I have now moved house…and apparently opened a bookshop. (Yay!)

As stated above, I have been rather busy.

The moment came when this was my view:

Far too many books.
Far too many books.

Continue reading “I have now moved house…and apparently opened a bookshop. (Yay!)”

ePublishing picture books!

Well, it works…

Writing Essays by L E Jenkinson
The original .ppt slide.
Using iBook Author to create the iPad version of ‘Writing Essays’

Having written my book ‘Writing Essays’ in a rather unconventional way – using Powerpoint, in fact, because of its flexible image and textbox manipulation, I found it initially difficult to self-publish. I couldn’t easily convert the file to ePub as the normal route is to convert .doc files. The idea of ‘floating’ images, changing the layout each time the reader changed the text size, also didn’t appeal as the pages all have very fixed layout. The only possible route was to save each slide as a mid-res .jpg (a saga in itself!) and paste each one individually into a Word .doc with no borders, page breaking between each image. It took forever. For print, this was fine, but for eReader – initially Kindle – removed the possibility of searching the text of the document. I intend to use the same method to create the next book as it’s most important that it works as a printed paperback, but in the future I also want to be able to publish picture books as eBooks, so iBooks is quite a decent alternative.

Getting to grips with the formatting tools is quite easy – they’re pretty standard, similar to Word, if you’ve experience of ePub formatting, although I’m having to reformat the style of the pages so that they’ll work on the different page dimensions of an iPad. Luckily, I can copy from the .ppt and paste into the iBooks Author document – useful for the images –  which means I can easily re-organise the sections of each page, although if I want to allow text to be searched I need to copy it into a text box and reformat it to match.  However, what’s even more fun is that it’s really a whole new edition. For iPad, I’m looking to include some whizzy things next, such as section tests, mp3s explaining sections of the book, and moving images of Bert. I’m hoping this will add to the multi-platform saleability of the book itself, perhaps even allowing for the website to be integrated into it. For my educational purposes, that’s pretty exciting.

More as I work out the rest of the exciting iBooks Author details…

ePublishing picture books?

ePublishing picture books. In these exciting times, everything’s possible. But, as easy as it is to say, and to imagine, it’s actually a shockingly difficult thing to do. When you consider that ePubs and Mobis have run-on text that allows them to have the text resized and to work on several different sizes of screen, and picturebooks, well, don’t, you start to get the idea. How could you format the document so that the images stayed static? How could they fill the page? What about double-page spreads? And text?

Luckily, with ePublishing being an in-development ‘science’ as it were, this problem is starting to be approached by enterprising PoD publishers, App designers. For example, Blurb.com , trusty photobook PoD printer, has some interesting instructions for publishing picturebooks for iPad, the most logical recipient of a picturebook if you’re going to do something as odd as make a *picturebook*, aimed at, you know, *children*, available on a *digital device* (no, it doesn’t entirely hold with me either). These instructions – which are not exactly the simplest, I warn you – explain how to create what is basically a photobook but which will fit an iPad screen and allow for all-important double-page spreads. You can read the instructions here.

However, if you already have an iPad, it’s an altogether much easier process, apparently, if you use the wealth of apps that have suddenly appeared to allow you to do this, especially the much-lauded (and simply-named) Book Creator by RedJumper . Look at the screenshots. It makes the whole process look ridiculously easy, and not a code in sight.

Create Book by Red Jumper
Create Book: all too easy?

Create Book and the other apps also have the ability to add ‘Physics’ to e-picture books. I think that means they do whizzy things, like talk, or move, or they’re *interactive*, you know, because children have no actual patience with real books. (Yes, I’m still not won over yet.) Still, fun to play with with your kids.

Oh. No iPad?

Get stuffed then.

Luckily, an interesting rumour has surfaced today that Apple will announce this Thursday their intention to create – or maybe even their already-built creation – of an eBook creator that will be to ePublishing what GarageBand is to demo and podcast creation. Although this is mooted to initially only be applicable to the lucrative ‘interactive education text’ market, this would certainly open a whole wealth of opportunities to the self-publisher – or services like my own that help others self-publish – if they were to embrace both text and picture eBooks. Clearly a move in Apple’s Great Game with Amazon over the eBook market, it still seems like this type of program would immediately overtake the existing eBook publishers/converters, like the excellent Calibre , which would be, well, really good.

Gosh.

My reaction is to say Come on then, Apple, let’s see what you’ve done, and can I have a copy please?

Hell, we live in exciting times! Fingers crossed you don’t have to have an iPad…

covers#1 – ‘Writing Essays: what you need to know’

In my role as proofreader/editor/formatter, I also design covers for books. One of my favourite things is good design, and, while trying to emulate this, I enjoy the process of nit-picking over tiny details in pursuit of an audaciously beautiful whole.

I don’t like to stick to any one style, although that’s likely to be because I haven’t quite produced a series as of yet (although ‘Writing Essays’#2 is in the pipeline), but I do like to hunt through a text and pull out features to make a design focus, and use it to create something that will suit the tone, style and genre. That’s just good sense. I might sometimes take a metaphor a little further too, because I like the idea that a cover warrants a second look, and I like to reward the reader for their analytical ability. It makes everyone feel a bit cleverer.

My first ever book cover design was a line drawing in 5B pencil on a folded sheet of A4 when I was about 8, having been given a typewriter for my seventh birthday and used it to type out my own version of ‘Hansel and Gretel’. It was of Hansel and Gretel walking through the woods, with bits of bread behind them. (I’ll scan it in at some point). Pretty straight-forward and representative. The next was another line drawing cover for my next 8-year-old picture-book Opus, ‘My Brother Wants To Be A…’, which put my youngrer brother in a series of compromising interesting positions in future career choices (“My brother wants to be a football. But footballs get kicked up, not picked up!”) On the cover, my brother is, I think, that football.

I got bored of writing books then, and moved onto just drawing lettering, then making popups, then making miniature furniture for matchbox houses, and then I got a Commodore 64 and spent the next few years learning how to code in Basic, and then we got a 386 and I went back to writing until School took over.

My next cover was the one for my first proper book, the modestly-titled ‘Writing Essays: what you need to know’. I made this in Photoshop, having forked out a couple of quid for the main image of the face and did the rest from free stock or my own photographs. The title font, mostly altered typewriter keys, is rather my signature. I like fonts. I like typewriters.

The front cover to 'Writng Essays' by L E Jenkinson

So, from a rocky terrain a deepening blue sky, stars appearing, and that all-consuming focus, the MOON, being eyed up by a savvy young thing whom has bought the book. Her healthy glow says it all (or rather, the imagery does). She’s going to do well, and you could too. The font adds what I like to think is a whimsical touch. A turned-over corner demonstrates that I was pleased with my Photoshop abilities that day, and allows visibility for the Key Stages for whom the book is suggested.

During my design process, I allowed myself to take criticism from my friends (Should there be mountains? It looks empty without them, I’ll leave them in. Should I leave them in? Does this corner fold look realistic?), which made the process easier to finalise – something I occasionally find hard to do since the whole process is so enjoyable – once I had their blessing. I tell you, it looks marvellous in full-size, glossy colour.

The back cover also had the full treatment. Having had another delightful friend whom is rather a better salesperson than myself write the blurb, and collected nice quotations from the students and parents I’d used and previewed the book with, the main need was to create a large section to fit it in whilst retaining the tone of the front cover. I settled for a mirror-image, overlaid with a semi-transparent lighter text section, centre-aligned text in the interior’s main font (altogether nice cohesion), and, at the bottom, a plain back section to accommodate the barcode and ISBN on the right. A thumbnail of my educational website’s front page (my ‘shop’ of education, Blackboard Fiction) and the URL itself finished it off – I’m hoping to one day be in the position to have created a ‘brand image’ for myself. More on that another time. Here’s the back:

The back cover to 'Writing Essays' by L E Jenkinson

So. An educational manual/textbook, designed to inspire confidence in classrooms and in independent learners alike.

Next, rather a different fish-kettle. A collection of my own, rather dark, short stories.

The name, ‘Death and Stationery’ had been knocking around in my head for almost as long as the stories themselves had. Almost-tragic tales of magic realism and personal fears, I felt a ragged, symbol-based cover was necessary, in a palette of blacks and greys. In the end, a little colour in the lightning bolts, raindrops, and, on the back cover, a little heart to remind the reader the stories were human, brightened up the darkness.

The shapes on the front were created with a nice set of free Photoshop brushes (stupidly I have lost the link. If anyone recognises them, please email me so I can give them credit) in popular symbols done with a grunge texture fill. I made the heart on the back myself. The font is Baskerville; I wanted a bit of an old-school contrast with the modern shapes – the stories themselves are all about contrasts – although I messed with the spacing to allow for it not to appear too traditional. Here’s the result:

'Death and Stationery', a collection of short stories
The front cover of ‘Death and Stationery’
'Death and Stationery', a collection of short stories by L E Jenkinson
The back cover for ‘Death and Stationery’.

This design was almost fully-formed in my head so didn’t really take long, and to be honest I’d have applied some gradient or grunge to the background if I’d chosen to spend more time on it. As it was, it took about half an hour. I like it for its simplicity. The cloud on the front has movement from the placing of the lightning bolt and raindrops, and from the slightly different tones of grey used for the cloud and lower title. The back simply replicates the front central image, resized to fit the blurb text. The heart makes the whole thing feel better. Overall, there’s a kind of humour about it. It also reminds me of some of the font-focussed covers of the 70s, such as my Dad’s Vonnegut collection, and the covers of Puzo’s The Godfather and Capote’s In Cold Blood by S. Neil Fujita:

(I hear Capote and Fujita argued over the colour of the ‘hatpin’, and finally decided not to match it to the colour of the author text, the purple being a more subtle indicator of dried blood, perhaps the realisation of the cold-blooded ‘act’.)

I have set myself the task of redesigning my favourite covers, just for fun and to learn a few new Photoshop skills. I find inspiration among my own shelves, in my brain, in the texts themselves and here at The Book Cover Archive , a truly marvellous resource that I could (and do) spend far too long a time browsing.

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Where to buy my books? You can buy them in paperback and eBook at Lulu.com, and as Kindle download at Amazon.co.uk .

Try Blackboard Fiction for size: The Bookshop for the English resources and The Publishing Office for self-publishing services.