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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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:
And the title page, which I dragged into the ‘intro media’ area in IBA:
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.
Here’s what the same page looks like when it’s on the iPad. (Artwork is in progress during this preview.)
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.
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.
– Why Creativity Thrives In The Dark, Fast Company
…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:
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:
Described in detail at The San Francisco Egotist
And this from Chuck Wendig in 25 Ways To Unfuck Your Story:
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.
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?
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.)
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
An electric pencil-sharpener. Saves from interrupting your workflow. Especially if you’re like me, and have a heavy-handed press, working through soft graphite like nobody’s business. Also, mainly, a catcher to save the shavings from going everywhere. A saucer on the desk just don’t cut it for me — one sneeze and it’s all over.
I’ve heard that serif fonts exist to help the reader’s eyes move across words, gently guiding us from one letter to the next without us even realising.
I’ve also heard that sans serif fonts are more easily read on a screen, which may explain how Comic Sans ever took off. (I have to remind myself that it did used to be awesome, that font.)
Most storybook apps I’ve seen make use of a form of serif font, regardless of the fact that the reader is reading from a screen. While it may be the case that sans serif fonts are adequate for iPads, if not downright better, there’s an atmosphere conveyed by serif fonts that can’t be achieved with sans: the feeling of paper books and tradition and memories of our childhood favourites. Font choice influences the mood of a piece of work. This is why I have chosen a serif font.
I love fonts, and can easily spend a week finding new ones and seeing how they look. In the end, though, I decided to use an open source font for The Artifacts. It’s from the Dejavu font family. After experimenting with all of them, the condensed bold version looked the best.
What about all those other cool fonts, though, the ones with REAL personality? There are numerous font sites online and I’d love to have made use of one of those.
The problem I have is that someone, somewhere designed those fonts and they rightly expect to be paid. When I look at the end user licence agreements for some of my favourite ‘free’ fonts, they are indeed free for personal use, and sometimes the print run licence is reasonably priced, but once you want to make use of a font in a piece of software, sold internationally, the licence gets really difficult to understand (I understand ‘expensive’) so without a copyright lawyer to advise us, I figured I’d just stick to open source.
Since it took me a good while to find Dejavu, I’ve decided to use it again in Midnight Feast. This time, though, I’m wanting a sketchy, handwritten version of a font. I considered making my own font. There’s an iPad app for that. (But I can’t remember what it’s called, and I haven’t found an adequate stylus yet.)
So I made my own handwriting font. You can do this online for free at MyScriptFont.com. (There are also plenty of sites that’ll charge about $15 for the same thing, e.g. Your Fonts, but they don’t tell you that until the very end.)
I called my new font Midnight Feast, of course. I used a pen preset that I’d already made in Artrage. I didn’t bother printing out the template, mainly because our printer’s not working, instead making use of the Wacom. (When, exactly, is the Printers’ Strike ending, again?) My font is pretty rough and ready. I wouldn’t want to attempt anything other than a handwriting font without making use of something far more time consuming and powerful like FontStruct (where I technically have an account.) Tutorial on FontStruct can be found at MacLife.
We’ll probably be using our Midnight Feast font only to generate numbers at Dan’s end. But now I have a font called MidnightFeast on my computer! And it was super simple to do.
Experienced and qualified font designers will be turning in their graves.
The Typography Of Authority — Do Fonts Affect How People Accept Information? from The Scholarly Kitchen. (Hint: That’s a loaded question.)