Wednesday, 25 September 2013

I Can’t Make Pictures and Text do What I Want in my Book

Creating a book with images, text, diagrams and complex elements can be a nightmare when self publishing on POD for the first time. Book formatting picture books such as art books or science books seems to be an art in itself. Having gone through the process myself, have learned a few things to make text and images do what I want when converting onto PDF, fine tuning the look of the book or uploading onto POD platforms such as Createspace.

Why Avoid Floating Images

When initially faced with the task of formatting books with pictures, floating images within text seemed to be the answer. However, unless the images are placed inline with paragraphs and do not affect subsequent elements, will tend to slip around or misbehave when converting the file. The larger the book, the more of a nightmare the task became.

This is because re-positioning the images would have a knock-on effect upon the formatting on the following pages. Like a domino effect, a slight adjustment could mess everything else up. The answer to this, I found was to ‘anchor’ the images, graphics and textboxes within tables.

How to Use Tables in Books

Becoming a master of using tables is the key to formatting a book when self-publishing. Within Word, you can insert a table with cells for the purpose of inserting images and text, ‘isolating’ these element from the rest of the page. There are many ways tables can be used for page formatting, such as the following:

Using Tables to Format Books
Creating a contents page.
Placing images alongside text.
Inserting captions to images.
Formatting columns.
Creating headers.
Formatting graphs
Creating diagrams
And more.

The image shows how tables can be used in various ways. Click on ‘table properties’ after highlighting a table (see image 1) and various options become available. ‘Borders and shading’ can be used to tailor the look of the table, such as outlines, or make them invisible (see image 2). The table’s area can be shaded in for colourful blocks of colour within a book (image 3). This can make a book look more attractive.

You can utilise tables in book formatting in the following ways:

A table with 2 or 3 cells can be inserted into a page if a piece of text is to exhibit columns. Each column can be spaced evenly or tailored to suit.
A table within a table can be inserted if wishing to insert a piece of text alongside an image and then ‘floated’ within a larger table. This anchors all elements within one frame without affecting elements outside of the larger table.

Alternatively, a 2-cell table can be inserted within a larger table if the caption needs to be a different colour to the rest of the text.
The outlines of each table can be made invisible by clicking ‘table properties’ and selecting ‘borders and shading.’ Select ‘none’ for outlines. This will rid of all outlines.
The background to a text area can be made any colour, by ‘filling in’ the colour of the table. This can be done by clicking ‘table properties’ and then clicking on ‘borders and shading.’ Click ‘shading’ and select desired colour.
The table itself can ‘float’ within another table.

See screenshot of how I used tables to format one of my books which contained complex elements by the use of tables.

Tips on Book Formatting

 Floating Text and Anchoring Text

Avoid floating text without the use of tables unless the page elements are very simple, as such formatting can be quite unstable within a book. Floating within a larger table is OK, as all elements are confined within the larger table.

Using tables for book formatting makes the task more manageable. An image, piece of text, captions, graphics and diagrams can be inserted within cells of a table without fear the rest of the book will get messed up and misbehave when converting the book into a PDF, fine tuning the look of the book or uploading. Incidentally, when uploading a book file onto Createspace, discovered that the old Word format (1997 – 2003) seemed to behave more than the more current version. For this reason, I always upload my book file in this format for POD platforms.

More Articles on how to Format Picture Books

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