Thinking about putting together your first iBooks Author art book? Read what follows to save time and frustration!

My first iBooks Author graphic novel / art book will be out soon. Entitled Travelogue 1, it is a little bit over 60 pages long, all full screen drawings and watercolors with hand written text.

I wrote earlier about how I designed the cover for Travelogue 1, and how I learned how to format images for full screen view with iBooks author. Here are five additional things I learned when working on this project. They could save you valuable time if you are working on a similar project – a photo book or graphic novel with heavy use of full screen images.

The 5 iBooks Author tips for art books

1. Understand the iBooks Author book structure

I spent too long trying to make the iBooks Author structure work for my format. Travelogue 1 is a collection of different illustrated stories, and structuring it properly ended up being quite a challenge before I figured out how to adapt the iBooks Author framework to mine.

iBooks Author gives you the following structure and design elements:

  • Cover: with iBooks Author, the book cover is a design element but not a structural one. In other words, you can design it as  you wish without having to think about any structure / flow impact. Make it striking and use large fonts, but don’t worry about much else.
  • Intro Media: the intro media is the first thing your reader will see when opening your iBook. It is designed for video (hence the “Play” symbol Apples uses to display it at the bottom of your iBook), but you can insert a full screen image. Note that no text can be added to the Intro Media page within iBooks Author. Therefore, if you want to insert an introduction image as opposed to a video, your best option is to insert the accompanying text in photoshop before uploading the final image to iBooks Author. Also make sure to make it clear to the reader how they can go from the intro Media to the main content -via a right to left swipe which takes readers directly to the Table of Content. You can see below my Intro Media for Travelogue 1 which applies these principles.
ibooks author intro media

Travelogue 1 – Intro Media

  • Table of Content (TOC): the TOC is key and you will need to understand how it works. Since the TOC is designed for standard books that are divided in chapters and sections, it will work great if that is the structure of your book. In my case however, I wanted the reader to read Travelogue 1 the way they would read a comic or graphic novel -no chapters and sections but rather a single stream that can be read in about 20 minutes. After many failed attempts at making this work with iBooks Author, I came up with the following structure that achieved my goal:
    • I structured Travelogue 1 as a single chapter iBook entitled Travelogue 1, and using the Intro Media as a full screen image
    • The different stories became sections of that single chapter
iBooks Author - TOC

Travelogue 1 – Table of Contents

As you can see above, that Table of Content and book structure allows me to 1) provide a more streamlined structure for the reader and 2) maintain consistency between the Intro Media and the Table of Contents views.

If you look closely at my TOC you will notice two more things:

  • I eliminated the section numbers that are inserted by default -they are not needed given the one sitting reading I anticipate for the book
  • I did keep the page numbers as a way to make it clear the reading can and should be sequential
  • I used the same custom font for the TOC and my titles, the latter being incorporated via Photoshop -more on this below!

2. Playing with type

iBooks Author now fully support custom types so the temptation is to insert your images and use iBooks Author and its text widgets to insert the text. I attempted to make this work for Travelogue 1 and ended up doing all text in hand written type with Photoshop. Why?

  • The text editing functionality provided by iBooks Author is minimal -forget about having text follow a curve or adapt to the underlying image. Yes you can make it work, but it will look strange and unnatural. In my case, this proved to be the main reason to switch to a manual type setting mode.
  • You cannot yet export all your text from iBooks Author into a single text file. Effectively, this means that iBooks Author is very cumbersome for text editing if you work with an outside editor as I did. You will need to create and maintain a separate text file, which in case meant that it became easier to switch to a hand written style and font.

There is one advantage to using the text widgets provided by iBooks Author though: you cannot have images attached to hyperlinks (only text can be used). You can however trick iBooks Author into inserting link without visible text -simply insert a text widget and make the font the same color as its background on the picture, or even better make it transparent by moving the opacity slider to 0% in the Inspector.

3. How to finish

One of the strange things with ebooks is that they do not end naturally. By that I mean that a physical book gives you hints that you are reaching the end, as the number of pages remaining to be read gets smaller and the weight shifts from right to left. Not so with an ebook. How then  do you introduce your reader t the satisfying notion that they are reaching the end of a great read?

My solution is to:

  • Create a “Last Words” section that includes a quote that acts as a conclusion to the book
  • Follow with a “Next Issue” page that also includes the Colophon
  • End with a splash page linking to my web site
iBooks Author last page

Travelogue 1 – “Next Issue” page

iBooks Author splash page

Travelogue 1 – Final splash page

I am convinced there are better designs out there to achieve the desired effect -please comment if you know of any as I have yet to identify one. Things I will make sure to explore with the iBook “end structure” include:

  • Creating an endless book by having your last page link back to the beginning
  • Creating a tree structure by inserting links to other iBooks

4. Keep words to a minimum and create silent sequences

eBooks are extremely easy to navigate if the only thing you are doing is swipe horizontally. I have found that I could use this to create a comfortable rhythm for readers with Travelogue 1 by doing the following:

  • Keep the overall length of the book below 70 pages -there seems to be a threshold around the 50th pages when readers want to emerge from the absorbing nature of an electronic art book filled with full screen images. As I do not expect people to bookmark their progress and come back to an interrupted first reading, I keep the volume at around 60 pages, with the conclusion/end matters taking 5 pages.
  • Use as few words as possible
  • Insert a few silent pages devoid of any text, sometimes in a sequence of two or three
  • Removing page numbers from the pages themselves so that the reader has to rely on narrative clues to know when he/she is nearing the end

5. Keep it simple

The last and maybe the most important thing I have learned is of course to keep things extremely simple. Writing any book is a major undertaking; writing a 60 page art book that requires over 100 watercolors and ink drawings takes time too. Staying away from all the widgets and multimedia effects etc. that iBooks Author offers helps stay focused on getting the book done, and simplicity goes a long way to improve the reader’s experience.

There are a few things one can do to keep things simple, including:

  • Sticking to a maximum of two fonts and three font sizes
  • Sticking to a landscape format
  • Not multiplying color schemes and drawing styles (something I have only partially succeeded at)

These are my learnings so far -please comment below if you have different views and learnings after putting together your own art book with iBooks Author.