Tag Archives: children’s books

From Kwik to Print

Since 2011, I’ve written, illustrated, and developed two children’s book apps and I’m currently working on my third. I’ve also recently illustrated and developed a book app for Huggable Melodies. Thanks to Kwik, creating the apps was very easy and it allowed me to focus on drawing instead of coding.

I drew the artwork in Flash, and then using Photoshop and the Kwik plugin, I was quickly able to covert the artwork into apps for the iPad and Kindle Fire tablets. However, since my daughter is only 16 months old, I wondered if iPads would even still be around in a few years when she could really comprehend the stories I had written for her. This made me want to consider self-published print versions.

The first company I tried out was Bookemon. It allowed me to upload artwork in landscape dimensions in full color and order on an as-needed basis. The only qualms I have with Bookemon is if you only want one copy, it’s a minimum of $15 shipped, which is kind of pricey for a small book. Also, if you allow the general public to order your book from Bookemon, they can read the entire book without buying it and Bookemon takes a royalty fee. I’m considering trying CreateSpace or Lulu for my next book and I’ll post about the process when I decide.

On the technical side, converting a book app to print-ready artwork was fairly easy and just took a little knowledge of resolution. Most digital artwork is 72dpi and printed work is 300dpi or higher. The book on Bookemon is 7.75″x5.75″, so I created a new document in Photoshop at that size with a resolution of 300dpi. Then I changed the image size resolution to 72dpi and got the new dimensions. I changed the stage size to those new dimensions of my Flash file and scaled down the artwork page by page. Since Flash creates vector artwork, there was no loss in quality. I exported each page as a .png file at 300dpi and uploaded them to Bookemon.

A few days later the print books had arrived and the line quality looks great.

 

Because of the vector artwork and high-resolution exporting, the artwork is crisp and colors are vivid. It’s nice to have an interactive digital version as well as a traditional print version of the books. For my next book, Maddie Bear’s Birthday, I may try to implement an in-app purchase in the app version that allows you to order a print version as well. First, I have to finish drawing the book and then decide on a publisher.

Have any questions about going from digital to print? Leave a comment.

Creating “Floating Fun”: Behind the Scenes

Now that my second children’s eBook app “Floating Fun” has been released for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Apple iPad, I will discuss some behind the scenes information.

Creating the second installment of the Colin Turtle book series was much easier than creating the first book because I already knew the creative process and this time, I had new software to utilize. I had knowledge of the many tools available to use to create apps and I knew what I wanted to accomplish with the second book.

The Original Title of Floating Fun
The Original Title of Floating Fun

From the beginning, I knew I wanted to use the Kwik Photoshop plugin to create the book and Adobe Flash to draw the animations and illustrations. For the animations, I would use a sprite sheet creator, but I wasn’t sure if I would use Zwoptex, TexturePacker, Spriteloq, or SpriteHelper.

Adobe Flash - Initial Sketches
Adobe Flash – Initial Sketches

The deciding factor was being invited to alpha test Kwiksher’s new software that was being developed called “K2”. Not only was K2 adding a plethora of new features to its Kwik predecessor, but they were also working with Code and Web to create a K2 export function in the beta version TexturePacker Pro 3.0.0b10.

TexturePacker K2 Export
TexturePacker K2 Export

Having two great pieces of software working well together made it much easier to assemble the final project. In K2, you can select a layer, click the “Replace with Sprite Sheet” icon, then select the files TexturePacker created for you, and your animation is inserted in your book. It’s very easy to use and saves a ton of time trying to program sprite sheets in manually.

K2 - Beta 2 Interface
K2 – Beta 2 Interface

A few other features I used in K2 were the navigation menu, physics, external code insertion, and text highlighting. Clicking the Navigation Menu check box auto-generates an interface in which users can navigate your book through a series of thumbnail images. This is a nice addition, especially for users that want to navigate to a specific page without having to flip through the entire book.

(YouTube video showing physics, text highlighting, navigation menu and external bubble popping game code.)

The K2 physics feature allows developers to add gravity to pages of their books or even develop games directly in Photoshop. So if you’re looking for an easy way to create a game app, but don’t know where to get started, you can now use Kwik and Photoshop.

The external code feature can also help you develop games in Kwik. If you know your way around Lua coding and want to add your own code into a K2 project, you can now paste it in using the External Code option and choose where you want it to be inserted in the published file.

Floating Fun was the first eBook published using the K2 beta as well as the beta version of TexturePacker’s K2 exporter, without either of those pieces of software I would not have had the time or energy to create the book through an alternate method. Both K2 and TexturePacker saved me a lot of time and manual coding to create my book.

 

Creating a Children’s eBook Tips

As I begin to wrap up my second children’s eBook (Colin Turtle Books), I figured I’d offer some advice about my process to help anyone else who is interested in creating a children’s eBook. I am far from an expert in the field, but here are a few things that I’ve learned and some tricks I use.

Step 1: Writing the Story

I usually start writing out ideas for a storyline, the script, and ideas for interactive elements in Evernote. The reason I choose Evernote is because it installs on your PC, Mac, Android and iOS devices and syncs your notes in their cloud service. So no matter where you are, you can open up your notes and jot down ideas as they come to you. Usually inspiration doesn’t come to me when I’m in front of a laptop trying to write, so it’s nice being able to type up an idea on my phone wherever I am at the time.

Interactivity Notes in Evernote
Interactivity Notes in Evernote

Step 2: Artwork

My software of choice for drawing is Adobe Flash. It works well with Wacom drawing tablets, it has the ability to export .png sequences and sprite sheets, and it’s handy for drawing animations. I usually do a layer of text where I layout the script in different keyframes, and then I do a layer of rough sketches just to storyboard the script. Then I begin to draw the characters, background, animations, etc. Once the artwork is completed I’ll export the frames out as .png files.

Drawing Artwork in Flash
Drawing Artwork in Flash

Step 3: Sprite Sheets

For the animations, I’ll take the .png sequences or individual movies clips epxorted as .swf files and import them into a sprite sheet creator. You can review some of the creators that I use throughout my blog, but here are some of my favorites.

Different Sprite Sheet Creators
Different Sprite Sheet Creators

Step 4: Sound Effects & Narration

For sound, I use a variety of sources. A lot of sounds I’ll record myself to save some money (see my previous blog post about recording sound on a budget), but some sounds I’ll get from free sound effects websites and from the sound library built into GarageBand. For my first children’s book “The Perfect Pillow“, my sister-in-law Leslie was kind enough to narrate and voice act for the project. For text highlighting, I use Audacity and assign labels to each word spoken in the narration track.

Assigning Text Labels in Audacity
Assigning Text Labels in Audacity

Step 5: Programming

If you’re familiar with Xcode and Objective-C, Cocos2D is a great way to create eBooks for iOS devices. If you’re not sure how to get started creating an eBook using this method, Justin at Cartoon Smart offers a fantastic video tutorial series. If you’re not familiar with Objective-C, you can still create an interactive eBook using Kwik software, which allows you to build the book in Photoshop using layers. I’ve used both methods, but since I don’t have a background in C programming, Kwik was easier to use for me.

Creating a Book in Xcode
Creating a Book in Xcode

Step 6: Marketing

This is often an overlooked step, but it’s one of the most important. Relying on the Amazon App Store, Google Play Store and Apple App Store to market your book is probably not going to get you a lot of sales unless you’re Rovio and you just created the next Angry Birds game. A few ways that I have advertised my book have been blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, interviews, promo code contests, and getting companies to review your book. Getting people excited about the book before it’s released it important so the sooner you get your book’s name out on the internet, the better,

I hope this has helped you understand what goes into an eBook when you’re a one-person studio. It’s not difficult to get into the market if you follow a few steps. More importantly, it should be fun. If you’re not enjoying creating your book, perhaps you should look into just doing one aspect of it and outsourcing the rest of the steps.