Everything I did wrong when I tried to make a digital comic file

kindlecomiccreator

As promised! Wow, where to begin.

First off I will start off by saying this is referring to creating a .mobi file with the Kindle Comic Creator to be used as a kindle book for sale on Amazon. I made digital files for Comixology and IndyPlanet as well, but all that involved was sending them a .zip file of nice huge .tiff images and they do they rest!

…not so with Kindle.

Now, before I dive in to the comedy of errors that has been my past two days, let me share some links:

And now on to my list of gaffes.

1) I tried to use Kindle Panel View.

Now, this might be a good idea for some comics. What I didn’t know is that if your comic needs to use double-page spreads (say you have splash images that take up 2 pages) YOU CAN’T DO THIS.

Other problems with Panel View: you have to manually drag to select all your panels because panel detect ONLY works if you have black bordered panels separated with a clean white gutter. If you have a black or dark gutter, or a background image behind your panels, or inset panels, forget it.

Worse yet was the dragging functionality for selection: After selecting my panels I had to then go back and re-drag to specify the “zoom” area of every single panel. So I had to do the same thing twice, for every panel…otherwise when someone used Panel View they would get tiny little arbitrary slices of each panel and that was it.

And if that weren’t bad enough, it’s incredibly hard to drag those panels in the first place…they constantly keep snapping back into place if you don’t click outside them in the exact right way, and half the time it won’t even let you drag at all anyway because the drag area is so incredibly small. My wrists after a 42 page comic are SHOT.

2) God help you if you need to change Panel View on/off after you’ve started.

Because…you can’t! You’d better darn well know whether you want to do Panel View or Double Page Spreads (and remember this is EITHER/OR) before you start. If you end up having to change this, you get to start a whole new file! Lucky you! (Lucky me after I found out you can’t have double page spreads with Panel View.)

3) FILE SIZE

Turns out that even though you’re technically allowed to use PNG and TIFF files for your images…no. No, it must be JPG/JPEG and only JPG. Because your images can only be 800kb or smaller and your mobi file had better darn well be under 50mb if you don’t want Amazon to slap a big ugly (well it’s not big I guess, but it looks scary and foreboding) warning on your sales page saying “Due to large file size, this book may take longer than usual to download.” YUCK!

Worse, for those of you selling a comic for $1.99, you can’t do this unless it’s 50mb or less. (I’ve also heard that $0.99 books must be 10mb or less.)

The only way to achieve this is pretty much to use JPGs. I, of course, tried non-lossy file formats like TIFF and PNG first…can you say 2GB file??

4) …Except the cover file is different!!

Yes, the cover file and only the cover file can be larger in dimension than all your comic page files…and you actually NEED to use the dimensions they give you [1563×2500] because otherwise it’ll look all jacked up on the device. Well la~de~dah!! …at least you can update the cover image without making a new .mobi file, but I suspect you have to delete the old cover image from your folder or it may refuse to keep the update.

5) How in heck do I get my double page spread???

After I was on my second or seventh or eightieth new mobi file (had to remove panel view, then had to reduce the size of individual pages) I did the whole “double page spread” thing and thought I had it made. But when I went to preview it, it was still in portrait only displaying single pages!! Now, to go back a bit, when you start making your file in Kindle Comic Creator, you have to pick Portrait, Landscape, or Unlocked. …except, no matter what you say, you have to pick Unlocked if you want your double-page spread to work at all.

kindle comic creator dialog box

The good news is, if you selected Portrait or Landscape instead, this can be changed.

6) What can’t be changed is the canvas size. Time for another new mobi file!

Below the Portrait/Landscape/Unlocked options you’ll notice there’s “canvas size” dimensions to pick. ONCE THESE ARE SET THEY ARE IN STONE. Thus, if you were perhaps to get distracted by a late-night episode of Perry Mason (the original black and white series naturally) and did NOT switch these babies around to reflect Portrait as Opposed to Landscape, or Landscape as opposed to Portrait, you will have to REDO EVERYTHING LATER!

This became an issue because the “Kindle for PC” I downloaded from Amazon won’t let me rotate the virtual Kindle. Thus, I couldn’t see that when you rotate it, your double-page spreads show up. I panicked. Did this mean that I actually needed my dimensions to be in landscape mode, reflecting the size of two pages, and then two pages would populate in the preview like they were supposed to???

NO.

kindle landscape capture

Nope! Kindle defaults to displaying one page at a time in your selected mode. Therefore, if you have traditional (Portrait) comic pages and you put it in Landscape, you will still only get one page displayed at a time but now there will be a VAST SEA OF NOTHINGNESS on either side. AND you will no longer have access to the Double-Page Spread option that you desperately need for your splash pages. Yeah, THAT was worth making the 10th mobi file or so to find out…

7) So in other words, preview your comic using Kindle Previewer, NOT Kindle for PC.

It actually lets you flip the blasted thing, and then you will be comforted to see your double-page spreads do in fact exist and were not just a madman’s dream. They let you download Kindle Previewer when you’re making your book! It also comes bundled with Kindle Comic Creator but you may prefer the separate version.

the double page spread on kindle previewer

It really existed after all! *SOB* …I forgot which mobi file is the right one by this point, where did I save it…?

8) Hey, so about that pricing and description…

Yes, admittedly after all that I flaked out and just slapped a random price on my book without double-checking what prices I had set in other online venues. AND I neglected to use the book description field to talk in-depth about the book or include a link back to my website. More Amazon Bookshelf edits!!!!

9) To summarize, what I SHOULD HAVE DONE.

To get low file sizes, use JPG files no greater than 1280px on the largest side. The exception is your cover, which should be 1563X2500px. Also, have a portrait-oriented cover for a portrait-oriented comic, and a landscape-oriented cover for a landscape-oriented comic, or you will run into trouble.

To achieve Double-Page Spread in order to preserve splash pages, turn Panel View OFF, select the UNLOCKED orientation and set your canvas size to the dimensions of a single comic page. Don’t save until you’re certain your settings are perfect or you’ll be making a new file!! Preview in the actual Amazon Previewer, not Kindle for PC.

If you use Panel View, remember Double-Page Spread and “Unlocked” (ability to rotate) orientation will not be an option for you. It’s best to use Panel View for comics with very pronounced, simple panels on a white background so you can use the “auto-detect panels as much as possible.” If you must draw panels, ensure that the zoom for each panel is selected properly. Have someone burly massage your wrists afterwords and offer you chocolate and spirits.

Preferably someone like:

pery-mason

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