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: