From Picture Book to App - Snuggle Mountain by Lindsey Lane, one of the presenters at the conference

It’s astonishing how much the conversation about digital publishing, self-publishing and indie authors has changed in just one year.  Last year at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference, agents and editors said things like, “Yeah it’s out there, but it’s not a huge factor in children’s books yet.”  This year, publishing houses are racing to set up digital publishing arms, E-book sales are outpacing hardcovers in the adult market, and a few breakout indie authors have made millions outside of traditional publishing.

While e-book sales of picture books are not at the level of adult e-books by any stretch, it is only a matter of time before it explodes, IMHO.  Why?  Picture books are the perfect medium for “enhanced e-books”(read: apps).  Also, the expense of printing full-color picture books requires retail pricing of around $16 per book.  Compare that to .99 cents to several dollars for an app or e-book, and suddenly you can imagine how this might revitalize the picture book market down the road.

With this in mind, last weekend I attended a Symposium hosted by the lovely Austin SCBWI folks entitled, Storytelling in the Digital Age. What I learned is that the more you learn, the more you realize you have LOTS more to learn.  But you know what? So does everyone else.  Presenters and attendees agreed that right now, it’s the Wild West out there in publishing.  One thing that’s certain is that no matter how you plan to publish – traditionally, indie, or self – understanding digital publishing is no longer optional for writers.

For that reason, I am going to write a series of posts on this topic with the intention of creating a forum where we can share what we know and ask questions about what we don’t know.  For this, the first, I figured we’d better begin at the beginning.  Definitions.

Deanna Roy of Casey Shay Press provided very clear definitions of the types of books in the marketplace today.  In my own words:

  • Print Books: You know – those paper thingies that people say are going to be made obsolete by e-books because they’ve forgotten that people said that T.V. would make radio obsolete and VCRs would make movie theaters obsolete.  If you’re still not sure, watch this video.  Sold in bookstores, retail stores, online stores and available in libraries.
  • E-Books: This is a digitized version of the print book.  It has exactly the same material but has been formatted to run on e-readers.  Unfortunately, there is not yet a standard e-book format, so the same book will have to be formatted multiple times to work on all e-readers (Kindle AZW, ePub, Mobi and PDF are the major ones. Look here for a list and comparison of formats).  Because most picture books are imported to the e-book formats as a fixed-width (i.e. exactly as the pages appear in the book), and the width of the e-readers vary, the illustrated pages have to be re-sized for each device.  Sold primarily in online stores, although physical bookstores are also devising ways to sell them in-store.  Likewise, many libraries already make or plan to make e-books available for patrons to borrow and read on their e-readers.
  • Enhanced E-Books:  Deanna Roy said, “A true enhanced e-book is one that changes the way you experience the book.”  Not just an extra chapter, for example.  For a novel, an enhanced book might include videos embedded with scenes from the book, an interactive map of a fictional world, music, etc.
  • Storybook Apps: Storybook apps combine the art and text of a picture book and adds sound, animation and interactive features.  While some apps are created from existing picture books (like Snuggle Mountain), many stories are now being written directly for the app market.  An author/illustrator can work directly with an app developer to create a storybook app.  Sold in the iTunes store (or the Android app store, etc.).

So that’s it for now – just a few definitions.  Not too complicated right?

Categories: Apps, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Picture Books, Publishing, SCBWI, Self Publishing, Writing · Tags: , , , , , ,


Thanks again to Linda Ashman and Jennifer Mattson for last week’s giveaway and How I Got My Agent interview.  Please mark your calendars for this Friday, October 14th when another Colorado author, Jean Reidy, will be here both as part of the How I Got My Agent series and her blog tour for the release of her newest picture book, LIGHT UP THE NIGHT.  Light Up the Night releases tomorrow, so you heard it here first.  Go out and order your copies!!

I also spent a day in Austin over the weekend, courtesy of the Austin SCBWI, learning as much as I possibly could about digital storytelling and publishing.  I’ll share some tidbits on the blog this week so keep an eye out.

Now, without further adieu, here are the winners of Linda Ashman’s amazing new books!  Drum roll…

NO DOGS ALLOWED! goes to Beth MacKinney!!!!

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN COLORADO (which wasn’t on the original giveaway list, but Linda has it and this reader wanted it, which enabled us to draw more winners, so…) goes to Stacy Jensen!!!!

SAMANTHA ON A ROLL goes to BOTH Joanna Marple and Julie Musil (Turns out we have an extra copy, so we were able to give away two of these)!!!!!

Congratulations to the winners.  Please email me at jhedlund33 (at) with your mailing addresses and who you would like the books to be signed to and we’ll send them on their way.  Woo Hoo!

Categories: Agents, Authors, Children's Books, Giveaway, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Rhyming, SCBWI · Tags: , , , , , , , ,


I know everyone in the world is talking about Steve Jobs this week, but I feel compelled to add to the chorus.  I found myself affected by the news of his death more than I would have thought, and not just because the death of a 56 year-old man at the zenith of his creative contribution to the world is a tragedy.  That day as I used, in turn, my MacBook, iPhone, iPad and iPod Nano, I realized how much his vision has shaped and improved my life.

For example, without him I never would have spent a whole day in Austin, as I did yesterday, talking about ebooks and, in particular, making storybook apps for the iTunes store.  One presenter showed us how to make an ebook on her iPad.  Almost all presenters projected directly from their iPads.  I was able to download apps being discussed in real time during the presentations and thus ask more directed questions.

One of Steve’s most famous quotes is, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” 

I am now doing the work I love, but it took me until I was 38 to figure out what it was and to get on with it.  I am grateful Steve Jobs didn’t wait that long.  I’m glad he didn’t listen to the people who told him he was crazy, impulsive, reckless and just plain wrong.  This week’s Gratitude Sunday is dedicated to him, written from my Mac of course.

So I join many, many others around the world to say: iSad.

Quotes from Steve Jobs

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Gratitude List for the week ending October 8

  1. Doing work I love.  Someday I hope to even make money doing it!
  2. The members of Austin SCBWI, who welcomed this transplant to their one-day digital publishing symposium with open arms.
  3. The Austin SCBWI’s one-day symposium on Storytelling in the Digital Age.  I learned more in one day than I probably could have learned in a month otherwise.
  4. All of my Mac/Apple products – laptop, iPad, iPhone, iPod Nano, Scrivener
  5. LAURIE – for making it possible for me to get to the airport on time Friday!!!
  6. Gorgeous fall weather
  7. Great meeting with the kids’ school principal about growing participation in the school lunch program and promoting nutritious eating and healthy habits in other parts of their school days.
  8. Bubble bath, followed by flannel pajamas.
  9. Linda Ashman and Jennifer Mattson, for giving such great responses to the How I Got My Agent post.
  10. Finding myself with the Detroit Tigers on one screen and the Michigan Wolverines on the other at the airport bar where I had two hours to kill.

Steve Jobs once said, “I want to put a ding in the universe.”  I think it’s fair to say he succeeded.  Have you thought lately about what kind of ding you want to put in the universe?

Categories: Apps, Authors, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, SCBWI, Self Publishing, Travel, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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