Help me design an ebook!
July 24, 2013 2:54 PM   Subscribe

I just finished writing a novella length book. I want to publish it as an ebook readable as a pdf or on an ipad or what have you. It’s picture-heavy (with very high quality photos.) Probably every page will have pictures. I want the design to be magazine-like, with the words many times ‘on top’ of the pictures. I have Photoshop and a decent knowledge of it and I just got Lightroom, but I don’t know much about how to use it yet. I think I’d like to design (at least some, if not all) the pages in Photoshop. I have a lot of questions:

What size should each page be?
What ppi should I use?
Should I use a ‘publisher’ like Blurb or just do it myself?
Should I use Lightroom or something else?
What fonts are good or should be avoided for this type of thing?
Should I avoid having too many 2 page spreads (or at all) or does that not matter?
Should I avoid having text cross what would be the ‘crease’ between the two ‘pages?’
What else should I know?

Any advice, guidance, recommendations or suggestions for resources would be helpful.

posted by saul wright to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked into iBook Author? It would only be fully functional on the iPad, but it would do what you want it to in terms of layout.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:02 PM on July 24, 2013

I cannot answer on a technical level, but here are suggestions as an ebook reader. I use a laptop, netbook, a 7" tablet, and a 3.4" phone screen for reading ebooks with photos; this will be typical of your readers unless you have a specific niche group you are aiming at.

-- no two page spreads. They will only be readable on a laptop or large tablet screen.
-- generally speaking, ebooks have one page at a time, not two like in a magazine or paper book
-- magazines are not good on anything but larger (9"+) tablets or computer screens
-- re-think having text over the photos. This works in print, but not as well on screen, esp. for smaller screens.
-- re-think pdf ... use one of the common ebook formats

There are many forums for self publishing authors, google and find one that appeals to you, and learn from those who have done similar ebooks.
posted by batikrose at 3:48 PM on July 24, 2013

Response by poster: I was thinking pdf because I think most people will just be reading on their computer. I don't actually know that many people with ipad/tablet/ebook readers.
posted by saul wright at 3:51 PM on July 24, 2013

This might be worth a quick read for you:
posted by anadem at 4:00 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

What do you mean by picture-heavy? Are we talking like a textbook picture heavy, more like a comic or picturebook, or something like National Geographic? What market are you aiming at?

I read a lot on my iPad and sometimes on my laptop and I loathe two-page spreads. My tablet only displays the equivalent of "one page" at a time, so I either have to deal with this half-size thing which must be rotated, or trying to figure out why I'm only looking at half a page until i turn it. Ditto for text crossing the crease.

I don't know on a technical level whether PDFs embed fonts, but that is something you should look at since I imagine it would be irritating to spend a lot of time looking for the perfect artistic font only to have it rendered into Arial or Times New Roman. For formats, I would generate PDF and EPUB (and MOBI if you're interested in the Kindle market). Please don't make the PDF first and then generate the EPUB & MOBI from that, because the text will not reflow properly.
posted by angst at 4:03 PM on July 24, 2013

Response by poster: Something like National Geographic is pretty close, though maybe a bit more arty. It's a travelogue and I have hundreds of great photos and I would say they are of equal importance to the words. I want to make it a little more visually interesting than just a picture in a box with text underneath, the same on every page. However, I also want to make it easy to read 18000 words, so I understand I'll have to make some sacrifices (like not have two page spreads, it sounds like.)
posted by saul wright at 4:08 PM on July 24, 2013

Best answer: please please please don't lay out text in photoshop.

if you are just doing like four or five words on top of a photo, like a headline, then fine, whatever. it's not ideal, but i'm not gonna hate.

but if you are doing a photo and then anything more than a paragraph of text, then please do not use photoshop. adobe indesign, which is a software program specifically made to lay out books and publications, would be your best bet for this - you can pick up a free 30 day trial from adobe.

use a serifed text for any body text you have. here's a quick tutorial on how to set it up in indesign. those are my only two hints.

book and publication design is a true art, just like photography. we are trained to create things for maximum readability but also balance. if this is really important to you, i would suggest finding a freelance layout editor who will work with you to create what you have in mind.
posted by kerning at 6:08 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding InDesign for this. It will make your life so, so much easier. Or even Blurb's free book software would be better than Photoshop for this (forget Lightroom, it's just for photo editing/management)

InDesign has several export options, so you can create PDFs at multiple resolutions when you're done.

There are lots and lots of fonts - both serif and sans - that are designed for web reading, so do a little googling and pick one you like. As a starting point, Verdana is a basic web-friendly font that pretty much everybody has.
posted by ella wren at 6:41 PM on July 24, 2013

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