With the new technology available to authors considering digital publishing, a new breed of self-publishing is opening up to authors with a minimum of computer skills: the book as app. Rather than a fairly simple formatted text document, the app book can be considered book overkill, offering interactive features, embedded videos, full-color graphics, real-time audio, and more.
While app books are currently best suited to tablet PCs rather than reading-specific devices, some of the full-color e-readers are able to support the app book format. Considering, then, that app books may have closed the door to readers who still use an e-reader, why would an indie author pursue the arduous task of developing an app for his self-publishing platform instead of the farther reaching e-reader market and far simpler conversion to a reading-specific device?
Karen Robertson, author of the Treasure Kai children’s book series and founder of the Digital Kids’ Author site, has published a report entitled “The Top 5 Things You Must Know About Publishing App Books for Kids,” which not only details the ins-and-outs of creating app books, but also shares her logic in why authors should consider taking the technological leap and explains some of the mistakes she made when she first decided to publish her children’s book as an iPad-specific app.
“An indie author who is holding an unpublished manuscript and wants to go digital is faced with the question of whether to publish an ebook or produce a book app,” says Robertson. “The answer depends on the content of the story and what the author wants to create. A book app is for illustrated stories and will need to have interactive elements to qualify for the App Store. If the ebook is simply an illustrated book with turning pages, it will be classified an ebook and directed towards iBookstore, if one is looking at selling via Apple. If you’re talking about longer fiction like children’s chapter books or YA novels, you’re definitely looking at an ebook and not an app.”
“However, there are very few authors who have the computer skills to create their own apps. Most will want to outsource the development of their app (the computer programming part). Authors can either find a company that specializes in turning children’s books into apps or find their own developer to manage the project. The key, though, is to remember that once the app is built and approved in the app store, it still needs to be maintained. If any bugs are found in the app, they will need to be fixed. Also, when Apple releases new devices or software, the book app would need to be checked to make sure it works correctly.”
“I chose to turn my book into an app book in order to reach a global market without having to manage inventory or shipping. I’ve sold my app book in over 30 countries in the past month and each customer was able to download their app immediately and pay in their own currency. Plus my production costs were lower and my profit margin much higher than with the printed version of my book,” adds Robertson.
Some of the same considerations will be faced by digitally published authors whether they choose app or e-book format. As with all publishing models in which authors take on a lot of the responsibility for marketing and self-promotion, creating an app doesn’t alleviate all of that burden.
“Marketing a book app is similar to marketing a book in that awareness and buzz are key,” continues Roberston. “A product sitting on a shelf does not sell itself. You have to market your book app, just as you have to market your book. As with books, you can request reviews, but the types of organizations you request reviews from are different. I personally find it much easier to market a book app than a book because book apps give me access to a global market.”