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~I must have my share in the conversation~ from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

 FROM PICTURES TO PAGES: Is there a picture book designer in you ~ by J.D. Holiday, July of 2008

When I finished painting watercolor pictures for one of my children's picture books I had the intent of designing the book myself. It was the goal that made me willing to conquer the challenge of learning the page layout software Indesign Creative Suite 3 or CS 3 by Adobe. I was comfortable using Adobe's Photo Shop having made examples of pages for a previous picture book project. In fact, I designed most of the pages, which led to the realization that I could design my books if I had the right tool. Listening to other authors and self publishers, they seem to fall into two groups. Those that hired someone to do the designing and those who do it themselves. Indesign CS 3 cost about $750 US and came with a video workshop and once I registered the product I took the free offer for a one month trial to to access Adobe's library. I also bought Adobe Indesign CS 3 ClassRoom in a Book, with lesson files on CD that take you through the layout exercises. The internet was where I got most answers to my questions by researching on Google and elsewhere. Also, there are websites by Indesign professionals and internet groups that have a wealth of information. To get answers to hard to find questions I went to the These are all key to understanding the Indesign CS 3 software. Once I got the hang of it, and knew where things were, including what tools to use and how to use them, I could not believe how cool this software program was. For instance, to make a page in the book, I made a frame on a first layer, using File, Place, I added a picture, chose the text layer, made another frame and added the text. You can resize an object or picture right on the page, apply drop shadows, and ghost background images, and add gradients which is a gradual blending between colors. And there is another way to get pictures placed in a document and that is to open Adobe Bridge which is a separate tool that comes with Indesign. In Bridge you can look for files anywhere on your hard drive by opening Bridge right inside the Indesign workspace and view contents you need to bring into your document and then, just drag and drop the picture. If you have basic knowledge of art software such as Photo Shop or Corel Painter, like to learn, and don't mind doing research you might be able to design your children's picture books yourself. While you consider this as your option you should start by reading a few books on book design, especially picture book design. I found that looking at other children's books got my imagination going. Before you start the design process you will need to decide where the book will be printed so you can get information from the printer on what their needs are. You will need to know the template sizes for the interior and book cover. There are margins, bleeds and gutter sizes to know and what settings should be on or off just to name a few. If this all sounds like it's too much then don't do it. Go another route to get your book designed and in print. There are plenty of good publishing services that have designing as part of their packages or you can hire a professional book designer.


Here's the story, it's sad but true. After years of doing what all writers do with their work, submitting manuscripts to the big publishers and waiting for the rejection letter, I had enough. Don't misunderstand, I wasn't through with writing, which I love, but with the writing game. Too many hoops to jump through to attract publishers, editors and agents to your work. I'm convinced you either have to be part of the Unknown Secret Society (wink wink-nod nod), know someone who knows someone, or be lucky enough that the RIGHT person picks up your manuscript and likes it.

Yes, I've had editors interested in my stories, I've had some short stories published, some in a Chapbook, and I even had an agent, but in the end, no books published. Then, finally, along comes POD publishing. Print On Demand was just starting to make it possible to afford getting books into print and I was hooked. If only I could get my stories printed, I thought, I could easily sell them. I had joined an organization called, SPAN, Small Publishers Association Of North America. THIS would be one of the things that helped save my sanity. Through, SPAN, I was beginning to get an idea that I was maybe doing some things wrong though I couldn't nail the facts down yet.So we paid the money and signed the contract with a POD service. It was ALMOST a money making deal for them and was a heartache for me. I was told the book would be ready in eight months. We got everything in motion. Flyers to be mailed to newspapers, bookstores, libraries, and letters to accompany the review copies of the book were all ready to go. Then the galleys arrived! I thought they would look great and ready to sell. But they weren't. They was a MESS!
Among the things wrong were that the pages where the pictures should be covering the entire page, with the text embedded in the pictures, were on half the page with lots of white space around them. The text ran through the picture all right, but also out of the pictures into the trim off area! There was no way this was a finished book!

Okay, so I cried and when I was done, I got to work.I knew enough about Photo Shop to show this company how each page should look. I sent the galley back with my examples.Weeks later, coming to my book release date, the galley was back. They failed to correct almost everything. Not even the few spelling mistakes were corrected. A release form accompanied the galley. It said this was it, according to this company, the book was ready to be published! They expected me to sign the release with nothing more to be done to correct the problems in it. My rep was unavailable. I kept calling but no one there would talk to me. I had no contact. For three weeks I called every day trying to find someone to tell me what was going on. I got a recording every time to leave a message, which no one returned.Then one morning a short email arrives from the Philippines. A woman named, Sugar. The email said, my rep was fired, the company had moved overseas and I was to speech only to her. She was my new rep and she said to be patient they're working on my book. She would get back to me in two weeks.I had no patience left. I emailed back telling her that I needed to speak to someone in charge. The reply from Sugar was, "We'll get back to you." Being a quick study, I saw that there was a phone number on the email and I called it. A woman answered the phone with a thick accent. Sure enough, she used that company's name and she knew Sugar. Sugar got on the line and spoke slow English. I moved ahead with my question. "Can I speak to someone in charge about my book."

"No. We are sorry," she answered and repeated it after every phrase she said to me. "I don't understand(something about) business. We contact you. Thank you. Ok? We call you then." This is where I put in quickly, "What is happening to my book? And WHEN will they get back to me?"
"In two weeks, Ok?" she stated sweetly. Which she was! She was nervous and had no answer for me other than what they instructed her to say. I felt almost as sorry for Sugar as I felt for myself. She wanted to end my call.

Trying to be optimistic I accepted the two weeks more of being put off.Here you can guess. No call from them after two weeks! I called. Got Sugar on the phone with the English phrase book dog-eared to the page where all sentences start with "We get back to you in two weeks", Sugar started with it. I explained it WAS two weeks, AND but she stated!!! "In ANOTHER two weeks we will get back to you."

Through the next two calls, adding four more weeks to my time in never-never land and again in each call hearing, "We get back to you in two weeks. Now totally exasperated, I could barely put two words together that made sense. I spit out, "They have to talk-to-me-the-it"s-you-ahhh!"

Somebody recommended I call the Better Business Bureau. I decided to contact them by email would be wise in my emotional state of mind. I was put half out of my misery in 150 words or less, when in TWO WEEKS I got my money back in full!

My journey continues. I have painted, (yes, I can paint) the pictures for one if my children's picture books, Janooose the Goose and published the book myself with my own publishing company, Book Garden Publishing and in 2010 published my second book, THE GREAT SNOWBALL ESCAPADE, a chapter book for 6 to 8 year olds. The blow was also softened by the things I've learned from what I call, my self-publishing groups. They are a group of publishing professionals in the SPAN online discussion group. There are other good organizations out there but SPAN turned out to be what I needed. What I have learned from this discussion group and its spin out group for children's authors, the resources SPAN has for its members, the books I've read and the internet have began to put my publishing future into focus.What I can't do well enough myself, I can find the right people to do it for me. Oh, I'll still do some things wrong, no doubt. But I have the tools to find the solutions to my problems. ~ J.D. Holiday

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~Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending~ Anonymous