Friday, March 4, 2011

The Cheater's Guide to Getting Your First App

Lots of people ask me how I created the app for my podcast, Brain Burps About Books. I feel kind of fraudulent because I really didn't do much - it's not like creating a children's book app or ebook, but there is a story behind it...
A couple of years ago I was interviewed for an online radio show, otherwise known as a podcast. It did not go well. Let's just say it was run differently from how I would have done it. It got me thinking about how I would do it.

I started pondering my own show about children's literature. But what would I talk about? (Right about now my friends are wiping the tears from their eyes because yes, I know, I have a big mouth.) But holding forth for 30 minutes? An hour? Did I know enough? Could I come up with good content and sound unlike an idiot?

Sounding unlike an idiot was my goal. And also, as sappy as it sounds, helping people. But don't go thinking I'm altruistic because it's actually selfish - I like the high I get when something I've done for someone has made them happy or benefits them. It just happens to have the added bonus of looking like I'm helping a person other than myself.

I thought about this podcast idea over the course of a year. Finally, it dawned on me: Terry Gross! I'm a huge fan of Terry Gross, she of the Fresh Air. I won't go into the fantasies I have while listening to her, like how I imagine myself answering her burning questions, laughing conspiratorially while I'm her guest, talking about my latest bestselling novel...oh.

Sorry.

When I realized I could interview people (duh, me), the show started taking shape.  I named it Brain Burps About Books because I thought it was fun and such a wide umbrella it would allow me to talk about anything to do with children's literature including the creative process, the business of selling a book, libraries, book stores, you get the picture. I now have contributors, too. Betsy Bird, of a Fuse #8 Production offers up picture book and middle grade reviews, while Jennifer Hubert Swan of Reading Rants does young adult reviews. And now Dianne de las Casas (an author and marketing machine with over 12,000 people on her mailing list) is submitting a new one-minute feature, Take5 Marketing Tips.

I am having a ball doing the podcast. It's unbelievably gratifying to get letters or comments of encouragement, or to find out that someone I admire actually listens. I love to get questions or feedback through my voice mail hotline (Go ahead! Call! 888-522-1929) or to know that people in far off exotic lands are being helped by a show I created. I mean, how cool is it that there are listeners in places like Malaysia, Estonia, Bolivia, the Russian Federation and China? VERY! Plus, I get to tackle censorship, like when Ellen Hopkins got banned uninvited to a book festival in Texas, and cover timely issues with the editor who decided taking the N-word out of Huck Finn was the right move, and discuss school visits with expert Alexis O'Neill, and expound on whether the word "kidlit" is a curse word, and talk about ebooks with our own Loreen Leedy.

I'm excited about future episodes where I delve further into apps, ebooks, and QR codes and how we can use them to enhance our business.  I'm considering adding video to the accompanying blog, though watching two people talk is pretty boring. Unless, of course, I can get my guests to do show and tell. That could be cool.

I haven't forgotten I'm here to talk about the app that goes along with the podcast. Once I got the show in order and bought the equipment for good sound quality, I found out about Liberated Syndication, or Libsyn for short. Libsyn is my podcast server, and I pay a monthly service fee to upload and store my files, which can be very large, or about 1.5 mb per episode minute. For my service fee, there is an app included. All I had to do was create the art.

They describe my plan as:

"This is the package designed for serious audio producers who are ready to take on Smartphone Apps. Included are advanced statistics, a customizable Smartphone App, and enough storage to keep up a short form daily, or long format weekly show. This is the most cost effective way to get your own Smartphone app, anywhere."

Click here to see their plans and the spec sheet for the app, which is built by Wizzard.

To be clear, anyone can hear the podcast free via my blog (soon to be within my completely redesigned site, launching this month) or iTunes. But if you want it automatically on your iPod, iPhone, Android or Blackberry the minute I upload it, you need to buy the app. I didn't have anything to do with the pricing of $1.99, either - that was Libsyn. As a way of thanking people for buying my app I give them exclusivity for that episode 24 hours prior to the other destinations, and I can also provide extras. For example, I got to give my app owners a preview of Nancy Werlin's upcoming new book by including the first chapter. As for making the big bucks ... I get a few cents per app sold. Let's just say at this point we won't be paying for college with the proceeds!

So for this app I only created the art. Nothing moves. There is no story or cool whizzing, dinging, or buzzing going on. It's simply a portal to listen to my show. Unless you're going to do a podcast, this doesn't even apply to you. But here's the thing: I was am was nervous about getting into e-everything and this was a great way for me to dip my toe in.  

So if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the e-possibilities, I invite you to dive in to the e-pond, fears be damned. Make a big splash! Just do it and stop thinking it over for a whole year.

To check out the app go to this blog's "Our eBooks" page.

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