At the SCBWI conference this summer I was struck by how many of the presenters spoke about creating “content.” These day, stories are shared in so many ways and authors who are on the cutting edge of new technologies have a chance to see their books gain a wider audience. This week I’ll be running interviews with three different authors who have taken advantage of new ways to share their stories and reach different audiences.
First up is award-winning author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba. With more than a dozen titles bearing her name, Elizabeth is no stranger to the publishing industry. But stepping outside of the traditional arena has introduced her to a new group of fans.
You’ve written other books and illustrated even more. What made you decide to turn Lula’s Brew into an app instead of pursuing a traditional publishing contract?
I did try to go the traditional route with Lula at first. And while she actually won some awards, the story was never picked up. It worked out well in the end because I own all the rights and could do what I wanted with the story.
When the first picture book apps came along, I knew I wanted to try the medium and I had a feeling Lula’s Brew would adapt well. One glitch: Lula’s Brew is mainly classified as a Halloween story and I had about two weeks to turn the art around (the dummy was finished, but the colored art was not), get the files to my developer to turn into the app, and have Apple make it live one month before Halloween. I kept some late hours, but somehow managed to do it!
How difficult was it to format your work for the iPod/iPad?
Luckily, I created my finished art for the iPod version at 4 times the necessary size (still much smaller than I usually work, so it went faster). So when the iPad came along, the files didn’t need to be recreated – they were ready to go. (I work digitally.) I’m proud to say Lula’s Brew was one of the first picture book apps available the day the iPad was released!
How cool! That alone had to earn you some recognition.
Has it been more difficult to market your app than it was for your books that have publisher support?
Honestly, being one of the first made it easier to market Lula’s Brew. Having one app suddenly made me an expert – ha! Between articles and interviews, Lula got a lot of press. And then she ended up in the featured “Apps for Kids” section on iTunes (I have no idea how), which helped. But these are lucky things. I think finding and marketing apps is just as difficult, if not more so, than getting word out about traditional books. Although both endeavors are hard to do. And now there are so many apps, I think it’s only going to get harder.
What has been your biggest marketing success?
The biggest success came after a mention on the blog “Moms with Apps.” As part of the promotion, Lula was set to ‘free’ in iTunes for two days. In those two days, she was downloaded over 7,000 times – woosie! To date Lula’s Brew has been downloaded over 9,000 times.
Do you plan to release more picture book apps or are you still querying new work?
I got into this business to create BOOKS, so that is still where my passion lies. But the new formats are exciting. I’m currently trying to get rights back on two out-of-print books so I can have them made into apps, but it’s a slow process.
Thing is, the money is still better with traditional books (although that is rapidly changing in today’s market), and when you create an app, all the work is on the front end – without an advance. That’s tough. While I have several stories I’d like to fully illustrate and make into apps, I really can’t afford the time.
Still, I’d like to do more. I love that we have so many ways to share our stories these days – it’s an exciting time to be a creator.
It sounds very exciting, Elizabeth, especially since you were able to be one of the first to take advantage of this new technology. Best of luck with ALL your projects.
Sherrie, thanks so much!
You can read more about Elizabeth Dulemba on her website, as well as download coloring pages and other free activities to accompany her books. Visit the special page for Lula’s Brew to read reviews and download a copy for yourself. Her activity page for her latest book, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia, even includes a recipe for Upside Down Peach Cobbler!