How to Make Ebooks Visual: Alan Seeger

Today’s guest post is with writer and editor Alan Seeger. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Alan on two short story anthologies, 13 Bites and, now, Summer Dreams.


First, here’s some background on Alan:
Science-fiction author and editor Alan Seeger was born in San Francisco and grew up in Oklahoma. In his teens, he began making music, which became his focus for the next thirty years or so. But writing was never far from his heart, and in 2013, he published a collection of short stories Lucid Dreaming and the first two novels in his Gatespace Trilogy, Pinball and Replay. He resides on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.


In Summer Dreams, you decided to make the book, including the Kindle Book, “visual” by adding images for each story. What was the impetus for this decision?
It began when a couple of the contributors included “dingbat” style images with their stories as icons to separate different sections of their stories. I debated as to whether to leave them in, but then it occurred to me to see if I couldn’t find something to use for each of the stories.  The thing that ties the stories together is that they deal with events that take place during the summer season, yet they are all quite different -- none of them are about lying on the sand at a California beach, I’ll tell you that -- and so one story has the silhouette of a woman swimming, one has bats -- yeah, bats, no, this isn’t the Halloween anthology… one has an old pickup truck… well, you’ll just have to read it, won’t you?

image size was standardized to 1.5 in
Of the two authors who included decorative elements, one used images inserted into her document and one used characters from a font. When I did a test run, I found that Kindle recognized the images but converted the font-based character into whatever font it used for the rest of the document, so instead of the bat, for example, you might have a letter Q or V. I decided to go into my image program and create an image of that character, and use that (instead of the font-based character. )


One side effect: I realized that I could dissect the title of the book from the layered Photoshop version of the cover (shown to the right), and use that on the Title Page. This takes the words "Summer Dreams" and puts ripples into it so it looks as if it’s in the water… the background is swirly swimming pool water. I took that swirly title and placed it on the title page, changed it to black and white. It looks really sharp, in my opinion. 


So many Kindle books look (to my mind) unattractive compared to the books that I used to read, which had illustrations and book borders.  Will we ever return to visually appealing books?
I hope so. I mean, it’s still possible to publish things as a PDF file, which was how I published Metaverse Messenger, an online newspaper covering events in virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life) from 2005-2009.
Kindle publishing, though, raises problems such as screen size vs. document size and so on. Different e-readers, even different Kindles (original Kindle, DX, Paperwhite, Kindle Fire) have different sized screens, pixel-wise, and different amounts of text can fit on them. That complicates things any time you want to dress up your book and make it pretty.  But people are starting to get the hang of what it takes to make Kindle and other e-readers display things the way we want them to be seen.


Learn about Alan's writing at www.alanseeger.net.

His editing services are available at  www.five59.com
Facebook www.facebook.com/Five59 
Twitter as @Pinballwizard59.
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