Monday, January 31, 2011

How to Self-Publish a Coloring Book

Pencil Drawing

Publishing a coloring book seems like it might be a fun thing to do. I saw an article on eHow [1] in which Lesley Barker gave a process for doing it, starting with purchasing ISBNs from Bowker. From there, the article pretty much gave the general self-publishing process, with the exception of number two, which said to scan your artwork into the computer and save it as a jpeg. Lesley Barker’s article falls well short of a complete description of what must be done to publish a coloring book. Obtaining an ISBN and selecting a publishing company (a choice that will determine whether you even need to purchase an ISBN or not) are the least of your worries if you plan to publish a coloring book.

Ink Tracing of Pencil Drawing

The heart of a coloring book are the pictures. Creating a coloring book isn’t as simple as grabbing some of the free coloring sheets you find online and binding them in a book. Not only would it be illegal for you to copy these images without permission, many of these images may be made freely available illegally. A number of these free coloring sheets include iconic figures from Disney and other companies. To use images like that in your book, you should expect to pay a licensing fee.

If you don’t want to pay fees for artwork, you will have to produce the artwork yourself. You may wish to start with a pencil, but you’ll want to trace the image with a thick black pen like a Sharpie before you finish. Scan the black outline with a flatbed scanner, using the lowest resolution you have. On mine, it is 75 dpi. Yeah, I realize printers want 300 dpi or better, but we aren’t ready for that.

Inkscape Drawing From Ink Tracing
Drag the scanned image into a new Inkscape image and use the Bitmap Trace utility to trace the image. With the high contrast, the default settings will probably be sufficient, but make any adjustments you need. Get rid of the scanned image in Inkscape and you will have the tracing left. Use the Edit Paths by Nodes tool to clean up the tracing and save it as a .emf file. When you setup the book, just drop that file onto one of the pages and you will have one page complete.

To prove it works, I’m providing a link to a Free Coloring Sheet pdf file.
I encourage you to print the pdf file and examine how smooth the lines are compared to what you would accomplish by hand tracing alone.

To finish your book, complete the same process about 50 more times, embed the emf files in a pdf document and send it off to the printer. You will want to do more cleanup in Inkscape than I did, but then I'm not expecting anyone to pay me for this. If I were going to publish a book like this, I would plan on each page taking several hours to complete or even a few days.

If you are interested in this, you may also be interested in, Book Cover Design Wizardry, a book that explains how to design a book cover for your book.