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

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Book pages vs. Ereaders screens.


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. 😦