Tag Archives: tech for smart dummies

Submitting a PDF book dummy

Submitting a PDF book dummy

This is a companion post to Make a PDF book dummy the free, easy way.  That article talked about how to use the free page layout program Scribus to make a dummy. This will discuss how to submit or show a PDF book dummy to a publisher or agent.


Do make sure your target publisher or agent wants PDF book dummies and follow submission guidelines as to sending solicited or unsolicited work.

Do confirm that your email can accommodate the file size. For an emailable dummy, choose a low resolution when you export as PDF. 72 dpi is an appropriate size for the Web.

Do keep a high-resolution file of the dummy for printing. 300 dpi is print quality.

Do use Dropbox or a similar storage system if the file is too big for your email, and send the editor or agent the link. Or, you could put it on your Web site on a password-protected page and send the link and password. However, emaiing is best as it’s simpler for the recipient.

Do send your text ms along with the dummy, either as part of the PDF dummy at the end, or as a separate Word attachment. (This is a judgment call.)

If you have a book accepted that you will illustrate, the publisher will give you a layout to work with. They may want you to send revised PDF dummies as you go along. You can use Scribus for those, too.

With the accepted book, once the finished art is done, you will deliver each illustration as either original art or a high-res digital file, not as a dummy or book, though you will work with the layout, the publisher creates the final book.



Here are some things NOT to do when submitting a PDF book dummy.

Don’t use a fancy typeface or make a finished-looking product.

Don’t show more than 1-2 color pieces in your dummy. Most pages should be in black and white. Publishers like to have a lot of input. Don’t include a cover image unless asked, since the publisher will especially want to give feedback on the cover.

Don’t post your dummy on your site for the world to see or email it willy-nilly to friends. Take basic precautions by only sending when asked or expected. It’s OK to show some of it in your portfolio, maybe a few pages to show sequential art, and color work.

Remember that the editor can see the color pieces on-screen, but might print it out all in black and white (even at 72 dpi, it will print OK, but if you are submitting a print dummy, use the 300 dpi version). It is helpful to show color pieces on your site, either in your portfolio or on a password-protected page if you wish; you can send the editor/agent the password.

Good luck submitting your PDF book dummy!



Make a PDF Book Dummy the free, easy way

Update to this post: This originally was only about Scribus, which is a page-layout program similar to InDesign, but if you don’t want to use that, you can use Microsoft PowerPoint online, which is free, to do your layout and save as PDF. You can also do that with Microsoft Word online, also free, by inserting your images and saving as a PDF. Or you can use OpenOffice or LibreOffice, free MS Office substitutes . If you’re using the presentation (the PowerPoint-like) programs and not the Wordlike ones, I recommend using PowerPoint online instead, as the free PowerPoint-like ones are not as good as the free real one that’s online). Office Online is not as robust as the non-free offline one but it’s quite good. All you need is a Microsoft sign-in, and you can get sign up at those links.

This post will give an overview of making and editing a book dummy using the free page layout program Scribus.

Why you should make a PDF book dummy

First of all, what is a PDF Book dummy? It’s an editable book dummy in digital version, saved as a PDF file. It’s not animated or music-making like an app. it doesn’t flip pages. It sits on the screen, enchanting editors with words and pictures. It’s an alternative to paper book dummies. Best of all, it’s not that complicated to make one.

Picture book writers who don’t illustrate will find it useful to make editable text dummy. I do love the scissors and Scotch tape kind as well, but this way, the text won’t be cut up like a ransom note.

More and more children’s book publishers and are asking for PDF  picture book dummies both in submissions and as you develop your accepted book.  Having a PDF book dummy will streamline your children’s-book submissions. But how do you make one? You could try to put it together in Photoshop and Acrobat, but that’s difficult. Indesign is complicated and costly.  You could scan a paper dummy into a PDF, but that’s time-consuming, and anyway you can’t make changes to it easily. Scribus is a great alternative.

What is Scribus?

Scribus is a free, open source page layout program.

What is open source? Why is it free?

Basically, this means a program is not written by people working for a company, but by a group of programmers working for the love of it and who give away their products. You can download it at http://scribus.net.

Sometimes Open Source isn’t perfect, but bugs get reported and fixed in updates. Don’t worry about viruses, just be sure you download the program from the official program page. Gimp is a well-known open source program similar to Photoshop. WordPress is also open source.


Using Scribus to make and edit your book dummy

Scribus is simple to use. I’m not going into detailed tutorials here, but you can find those at http://wiki.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus_Video_Tutorials

You don’t need any special knowledge to use it–what I’ve done here is basic. You do not need Adobe Acrobat.

You should create all your images and save them as JPGs or TIFFs. You can either create them digitally, as I do on a tablet, or you can draw your pictures on paper and scan them then save them.


Here’s an overview and some formatting tips for your book dummy

Create a page layout of 32 pages, then insert image frames and text boxes. Image frames and text boxes can overlap or be separate. You can resize image to frame or frame to image using the Item menu. You can type in the text, or paste it in.

For images, first make an image frame, then insert the image using the mouse or keyboard shortcuts.

If you change an image, don’t manually put into the layout. Save it as the same file name and the image will automatically update in Scribus. Awesome, huh! I like watching it change.

Some things about the text styling aren’t that obvious at first (unless you are one of those virtuous people who read the manual …)

To edit text, use the Text menu. You can choose from whichever fonts you have on your computer. To style the text, use the Edit menu (Edit/Edit text). I didn’t have any luck keeping the same font and had to select the text and change the font each time. (This seemed like a bug. Eventually the font size stayed the same but only after many attempts. However, compared to the time I saved using the program, I didn’t mind).

My cursor would get “stuck” sometimes and when that happened I would hit the Escape (esc) key and all would become unstuck. Took a while to figure that out!

One cool thing (out of many) is that you can zoom way out to as small as 10% and see your dummy as thumbnails, giving you a good sense of the visual rhythm.


How to make the Scribus file into a PDF

Scribus files are saved with the file extension .sla. Don’t worry about that. Once you’re done with your dummy, simply use the edit menu and export it as a PDF. If you make changes to any pages and want to make a new PDF, simply export it as a PDF again. You can keep the same file name or change it.

To edit your dummy, open the .sla file (e.g., mydummy.sla) in Scribus.

There you have it! It’s very flexible and forgiving. You can change any of the pages and put them back in, just as if it were on paper. You can print it out, email it, post it online, or send it to your Kindle or any e-reader that takes PDF files (note: this is not the same as formatting an ebook for Kindle, which is a different process. You can read PDFs on Kindle).

Scribus lets you export it in color, black and white, viewed in one column or two, and there are other viewing options as well.

Ready to hit “send”? My next post will be Tips for submitting a PDF book dummy.


Looking for help writing and/or editing for your picture book manuscript or dummy? Please visit my critiques and editing page.

Deciphering the Stone: Best Tablets for Artists

Best digital drawing tablets

Looking for a digital drawing tablet?

Ipads, tablet PCs, slates, phones, Surface Pro…. it’s overwhelming.  2013 has brought many new tablets. If you’re curious about using a tablet to do digital art, this article might help you navigate your way. For much more info, please visit the site Tablets for Artists, which has detailed reviews and info and keeps current.

What are the best tablets for artists? Hint: not the Ipad. While the Ipad brought tablets to the general public, it’s not optimal for most professional artists. To do professional illustration for print, you are much better off with a tablet that can handle high-resolution files and full art programs such as Photoshop. Digital art can be very resource-consuming.

Another must-have is pressure sensitivity. Pressure sensitivity lets you vary line and shades of color depending how hard you press. If the tablet specs say Wacom Penabled, that means it’s pressure-sensitive. The levels of sensitivity are 512, 1024, and 2048. I think 512 is acceptable and 2,048 or 1,024 levels probably does not make much difference to the human eye unless you’re one of those people who draws 8,000 harp-strumming angels dancing on the head of a pin. Get the highest levels you can–I just would not spend a ton more on it.

All slates are tablets, but not all tablets are slates. Tablet PCs are laptops with clamshell cases. The screen rotates on hinges and you fold it down to cover the keyboard. That’s called a convertible tablet. With slates, sometimes there’s an attachable keyboard. If you’re not using the analog keyboard, there is a digital one.

Here are my recs and nonrecs for professional artists and illustrators:

NO: iPad. The iPad has no pressure sensitivity. Lines and shading are uniform. You use apps, not full art programs. There are art apps that do high res, and it’s possible to do great art on the iPad, but overall it’s better as a sketchbook. The iPad’s screen is capacitive, meaning touch-sensitive. You can draw using your hand or a stylus. This capacitive screen is the technology used in ATM machines. It’s not the most precise and therefore not the best for art.

I’ve tried a Wacom. pressure-sensitive stylus with Ipad. Gimmicky.

YES!: Wacom Cintiq. At about $900 for the new HD 13″, you’ll be getting a wonderful tool with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, way more than anyone would ever need. (I still use the older version that has “only” 1,024 but this is more than enough.) There’s also the super fancy, very heavy 24″ used by professional animators.

You attach the Cintiq to your computer. The Cintiq is a monitor, so whatever is on your screen will also be on the Cintiq, either duplicated or extended. You duplicate to draw with. It’s a drawing tablet with a screen.

wacom cintiq with laptop


Wacom Cintiq attached to laptop (with rainbowz)

You can use your Cintiq with the next computer, something to consider since computers become obsolete quickly. Cintiqus seem to hold their value pretty well if you want to sell them.

There a few different stylii, from regular to felt-tiplike, are each about $60.

For the tablet/slate PCs, stylus cost about $30, for Ipad, starts at $10

You can use a Cintiq with a Mac (you need an adapter for the DVI cable), a PC, laptop, or desktop. You cannot use it with an Ipad.

Cintiq cons-unit plus cords weigh 10 pounds, not very portable. Some issues with color and line jitter near the edges, at least on the older models.

I would say the Cintiq is the best tablet for artists. The Cintiq is a dedicated art tablet.

On an odder note, it can be hard to get a Cintiq through airport security. They grab the Cintiq and at one airport they dusted it with explosive-detecting powder. I feel so safe.


YES: Tablet PC

Tablet PCs have varying degrees of pressure sensitivity, check specs. Most have resistive screens, best for drawing and requiring a stylus (no finger painting). The screen swivels so you end up with a flat computer. These are laptops. (I know the terms are confusing. Slates are also PCs but they are flat with no clamshell).

Of those I have used, Toshiba is by far the best. (I got mine around the year 2003 and worked it to death! Microsoft made this technology and Bill Gates thought everyone would adapt it. Well, they did, only after Steve Jobs reinvented it years later with the Ipad. Interestingly, 1888 saw the first patent for an electronic handwriting tablet and the first real one was made in 1956, according to Wikipedia.)

Though it’s easier to find in stores than a lot of  other tablet PCs, I don’t recommend the Lenovo x201 for art. It’s capacitive, so you can use your hand or stylus to draw, but it suffers with precision problems. It’s a good computer otherwise.

There are many brands of Tablet PC laptops so read specs.

Try to get Windows 7 if you can. Win7 works great with Adobe drivers, but Win8, though it’s designed for “touch,” does not. I think this is a matter of Adobe not updating their drivers.

YES: Slate PCs

I have a like/like thing with the Samsung Ativ Smart PC which is the state of the art portable tablet. Haven’t tried the Asus Slate PC but it’s similar.

Slate PC pros–very lightweight and super portable. Weighs under 2 lbs

Slate Cons–have to protect the screen when traveling. Lack of memory (the ATiV, anyway). Not much space to draw. I don’t like using a digital keyboard, though you can attach a keyboard.

Watch as this tablet form develops, as doubtless they will make faster models with more memory.


samsung slate pc



Samsung Slate, a fully functioning computer.

NO: Slate non-PCs

– meaning slates such as Android tablets or Surface RT, these use apps are not powerful enough. Sure you can draw on them but they aren’t great for professional, print-quality art. I realize some may disagree, but after experience and much reading I do think it matters. By “PC” I mean something that’s a full computer. Most tablets are not. Distinguishing between these and “real” PCs is not always easy and is very confusing so make sure you are getting what you want. Real slate PCs do not sell for under $500. The Atom Processor is not powerful enough for artists doing high-res print work.

No-Surface RT

Yes-Surface Pro with WinTab drivers

This recent Surface Pro (use the “enhanced tablet driver”) can use the pen with pressure sensitivity in Photoshop but unlike the Cintiq, you can’t get the pen tilt, in other words, it’s less like a real pen. Also, the stylii are not that nice. Similar to the Samsung slates.

No-Surface Pro without Wintab drivers. 

Microsoft added Wacom pressure sensitivity after releasing the Surface.

N0- Surface RT since it runs Metro apps, not full art programs, and doesn’t have that much memory.

One problem with Windows tablets (both slates and laptops) is a problem with Windows 8 and Adobe. It’s no longer possible to effectively draw using Photoshop. Thin lines skip around. Adobe blames Microsoft and vice versa. I think it’s that Adobe did not update the drivers. Sketchbook Pro works fine so I now draw with that and color in Photoshop.


Is there a Mac tablet? Sort of. Besides the Ipad, there’s the Axiotron Modbook, which is a souped-up Mac Book Pro, part Mac, part something else. If you can’t live without the Mac OS and you’re OK spending 3k, then go for it.

YES: Graphics tablets such as Wacom Bamboo and Intuos

These are inexpensive,  some under $100. They are flat plastic surfaces that attach to computer via USB. A good introduction, the Bamboo drawing tablet and the Intuos Touch tablets are useful and help go beyond just using a mouse. Wacom is known to make the best graphic tablet product lines for artists.

wacom bamboo splash


Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet and stylus.

But should you go digital? I will post about that another time. Will also be writing about low-cost art software.

Alternatives. There are other companies that make Cintiq types of art tablets, including one called Bosto, maybe worth investigating. I saw a large, amazing Panasonic slate at JR.  There are “digital paper and pens,” best for sketching and writing.

Don’t forget good old art supplies and paper. Machines only go so far. The power is in YOU!

Still, I love my tablets.

So… don’t be a blank slate. Take two tablets (groan) and feel free to leave questions/opinions in the comments.


How to find the best drawing tablet at Tablets for Artists

For more on tablet history, see


All things Wacom–http://wacom.com

To read reviews or geek out with other tabletheads


Resistive vs. capacitive


Mac tablets (not by Apple)–http://modbook.com

http://pocketnow.com/2013/05/13/surface-pro-digital-artists-dream (someone’s review of Microsoft Surface Pro)

There are exciting free and inexpensive art programs out there, I’ll post about those sometime.

Hope this has shed some light on the world of art tablets. I’m happy to answer questions/take opinions in the comments.


man with tablet