Monday, June 17, 2013

Writer's mechanics: publishing a picture book

This is the cover from the paperback, 8.5 X 8.5"

Smashwords cover.  You can see I trimmed it on the left and shrunk and moved the title.

Constructing a Picture Book with

Since I managed to print a reasonably successful copy of my new picture alphabet book, my friend Dixie Goode suggested I share what I learned about working on it through Createspace and Kindle (as well as Smashwords).  As it took me about a dozen attempts to get the file right, it does seem that I might be able to offer some insights that could smooth the way for others and save them from pulling all their hair out.  I will say that using the Createspace automatic conversion for Kindle seemed to work fairly well, though I had to tinker some.

1.  Images.  This was a huge pain, because images had to be extra-high quality and resolution for Createspace (in order to print well), and highly compressed for electronic publication.  Happily, this isn't as bad as it might be, especially if (unlike me) you do it right the first time.
    a.  Use Photoshop or similar to edit the images to the right size (actual size in inches) as well as to save them to at least 300 dpi.  You have to start with pretty high quality images for them to come out well in print.
    b.  Don't resize images by dragging the outline in the document.  If you do, you will have to fix messes when you convert to electronic.
   c.  Read the Smashwords formatting guide carefully.  The key thing, though, is to compress the file to make the electronic version.  Just as you need very large, high-quality images to print, you need small, web-friendly, quick-loading images in the e-book.  Happily, you can resize the whole lot at once by selecting the entire document, then using the "Reduce File Size" option in the pull-down menu under "File' (sorry--this is for the Mac.  The Smashwords guide shows how to do it on a PC).  Select the smallest setting under the options pull-down, and apply to "all pictures in Document" and hit okay.  This should shrink the whole shooting match adequately.  I had to do it a few times before I got it right, though.  I think it was only shrinking single pictures.

2.  Fonts.  For the printed book, great big fonts are fine.  I used huge ones for the initial letters for each page, and very large type for the rest.  That doesn't cut it for e-books.  For my Smashwords publication, I had to cut the size of fonts down to 18 pt. or less, so I used 18 for the initials, and 12 for the rest of the text.  If people want it larger, of course, I think all e-readers allow them to enlarge it.  The best way to do this is to redefine the styles, since otherwise underlying styles and fonts can mess things up.  This was more trouble than it should have been.

Those two elements were the primary issues with the picture book.  Oh, and I'd chosen a square format for the print book, and designed the cover to match.  Smashwords uses a standard vertical rectangle for cover thumbnails, so I had to make a modified cover.  If you are using non-standard shapes, you will need to think about this too.  It was easy for me, because I designed my own cover, had the files, and can use Photoshop enough to make the necessary changes (see images above).

Because I had initially done my images without paying attention to size/quality, as well as doing some re-sizing in the document, I discovered an interesting quirk with CS's review process.  Basically, each time I uploaded the file, it pegged another two or three pictures as being too small (and not in any rational order, either).  I'd fix those, upload again, and be told some others were too small.  Eventually I got smart, changed all the pictures I hadn't yet done, and got past it.  I have no idea why it couldn't just tell me from the start that all my pictures were wrong.  

Finally, I am working to resolve a problem with spacing on the first picture page, which appears correct in my Word file, but puts the photo off-center in the CS version. I have examined everything I can think of to examine, and it should be correct (as it appears in the Word file).  But it doesn't.  Anyone with insights should let me know, or I'll go mad.  Meanwhile, I'm going on selling it with one picture slightly off center, in order to prove that I am human, not divine.


  1. Maybe I know how to fix that. I had the same problem with my Princess Primrose and the Curse of the Big Sleep I just published. The issue was that the artwork aligned itself with the first line of each paragraph, which was indented, instead of the rest of the paragraph. If you click on the drawing, then do a format paragraph, make sure that all the measurements are 0, and that you don't have a first line indent there. Does that make sense? LOL. Hope so!

    1. That does make sense. Only, the text is also centered. But I will double-check that first line indent thing--it might be able to mess it up even if centered.

  2. Of course, I'm assuming you used Word. If not, then I got nothing. LOL

    1. I am. And, of course, it looks exactly right in the Word document. I should save as a PDF and see if it shows up there.

  3. This is great information! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hope it helps some, maybe even to not be too scared of the process!

      And I'll share if I ever figure out that glitch, too.

  4. Bobbi, I've checked your suggestion and no go. Formatting matches every other page. Most frustrating: I saved the document as a PDF and tested it, and the PDF is fine. Maybe if I upload the PDF to Createspace instead of the .docx file it would work, but I hate to start all that again on the off chance it'll fix the problem.


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