Friday, February 25, 2011

My iPad App, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Lo, it has come to pass that the world of publishing is not what it was. Once a happy, busy illustrator/author of children’s books, I, a ‘woman of a certain age’ got the memo: Time to reinvent yourself, yet again. “Wasn’t it enough that I learned Photoshop?” I whined. I remember it as if it were yesterday, holding a zip disk in my hand and asking: “Is this the thing you put in the slot?” I used to brag: I earn my living with a pencil! Please now add: and a very expensive laptop, a scanner, an Wacom tablet, a digital camera, a printer and various high end software programs.

But the business that once paid the bills, sent my son to college and kept me well supplied with bags of Maple Nut Goodies was sliding badly. The flood of educational publishing spawned by the controversial program, No Child Left Behind, was dwindling to a trickle. Borders, a regular buyer of my books, was experiencing financial difficulties. Fees for illustration were starting to look pre-war (you pick which war).

But e-publishing was booming. It was booming at a breathtaking rate. I suddenly found myself midstream in a surge of information I could barely take in. I didn't even know where to begin. (Insert more whining here) I figured maybe this was a time to bow out. Remember the proverbial guy who made great buggy whips but went out of business when cars replaced horses? That's what I felt like. The Stone Age didn’t end because they ran out of stones.

Then Peel Productions, the publishers of my series, 1-2-3 Draw, called. Would I be interested in my Draw books becoming ebooks? Sure, said I. Would I be interested in the Draw books becoming a basis for an iPad app? Why not? There was nothing much like it on the market so far. I had nothing to lose and besides it sounded cool. They actually sent me an iPad.

We had many international Skype calls. We tried different types of styluses (styli?). We went back and forth with the app developers about design. (‘Too Nickelodeon’ became a code word for ‘simplify’.) We added and then deleted animations. I had to learn to draw on the iPad and there was definitely a learning curve. The stylus has a clubbed tip and feels very different from a pencil. (Insert more whining here.) There were tons of problems loading the images via DropBox so that the text could be edited. We tested and de-bugged and de-bugged again. We waited and waited for Apple to approve our app. Which they did. But the program was not working smoothly so it had to be taken out of iTunes and debugged again. And then: Voila!
Our app, 1-2-3 Draw, featuring drawing lessons from myself and cartoonist Steve Barr is finally launched. Now comes the hard part: learning to use all the newfangled ‘social networking’ to market our wonderful new product. (Insert more whining here.)

To see this app’s page in iTunes with a detailed description and screenshots, click here.
Freddie Levin


  1. Congratulations for achievement! Has this begun replacing the income you've lost as American children's book publishing slides over the abyss?

    Asking because I am experiencing exactly what you have described including readily OK-ing 4 preposed E Book editions of books I've illustrated plus one I also wrote.

    Meanwhile, scrambling to learn drawing and painting on
    my IMAC and making some progress. Just wondering if any or all of this is worthwhile financially, or a complete
    waste of time as publishing follows the movies and music down history's loo?

  2. Being somewhat of a whining expert, I very much appreciated this post. Thanks, Freddie.

    -- Laura

  3. Oh yes, it was very easy to insert whining. It's my go-to response to technology. But it's encouraging to hear you got through it, and the app looks great -- hope it sells like crazy!

  4. Thanks. I hope it sells like crazy too! I have to add that I now really enjoy drawing with the stylus. It has a nice smoothness on the glass surface. I take it with me for sketching and email the sketches back to myself.

  5. Funny post. Things are changing so quickly. It's hard to keep up. I hope your app does great.

  6. Love your post, Freddie. I totally relate to the whole process. Congrats on the app––it looks like lots of fun for kids. Hope it does well!