Three Common Mistakes to Avoid When Publishing a Book App

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

In May, I wrote a post called “Five Myths About Book Apps,” where I shared the most common myths my colleagues at the Book App Alliance and I have heard about publishing books as apps.

Now I want to discuss the three biggest mistakes people make when it comes to tackling this kind of project. I’ve helped scores of people publish their books as book apps, and I’ve seen these mistakes made over and over. They’re easy to avoid if you’re aware of them.

Mistake 1: Not planning the book app before starting production.

Planning your book app is your first critical step. I always recommend people create a written plan or “brief” for their app before they get started. I call this plan a “brief” because it’s the document you will use to brief suppliers on your project. You might hear people call their plan a “storyboard,” but a storyboard is just one part of the bigger brief.

There are two reasons why having a plan is so important:

  • The tighter your brief, the more accurately developers can estimate costs. Getting an accurate cost estimate prior to production saves both you and your developer money and frustration.
  • You’ll use this brief as your blueprint for your project. It’s how you can make sure to actually create what you want to create. It also keeps you from forgetting things and allows you to track changes to the original plan that might impact costs.

Watch this video I created. In it, I give an overview of how to create a brief. It’s an easy, step-by-step process.

Mistake 2: Not investing in the right area.

When it comes to budgeting for your project, invest in quality story first — editing, illustration and page design. Then you can add animation, sound, music or games.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen book apps with lots of bells and whistles but abysmal story and writing. Great apps start with great writing. So budget for quality editing to ensure your story or content is strong before you plan the bells and whistles. A poorly-written book app will not sell.

Mistake 3: Not starting marketing early enough.

So many authors are disappointed when they put their app in the App Store and it fails to sell. Apps aren’t a license to print money. Book apps have to be marketed to the same degree that print and ebooks do. And remember, when marketing a book, it’s never just about your book, it’s about what your book can do for the reader (but that’s another article).

You need to start marketing your book app before it’s published by building relationships with your target readers and the book app community. Most authors wait until their app is live in the App Store to begin marketing, then they start frantically contacting reviewers, emailing people and spamming social media.

Instead, I recommend building relationships during the production phase. Reach out to your target audience and let them know what you’re working on, how it will help them and when it’s coming. Publish sneak peeks of pages or videos, and invite people to read the manuscript or provide feedback in some way.

The book app community for the children’s genre is a warm and welcoming one. All you need to reach out is to start connecting with other authors, readers and reviewers. Participate in conversations on the Book App Alliance group on Facebook. Participate in the weekly Twitter chat, #StoryAppChat. Follow @MomsWithApps. Visit review sites like Digital Storytime, The iMum and Fun Educational Apps.

I wrote a blog post about pre-marketing and shared the story of how one author, Jodi Murphy, did a great job building relationships before her book app was live. She had her community engaged and the industry primed and ready to buy her app when it went live. Use this post as an example of how you can avoid the third mistake.

If you can avoid all three, you’ll be well on your way to successfully publishing your book as an app. For a much more in-depth look at creating book apps from conception to publication, join the course I’m teaching this September at Digital Book World University.


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