There's no denying that the way children read books and "experience" stories -- whether through gaming, downloading digital books, watching YouTube, recording videos of their stories themselves -- is changing. And storytelling is transforming right along with it. For authors and illustrators of children's books, picture book apps offer an exciting new frontier.
Auryn, whose Teddy's Day, Teddy's Night, and Miko series have earned rave reviews, she has created the adorable Love You to the Moon and Back for the iPad. We asked Sue to share how she broke into the picture book app market.
dotMomming: How long have you been illustrating for children. Is the Love You to the Moon and Back app your first digital book?
Sue Shanahan: My career illustrating for children began over 30 years ago. I've been fascinated with the human form for as long as I can remember. On top of that, I'm crazy about kids. So illustrating for children was a natural fit. Love You to the Moon and Back is my first digital book. It was made from pre-existing art that I own the copyright to. With the help of a couple of SCBWI members, I wrote the poem the art illustrates. Right now I’m working on finishing up the illustrations for another picture book app for Auryn. This is a full-fledged story that’s been milling around in my brain for a years. I am very excited about finally bringing it to fruition. I have my fingers crossed that Auryn will produce it into a premium app like Teddy's Day.
DM: Was it hard to break into the app market? Have you knocked on a lot of doors, or was Auryn your first?
SS: Actually, Auryn was my first. I was surprised how quickly they called after my submission. They liked my work, but it also was extremely important that I owned the copyright to everything.
DM: Author-illustrators are particularly attractive to publishers, both in the digital realm and the printed page. Do you feel you're at an advantage compared with other writers and artists trying to catch an editor's eye?
SS: Definitely. I have a feeling with new apps, Auryn only is interested in picture book author/illustrators. They have been producing apps from pre-existing picture books but only if the book company no longer owns the rights.
DM: The Love You app merges beautiful illustrations with gentle interactivity that reinforces reading. While it can be read alone, it offers great engagement opportunities for parents to record their voices and share the message of unconditional love. Are you happy with the results of your work when you see it on the iPad.
DM: Publishing in the iTunes store is a different experience than in the bookstore down the street. Love You is priced at $0.99. How have sales been so far? Would you do it all again?
SS: The app sales are moving along steadily. I was told not to worry about the sales at this point. It takes awhile for them to gain a momentum. I do appreciate the wonderful reviews customers are giving it in iTunes. Yes, I would do it again. I think this is where books are going. It's exciting to be in on the ground floor.
DM: I liked the inclusiveness of your illustrations -- children are features from all walks of life, including a little girl with Down's syndrome. This is so rare to see in a mainstream picture book. How has the book been received so far?
SS: My art has always reflected the beauty of all kinds of kids. Long ago, I was miffed when an art director insisted I stylize my art like the "Gerber Baby." I stubbornly refused to. My thought was, “How is a child supposed to feel good about herself if there are no images of her in the world?” Who decides what's beautiful anyway? One of my heroes is Norman Rockwell. I figured if capturing real people worked for him it could work for me too. Today people respond to the diversity in my art. Truly, what's different about us is what makes us beautiful.