing this. Experiment – just be aware that putting numbers that are too high may make your book ugly.) As a matter of fact while your editing your styles and paragraph settings you want to go under paragraph, then the line and page breaks tab. Only have widow/orphan control selected. Those other options will only be trouble for you if you add them in.

Step 4. Go through your book, make it pretty how you like it using styles or just by editing your paragraph settings. Again, I recommend styles because other edits may not take. If you want your book to “page break” before something like a new chapter, you can do that in one of two ways. You can hit ctrl and enter together to create a page break, or you can put your chapter headings (chapter 1) into a heading 1 style which is edited under paragraph/line and page breaks to “page break before”.

  • Keep in mind: the largest recommended size for ebooks on any given font is 14. Don’t go too small or the book won’t be readable for many people. It may even chase them away.
  • If you’re putting in images, I recommend you check out my tutorial on the matter here on this website. I believe I have a link to it in the resources area.
  • Keep your normal paragraphs left aligned. And bear in mind Kindles automatically indent the first line of any paragraph slightly, so if you’re wanting that perfect block look you’re not likely to get it.

Step 5. Okay your book is pretty. But you’re not done! Now, if you want one in your book, you build your table of contents. You can use the auto function, which is found under references, table of contents in Word 2003. (I can’t vouch for that method.) Or you can do it by hand. If you do it by hand, you need to know how to insert bookmarks and use Word’s hyperlink function. Go to where you want your toc to be. You can type “contents” here if you want. Put your cursor before the “c” in contents and insert a bookmark labeled:  toc. (With Smashwords you type “ref_toc”. This is a Smashwords reference telling their system that this page is the table of contents. “Toc” also works for Kindle, so that their system can also find it.)

Now type your table of contents list: chapter 1, chapter 2, etc. Now you’re going to put a bookmark just like you did for contents at the start of every chapter or everywhere you want referenced in your table of contents. Once you have that, you will go back to your table of contents and link every line in the list to it’s proper spot. If you’re feeling really fancy you can add a “go back” link at the end of every chapter that will point to “ref_toc” so that your reader can go back to the table of contents at any point in time.

Test your table of contents. If it works properly, you now have to go into the insert bookmark dialogue and delete “hidden bookmarks” as these were created with the testing and can cause issues.

Okay, now go to where your book starts, which is not necessarily page one of chapter 1. You may want the reader to start on a prologue or a Forward. This is up to you. Put your cursor at the first letter of that page and insert a bookmark entitled “start”. This tells Kindle’s system where the book’s beginning is.

Step 6: Okay, NOW you are ready to upload! Just remember: DON’T embed your cover image into your Word file unless you really want it in there twice. Amazon’s system will automatically embed your cover for you, and it asks for it separately.

Happy publishing!

Plaigiarized Book Alert

Far be it that I should go unprofessional and discuss personal business on this blog, but there are times you gotta do what you gotta do. And I just heard tonight from one of my clients that one of her books – which she generously allows people to read for free – has been stolen and is being sold for $5 on Amazon.

For those of you who wonder what to do in this situation: you email copyright@amazon.com. You  have your ISBN  number handy – and this is why I prefer to publish through Smashwords first. They keep free ones on hand for clients. You can buy one through them for $10 – a ton less than if you bought it yourself. Which means for a bit of a shuffle for working with a very amicable company, you get a bit of insurance.

Maybe she will get Amazon to see reason. Maybe she won’t. I’ve had stuff stolen before, and I can tell you there are times the whole “the victimized artist is in the rights” is just a sham. Which is why we, the reading community should stand up when the perpetrators are caught red handed.

Her covers have probably been the most luxurious and enjoyable I have ever made so far, so when she asked me to look at the cover on the stolen book and weep I did – and I am just out and out appalled.

And of course it was marked “best seller”. My client’s stuff is GOOD.

What can you do to help? Let that thief know what you think about them perhaps? No, shun the book. Make sure others shun the book. Direct them to the copy she now has on Amazon (she used to shun Amazon but no more after today) for 99 cents. We can act through boycott. We can act as a team. We can stick together. Because you can be sure if this person stole one book, they’re going to steal another. Maybe even yours.

Here is the offending stolen piece: http://www.amazon.com/Under-The-Blue-ebook/dp/B0096B7P9I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347159463&sr=8-1&keywords=josephine+dillon

Here’s the real original piece: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/90078

And here are more of the series on Amazon:



The Scent of Wild Heather

The Scent of Wild Heather

By Katrina Joyner-Belcher
Published by Writers of the Apocalypse
Rating: Not yet rated.
Published: Dec. 31, 2010
Words: 11258 (approximate)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781458173959

Short description

A park ranger of super soldier descent befriends a mysterious young woman on the run.

Extended description

Lee-i is a park ranger in a job where dragons are protected and empathy with animals is a must. But on a day when he couldn’t care less if the entire forest burns down around his ears he stumbles across a young, lost runaway. He never learns her name, so he simply calls her Heather.

When he finds out that Heather is running from supernatural forces, he escapes with her into the wild. Together they run from the beast on her heels.

Heavenly Bride Chapter 2

Heavenly Bride Chapter 2

By Katrina Joyner-Belcher
Published by Writers of the Apocalypse
Rating: Not yet rated.
Published: June 13, 2010
Words: 476 (approximate)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781476451190

Short description

One dragon’s infatuation with one girl and the love that could save them both. Beautifully drawn, Heavenly Bride takes you to a world where a celestial dragon takes human form when he follows an elusive melody. He meets a young girl who might hold the key, but this new physical form brings a shame he chooses to keep to himself.

Extended description

One dragon’s infatuation with one girl and the love that could save them both.

Beautifully drawn, Heavenly Bride takes you to a world where a celestial dragon takes human form when he follows an elusive melody. He meets a young girl who might hold the key, but this new life brings new shame he chooses to hide.

Lhung is a Celestial Dragon trapped in a mortal body. This comes with your usual changes: change of shape, change of way of living, even a change in way of thinking. But it also comes with some other changes he would rather do without – and can’t run from no matter how much he wishes he could.

The kind doctor he works for offers up a solution he doesn’t like.