When too small really means too large

Picture of cover Iron Admiral: ConspiracyThis post is going to be a kind of whiny rant. But, you know, sometimes, it’s deserved, don’t you think?

I’ve been doing some cover makeovers of late – comes from playing with new covers. Looking at my books on Amazon, I decided the two Iron Admiral titles were a bit hard to read, so I would increase the size of the font. Easily done in Photoshop. Now to update the various vendors. Amazon wants 1500 x 2500 pixels. Fine. That’s how I design them. Upload done. Now to Omnilit. They want 200 x 300, so that needed a bit of tweaking and resizing. And then I went to Smashwords.

Now, I had updated a cover on Smashwords not a few days before (Christmas Day, actually, when I’d changed the font on Morgan’s Choice). It had gone through without a hitch, so I was more than a little surprised when after my image was uploaded I received an error message. Sorry, (I was told) for Premium your image is too small. Go check the requirements. So I did. Minimum width of 1400 pixels – check. Height more than width, so the cover is a rectangle – check. File size under 20MB – check. Strange. MC’s cover uploaded without a hitch and it has the same dimensions as this one.

So I tried again. Maybe a problem with the upload? Nope. Same result. I tried looking at other possibilities. I’d altered the font on my name to add a bevel so it stood out from the background a little better. The guidelines said ‘no 3D or pseudo 3D, like shadows. It seemed a bit over the top, but I removed the bevel. Still not playing. In desperation I changed the width to 1600 pixels, which Smashwords recommends. Still no dice. At this stage I’m about ready to punch somebody out. I read the FAQ’s (again) and send the support people an email.

Ah, but I also put a Tweet on Twitter. “? 1500 pixels is bigger than 1400 pixels, isn’t it? Have I missed something?”

And a friend noticed this and responded, asking if I was trying to upload a cover to Smashwords. If so, the error message really means the file is too large.

I was prepared to try anything so I reduced the size of the file from 2.8MB to 1.1MB. And lo! It loaded, resulting in even more swear words dancing in the air around my head.

The old IT professional lurking in my past came to the fore and said, “This should not happen”. DON’T tell people you accept 20MB files when you really mean (I presume) 2MB. And DON’T have a generic error message for cover size failure or you will upset people and become the cause of elevated blood pressure and bad language. And might I also suggest DON’T make people wait until you’ve re-converted their MS docs before you tell them the image file is too large/small. I sent another support email to Smashwords, explaining the ‘fault’ had been fixed and suggesting they change their error message. But I’ve found in the past that getting through to big organisations can be a little like changing the course of an ocean liner. Ah, well. I tried.

This has been a public service announcements for users of Smashwords. And heartfelt thanks to Patty, who gave me the answer via Twitter.

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About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 28 December 2012, in On writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Rant away. I would never figure it out. I’m tech illiterate and I’ve had issues with SW. And I hear Pubit is giving people fits right now. Once upon a time Pubit was quite easy to use. Even Amazon gave me an error message yesterday when I attempted to update a book. But the problem wasn’t mine and Amazon had the book updated within four hours.

    • SW has very strict, very restrictive guidelines on the document itself. It’s not too hard if you have the know-how. But this cover crap really got up my nose. I hope they do something about it.

  2. Smashwords had 13 employees last I checked. Small companies don’t always have the resources to test things properly before letting them loose on their users. On the bright side, it also means they don’t have the resources to have layers of bureaucracy just for the sake of it. So if your email gets read, it’ll probably go straight to the person who does all their web coding, meaning it should get fixed pretty soon.

    • Well, that’s not very many people at all. I hope you’re right. Testing is a particular gripe of mine, though. I appreciate the testing problem, especially on a web interface where you have so many platforms but I would have thought this was a pretty fundamental test – and that 20MB maximum size is a real oops.

  3. Greta, you should post your rant directly to Mark Coker’s FB page – he actually reads it

  4. I don’t look at covers much since my Kindle but I know some people use them still as part of their purchasing decision. I’m filing all this advice away (plus holding onto contact information!!) against the day I might do that self pubbed route. THANKS

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