Friday, February 11, 2011

Some thoughts on collaboration

I’m delighted to be one of the newest members of the E is for Book community. This is my first blog post not only for this blog, but ever!

E is for Book is a perfect example of what I think is the key ingredient to success in this brand new world of digital books––collaboration. The ability to share ideas, inspire and teach each other, will certainly lead to more success for all.

We are all used to collaborating with editors and art directors––mostly that has helped us create better books. With ebooks and apps, some of us may decide to collaborate with independent developers or ebook and app publishers. But it’s possible that we may not need that traditional set up and some of us will go at it solo. Yet we will still need someone to edit our work, give us feedback on our illustrations and art, and more than anything guide us through some of the technical and even legal challenges of publishing digitally. Just as our writers groups and illustrators groups have proven to be wonderful ways to improve our traditional books, I think E is for book could be even more crucial for our new ebooks and apps. We may even need technical support groups where we can preview, critique, and help each other iron out the kinks from each others ebook and app projects, just as we would in a writer’s group or illustrators group.

So in the wild woolly world of ereaders and all the other devices not yet invented, I think we are doing a good thing by sticking together. Of course we are all individual creative people. I have a strong artistic vision that I can and want to follow but I’m also delighted to brainstorm with others and learn from them. Frankly, I’m a little tired of always working alone. My journey of turning my very first picture book PETERKIN MEETS A STAR into an app for the iPhone and iPad, started off as a solitary endeavor and ended up with plenty of collaboration along the way.

Like so many of our books, especially the earlier ones, PETERKIN MEETS A STAR had been out of print for a long time. About two years ago I wanted to turn it into a CD with a sound track and approached my APPLE One-to-One trainer, Mike, about helping me with that. I’m open minded about new technology and tend to get very excited about all the possibilities, but on the other hand I feel overwhelmed when I realize that I have to figure it out all on my own. So this seemed like a great opportunity. Little did I know that we would actually be creating the basis for my future children’s book app.

There were so many details to figure out. We had to re-size the files to the right screen size (there are about a million choices) and I was clueless… but of course Mike knew. We bounced back and forth between programs but mostly used Photoshop, and Logic (Photoshop Elements and GarageBand.would work too). I was familiar with Photoshop, but not Logic; luckily Mike knew it well! I recorded myself reading PETERKIN MEETS A STAR and Mike and I had a great time working together creating the sound track.

Meanwhile, my friend Kim, kept repeating, like a broken record… “This would make a great iPhone app… this would make a great iPhone app”. I secretly agreed… but how to go about making an app? I was completely out of my league! While I figured out what to do, I started the process of getting the rights back to the book. This turned out to be more complicated than I thought. The book was originally published in England in the 1980’s and with all the mergers over the years, it was hard to track down which publisher actually held the rights! Scores of emails later it was a done deal. Then I heard from Maryann Cocca-Leffler about PicPocket Books and I approached Lynette Mattke. Lynette was interested and even decided to try a small amount of interactivity and simple animation for the app, which was a first for PicPocket Books. It turned out that Mike and I had all the pieces (except animation) for the app. Now it was up to the Pickpocket Books designer to put it all together!

And so the app for PETERKIN MEETS A STAR was born (click here to find it on iTunesIt’s free this weekend through Valentine's day). It's a simple story and the app is mostly a straightforward book that includes highlighted words, gentle sound effects and through simple animation, a star that twinkles. Of course there were some small hiccups along the way… mostly with the animation (that’s something for another post, because APPLE devices do not support Flash).

Now I am considering what do with my other OP title BELINDA’S BALLOON for which I also have the rights back. This is just one more reason that I’m interested in exploring all the options on E is for Book. I might just wait to let the dust settle, or maybe I’ll just jump right in again. But one thing is for sure I’m definitely looking for ways to collaborate with others––it’s just so much more fun!

I have an iPod Touch, and would love an iPad (and would not say no to a Kindle or Nook). It seems an awfully long time to have to wait until next Christmas……..


  1. Congratulations on your first ever blog post Emilie. And what a great post too!

    So much of what you are considering for your books applies to those of us who are exploring the new possibilities within epublishing.

  2. Thank you for an excellent post, Emilie. Collaboration in one form or another is helpful for making good books in whatever format. The communities that are self-organizing on the ‘net are offering many intriguing ways to make it happen.

    I just downloaded PETERKIN MEETS A STAR... very touching, with charming sound effects for the star and other characters (love the carrot crunching.)

  3. Lovely book, great app and a wonderful blog post!
    I hope you write more...


  4. What a sweet story Emilie! And Kim was right - it makes an adorable app. :) e

  5. Thanks, everybody! I'll start thinking about my next post soon... But for now, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the idea that I've just become "a blogger" :o)

  6. I see I'm missing a lot--no device yet to view this--but what I see is absolutely charming. Your tale of getting Peterkin out there is instructive and makes me rethink what's possible and impossible on my own.

    We have something in common--my first ever blog was with eisforbook too. It might become addictive!