More Fun With Formatting: Why Not Illustrated Fiction?

One of my pleasures when reading is learning something new or unusual (I collect odd factoids the way trash hoarders collect empty soda cups). I truly appreciate writers who extensively research. Some of my finest obsessions (Vikings, forensic science, birds, etc.) spring directly from fiction. Even when my obsessions aren’t triggered, temporary fascination with people, places and things often send me haring off on Google expeditions to learn more about what the writer is talking about.

I’ve often wondered why more writers/publishers don’t indulge such reader impulses with their ebooks?

I had a project recently that did just that. Eye Sleuth, by Hazel Dawkins, and Eye Witness by Hazel Dawkins and Dennis Berry, are mystery novels that feature a sleuth with an unusual occupation–behavioral optometrist–set in visually interesting locations–New York city, coastal England.

The writers wanted a gallery with images of those visually interesting places along with images relating to the sleuth’s occupation. There are also illustrations for the chapter heads. A challenging project, but a lot of fun, too.


Manage your image sizes. I have found that using percentages to declare image sizes is a good way to make sure images aren’t cropped on small screens and don’t sprawl on large screens.


One of the sad facts of ereaders is that because of the way they are set up, it’s damned difficult (and impossible for the likes of me) to wrap text and to make sure text stays with an image. Depending on the device, images can be “orphaned” on a screen, which isn’t a good look. Two ways to make sure such occurrences don’t interfere with the text are to (one) give each image its own page; (two) create a gallery with links from the text.

internal linkInternal links in ebooks are easy. I have found that using a div id for the bookmarks reduces the chances of blown formatting. One thing I highly recommend when doing a gallery of images is to insert a link from the image back to the text. Even though ereaders allow a reader to Go Back, sometimes a reader will decide to browse a bit, then suddenly they’ve lost their place. (okay, maybe not all readers, but this reader does) Eliminate that annoyance with a link.

color image1Also, because of how I read–Now where was that cool picture of the whatsit?–I included all the images in the table of contents. It takes some extra time and effort on my part, but it makes navigation and referencing easier for the readers, so that makes it all worth it.

tocIt’s also important to check the quality of images. Black and white photos, crisp and sharp, look fabulous on all ereaders. Color images need to be checked lest what looks okay in color turns to a gray blur on an eink screen.

bw imagesAnother big consideration is overall file size. Amazon charges .15 cents per MB as a delivery fee. You don’t want to eat up your royalty with those fees. Lowering the resolution on images to around 77 to 96 pixels per inch reduces file size a lot without affecting the display too much. Keep track of image sizes and be prepared to trim if necessary.

Illustrating fiction isn’t difficult, but it does require some planning and organization. Put yourself in the reader’s place and consider how the book will be read and how to best use the device features to enhance the experience.

Dopey but Fun: Signing An Ebook

I reformatted an ebook this week using some of the new techniques I’ve learned. On impulse, just because I can, I signed the letter to the readers.

Screenshot from Lucy Light the Paperwhite.

(Taking screenshots off the Kindle Paperwhite is very easy–thank you, William–simultaneously tap the upper right hand corner and the lower left hand corner on the screen, the screen will flash and the image is saved in the root directory. Open the Kindle on your computer and retrieve the screenshot. This is even easier than with Larry the Kindle Keyboard, which is easy, too.  Simultaneously depress the shift+alt+G keys–clumsy fingers are the tricky part. The screen should flash. I still haven’t found an easy way to take screenshots off the Kindle Fire. Every instruction I’ve found so far should begin with “First, obtain a master’s degree in computer science and then…”)

There is no real good reason for adding a signature except that some urges cannot be resisted. If you are so inclined, though, this is what I did. I used a Sharpie on white art paper to create a substantial image. I wrote big. I scanned that into the computer and used to trim and size the image and turn it into a jpeg graphic. Then I treated it like any other image and inserted it into the file. Easy-peasy.

On a more practical side, I suppose it would be easy to make special “signed editions” of ebooks. Even ebooks with personal inscriptions. If one had one’s own online store, one could offer all kinds of special goodies. Hmn, something to think about.