This is the blog home of #kidlitart, a live Twitter chat Thursdays at 9:00 pm Eastern, for children's book illustrators, picture book authors, author/illustrators and friends. Check back weekly to read transcripts, comment on previous chats and suggest topics for upcoming chats.

Friday, August 20, 2010

8/19/10: Guest chat with Elizabeth Dulemba

TOPIC: Author/illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba (@dulemba) answers questions about picture book apps.

Note: What follows is a condensed version of the chat, set up in Q&A format: text blocks in bold are questions and comments from various chat participants. Elizabeth's answers are in italics.

Before we start, here's a link to Elizabeth's app:

Would you like to tell us about how Lula came about?
Like so many, I thought the idea of a PB app was cool! Something about the whole app thing just screamed "Pay attention - this is gonna be big..." But most of my stories were tied up in rights. So I chose a dummy that had won some awards, but never got published. It was short, funny, the drawings were mostly done.

Only clincher, it was a Halloween theme and that was a month away! I got the finals done in two weeks. I was up very late for those two weeks, but it was fun, too. Since the art was so small (4x the iPhone screen size), it flew.

I went with a local developer and did the voice too since there wasn't any time to hire
somebody! (Btw, no eating Indian food or dairy before doing a voice recording. Learned that one the hard way…)

Rhodesoft (Reading Rhino) was my developer. Very smart people. :-)

How did you link up with RhodeSoft?
I was talking to a friend at the Decatur Book Festival about what I wanted to do and she told me about Toni [Rhodes].

Did you license it yourself?
It was actually easier with an unpublished story - no rights issues!

What is the size of the artwork?
Not very big. About 1024x768 pixels - which is the iPad's dimensions thank goodness. I didn't have to redo anything for that!

Did they tell you what size it needed to be to work?

I came up with the 4x thing. For iPad, dulemba: I'd probably work at least 2x. It's still MUCH smaller than normal for me.

Do you know of any vanity or P.O.D E book or App publishers?
I've started gathering resources. You can see at

How many "screen shots" for an average story--or is there an average?
My original dummy for Lula was a standard PB, so it stayed within that range.

How did you get in with the resellers?
Well, the reseller is Apple. And honestly, other than Toni requesting, I have no idea how Lula
ended up in their featured section.

Are you concerned about shrinking artists and writers royalties as we move closer to e books and apps?
I am VERY concerned about the "standards" being quoted for eBooks. I don't think it's right

What standards are you referring to?
Right now a lot of publishers are contacting their authors asking them to sign "Updated"
contracts promising 25% of eBook royalties.

The only difference between print and e books is the printed book. All the other
expenses are the same right?

Not sure exactly what you mean, but an eBook is quite different in that there's no
warehousing, overhead, etc.

Development and marketing . . .
Development and Marketing are still pretty different. There are some hiccups with eBooks. No
affiliate programs. No ISBN #s - it's hard to connect to them other than with a link to the app on iTunes. Not ideal from a marketing standpoint.

Do you think the same thing will happen to lit as with music: digital is easy to copy/share = less sales?
No, I think lit is more like the movie industry than music. Videos didn't kill theatres - we just
have more options now.

Did you have any upfront costs? Other than your time/materials for art?
That's different with every developer. In the beginning it was an experiment and some were willing to split royalties. Now I think more are charging for the set-up and upload to Apple. So, for me, no upfront cost - just a lot of labor.

So distribution awareness is kind of a problem...
Distribution awareness is THE BIGGEST PROBLEM with apps. It is SO Hard to be found!!! If you aren't featured in the app store, it's very hard for anyone to find your product.

Are you working on other apps?
I'm currently trying to get my rights back on one of my earlier PBs that's just recently gone
OP. It would do well as an app.

What do you think the future of libraries and school visits is with so many ebooks
and apps?

I think our world will look very different 5 yrs from now, but I think/hope libraries will be a part of that. The need for libraries is still too strong. Tech stuff isn't for everybody.

Maybe they will have digital libraries in the future, like netflicks for video rental stores.
I think libraries are starting to put together something like that.

School visits really rely on having that tangible, large amazing book to connect with the kids.
Apps are difficult in crowds, although with projectors, they could do well.

Will you promote your apps or ebooks as you would hard copy books?
Promoting apps is more online obviously. But a bit easier in person with the iPad. Showing
an app on an iPhone was like..."Isn't that nice..." Doesn't work well with a crowd!

Wondering if anyone knows a good program to use to create an app?

Adobe has a walk through for InDesign, but that's for an eBook rather than an App.

Any plans to publish Lula's Brew traditionally (print)?
I'd love to pub LULA traditionally! My agent and I are waiting for the app sales #s to get high
enough to knock their socks off.

I love turning real pages but I'm also excited about the interactivity and animation part of it.
The interactivity is amazing. Jack and the Beanstalk kept me busy for an hour. And I'm an adult! (Sort of.) I don't think print will go away. Although I do think paperbacks are truly threatened by eReaders. Makes sense really.

Computers didn't fry our little brains! If anything, I feel like they freed us up! You'll never talk me out of wanting the print book experience. But the apps are fun TOO. I really do think it's like movies. There are some I must see on the big screen, while othersare fine on cable... I DO think apps are an opportunity. And I'm a geek, so I'm very excited by the possibilities.Just don't take my books from me!

I wonder if pubs will start preferring illus who can do print and e? (if art isn't digital already)
I don't think there will be a difference in illustrators doing print vs. e. Although the digital skills
definitely help. It doesn't matter how the art starts out, just what it looks like on the device. So no brush orstylus debate...For books that is. The drawing programs on the iPad are a completely different story!!!

I haven't tried drawing programs on the iPhone yet.

I'd wait a little bit for a good drawing program. SketchPro is good, but the resolution is still low and we need a stylus!

Would love a stylus for the iPad, or it could work like a Cintiq?

That's what I keep hoping for!! I'm betting we'll have a true digital sketch pad in 2-3 years. Yay!

One issue in adapting existing books is screen size. You can't just shrink a picture book without losing clarity/readability. For better or worse, many books won't transfer easily to screen - they'll need new layout/typesetting.
Absolutely! There is adaptation that needs to happen. Room in the art for large text. I zoomed in on most of my images for LULA. The large shapes really do work well. Too much tiny text, itty bitty detailed illustrations... I don't think they work as well.

Sometimes shrinking art can tighten it up. But that doesn't mean that's the best way to present it. It depends on the style. Simple shapes colors would shrink okay; complex details, not so much.

Wouldn't you just scan the art into a file the same way?
You could scan the art like you would for anything. But it's still a different presentation that a book and should be designed.

*Comment from @RhodeSoft: One thing to keep in mind - Apple requires that your app can be viewed both horizontally & vertically.

When changing the orientation, do you just crop from the center out?
Yup - that sounds right.

We just ended up adding black space to the negative areas. Otherwise I would have had to redo the art.

What's legible and readable for a PB is very diff on a tiny screen.
Indeed. I went much larger on my text. I think it was about 18pts for the iPhone.

If all books become e-books they will all have to fit into whatever the device's size is.

It's a good point. Although that's unique to kids books. There are some pretty common standards for adult books.

I think kids will be much more comfortable w/ digital devices than we are & may not be as attached to traditional print.
My 3 and 5-year-old cousins go right past my PB collection and to my iPad these days. They
are really good on it.

What do you think of simple ebooks or pdf's? Do you think creators should stick to more interactive apps?
I think a simple PB presentation works VERY WELL on the iPad. And I've seen kids go for both.

What are benefits of app over ebook?

ePub and Apps are completely different. They don't have the same functionality. So, they
really can't be handled the same way.

I do love technology, I think there's lots of room for both!
I agree - I think there's room for both too. The question is, is there enough income to support both.

I think the $ factor is what's concerning everyone. Where will it stop will determine who's willing to play w/it. I think the worry is that as the price drops, so will the $ to the content creators. Less royalties?
Yes, they're less expensive, but they also can potentially sell in higher numbers. Potentially.
If they can be found. The $$$ thing is a concern, but it's really the same issues as in print. How to be found. How to go viral. the potential is more of the royalty going to the creator - so it could balance out. Cheaper app, but more %.

Kind of like the .99 iTunes?

Yes, exactly like iTunes. Cut out the middle men and more of the profits go to the creators. I hope publishers find a way to adapt to this new tech and still support creators in a fair way.
They have much to contribute.

Bands can actually bypass record companies and offer music free, they're more in control.

But again - how to get found. There are lots of bands figuring it out. We will too. it would be nice if we could avoid the mistakes of other industries. I think it takes smarts, flexibility and... the willingness to JUMP!

When bands do that, more of a connection to fans, more shows, $$ in long run? Could authors/illustrators be the same way?
I think it's already happening. That's why an author's platform has become so important.

It's a brave new world... for the brave. What an interesting time to be a creative.


(Please feel free to add to this list in the comments section.)











Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 8-19-10

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