Self publishing a picture book requires knowledge not only on how to use Word, but also image software. A visually aesthetic balance between image and text on each page is crucial prior to uploading the book onto a POD (print on demand) publishing platform.
Self Publishing for CreateSpace and Lulu
Createspace and Lulu are two key self-publishing platforms for writers wishing to produce a hardcopy of their books. This is known as print on demand (or POD). Books are only printed when ordered, saving the author on having to pay for print batches in advance. Self-publishing is free as the platform makes money only when sales, and the writer need only pay for proof copies of the book.
However formatting a book for a POD platform is different to formatting a digital book for Kindle. Furthermore, a book with pictures will require not only sound knowledge of formatting text, but also creating top-quality images fit for insertion into the picture book. Both of these matters are covered in separate articles.
Font Styles for Picture Books
Unlike formatting Kindle ebooks, what you see is what you get. You can choose any font, style or page setting and it will display on your print book. For illustrated stories, I would recommend using font size 10 or 12, (unless it is a children’s picture book) and larger fonts for chapter headings. Try out the different font styles by highlighting a section of text and clicking on the font menu on the Word toolbar. The most used font styles are Times New Roman, Bookman Old Style and Aerial, but I like to try others.
For something more flamboyant and swirly which might suit, humorous books or picture books, try out Bradley Hand ITC, Curlz, Kristen, Lucida Handwriting or Segoe Script. Avoid scripts that cannot be read easily and avoid using too many different types of fonts in your book or it will lack unity.
Print Books: With or Without Bleed?
Before going any further, decide upon the size of your book and paragraph settings, as this will impact upon the size and positioning of the images as well as the ratio of text per page. If you want the illustrations to ‘float’ beyond the trim edge of your pages (into the 0.25” of the outer margins) for design purposes, you will need to use ‘full colour bleed’ when uploading your book. Whether to select bleed or not is a complex issue, and I have therefore written a separate article on bleed settings for self published books.
Formatting Images for Picture Books
With the size of your book and margin settings decided, think about the ratio of text and image per page. I like to experiment without having to plan ahead. Click print preview to see how each page looks. An important point here, as all print books begin on page 1, (the right-sided page), and Word shows page 1 as being on the left (if viewing the document in a 2-page preview), you might need to insert a dummy blank page in the beginning to see how each facing page looks whilst you are working on it. Don’t forget to delete the blank page before page numbering the contents and publishing. Creating a table of contents is covered in a separate article.
Page Settings for Images and Text
Once you have decided upon where your images will be placed on each page, place the cursor where the image will be located and click ‘insert image’. Incidentally, each image much be of optimum quality. I have written a separate article on producing great images for print books (see bottom). Once you have inserted the image, move the cursor into a corner of the image and drag the cursor into the picture to get the required size. (Do not compress pictures as this will reduce the image quality in print). You can then left or right justify or ‘float’ the images (drag the picture to any location on the page). To float, make sure the picture setting is not ‘in line with text’ before dragging. Once the image is where you want it, you can ‘text wrap’. This will pull a block of text alongside the image. Simply right click on the image and select ‘text wrap.’
How to Add Captions to Images
You can add captions to images by right clicking on an image and selecting ‘add caption’. You can then add supplementary text to the image. Beware that captions do not move with the image; if you decide to move the image again, you will need to ‘float’ the caption towards the image separately. You can alter the appearance of the caption by trying out the effects in the effects tool bar on Word .
Formatting Text with Images
It is advisable to justify all the text within your book (make each line the same length). Go through the book and left justifying any text-wrap that has large spaces between words, as this can look ugly when viewed in print format.
Image Effects for Picture Books
You can play around with image effects to enhance the appearance of your book; just click on any image and a choice of image effects will present itself on the Word toolbar. Alternatively, you can use image software, such as Paintshop Pro or InDesign. You can add shadow effects or alter the image shape. If you want to add a graphic to a page, you can create your own by airbrushing out the background to an object in Paint. The white background will blend with the page, making the object appear to stand out on its own.
How to Embed Fonts into the Book File
With a perfectly formatted Word document with images, you need to embed fonts into your word file, to ensure the elements appear as they should once the book is published. Firstly, click on the office graphic on the top left of your screen (if you are using Word). Click on ‘word options’ which can be seen at the bottom. Click ‘save’ which will bring up another screen where you will be able to tick the box ‘embed fonts in this title.’ Save. Now it is time to save your Word document as a PDF. This option can be found by clicking on the Office Button on the top left. Select ‘standard publishing for print.’ You now have a colour picture book ready for uploading onto a POD platform such as CreateSpace.
Uploading a Book File onto Createspace
Follow the onscreen instructions regarding uploading the book blurb and pricing etc. Creating a book cover is covered in another article (see bottom). Upload the interior of your book and wait a moment. If you are using Createspace, a book interior review will pop up. You will be able to see how your book will look when in print. Go through each page to ensure there are no formatting issues. The most common flag is if a picture is less than 300 DPI. You can fix this problem by increasing the DPI of your image in Paintshop Pro or Irfanview. You will need to go through the book to make sure all images are satisfactory. Once done, I would recommend ordering a proof copy of the book to ensure everything is as it should. Check through the book again. If there are only minor problems, I will upload the revised file without necessarily ordering another proof copy.
A Note about Flattening Transparencies for Print
A book with colour images when uploaded onto a POD platform, may present the error message: ‘The book file contains transparency which will be manually flattened during processing which might cause a colour shift.’ An image with transparencies means just that: transparent colours. I have yet to find a way of manually flattening images with the software that I have, but have put the question to Createspace. Will post the reply when it comes.
Articles on Self Publishing Books with Images
How to design a book cover
How to format text for book publishing on POD
Bleed or no bleed? A guide for books in print
Guide to editing your book
Beginner's guide to publishing on Createspace