Self Publish your book with iBooks Author

Have you always wanted to self publish your book

I think I’ve always wanted to publish something. Maybe it’s because I’m a creative person and I’ve always been that way. I can remember back to when I was just a kid and I thought it would be great to make my own comic and get it distributed. I sat in my bedroom drawing things and writing some words to go with them. It was only after I’d done a lot of work, but enjoyed myself in the process, I realised it wasn’t going to go much further than that. How on earth was I going to take my fun little comic book story and present it to the world. This was back before computers were invented and smart phones were not even a sparkle in Steve Jobs’s eye. It is amazingly simple if you want to self publish your book now using a Mac and your iOS devices.

Using iBooks Author

Fast forward over 40 years and things look very different for personal publishing. If you want to self publish your book or comic, create professional sounding music or a video you now have the tools to share your work and your vision. I absolutely love it that I can grab iBooks Author and put together a first-class electronic book. Apple have also given us the connections within the software to distribute to the masses with the iBookstore.

Join me and self publish your book for free

Good and Geeky BooksIt’s not just that books have become electronic and thus easy to download. A book is not just a book any more! We are not constrained by the analogue world of ink on paper. In Good and Geeky books you’ll not only find words and pictures but also video, audio and other interactivity. You just need to grab hold of the publishing opportunities now available and take that step to self publish your book. In the rest of this article I going to go over some of the details of how to use iBooks Author. I expect you to give it a try yourself and send me links to your creative output. I’d love to see what you can come up with.

Self Publish your Book with iBooks Author

It’s easy to self publish your book with iBooks Author. The application has been available now for a good few years and has seen improvements along the way. iBooks Author makes it simplicity itself to set the layout of the document to make it pretty and also easy to read. I like the way I can use the styles to set up the look for the chapter headings. With the styles you make sure that every type of text within your book is uniform throughout. It’s not good if the chapter title text is in Helvetica font in most of your book, but then changes to Times New Roman in chapter five. This sort of attention to detail is incredibly important in terms of making your book look as professional as possible. When you are self publishing you don’t have the benefits of a publishing house spending time to format the book for you. By using top quality software like iBooks Author to self publish your book people will have a hard job telling the difference between it and something from a traditional publisher.

Control your book with the iBooks Author template

You have to choose the template most suited to your book as soon as you get started with iBooks Author. You won’t be able to change the template after you have already started working on the layout of your book. It’s not difficult to change the elements of style within the template. This means you’re not stuck to using formatting within the document you don’t like. Begin by using the template which is the closest to the look of the book you require and then make the changes.

Self Publish your book

In the template chooser you have a variety of templates to get started. There are ten different landscape designs, seven different portrait template styles, an EPUB classic template and some blanks. When you’ve created a customised style and layout you can save it as a template to use again in subsequent projects. You’ll see a section at the bottom of the template chooser called My Templates.

Options within the Templates to Self Publish Your Book

When you first open a template you will see chapter 1 is already in the chapter list to the left side of the application. You get the front page of a chapter which you can change between, in this case – Chapter Photo, Chapter Introduction, Chapter Text and Preface. Under that you will see a default page in which it’s possible to change with six different options. You can go for single column, two column, single column with a pull quote or single column with a sidebar. If you want to build a totally customised page layout when you self publish your book choose the blank page. With that you’ll be able to add in text boxes, shapes, tables, charts and various sorts of widgets to your hearts content. With the style pages you choose from you’ll see there is Lorem Ipsum text in place to show you where the text will go. Same with the photos there’ll be a photo on the page you can change for one of your own. Click inside the placeholder text to select it and paste in your own words.

Getting started with iBooks Author

Getting started with iBooks Author

Create your cover and self publish your book

In the side panel of the iBooks Author application you’ll see a section entitled Book. At the top of this there is an icon looking like a book and the text Book Title. Using this is one way to quickly create a book cover. Having a book cover that stands out from the crowd and properly says what the book is about is important. It’s worth spending money on a book cover designer if you don’t have the graphic design knowledge yourself. People really do judge a book by its cover so make your cover look great. Look at book covers in the books stores to get ideas of what looks good.

How to Self publish your Book

How to Self publish your Book – Created in the iBooks Author app

The next icon down is called Intro Media. Click on this and you’ll see an icon in the main section where to drop a movie or an image into this section. If you’re making a book which is fully iBooks compatible, when your reader opens the book the movie will play or the image will be shown. This is just one of the things that makes an iBooks format ebook special and more interesting for the reader.

When setting up the book you’re planning to self publish with iBooks Author, choose a suitable image to use in the table of contents. It’s best to choose something simple and not too distracting. If you use an image that is too fussy or busy it’ll be more difficult for the reader to use the table of contents properly.

Setting up the background for the contents page

Setting up the background for the contents page

Using styles to create your self published book

The theme will give you paragraph styles, character styles and list styles. The designer of the template will have worked hard to make sure everything all works together. There’s nothing to stop you from selecting a heading and changing it to a different typeface. You have to remember the way the text looks is dependent on the style. If you make changes to a heading you will probably want to change all the same headings to look the same. Look over to the styles drawer when you have your text selected. If you make changes you will see a drop-down triangle coloured red instead of the usual black. This helps you to see where you have made changes to the style. Change the style back to the original easily or convert the style to the changes you have just made. Then everything elsewhere in the document will look exactly the same. You use the menu command in the drop-down Redefine Style from Selection. In the same drop-down menu you can tell the application to select all instances of that style within the document. A useful tool to check up styles used. These are the nuances of this application you need to learn when you are working up to self publish your book using iBooks Author.

Working with Styles in iBooks Author

Working with Styles in iBooks Author

Work on the book one chapter at a time

iBooks author is not really the application you’re going to use to do the actual writing. I suggest the best application for this will be either Scrivener or Ulysses. Scrivener is a beast of an application, but not that difficult to use once you get into it. Ulysses has a simple interface which hides a fair amount of software power behind it. Exporting out of Ulysses is pretty easy. The best way is to select the text in the preview, copy to the clipboard and then paste it into iBooks Author. If you paste it in using the standard command the text will go into the document in the body style. If you paste it in using the command – Paste and Retain Style the text goes in as free-form. With the second of the two options it looks as though the text has gone in properly styled. It hasn’t – You will still need to convert each section of text to the correct style. The main paragraphs you’ll want to change to the body style (this does depends slightly upon the template you’re using) the headings will also need to be changed. The advantage of using paste and retain style is that it is easier to see which lumps of text need to be changed to headers and possibly chapter names. If you don’t have proper authors software then use Textedit or something like Byword to type or dictate your text into. I use Dragon Dictate and write by talking, as much as possible. Ulysses is also available on the iPad.

Styling the text to headings and paragraphs

iBooks Author for Text

iBooks Author for Text

The quickest way to set the text up to the correct styles is to make sure the styles drawer is open. For each of the styles you wish to use, create a shortcut key. Then all you need to do is to put the cursor into the paragraph of text to be changed and hit your shortcut key. When you’ve set each section of text to be headings or paragraphs you can start working on other options such as the amount of space before and after a paragraph. I like to set it so that a heading will keep with the following paragraph. This is so that you don’t get a heading at the bottom of one page and the paragraph that is supposed to with, on the next page. It keeps things looking much tidier and more professional so you self publish your book more efficiently.

Get the text looking right first then add the rest.

With a novel you probably won’t have too many pictures in your document. The non-fiction work I tend to do usually requires images to help explain things. The easiest way to get a picture in your book is to drag and drop it from the Finder directly onto the page. If you decide you want to have a specific amount of space used on a page for an image you can first of all add a rectangle, or other shape to use as a place holder. Then drag and drop the picture to fill that place holder. You will then need to edit the mask to show the amount of picture you require in that shape.

You have a choice of setting the picture so it moves with the text or does not move with the text. The other option is to attach it to an anchor. After you put your picture onto the page look in the inspector panel for text wrap. This is where you set it to be inline, floating or anchored. The anchor is a little blue dot with a blue circle around it. Find the little blue dot and move it to the text you want the picture to stick to. If you add text before the anchor and the text flow moves the anchor to the next page the picture will move to. The position of the picture on the page will remain the same. It’s one way of keeping track of the images you put in the chapter so you know they are more or less in the right place. When you’re sure you’ve got everything loaded into the chapter, you may need to change the size and position of your picture. Some tweaking and fine adjustments to set it looking just right.

There are various options on how the text will flow around your images and shapes. Have the text flow to the left or to the right and you can also make it follow the contours of an irregular shape. If you’re feeling creative you might even have the text over the top of an image. You select the image and send it to the back and turn off text wrap. There are a huge number of creative options when you self publish your book using iBooks Author.

Shapes, tables, charts and widgets

Adding Widgets in iBooks Author

If you’ve chosen to work with a blank sheet you can organise the space with shapes and text boxes. Perhaps you want to choose one of the widgets to add a gallery of images. The thing to do would be to add that first and then arrange the other elements of your page around that. I love the way I can make a section of text fit just right by altering the size of an image or media widget. When the text is set to flow around those elements you can eliminate unnecessary spaces on your page. Looks good when you self publish your book ready to distribute to the iBookstore.

A gallery of photos or a Keynote presentation

At first it seemed to me there wasn’t much difference between the gallery of photos and a keynote presentation. When you’re looking at a gallery in the iBooks reader on your iPad you swipe between the images. You view either within the small area in your book layout or full screen. It’s a very similar experience when you’re using the Keynote presentation in the book. With either of these two iBooks Author widgets you just have to pinch outwards to make them go full screen. There is a slight difference in the way they are used in that with the Keynote presentation you tap on the right side of the screen to move forwards per slide. Tapping on the left side of the screen will take you backwards through the presentation. You can also make it so the presentation will automatically play when the reader reaches that part of the book. To make it more interesting edit the Keynote so you have fancy transitions from one slide to the next. It’s easy to set the amount of time a transition will take and also how long the slide will show for. It looks pretty good in your book as it adds movement and interactivity. For a younger audience this sort of effect in a book is absolutely necessary. There is also no reason at all why an older audience wouldn’t also enjoy a multimedia experience when reading. I love it! I think it looks great. If you’ve added hyperlinks to work within your Keynote presentation, they will work within iBooks. That’s another advantage of using a Keynote slideshow rather than using a photo gallery.

Add a Keynote Presentation

Add a Keynote Presentation

Adding a photo gallery is as simple as choosing it from the widgets drop-down menu. Size up the Gallery widget and position it exactly where you want it on the page. As with most of the widgets you can choose if you want to have a title for the picture gallery. Same with the caption which has the option of the same caption for all of the images or a different one for each photo. These settings are made in the Inspector window. Just drag and drop the images onto the Gallery widget and start adding your captions. In the widget panel of the inspector you may drag-and-drop to rearrange the order of the photos. It can be helpful sometimes to add thumbnails of the photos which will appear underneath the photo that is showing. For the best reader experience it’s a good idea if you work with a set of photos of more or less the same size. Choose a size that will fill the screen when viewed on an iPad.

The interactive image

This is a neat little trick to get interactivity into a single image. Put the widget on the page and size it up ready for adding your picture. Drag the image you want to work with from the Finder. Set the default view for the image which is probably going to be a wide view. iBooks Author gives you two interactive labels to start with. You’ll use the labels to set where you want to zoom into. Change the zoom level and the positioning of the picture within the widget and then add a button label. Do this with as many labels as you need to to draw the attention of your reader to specific areas within the picture. The way to set this up is intuitive. It won’t take you long before you’re an expert using interactive images ready for you to self publish your book.

Interactive images

Interactive images

The popover widget

The popover widget will sit in your page in your self published book and when the reader taps on that image a little pop-up will display. The pop-up can display text and images. As per usual you just drag and drop the image into the placeholder in the widget. Double tap on the widget to bring up the pop-up box ready for you to type in your text or to drag and drop your picture into it. The initial picture you put into the widget could be a button or a picture with text in it to let people know they will get more information by tapping on that area of the page. Another nice touch of interactive discovery to help you self publish your book with iBooks Author.

Popover Widget

Popover Widget

Scrolling sidebar widget

This works in a similar way to the popover widget. In this one you add text to a defined section on the page. Because the text scrolls within this box you are able to add more text than will show initially. You may also drag in images and set the text to wrap around, just the same as with the main body of text. What you may have to consider with this scrolling sidebar widget and also with the pop-up widget is having some sort of visual clue for the reader. Otherwise how will the reader know that there is more information to be found on the page hidden behind these widgets. You could have an information page at the beginning to show the reader there are elements with a specific look or format which do extra things. It’s also possible to have a title and/or a caption. You don’t necessarily have to have the title saying ‘scrolling text box’, you could just have the title set as the label style Interactive. One way to let the reader know what is what in the book.

Scrolling sidebar widget

Scrolling sidebar widget

Three-dimensional illustrations in a widget

If what you are trying to explain will benefit from having a three-dimensional image, you may do that with iBooks Author. The main difficulty behind this is getting the three-dimensional image to add to your self published book. You’ll need to have the ability to create three-dimensional images yourself using applications like Blender. The other possibility is to find a three-dimensional image perfect for your book that somebody has made already and is available to download. Self publish your book with 3D images you can interact with. There are one or two different formats for these three-dimensional images so just make sure you’re getting the right type to add to this widget.

A widget for HTML elements

There’s an application called Hype which allows you to create HTML 5 animations. It’s a fantastic application to use to add extra interactivity to webpages. Use it when you self publish your book with iBooks author and need something a little bit more customised. With this widget it basically means that the sky’s the limit for adding whatever you want to your book. It’s probably possible to do a search to find examples of HTML code people have used to add into iBooks Author projects already. See the video later in the article about using Hype.

A widget for textbooks

If when you self publish your book it is destined to be used as a textbook for educational purposes, consider the review widget. You’ll be able to ask a question and the reader can choose from a set of answers. Useful if you need to make sure the readers have understood fully the lessons of that chapter. The multiple choice answers can be in text or as pictures. There’s also the option to drag and drop labels onto a picture in order to answer the question. In terms of a learning experience a review test in this way is an excellent idea. It’s certainly a lot more interesting than the old style of education with paper and pencils.

Charts and tables

You never know when you might want to add a chart into your iBooks Author book. There is an icon in the menu bar at the top of the application for you to add a chart with two clicks. One to activate the drop-down and one to choose which type of chart you want. There are plenty of types to chose from, pie charts, bar charts and a variety of others. Once you have the chart in your document you can then edit the numbers and the look of it. In the inspector you’ll find buttons to edit the data and to change the colours. It’s even possible to change the view of the chart in 3-D space. Do some really fancy things with your chart in the settings. With a pie chart, select one of the wedges and in the inspector move the slider to explode the wedge out from the centre of the pie chart. If you don’t have one of the wedges selected then all of the wedges will explode out from the centre of the pie chart. Some of the adjustments for the charts can be made in the extra toolbar at the top of the application under the icon bar.

Charts and Tables in iBooks Author

Charts and Tables in iBooks Author

One click on the icon is all it takes to add a table to your document. Then all you need to do is to add the text or numbers to your table. If you’re working with numbers you do have some limited spreadsheet type functions available. You might have a column full of numbers and you want to add a sum at the bottom. No problem, that’s very easy to do with the tables in iBooks Author. Good to have these options when you want to self publish your book to the iBooks Store.

Flowing the text on your pages

When adding chapters, sections and pages when you’re going to self publish your book using iBooks author, you’ll usually find the text will flow from page to page. This is because the layout of the page will have had a text box added which automatically has a connection to a text box in the following page. Text you paste in on the first page of your chapter or section will flow through onto pages which get added to take the amount of text you’ve just pasted in. The only time this doesn’t happen is when you’ve chosen to add a page with a blank layout. The blank layout allows you to have a page different from the rest of the pages within that template. you make it up as you go along adding text boxes, images and whatever else you need. You’re looking to have a page which stands out from the crowd so start with a blank canvas.

Flowing text from text box to text box

In one of these blank pages you should be able to create a series of text boxes which would have the text flowing from the first one, to the second one and so on. I tried to make this happen and for the life of me it seemed impossible. Menu items which should have created a connected text box were greyed out. In the end I had to go to the Apple website and look in the iBooks Author questions. It can be done, but you have to create a layout first in the layout section over to the left-hand side of the application. The easiest way to start is to choose one of the page layouts already there and duplicate it. You then remove any elements you don’t want and start adding your text boxes and shapes. It is only possible to connect text boxes together for the text flow. This is despite the fact it’s possible to put text inside shapes.

After adding your first text box you’ll need to go to the Inspector and choose the layout panel. This is the second one in from the left in the icons at the top of the Inspector window. With the text box selected put a check mark in the box – Editable on pages using this layout. There is a drop-down just below that and you should choose body from the list. Now you will gain the ability to connect from one text box to the next.

Self Publish your book Getting the text to flow

Getting the text to flow

You will then see in the bottom right-hand corner of the text box on the side, a small square with a blue triangle inside. Tap on that small icon and you will see a information box telling you what to do next. One click anywhere on your page will give you a text box to resize and position exactly where you want it. The other option is to click and drag to position the text box as you are making it. When you’ve finished setting up your layout for the page don’t forget to click on the red button Apply Changes in the layouts panel.

Using your new layout with text flow between boxes

Either add a new page or select a page you already have, then choose the new layout you’ve just created. There’s nothing to stop you from making more changes on the actual page with the text boxes of that layout. If you are at the last page you may still add another text box to the end of the chain. Click on that same icon as you used in the creation of the layout to add your extra text box.

Use Hype to enhance your iBooks Author

How to arrange and design your chapter

So you’ve created your chapter and added the body of text for that chapter. Next, you want to add your pictures, movies, audio, extra shapes or widgets to the chapter. It’s best to start from the beginning of the chapter and go one page at a time. This is because when you add an image onto a page it will affect how the text flows onto the following pages. Even if you anchor the extra items to a specific place within the text you will still probably need to make adjustments if you add things earlier in the chapter. Just one of the tasks you have to do to Self Publish your book.

Use positioning and the size of the extra items so that the pages look good. Don’t have it so you have a headline and just a couple of rows of body text underneath it at the bottom of the page. It’s better to make the picture or the widget larger so the new headline starts on a new page. Don’t forget to set up the headline so the paragraph following will stick to it.

Markdown to iBooks Author

When you’re writing in a markdown editor with the standard markdown syntax, each paragraph is separated with an empty paragraph. This is so when you get your text exported out of the editor it works out okay in HTML or whatever format. If you’ve copied in a section of text direct from the editor and these empty paragraphs are still in place, then you should delete them. Adjust the spacing between paragraphs in iBooks Author using the text panel in the Inspector. There are all sorts of spacing adjustments you can make including the space before and after each paragraph. The same tab in the Inspector is where you set up the line spacing and the character spacing. Go through all of these steps and double check after that and you will be ready to self publish your book and sell in the iBooks Store.

Get the Good and Geeky book – iPad Artist

Writers Workflow

Get the book in the iBooks Store

Are you going to self publish your book?

if you do plan to self publish your book I’d like to hear from you. Let’s get some links to your creations in the comments.


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