​​Home of award-winning Picture Books for Kids, Children's Books, and Interactive Story book Apps​​

* * * Twinkle Twinkle Books * * *

Popular Kids Books and Bilingual Stories for Kids.   Stories for Children in English and Spanish

​         Like             Subscribe      

2013 Interview Highlights
Children's Book Author Alexis H. Purcell
Interview by Author Karen Robertson


Creating a Children's Book App



Q: Please share the process you used, your roadmap in creating the book app of The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble.

 

I took a “top to bottom” approach to develop what I call “my storybook screenplay”. Here’s a summary of the key elements of this process.

 

 

Step 1: The manuscript/storyline

Write, rewrite, and rewrite again
Allow story to “form”, keep re-writing
Stretch your mind…keep stretching. Continually ask yourself, could I do more? What am I missing?  For instance, during one of my “stretch exercises”:

I decided to create my book in Spanish!  Was that all? No.

I decided to create a Playlet/short skit that I would give to schools for free.  Was that all? No.
I decided to make a softcover book (in English and Spanish), which is now available on Amazon.com.

This was all I felt I could handle at this time, but it is a great example of the “stretching” I encourage you to do. You never know where it will take you, and the lessons you will learn along the way are invaluable!

Ensure your story resonates with the age group of your intended audience: mine is pre-school through 3rd grade. Karen does a nice job outlining the importance of this simple tip.
Ensure the message in the story is clear to allow further discussion by parents/caregivers.

Make sure there is a message woven in the story. This is something I do in all of my books.
An example of this was highlighted in the iMums’ 4 star review of my first book “The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble”:


“This app is a delightful way to talk to your children about friendship, working hard, perseverance and most of all that friends will be there


when you need them. This app really showed how important it was for children to help each other practice and learn skills together…”



Let others critique your book and/or “work in process”

Family members, neighbors, and children.
Children are amazingly honest by the way and can tell you things you may not have thought of.

If you don’t have a copyright, get one. It’s easy. Go this this URL and follow instructions http://www.copyright.gov/eco/

 
 

Step 2: Create what I think is the most important part: The “storybook screenplay” (note: this takes time)

Karen does an excellent job of describing this process in her seminars and books and how she used it in the development of her Treasure Kai books.  Here is how I did mine:

 

Once you have your final draft of the story, break it down page by page, as in how you envision the final book will be laid out. Note: I did this for each version of my book: Spanish, Playlet, etc. as it is not necessarily translatable from one to the other.

 
 

Example of the “storybook screenplay” outline


  • Narration: storyline
    • Break-out the sentences/words of the storyline that you want on page one.


  • Animation within story
    • Describe the animation you want to see on this page (i.e.: head turning, eyes blinking, etc.)


  • Action required by the reader
    • What does the reader need to do to make the animation happen? Is it clear? (e.g.: press on blinking arrow to make a sound, press on the animal to make it move, etc.)


  • Sounds
    • What sounds do you want to hear from the animation, background noises, etc.?
    • Buy the sounds and license from an online company. Search the internet and you can find sites that provides sounds. Keep searching until you find the right sound. (Animal sounds, bristling of trees, etc.


  • Music
    • Do you want music in your app?
    • What type of music do you want in your app?
    • Do you want it to play in the background throughout the book?
    • Do you want different music in certain parts or pages of the book?
    • Buy the music and license. One of the sites I use to buy royalty free music is http://melodyloops.com/


  • Illustration
    • Use descriptive words to clarify the type of illustration you want to see.
    • Provide sketches or copies of pictures to help communicate your vision. For instance, I had a vision of what I wanted Joey the turkey to look like, but the illustrator didn’t know and her first draft was a plump traditional looking turkey. I sketched out the lanky goofy turkey I had in mind to give her an idea and provided pictures of turkeys that had the type of look I was hoping for. We went back and forth a few times and I believe we captured exactly what I was looking for and what I hope the reader enjoys. (Below are the draft versions, and the final version of Joey the turkey)







​​


IMPORTANT TIPS ABOUT ILLUSTRATION

  • Let your illustrator know if you plan to create a hard/soft cover book. For instance, I created a softcover version of my books using CreateSpace, available on Amazon.com.  By discussing this with myillustrator upfront she was able to adjust the approach she used in creating the illustration files for the book app.

  • Also, let your illustrator know if you intend to offer pages of the book as coloring pages for your readers to color.


Here’s an example of my “storybook screenplay” for the first page of my book app: “The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble”, alongside a picture of the final version.














​​


  • Other key things to consider for the book, whether it be different for each or some of the pages, or the same for the entire book:
    • Narration
      • What tone of voice do you want the children to hear when the book is read to them?
        • Man’s voice, Woman’s voice, child’s voice?
        • Mellow? Low pitch, high pitch.  These are all things to consider.
    • Who will narrate your story?
      • Hire someone? There are many companies who provide this service and you should ask them for samples voices of one or two pages from your book/app from which to choose. Hint: close your eyes when listening to the voice as it increases your sensory sensitivity. I hired out for the narration on my first book for the English and Spanish version, but not with the same person. For the Spanish version, I hired someone through an agency who had a Spanish accent. I’ve chosen not to do my second book in Spanish, but for the English version, we are considering doing our own narration. We’ll see how it goes!
      • Do it yourself? Keep in mind that the purchaser of the app is expecting quality so if you choose to do it yourself get a good microphone (I recommend Snowball iCE) and a soundproof location.
    • Translation
      • Who will translate the story if you decide to offer your book in another language?
      • If you are not fluent in the language, hire a professional or someone who is fluent in the language.
      • A note regarding translation sites on the internet, such as Google translate: tread cautiously as there’s a good chance the story line may not translate correctly.
      • If your programmer is not fluent in Spanish, prepare a side-by-side for him/her to follow when doing the programming. Below is an example of what I did to make this easier for him to follow:








​​​​

  • Developing a website
    • This is covered in Karen’s books so I won’t repeat it here. I just want to reiterate how important it is to create one, even if you’ve never done this before, like me. You can view my simple website at: https://TwinkleTwinkleBooks.com/ I used GoDaddy.com but there are many sites that can walk you through how to do this if you don’t have someone who can program it for you.
    • Ensure your website states what your privacy policy is.
  • Testing and debugging your app
    • When I first began to test my app, I was “too gentle” in how I pressed the arrow to turn the pages, pressed the animal to hear the sounds, etc. My son saw me and commented that that isn’t how people, particularly children, use or play with apps. He began pressing, poking, tapping, very fast all over the screen… and that is when I began to see the bugs! There were animal tails that spun round and round out of control and, on one page, when you pressed continually, the Turkey drifted up and off the page. Learning how to debug and test was such an invaluable lesson.
  • Editing your app
    • ​​This was a costly lesson to learn. Although my friends and I read and re-read the book, there were grammar and spelling errors that needed to be corrected which we didn’t discover it until late in the process. I had to increase the budget to accommodate for this last minute change to both the English and Spanish versions. Lesson learned: edit, edit, and then edit again. Find someone who is good at this and ask them to review…it’s worth it!



Q: You talked earlier about being a project manager, did you apply any of those skills to the development of the app?

Absolutely. Once my “storybook screenplay” was prepared and in good form, I began the search for, and ultimately hired, my team, which comprised of a programmer, illustrator, narrator, and translator. I established a project budget for each team member’s portion and we agreed on key deliverables, cost, and associated timeframes. I held an initial “team kick-off meeting” for us to review the project and each related deliverable to ensure we were all on the same page. Thereafter, I held weekly phone meetings, but often times we met via email or phone several times a day, depending where we were in the project.

I kept detailed account of all expenses and, when possible, found ways to negotiate better terms. For instance, I used an international firm for the Spanish narration and Spanish translation. This firm, although they are an international firm, had never done a project like this before but believed in what I was doing and wanted to be part of something different. I worked with them and suggested ways to reduce the costs and retain the quality.

In addition to the project team budget, I had a budget for marketing, reviews, and miscellaneous, such as the costs for obtaining a copyright for the Playlet and Spanish version.

There are pros and cons to paying for reviews, depending on your situation and expectation.  It was October and I wanted the book to launch before Thanksgiving so I made a decision to pay for a couple of reviews due to the short timeframe. A paid review does not affect or alter the review itself; rather, it simply puts you in the front of the line. Karen’s book provides a very thorough overview of reviews, pros and cons, and other ways to obtain feedback. I found it to be quite helpful and I highly recommend reading it.


Q: When did your book app launch and how was the response?

My app was accepted in Apple iTunes in late October but I waited until November to make it available to the public so as not to compete with the Halloween apps. It was launched in Amazon.com a week prior.

The response was great. I was ranked #11 in Apple iTunes in the Paid iPad book apps category for about two weeks. Below is a copy of the screen shot. It was very exciting to see my book app alongside heavy hitters such as Dora the Explorer, Finding Nemo, and Goodnight Moon.














​​Q: Were there any surprises from your book app experience?

Yes, there were several surprises.

Although we were #11 in Apple iTunes Paid iPad Books apps, sales for and ranking of my app declined after about a month. It is very difficult to break through and be discovered in the Apple iTunes store; the market for good children’s book apps is saturated!

A nice surprise was hearing how others were using my book. For instance, a speech pathology group was using it to teach animal sounds to their students. An elementary school in New Jersey used it to teach their students about friendship. The one that touched me the most, however, was what happened shortly after the shooting in Newtown Connecticut. A local elementary school asked me to come to the school for a “meet the author day.” They asked me to meet with the kids to discuss my book and, through the book, relay the message of how friends can help one another in time of need.  I must say that was quite a moving experience both for them and me, and I will never forget it!

Another nice surprise I discovered along my journey is how people in this industry are collaborative, not competitive. Everyone I talked to along the way were willing to help me, provide advice, or provide names of others who might be able to help. That was such a breath of fresh air!

 

 

Q: You mentioned you have another book app coming out soon, tell us about it.


Absolutely! I am currently working on my next book app, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Nighty Night”, which is a peaceful and imaginative picture book that invites the reader to help comfort their animal friends for bedtime by making a wish upon a special twinkling star.

As I mentioned above, I make sure there is a message woven in the story which, for this story, is how your child will be ready for sleep knowing they will be loved and protected throughout the night, and how they help their friends to feel the same love and comfort.


Here’s is a sneak peek of the cover page of the book app…cute huh?










Q: Is there anything else you would like to leave us with?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with others some of the tips I’ve used that have honestly made this process easier; many of which were learned from reading your books and attending your seminars. Please accept my heartfelt thanks and gratitude for making this journey fun and easier to navigate.