Elizabeth Dulemba


My 1st iPhone/iPad Picture Book App
(As seen in the March/April 2010 SCBWI Bulletin)
by Elizabeth O. Dulemba

     New ways to publish and share stories are providing exciting opportunities for creators and readers. One such innovation is the iPhone Picture Book App (I'll call them iPPBAs). An “app” is short for “application” and is a third-party software program developed specifically for the iPhone™ and the iPod Touch®. They can be downloaded directly, or downloaded to a computer and transferred to the device.
     Picture Book Apps are not quite books (you wouldn’t read one to a story time group) but they make nice complements. They are full stories, and because of their electronic format can include pictures, sound, even animation or interactivity. And they’re great on the fly when you don’t have books with you.  
     Creating an app can add something new to a creator’s picture book portfolio drawing attention to his/her other works. My first iPPBA, Lula’s Brew, is ironically drawing lots of attention to my latest picture book, Soap, Soap, Soap.
     I have an iPhone so was familiar with apps, but first discovered iPPBAs when iStoryTime.com posted a call for submissions on the SCBWI message board. The samples on its website were promising – I wanted to try it.
     To avoid hassles, I needed a story I had all rights to. So I chose my dummy, Lula’s Brew, about an apprentice witch who would rather be a famous chef. It received nice rejections – even an award – but didn’t break into the tight Halloween picture book market. Experimenting with the iPhone format meant I had to finish and adapt the artwork, find a developer to program it, do the voiceover, and ship it to Apple in time for a pre-Halloween release.
     iStoryTime was already inundated with manuscripts, but through a chance conversation at the Decatur Book Festival, I learned about a start-up company – Rhodesoft.com. Since this technology is so new, all of the companies involved are start-ups. Some have big, shiny budgets. But Jacob Rhodes has a Masters in Media Technology, and his wife, Toni, is an early education specialist. We decided to work together.
     The iPhone face is 320 x 480 pixels (160 pixels per inch). Comparing other iPPBAs, large simple shapes are most eye-catching, so I zoomed in on my drawings to simplify my layouts and allow plenty of space for text. I worked at 300 ppi at four times the actual size to guarantee clean files. (Text ran about 17 points.) It doesn’t matter if artwork is originally traditional or digital, but preparing art for the iPhone must be done digitally. I sent layered Photoshop documents so text could be manipulated if necessary.
     The tight deadline dictated I be the voice talent too. (This crazy career has opened unexpected doors for me.) Jacob set up a sound studio in his home, and I learned the hard way to avoid salty foods (or dairy) before recording. We did several takes for each spread. I used different voices for my characters – not hard considering I read aloud when I write and had them down pat. Then Jacob pulled together the images, sound, and text to create the app.
     Apple takes two weeks to place apps into its system and Lula’s Brew went live two weeks before Halloween. Learn about it through iTunes and download it straight to your iPhone/iPod Touch through the app store (search: Lula).
     Adobe will have iPhone app developer software soon, so any technically savvy person can create apps. And since Apple is the final distributor, it doesn’t really matter who you work with. However, I found creating a successful iPPBA requires:  full content; a good designer; a sound studio; electronic rights; and a talented tech developer. Therefore, it just makes sense to work with actual developers.
     For my first iPPBA, the developers and I worked strictly for royalties since it was an experiment for both of us. This will probably change, but currently, payments and percentages vary wildly among developers - there are no standards yet. The main concern for agents and publishers is dealing with contracted electronic rights.
     iPPBAs are a great venue for out-of-print books, picture books, interactive stories, etc. They’re also attractive to self-publishers so competition is building quickly. Publishing houses and early iPhone app developers will have advantages in that publishers have libraries of successful books to share, and developers who become known for publishing high quality apps may create a following. There’s no telling where this will go, but in the meantime, iPPBAs are another way to share our stories. lula

Learn more about Lula’s Brew at http://dulemba.com/ActivityPage-Lula.html, and Elizabeth’s latest books at dulemba.com.

If you're interested in creating your own APPs, you need to read my blog post Why APPs need ISBN numbers.

UPDATE! 04-04-10
     Well, hubbie and I bought an iPad Saturday, and so far it's very cool and very interesting. Please pardon the cross posting and the ego flare, but my picture book app LULA'S BREW is STUNNING on the iPad. Freaking Beautiful!! The colors are smack dead on, you can see my brush strokes, the light is gorgeous, it's crisp and beautiful. The sound is awesome. As an illustrator I am THRILLED with the way Lula looks on this device. Truly - if I was Steve Jobs I'd be holding up an iPad with LULA'S BREW saying "Look at what this baby can DO!!!" (Okay, ego back in check...)
     As for the rest of it...
     Gotta say, the color, the screen, the sound - all GLORIOUS!!! A few hiccups here and there. Some apps crash (none of the developers were able to test their apps before the iPad became available). When you buy a book in iBookstore, it loads to your bookshelf (tiny icon), and when you click on the book it opens to page 1 - not the book's cover. That's weird. And I was hoping Lula would have more visibility since it's one of THE first picture book Apps available for the iPad, but there are some search features that almost act like 'front of store' placement, hm. And of course, books and apps are sold in different places on the iPad - they are currently not treated like the same things At All. iBookstore does have one free 'picture book' - Winnie the Pooh - available. There seems to be a restricted area where an image (obviously a pdf) can be displayed - so it's nowhere near the full bleed luscious picture book look we all love - more like awkward vignettes. Facebook runs AWESOME on it (I'm on my computer now). The keyboard works great although you wouldn't want to actually write on it (we got a bluetooth keyboard to do that). And you can buy Pages to write, but WORD isn't available for the iPad right now. Hubbie and I are fighting over the iPad already. It's very, very cool. Obviously still a brand new thing (we feel a bit like beta testers) but very, very cool. Oh! And Stan is already watching ABC on the thing. (No hulu yet as it runs via flash which Apple refuses to support, and fancast is there but requires a monthly subscription.) He turned off the tv and said "What tv? We'll never use it again!" We'll see.
     SO! That is my review so far... I gotta go play with the new toy some more... if I can get it away from my hubbie.

More articles on creating eBooks:
How to self-publish an e-book (Note: this is for text based books, not picture book apps.)

     All Artwork © Elizabeth O. Dulemba -  Y'all play nice, Okay?