Sunday, 22 January 2012

Adding Pictures to an Ebook by Diana Kimpton

As a children’s author, I’m used to my print books having illustrations so it seemed natural to include pictures when we created my first children’s ebook, Perfectly Pony. But before we could do that, we had to find out how.

Behind the scenes, ebooks have more in common with websites than with printed books. Both the mobi and the epub formats use cut-down versions of HTML - the language used to create all websites.

Although, as publisher, you have some control over the layout, readers can change the font, the text size and the line spacing so the way a book looks on one person’s Kindle may differ from how it looks on someone else's. That affects the way pictures  display. You can decide where you want them in the flow of text, and you can put a page break just before them to make sure they  appear near the top of the screen. But you can’t control how much text shows on the same page.

After experimenting a bit, we decided to use pictures in the book in three ways:
1.    To have a picture under the heading for each chapter.
2.    To have a galloping horse icon beside all the sub headings.
3.    To have a really good horse photograph on the cover.
That left us with the next problem – finding the pictures themselves. Luckily we already own Art Explosion – a massive collection of royalty free art from which we found most of the pictures we needed. There was even a drawing of a Pony Express rider that clearly showed the mochila that was central to one of the stories.

However, none of the horse photographs were good enough for the cover, we didn’t like any of the flying horses and there were no pictures of Przewalski horses. (Not surprising really – the demand for those can’t be high.) So we turned to a brilliant website called This holds a huge selection of photos and drawings which you can license to use in a book for a very reasonable fee that covers use in up to 499,999 copies. If I sell more than that, I’ll have to go back and pay more money but, in that case, I’ll have earned so much that the higher fee won’t hurt at all.

The search facility on is awesome and so is the quality of the photographs. A search for photos of palomino horses looking towards the camera produced a large selection from which we picked the one we finally used on the cover. More surprisingly, there was also a good selection of photos of Przewalski horses. (Maybe the demand’s higher than I thought.)

We used all the pictures in jpeg format and manipulated them to make sure they were the right size and looked the way we wanted. The cover picture was originally landscape so we cropped it heavily to fit onto the portrait shaped cover. We also took a drawing of one galloping horse and repeated it three times in different shades to create a racing image for the Grand National chapter.

E-ink Kindles currently only show pictures in black and white, so we lightened the background in the colour photo of the Przewalski horse to make sure its upright mane showed clearly enough in the black and white version. (If you want to put pictures in your own ebooks but you haven’t any suitable picture editing software on your computer, try one of the web based utilities like

The pictures after the chapter headings are each in their own paragraph and centred. However, to put the galloping horse icons beside the headings, we left the pictures as an in-line image beside the text.  But we soon discovered that the Kindle's got a trick up its sleeve: if it thinks the picture is too small, it enlarges it. That spoilt the effect we wanted and made the edges of the picture fuzzy. 

The only way we found to combat this was to go into the HTML, find the picture and set the size. For example, where the HTML originally said: <img src="h3icon.jpg alt="little horse />,
we edited to say <img src="h3icon.jpg alt="little horse" width="30" height="20" />.

This worked neatly in the subheadings and in the table of contents.

Perfectly Pony is a collection of stories and information for horse and pony lovers everywhere. You can find out about my other books at



madwippitt said...

Handy tip about keeping pictures sized - at some point soon I've got two books which need diagrams, so this will be usaeful info! Thanks!

Susan Price said...

Fascinating and so usseful! And beautiful cover.

Jennie Walters said...

Love your cover, Diana! The colours are subtle but gorgeous. Very useful info - thanks.

Diana Kimpton said...

I'm delighted you like the cover. The colours are picked up from the photo. The lettering matches the manes and the background for it is one of the many shades in the horses' coats.

Linda Gillard said...

If you're not confident with HTML, you can also insert pictures or diagrams as jpegs in the text.