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!

MISSTEP [Kindle Edition]

Publication Date: December 14, 2011

When 32-year old career minded Trish Owens marries engineer Thomas, she gets his 10 year old son Duncan as part of the package. Trish happily plunges into her new role of stepmom without bothering to read the fine print.
Quicker than you can say blended family, Sunny, the biomom, tightens her stranglehold on the two males from her former life. Trish finds herself scuffling with Sunny over everything from haircuts to homework and bed times to boundaries.
From one misstep to another, Trish takes a wild ride on the custody carousel as she searches to understand her deepest emotions about parenting. Ultimately, she discovers the only thing harder than raising her own kid is raising someone else’s.
As of the year 2010, more Americans were living in step families than nuclear families. That’s a whole lot of blending going on and it’s a whole lot of potential trouble for stepmoms. Trish gives a voice to all stepmoms who have dared to love another mother’s child.

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. 😦