Thursday, May 10, 2012

Picture Book Creation Part 3

In our last post about creating picture books we mentioned that the fun part was writing and illustrating and the not so fun part was getting the book ready to publish.  This post is about how we prepare our picture books for publishing on Amazon.  If you want to publish on iBooks you should use the Book Creator ap, but unfortunately it does not have a mobi output type.

So, Amazon is easier to do business with and iBooks is easier to format.  Isn't that always the case.

We chose to go with Amazon since this is a hobby for us and you don't have to purchase ISBN numbers to publish on Amazon.  Everything on the Internet says you SHOULD DEFINITELY assign ISBN numbers to your books.  We don't.  Call us contrary.  Call us cheap.  Just don't call us late to dinner (sorry, couldn't resist that one).  My guess is that you probably should invest in the whole ISBN thing, but we really do just like to write the books.  Using Amazon let's us get them to market without any investment and we like that.

However, Amazon's Kindle platform and the mobi file seem to be targeted towards print books.  The KDR user guidelines say images are supported and that is true, but what we have found is that the format likes to move the text around.  This is great if you have a text book, or the occasional illustration.  It is a disaster if you have a picture book.  The words go with the picture and they need to stay put regardless of orientation, font size, etc.

We really struggled with this on our first couple of books.  We resolved it by going through the following steps.

NOTE.  This is how we do it.  It is not the way professionals do it so if you know how to code you can get much better results that way.  This is for the do it yourselfer/figured it out on our own type publisher :)

Our Process:

1. Email the illustrations to our desktop computer.  If you read past posts you may remember that we illustrate with Procreate on an iPad.

2. Open the pictures in Paint and copy them.

3. Paste the pictures in PowerPoint and make them all the same size.  We have found that 4.91" by 6.71" is a good size.  This will fit on a Kindle and allows room for text below the picture.

4. Create a text box below the picture in PowerPoint and add the text that goes with the illustration.

5. Keep this page format (insert duplicate slide) and create a new PowerPoint slide for each page making sure the text box is in the same place and the illustrations are roughly the same size. Small differences in illustration size shouldn't be a problem.

6. Now you have your book in PowerPoint and it looks great! The problem is that Amazon will not accept an upload from PowerPoint so now you need to create a Word document.

7. Use one of the various screen capture techniques to copy the illustration and text box as one image.  There are many free "screen" or "image" capture tools available for download.

8. Copy the image you just captured which includes the illustration and text box into Word.

9. Insert a page break after each image and repeat this process until you have all of your pages in order in the Word document.

10. Now you should be able to upload the Word document to Amazon and have a fairly good looking product.  Again, not as good as the big publishers with their fancy programmers, but a pretty good looking product for a self publisher.

Questions you may be asking.

Why not just start in Word and skip the PowerPoint steps?  We have not found a good way to link the text to the picture in Word in such a way that the Kindle program will keep the text with the picture.  The PowerPoint step helps us format the pages and creates an image where the text and illustration are one and cannot be separated.  Very important for picture books.

Why insert a page break? If your illustrations are smaller or larger it seems that the Kindle publishing program will right size them when page breaks are present.  This is also why you want all of the images to be roughly the same size. It keeps the font from getting larger and smaller as the Kindle program tries to standardize the sizes.  Again, we are guessing somewhat at this, but it sure seems like we get much better consistency when the original upload has consistent sizes.

If you are a programmer we can hear you laughing at us, but if you are someone who just wants to take a stab at a picture book this process will get you started.

If you have a process you use to publish picture books to Amazon let us know your tricks.  We would like to keep getting better so we thought it would be great to let everyone know our process and hopefully we'll get some good suggestions in return.

At the end of the process here is what we have.  Shameless promotion time.  Please let everyone know about our newest picture book. Summer Day Let's Play! Click on the picture to buy our book!

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