Making an illustrated ebook
A guide for both writers and illustrators!
So you've written an ebook for children and now you want an artist to bring your words to life?
Or perhaps you are an illustrator and you're going to illustrate your own or someone else's ebook?
This simple guide should help you understand the process a little better, and give you some points to think about before you start.
Before you begin...
I'm going to presume you've done a little research into your target market and you've written a killer script. Before you collaborate with your illustrator it's good to have an idea of where you want the illustrations to be in the text, how many you want and what style you want them in.
It's handy to collaborate with an illustrator who has created illustrations for ebooks before - they can guide you and perhaps even do a lot of the formatting work for you! This will cost you more money, of course, so be sure to check out their portfolio and make the right choice.
- Some devices are monochrome - will you be using these devices? How will your illustrations look in black and white?
- Different devices require different formats - there is no one format that works on all devices, so choose which ones you want and plan accordingly. You can always create several format versions of your ebook and upload them to different publishers.
- Check out existing books on all devices and see what works best, try and find books similar to yours and evaluate how they look, what does and doesn't work and what could have been done better.
- Illustrations with embedded text will be virtually unreadable on small devices such as the iPhone
Finding a publisher
Writers have several options when it comes to selling ebooks but there is no set rule for who is the best. I advise checking all of the companies to see who fills your individual needs and make a well informed decision. I did some research to find out more about each contender to make your life a little easier...
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
Kindle offers two options when publishing with them. The KDP and the KDP select.
With KDP select, your ebook will be 'exclusive' to Kindle for 90 days, and it will be available in the Kindle owner's library and free for a certain amount of days (currently 5) You earn more royalties than the KDP alone, but your ebook CANNOT BE FREE.
Not as many people own a Kindle as an Apple iPad, but they do have a free app which is available on a variety of devices, including phones and iPads. Plus through Kindle Cloud Reader people can read your ebook in their browser on their computer.
Amazon of course take a percentage of royalties from every sale. At the time of writing this that was 30%, and rules do apply.
You can upload your ebook using a HTML file which is converted to a .mobi file. If you don't know how to do this, you can outsource this work at a cost.
Smashwords is one publisher who offer a no charge service and only take a small percentage of royalties - you get around 85%.
They offer your book in many formats (so it can be viewed on many devices including the iPad and Nook!) and distribute it for you.
One of the most attractive cons to using Smashwords is that they offer FREE ISBNs - something you would usually pay £100 or so for.
You can upload your book in a word file with images
Barnes and Noble PUB-IT
Another of the biggies that operates on a % basis.
They also offer a free conversion tool on their website but B&N are more of a distributor and as a result you'll have to format your book either yourself or through another DIY site such as Smashwords above. Check out the Formatting section further along this blog to read more about formatting.
Their device is the Nook - not as popular as either the iPad or Kindle, but worth checking out.
iBooks author (Apple)
This is my favourite, but that does not necessarily mean it is the best for you!
iBooks is Apple's software for creating and publishing ebooks. It's free for mac users, and offers free templates for you to use when uploading your book too! As a bonus, if you don't like any of the free templates there's a sit you can buy customised ones at a low cost.
As is customary with Apple - the results will only be readable on Apple devices such as the iPad, iPhone, and so on. This isn't such a problem when you think that 1 in 5 people own an iPad, but keep it in mind.
One of the benefits of using iBooks it is simple and even gives you the chance to make interactive books if you're that way inclined. Watch out though, because they don't offer an ISBN service and that will cost you around $125 to outsource with their recommendation.
And last, but not least, it is Createspace.
Very popular with newbie self publishers, they too work on a % of the profits. So it's free to create and distribute, you only pay when you start making sales.
They not only offer lots of free tools on their website, but have phone support and forums to chat in too.
There are more publishers for ebooks than just those featured in this list, but these are the big contenders I deal with repeatedly. If you think I've forgotten someone important, please let me know!
You can also check out mobi pocket creator, and Lulu.com!Illustrating the ebook
Choosing the best illustrator for your ebook is not a job to be overlooked!
Before letting anyone draw anything, you need to know what device your ebook will be viewed on so the illustrator can draw to those specifications.
What is your illustrator going to do? Are they going to supply the illustrations alone, or format them for your device? Have they done this before?
Remember to tell your illustrator everything you expect of them, this will avoid any misunderstandings in the long run. Weather they format the ebook or not, explain the devices you'll be using and what the publisher's specifications are!
Once you have your illustrations and text, you will need to format the ebook!
Some of the above publishers will format it for you, so if this is important to you check out who does what. Most publishers will take a word file and your images to format, but some require PDFs or fully formatted ebooks, or even HTML.
Formatting is no easy feat - and it depends who you are publishing with as to what format you need. You can outsource this work - it will cost you anything from £80 to several hundred, but even then be prepared for a bit of toing and froing.
You can tackle this yourself if you like, using software or HTML knowledge, but my advise is to leave it to the experts unless you know what you're doing.
Now comes one of the most important bits...
Ebooks are usually created in the epub or .mobi format. This is great because it allows the text to move and flow depending on what device you use - however adding stand alone images to this can (and most often does) disrupt the reading, and worst of all, full page illustrations with embedded text are impossible. That's where you will want a fixed-layout format ebook.
Not every publisher offers this so do your homework. This format allows your ebook to be viewed exactly as you intended, and make the most of your beautiful illustrations without messing up the flow of your story.
Illustrators should be thinking about this too, not just the writers! After all, your illustrations are your advertising and messed up ebooks will push away potential customers.
Selling your book
At the end of it all, you should have your ebook ready to promote and distribute!
Did you go for Kindle's fixed-layout ebook on KDP select? Or did you do it yourself using iBooks and can now view your hard work on your iPad?
Whatever you did I hope this blog helped a little in making sense of all the ebook jargon and names flying around.
Be sure to leave feedback by adding your comment!
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Not found your perfect illustrator yet?
Check out my website for examples of my work, and if you like what you see, just email me for a quote!
As well as illustrations for children, ebooks and more, I also offer a formatting service for your ebooks.
If you've never released an ebook before or have limited funds, feel free to question me for help and advice.