Goats, Goats And More Goats - by Susan Price

It was about a year ago that my brother Andrew said, "How about
The Troll gets a look in
doing something with the Three Billy Goats Gruff?"

         He knows I'm a sucker for that story, that I've often said it's a master-class in suspenseful story-telling. So I said, "You're on!" and the Goatstravaganza started to roll.
       First we set up a story-board: a large sheet of plywood leaning against a bookcase, on which Andrew stuck sketches as he made them. I would scribble lines on bits of paper and tack them to the board. The pictures influenced the writing and the writing influenced the pictures. It was enormous fun.

 Pencil sketches from the story-board

       We wanted to publish it as a paperback with CreateSpace. Ah, but how to persuade CreateSpace to publish a picture book with speech-bubbles and explosive, coloured 'Ka-pows!' and pictures that bleed right to the edge of the page?
     We researched, and all the smart money said that making it into a PDF with a PDF writer was the way to go. We needed Adobe Acrobat Pro with which you can create a PDF rather than just read one.
      Adobe Pro is expensive. But there was a month's free trial. So we downloaded it and gave it a go, carefully following instructions. We loaded it up to Createspace's previewer and found we'd failed. So we tried again. And failed. We tried and failed again and again.
      No matter how many times we looked up 'how to do it,' no matter how many times we meticulously checked over what we'd done, when we ran it through the Create Space previewer, it was a disaster. Tiny pages pushed into one corner. Half the image missing - oh, there were endless variations of wrong, but they were all wrong.
          Life did seem to narrow down to Goats, Goats and yet more failing Goats.

          I even lashed out a whole £1-99 on 'How to Format Your Picture Book For Createspace and Kindle Without The Frustration.' The author has obviously been there.
     We carefully followed Olson's  instructions for making a PDF. Failed.
       Wrath and despair. 

        Then, while the brother chewed the rug, I turned to the part of the book which tells you how to format using Microsoft Word. Hmm, I thought. Worth a go.

         You go to the Word's Layout menu, to Size. You make a new Word file, to the size you will be using in Createspace. You add an inch all round to allow for bleed. So, as were using the 11" by 8" Createspace size, we made the Word file 13" by 10".

The book was so thin that the gutter in the middle made no difference. Our pictures were going to flow right across it.

Add a great many blank pages to the Word file, far more than you need, because it's easier to delete pages than to add them, once they're filled with images. (If you try to insert an image between two other images, the new one almost always ends up in the wrong place. Don't ask me why. I just know from experience that it does.)
         Remember that your book has to have at least 26 pages or C/S won't upload it. This differs from the traditional picture book format - but also gives you more freedom.
         When you have your Word file at the required size, turn to your images, in whatever graphics programme you use. Make sure your text is embedded - that means it's saved as a graphic image rather than as text. This allowed us to have speech-bubbles and coloured words that go 'Zoo-ooo-oom!' They're actually pictures of words rather than text.
     Save your images in a format acceptable to Word. We saved them as jpegs. The  resolution needs to be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch.)
          Then use the Insert menu on Word to 'insert picture.' Insert your jpegs, page by page and centre them. Pull them at the corners until they fill your 'page.'
          If you have a double-page spread, cut it in half and insert it as two pages.

         We gave this method a go, somewhat gloomily, expecting it to fail as all our other attempts had.
         It worked, almost perfectly, first time. Andrew, a perfectionist, did a lot more work to get the details to join up across the double-spreads but never mind, it worked!
         When we proofed it on Createspace, we were told it was wrong because 'the file was a different size to the one expected' and because 'live elements went over the page border.' But we expected this. We wanted the pages to bleed right to the edges. Andrew had designed it so that there was nothing important in the areas that would be cut off.
       So we ignored Createspace's warnings. There is a button to click which actually says something like, 'Ignore and go ahead anyway.'
         We followed Karen Bush's advice and paid for a proof - and made more changes because of it. On some pages, the text, which had seemed fine in the previewer, was actually too close to the edge of the page, so we went back to the master-image and changed it.

 The Story Book              UK                    US
 The Colouring-In Book   UK                    US

        And when we'd done it, it was Andrew who had the bright idea of turning it into a colouring-in book. "We've got all the pictures," he said. "The outlines and the colours are on different layers. All I have to do is remove the colour layer and we've got a book of black-and-white outline drawings."

Some of the words and letters have fallen out of our book!

         That reminded me of talking about how children learn to read with my cousin, Alan Hess, who until recently taught special needs children. I emailed him and asked, would it be a good idea to remove some of the words and letters from the text of the colouring-in book, so children could practice their reading and writing skills by filling in the blanks?  "It's an excellent idea," he said.
          So our Three Billy Goats Gruff story-book is accompanied by the colouring-in book, with 'closed' exercises to help children with reading.

         But here's the good news for picture book writers. You don't need incredibly expensive programmes like Adobe Pro and Photoshop. You can use Word, which you've almost certainly already got, and free graphics programmes such as Gimp.
         We're already at work on our next opus, which will be The Musicians of Bremen and I love the images Andrew has already sketched.

The 'Bremen' storyboard

The donkey gets the idea of going to Bremen
The donkey and the dog meet the cat



Umberto Tosi said…
Thank you for this enlightening - and fun - tutorial. I've always loved that fairytale too and I congratulate you in banishing the troll of gnarly formatting frustrations and showing us the way to Word!

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