Monday, January 30, 2012

9 Pros and Cons of app / ebook builder sites

I've been thinking a lot about app/ebook builder websites. In other words - websites that provide tools for uploading image, sound, and text files so the user can create an ebook/app. I realize that my opinions are probably all wrong and that I've probably overlooked a lot but here's what I'm thinking and feel free to totally disagree/correct me.

I'm comparing an app builder site to hiring/partnering with a programer:

1 user friendly: I think one of the benefits of using a builder site is the ease of use compared to the hassle of finding and back and forth communication with a programer.

2 quick to market: I'm guessing that because the process is much easier with a builder site - you would be able to get your book published faster. (this is theory)

3 fewest limitations: Looking at the builder sites I've been able to find I think hands down there are more limitations in programing on a builder site vs what a programmer could do.

4 most money % 4 artist: This has to go to the programer ebook because if you hire a programer all the money from Amazon, B&N, or itunes comes directly to you instead of going through the builder site where they siphon off their percentage first. However if you partner with a programer then they get their cut so this one could go either way...

5 control of rights: Again this one goes to the programer ebook simply because when you're the publisher you control all the rights to your book - you decide where it's sold and if you want to license it or sell it to another entity.

6 viral potential: I don't see an advantage either way on this one - tie.

7 quicker payments: I give this one to the programer book because again the money doesn't go to the builder site first where you have to wait for more turn around.

8 sold on more platforms: Some builder sites will only allow your book to be sold on their site - others control which sites it will be sold on - so this one goes to the programer ebook/ app

9 cheapest to publish: This one depends on how you look at it and is too complicated to really answer - so many variables. If you are your own programer - perhaps you're doing a simple ebook with no animations, sounds, etc - you'll probably incur the fewest costs. So perhaps I should have had a third category - the self programed ebook - but I think most of us are scared of actually programing an interactive ebook ourselves.

One last thing I'd like to point out is that amazing things can be done with great limitations. We put a man on the moon with less computing power than you have in your cell phone. The Blair Witch project was filmed on a camcorder. Wilbur and Orville Wright accomplished flight with rudimentary building materials. Could you create a classic on a builder site? I believe so. Having said that I think the best method is to design the ebook including functionality on paper first. If you can realize your dream on a builder site and you like the terms - go for it. If the limitations demand too many compromises you may want to hire or partner with a programer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Speaking at SCBWI Utah & Chicago Chapters

I feel very honored to have been invited to speak at both the Utah/Idaho and Chicago SCBWI Conferences! (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators -the largest organization supporting the creators of children's books) I went to my first SCBWI conference back in 1992 - where I met Carol Lynch Williams who writes young adult fiction and we've been friends ever since. I had no idea what I was doing back then (still don't -shhhh) and really hadn't planned on becoming a children's book illustrator. When your in your early 20's and male it makes more sense to illustrate dragons and dudes with swords.

But somehow I found my softer side - probably had something to do with my wife and our first few children that gave me the desire and interest in pursuing what has become my passion.

Anyway, I was invited by Illustrator Sherry Meidell to present at the Bountiful Davis Art Center on Saturday February 25th @ 9:00am I'll be speaking to Utah and Idaho SCBWI illustrators: "Selling Yourself In A Global Market Place" This is a topic that is relevant to all of us trying to make a living with our art. As tech companies develop tools for networking and merchandising on the internet – opportunities are emerging quickly for artists to take their products directly to their customers. The middle man will usually be a necessary component for artists to find their markets but these middle men are beginning to offer something more than money, editing, and production. It’s vital to discover how you can take advantage of these new developments and sell your work globally. Everyone is welcome! $45 SCBWI members - $50 for others. More Info.

This May I'll be heading for Chicago for a bunch of school visits and presenting with Martha Rago-Art Director at Harper Collins at the Chicago Chapter of the SCBWI. I was invited by Janet McDonnell and Terri Murphy - both excellent illustrators and coordinators for the conference (where's my anxiety medication?) The event will kick off on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 8:30am At the Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, IL. I'll be looking at portfolios and offering suggestions in the morning and talking about marketing in the afternoon session - and participating in a panel discussion sometime in the middle. More info.

I have to say that this is kind of a dream come true because any time I get the opportunity to teach I take it! It not only benefits the attendees but sharpens my knowledge as I have to prepare and know my subject inside and out. I know I've blogged about this before but presenting is one of the best ways to succeed. I've presented a few times at these conferences before and the people you meet and connections you make are invaluable.

Friday, January 20, 2012

How To Format A Children's ebook

My good friend Julie Olson just released her first ebook - "Princesses, Princesses, Princesses!" on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and as a PDF in the illustrated section. Her book is extremely cute (as a guy am I allowed to use the word cute?) and great for families with young girls.

But it wasn't enough for her to publish her ebook - she had to go and create a detailed step by step tutorial to let anyone interested see just how she did it! Her tutorial can be found here however you'll need a mac, adobe photoshop CS5, and InDesign CS5 to use her tutorial. Unfortunately in order to participate in this fast changing tech game of current formatting you have to either find a tutorial that fits your current set up or modify your work station to fit the tutorial. What worked six months ago might not work as well now and what works now might not be ideal in another year. Frustrating? You bet! and that's why I choose to outsource or partner for my programing needs. Call me a wimp - I'll proudly wear that title - but for you brave souls like Julie (mother of 3 small kids) it's no big deal.

Check out her tutorial!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

1 Year ebook Stats - over 30,000 sold!

Well it's been a year since I published Monkey & Croc on Barnes and Noble's Pubit site and just short of a year for Tickle Bugs and Pollywog to Frog. I thought I'd share my stats because I know that a lot of people are trying to decide whether or not to go this route (pros and cons). The following only reflects my sales on Pubit but not on Amazon or itunes where I also sell these ebooks. My Amazon sales are finally taking off with the new Kindle Fire.

Below you can see today's stats - the "Publisher Revenue Due" is my money as I am the publisher. These stats update in real time and I can login and check them anytime I want. Amazon and itunes works the same way. Christmas tablet sales and ebook purchases are definitely up from where they were a few months back. A typical day back in august was only $10 - $20/day but today - over 50 bucks.

Below you'll notice the header "This Month's Sales Activity" about $500. This reflects this months sales from January 1st - 12th. It looks like this month is on track to break $1000.00. This month is actually not included in the 12 months on the right. All of the retail sites keep you a few months behind on payments so while I can see the reports I've actually not been paid for the past two months. Also if you look on the list - March 2011 is the payment date but those sales occurred in January which I wrote in red. This makes more sense when you look at the increase in sales from Jan 2012 - Feb 2012 - These sales happened this past December. I wonder how long these books will continue to sell?

I spent a total of about 2 months on all three books (1 month for Monkey & Croc and 2 weeks for each of the others) so this can give you an idea of the time/money ratio. I think I was actually very lucky in that I was early to market. These books were mostly an experiment into the world of electronic publishing. I didn't want to spend too much time on them because I was worried that they wouldn't earn any royalties. Here's what I've learned and what I'm doing different now-

My books suffer for the following reasons:
1. Poor formating (no SDK issued to individual developers)
2. No interactivity - what consumers are mostly looking for right now.
3. Mediocre writing - I'm still learning this craft and need much more practice!

What I'm doing now-
1. Developing for the iPad - nuts on trying to work with companies that want to favor large publishers - let them roll the dice and miss out on what small companies can create.
2. Interactivity that is integral to the story or activity - I'm not into making -this wiggle or -that squeak - if it needs to move it will - if it needs to make noise let it roar!
3. Collaboration with professional writers and IOS developers - right now I'm working with the amazing Rick Walton and Mike Bohman.

In the end I think you have to create gold - pure and simple. If you want your ebook or app to gain momentum it has to be great. I believe it has to have great writing or a great idea or both. It also needs to have art that is a good fit for the story. And it needs to have good programing - I don't know if interactivity is more popular now and will become less important later or vice versa but for now I get bad ratings for not having moving parts. Basically you need to create the equivalent of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" or "Where The Wild Things Are" - something that people will want to share with their friends and review sites like Kirkus will champion.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Have You Done Something New This Year?

I challenge you to do something you've never done with your art this year! Do something you've never done before. Try something you've always wanted to try - or combine one technique with another. Combine art with technology like I did in this video. I don't know what I learned but I did something I've never done before. I attached my GoPro Hero camera to the end of a pencil. Only by experimentation will we make new discoveries with our art and learn about ourselves. Dare to fail. We learn more by our failures than our successes. The important thing is not to get stuck doing the same thing over and over.

I start teaching my art classes again tomorrow at UVU and I'm so excited to try some new examples and exercises in my classes. I learned something new just in the last few weeks about character design. I'll probably be sharing it here on the blog in the near future. Good luck!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's Now Live On

I'm so excited to be able to announce the release of my new video series, “How To Design A Drawing”. It probably would have been more accurate to have called it “how to design an image” but I realized that many people wouldn't understand that, it's “drawing.”

The work in this video tutorial has taken 45 years to develop – of course I haven't been working on the actual videos that long but it's taken my whole life to develop my own beliefs and values about design. I've come to realize two things about myself over the last decade: 1) I have to create art – it's not an option – I must do it to satisfy an inner need – almost like breathing. 2) I'm supposed to teach what I've learned to others. It's also not a choice – I feel driven to help others learn what has brought so much joy to my life.

I really can't believe that I'm living at a time where technology has made it possible to help people all around the world. I was looking at statistics the other day from Folio Academy and we have now sold videos in over 20 countries since we launched back in August. I get email all the time from wonderful people who do not have access, means, or the time to take classes at a university or art college. People just like I was - desperate to learn how to improve their craft. People who want to illustrate their own children's books, make apps, ebooks, or qualify themselves to make beautiful paintings for galleries or to work in animation studios, etc. Some just want to make better art for themselves.

If you're new to my site – I recommend you start with “How To Design A Drawing” and then move into some of the other courses. I get artists who design amazing characters (some professionally) who have asked me, “How do you design the your characters into the background?” I never had a good answer because there isn't ONE good answer! Now I can say, “try this....”

If you didn't win a free video you can still get it at: