Things I Have Learnt After Making Two Interactive Book Apps


1. What looks very impressive and difficult to program is often very simple for a programmer. What looks simple is difficult. Only programmers know which is which, and sometimes not until after they try.

2. Art looks better on a retina iPad. Unless the artwork isn’t all that good, in which case it looks worse.

3. When you get a fancy Wacom tablet, spend a good few hours setting it up. Otherwise you might use it for an entire year without making use of its full sensitivity.

4. Forums are great. Art forums, app forums, literature forums… On the Internet you’ll find someone who can help with your random question. Unless you’re a programmer and you want to know about blend modes in Cocos 2D. Good luck finding anyone who’ll part with information about that.

5. Book apps are not subject to the same limits on page number as a printed book. But you’ll find your audience is subconsciously accustomed to picturebooks of 32 pages. (Picturebooks tend to be exactly 32 pages for these reasons.) Anything less and they’ll think it’s short. Anything longer and they’ll feel like it’s long.

6. If you make two book apps that makes you a Knowledgeable Person about book apps.

7. The story app world is very small. You’ll meet the same people everywhere you go on the Internet. The following day you’ll visit the app store and see a whole heap of book apps you’d never heard of and change your mind about that. You won’t be able to make up your mind about whether this is a very small world or a super massive one.

8. When it comes to content in picturebooks, Americans are very conservative. Europeans not so much. Australians, somewhere in the middle.

9. The Australian market for iOS apps is bigger than you might think given the modest sized population.

10. People who download your apps when they are free have the harshest criticisms. People who pay for storybook apps are among the most literary people, and literary people are overwhelmingly very nice.

11. The educational discount program that some schools are a part of is a nightmare for those trying to use it. Apparently.

12. If someone emails you because the sound isn’t working on your app, it’s almost always because their iPad is muted. Either that or they haven’t turned their device off in months and need to reset it.

13. Every reviewer has a different favourite page, and these don’t line up with mine.

14. But everyone remembers the one page I considered taking out because testers said it was very weird. Weird = original and memorable. Don’t be afraid to be quirky.

15. Don’t just back-up every ten minutes. SAVE AS.

16. A storyapp expands to fit the time and money you’re prepared to sink into it. It’s reassuring to realise that it’s not about the 3D, the parallax or the animation — it’s still about the story, and always will be.

17. The most gratifying sale isn’t actually a bulk educational sale — the ones that feel the best are ‘gift’ apps.

18. Even once an app is out there, it’s never really finished. Apps are like plants — they need regular attention and updates.

19. Inspiration and learning comes from unexpected places, not just from print picturebooks and other apps but also from film, theatre, comic books, advertising material…

20. Everybody always wants to know how much money you’re making. (All true, but see number four here.)



For anyone wanting to produce a book app with a service provider to help with the code and marketing etc, see this list of publishers/tools.

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