Maddie's Maker Blog #3 - "You're such a character!" Making the Mckenszie sisters come to life.

This is "Maddie's Maker", a new series of blogs chronicling the trials and tribulations of creating a self-published children's book. Over the course of 4 months during the summer of 2012, Ronald Hennessy created a children's book and self published it through the Internet. "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!" is available on PaperbackHardcover and digital formats such as iBooks and KindlePart #1 deals with the tools and workflow of the book. Part #2 Deals with the many eBook and hardcover/paperback options along with the pros and cons. I strongly suggest reading part 1 and part 2 first. This blog entry covers how the two main stars where developed for this book.

The the story is meant to be slice-of-life. There is no serious conflict, no coherent structure, no plot. It is entirely focused on Margaret's interaction with her younger sister Maddie. I wrote some ideas down that were plot driven, but I felt they weren't as strong as what I chose in the end. I decided not to include the parents in the book since I felt it would detract from Margaret and Maddie's relationship, plus I haven't made them yet! In a future book, they could make an appearance.

Original sketch of Page 9 of the book.

Along with my other original creations, I have been drawing the Mckenszie sisters since 2010 and I have shared my art online through DeviantART. Many of those early drawings were reinvented for the book. Big Sister Margaret was envisioned 1st as a "sidekick/friend" of a Princess…named Princess back in '09 (she still is). Eventually, I added a few more side characters to populate their world. Originally, I was set on making a webcomic, but somehow the Mckenszie sisters became more of a compelling reason to make a children's book. Having a sibling myself, I knew very well how frustrating that relationship can be at times. The only difference here is they're all female.

The Mind of Margaret

Margaret doing what she does best - reading.

Margaret is a bright, geeky kind of girl who dresses a little odd. To sum it up, her design philosophy is like a mullet - party at the bottom, business at the top. Not only her attire is imperfect, her body size is. An important decision I made early on that she would be overweight. There are very few young girls of size that are portrayed in a positive light or at all in media. If it is, it's the weight that becomes number 1 defining trait of that character. I really don't like that. In my book Margaret is very serious about her studies. More indirectly, she is interested in science; especially astronomy. Her passion for that is not portrayed that obviously in the book, but those hints are there. This could be something to build on in future books. Obviously, being a bookworm is also a stereotype but I don't feel it's a BAD one to have. It is her intense studies that sometimes makes poor Maddie invisible at times.

Some random sketches of Margaret

There are a lot of other interesting quirks about Margaret, but you'll have to stay tuned on that. That stuff is more reserved for her adventures with Princess.

Make Mine Maddie

Maddie is always finding ways to amuse herself - even if it's on HERSELF.

Maddie turned out to be my Donald Duck. Originally, when developing Princess, she was going to be the main character slated for a webcomic (I may get off the ground one day). Princess' history is intended to be much more developed than any of my other characters. Maddie on the other hand, quickly became my favorite character to draw. Not only she's pretty easy to draw, she is incredibly cute (at least to me). I couldn't pinpoint exactly why, but maybe it's my interpretation of my inner 5 year old girl in pigtails.

I originally envisioned her as 3 years old, much in the vein of Angelica Pickles from Rugrats but I feel back then I couldn't create a 3 year old kid in a convincing form. The only differences between the two is that Maddie is older (5) and they share the same hairstyle and color of shirt (somewhat). Angelica is mean on purpose, Maddie is absolutely not. A lot of the personality in Maddie is heavily influenced by child heroines such as Eloise, D.W. Read and Ramona Quimby, but there is no one major influence that defines her. Maddie is a fusion of many influences. I really wanted her to have a very fun, carefree personality. Completely random and weird at times. I also wanted her to be imperfect by design and persona. She is intentionally meant not to be "pretty". Red-haired, Skinny legs and arms and a pot belly. "Imperfect Perfection."

She probably dreams of this every night.

The Ice Cream thing. Once again, inspired by Angelica's passion of cookies, as a little indirect homage, I decided early on that she would have a favorite food. I knew I was heading into a overused trope, but she needed to have a "hook" that makes her uniquely Maddie. Ice cream is not the be all and the end all, but it's quite an important part. Considering today's climate with childhood obesity, I was hesitant in making her act obsessive over Ice Cream, but I feel presenting her in a Politically Correct manner would dumb her down. In my artwork and the book, Maddie eats chocolate Ice Cream exclusively as it is personally my favorite flavor. Of course, all other form of Ice Cream are fair game. I heard she is not very fond of pistachio.

Ronald Hennessy's "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!" is available on PaperbackHardcover and digital formats such as iBooks and Kindle. You can follow Ronald on TwitterTumblrDeviantArt, and Google+.

Maddie's Maker Blog #2 - The experience of dealing with so many eBook (and hard copy) formats, the joys and many headaches that came with it.

This is "Maddie's Maker", a new series of blogs chronicling the trials and tribulations of creating a self-published children's book. Over the course of 4 months during the summer of 2012, Ronald Hennessy created a children's book and self published it through the Internet. "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!" is available on PaperbackHardcover and digital formats such as iBooks and Kindle. Part #1 deals with the tools and workflow of the bookPart #3 Covers the development of creating the two main characters Maddie and Margaret Mckenszie. I suggest reading part 1 and part 3 first.

There are many different ways to put out your own book. You can put out as a simple PDF, a Kindle version, a version for iPads, Nooks, and Android. For those not ready for a digital version, you can of course offer actual paperback or hardcover copies.

I chose to do all of these!

I will give you the pro and cons of each different format and what to watch out for when designing your book.


My book on sale through Gumroad.

This is the easiest way of putting your book for sale online. There are many options like pulley and shopifiy, but I don't want to pay monthly for an ecommerce store if I'm only selling exactly ONE product (so far). Enter Gumroad. Not only you can sell your eBook as a PDF, but in other formats as well. You can give out discount codes or even set it as a "pay-what-you-want" option. The site address they give you is really short; perfect for using it on Twitter. Gumroad takes 5% plus .25 for each transaction. It turns out to be slightly better than what you get for Apple and Amazon. The link even works on mobile devices - Perfect for the QR Code crowd.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon, while pretty neat at adding books rather quickly has HORRIBLE documentation on making Kindle Books, ESPECIALLY books that involve lots of images. They have a format called Kindle Format 8, designed for Kindle Fire and apps, but learning how to create one is more involved. Google didn't come up with much, though there is a template out there to make KF8 files for kids books , but I'm cheap. Plus my HTML, CSS and XML skills are a bit dull these days. It's more of a time issue rather than the ability to do it, so I will someday revisit KF8. I recently heard that Amazon has a new app for Mac and PC called "Kindle Comic Creator".  Haven't tried it yet, but I'm hearing good things about it.

Amazon's commission system is odd as well. The larger your file, the less you'll get out of pocket. Apple's rate is 70% me/30% them - no matter how big or how long your file is. I wanted the price to be low, but not too low, so I stuck with an initial $1.99 price. You simply can't ignore Amazon's ecosystem. You also have to think of the target audience who is buying this who probably don't have the time, patience or any clue on how to sync a PDF file to a Kindle or iPad. This is why Amazon's Kindle and Apple's App Store are so ridiculously popular - It's so simple to buy stuff.

Apple iBookstore

My Book on iTunes. Keep in mind you NEED an iPad
to view this version.

Apple on the other hand, is a lot more straight forward in creating a book. It is WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get), very similar to the Pages app (which can create Epub files that are pretty much the industry standard for eBooks, but Amazon and Apple roll their own).

I wish there were more options that are children's book friendly. The templates are more geared towards textbooks, but a little tweak here and there made it a little more presentable. A table of contents is required for iBooks, or it may have trouble going through the approval process. I didn't like the ideal of having a table of contents in a kids book, but there was no way around it. I had to "deemphasize" the TOC for the most part, making the 1st page "Click here to begin" in the front matter of the book. I hope in future versions that Apple makes that an option. Also, I was not able to use the font I wanted but that was changed in a new version.

It is also important to let people know right off the bat that anything created with iBooks Author that is SOLD on iTunes can be ONLY VIEWED on an IPAD; Not an iPhone, iPod Touch or even a Mac can view it. While there are certainly a lot of people who have these devices, not everyone does. I'm a Apple fan by default but I'm certainly no fool when it comes to accessing my content on any device.

I found submitting this version to be the most frustrating. As everyone knows, Apple is quite stringent on quality. No junk is getting past them. Initially, the book didn't get approved since I forgot the preview in iTunes Producer (the program used to send media to iTunes). I called iBooks support and cleared up the situation. Clearly, it was my fault, but the errors like "Unknown reason" are incredibly vague. I'm kinda fortunate that I didn't submit it months ago since people were waiting weeks to get published when the app debuted. Since then, its a lot more quicker. If you're selling on the iBookstore, give it some time in case they're meticulously going over your book.

Another thing I expected is the time getting approved for a iTunes connect account. It's a much easier ordeal if you're not selling books for money, but when you have a DBA (doing business as name) that you filled out with the IRS for tax purposes, it takes longer to get approved. It took about a week for me, so factor that in your setup. You will also need a ISBN to SELL your book. This is where you need to spend money. In the United States, Bowkler as a death grip on ISBN numbers. You have to pay $150 for EACH number OR $250 for 10. Some people online swear by owning an ISBN number outright since the publisher name will be your own and not someone else's. Luckily, you can buy an ISBN for much cheaper through ePubBud. I payed only $5 for mine (it's now $9). Keep in mind, if you decide to go with Createspace (more on that later), you do NOT need to pay for a ISBN as they provide that for you.

Nook and Google Play

Nook and Google Play I'm not really a big fan of. Not only it took weeks to get into Google Play, I also have a devil of a time in fixing corrections to my book. Nook, pretty much the same ordeal. Does anyone really own a Nook anyway these days?

The HARD facts about Hardcover (and Paperback) books.

The hardcover and paperback versions from Blurb and Createspace.
Not everyone has a tablet or phone. Some prefer the pulling an actual page over a virtual one. I am a strong proponent of digital publishing, but still there are lots of folks (and lots of parents) that aren't really all in on this digital revolution. My platform for "Maddie Mckenszie" is "Digital First", but it can be tough to sell your book in real life with out any psychical copies.

Blurb for Hardcover Books

The option I'm using for a hardcover version is using Blurb. I considered Lulu and Createspace, but I find their hardcover options to be lacking or nonexistent. (I eventually went back to Createspace for the Paperback version) Blurb is pretty neat since not only they do printed books, but also eBooks. The eBook options didn't look right for me, so I'm only offering a hardcover copy there. It's pretty expensive though. Minimum cost for hardcover is $33.95 for a 20 page minimum. You will have your book "branded" by Blurb, but you can remove that but will certainly cost you more. I don't think it detracts from the experience as it's a really tiny logo that's not very noticeable.

The Hardcover is not an option I expect people to take, but if you happen to buy it, I'll give you the eBook PDF for free! (Send me proof of purchase, no seriously.) The book dimensions on Blurb are different from my 8.5x11 PDF at 8x10, so I had to decrease the size of the art and kept the text files the same size. I needed to rearrange some things around, but it turned out right. You don't have to use the inDesign plugin, but the product should come out better than the "BookSmart" options they offer. Until I have the ability to get published traditionally, Blurb is the best, but not really affordable option IMO. At least you get a discount for multiple copies.

Createspace for Paperback Books

Createspace was a pretty straightforward way of getting my book into a paperback version. Since I had my book originally done in 8.5x11, it wasn't that difficult to get it in this format. However, I did have to make some adjustments to get the final product to look good. I find their interior reviewer to be rather inaccurate. It will constantly tell me my artwork will not extend to beyond the bleed area, but it looks fine in print. I strongly recommend ordering at least 2 proof copies before selling it online (CS allows up to 3 proofs). You can check out the PDF proof if you're in a hurry, but please go over it with a fine comb tooth. The PDF proof may not catch some things in reality, so keep that in mind.

Not only you get a FREE ISBN, you can get copies printed out fairly cheap. In comparison to Blurb, I can sell paperback copies for a fraction of the cost. My book is 32 pages and it costs me only $3.65 at cost for ONE copy compared to the 33.95 (NOT including shipping BTW) Your book will be available on the US and Europe Amazon store and the Createspace eStore. You will get the most money if you sell it through the eStore, but people do have to register for an account there.

If you want, you can set your title to be available on Kindle and through the "Expanded Distribution" option. The ED option is for retail and wholesale outlets in the U.S, including libraries. This sets you back $25. I haven't done that yet, so I can't really tell you anything about it. I hear unless you set your pricing to an high amount, you really won't make any money this way. You can also make your book into a Kindle version, but I would recommend to go with their native format. PDFs and Kindle do not mix.

To be continued...

Part 3 is all about character! Maddie Mckenszie and her big sister Margaret. I also go over the influences that gave Maddie some character and the how this all came to be. Ronald Hennessy's "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!" is available on PaperbackHardcover and digital formats such as iBooks and Kindle. You can follow Ronald on TwitterTumblrDeviantArt, and Google+.