Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An interview with Interactive Touch Books

I had the pleasure of working with Interactive Touch Books (ITB) and recently interviewed Ameen Saafir, founder/CEO about his company. The goal of ITB is to offer “A truly interactive reading experience for the iphone and ipad.” Below Ameen explains how authors and illustrators can create an original interactive book or work with ITB to have their designers create your book. (And with ITB you don't have to wait for Apple to approve your App.)  My ITB title is GRANDMA AND ME published in October, 2011. I worked with ITB designer Stacy Russell, who used my existing art from an out-of-print Random House title. Stacy did the work of adding the interactive elements and sound. My experience with ITB has been very pleasant and professional and I was very pleased with the results. Thank you Ameen for taking the time to answer my questions. 

In a paragraph tell us about Interactive Touch Books. When did you get started? What is your position and your history? 
The idea for Interactive Touch Books began to form over a year ago when I noticed that my then 18-month old son found the iPad incredibly intuitive to use. What I found surprising was that there just wasn’t a lot of quality content (e.g. interactive books) available for young children. As I began talking to children's authors and illustrators, it became clear that the issue was not a lack of desire to create app versions of their books, but of resources. It is very expensive to create a children's app for iPad. So I left my engineering career (designing flat screen TV technology) behind and started Interactive Touch with the goal of creating a platform that would let professional author illustrators create interactive books for children for very little upfront cost and without needing to write any code. 

How many titles do you currently have? Who is your audience? How does the public access/buy your books? What e-reader is needed to “read” your books?

We currently have 38 titles, all available for download through the free Interactive Touch Books app on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Our target audience is 1–10 year olds. Books can be purchased directly through the app or at our online store ( but are only readable through our app.

How does an author/illustrator go about creating an Interactive Touch Book?
1.    Original book?
2.    Existing book? (For which author/illustrator owns the rights.)

Whether an author wants to create an original book for iPad or translate an existing one into digital form, the process is the same. We give authors two options for accomplishing the process.

1. The author can use our online interface to create the interactive version of the book. Our team is available basically 24/7 to provide technical support and can walk an author through implementing a wide variety of effects.
2. You can allow us to create the book for you from your art. This can be for a book that has already been published or it can be a brand new idea. We accept art in almost any format. To create greater interactivity, we prefer .psd [Photoshop] files with background and foreground images on separate layers. However, we have created books from original canvas art and even scanned pages of a published book. This will generally require us to fill in some background art in order to allow characters to move around on the screen.

Talk about fees.
1. Fee for ITB to create book from existing art?
2. Royalty structure.

1. For the vast majority of books, we charge $500 to convert a title for an author. This includes implementation of art, sound effects, and interactive elements. Books are typically completed and live on our app within about 2 weeks of the start of the project. This production schedule may vary depending on the length of our project queue at the time of project submission. Should the project be delayed we will communicate that clearly before agreeing to take it on.

If the author/illustrator creates the interactive version of their book primarily on their own (we are always here for an assist or to answer questions) then it is free to create and publish.

2. The author/illustrator retains all rights to work that is created and published through our platform. This differentiates us from traditional publishers. Our only requirement is that the author does not publish the same material as an interactive book on a different platform. However, the author is free to sell static ebooks or print versions of the book elsewhere. Authors receive 70% of net proceeds after 3rd party fees (e.g. Apple on iTunes). This translates to 49% of sales from in-app purchases and roughly 65% on purchases from our online store.

What are your current needs?

We are very actively looking for high quality educational content as well as puzzles and activity books.

What is your biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge has been to construct a platform that is powerful enough to create amazing interactive books, yet simple enough that anyone can use it.

Look into the future…where do you think the ebook industry is going?

I believe that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential of digital books.  Right now, ebooks typically look like electronic versions of print books, which is only natural when translating existing media onto a new platform.  At Interactive Touch, we believe we have a unique vision for re-imagining how stories are told using digital platforms, which we will start bringing to market in the next few months. 

It is too early to predict what will happen to the industry in the long term, but as we look back on similar technology revolutions there are a few constants.  We can expect to see a lot of consolidation in the next couple of years, and whoever ends up leading in the space will likely be someone most people have not heard of yet, and will definitely not be a traditional publishing house.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d add that what authors/illustrators can expect from Interactive Touch is an amazing technology supported by a team of hard working professionals who will do whatever it takes to make sure every need in the creation process is met. The best testament we get to the quality of our platform and our team is that every author who completes a book with us start working on their next book almost immediately.

Interactive Touch Books Contact information and website:
Authors/illustrators can contact ITB at:

ITB Informational video:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Navigation in iBooks: Fixed layout screen controls

Most of us have seen ebooks with “reflowable” text that the reader can enlarge or shrink as desired.

While this is fine for text-only books or those with spot illustrations, it doesn’t work for a picture book. As seen in the above screenshots from the Winnie-the-Pooh iBook, when the text is enlarged (on the right), the tree illustration is pushed onto the next page, leaving a blank white area. This gives book designers the heebie-jeebies, along with the lack of fonts. In addition, the artwork cannot cover the 2-page spread in the reflowable format, due to the white borders along the edges and in the gutter.

Picture books typically have the text on top of the artwork, which is impossible to achieve with a normal ePub, Kindle, or similar format. Fortunately the iBook, NOOK, and now the Kindle Fire formats allow a fixed layout, which means the art and words keep the same relative size and location on the page. Yay!

The way you navigate around this type of iBook is different. This video shows how the screen controls work in my fixed layout iBook, Tracks in the Sand:

Let me know if you have any questions! If anyone is familiar with how the NOOK and Fire tablets work with fixed layout vs. reflowable, please chime in.

Loreen Leedy
my web site 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A winning cover for an ebook

Last April, children's author Janet Wong wrote about her adventures as she released two Kindle books. A few days later Janie Bynum and Laura Ruby collaborated on Judging an ebook by its cover, which goes into detail about the process of designing an eye-catching cover.

It turns out that Once Upon a Tiger won the nonfiction cover award for September given by The Book Designer blog. Congrats to the artist, Sladjana Vasic!

There is an interesting series on the Password Incorrect blog called Ebook Specific Cover Design…here is Part 1: Context.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My first iBook: Bringing an OP picture book back to life

Readers of E is for Book may recall my post from last February, From out-of-print to ebook—a progress report. Since then, some of you may have wondered if I'd given up on the effort to transform my sea turtle book, Tracks in the Sand, into a digital book. Despite various delays, side trips, and stumbles, I'm happy to say that it's now for sale on the iBookstore, so yay!

The key to making it possible was a new, inexpensive iPad app called Book Creator that went on sale in September. The app allows you to make what is known as a fixed-layout EPUB in the size and format that works for the iBooks app, without having to code (double-yay!) Unlike regular EPUBs that have "reflowing" text and separate images with white borders around them, fixed-layout EPUBs can have text on top of images that are full-bleed (i.e. the artwork can cover the pages completely.) This screenshot shows how a spread looks in iBooks:

Here is an overview of the process of making the iBook, more or less in order:
1) Scan artwork The turtle artwork had been scanned a few months ago so I was partway to the finish line already. I used a desktop scanner…fortunately the pages fit height-wise, though I did have to stitch the two pages into a spread in Photoshop.

2) Revise text and make book plan
I ended up eliminating some pages such as a redundant title page, splitting up some spreads, fixing a couple of minor text errors, adding a sentence to smooth a transition, and abbreviating the afterword. The biggest issue was that the original book had horizontal pages while the native iBooks page is vertical. I discussed the page versus tablet screen size dilemma in more detail in Digital books: Will form affect content? on the I.N.K. blog. It's possible to maintain the book's original page size (requires coding), but it means that the reader either sees letterboxed art with black bars above and below or if zoomed in has to keep swiping to see both pages. I wanted readers to easily see a complete spread when the iPad is held in landscape orientation.

3) Tweak artwork I moved turtles around and performed other Photoshop surgery to keep important parts of the images out of the faux gutter in iBooks. This took the most time…the head of a cute little baby turtle cannot be squinched in the gutter! I set up an InDesign dummy file to allow me to see all the spreads in a book-like arrangement with roughed out text placement. Unfortunately,
at this time InDesign cannot output fixed-layout EPUBs, although it can export the reflowable kind.

4) Save for Web/Devices The artwork was split into single-page jpegs with these dimensions: 816 X 1224 pixels. That keeps it under the maximum size for a single-page image, 1 million pixels. Apple suggests in their iBookstore Asset Guide (available only to approved publishers) that it's better to have two single-page images than one double-page image. Probably helps them to load better; wish I'd read that before doing it the other way first. I used Dropbox to get the jpegs onto my iPad.

5) Apply to be an iBookstore publisher Once it appeared that making an iBook was really possible, I applied to be a publisher on the iBookstore. You need a U.S. tax I.D. number among other things; here is the iTunes Connect Online Application. It doesn't cost anything and took about a week for approval.
In addition, iBooks need an ISBN number, available in the U.S. from Bowker. There also are 3rd party aggregators that you can use instead of doing it all yourself, see this iBooks FAQ page for more info.

6) Prepare layouts I placed all the images and added the text in Book Creator, then previewed the book in the iBooks app. After much tweaking and previewing back and forth, when it was finally, really finished, I used Dropbox to get the epub file back on my computer.
One extra thing that I did was to prepare a special epub file to be the sample on the iBookstore. If you don't, a sample is automatically generated that may not be to your liking. I wanted a longish sample so people could see what they were getting. If you have an iPad, you can download the Tracks in the Sand sample here. Or, in your iBooks app, click on the Store button and search on the title.

7) Upload the iBook Apple provides free software called iTunes Producer in which you provide details such as the author and illustrator name(s), ISBN number, description, category, and so on, then it "packages" all the files for delivery. Once the package was uploaded, it took about 11 days to go live. All iBooks have to go through an approval process.

8) Create buzz So now I just have to figure out how to let people know Tracks is available again…otherwise known as marketing. It ain't easy…for one thing, there are no iBooks review sites that I'm aware of. By all means if you know any turtle-lovers, please spread the word.


If you're interested in adding audio and word highlighting and otherwise tweaking the code, check out Liz Castro's various EPUB guides. If you have any questions I’ll try to answer them in the comments. Thanks for reading!

visit the Tracks page on my web site

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A librarian looks at book apps

As a new medium for telling stories, book apps include many factors for authors and illustrators to consider. We always love to hear what librarians have to say on the topic.
A mini-series by school librarian and blogger Mary Ann Scheuer considers “ books created in this new medium can engage children, can help them get excited about reading, can make books and information more accessible.”

READ MORE of Part 1: Evaluating Book Apps for Children: Introduction

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

“…a slide-out menu at the bottom of every page…symbols that guide users to digging deeper into the content…a thumbnail picture of each page…”

READ MORE of Part 2: Navigation

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

“I know from working with many students that audiobooks help provide an essential way into longer stories that they would not be able to read on their own.”

READ MORE of Part 3: Narration

Multiple languages, interaction with words, elements that can be replayed, and how the medium shapes reader expectations are some of the issues Mary Ann touches upon. Happy reading!

Loreen Leedy

Friday, September 30, 2011

Original Alice manuscript is free on iBooks

#Kidlit lovers, would you like to see Lewis Carroll’s original handwritten and illustrated manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, eventually known as Alice in Wonderland? The entire 98-page work is available on the iBookstore for freeAn optional narration is also included. 

Update: The iBooks version now costs $8.99. A free version is available on the British Library site at this link.


my web site

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Combining words and pictures

Just a quick post to recommend jumping over to read this post on Peter Meyer’s blog (A New Kind of Book). Excerpt:

Pictures & Prose: Making ‘Em Work Together

A novel that uses words & illustrations to tell its story offers lessons on integrating media

What’s the best way to combine text and pictures?  Most designers—print or digital—try to artfully position both on the same page. Brian Selznick, author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret uses a deceptively simple alternative… continue reading

Though Hugo isn’t digital yet (in an authorized version at least), the movie is coming out in December. Here is a short trailer that incorporates the illustrations.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Creating a B&N Nook Picture Book (part 2)

So last week I announced that I converted my picture book app, LULA’S BREW, into a .pdf for download to The Illustrated Section and various electronic devices... and a Nook color picture book. I got you started on preparing your files for the process. Here's the rest...

The latest buzz is that Adobe InDesign 5 (CS5) can convert files to .epub. VonLogan's tutorial will walk you through this step-by-step, so you'll need to download it from Will Terry's blog. My first glitch was that I only have ID4 (CS4), but turns out, it can do it too. The only difference is, when I went to save, rather than “save as .epub,” it said “Export Book for Digital Editions” (wait for it = .epub). It did crash the program, but it gave me the file I needed. So, okay.
The trick with picture books is you have to create a new document in ID for every page, which is what forces page turns in what would otherwise be flowing text for a typical .epub file. Those documents can then be converted into an .epub “book.” However, there is some coding in those files that needs to be tweaked to get the images to show up full-screen on a Nook. 
By converting the .epub file to a .zip file (by changing the suffix), you can open the separate documents and change the code in the templates. Follow VonLogan directions meticulously. And be sure to use a text program that doesn’t have “smart quotes” on as all those reversed quotes can negate the html commands. (He used WordPress on a PC; I used Dreamweaver on a Mac.) You also have to save a cover file into the master folder, then convert the folder back to .epub from .zip (I used WinZip for Mac to get what I needed, although you could also use Stuffit). 
My file was ready!

The next step was to create an account through Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! site (accessed through their main page). You will need an associated bank account to which any profits can be directed. (I opened an account especially for Paypal and transactions such as these, rather than allow access to my main bank account.) I plugged in all the information (setting my book for the 3-5 age range), uploaded my file, previewed the document online and hit “Sell Now.” 
With an already existing book, the entire process took me about two days - mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing. I imagine a day or less would work once a comfort zone is established. Granted, with Tom Gilson's reasonable rates, you may rather hire him to do the techie stuff, but I wanted to get a full idea of the beastie. 
It took one day to go live on Barnes and, and you can now find LULA’S BREW HERE at B&N (or just search “Lula’s Brew”). The only down side? I have an iPhone, iPad, and a Kindle, but I don’t own a Nook color! Here’s hoping lots of people do...
- Elizabeth O. Dulemba

Click here to read part 1.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Creating a B&N Nook Picture Book (part 1)

I recently converted my picture book app, LULA’S BREW, into a .pdf for download to The Illustrated Section and various electronic devices... including a Nook color picture book. It isn’t an exercise for everybody, but it can be done if you have the right software, some ease around technology, and a good deal of patience.
I have to give a nod to author/illustrator Will Terry who has several eBook-themed videos on his blog that got me started (see April 2010 in the archives especially). He interviewed his developer, Tom Gilson, who discussed much of the tech side; and he includes a tutorial by VonLogan Brimhall which walks you through converting to .epub (the standard file format for the Nook) via Adobe InDesign (CS5) on a PC.
The first step was formatting the files. I suggest keeping your picture book files in layers so that artwork can be moved around and text adjusted as needed for various devices. (Lots of space needs to be reserved for text and large, simple images tend to work well.) Since I’d already sized my book down for the iPad/iPhone, I didn’t have to do too much tweaking. Vertical layouts work best on most of these electronic devices, despite Apple’s rotating features, to keep text readable and allow the greatest visual impact. Think single pages rather than double page spreads - eBooks really aren’t the same thing as a traditional books, despite the debates.
There does seem to be some wiggle room on height on the Nook, although the easiest dimensions to work within safely are 562x750 pixels. (It can go as tall as 850 pixels.) By using batch processing in Adobe Photoshop I was able to size my files easily (saving them in a new folder), tweak the layouts, then convert them to jpgs. 
Important - I numbered my files from 01-cover.jpg to 34.jpg to keep them in order. Without end papers included, the book is a bit shorter than your average picture book. 34.jpg was a closing page directing people to my website (and includes a QR code).
Then I dove into VonLogan’s tutorial. I'll share the rests of the process next week if you'd like to play along!
Elizabeth O. Dulemba

Click here to read part 2.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer re-reading about digital books

In case you missed them the first time around, here are a few “summer rerun” posts from E is for Book:

An Interview with App Developer PicPocket Books 
by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

The iPad App as a Therapeutic Tool 
by Freddie Levin
by Amy Timberlake 

by various members

Publishing an eBook? Three Questions to Consider:
Part 1 and Part 2
by Janet Wong

Happy reading!

Loreen Leedy
my blog

Monday, June 27, 2011

Speaking of picture book apps...

I gave an hour-long presentation last Saturday for the Digital track of the FL SCBWI mid-year workshop and am happy to report it went very well. Emma Dryden of DrydenBooks gave an excellent overview of digital books and the changes in children’s publishing. Agent and consultant Rubin Pfeffer discussed the process of creating A Present for Milo and much more, while Curtis Sponsler kept our varying devices hooked up properly plus gave many great tips for authors about hardware, software, online resources, and other techie goodies. One cool idea he mentioned is that you can make a book trailer using Keynote... who knew? If you have a Mac, you can download the Keynote Mac app for $20, create a “presentation” (i.e. trailer) with moving images and text, add the audio in various ways (iMovie is one), then export it to QuickTime and load it on YouTube. The Keynote app gives options that iMovie doesn’t have, such as being able to float any font you like across an image.

Anyway, for links to the speakers, the book apps I discussed, notes, plus links to DIY app-creation software, please check out this post on my books blog.

Loreen Leedy
my web site

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How many pages should a picture book app have?

Picture book (PB) apps are not the same as standard picture books in many respects. (These issues are top of mind at the moment because in addition to working on my current picture book app project, I’m giving a presentation in a couple of weeks for the FL SCBWI about how to go about creating them.) Page count is one way PB apps are very different. As any aspiring author/illustrator who has done a teensy amount of research knows, a standard print picture book has 32 pages. Historically, that number arose from the way books are printed plus market expectations. To see a layout template, check out this storyboard tutorial from the classic picture book how-to book Writing With Pictures, by Uri Shulevitz. For authors, this translates into 14 or 15 double-page spreads that will have text on them.

Picture book apps don’t have a standard number of pages, nor are there double page spreads. Hmmm! In looking at a few apps, the number of pages (screens?) ranges from less than 10 to 30 and up. Some nonfiction PB apps may have even more. It’s really up to the app creator(s) to decide AND for app buyers to vote with their $$$.

It’s worth noting that the number of pages may not mean much, especially if an app has interactive features that keep readers busy for a longer time on each page. The trailer for A Present for Milo shows some of its more than 125 hidden animations:

From a storyline standpoint Milo has about 17–20 pages, depending on how you count them (one of those things you just have to see by exploring the app.) Milo is a good example of a PB app with charming artwork, a sophisticated design, and well implemented interactivity. It feels like a print picture book + More Fun Stuff. Note that it was conceived as a PB app and isn’t an adaptation. Reportedly there will soon be a print edition, which will make for an interesting comparison.

Another wild card with any electronic book is that because revisions are so much easier, creators may decide to add more pages at any time. Say you’ve published a PB app that people seem to like (they’re buying it!) so why not change/add something to freshen it up? Perhaps some additional interactivity or a coloring page or two. That would reward previous buyers and hopefully inspire them to show your app to their friends. I love app updates that add something new, don't you?

In short, the answer to the title question “how many pages should a PB app have?” is: it depends. Hopefully as you’re working on it, the PB app will tell you how many pages it needs. What do you think?

Loreen Leedy
my web site

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Agents as epublishers... that a good idea for authors/illustrators? Personally, I’ve never had an agent but one never knows, especially in these volatile times in the book biz. A flurry of articles have cropped up lately on the topic, so here are a couple to explore:

Your Agent Should Not Be Your Publisher gets right to the point, doesn’t it? It’s by Peter Cox of Redhammer, a literary agency.
This issue is enormous. Because it will affect every book deal, every publication contract, from now until the end of time.

Yikes! He describes the case of the late author Catherine Cookson, whose agent signed a contract between herself and the estate to publish 100 titles in digital format, without notifying the publishers. Is this “self-dealing?” Is it a conflict of interest because the agent is now a “principal” in the transaction? Does the agent have the resources to do what a publisher does? It makes for very interesting reading.

The Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) Canon of Ethics lists many principles such as not charging “reading fees,”  maintaining a separate bank account for client funds, and not representing both buyer and seller in the same transaction. Surely the AAR and similar groups worldwide will have to address this issue.

The article BEA Digital Panel on the blog by agent Mary Kole compares fees being charged by agents who are becoming  epublishers. According to the article, some agencies who are publishing new titles are charging expenses PLUS a 50% of net commission. Kole’s employer the Andrea Brown Literary Agency is by contrast charging 15% after recouping costs. Quite a difference!

If a 50% commission sounds high, it is my understanding from colleagues that publishers are offering contracts that grant themselves 75% of net, leaving authors with 25% of net. If the digital books are sold with 30% of the retail price going to the seller (e.g. Amazon et al), here is how the numbers work for a 9.99 ebook:
 9.99 Retail price
-3.00 ebookseller’s cut of 30% (there may be additional charges)
 6.99 Net
-5.25 Publisher’s cut: 75% of net
1.74  Author/illustrator’s cut: 25% of net (which ends up being 17% of retail here.)

Whether you work with an agent, publisher, and/or an ebookseller, by all means do the math and decide whether a deal seems fair or not. I know one thing... nobody is going to buy a “blank ebook”... without the content that
authors and illustrators create, there’s nothing for anyone to sell. How much is writing and illustrating worth?

Loreen Leedy

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spot the Dot demo

This concept app for toddlers occupies the space where book meets’s interesting to see the sketches and storyboards by pop-up book author-illustrator David A. Carter:

I heard about this video by reading the transcript of the most recent #storyappchat on Twitter. If you’re interested in talking about book apps, the chat is on Sunday nights at 9 pm EST. In the first two weeks, several apps have been given away so that’s always fun! Follow @storyappchat to find out what the topic is every week.

Loreen Leedy
my web site

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's easy to sync iPad Notes with your Mac

Thank goodness, because during our recent vacation, I used the iPad Notes app to record zillions of ideas for ebooks and apps, plus started outlining my June 25th presentation for the Florida SCBWI, Picture Book Apps: New Options for Content Creators

You can email individual notes to yourself, but that’s a bit of a pain. By syncing, all of the Notes are transferred with one action:

In case you can’t read the above image for any reason, here’s the info:

How to sync Notes from your iPad to your Mac:

1. Connect the iPad to your computer and launch iTunes.

2. Click on Info tab in iTunes, scroll down, and under Other, check the box next to Sync notes.

3. Click the Sync button on lower right in iTunes to initiate the transfer.

A new Reminders section will appear in Mail, containing all of your notes.

Via Know Your Cell

Another thing I experimented with while on the road was sketching app ideas with the SketchBook Pro app for iPad. Since I don’t have a stylus (yet?) it’s pretty clunky to draw with any app, plus a mobile app is hard-pressed to compete with Photoshop or other full-featured painting software. For now, I’ll be sticking to pencil and paper for quick drawings. : )

Loreen Leedy
my web site

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


After my initial  post about how difficult is is to make picture books with long texts into apps for small screens, I decided to challenge myself and try to reformat one of my books to work well in this medium.  I chose Cinderella, as I could see many opportunities for the interactive elements required for an app. 

 PicPocket Books was interested in producing it,  and I hired my programmer/animator daughter to create animated sparkles on the pages where there is "fairy dust." PicPocket planned to add lots of nice sound effects that you discover by tapping the pictures. The challenge still lay in the length of text. A picture book double spread averages 11x17 inches. Shrinking the whole thing down would create text too small to read. In my other apps the narrator reads the story while the text is shown alone, then alternating with a picture, and I felt that these were more like audiobooks with occasional pictures than  interactive apps. I wanted to have a picture shown on every page, but how to fit all those darn words??

My solution was to crop each picture from the book in a number of ways so that the longer text would be spread out over multiple pages. I decided that a vertical format would allow more room for text. Above is a double-spread from the original picture book, and below are the three scenes I created from it for the app.
This is the right hand side of the page reversed. I tried to leave close to half of each picture for the text to overprint.

In this case I cropped in and screened back the bottom of her dress for the text to overprint.

And here the text will be white against the dark grass.

 Here is an actual screen shot from the iPad app.  (If you tap the castle in the app you hear a waltz, the fairy dust sparkles around the coach, and I think the horses clip-clop and neigh. ) This was the original copyright/dedication page which I was able to incorporate into the app. There were 15 double-page illustrations and one single page for the picture book. The app has 36 pages. It did require some creativity to make this work, and overall I feel it is a nice package. The app has received some very good reviews. Whew. Just a few folks said it was slow to load, and PicPocket is looking into that. 
I spent around 5 days reformatting the pictures, and I feel it was worth the experiment. My hope is that even though it does not have as many bells and whistles as heavily interactive apps, it will hopefully still do well.  The nice thing about digital media is that an app or an ebook will probably be available for many more years than the book in print. Cinderella is currently out of print as a picture book, so this app has brought it back to life - and it sparkles!

Ruth Sanderson

Friday, April 29, 2011

My First App

I have been reading all of the emails everyone has been contributing with the updates on building apps and am in awe of those of you who are figuring this out!  I wasn't so brave.  I think I wrote a few months ago that a friend's son was working with me.  The app was approved and released by apple yesterday.

I wish I could tell you I had a lot of back and forth with the developer.  He's in college and would not write back for weeks on end.  When he finally sent me a video of the app last week, it took so long to load that I really didn't get a full sense of how it worked until last night when I actually had a working version on my iphone.  I have some issues with the functionality of the app.

First, let me say that this is for toddlers.  I took an OP lift the flap of mine (which was called, Peekaboo Blueberry)  I had submitted the book to Harcourt with the title, Where's Your Nose, Nibbly?  I used my original title for the app since Nibbly is the name of a rabbit that my father made up for bedtime stories when I was little.

So the app scrolls down, as opposed to the right.  I know that because I had seen the video, but I am worried a user will get frustrated.  Also, unless you tap, 'just right', theres a black bar above and below the page.  It's a navigation bar, but I can imagine someone using the app and never realizing they can clear the screen and see the entire image.

I also think there needs to be a more clear way to have a 'home' button at the end.  And, last but not least, there is a doorbell on the last spread which I had requested the user be able to press.  So far, it only works when the door opens.

That's my critique but I am hoping (somewhat reluctantly) that some of you might take a peek and weigh in as well.  It's a 99 cent app that can be found by searching, Nibbly's Nose.

Be gentle!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Innovation in prehistory: iDinoBook

The iPad has been out for about a year, and the apps are becoming more and more impressive. Rather than attempt to describe how the iDinoBook works, check out this video showing it in action:
It’s hard to imagine a dinosaur-crazy kid that wouldn’t love to explore the wealth of information contained within this reasonably priced app. (Click for description and screenshots on iTunes Preview.) There’s also a version that’s optimized for the iPhone for only 99¢ at the moment. The illustrations are by paleo-artist Carlos Leon.

I heard about this app via The iPhone Mom, whose review of iDinoBook is here.

Children’s authors and illustrators who are interested in creating this kind of interactive book app don’t currently have many DIY options, but that situation is hopefully going to change soon. Several E is for Book members have been beta testing app-creation software from several companies... when permitted by the terms of any non-disclosure agreements, various members will be posting about our experiences on this blog.

For anyone in Florida, the state chapter of SCBWI is having a mid-year workshop in Orlando that includes an all-day digital workshop on Saturday, June 25th. The topics include ebooks; picture book apps; electronic rights; and book trailers. I will be one of the presenters and my talk’s title is Picture Book Apps: New Options for Content Creators.

Hope to see some of you there!

Loreen Leedy
my web site

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure

Today’s post will be primarily links to fascinating behind-the-scenes info about a new iPad app by Roxie Munro. She is the author-illustrator of many children’s books such as EcoMazes, Hatch! and Inside-Outside Dinosaurs. She has turned her talent for creating incredibly detailed artwork into an interactive game of exploration with surprises at every turn. This video shows Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure in action:  
The Through the Looking Glass blog has three posts about it:
1: A review by Marya Jansen-Gruber.

2: The developer Omar Curiere
describes how he approached Roxie with an idea.

3:  Roxie shares her process.

OCG Studios (Omar Curiere’s company) has several in-depth articles here.

Screenshots and buying info about the Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure app is available here on iTunes.

Loreen Leedy
my web site

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Patrick Carman TED talk

Hi everyone! Ran across this TED talk, via a Harold Underdown tweet (I believe). While this isn't strictly about e-books, it is about interactive books and it's fascinating. I wanted to add it to the discussion. He makes a lot of sense.
(By the way, it's only 15 minutes...)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Judging an ebook by its cover

A few months ago, I was on a plane finishing up Cormac McCarthy's relentless and terrifying post-apocalyptic novel, The Road . I noticed that the guy next to me kept glancing at the cover of the book, twitching a little as I turned the pages. When I finally closed the book, the guy burst out, "Well? What did you think?" We talked about the book for the rest of the flight.

A good book cover operates as a billboard, an ad, an enticement, even a piece of art. There are book covers so iconic that we don't need to read the titles to know what we're looking at:

But I've been wondering whether the switch to electronic reading devices will lessen the importance of cover art. (If I had been using a Kindle, the guy sitting next to me on that plane would never have known what I was reading). Do covers matter in epublishing? And if you're self-publishing an OP title or even a new piece of work, why not make your cover yourself? A nice photo or illustration, a little Photoshopping, and voila, book cover!

Or not .

Janie Bynum , illustrator, designer (and author), has some thoughts about the importance of book covers in epublishing, as well as some hints about good design, which is why I wanted to work with her when I decided to turn my OP book Lily's Ghosts into an ebook. I asked her to explain the function of covers in an electronic world, and the cover design process in general.

LR: First, Janie are covers going to be as important as we make a shift toward epublishing?

JB: Regardless of format (print or e-book), covers remain as important as ever to the browse-and-buy process. In fact, they may carry even more weight in the digital realm since people tend to move at higher browsing speeds when using digital devices (i.e.: laptops, iPads, Kindles, smartphones) than when browsing at a brick-n-mortar bookstore.

LR: So, what do you think are the keys to good cover design?

JB: While “good” cover design is highly subjective, the best covers usually contain the following:

• An enticing image (photo, illustration, or graphic) that will inform or at least tease the reader and give some indication as to the tone/mood and the audience/age level for whom the book is intended

• Composition/color that is interesting/pleasing/and sometimes disturbing —but intentionally so

• Legible typography that enhances the overall design

LR: How do you choose the right image?

JB: There are so many factors to consider in choosing imagery for a novel cover. The image has to appeal to the appropriate audience (age, possibly gender); it has to reflect the mood/tone of the book. You want to entice the reader, but not give up too much. Do you use illustration or photography or photo-illustration? Is the style of illustration representative, abstract, graphic? Is your graphic very simple or very ornate? The considerations are many (and why it’s probably a good idea to involve a professional designer in your book cover design).

LR: We went through a few different photos when we were trying to come up with a concept for Lily's Ghosts. The old illustrated cover always felt a hair too young for the middle-schoolers I had in mind when I wrote it, so we were trying to come up with an image that had a little more edge to it.

JB: Yes, like this doll photo. (Laura had indicated that a doll figured into the plot.)

LR: I sent the doll photo to a friend and she said it was one of the most terrifying pictures she'd ever seen. Maybe too scary?

JB: Yes, creepy, creepy. Baby doll heads creep me out more than clowns. Lily's Ghosts is middle grade, not YA or adult. Nix the doll. So, we considered this dark, mysterious door photo.

LR: Still sort of scary. And it didn't say enough about the story, which is occasionally spooky, but mostly odd and funny.

JB: So, we moved on to the spooky house image.

LR: Which I liked a lot.
JB: Once we agreed on the central image, I used it as the basis of the new cover.

LR: You reversed the image, and changed the color of the original photograph quite a bit.

JB: And there's a lot more Photoshopping in this than meets the eye. I added a third story to make the house look a bit more ominous, transplanted some trees, etc.

A good cover is composed and balanced. Or if it’s “off-balance” it should be intentional (a device sometimes used to create tension). There are many theories about which colors attract, which repel, which colors help a book to sell better. But I’ll always choose the color that feels right for the tone I’m trying to convey.

LR: And then there's the typeface, which I think is a problem for many self-published authors. There are certain typefaces that just scream "amateur." Papyrus, anyone?

JB: Or Brush Script? Type can be simple or it can be more ornate, but it has to integrate and enhance the design. And it should be legible at small sizes (for print catalogs and online thumbnail images.) Some book cover designs require an understated type treatment to showcase the imagery. For others, much emphasis is on ornate typography or highly conceptual typography. Good typography is an art; letter-spacing and kerning can make or break a successful type treatment.

LR: Can you describe the design process? What type of information do you need before you can begin designing a cover?

JB: Ideally, I like to read the book. But given time and budget constraints for self-publishers, this usually isn’t possible. So I ask the author for the following information:

• Audience. Generally, by age-range and specifically by actual perceived audience. For instance, tween girls who want to read Twilight but aren’t quite ready for the content. This tells me that the design needs to be somewhat sophisticated, but not so much that we lose the innocent fun.

• A one- or two-page synopsis

• The first chapter

• Any thoughts about tone and mood, about imagery (even examples of that evoke the mood/style author is imagining*)

• Any additional info about main characters, setting, time period

• ANY additional thoughts and odd bits that mean something to YOU, but you think I may not be interested in (those details are probably some of the most telling)

Part of the reason I ask for so much information up front is because this enables the author to step away and allow me to create some concepts/ideas based on my interpretations of the information she has provided. While no one knows her work like the author, the visual artist can bring a different perspective to the interpretation, hopefully creating a richer visual than even the author envisioned.

Mediating this process has traditionally been the role of editors and art directors at publishing houses. But if the author is mindful not to “dictate” what he thinks the visual outcome should be, is open to a creative, organic process, the author and visual artist can make one helluva creative team!

LR: What can you tell us about designing covers for print books vs. covers for ebooks? What special considerations does a designer have to make?

JB: In reviewing many printed book cover examples for this interview, I wondered how many will have to be adapted for e-book implementation. While some of the intriguing, well-designed covers work in print, they may not translate to digital-only. For example, some covers included foil-stamping and embossing—neither of which will “read” in digital form. Also, some beautiful titles were so integrated into the cover imagery that they may not read well in a smaller format.

LR: Amanda Hocking -- the 26-year-old ebook millionaire – created most of her own book covers for her various ebooks, but the covers didn't scream "home made" to me; I like them a lot. What do you think of her book covers?

JB: I love those images. I think the titles are a little small, so they get lost a bit, but I still really like the covers overall.

LR: I wonder if that's one of the keys to her success. The covers looked more professional and polished than some of the other self-published books at the same price point.

JB: I’m sure some authors have an innate sense of visual composition and may even know their way around an Adobe product or two. And, many online print-on-demand sites and e-book creators provide templates and “build-a-cover” options where the user can design their own cover there at the site.

LR: Does that mean authors should try to design their own covers first?

JB: Like writing, design is a discipline. Many of us spend years in school studying the art of design, then many more years practicing and studying the craft. We make deliberate decisions based on theory and practice, sometimes based on “gut” — instinct we’ve developed over the years. So, if you want your book to look professional, it’s probably best to hire a professional to design it.

LR: What are some of your favorite covers?

JB: I have many favorites. But I’ll include some here to illustrate my idea of a few “good covers.” You'll see that sometimes the typography becomes the main graphic on the cover; sometimes it simply supports the overall design. I’m a big fan of creative/custom typography. But I also like image-driven covers—both photographic and graphic/illustrative—where a simple typographic treatment enhances the image, it doesn’t compete with it.

Picture books:

Chapter books to young middle grade:

Tween to YA:

LR: Some great ones in there. I love Olivia, Dani Noir, and Wicked Lovely in particular. Some of those YA covers can get -- to quote my stepkid -- "epic." Like this one:

JB: Epic is right.

LR: I think it would be hard for a DIY-er to achieve these kinds of effects (unless the DIY-er was also a whiz with Photoshop).

JB: One of the problems I see with do-it-yourself publishing (POD or e-book) is lack of quality (cover AND content). But assuming we are offering high-quality content (writing), the cover needs to announce that quality. A poorly designed cover doesn’t project an image of “quality," while a visually appealing cover projects the promise of a good read. While that’s not always the case, a poorly designed book probably won’t even get picked up—or clicked on.

The point is, when it comes to book covers, we consumers may have a more sophisticated visual acuity than we realize. Not everyone can design a cover, but we know a good one (or a bad one) when we see it.

LR: Thanks, Janie!

So, what do you guys think? Are covers still important in epublishing? More important? Have you designed your own cover(s)? What are some of your favorites?

— Janie Bynum & Laura Ruby


A CBS news item about book covers that discusses covers as works of art (very print focused, though they talk about ebook covers at 3:21)

The digital design of a book cover.