Saturday, February 2, 2013

Another option for making digital picture books...?

It's been ages since I've posted on E is for Book...aside from the usual print book projects that clamor for attention, I have felt stymied by the process of making digital books. Every platform has its own format to learn which also limits the potential audience to the users of that platform and/or device. 

I did make an iBook in 2011 which took weeks of work to convert the art work from an O.P. book (process article is here.) It was a hassle to become an iBookstore seller but doable. Then, much like tossing a book into a giant pile in a warehouse, it instantly disappeared into the confusing, inaccessible "store" that doesn't even have a rudimentary search engine or Internet portal. (It only searches on titles, not book descriptions, and you can only browse the iBookstore via the iBooks app.) The few people who have bought Tracks in the Sand  found it somehow but it wasn't by searching on the term "sea turtles" because that won't bring it up. The other drawback is that it is basically a digital version of a print book, which is fine but I'm interested in adding interactive elements.

To make a long story short, none of the current options available for making interactive books have grabbed me for various reasons including:
  1. The difficulty of making the book
  2. Having to get the final product approved
  3. The limited platform (e.g. book apps that only work on tablets)
  4. Bad or nonexistent searchability in "stores"
  5. Having to be "inside" another app (e.g.Interactive Touch Books)
  6. The monumental problem of marketing, especially due to items 3-5
While marketing is an issue for anything indie-published (and traditionally published, for that matter), here is one solution I've come up with that solves the other issues:

As mentioned in the video, Valentine Mystery Critters was made in PowerPoint, of all things. It took a fair bit of time to get the animations working right, but compared to other options I've tried, it wasn't that hard. Obviously, the interactive options are limited in PowerPoint, but the selling options are quite open...zillions of computers have PowerPoint installed. To read more about the pros and cons of this method of making digital books, please check out this article on my books blog.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Piggles Goes to School... the video trailer.

About this book:
On his first day of school Piggles worries about everything. But Piggles learns to think for himself as he outsmarts dinosaurs, a witch, a goblin, a UFO, a dragon and a pirate. Filled with puzzles and interactive fun, Piggles loves school once gets there. 

'Piggles Goes to School' challenges children to think for themselves and overcome problems as they travel with Piggles on his way to school. Touching objects initiates sounds, actions, animations.  Help Piggles solve a variety of puzzles to make his way safely to school.

As an illustrator and writer of more than 50 children's books I had a great time creating this app. You can download this app in the bookstore, which is an iTunes store

Friday, November 16, 2012

Piggles Goes to School - A new e-book app

When a book-maker gets a book in a box on the porch it's always a thrill to open it up and see it 'for real'... finally.  This same rule applies to e-book apps... only more so.

I had the wonderful opportunity to finally download my 1st copy of 'Piggles Goes to School' onto my iPod touch.

To savor the experience I quietly stole away to my favorite cafe to plug in my headphones and push the 'Read to Me' button on my iPod.  On the scale of the quiet joys of book-making this first reading rates up near the top. It's the first time ever that you get to be 'the reader'.  I was not disappointed. 

This new book is an actual book, whereas Mousey the Explorer was sort of an improvised idea on a theme.  'Piggles Goes to School' has an actual storyline, plot, resolution and all that. 

On his first day of school Piggles worries about everything. But Piggles learns to think for himself as he outsmarts dinosaurs, a witch, a goblin, a UFO, a dragon and a pirate. Filled with puzzles and interactive fun, Piggles loves school once gets there.

'Piggles Goes to School' is available from, an iTunes store.

John Nez

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mousey the Explorer e-book app - in bookstores now

My first interactive e-book app, Mousey the Explorer has been published in the bookstore.

So this will be my toe in the water for e-book app making. 
I made up this little app-trailer for YouTube. 

This e-book app is filled with interactive sounds, animations, puzzles, coloring and musical activities.

I'm the actor, writer, producer and director. I do the set-design, lighting, costumes, makeup, stunts, choreography and special effects. I'm also the cameraman, technical wizard, animator and I make the coffee.

I'm the publisher too.

I have to say, it's almost boring to do just plain flat digital art that doesn't have sounds, motion and interactivity.  Here's the movie trailer to 'Mousey the Explorer'.

So feel free to pass on this link for some e-book interactive fun!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Marketing your digital book: What's the plan? (#giveaway)

If there is one topic that is almost sure to elicit a quizzical frown and not much else from most children's book authors and illustrators, it's marketing. That's the publisher's job, right? We creative types don't want to think about promotion…yuck. Yet publishers can't do everything and there are many innovative techniques nowadays that are often inexpensive or free. And if you haven't heard yet, authors/illustrators are expected to carry the marketing ball more and more these days. If you choose not to participate, your book's sales will almost certainly suffer.

Indeed, the word is that having a "platform" can make the difference between getting or not getting a publishing contract in the first place. And in the digital realm, many authors/illustrators are now seeking to release ebooks or book apps based on out-of-print (OP) as well as original titles, bypassing publishers entirely. Based on my limited experience with my OP book about sea turtles*, it’s pretty tough to get the word out. Putting a digital book on the iBookstore, App store, Kindle store, NOOK bookstore, et al has been compared to tossing a book into a warehouse and slamming the door shut. Now what?
Fortunately there is a terrific newly-released resource for #kidlit creators by children's author-illustrator Katie Davis, How to Promote Your Children's Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller. (Note: I am one of the 60 contributors to the book and received a free copy.) The content ranges from Your Website and What's Wrong with It to Skype Visits to The Secret Sauce and much more…including social media, of course. Katie has built her platform in a myriad of ways that she generously shares. She makes a monthly appearance on TV in Connecticut to recommend great kid's books; she produces a weekly kidlit podcast; writes a blog; gives keynote speeches and presentations; has judged awards; is on the board of a literary charity; and created two book trailers that made it to the finals in the School Library Journal Trailee awards…she clearly has a lot to tell the average author/illustrator. Not incidentally, her book Little Chicken's Big Day was the 2012 winner in the publisher or author-created trailer category for elementary readers. (I just found this out while writing this post, so big congrats, Katie!)

Here are a few random items from the book to give you an idea:
Book Trailer Rule #1: No slow, loving pans of your cover.

On YouTube: It's easy to forget that YouTube is yet another social media site, isn't it? But that's exactly what it is…

On Contests: Don't have a "contest"—have a "giveaway," or a "sweepstakes," or a "drawing"…I've checked, and you just don't want to use the word "contest."

On Printed Postcards, etc.: Now that you know about all kinds of appearances, are you going to arrive empty handed? No, you are not!

The book's tone is lighthearted and conversational while the content is comprehensive and well-organized. There are many, many tips from the various author/illustrator/librarian/blogger contributors plus links galore to a huge variety of resources. At the end of each chapter is "homework" that consists of action items to do such as Create a school visit page on your site. It's obvious that my internal Excuse-O-meter is going to have more trouble coming up with reasons to NOT work on promotion for my books. I certainly won't be able to plead ignorance! After all, the whole point of writing and illustrating a book is to have people read it, and they can't read it if they don't know about it, right?

Katie has managed to get her book into a number of formats/ereaders including Kindle, NOOK, iBooks, and PDF. It's not easy dealing with the different formats and ebookstores; kudos are due on that score as well.

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you would like to become eligible for a free PDF version of Katie's book. Please leave a comment by this Friday, February 3 at midnight Eastern time and I'll choose a random number to determine the winner. Check back on Saturday to see if you won! The book costs $9.99, which is not bad for over 200 pages, no?

Today's post is only the first on the blog tour for How to Promote Your Children's Book; there will be additional giveaways at some of the blogs, so here is the schedule:
Feb 8 - Shutta Crum
Feb 9 - McBookWords
Feb 10 - Kerem Erkan
Feb 17 - Fiction Notes
March 1 - 12x12 in 2012

Update: Check out Katie's Brain Burps about Books podcast about the How to Promote ebook, with several mini-interviews with contributors.

Thanks for stopping by!

*My iBook about sea turtles, Tracks in the Sand

Monday, January 30, 2012

iBooks Author: Links to resources (so far)

If you are interested in making ebooks, you've probably already heard about Apple's new iBook creation tool, iBooks Author. To clear up one bit of confusion, iBooks Author is a Mac app (for desktop or laptop computer) to make an interactive iBook that is read in the iBooks 2 app on the iPad. In other words, you're not making the iBook on your iPad, unlike Book Creator, for example, which makes a standard iBook. (Here is my post about using Book Creator.)

The term interactive means different things to different people, from choose-your-own-adventure stories to ebooks with tappable read-aloud text to game-like animated book apps. This blog post by Curating Book App Mom discusses iBooks Author and interactivity. Seems like we need better terminology to describe these digital books…but they're a moving target!

In order to download the free iBooks Author app, you must have a Mac with the Lion OS installed. To read the souped up iBooks you need the free iBooks 2 app on your iPad. The free sample of E.O. Wilson's Life on Earth has embedded videos, animations, photo galleries, 3D models you can manipulate in any direction, clickable maps, quizzes, and more. It's quite sophisticated, no doubt about it. The file size is large, though. One of the features I'm interested in using is embedded Keynote presentations. I think the file sizes for those could be much smaller than full videos, while still allowing movement and user-directed interaction.

[Update 2.23.2012]: A (currently) free 94 pages ebook, Publishing with iBooks Author by Nellie McKesson and Adam Witwer is available from O'Reilly. It covers the ins and outs of text formatting, tables, widgets, and much more.

To get an excellent overview of iBooks Author's features and what it can and can't do, check out this post by Ben Vanderberg.

Here is Apple's iBooks Author Support, which has several articles and tips such as to use "iPad safe fonts." There is also an iBooks Author forum here.

The templates that come with iBooks Author are set up for textbooks, with Chapters, Sections, and pages. This is great for textbooks, cookbooks, craft books and so on, but excess baggage for picture books, my primary interest. I haven't tackled stripping out those features myself yet, but came across this article by Dani Jones that shows how she put her comic book into a Photo Gallery widget to get full bleed images. Looks promising.

There has been some controversy about the licensing for this software, such as the limitation that you can only sell the resulting iBooks through Apple's iBookstore. (You can give them away on your web site, etc.) The article Why The Emotional Criticism of iBooks Author is Wrong links to some of the critical articles and attempts to address these concerns. There are 172 comments on it as of today, so if you'd like to wade into that, happy reading!

My biggest complaint is the totally inadequate Search capabilities on the iBookstore itself. My iBook Tracks in the Sand is about sea turtles, but if you search on "sea turtles" it won't come up. Only books with "sea turtle(s)" in the title or subtitle of the book show up in the search results. It's like trying to find books in a library that has no subject index, which obviously makes it difficult. If Apple is serious about making the iBookstore and its contents useful to teachers and students and readers in general, they need to support key words and/or pick up terms in an iBook's description. Hello?


my web site

Monday, January 23, 2012

Barney Saltzberg: live from Digital Book World

Children's author-illustrator-songwriter Barney Saltzberg is attending the 2012 Digital Book World conference in New York, NY, which runs from today through Wednesday, January 25th. He is live-blogging his notes, so visit "Noodlings" to see what he is finding out. To read the rest of the entries on his blog, click on the right sidebar index of post titles. A few quotes…

How do traditional publishers deal with digital books?

Provide a reason to buy eBooks. Know and understand each ecosystem.

Knowing that tomorrow or whenever, digital is going to be part of the success of the book.
Bookstores and libraries still VERY important in discovery (About finding out about new children's books).

What drives the purchase of a book?

Thanks for the info, Barney!

My web site