Tuesday 17 April 2012


Last Saturday the 14th of April, I had the pleasure of attending the national conference of the Federation for Children's Book Groups. I presented 2 seminars on the topic of Children's book apps at the conference, but also had the opportunity to attend other speakers' sessions and visit all the publishers' stands. Needless to say, it was a fantastic day!

The first treat of the day was a session with Axel Scheffler in conversation with Eileen Browne. It was very interesting to hear him talk about his work and it was great to see him in action, drawing us a giant Gruffalo! He made it look so easy! After Axel Scheffler, Nick Lake spoke to us about his latest teen novel, "In Darkness" an interesting talk, touching on how our mind can mix reality with dreams and how this was used in his novel.

The break came along with coffee, tea and the most delicious hand baked cookies. And whilst the next talk was on, I set up the seminar room for my own talk. I thoroughly enjoyed delivering the talk, especially as the audience was truly interested in the topic and had lots of interesting questions. I started the talk with explaining how we made the Fierce Grey Mouse app which you can also read in my blog post from a few months back

I then moved on to talk about the difficulties and opportunities there are with marketing an app book or buying an app book if you are a customer. There are thousands of book apps about, how do you know what is a good book and how do you as a publisher get people to notice your book apps?
I finished the talk by letting people play with the available iPhones and Ipads to give them a sense of how much fun children's book apps can be!

For me the most inspiring talk of the day was by Matt Dickinson about his expedition leading a film crew up Everest and the books he wrote as a result. His latest book is "Mortal Chaos" and is the first in a new trilogy.

Next I decided to visit all the publishers' stands, which was a great idea. So many wonderful new and old books to see! From beautifully illustrated picture books to exciting new YA books, the whole range was presented. And best of all, they happily gave proof copies away for free for us to take home. Their generosity was overwhelming. I came home with 3 bags full of the most fantastic books and am enjoying reading them all and sharing them with friends and family.

Receiving the proof copies gave me an interesting insight in what publishers use to advertise new books to book sellers and what as an aspiring author you might want to be aware of. On the backs of the proofs it listed things like: author available for talks, extensive social media marketing (twitter, blogs, FB), 1st in a series of books, author has previously sold x amount of books and comparisons of the book with well known classics.

More coffee, tea and cookies was had and after a thoroughly enjoyable day it was time to go home again and go back full of inspiration to writing and illustrating my own books and cartoons!

Friday 6 January 2012

Children's picture books and Children's picture book apps

This week I read a very interesting article in Digital Book World called "Are children's e-books really terrible for children?" and a blog response from the Curating Book App Mom called "Ignore the discussion on book apps versus print apps". Both are well worth a read and express a lot of concepts that I have been thinking a lot about lately (ever since my first book apps Fierce Grey Mouse and Finn's Paper Hat came out and of course now also with our app No-dogs allowed, which I illustrated and was written by Phil Fryer).

When I talk to people about the apps, it is seems they don't really understand what they are. People tell me about the loveliness of a printed picture book and how it could never be replaced. The feel and smell of the pages, reading it together with children, the lovely hand drawn / painted illustrations, etc. And I agree with all that. I love books, I love the feel, smell, look and everything about them. In fact my house is full of books. But there is a bit of extra magic that we give in the app books. And it is not until I show people the apps on my iPad that they finally understand. They are often surprised to see that the stories are illustrated by hand and have the same look and feel as a printed book. They are surprised to see that they are "proper" stories that you can read with your child together. They also thoroughly enjoy the magic when they can make things move, add pictures, shake the iPad for effects, make stars appear, hear funny sounds that make the characters come to life, etc. Often by the end of the story I need to make sure they don't run off with the iPad, they get so enthusiastic about the whole thing!

Then there seems to be some prejudice against books on iPads, that they somehow should be bad for kids. That the iPad becomes some sort of "babysitter"for lazy parents. I personally don't think it becomes any more a 'babysitter' than a tv or computer game does. But there is a totally different side to this too. You can sit together with your child, switch off the narration and read it yourself and explore the interactivity together. There is an extra layer of play and fun that you can enjoy together with your kids  when reading a story on your iPad or iPhone. And yes, on long journeys or visiting your grown up friends, or if you are sometimes terribly busy, children can play with the app book on their own and listen to the narration and play with the extra's that most publishers give with the story.You can upload your iPad with lots of story book apps and still only need to take one device along on your trip, not a heavy mountain of books!

This brings me to another point, you get so much value for your money! Most, if not all, app books are cheaper than the printed books and usually you get extra games or colouring in pictures on top of the storybook! Still there are a lot of people out there that seem to think that apps should be free or cost next to nothing. How do they think we can continue to make the apps if we give everything away? Writers, illustrators, animators, developers and publishers are all humans and need to eat too! A lot of time and effort goes in the creation of the app books.

Maybe I am somewhat biased as my children's books have been published as apps. But I am truly proud of them and I think that together with Tizio BV we made something really special. There are such lovely children's app books about and so many truly creative people making an effort to create something wonderful and full of magic with every app book they make. 

Well, I get off my soap box now. I'm done with my rant. Thank you so much for listening (or rather, reading). Both "Are children's e-books really terrible for children?" and  "Ignore the discussion on book apps versus print apps"phrase it all a lot better than I have in this blog, but this has been on my mind a long time and reading the article earlier this week made me realise I had to get it off my chest!

And if after all this you would like some light hearted reading to recover from my rant, have a look at Fierce Grey Mouse's Uncle Horace's vintage book of great wisdom, my new cartoon blog.