How to Self Publish A Colouring Book

April 25, 2021 maddoctorartist 0 Comments

Hello! Well, it's been a tough year, as we pass the anniversary of when this pandemic really started to blow up and disrupt our day to day lives. Being a frontline healthcare worker, this was very frightening, especially with so many unknowns, but I was one of the lucky ones who had a very supportive workplace, and we adapted very quickly to remote consulting.

However, even with the success of the vaccine rollout and the hope of things returning to normal on the horizon, it's left a lot of people with overwhelming anxiety. And something that's come into vogue over the last decade to combat this has been the advent of adult colouring books.

Being an artist myself, I thought it would be fun to get into this area, and now I have two published colouring books in my Birds of the World Series.

Now this is very different to publishing a novel, so I thought it would be helpful to share how I produced these two books.

1. Plan what sort of book you want

There are various types of colouring book out there, from animals and faces to mandalas and abstract shapes. Think about what type of colouring book you want to make. For me, I love all things bird, and so I use birds and nature backgrounds for my lineart. But there's plenty of options to choose from, so pick something you're passionate to dive into.

You'll also need to plan how many images there will be in total.

And this should go without saying, but don't use other people's art unless you've paid for a commission!

2. Draw some art!

The biggest and most labourious step is to draw the images. This can be done either digitally or traditionally. For the digital approach, you can use art programmes such as Photoshop, Krita or FireAlpaca, or any vector-based image software. Images need to be certain dimensions (for self publishing, look at the book size templates on Amazon KDP and pick one), and the resolution needs to be 350dpi or higher, else the lines will look blurry when printed out.

For traditional media, create your pieces, ink them, then scan them in to make a digital copy (again need to scan at 350dpi or higher).

I opted to group my birds by continent, so each book will feature birds of one continent only (e.g. Africa).

If you are doing very intricate lineart, make sure to take breaks often and don't rush. I actually developed tedonitis in my right hand when I was making the first book because I was impatient to get the pictures done. And who says doctors make the worst patients? ;)

3. Additional images

Now you've created the meat of the book (the images to be coloured), there are a few other bits to do. Most colouring books have a 'this book belongs to' page, and I like to also include a test page- this will help readers/ colourers check what pencils/ pens are suitable to use. The paper for self-published books isn't as absorbant as formal artist paper, so bear this in mind, and advise readers to put some paper/ card between pages so as to not spoil the other pages.

I also made a border image to keep with the nature theme of the book.

4. Putting it together

Now this is where things can get complicated. Some artists use Powerpoint to lay out the images- I didn't find this effective myself as when you save to PDF the quality goes way down, and it makes for very blurry images.

One option is to use Adobe InDesign, which is a desktop publishing software. It's part of the Creative Cloud, but it's very expensive on its own, so unless you have a friend with it or have the Creative Cloud anyway, it's quite a pricey way to go about this stage.

However, there is also a third way, which is the way I used: Scribus []. This is a free, open source desktop publishing software. Now be warned- it doesn't have the easiest user interface, and what you see on screen doesn't always correlate to changes you made (sometimes you need to restart the software), but there are a lot of tutorials out there, and once you've got the hang of it, it's pretty straight foward.

My books feature some bird facts along with the images, so I made a template to accomodate for this. Scribus allows you to make image boxes and text boxes, and I used these to make template pages. I then duplicated these for the amount of images needed.

These are some things to also consider:

a) Do you want the images to bleed to the edge of the page, or be within a border? Keep in mind it can be difficult to colour at the spine as there will be some overlap from the other pages.

b) Do you want to put images on the same page back to back? Some people like to cut out and frame their coloured piece, so putting two images together means the other image will have to be sacrificed. Also there is the issue of colours bleeding through the paper which may spoil the other image and render it non-colourable.

5. Proof-reading and checking it all over

Once you've added the images, added text and tweaked the intro pages, be sure to check it all over to make sure the images are on the right pages. For me, I needed to keep the left hand page blank to ensure all the images were on separate pages.

With that all checked, save the file as a print-ready PDF at the highest quality so the images remain crisp.

6. Making the cover

For this part, take a look at other similar colouring books and see what styles catch your eye. In my case, I like a darker background with a colourful border, so that's what I incorporated into my covers. I also tried to feature the most well-recognised bird from the continent.

To turn this into a paperback cover, you first need to know how many pages your book will be, then go to the Amazon KDP help page []- this page lets you generate a cover template, which will show you where to align the covers and avoid the areas that will be cut to size.

This file will also need saving as a print-ready PDF, at 350dpi quality. Photoshop does this, but if you don't have Photoshop, just make a new template in Scribus, put the image there and save it that way.

7. Publish via KDP

Sign in to your KDP Amazon account (this is slightly separate to your normal Amazon account but uses the same password). On the main screen, select '+ Paperback' from the menu. I mean, you could make the colouring book an ebook, but it would make it a bit tricky to colour for those who use traditional media!

The first page is the Book Details- this is where you put the title, subtitle, author, description [blurb] and keywords. There a lot of tutorials on keywords out there, this is an important element not to overlook so do research into this. It's not too different to novels, but of course there will be specific words for colouring books.

Click Save and Continue, and here you upload the contents. Choose the size of the trim (which you should have picked earlier to make sure your images were the right size). I opt for white paper as this is easier to colour on, and I have a bleed so I check that option as well. Upload the PDF of the INTERIOR and the PDF of the COVER, then use the previewer tool to check things are lining up. KDP will not let you continue if there are massive errors.

Save and Continue again, and lastly is the book pricing and which territories you want to sell it in. Pretty self explanatory!

Now at the bottom of this page is the option to ask for 'proof' copies- these are test copies that you pay for to see what the physical book comes out like. I strongly recommend doing this, as I found a few errors that I hadn't picked up digitally, and you want your book to look as professional as possible.

And then, once you're happy, click Publish!

8. Teething problems

With paperbacks, Amazon are very strict about quality, and you need to follow their guidelines. I had a few problems with this initially, as some of my pages weren't bleeding when they should have been (that sounds so morbid) and I couldn't have text on the spine as there is a minimum page limit for this. But eventually I ironed things out, and hey presto, my colouring book was live!

Both volumes are available to buy now:

And so that's it- simple, eh? I have to say this was far more time consuming that when I published my novels, but I had fun learning a new process, and I've had some good feedback so it's certainly been worth it.

Have you wanted to publish a colouring book? What sort of subject would you do? I'd love to know!

Also, if you know any aspiring artists who've wanted to look into making a colouring book, feel free to share this post. They may find these tips useful.

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