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How to eBook (picture book edition, part V)

June 10, 2013


Welcome to part five in my ongoing series, How to eBook, picture book edition. If you want to self-publish an eBook, you’ve come to the right place. This six (?) part series, will take you from the writing and planning stage of a picture book, through illustration and production—all the way to publishing it as an eBook and making it available on Amazon.

Parts I through IV discussed everything from writing and illustrating your picture book to assembling it in InDesign.

Now on to part V: the Special Secret Formula™ (A.K.A.: Turning your mechanical into a pdf suitable for upload for iPads and Kindles and most eReaders). Clicking images in this guide will enlarge.


By now you should have your art files saved as an InDesign document (your mechanical, as described in Part IV) and all the accompanying art files. You will need Photoshop and Acrobat for today’s step.

STEP VII. The Special Secret Formula™:

Before you follow me any further along this journey to self-publishing, a confession: I paid my dues in the business of picture books, as a production grunt in the art department of HarperCollins Children’s Books, before becoming an author/illustrator myself. Before that, I studied graphic design at a goddamn great art school. So everything in this guide, up to this point, can be backed up by knowledge and experience, as “best practice”.

From here forward, be advised—you follow a dinosaur into battle against robots! Little. Wussy. Robots. But robots all the same.

What follows here is the result of my trial and error. What follows here will work, though there are probably better ways to automate certain tasks.

Oh well, stinks for you. You get what you pay for.

The annoying thing(s): The file you will ultimately upload to needs to be a pdf. In InDesign there is a function under the File Menu, named “export”, where you find the command to convert your file to a pdf file.

Trouble is, if you upload this pdf to Amazon, you will encounter two problems.

1) The text will reflow out of proportion to the art. In a chapter book we would want text to resize on the display. When there are pictures involved, you see why this would be bad. In a picture book we want to flatten the words into the art. That’s what most of the formula we are about to get to is about achieving.

2) The first page will disappear. I don’t know why this happens, but when I convert a pdf to an Amazon document, the first page vanishes. If you were paying me for my consultation, I’d tell you it’s a program anomaly. But really, I don’t know why it happens. The formula will address this so who cares?

And now…


• Open your mechanical in InDesign.

• Under the File Menu choose: Export (pictured):

Picture 1

• Fill in the appropriate fields in the window that pops up, saving your file as a PDF.

• Go back to your desktop and locate the pdf file you just made.

• Select your pdf file.

• Under that gear-looking icon-thing (among other places) you will find the option to Open With different applications: Choose to Open With: Photoshop (pictured):

Picture 2

• You will see this window pop up:

Picture 3

• Select and open each spread, one at a time.

• You are going to Save all of these files as JPEGS, but before you do, let’s stay smart and organized: Create a new folder where all the individual spreads will be collected. I call mine something like Pages ƒ.

• For each file that opened, go to the Save As command (found under the File Menu) and Save As a JPEG. I recommend naming your files, simply, a.jpg, b.jpg, c.jpg, etc. This will make life easier, later when we reconstruct our files into one pdf again.

• This step sounds odd, but trust me: With one spread open in Photoshop, delete the contents, so you have a blank canvas of the correct proportions and specs. (Remember I wrote earlier about the page that gets consumed by Amazon in the conversion? This is the duct tape for that faucet).

• Save As this blank file as blank.jpg.

• Open Adobe Acrobat.

• In Acrobat, under the File Menu (among other places), choose the option to Create PDF > From Multiple Files (pictured):

Picture 12

• Follow the instructions, and navigate towards your pages. If you followed my advice earlier they are all neatly saved in one folder,  named alphabetically. When you get to this field, you can arrange them properly (don’t forget to put the document, “blank.jpg, up top):

Picture 32

• Finally, Save your Acrobat document as a PDF File. (Make sure to name your new file so you know this is the pdf you made in Acrobat, as opposed to the one you made in InDesign. VERY IMPORTANT!)

Finally, Finally. You now have the pdf file that you will upload to Amazon (which I will cover in the final part of this guide). But before you proceed, I suggest printing your final file in real life; with your desktop printer at least.

Even though we are going digital, sometimes, as they say, the old ways are best. You can’t beat eyeballs on paper for really seeing mistakes.

•   •   •

That’s it for today. The next post will be Uploading and Exploring the Amazon.
Stay tuned …


From → How to eBook

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