Monday, October 29, 2012

Stuck In DC From Sandy...with iPad

Just updating since I have no idea when I'll be able to get back home. To my students at BYU and UVU - keep working on your assignments I probably won't see you until next week.

To those planning to attend the Missouri SCBWI event - I'm trying to get a flight directly to Missouri so just know that I'm doing all that I can to get there for this weekend.

My plans to finish the beginner level Photoshop course before this weekend have been put on hold but I'll get it finished next week if all goes well.

Being stuck with the iPad is a pretty good way to be long as the power stays on....

Back to work on projects...

What a storm!!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Getting Ready To Make Your 1st App!

I've received quite a bit of interest in making a tutorial on "How To Make An App Using TaleSpring" and offering it at Folio Academy So I'm going to make it but I thought this would be a good time to offer some advice for you to get your story and art ready to use the tutorial that I WILL be producing sometime in the next month. I just pulled the trigger on "I Eat You!" and submitted it - should be live in Apple's app store by the beginning of November!!!!

The first order of business is to let you know that I've talked to the CEO of TaleSpring and he has assured me that they are backing way down from the "rights ownership" part of their contract. He reports that they are drafting a new document that will protect their rights to own, distribute, advertise, etc. -the app that their software produces. He also assured me that the new contract will make clear that artists will own the rights outside the app produced by So this is really good news because there was quite a bit of concern over this issue.

Let me also re-state that I do NOT have any financial obligations to Talespring or receive any moneys or discounts for writing about them, using their tools to create my own apps, or making the tutorial on how to use their tools. I like this separation because I am free to remain objective about the value they provide.

Ok - the following are my general pieces of advice to get you thinking about and preparing yourself to make your own Talespring app.

1. Keep it Simple! If you're going to do this the last thing I want or you want is a big ball of frustration and NO app at the end of the day. This is your first app so please save your grandiose ideas for later apps. What we want at the end of the day is for you to learn how to use the tools and how to finish a project. I would highly suggest you go to the bookstore or library and check out Jon Klassen's books "I want my hat back" and "This is not my hat". These books would work extremely well in a Talespring app but with the enhancements of light animation they could be a little different from a book book.

2. Keep it REALLY simple! Notice a pattern here? I really want you to get your feet wet on this project and you won't be able to do that if your dreams and crazy imagination can't be done using Talespring. I would keep animations down to moving an asset from A to B. Rotating and asset. Replacing an asset. Fading an asset out (like a ghost)Fading an asset in. Growing/shrinking etc. I'm making it sound like there's not much you can do when actually there are really cool things you can create but I think your emphasis should be on story rather than high end animation.

3. Create an original story. If your motivation to create a story app is to sell a few copies to your family and share it with your kids or grandkids than tell whatever story you desire. If you want to have the chance of selling lots of apps and enjoying royalties you need to write or partner with a writer who has created a compelling story. I'm not suggesting that you create a story like, "Go The F@#k To Sleep"...but then again I am. Look - I wouldn't write that story - I couldn't put that out there - It goes against my mission - but I still laugh when I hear it and that little laugh is why it's currently #128 on Amazon right now in ALL BOOKS. Do you know how ridiculously high that is? The author is making a killing! Not because of marketing and not because of luck. It's because you either think it's hilarious or you hate it to death. People need to have a strong opinion of what you create in order for it to do well financially. It must be: amazingly sweet, rude, inappropriate, touching, cute, funny, etc.

4. Have your story set in stone before you start illustrating.

5. Did you read #4?

6. I feel like you didn't really read number 4 :) If you're coming to this from an illustrator's perspective like me you probably feel more comfortable drawing rather than working on your story. STOP. If you kind of get your story ready but perhaps it still needs a little work and then you dive into sketches and heaven help us - paintings you'll do one of 2 things: Make compromises on your story because you already have the art or get really frustrated when you realize you have to change your story a little - making some or all of your art obsolete.

7. Get a critique. After your text is finished and you're really happy with it (and hopefully workshoped it in your critique critique group?...start one!...and beg for honesty)

8. Limit Pages. Remember - theoretically you have unlimited pages but this doesn't mean you have carte blanche to waste your viewers time by including superfluous pages. The essence of good design is reduction - so have a purpose for every page. Don't need it? Yank it out! You can start doing thumbnails and story boarding out how your app will work. Pages in Talespring are 1024px wide by 768px tall so unlike a book you don't have a two page spread to work with. Think of the iPad screen. Every time you touch the page turn arrow at the bottom of the screen you get a new screen - not a page turn - but similar.

9. Perhaps work on your character sketches but get that story figured out first! Get your ducks in a row!...or chickens.

10. Number ten is a tuffy -or great news depending. You need an iPad. I know I know this is a hard pill to swallow if you're funds challenged like many right now but you need one to download your book as you produce it so you can see what it looks like and how it behaves. Talespring has a really good simulator so you could get by without one especially if you're not timing sounds to animations like I did in my app - "I Eat You". I had to download my book 9 times to get the timing right because it's a little different from the simulator to the iPad.

Ok, so that's about it! My tutorial will cover you if you're going to be working traditionally or digitally to create your artwork. But here's what you will need to have for a full robust Talespring app:

1. Computer
2. Photoshop(perhaps elements- checking on it) or Gimp (google it - free)
3. scanner - if you're working traditionally
4. Wacom tablet if you're going to be creating your images digitally.
5. iPad app "Tiny Vox" (a few bucks) for voice recording on your iPad (what I used) Audacity (free download)
6. Audacity (free download) and a mic for your computer if you're not going to use your iPad.

Oh - and I'll be releasing a "Beginning Photoshop for Painting" video tutorial on Folio Academy in a few weeks! This will be a great tutorial if you're brand new to Photoshop but don't want to learn about all the tools you'll never need for painting your images. This video series will get you up to speed on how to work with your drawings in photoshop and prepare you for my "Digital Painting in Photoshop" vids.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

School Visits and Pranks in Katy Texas

I just got back from a week of school visits in Katy Texas this past week. I had a great time and the librarians that hosted me were amazingly kind, organized, and very helpful in making the presentations very successful - THANK YOU!

The following video shows a few pranks, librarians, and part of my presentation if you're interested in what I do when I'm at a school. I have so much fun working with the kids!

I signed a ton of books, gave a ton of drawing lessons, and made a lot of friends. The kids in Texas are great!

I love how the kids get quiet when it's their turn to draw - and they're really good at it! I think Picasso was right when he said that every kid is an artist.

I even met a facebook friend - Katarina Perez an up and coming illustrator/animator from Katy who skipped school to check out what we were doing.

I made this bookmark one night in my hotel room on my iPad for the teachers and librarians to pass out to kids just for fun.

Each school had a bunch of books to sign so we would arrive at the schools early and I would get to work. I usually had to stay after school to finish them up...some things never change :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My App Is DONE!!! - Tutorial?

I'm finished! I'm just checking spelling and functionality one last time and then it's hit the submit button.

I Eat You! was so fun to make using the Talespring tool and now I want to share my process with you. If there is enough interest I would like to make a video tutorial and sell it at Talespring is really easy to use if you know your way around the computer but if you're a bit iffy on preparing your artwork, making audio files, and using internet tools a tutorial might be for you.

What I would cover: How to start your story app on Talespring. How to use the text editor and highlighted text. How to attach voice recordings to your text. Ways of making voice recordings. How to clean up your voice recordings using audacity. How to optimize your images. How to prepare your images as .PNG or .jpeg files and when to use one vs the other. How to make hot spots. How to move assets using the talespring animation tools. How to string animations together. Work arounds for some of Talesprings limitations. Incorporating interactivity. Etc.

 So here's my iPad/iPhone story app cover - if you watch the video you can see some of the light animation I've used in the app.

Here are my little fishies - I love drawing and rendering fish - so much fun. I enjoyed both the writing, illustrating, voices and formatting... wait - that's 4 things! Wow! So cool to be able to do everything. I must admit that working this way opens up all kinds of new possibilities and my brain starts to hurt when I think of all the them.

The following video will show a little of the app and I talk about and show you the Talespring work space. Again let me know if you would pay money for a video tutorial that walks you through the creation process.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Plea To SCBWI

I hesitated to write this post and questioned if this was the right way to do it. You're reading it so obviously I I decided this was right. I really hope that I don't offend anyone at SCBWI with my comments.

First let me start out by saying how much I love this organization. I attended my first SCBWI meeting back in 1991 in Utah. It was like a whole new world was opened to me. I was surrounded by like minded people outside my school setting. Professionals, novices, and everything in between. I knew I was in the right place. Since that time I have been a member on and off over the years. Currently I get asked to speak at SCBWI events from time to time - I get to participate in one this November in Missouri and in Atlanta early next year. I love the SCBWI.

Ok - deep breath. I was having lunch today with a friend who I shall not be named. This person has been an SCBWI member for many years and is an extremely competent author/illustrator. This person also told me today that since he/she has been in and around the publishing industry and gone to numerous conferences over the years - the biggest reason for continuing to attend is the ability to get past the firewall at publishing houses.

This is probably the part where I should give a brief explanation of that firewall - you can skip a couple paragraphs if you already know this. Basically most publishers do NOT accept unsolicited manuscripts. In other words an un-agented or un-published author/illustrator cannot simply send in their book proposal to a publisher without having a connection to an editor and essentially having permission to do so. If such an a person did send in their manuscript or book dummy it would be discarded or mailed back un-opened if a SASE was provided.

One of the main advantages conference attendance provides is the magical access given to attendees via the editors that are presenting at the conference. In other words conference attendees are granted contact information for the specific editors who are flown in to speak to the audiences. They even go one step further by providing special stickers that say "conference attendee". The idea being that when the intern is going through the mail they will set aside the parcels that bear this marking. These packages are then opened and read and then issued a response from an editor.

The reason that they lift the ban on unsolicited works for conference goers is that they feel that submission quality goes way up. If someone is willing to spend their time, money, and effort attending writing workshops they will more often than not - write a decent story and follow instructions on submission guidelines. This makes the publisher's job much easier.

Now to the point. My aforementioned friend attended an SCBWI conference last year mainly to get the contact information to submit to the three editors who presented. He/she like I mentioned has been through and around the game for a while so I'm not talking about some kind of rube. The manuscript was well written and printed and packages were carefully prepared and submitted with the required stickers and included SASE. My friend waited...and waited...and waited....and never received ANY kind of response - not even a form rejection letter and it's been well over a year.

Now you might be able to make the case that if he/she had submitted to one house or one editor something might have been misplaced or lost but with three submissions I find this highly unlikely. My friend reported today that he/she will probably not attend future SCBWI conferences since one of the major benefits seems to have turned out to be not much of a benefit at all.

This is tragic and I put this out there in hopes that some of the very dedicated staff at SCBWI will find this link in an email forward. Why do it publicly? Because things tend to get done when more people know about it. I don't know if this happens all the time. I do know that there are many caring editors who take time out of their busy schedules to come and speak to conference attendees and who follow through with their promise. I also feel that some of them might not follow through on their commitments.

My hope is that SCBWI staff take extra pains to communicate to editors that attendees are paying for their flights, meals, hotel, and honorariums and that they need to keep up their end of the bargain - or turn down the gig. I would hate to see us lose such a valuable organization over something like this - if it's happening regularly.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Getting Your Story App Reviewed - Interview

I believe there are 3 main ways to get your new story app or ebook noticed and bought many times over. 1. Make something AMAZING that changes the user/viewer/reader emotionally. 2. Tell your friends about it via social media and 3. Submit it to review sites. I strongly believe that advertising is for boring products so if the people you shared it with don't respond your time is probably better spent back at the drawing board. That's my plan anyway.

I'll have an app in Apple's app store in early November if all goes according to plan (and I'll be making tutorials on how I did it so check back soon) so logically I've wanted to get to know who and where I should submit my app to for review. Why mess around I thought - go for the most prominent children's story app review site and ask the reviewer directly. What I got was very unexpected. Straight talk. You guys know I love straight talk.

I love the answers Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime gave me (some of her advice is what I've been preaching) and I'm so grateful that she was willing to give me her time. If you're at all interested in producing story apps you NEED to read this article

Will Terry: What do you review and how can someone get reviewed by you?

Carisa Kluver: When I began this site in late 2010, I would review things in the order they were submitted, but eventually got overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content coming into the AppStore (and my inbox), everyday. I decided it was better to continue to provide a solid resource for parents, teachers and librarians, than to cover everything. But that means some titles I enjoy, but don't love, may never get covered by my site. There is a sea of content out there, and it just seems to grow exponentially every six months.

I choose what to review a couple days in advance, giving me flexibility to cover whatever I'm most interested in at the moment. This helps me to be more engaged in the writing process, which is really important for good content. I'm particularly looking out for truly original stories and innovative use of the tablet medium. I'm also, personally, a sucker for gorgeous illustrations. I'm the daughter of an art teacher and really love the visual nature of picture books, which is probably why I'm reluctant to review for older readers.

Titles previously published in print are very popular, as are popular topics (like robots, princesses or dinosaurs) or titles from big media names. These reviews drive a lot of traffic to my site, so I try to sprinkle them in liberally as I'm reviewing. I make an effort to balance my readers general interests (everything in the top 200 book apps in the app store) with my own family's taste and a sense of obligation to the creative community. I'm also on the lookout for things that no one else is reviewing.

In addition, I find that authors and illustrators who were previously published in print are easier to review, since the job of 'vetting' indie work is very hard. People say such harsh things sometimes about the publishing industry, but they did set some pretty phenomenal standards for picture books. I didn't appreciate this well until there was no filter on my child's content.

Will Terry: How long does it take to get reviewed?

Carisa Kluver: I hate to say it, but the reality is that getting reviewed by my site

(or any decent sized site for app reviews) is one of those "6 months to never" situations, depending on the