Maddie's Maker Blog #1 - Self Publishing your own Children's Picture eBook and the tools I used to make it happen.



This is "Maddie's Maker", a new series of blogs chronicling the trials and tribulations of creating a self-published children's book. Over the course of 4 months during the summer of 2012, Ronald Hennessy created a children's book and self published it through the Internet. "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!" is available on Paperback, Hardcover and digital formats such as iBooks and KindlePart #2 Deals with the many eBook and hardcover/paperback options along with the pros and cons. Part #3 Covers the development of creating the two main characters Maddie and Margaret Mckenszie.

Hi. I'm Ronald Hennessy. I draw stuff. I made a children's book for the very first time. In the end, it was a rewarding, yet frustrating experience. Here are my experiences from creating it and what you may learn from it. This is by no means a definitive guide. There are people in the world who are much more experienced in this craft than I am, so take don't all of what I'm saying as the absolute truth.

The journey of me as a growing self-taught artist continues. In 2010, I began drawing again on a regular basis, reading, learning, sketching then eventually drawing with a tablet. From there, simple doodles were made and I eventually came up with some original cartoony characters. I wanted to tell a story with these characters, so I looked at several options. Early on, I nixed the idea (for now) of a webcomic. I felt a webcomic would be more involved and require consistent work with regular updates. I admire illustrations in children's books and collect them primarily for the artwork and nostalgia, so I wanted to give a shot at doing it on my own.

Coming into this arena, I set VERY modest goals. This is all me. ALL by myself. NO publisher. NO Agent. NO experience in doing this. In the modern age, there is no need to go to Penguin or Random House and hope that you get don't get a rejection. The world is yours. The market for children's ebooks is quite nascent, but as readers and tablets become much more affordable, this will eventually become a bigger market. Amazon already outsells eBooks to printed books, so it's only a matter of time that kids ebooks will catch up.
The final result.

The original sketch of page 3, depicting Maddie as an Angel sent up from the sky.
In my "blue sky" thinking. I knew right from the start this would be "digital first". I wanted to make this book an app for iPad. I even planned on doing a Kickstarter to raise funds for a published version, but I didn't see the need to do that. Plus, I'm an amateur at this. I Don't think that I'm at that point yet to ask for tons of money to print out something if I haven't produced anything noticeable to the general public. Back in January 2012, Apple released a Mac-only app called iBooks Author that made it easy to make interactive books. Instead of creating a app and spending potentially hundreds of dollars outsourcing the coding, I could make my book for a fraction of the cost on my own.

Here are the following tools that were used to make "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!":

The manuscript that made all the Maddie magic happen in iAWriter.

  • A paper sketchbook (as a rough framework for my artwork)
  • Adobe Photoshop CS5 (Mac/PC. For master work, in 600 dpi)
  • iBooks Author*(Mac only.To create the version for Apple's iBookstore)
  • Adobe Indesign CS6 (Mac/PC. For the Hard Cover, Epub and Mobi versions for Kindle and Nook. There are plugins specifically for Kindle and Blurb)
  • Adobe Acrobat (Mac/PC. To create the PDF version of the book)
  • Wacom Intuos4 Medium Tablet (Mac/PC. For drawings)
  • Dropbox (Mac/PC/iOS/Android. To backup copies and to test the book out elsewhere)
  • iAWriter** (Mac/iOS only. A really nice, simple and FOCUSED writing app using Markdown. It has iCloud and Dropbox support. Makes it very easy to edit my writing on any Mac or iOS device.)
  • Lots of Caffeine and late nights sacrificed working on this.
  • Imagination and inspiration from all over.

*If you have an iPad, but no Mac, I hear good things about Book Creator.

**For PC/Android users, an alternative to iAWriter would be Google Drive/Docs. It operates more like a word processor though.

I spent over the course of nearly 4 months creating my children's picture book "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!". The process wasn't as smooth as I hoped it would be, but learning from my mistakes should make it much more smoother next time around. I started out with preliminary sketches featuring Margaret and Maddie interacting with each other, then wrote the manuscript in about a day.

After making tweaks to the manuscript, I drew sketches that would become a blueprint to the final artwork. I scanned all the sketches and inked and colored the pages using Photoshop. Since I was planning to make multiple versions, I saved each page as 600 dpi, then downsized versions in 300 dpi, then versions without the text. The "master" version is my PDF file that I'm selling independently online. It is my original vision whereas the iBooks and Kindle versions are more of a compromise. I knew I wanted to get this book out before the holiday shopping season, so the Kindle version could stand to look a little better. Dealing with different dimensions stinks.

To be continued...

Part 2 will deal with the various formats I had to create along with the upsides and downsides of making them. Ronald Hennessy's "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!" is available on PaperbackHardcover and digital formats such as iBooks and Kindle. You can follow Ronald on Twitter, TumblrDeviantArt, and Google+.