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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Ups and Downs: Publishing a Comic on Createspace


This entry is probably going to come out as more of a complaint in regards to my recent experience with the Createspace publishing machine. I, as an author and comic book artist, am about to release the second chapter book volume in my romance series, The Heavenly Bride. I decided I would go ahead and republish the first book through Createspace, as that’s currently one of the most popular options to self publish when it comes to print on demand. I assembled my book, I went through all my steps, and then I hit it.

Overall when it comes to prose of any sort, Amazon’s Createspace is a gem for the publishing world. It’s created to be a simple to handle system with a guided step for step how to if you need it. Their cover creator isn’t half bad, and overall the system is great. But when it comes to anything with pictures on it, partially or otherwise, I have recently discovered it’s a bit of a nightmare. And what has made it a nightmare can only be blamed on the system by half. The other half has come from their “customer service”.

So let me give you the rundown real quick on my most recent and still ongoing experience with their uploading machine. I’m going to over each step as I have went through it and rate that part of their system on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Uploading Ease

As I mentioned before, using Createspace can be quite easy. In fact despite my sick-with-a-cold frog voice, I even recorded some of the process in regards to their cover creator for an online tutorial I hope to post later. If you have a book that’s all words, you’re probably good to go.

I on the other hand, am trying to upload 119 pages of pictures and 3 pages of written words. Createspace’s system, when choosing your book’s layout, has no provision for a book like that. You must either choose pages that extend into your bleed area – that area that gets trimmed when the book is being made – or pages that stop before the bleed area.

If you know nothing about comic books, you can still understand that it’s 99% artwork. Some pages are going to flow and I like to draw things to go off the edge of the page on occasion. Then there are all of the other pages that stop before they go too far. There is no option for “some pages extend to the bleed and some do not” so I had to choose. I chose full bleed, hoping the system would have the common sense not to freak out if something didn’t go to the edge of the page. I mean, it’s common sense right?

I’d probably rate this part of their system as an 8 because of it’s inflexibility.

Automatic Computer Checking

After you upload your book – a PDF is recommended – their computers take the document and process it through their little gears to spit out a preview if you choose that option. I highly recommend that option because it lets you see if there are going to be any issues that you can fix before you go through the trouble of submitting your book for review by Amazon’s live people only to have it rejected.

To my surprise, there were many pages in my book that were flagged. What were they flagged for? Images with white borders, because they were pictures that I never intended to bleed off the page, didn’t go into the bleed area far enough. In fact the entire page was flagged that way. But the sliver of space that wasn’t far enough was so tiny, you couldn’t see it with the naked eye. It never would have shown at all if it were sent to print, and as far as I could tell by the preview the book would have looked exactly as I wanted it to.

After exchanging an email to the Createspace people – a part of the story I’ll save for the next section – I corrected some errors of my own making and uploaded the book again. This time not only were the image pages flagged, but the book’s two blank white pages containing no data were flagged as having images going into the gutter. The title page, all prose with very large margins, was flagged for not extending into the bleed area. And the copyright page was also flagged.

At this point you can tell the system to ignore the issues and submit your document for publication anyway, hoping the Createspace employees have eyes and can read for themselves. Which is what I have done.

When it comes to getting a preview of how your book is going to look, their system is pretty accurate. I definitely would rate this a 10.

Customer Service

I think the employees at Creatspace, the two that I have been in contact with, were pretty nice but I lost my patience an hour ago.

The first employee was very nice as he wrote me a very long letter talking about how they had to ensure “quality,” and that was why my book was rejected. One mistake on my part was my PDF page size; it was off a bit. But the rest, I was told, had everything to do with the book’s pages being required to extend past the bleed area because that was the option I chose. Quality, he said. They only put out quality material.

I responded nicely after spending literally a full day remaking the PDF again and again and again. If you’re not sure what this means, this means that the quality of my images would have been getting worse and worse with each save if I weren’t someone who knows how to save in lossless encoding. Fortunately I am. After changing the size and getting all of the image pages to be accepted into their system, the blank pages and prose pages remained a problem.

I attached screencaps to my email, showing how what was being flagged isn’t an issue of quality at all. Wasn’t it their job to look at a book and catch problems like this, to help move things along? I pointed out that blank pages were being flagged for having content going into the book gutters when, in fact, there was no content to go into the gutters. Then I pointed out that other pages with no images were being flagged for not having images extending into the bleed area, and that one of those pages was the copyright page. Simple issues, right? Nothing to halt a book when there are thinking people on the other end. You just have to not let computers think for you.

My response from Amazon wasn’t even by the same person. My account was started all over again with a new person, who “reviewed” my case. They could certainly understand my frustration, they told me, but the pages needed to extend to the edge of the page. There were problems with content going into the gutters, they said. Very clearly, at this stage, not only was I not going to get consistent service I wasn’t going to get thinking service.

It is very apparent that this last customer service representative who “understands my frustration” couldn’t understand how to open a book. They only understood how to read a computer report but couldn’t quite get how to investigate what was really going on. I also noticed that they apparently didn’t see the screenshots I attached to my last email.

My response was anything but polite. People who let machines do all their thinking for them gets on my nerves. I would certainly rate Amazon’s customer service in this area a big fat 1.

Quality

Every time I’ve gotten a book proof for my clients through Amazon, I’ve been okay with the quality. However when it comes to the comic book process, I’m very concerned at what quality Createspace’s ineptitude is pushing my book to. It appears that the only way to get past their computer god is to turn all of my written prose pages into full bleed images. This will lower print quality considerably. It’s something I really hate doing as a result. I like my prose pages to be crisp and clear.

So publishing a comic is possible through them, but at a cost any caring self publisher should be leery about paying.

So for all of their touting to me about how they care about quality first, I’d say probably not so much. If quality were truly important here, my book would get the visual treatment it deserves. I’ll give it a rating of 5.

Recommendation

For prose, I would certainly recommend Createspace’s system although I also would tell people not to limit themselves to just Amazon. You want your book to have as wide an audience as possible.

For comics, I probably wouldn’t be able to recommend them at all unless you’re willing to put up with slightly blurry pages and lack of serious customer support. I would, on the other hand, recommend Drivethru Press which has always treated me well and prints some good stuff. I would also recommend Lulu, believe it or not, if you want to print some manga books to sell yourself.

Perhaps Createspace may redeem itself tomorrow, but twice bitten you know. And that’s my rundown on the comic process when going through them. All you comic authors out there can take it as you will.

Overall rating: 8

EDIT: I stand corrected. My book just got rejected for – wait for it – not having a margin of at least .30. My margins are .50. And the full bleed pages… don’t have… margins… for obvious reasons.

New overall rating: 3

From here I could go into the entire websites, forum threads, and scores of disgruntled authors that have had trouble with Createspace. Most of them have my own complaint about customer service, only they have used stronger words. I personally will from hereforth be looking for a new publisher to replace the Createspace service. Lulu would be an option but I find their publishing platform too expensive for distribution. If I find other resources I will keep you posted.

Review Etiquette, my point… of view.


I recently joined a reciprocal book review group because I thought it would be fun – and when you’re an aspiring writer you need reviews. And I suppose I should probably be talking about this on my professional profile blog as a result… but this is going to be a post about something very important to the marketing process in eBook publishing. Which means it belongs more here. Don’t you love me for it?

Reciprocal reviews. Some people feel an indie author should never stoop to “creating a buzz”, I mean after all the more successful traditionally published authors don’t. It’s false representation, that’s what it is. How fake. How deplorable. How cheap and low down, dirty.

Others, usually those down and dirty indies, point out that those more successful published authors not only have buzzes created for them… some of those buzzes are paid for. Some of those famous reviewers make a living doing just that. And what exactly is the difference between paying a high sum for a specific magazine to review a book vs going to some place like Fiverr.com and paying $5 for a review?

Honesty, they’re told. Those $5 reviews are ALL LIES. … And those other fake reviews are more honest how? is the reply. It goes on like that.

Well, I can say from small experience that a buzz is important to an author’s career. So are reviews – things that let other potential readers know that so-and-so unknown has been read at least once. I value an honest review, even if I paid for it. And if I’m going to give a review, I’m going to be very honest.

Because a review is more than creating a buzz. It’s an honest opinion. Which is WHY it’s called a review and not propaganda.

So to get back to my story, I had to tell the group a little about myself, say what I would and would not read, and what I liked to write. One of the things I told them I didn’t want to read was erotica (thanks but I have a love life), and that any review I gave would be brutally honest. Each of us in the reading group were set with another, we traded books with one another, and I set to reading.

My personal rules of etiquette were immediately called into question on this one. I could NOT honestly give this book a five star review, not without breaking my personal rules of etiquette. People’s reactions to the review I gave got me to thinking… do people even understand that there’s an etiquette to giving and receiving book reviews the same as with so many different things?  So let’s go through my five personal etiquette rules for book reviews one at a time, using not only this incident as an example but some reviews that have happened to me.

1. Authors: know what your reviewer likes.

Strike one with this book – and it was the biggest strike – is that despite me stating I did not like erotica I was given a story full of not only sex, but sexual situations due to coercion and manipulation. Before the tenth paragraph I was disgusted with the book and wanted to call it quits. If it weren’t for:

2. Readers: if you can do it, finish the book. You may be glad you did:

I probably would have put the stupid thing down forever. Think about it: would you solicit your fantasy book to a technical manual publisher? How about “I Will Love Hitler Forever” to a Jewish company? You want your book to be received well by whomever is reading it, for whatever reason they’re reading it. Giving them material they’re going to dislike is sure to go the other way.

3. Authors: For the love of the unholy, spellcheck and make sure of your grammar. Yes, we all make mistakes in our written word. Piers Anthony is dyslexic, and many another writers have had the help of ghost writers unsung and unknown. With liberal access to spell checking features in word processors, dictionary.com, and other places there is no excuse for people who want to come off as professional writers to not to make sure their work is of a professional quality.

When I got to the very glaring grammatical errors in this book, I had to reread sentences to understand what was going on. Prepositional phrases started off with the wrong word. The action jumped. It completely threw me out of the story – which is something you never want your reader to do even if they’re only reading a sample copy. You want your reader to remain immersed in that green world you have created. Nothing should make them lose their slender grip on that reality.

4. Readers: be honest.  You’re being asked to give an opinion, and although every author wants you to give them five stars and a cookie they also want, if they’re serious about their craft, to be good authors. So mothers, daughters, brothers, uncles: when you’re asked to look at your granddaughter’s, nephews, etc book you want to tell them honestly how you feel. Put it as gently as you like, but if that book is WRITTEN terribly you should say so.

How you’re honest is up to you and the importance of that honesty will be spelled out in the next rule. On the rare occasions I read a book for review, if I feel I should give that book I’m given 3 stars or less I would rather not say anything at all. If I feel like the author will handle the comments like a professional, I will tell them why. But I dislike certain confrontations. I guess I’m lucky I haven’t had to do that yet.

If I were just reviewing something arbitrarily on the Apocalypse Blog and had to give it less than 4 stars, I’d be brutally honest: no one has given me any favors expecting me to be bribed into propaganda in that situation.

5. Authors you want that honesty more than you want the propaganda. Listen to the criticism, then decide what you can learn from it with grace. My OEL manga, Heavenly Bride, has been getting some good reviews lately – because of some bad reviews several years ago. I can’t remember the wording exactly, but the gist was that the story built up too slowly, the conversion from webcomic to eBook form was horrible, and that it overall just plain sucked. At first when I found those reviews my feelings were hurt – and then I started to think. And research. And learn. And finally had to admit they were right. I rewrote the beginning and the last bad review I got wasn’t so bad. You can’t please everybody, and most people you can’t please at all. I know I did a good job. I move on.

On the other hand, there was an intelligent woman I knew – a genius in fact – who wrote a book. To get opinions and readers, she put up a blog and asked people to read it. One by one, people stopped reading. Me included. Because it was horrible. But we didn’t have the heart to tell her. You couldn’t. She was too defensive about it, too quick to jump your case for saying anything.  The last time I tried to tell her, she said angrily, “I don’t want to be a Stephen King.” And to this day, years and years later, she’s not published to my knowledge.

Well.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine having written something and like some ghost stuck in it’s own past being unable to evolve to write better.

And I guess it’s because when I was going to school all instructors, not just ones teaching English, were still allowed to take points off for grammar that I care so much about professional writers writing well.

I’m glad I know the thrill of an honest five star review – it’s almost as good as reading a book that deserves one.

Okay, no you don’t want to be Stephen King. You want to be Mr. or Mrs. Better Than Stephen King. The way to do that is to write better than Stephen King – and if that means listening to someone tell you why you’re not better than, then stop acting like you’re being bullied in the playground and listen to what they have to say. And to reiterate, it means polishing your spelling, your grammar, watching the pitch of your action, sending the right copy to the right reviewer, and being willing to write again. And again. And to always be on the lookout for improvement.

And reviewers, if you stop to be honest with why a book is bad or even why a book is GOOD you might learn something yourself. It’s all in the art of self integrity – and of why we do what we do in the first place.

_________________________

If this was helpful to you in any way, please consider buying the author a thank-you glass of soda. She’s addicted and needs a fix. Just send a donation to death @ apocalypsewriters.com or kausha @ hotmail.com.

Don’t Rush a Good Cover (Why a rushed cover is bad and the marketing of making one.)


Oft times I’ll get that hurried client that wants a book cover. They want a good book cover, an original book cover, one of my best, and they want it NOW. They want their name in neon lights above the title, they want the image to catch attention, and at the same time they want blurbs like “Voted the best by the book readers monthly,” or “a strange man finds a strange object in a strange place at a strange time! What will he do?!?!” all over the picture.  And they get frustrated if I can’t deliver in a hurry. Sometimes they’ll hire someone else and my time is wasted.

If you want a good book cover, a really compelling book cover, from me or just about anybody the first rule is don’t rush it. Sometimes inspiration strikes and I’m able to produce that next masterpiece within minutes. But then there are other times when it’s like I’m pounding my head against a wall for weeks.

So you want covers like this?

If you do, then you have to let the artist think a bit. You wouldn’t cause the premature birth of your child. In some ways it’s the same thing.

When making a book cover, I don’t just slap words over the image and call it a day. I’m considering the following factors:

  1. What will catch the reader’s eye/attention?
  2. What looks great?
  3. Are the words readable when the image is a thumbnail as well as when its big?
  4. Does the lettering style fit the overall theme?
  5. Which is more important: author name or book title?
  6. Does this picture represent the book properly?
  7. Are the images and fonts legal to use?

And more.

The science of making book covers for the internet is similar to book covers for print books, but it’s not exact. With print books, the cover has to attract someone’s attention from across a room. The important part, title or author name, have to be readable from a few feet away. All of the information has to somehow be represented right there from the author’s name to what the book is about. There’s a variety of ways to do this, but the most tried and true methods appear to be putting “new” on the cover if the book is new by a famous author. Famous author’s name big and bold with book title not so much. Image matches content and can be foil, shiny: something that will flash like a neon sign. Blurbs such as “couldn’t put it down!” by some reviewer let people know the book is awesome. (Even when its not.)

With eBooks, the information the cover has to carry is split between it – the image – and the page the image is on. So things like the author’s name, if the book is new, what the book is about, review blurbs, and all other details are on the book’s home page. Take for example this Smashwords page for my book Black Wolf Silver Fox: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/4937

There’s the name of my book, my name, when it was published, two descriptions on what it’s about (the back cover material), search tags, and if I had any reviews that would be there too.

By contrast, look at my book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Wolf-Silver-Fox-ebook/dp/B002H9XUP4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1347812970&sr=8-2&keywords=black+wolf+silver+fox

You’ll see the book cover, about me, about the book, other books bought by people who bought it, a couple of reviews (its a miracle!), when it was published, and so on.

All of that information is put together on the book’s page when the book is set. The cover? Yeah. Let’s take a closer look at my cover.

Most importantly, the picture is very compelling. I have a woman representing a key character in the story. Her attitude was perfect, her clothing superb, her hair awesome. I had to have that picture, and I spent my last dime getting it too. LOL.

Once I had it in hand, I tweaked it a bit to bring out her face, arms and mirror a bit more. That’s where I wanted viewer focus.

In the mirror is a another key component to the story: an hour glass. And the woman (whose name is Aramina btw) is telling you she has a secret. All of that from the book in one fell swoop. Blammo.

Secondly, I have the book title in big, readable letters. Some covers don’t give me leeway to make things that big and still have it look good, but this one did me the favor. Because Aramina, the black wolf, was on the cover I chose to make the words silver in honor to the Silver Fox.

My name there at the top is the traditional place you’d put a name for a famous author. But I’m only the author, so my name doesn’t not overpower the image and I’m not likely to let it anytime soon.

This is the third incarnation of the cover, and it’s the one that has brought me the most sales. The first two covers – omg the first two covers. I’m not showing you the first two covers. But this cover is great.

Other covers, like the Hell cover near the top of this article, can take a bit longer. My client knew what she wanted. She provided me a picture of a woman walking through a forest. (Yes, a forest.) She asked for a couple of small tweaks, but by the time I was done I had the woman walking through the depths of hell itself. It was fun, it was a challenge, it took me at least two weeks.

The Amphitrite cover, by contrast, was even more of a challenge even though making it was a simpler process. In this case, the characters had to be dressed properly for the year 1833. I wasn’t about to try to draw it: my style wasn’t appropriate for this type of story. So I had to find it. I had to find it all. Finding images of women wearing mob caps through a stock image service is next to impossible. Good images of anything similar: ha ha ha. I laugh. I scoff. It’s lucky I don’t charge by the hour. Maybe I should.

I had to research the ship. There are at least a few hundred sailing vessel types out there. I had to get the right one, especially since this story is based on fact. This meant historical research – lucky for my client I’ve a minor in history instead of a major in art. And I got very lucky. I came across an actual anonymous photograph of the exact vessel type I was looking for from that year. I felt blessed by the gods.

Is that the actual photo of the Amphitrite? I’d like to think so, but I should be so lucky.

When the idea finally began to form (right about when I found the photo, which I found first), it was a quick assembly. It took me days to find the parts, and hours to put it together. But I had to have something in my head to work from, and I had to have the puzzle pieces to assemble, and even though I managed to make a cover I’m pleased with in just a few hours… it took me about a month just to figure it out.

Unless your book has outside publicity to pull people to it, your covers run the risk of chasing readers away. An ugly cover (not represented here as a courtesy to everyone involved) will be to the reader’s eye like water off a duck’s back. Sometimes that reader will check out a book, but not always. In the bookstore, this is a big deal. It’s that shiny image that gets the buyer’s attention in the first place.

For the internet, it’s not as big a deal but it still is. Going back to my cover for Black Wolf Silver Fox: that book has been in the market for years. When sales for it nearly stopped entirely I put it to the book’s age. Making that new shiny cover taught me a lesson on that matter. People were seeing this nifty thing and buying it all over again. I just had several sales last week as a matter of fact. I’m not Stephen King, but my book isn’t dead either. I can safely say my first two covers were not helping me any at all.

My best book covers happen to belong to clients who have been previously published and built a name for themselves. This isn’t because they’re famous. It’s because they were used to waiting a year or two before they saw their books on the shelves, and they gave me space and time to think. No rush deadlines from them.

So when rushing your cover artist for that cover, stop and consider. Do you want your book to sell? Then maybe waiting a little bit isn’t going to hurt you. Maybe it’s only going to help you: like waiting a full nine months for your baby to be born, perhaps.

I’m for the right to bear arms, but bulleted lists are right out.


Bulleted lists, enigma of the eBook world. To use or not to use? Therein is the problem, and as often as I’ve researched the matter I’ve never found anyone who had a straight answer. I’ve found tutorials on how to do them, I’ve found naysayers who say to never use them, and I’ve found people who love them.

Well, after a lot of experimentation and research I have decided to become one of the naysayers. And I’m going to give you a straight answer as to why – isn’t that nice of me?

First, let’s look at bulleted lists. There are two kinds.

  • The kind that have a nifty little black “bullet” before each entry.
  • The kind that has a number or letter before each entry
  • As demonstrated in this list, or that other list. Depending.
  1. The kind that have a nifty little black “bullet” before each entry.
  2. The kind that has a number or letter before each entry
  3. As demonstrated in this list, or that other list. Depending.

These can be very handy little things, especially in  nonfiction books. They tidy things up. Hooray! However, there’s a dark side to these lists. Take a look at the following image.

See all those words that start with N-? The ones that read “No”. See the line that reads “Support for numbered and bulleted lists”? See the two No’s after it in the nice, neat little table? That is why you don’t use bulleted lists.

Now you’re asking me, “What happens if I use them anyway?” Well, for the KindleFire, Nook Color, BeBook, and various other systems you get bullets – providing you did them properly. That’s wonderful if you’re okay with shaving your audience down by how many thousands of people out there who own older or alternative ereaders and either cannot afford to get a newer version or simply do not want to. Those people don’t get to see the little black bullet. They get a strange square or a confusing question mark. Their list numbers slide off the left edge of their screen, and their document is a big mess.

So what do you do about that?

One answer split into two different solutions: You do them manually.

  • For the little black bullet, replace it with an asterick (*) or another standard symbol. Don’t use alternative symbols if you can: they also run the likelihood of becoming confused and turning into question marks.
  • For your numbered list, put the number at the start of the entry by hand as part of the sentence. In other words, don’t let Word (or whatever you’re using) automate it.
  • For the same of having a third item on this bulleted list, let me just reiterate that <ul> and <ol> are wonderful codes to use but should be avoided in eBooks.

You can make the lists a bit more “bulleted like” by changing your style in the CSS or by word to make the lines different. Instead of indenting the list by only .3″ as you would your paragraph, indent them by .6″ – name the style “Bullet” (which also happens to be the name of my dog). It’s that simple.

So there’s the straight answer. Don’t use bulleted lists – make pseudo bulleted lists. If you do them right, they look just as good without the problems you’d get the other way around.


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