So, as many of you know, I help my mom with her publishing needs, too. Last week, she asked me to help her publish an illustrated children’s book. I have actually been sitting on it for a couple of years not really sure how to start, but I finally decided to face the task head on and get it done. Fifty to Sixty hours of work later, I am mostly there.

I’ve talked to many people who had no trouble creating illustrated ebooks before. For some reason, that luck was not with me on this project. A little background: I generally self publish through (for my paperbacks) and (for my ebooks). I also recently learned how to use the Kindle Direct Publishing services to upload a kindle version to Amazon. I’ve made several books that were mostly text with just a few pictures, a logo near the title, my author pic at the back. No problem. I followed all the formatting guidelines on Smashwords and Createspace and never had any trouble getting my word files to upload and view correctly.

So for this book I knew it would be different. First I created an InDesign file to do the layout for the paperback. I normally start with the ebook and then format for paperback, but since I was more confident in doing an illustrated paperback, I started there this time. I created my page layout and then exported my Indesign file to a PDF. I uploaded to Createspace and all was good. The online proof looked great. I just had to tweak the pictures to make them a higher resolution. They recommend 300 dpi, but no less than 200 dpi to keep the images from looking blurry. Basically I just went back into photoshop with each of my images, changed the resolution from what it was to 200 and then saved, went back into inDesign, updated links and re-exported to pdf. Uploaded new file to Createspace and problem was solved. The only other thing I had to play around with was the bleed on the pages. If you want your color paperback to have the pictures go all the way to the edge of the paper, you have to create the file with the images extending at least and 1/8 inch past the border and then change the bleed options in the export to pdf (print) options box. I changed the outside and top bottom to 0.25. The inside I left at 0.00.

Okay, so now I had my paperback. I just had to wait for the automated review process to finish and then go through the proofing stage.

On to the ebook. I tried using my same inDesign file and exporting to epub. The file was horrible. Pictures were floating around everwhere. Borders were on pages all their own. Nothing looked right. I tried exporting to PDF and uploading the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Uploaded but the preview was the same problem. Nothing appeared right. Following the advice of others I saved my inDesign file as jpegs and placed my jpegs in a word document. Tried uploading that to KDP and Smashwords. It looked okay in the kindle viewer (if a little small) but it didn’t view right on my kindle for pc app and it didn’t work at all through Smashwords for my nook. (Smashwords makes ebooks available in all formats – for those unfamiliar with the service) Only half of each picture was showing up. The bottom of each picture was cut off, like it was zoomed in too far and couldn’t zoom out. So I tried recreating all the pages in photoshop from scratch, saving the new jpegs and then placing in word document (also tried combining them in a pdf). Same problems.

About to give up, I saw a Kindle Comic Book Creator program you can download on the KDP website. I tried it. Uploaded my page jpegs I created in Photoshop. Saved as a Mobi file and uploaded to Kindle. It looks great on my Kindle for PC app. I then took that file and tried to convert the Mobi file to ePub to upload to Smashwords. The program I used, calibre, couldn’t even do the conversion. It gave an error message. I tried two or three other online converters and got a ePub file, but it had the same problems as my earlier attempts.

I emailed Smashwords and they told me they only accept documents that have the text seperate from the images. In other words, I can’t create an all illustrated book. Their instructions were to create a letter sized word document and insert all images with a paragraph return after each of them. So I went back into each of my original page pictures again, put their resolution at 100 and width at 5 in. (constrained proportions). I saved them to a new file, so they wouldn’t save over my old images. I opened a blank word doucment in landscape and started working. On each page I put the image on the left and formatted it so the text would wrap to the right of the picture. I lowered the page margins to 0.25″ so that there wouldn’t be so much white space around my pages. I left some margin so the text wouldn’t run into the edge of the page. Then I uploaded to Smashwords. Lo an behold, it uploaded without a problem. Viewing it as a pdf, the images stayed to the left of my text as I intended. On my nook, though the didn’t view in landscape. So I redid the word document AGAIN and put it all in portrait. My new file was too big to upload to Smashwords (file can’t be over 10 MB) so I had to compress my photos. Right click on one photo and click on compress. You can select to do it to all photos or just one. Compress for web and it will dramatically reduce your file size.

I did a lot of research this week online, and what I found was lot of other people frustrated, trying to create illustrated ebooks and running into similar and different problems. Most of the tutorials and instruction videos I found showed how to create a text heavy book with a few images in them. The other sites I found that may have had useful info were heavy in technical speak and html code (which I am not strong in). So at the end of the week, I wanted to post my journey and my findings for those who may encounter similar programs. As with all technology, my solutions won’t work for everyone, but hopefully they will help someone.

How I created and illustrated children’s book

Step 1. Write the book

Step 2. Create/Gather any pictures or illustrations needed. Need to be at least 200 to 300 dpi for use in print. You can also start work on cover for book. You will need a full cover for paperback and front cover for ebook. Size of full cover will vary depending on what size you decide to make the book. a 6×9 book usually needs around a 9 x 13 cover, give or take depending on size of spine/thickness of book.

Step 3. Decide how to do layout.

You can either do paperback in a program like inDesign and ebook in Photoshop and Word or do it all in Photoshop and Word, but you will need three seperate files either way. They require different canvas/page size and resolutions.

For paperback you select what size the paperback will appear in. Most of mine are 6 x 9, but there are others to choose from. See createspace for options. Image resolution higher than ebooks.

Ebooks are usually 1024 x 600 pixels and resolution needs to be around 72 dpi (I just set mine for around 100 resolution in photoshop)

Step 4. Create paperback PDF. The easiest way I found for doing the illustrated paperback was to create my layout in inDesign and export to PDF (print) with bleed set at 0.25 outside, top and bottom. 0.00 inside bleed. Upload file to Createspace with full cover jpeg and continue through that process, checking proof, correcting any errors, etc.

Step 5. Create ebook

Some people have absolutely no problem just putting their jpegs in a word document and uploading it to KDP or Smashwords. I was not one of them. My alternative:

Download Kindle Comic Book Creator

Recreate your page layout in Photoshop with 100 resolution and canvas size 1024 x 600 pixels

Upload your jpegs to the Comic Book Creator.

Save/Create your Mobi File

Upload to Kindle

Check preview or view file on your kindle if you have one.

Step6. Convert to epub for Smashwords or create new Smashwords file.

There are a lot of online converter programs. For most conversions, you can download calibre. I’ve also tried Zamzar, an online converter. It didn’t work for me on this file but helped when I was working between two different computers and versions of software and couldn’t get my tiff file to save as a jpeg I uploaed the tiff to Zamzar, selected jpeg as the output and they converted it and emailed me the link to download the new file. It’s a good site to bookmark for things like that.

If that doesn’t work . . .

Create a new word document. Type in all your text, including your copywrite page Format text according to Smashwords guidelines, available on their website

*(remember to always put a different copywrite on all these version. One for Createspace, one for Kindle and one for Smashwords. * always remember to double check you have the right copywrite page on a file before you publish to any of these sites)

Save all your jpegs you will need for the book in a smaller format.

I used 100 resolution with 5″ width so they would be roughly half the size of my pages. You don’t want to have an oversized image and resize in word. It will not convert right and the picture will be too big. You want the image to be the same size when you place it as you want it to view. If it is too big, go back and save a smaller image (different file name, of course)

Insert Picture in the word document, remembering to include paragraph return after each picture. Save and upload to smashwords.

I know this is complicated, but hopefully one day they will update their process to allow fully illustrated children’s books and comics. One benefit is that at least I can add hyperlinks to the text. Until things change, at least I got the book the way I wanted it to be viewed on Kindle.

If any of you know of a different way or other free program that works for any of this, please leave it in the comments section. Thanks.

For anyone who is interested you can read more about my mom’s children’s book “The Adventures of Snooky Snail” on her website,

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–A.D. McLain