Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Interview with App Developer PicPocket Books

In the Spring of 2009, I got a call, out of blue, from Lynette Mattke. I didn't know Lynette, nor had I ever heard of her new company PicPocket Books. To be truthful, at the time, I didn't even know what an APP was. She mentioned that she was looking for children's book content to make into a trial app. My first question was- "How did you find ME?" She told me that she googled "Children's Book Author & Illustrator" and my website came up! (Now- since that was pretty much a miracle, I thought that this had to be fate.) I sent Lynette a few OOP books for which I owned all rights. 
She chose WHAT A PEST, an easy reader originally published by Grosset & Dunlap, for one of her very first apps. Since then, Picpocket Books has published close to 100 apps, including my book "Wednesday is Spaghetti Day". I was very happy with the production and the professionalism of PicPocket Books. I recently sent Lynette a list of interview questions. Below, Lynette generously shares information about her company, as well as her insights and the challenges she faces in the App industry.

From Lynette Mattke, PicPocket Books:

I am a book lover and mom and the creator and CEO of PicPocket Books, bringing children's picture books to life on the iPhone,
iPod Touch and iPad. The idea forPicPocket Books was born in early 2009, and our first app was published on iTunes in July of 2009. Here at PicPocket Books, we champion books, literacy and reading and love to see kids reading books anywhere, anytime. We want to create an experience for young readers which maintains the qualities of reading a traditional picture book while increasing the opportunities for learning and engagement through the interactive platform of mobile digital devices. We see picture book apps not as a replacement for print books or the valuable time parents spend reading with their children, but as an alternative, where screen time is concerned, to movies or video games. If having kids books available on your iPhone means more exposure to stories and enthusiasm for reading for kids, then we consider that a success!

PicPocket Book publishes book apps on our custom designed and built platform with a
staff of three in addition to the three founding partners (two of whom are software
developers), a graphic design team and a professional sound studio. PicPocket Books
has a total of 93 apps on the iTunes AppStore, with new titles in production being
released every week. 

The Process of Publishing with PicPocket Books:
We accept submission of previously published or unpublished, finished and illustrated
works. If the work is accepted and we enter into an Agreement with the author or
publisher who holds the rights to the work, we require layered digital images (Photoshop
files), a separate text document, and audio files, if available. If audio files are not
available, we hold auditions for voice over artists and arrange recordings at a
professional sound studio. Once contracted and in our queue, it usually takes 8-12
weeks to produce an app and publish it to iTunes.

The apps typically reproduce faithfully the 32 pages of a print book, but the length of an
app has more flexibility that the length of a print picture book. “Board book” style books
do very well on our platform, and tend to sell well as apps. Reviewers, educators and
customers alike appreciate apps that include discussion questions, “fun facts” or activity
suggestions related to the book and extend the interactivity of the story beyond the
mobile device by initiating conversations, projects, or creative play. Apple likes bright,
crisp and lively images with big eyes that have that Disney kind of cuteness to them,
and those are the kind of apps that they tend to like to showcase in their “Staff Picks”
and “Whatʼs Hot” listings.

Our fees range from $600 to $1,500 per app, depending on the specific features, length
of the work, and materials available from the authors or publishers (Proprietors). Apple
takes a 30% cut of all sales on iTunes, and the remainder is split between PicPocket
Books and the Proprietor. Proprietors typically receive between 40% to 65% of the net
revenue from the sales of an app.

There is a lot of competition in the app world, and book apps have replaced games as
the top category of apps. The economics of the app market are different from the world
of print publishing. Success is based on volume, which in turn is dependent on getting
the word out there. With nearly 100 apps published on iTunes so far, we are building a
significant following, which helps spread the word. I work actively with viral and social
networking and the MomsWithApps forum and sites to market our apps.
As with individual books, some apps sell better than others, and all app publishers are
still discovering what the customer base is looking for. One thing for sure is that the app
market is one of the fastest growing - and changing - markets around. Authors can and
do make money with apps, but there are a number of contributing factors to the success
of each individual app, and it does take effort and an investment in both development
and marketing.

I believe that in the future we will see a demand for more and more content on mobile
digital devices: books for adults and children, academic texts, periodicals, consumer
catalogs, and of course apps. iPad sales have blown Appleʼs numbers for all previous
numbers out of the water. More and more schools and even public libraries are using
iPads and the iPod touch devices in classrooms. I think that in the years ahead there
will continue to be a lot of content published in app form, and just like with the internet,
there will be the question: How can we catalogue all this information and all these
resources and put it in the hands of the right audience.


  1. A great post Maryann, with thanks to Lynette too for supplying so much helpful information about PicPocket Books.

  2. Excellent post. Thank you Maryann and Lynette for giving us a peek into the world of children's book apps and how companies like PicPocket Books fit into the picture. I am not unbiased... but certainly a fan of PickPocket Books!

  3. I think the art for Spaghetti Day is fabulous, even if it is an older style of art. Nice details! And I always like Emilie's book, Peterkin. We used to read that when my children were little...


  4. I bought Spaghetti Day and even on the teensy iPod screen you can see a lot of detail. And the cats mew, you gotta like that.

    Excellent post, it's nice to get a chance to know the people in this new part of the book biz.

  5. John-You got me thinking ...The kids that read my book in 1990...are new parents now! I guess that is a good thing! NEW READERS!

  6. Interesting info for understanding the process. The cost for making the app gives me pause, but I'm sure it's worth it.

    How much are the apps selling for? The ROI might take quite awhile.

  7. PicPocket books apps sell for 1.99-3.99. Apps in general vary.

  8. Hi Maryann - after reading this post I have the following questions:

    Does PicPocket send you a royalty statement and is it quarterly, bi-annually or a different model?

    Besides the royalty statement, is there another way that you are tracking sales?

    Thanks for the post and contribution of info from Lynette.

  9. Great and thorough post Maryann! Thanks to both you and Lynette. She's truly done a remarkable job creating PicPocket Books and promoting it through social media. Definitely somebody to watch! e