Slap Happy Larry

picturebooks, apps, eBooks, short stories

Category: Day To Day Productivity (page 1 of 2)

Just Get It Writ.

Enid Blyton productivity

iBooks Author: Making a Fixed Layout Children’s Picture Book

Lotta: Red Riding Hood made with iBooks Author available on the iBooks store for iPad

Lotta: Red Riding Hood made with iBooks Author available on the iBooks store for iPad

I noticed when searching for tips on how to make a picture book (of the sort most often produced for children), the term ‘picture book’ most often refers to a book of photos as far as iBooks go.

But I didn’t want to create a ‘photo book’. Nor did I want to use any of the fancy features of iBooks Author (IBA). After making 3 picture book apps, with all the bells and whistles, I didn’t want any music/narration/video/hyperlinks — I just wanted a plain old linear picture book. I didn’t want to spend 18 months on it, or spend weeks learning how to use new software.

ONE OPTION: BOOK CREATOR APP

I considered making my picture book with the Book Creator app, used by lots of schools when students are creating projects. Book Creator is certainly simple, and very good for use with students, but I’m not a fan of its page turns, and I want my pages to fill the entire screen.

ANOTHER OPTION FOR MAC USERS: IBOOKS AUTHOR

As it turns out, iBooks Author is amazing for what it can do as well as for what it can’t. For example, you can’t hyperlink to an image.  [Now you can.]

IBA is not set up for ‘creating’ a picture book — it’s the equivalent of Adobe InDesign in that you come to IBA after you’ve created all the story and artwork and now want to lay it all out so that it looks nice.

(My favourite ‘creating software’ is Scrivener, by Literature and Latte. Others are using Pages.)

How do I set up an iBooks Author file to create a children’s picturebook? 

tl;dr

Download my very basic IBA picturebook template.

A children’s picturebook has no chapters and only one section. So do this first:

When creating a new document, don’t choose one of the templates — pick the plain one.

Delete its first chapter. You can’t get rid of the ‘section’ below it. Start your page one in the section, then add all the rest of the pages behind it.

Step-by-step instructions are here.

Although all pages after page 01 will be indented inside IBA, as if they’re children of the ‘mother page’ 01, the reader won’t see this incorrect hierarchy, and it doesn’t really matter for us as authors either, since the pages are all numbered correctly. Consider it an unfortunate limitation of iBooks Author, which is optimised for making textbooks, not picturebooks.

Picturebook Template in iBooks Author

Word of warning:  Don’t do what I did and at a late stage decide that actually you’d like to insert a page before page one. If you do that you’ll have to shift a whole heap of assets manually. At least, I never figured out a way to insert a page before the first one.

 

Disable Portrait Setting

It’s necessary when creating a Fixed-Layout Picture Book (FXL) that you don’t want the orientation to change when a reader rotates their device. To avoid this all you need to do is click the “Disable Portrait Orientation” check-box in the iBooks Author Document Inspector.

There are a lot of Internet lamentations about how people are still making FXL books in this day and age, when flowable text exists so use that instead! But no, unfortunately 2015 is not the year in which it’s suddenly easy to create beautiful, bug-free reflowable picturebooks for iBooks. Maybe next year, Apple?

The main problem with creating a FXL book is that it won’t be available to users of iPhones and iPod touches. There are many more iPhones in the world than there are iPads. This will affect the number of downloads you get. Now you can read one of these fixed layout picture books on the small screen which actually creates another issue: For which screen size should you optimise? our Lotta: Red Riding Hood was made for iPad, but now you can read it on an iPhone, the text is actually a little small.

 

What size should I create my iBooks canvases in my art software? 

2048 x 1496px. (That’s landscape)

When you place your image onto the page in iBooks Author, type 1024 into the metrics panel of the inspector. Position it at 0,0:

iBooks Inspector Canvas Size in Pixels

What size do I make the cover?

The cover is always portrait orientation on the iBooks Store.

768 x 1004 pixels

You may have noticed that IBA works with points. I don’t know why. But if you’re interested in more information on pixels vs points, dimensions etc. etc., I found this website the most helpful.

 

What do I do about the text? Do I add the text inside my art software, or within iBooks?

This seems obvious to me now, but was a question I started with. There is a huge advantage to adding the words in iBooks Author — the end user can make use of iOS features such as dictionary, highlighting passages, or I believe there’s a setting where they can have the words read aloud to them. Also, the font will look really crisp on the screen if you’ve added the words within iBooks Author rather than embedded them into the page in your art software.

The problem is, how do I know where the words are going to go, as I make my art in a separate program? I hacked around a bit and ended up pasting all the words into iBooks Author (before doing any art at all), deciding which size font fit best (for this book size 20 looked best for the number of words per page).

Next, I took an approximate (but close enough) screen shot of each page (Cmd+Shift+4), saved the screenshot as page1, page2 etc, then used this as a semi-transparent layer in my art software as a guide to where I’d put the words. That way, I was able to create the illustration to fit around the words.

Using Screenshot as Tracing Object in Artrage

Using Screenshot as Tracing Object in Artrage

 

Page Layout

For Lotta: Red Riding Hood I have decided to stick with a traditional verso-recto design, partly because this is based on a traditional tale, so I want a traditional feel. Bear this option in mind for more modern stories: Now that you’re working with a flat screen rather than on paper with a centrefold, your graphic design is not in fact limited by that pesky join in the middle. Here is an example of interesting, magazine-esque graphic design from a book called:

TRICKY VIC: THE IMPOSSIBLY TRUE STORY OF THE MAN WHO SOLD THE EIFFEL TOWER (Click through to find more about this book at Art of the Picture Book).

TRICKY VIC- THE IMPOSSIBLY TRUE STORY OF THE MAN WHO SOLD THE EIFFEL TOWER

Here the double-spread has been broken into three distinct columns.

What should I put into the ‘Intro Media’ area?

I’ve bought children’s picturebook iBooks where the reader is subjected to a promo video of the picturebook as soon as we open it. I think this is the wrong way to use a promo video. After all, the user has already found your book, if not paid for it. Perhaps you can insert a video which provides a prologue of sorts to the story. I’m sure there are other creative ways to make use of this new digital medium. Let me know if you can think of any.

For now, I’ve decided to use this area for a landscape version of the title page. This works well. I feel an iBook picturebook needs a title page as well as a cover — after all, we’ve been conditioned as readers of picturebooks to expect end papers, a colophon and at least one title page before starting to read the story.

I designed the cover and title page pretty much simultaneously, since I wanted to use more or less the same assets to create both a portrait and landscape version of the same thing.

Here’s our front cover:

Lotta: Red Riding Hood cover for iBooks Store

Lotta: Red Riding Hood cover for iBooks Store

And the title page, which I dragged into the ‘intro media’ area in IBA:

Lotta: Red Riding Hood intro media for iBooks

Lotta: Red Riding Hood intro media for iBooks

 

What do I put into the Table of Contents Area?

You’ll need to put an image in there, maybe the digital equivalent of endpapers? I created an image related to the story, and now it doubles as a colophon. iBooks Author will show you with semi-transparent squares exactly where the page thumbnails will go, so make sure you don’t put anything ornamental or fussy behind there.

Table of Contents Background Image

Table of Contents as seen from within iBooks Author

Here’s what the same page looks like when it’s on the iPad. (Artwork is in progress during this preview.)

Table of Contents as viewed on the iPad

Table of Contents as viewed on the iPad

As you can see, Apple reserves some space for their tool bar/status bars.

I made a PNG file which you are welcome to use as a reference overlay when creating your background image in your art software. Turn it on and off as necessary to check you’ve positioned your illustration where you want it.

How do you preview an iBook on your iPad?

You need to have the iPad plugged into the Mac, with the cord. Then it will show up as a preview option. (You’ll also be reminded that you need to open iBooks.)

Important Update: Mid 2015, Apple changed iBooks so that you can now read iBooks on an iPhone as well as on an iPad. This has important consequences for how big to make the writing — bigger — and means that you’ll need to decide beforehand which device you’re going to optimise for: Will the words look a little too large on the iPad, or a little too small on the iPhone?

Next job, getting your iBook onto the iBooks Store.

  • I called the American Tax Office via Skype and requested an EIN. Strangely enough, we’ve been selling apps on the App Store since 2011 and have never needed one of those. It took no time at all — at least, it wouldn’t have, if the Skype connection had been better…. [Was it the connection, or my non-American accent?!]
  • You’ll need to download an extra piece of (free) software called Producer. (Whyyyy)
  • It took about a day for LRRH to be approved (or, overnight, since I’m here in Australia). A subsequent book seemed to appear on the iBooks store right away.
  • No, you don’t need an ISBN — it’s no longer a required field. (If you’re Canadian you might want to grab one anyway. I heard over your way, they’re free.)

The Wandering Mind

Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self.

Scientific American

The Importance Of Pretend Play In Child Development from Scientific American

Create In The Dark, Edit In Harsh Light?

Darkness triggers a chain of interrelated processes, including a cognitive processing style, which is beneficial to creativity…But they also gave [subjects] four logic problems that required a great deal of analytical thinking. This time the researchers found that while creativity thrived in the dark, careful reasoning flourished in the light.

Why Creativity Thrives In The Dark, Fast Company

Excellent Advice From Shaun Tan

…for those of us both writing and illustrating our own books. This conversation between Neil Gaiman and Shaun Tan was published a while ago, and has helped me edit my own work:

I usually refine the text last, partly because pictures are harder to do so it’s easier to edit words – I use text as grout in between the tiles of the pictures. I always overwrite, really awful, long bits of script and then I trim it down to the bare bones and then add a little bit to colour it in. At the end of all of my stories I test for wordless comprehension. So I remove the text and see if it works by itself. And if it does I feel that that’s a successful story. I don’t know if that’s an important principle but it’s helped me structure things.

Interview With Elizabeth Dulemba

Episode 68 of the podcast Escape From Illustration Island is an interview with Elizabeth Dulema, who has illustrated many books as well as Lula’s Brew, which was one of the first storybook apps on the iTunes store. Interviews with storyapp developers are pretty rare, so here are some of the most interesting points:

  • When going freelance after working for a company, it was necessary to discover her own ‘visual voice’.
  • Dulemba spends half her day marketing. “You have to.” She does postcards, but recently pulled out of contributing to other people’s portfolio websites because her own website was getting more hits than theirs.
  • Her coloring pages have been a really successful marketing project: Coloring Page Tuesday.
  • Constantly look at the work of other artists, in the same way you looked at other people’s handwriting when you were learning to write. You’ll end up with your own style.
  • Typical process: mostly digital now, Photoshop. Used to use Painter. Still draws by hand with pencil on most things, due to lack of that freedom you get with a computer but last book was done completely on the computer.
  • Dulemba tries to work out where the lighting is coming from, greying out an entire layer then creating a wedge, to work out where the light is coming from. Most artists have a default light source, for example top left, but one good way of adding something special to your work is to experiment with different sources of lighting. Perhaps the light is coming out of an open book, or from another unexpected place. (I do this too, but I usually choose a colour other than grey, and put a blend mode on it. It often stays there in the final product, with the colour unifying the entire picture. It makes a big difference.)
  • Next she lays in flat colour, these days making use of some excellent large spongy brushes in Photoshop.
  • It’s good to experiment with texture because this is harder to convey in digital media.
  • The perfect amount of time in which to illustrate a picturebook is six months. Any shorter and it’ll be too tight. Any longer and you might find your style evolves to the point where you have to go back and do the start of the book again. (I can definitely relate to this, having just spent one and a half years on Midnight Feast.)
  • Claim a name for yourself in one thing.
  • Differences between illustrating your own work versus illustrating for other writers: When you illustrate your own work you get full control. When working with others you have to bend a little bit.
  • Differences between a print book and a storyapp: In an app, large shapes work better. The  typography has to be better. With the backlit screen the colours are more vibrant. Lula’s Brew actually started as a dummy for a children’s book, and before turning it into an app, had to zoom in on some of the pictures. Had to get rid of some extraneous details and leave more space on things. Big brushes in PS was great because she was able to apply colour really fast. Working in the small format actually sped her up.
  • The same issues are there with regular books: It’s much harder to get found. We’re all trying to get found.
  • She calls herself a ‘storyteller’ rather than a writer/picturebook illustrator. Apps are just another way of telling a story.
  • It’s a really easy time to become an expert right now, because everything is new and you can be one of the first. It’s really easy to come up with something no one else has done right now. That’s an opportunity.
  • Colour and drawing are two completely different skills. Just because you can do one thing doesn’t mean you can do the other. Some people are good at one and not the other.
  • Picturebooks are more sculptural more than anything else. They’re not finished until someone’s flipping through the pages.
  • In a children’s book there’s a rhythm, there’s something that builds, and you don’t have to explain the whole story in one image. Likewise, pictures in a picturebook are not at all like an editorial illustration, in which you take a big idea and squish it down.
  • The aim of a picturebook is to draw the reader in and make them want to be in the picture.
  • Stay on top of what’s out there so you can come out with something new and different.
  • Dulemba usually has about six stories going on at any one time. (Wow – I’m not sure how I’d go with that. So far I’m a one-project-at-a-time person, but this gives me confidence to try two at a time.) I’m reminded of this advice:Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.

    GEOFF DYER

  • On the difference between picturebooks and MG work: She doesn’t feel like she’s doing the same thing at all. It’s a little bit of a switch. She reads upper MG, and therefore writes it too.
  • She has a separate blog which is more ‘cerebral’, whereas her picturebook website is about engaging younger readers with colouring pages and so on. (Is there a case for separate blogs for separate tones and audiences? I guess so.)

 

 

Illustrating Advice From Mo Willems

Always start your illustrations in the middle (to kind of warm up) and save the cover and opening spreads for the end (when you’re in the zone and it’s flowing) – because those are the first ones people will read!

keynote summary at SCBWI

I’ve done it both ways now: The Artifacts was illustrated as I felt like it, but I’d been putting off doing the title page because that required design skills which are a little different from illustrative inner pages. So for Midnight Feast I did the splash page, title page, menu page, navigation pages, about page, options page… and I still hadn’t started illustrating the story. This took several months and was a dispiriting thing to do! Next time I’ll be starting in the middle.

The Overnight Test

Leaving a project overnight in order to gain fresh perspective the following morning.

Described in detail at The San Francisco Egotist

And this from Chuck Wendig in 25 Ways To Unfuck Your Story:

LET IT SIT AND PICKLE

Writers need time away from their work. Go at it too soon and you either hate it too much to let it live or love it too much to cut it with your steely knives. You need enough distance from the work to let you read it and believe that someone else wrote it — that distance allows you the cold, dispassionate dissecting the tale needs. Maybe that means you leave it for two weeks, two months, or two years. That’s on you to figure out. But when you dig back in, you’ll be amazed at the clarity a little time has afforded you. The trouble spots will start to stand out like a shadow on an X-Ray.

And this from Zadie Smith at Wired:

When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second — put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year or more is ideal — but even three months will do…. You need a certain head on your shoulders to edit a novel, and it’s not the head of a writer in the thick of it, nor the head of a professional editor who’s read it in twelve different versions.

The Dream House Made Into A Picturebook

floor plan of Midnight Feast

floor plan of Midnight Feast

Do you have a dream house that exists only inside your head? Perhaps it’s somewhere you hope to build one day, or a mixture of great spaces you’ve been to in your lifetime. If you were asked questions about this dream house, I wonder how specific you could get?

  • How many bedrooms does it have?
  • How does one get from one bedroom to another?
  • Where do the inhabitants keep their clothes?
  • Their shoes?
  • What would I find in the larder?
  • Which direction does it face?
  • If I flew into the air above your dream house, what does the surrounding area look like?

As Gaston Bachelard says, quoting Rilke in The Poetics of Space, those of us who keep dreamt-up houses in our heads haven’t worked out the details. Details such as: How does one get from one room to another without a connected corridor?

[The imagined dream house] is not a building, but is quite dissolved and distributed inside me: here one room, there another, and here a bit of corridor which, however, does not connect the two rooms, but is conserved in me in fragmentary form. Thus the whole thing is scattered about inside me, the rooms, the stairs that descended with such ceremonious slowness, others, narrow cages that mounted in a spiral movement, in the darkness of which we advanced like the blood in our veins.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in The Poetics Of Space

I realised that the house I had imagined inside my head wouldn’t necessarily work. And the architecture of the house is essential to the plot, which is certainly not true of many other picture books.

I wonder if it’s common for picturebook illustrators to draw a floor plan when illustrations are set largely inside a house. It really helped me out a lot, to spend half an hour visualising the entirety of Roya’s world within the story, down to the wallpaper.

Once I’d sketched a layout of the apartment, illustrations progressed at a faster pace*. I didn’t have to consider the interior decor, of her non-imaginary world, at least. I’ve heard art advice to the effect that you need to understand the entirety of a subject even if you’re only going to be depicting a single facet. I was imagining a banana when I heard that advice, but it certainly applies to houses and floorplans. Otherwise you’re liable to draw a house without any doors.

(By the way, I decided the toilet and bathroom are communal, downstairs.)

*This particular piece of paper also has the honour of helping a super poisonous Australian spider into a glass for deposition at CSIRO, so it’s come in handy indeed.

Creative Block?

Don Draper’s advice to Peggy Olsen in Mad Men was to think about it hard for a really long time, then don’t think about it at all. I’m pretty sure the creator of Don Draper didn’t come up with that — I suspect it’s what all creative people learn sooner or later.

For those of us working with graphics, here is some more advice, tailored to the visual medium. I think it applies to illustration as much as to design.

How To Get Unstuck, from Eric Paul Snowden

 

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