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Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

Where did you find those photos? All of us can tell stories of old shoe boxes full of family snapshots turning up in the back of a closet, under a pile of boxes, or who knew where. What do you do when you find precious family memories? You certainly don’t want to dump them back into the box. Here’s what I did when I found a small suitcase filled with family photos, some taken nearly a century ago.

I created a photo book — my first. Here’ a sample page from the book I made for my mother as a Mother’s Day gift this year. The book, “Photo Vignettes from the Life of Frances K. Sullivan” (my grandmother) contains 46 of the best photos selected, scanned and restored from the mess I found in that suitcase.

Instead of a jumbled pile of old pictures, many of dubious quality, we have an archival quality, hard bound book. The images in that book are organized, tell a story (or stories) and brief comments identify people and dates.

A photo book lets you bring consistency to dozens of images. Since many of the originals were sepia toned, I used sepia toning throughout for uniformity. I played with the layout and image sizes as I went along. With a decent flatbed scanner and competent photo editor, it’s a simple task to enlarge small snapshots and reduce larger photos to fit

No other format that I know of can match a well designed photo book. In the end you’ll have a book that’s a pleasure to leaf through, easy to store and preserves memories for future generations.

Expensive? Not when you consider the cost of prints and a decent quality photo album. I went through some of our old photo albums today. What a mess! Maybe they were quality years ago but today they are deteriorated, plastic holders falling out. I pulled all the photos out and tossed two albums.

Never use one of those albums with the sticky pages and a plastic overlay. These things are supposed to hold the photos lightly. Don’t believe it. I have a few of these to go through and salvage what I can. After all these years, all the pictures in the albums are permanently glued to the pages. You cannot get them off without destroying the photos. The only way to save any of the photos is to scan entire pages. I can hardly wait.

As I flip through the pages I see too many photos that should have gone into the trash years ago. We save too many poor images. The key to a successful photo book is triage. Toss the garbage, the blurry, the silly, the who cares and concentrate on the good stuff. Select the best photos, images that celebrate special events, images that capture the essence of our loved ones at different times in their lives.

What about recent digital images? My daughter has hundreds of digital photos stored on a computer that refuses to boot. I’m going to try a rescue mission. Digital imagery has changed the way we make pictures, but permanent storage is an ongoing issue. Imagine your grandchildren finding a box full of CDs or DVDs 30 years from now. What are these things they’ll say? Even if they know what’s on them how will they view the content and will those CDs or DVDs even work?

Now imagine your grandchildren leafing through an archival quality photo book. Can you picture them sitting together reliving the memories? I can. I’ll have more to say on the topic of photo books in subsequent posts. I’m sold on the concept and when my latest order of six new books arrives later this week, I’ll have 10 volumes in my photo book library. Thank you AdoramaPix. I can hardly wait to tear the package open.

PS — I have a high quality e-book for each of my photo books as a bonus.

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I finished the last of six new photo books late Sunday night, tweaked one of them just a bit on Monday morning and ordered hard copies from AdoramaPix. The sale on 8×8, 14 page photo books ended Tuesday. Who doesn’t like a sale, especially one this good? I saved $15 + sales tax on each book so when my latest order arrives next week I’ll have a 10 volume library of my best images and $160 in savings.


This is an image of the cover from one of the photo books I ordered on Monday. All of my photo books use the same simple template inspired by a wonderful little book, “On Reading” by Andre Kertesz: White cover with photo, simple title, my name in a smaller, lighter font and one photo with a generous white border on each page.


Here’s an example of one of the inside pages from this photo book. As I mentioned in my previous post, Adorama’s (or your vendor of choice) on line templates will suit many people. I used Scribus, an open source desktop publishing program to format and lay out my books before uploading the final version to Adoramapix. It took less than an hour to upload and create six books using my method.

When you fire up Scribus, you get a setup screen that allows you to choose the book size, number of pages (you can add or delete pages any time), margins and other page settings. I set my book(s) up as 8 inches by 8 inches. I accepted the default margins of .56 inches for right, left and top. I set the bottom margin to .88 inches and chose 16 pages — Front cover, back cover and 14 internal pages.

I moved the bottom margin up slightly because I wanted each image to look centered on the page. If you center an image vertically, it looks too low on the page because of a quirk in the way our eyes see things.

Putting your image on the page is easy. Draw an image frame in the middle of the page (exact placement and size don’t matter). Right click and select Get Image. Pick the image you want from the drop down file window, click and the image will appear in the frame.

Then right click and choose adjust frame to image. To get the image where you want it to go, click Align & Distribute from the Windows menu. A sticky sub window will pop up. There are 10 align buttons in the window. Choose relative to: margins then click on center vertical and center horizontal and you’re there. Just a few mouse clicks places your image quickly and easily.

On of the neat things about Scribus is the sticky windows stay until you dismiss them so the window will be there for the next page and so on.

The cover takes a bit more work. I use a smaller version of one of my images on the cover so I need to size the frame so suit the cover design. Follow the same procedure to get your image into the frame. Then right click on the image and click properties. The properties window has all the properties of the image. Click image then check off scale to frame size (proportional) and the image will shrink to fit the frame. If the image doesn’t fit the dimensions exactly, you can fiddle with the frame to get the image to the size you want. Then click on adjust frame to image.

Drag the image to where you want it vertically then click to center between the left and right margins. Draw a text frame where you’d like your title, enter the information via the text editor where you can choose font, size, alignment, etc.

So why go to all this trouble when you can upload your photos to Adoramapix and use their online tools? Glad you asked. Scribus can output a high quality PDF file of your book. I use this interactively because all design is a recursive back and forth until you are happy with the results. And when you are finished you have a high quality ebook.

I ended up doing more triage with my Red Bank book as I went along. Two of the images just weren’t right for the book so I found better ones, edited them and loaded them instead. The page order wasn’t quite right either so I moved pages around in Scribus until I was satisfied. It’s very easy to move pages. Simply pick move page from the page menu then tell Scribus where to put the page relative to any other page.

When you’re ready to upload your images, choose export/save as image and Scribus will export each page as a jpeg file. For my 8×8 book, each page is exactly 2400 pixels in each dimension (300 dpi) and 100% quality. Scribus writes each page with the book name and sequential number. Takes a minute or two.

When you log in and choose to create a book, you go through the steps of picking the cover type, the size, number of pages, etc. Then click upload from your computer, select the image files and within a few minutes all images will be uploaded.

I chose a custom book with no template. The next screen lists all the images on the left, empty pages (in pairs on the bottom) and the page(s) you are working on in the main window. With my method, I simply drag the image and drop it anyplace on the page then click size to page. It’s fast and easy. Each page only takes a few seconds.

I haven’t figured out how to do the spine lettering with Scribus so I pick the text tool and type in my title and my name. You must rotate the text 90 degrees and size it by hand. Not difficult but a bit of a pain. When you’re done, click preview where you can review your book. If all is well, then click order and follow the prompts.

If you aren’t ready to order, your book will be saved for 90 days. I believe you can upgrade for something like $24.95/year for unlimited storage.

It’s lovely to have an archive quality ‘real’ book you can hold in your hands and pass on to future generations. It’s also nice to have a high quality e-book for viewing on your monitor screen. When I’m proofing my books I use the dual page display in Adobe reader. The book will display exactly the same as the printed version. The image is a bit smaller 82% on my screen but large enough to enjoy.

The real treat comes with a full screen display. Each page fills the screen vertically and because the book has been formatted at 300 dpi, the typical 96 ppi lcd screen displays each page with no loss of quality.

If anyone has questions about using Scribus for photo book creation, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email message. I’d love to help as best I can.

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So you’ve decided to make a photo book. Where do you begin? Start with a concept, a theme for your book. What’s the book about and what kind of photos will I include? When I made my first photo book a few months ago, the theme was easy. I had dozens of photos from my grandmother’s life and I wanted to tell her story, at least part of it anyway. My next project was to make two photo books of my best images from my year in Saigon, one B&W and one in color.

Here’s the cover of my latest project: “Flowers — A Closer Look.” I haven’t ordered a print version of the book yet but I do have a finished e-book. The ability to make high quality photo e-books is one of the main reasons I’ve chosen to use a desktop publishing program for page layout and book construction. When I finally decide to have the Flowers book printed I’ll use Adoramapix. Adoramapix has printed four photo books for me so far and they’ve done a marvelous job with each. You won’t be disappointed in their work.

When I’m ready to submit my photo book to Adoramapix, I simply upload my pages as individual jpeg files and use their online flash app to quickly and easily add my preformatted pages to the new book. In other words, I do all my page layouts offline using Scribus then complete the book using the Adoramapix flash app.

As an alternative, Adoramapix has dozens of preformatted templates that make it easy to create a photo book. Most people will be very happy using one of these templates. Me? I’m climbing the steep learning curve of Scribus and I’ll explain why in detail in a subsequent post.

Let’s get back to the subject at hand, first things first. Once you decide on a theme for your photo book, it’s time to gather and sift through your images. I create a new folder and name it accordingly. For instance, my flower folder is simply flower_book. My Saigon B&W folder is saigonBWbook. Then I gather scattered images and make copies that I put in the new folder.

Once I have all my images in one place, I go through a triage process. If the image isn’t good enough or I decide to leave it out, I delete it. Remember that only copies go into this folder so all my originals are safe. I may end up with more images than I can use but that’s OK. I’ll make final decisions as I work on the page layouts.

Adoramapix expects your images to be 300 dpi and either tiff or jpeg format in sRGB color space (even if your images are B&W). I load each image into my photo editor and convert to sRGB (it’s easy). I prefer one photo on each page and I resize the image (making sure it’s 300 dpi) to fit my page layout. When I say resize, I mean downsize. If the version of the image I’ve chosen is too small, I’ll either dig out a larger image or rescan.

For an 8 inch X 8 inch photo book, I’ve been sizing my images so I get a nice wide white border on each page. This means about 4 x 6 or 4 x 5 for rectangular images and 5 1/2 inches or thereabouts for square images.

While in my photo editor I make tonal adjustments and add moderate sharpening as needed. In a few instances, I’ve rescanned to get a better image. The main thing here is to tweak your photos so they will be ready for the next step.

First things first means choosing a theme, then collecting, sorting and preparing your images for the next step: Either creating a book using a desktop publishing program like Scribus or uploading directly to Adoramapix. I use Adoramapix as an example because I use and like them. The principles remain the same no matter who you choose to print your photo book.

One of the real benefits of this first step is it forces you to choose and organize your best work and assemble it in one place. My images are all over the place but as I build each photo book, I know where to find things and can easily back up.

I’ll explain my next step(s) in the next installment in this series. Stay tuned…

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I’m having some serious fun with my photo books project. That’s a plural folks. Three new photo books arrived in yesterday’s mail and I’m expecting a fourth, the title of this post, to arrive next week. But first, I wanted to share the cover from the “Saigon 1966: Vol. One – Black and White” book that I mentioned in an earlier post.

This is the cover from the second version of the photo book. I tried using the Adoramapix online flash app to lay out the entire book. It was OK but didn’t offer the precision I wanted. The second version was created on my computer using Scribus, an open source desktop publisher. I like this version better. I saved it as a template for consistency with all my photobooks. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll show you samples of the results today, then follow up with subsequent posts to explain how (and why) I did what I did.

Here’s the cover of the prize we’re waiting for — “Granddaughters: The Early Years.” I shot the cover image on the spur of the moment one day a couple weeks ago. The twins (Maddy and Livvy) and I were sitting at my kitchen table. I was pleasantly surprised when I processed the film and found this gem. I cropped tight to eliminate clutter and focus attention on the girls.

This is one of the inside pages, a photo of Emily that I took a few years ago. She wasn’t posed for this photo. One of my cameras was loaded with Fuji Neopan 1600. Emily was leaning over the back of a chair in the family room and I grabbed this shot. All of the images in the 14 page (6 double sided leaves plus the inside front and back covers) are captioned. Digging through old family photos and wondering who was who is frustrating, captions will solve that problem for future generations.

I spent a year in Alaska in 1963-64 and wanted to preserve the best of the surviving images. All the photos in the book were taken with a 127 box camera and slide film. The slide mounts (super slides) are the same outside dimensions as a 35mm slide but with very narrow margins and a square aspect ratio. This photo is a crop of a picture I shot from the airplane on the way to King Salmon A.F.S. in November, 1963.

I like the idea of a single image on each page. This is a sample from the inside of the Alaska book. I didn’t take this one — it’s me at 19 years of age. There are no captions in this book because I opted for a simple elegant look similar to a matted photo. The two Saigon photo books, B&W and color, follow the same format. Actually, as I said earlier, the Saigon B&W book was the model for the template.

Next time, I’ll share my workflow and some of the technical aspects of photo book creation. One of the side benefits of making these books is that it’s forcing me to get serious about organizing my images and selecting the best of them for publication. Stay tuned…

PS — The new header on my blog is from the Alaska photos. It’s a cropped shot of the midnight sun taken in the middle of the short Alaskan summer night back in 1964.

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The E-Book market is growing — fast. Nikkei Electronics Asia’s August 2009 Cover Story paints a rosy growth picture. The article focuses on electronics and dedicated readers. They report that a recent survey predicts that shipments of dedicated e-readers in the U.S. will hit 28.6 million units by 2013. Only one million shipped in 2008. That’s a huge increase. Yes, but…

Photo by "Alton"

Photo by "Alton"

The real explosion will come when content is compatible, runs on many different platforms (not just dedicated readers) and delivery is easy. One argument you hear often is that people prefer the feel of “real” books and don’t like reading from a small screen. Ya think?? A connected generation growing up with blackberries, smart-phones, laptops and the Internet would beg to differ.

People want simple, convenient and stuff that just works. You don’t need a large screen for recreational reading. People carry their Blackberries or smart phones everywhere they go. Get to a meeting early and have a few minutes to kill? Whip out your iPhone and pick up where you left off in the latest novel you’re reading. Stuck in the airport? Pull out your Blackberry, connect to B&N and you can be reading a novel in minutes.

The ecosystem of content delivery (and compatibility) is evolving quickly.
Sony announced their support for the ePub format. All of the Barnes and Noble E-Books will be in ePub format. ePub is a new standard for “reflowable digital books” developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum. Reflowable means that the text adapts to the screen of the device. It’s a fancy way to say the text will wrap at the edges of the screen.

Back in the stone age of handhelds, I read many books on my palm pilot’s tiny 160 x 160 screen and enjoyed every minute. I even snuck in some reading when I was supposed to be working. The screens on today’s handhelds are far superior and highly readable.

More and more big names are jumping on the e-book train. Google, Samsung, major publishers and rumors of Apple joining the fray abound. What’s needed is a critical mass and I think that will come the adoption of the ePub standard. Proprietary formats (like the Kindle) are doomed.

When people can use the devices they already have and when most E-Books use ePub, a completely free and open standard, the stage will be set for a seamless ecosystem of content delivery for E-Books. The market will decide, not the proprietary dinosaur formats. Self-publishing will target The Long Tail and give people what they want. ePub and the ecosystem it will spawn will be the final nail in the coffin of traditional publishing.

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ebookcoverIt’s finished. “How to Create & Publish Your E-Book Using Free Tools” is complete and available on the E-Book page. Please be my guest and grab your copy.

I woke up yesterday energized and full of ideas. I made significant changes to the book’s format and I’m pleased with the results. it’s much easier to read on screen and the two page view works perfectly. (so does a two page printout on 8 1/2 X 11 in landscape mode). I think you’ll like the changes.

Writing this book has been a continuous process of exploration and discovery. As I learned, I folded my lessons into the book itself. I eliminated about half of the figures. I had too many and now I have just enough to be a help. I tweaked the text to match my changes and expanded the final chapter.

I have a lot more to say on the subject of writing and self-publishing. If I tried to incorporate all I have to say into this book, I’d be months doing a complete rewrite. I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ve already begun the early stages of a new book.

The new book will take a fresh approach from an entirely new direction. From gestation to birth, I want to explore writing, dragons, inner critic technicians, and more. Problem — solution(s), from idea to completed book and all that lies in between. I’m excited.

Title? Who knows. It will come to me as I write. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Meanwhile, “How to Create & Publish Your E-Book Using Free Tools” stands on it’s own as a completed work. Enjoy and be sure to leave comments.

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