November 29, 2013

Self-publishing a picture book is really fun!

Well that was a gigantic lie.

I've been busy. Making a book. To self-publish. In other words, I am in HELL.

I thought I'd start making some of my stories into books. I've got some BIG BOOKS planned baby! But instead of starting with one of the biggies, I thought maybe I'd better test the waters with a story that's already proved its mettle, so to speak, on my blog. I selected a story, a well loved family story, with a universal theme - the junction between childhood and adolescence - The LAST Snowman.

This story is fully baked. Should work fine as a book, right?

Wrong.

Oh so wrong.

I have never been so wrong...(unless you count that time with that guy).

I noticed things in the drawings that bothered me and I had to finesse them. The pacing suddenly didn't work when I imagined another parent reading the story to their child. Establishing context became more important to build the tension. More drawings were needed.

And the text - where did all these repeated words come from?

What did I mean when I wrote this?


Do I really need to write that something happens in the story if I
show it happening in the illustration?


I reached out to those with more knowledge than I, and received valuable editing suggestions and advice. I honed, crafted, massaged, second-guessed and streamlined the story, and tried to stay true to the feel of the original blog post. I don't know if I've succeeded. A blog post is one thing; a book is another.

And then came formatting the bugger. With digital publishing, there's different types of files that you can make for a book. Oh wait....you're making a picture book? And it's landscape...as in "horizontal"? Sorry, but NONE of the eBook sellers out there (Amazon Kindle, iBook, Nook, Google Play) seem to be there yet. Here's the skinny (as far as I grasp it, which is not nearly as far as I like to throw this book):

You're supposed to start with InDesign and bring your pretty pictures in there. I hate InDesign with the burning intensity of a thousand suns. Then you export them to the different file formats: PDF, ePUB and MOBI. You really have to install plugins and screw around with the settings. My goal was to achieve a "two-page spread" - that is, one image spread over two pages, in the horizontal aspect of the device.

The PDF looked beautiful in iBooks on my iPad.

iKnowright?


But it failed at displaying
horizontally in the Kindle app on my friend Stephie's Android tablet. The bottom was cut off.

Stephie screencapped this for me while she was in a bubble bath; that was nice of her don't you think?

The ePUB file supposedly works well for text heavy books with a vertical (portrait) aspect ratio. Horizontal picture books? Not so much. Also, the colours were a bit washed out.

Some kinda weird artifact glommed onto this page and it won't shake loose.

MOBI (for Kindle or a device that has a Kindle app on it) - same dealio.

Two different sized frames on the vertical. WHY???
Remember, I'm looking for something that delivers a single image on each page change. I want to control all the things!

And then...I discovered the Kindle Comic Creator. KC2 is made by Amazon just for creating comics and picture books for Kindle, it's easy to use and it's free. I downloaded that baby, and threw my images into it hoping for the elusive two-page spread. Ten minutes later I had this:

Success!

Ideal preview results on all the Kindle Fires. No messing around with InDesign and all those crazy export settings.

Just for fun, here's the Kindle Paperwhite:

Woof.

But I still had to check out how it would appear in the Kindle apps on actual tablets. The Android passed with flying colours.

My friend Brandie screencapped this on her new Samsung tablet. 
And then I tested the KC2 MOBI (KF8) file on my iPad. It was a fail.

I blame Steve Jobs.

The KC2 Guide says it will work on the iPad Kindle app, but from what I can see, it did not deliver my "two-page spread".


AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TEST BOOK.

I hear you laughing.

For all you Apple-cores, I'll be checking out the iBooks Author at some point. Or I'll just go with Blurb. We'll see.

Now the next big question is, "should I hire a publicist?" 

The LAST Snowman will launch during the first week of December 2013, Kindle version on Amazon. Holy crap, that's next week.