Tag Archives: children

Maddie Bear’s Birthday iPad App: FREE!

This is the month of my daughter Maddie’s birthday. To celebrate, I’m giving away Maddie Bear’s Birthday for iPad for free for a limited time. Some of you may remember the days when the birthday kid in school would bring in cupcakes to celebrate their birthday. This is Maddie’s version of that, everyone gets a free iPad app. If you could leave a review as a birthday gift to her, it would be very appreciated.

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OSMO: iPad Learning For Kids

I just discovered a new accessory for the iPad called OSMO. It’s pretty much a mirror and stand that you attach to your iPad that allows your kids to interact with the device using real-world objects, such as Scrabble-style letters, wooden shapes, and paper/markers.

OSMO

The kit comes with the OSMO kit (stand/mirror sensor), wooden letters, and wooden triangles that can be used with their free apps on the App Store. To play the Newton game, your child just needs a sheet of paper and a marker to interact with the app.

The games will challenge your kids to guess what an image is by placing the corresponding letters in front of the iPad, or to replicate a shape shown on screen by using the wooden triangles provided, or to draw shapes on a piece of paper that the game will interact with.

It’s available to pre-order now until June 22nd, and you’ll get a 50% discount. It definitely seems like a great way for kids to use that iPad that is more engaging than simply tapping on the screen. I’ve pre-ordered one for my daughter, I’ll write a full review when I receive it in the mail.

For more information, check out OSMO’s site here.

Maddie Bear’s Birthday: On Amazon!

I’m very happy to officially announce that the first installment of my new children’s book series is available on Amazon.com!

Maddie Bear's Birthday

amazon-logo

I’m also offering autographed copies through www.MaddieBearBooks.com. Each autographed copy comes with (3) 3″x3″ Maddie Bear Stickers and a small, hand-drawn character sketch. I’m not sure how long I’ll be offering the autographed copies, it depends how long I can keep up with the demand of drawing and coloring the sketches. I’m hoping to get the first batch mailed out by early February depending on Amazon’s production time.

Autographed Copy

Please note that if you’re purchasing the autographed copy, there’s a section to enter to whom the autograph should be addressed. It’s pretty small on the PayPal site, so it’s very easy to overlook.

paypal

After you’re done reading it, I’d really appreciate if you could write a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Thank you to everyone for your support and for everyone who has bought a copy and spread the word.

Now onto the iPad and Kindle Fire app versions…

CreateSpace vs. Bookemon

As many of my regular readers know, I’ve created a few children’s book apps and am currently working on a new series. I took one of the books, “The Perfect Pillow“, and converted it into a paperback version through Bookemon.com. I liked Bookemon because there wasn’t a minimum order quantity, you could assemble your book on their website, and have a book ready to order in moments. However, I wasn’t thrilled about the price, nor was I happy that anyone could read the book in its entirety without purchasing it. That lead me to look for alternative publishing methods, one of which is CreateSpace.

CreateSpace is Amazon’s Print-On-Demand (POD) branch where indie authors can take their book, upload it to CreateSpace.com, and have it available to order through Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com. When a customer orders the book, CreateSpace prints it and then ships it out (Bookemon is also POD). This saves on costs since there aren’t a stack of books lying around that may or may not sell. I received the proof of my book from CreateSpace today, and would like to give you the pros and cons of both companies.

The Perfect Pillow
Bookemon (Top); CreateSpace (Bottom)

Pros

The advantage of using Bookemon (at least for children’s books) is that you can upload your finished artwork page-by-page to their website, drag and drop items as needed, and have it ready to go very quickly. The print quality is very nice with a thick glossy cover and pages that are also glossy and substantial to the touch. The learning curve is pretty small, I didn’t run into any major issues trying to figure out book assembly.

CreateSpace is great because it’s through Amazon, so you have an enormous potential customer base. They will also assign you an ISBN for free if you don’t already own one for your book. The card stock used for the cover is very similar to that used by Bookemon and you can choose glossy or matte. I’m also able to offer the book to customers for $5 less (shipped) through CreateSpace than I was through Bookemon. Also, if there are any mistakes in the book that will make it look bad when printed, each proof is looked at by someone at CreateSpace and you’ll receive a detailed report telling you what you need to fix. This was very helpful, I had issues the first two times I submitted my files.

Free ISBN provided by CreateSpace
Free ISBN provided by CreateSpace

Cons

I don’t like Bookemon because as I said before, it’s more expensive ($5 per book) than CreateSpace. I can’t see too many people willing to shell out $15+ for a small indie children’s book. Also, there’s no incentive to buy books from Bookemon since they let visitors read the entire book in the preview. Not sure why you’d pay for a book that you can read for free on the site that’s trying to sell it to you. You can avoid this by making the book private, but then you have to buy a bunch of books yourself upfront and hope you can sell them on your own.

The only issues I can see with CreateSpace is that it’s a little more difficult to get the book to them. There’s no option to upload images and assemble the book on their site, you have to export each page and then covert it into a single PDF file to upload. This might not be a big deal for a typical novel, but for something like a children’s book, it’s a bit of trial and error, especially when it comes to full-bleed cropping and print size. Also, after you approve the proof, it takes a week or so to show up on Amazon.com.

Differences

I originally drew the book at 1024×768, which is the resolution of an iPad 1 (the primary device I targeted back in 2011). For print sizes, I had to look for dimensions that were similar when exported at 300 dpi. Bookemon’s closest version is 7.75″x5.75″ and CreateSpace’s closest is 8.5″x6.25″.

Bookemon provides more of a true spine to the book whereas CreateSpace’s spine just looks like the card stock is bent around the interior pages. Bookemon prints at more of a true color of what you see on the computer screen and CreateSpace’s colors are darker. This is probably because you build the book on Bookemon’s site using an RGB profile and CreateSpace you need a PDF that’s print-ready at CMYK.

Bookemon’s pages are glossy and CreateSpace’s pages are a matte finish. I’m not sure which I prefer to be honest. The matte finish makes you feel like you’re turning real paper book pages and the glossy pages feel a little plasticky. With younger children, the glossy pages might be easier to clean sticky fingerprints off of though, so glossy might be better.

Bookemon (top) - Lighter colors, glossy finish ; CreateSpace (bottom) - Darker colors, matte finish
Bookemon (top) – Lighter colors, glossy finish ; CreateSpace (bottom) – Darker colors, matte finish

Verdict

Overall, I think I’m going to go with CreateSpace for my upcoming Maddie Bear book series. It allows me to offer the books at a better price to customers, the books can be found on Amazon.com, and you get a free ISBN. Now that I’m familiar with the CreateSpace publishing process, I think it’ll go more smoothly next time.

Poll

I’m considering writing a book that explains my process of writing/illustrating a children’s book and then converting it into an app and softcover book. Would this be something you’d be interested in reading?

From Kwik to Print

Since 2011, I’ve written, illustrated, and developed two children’s book apps and I’m currently working on my third. I’ve also recently illustrated and developed a book app for Huggable Melodies. Thanks to Kwik, creating the apps was very easy and it allowed me to focus on drawing instead of coding.

I drew the artwork in Flash, and then using Photoshop and the Kwik plugin, I was quickly able to covert the artwork into apps for the iPad and Kindle Fire tablets. However, since my daughter is only 16 months old, I wondered if iPads would even still be around in a few years when she could really comprehend the stories I had written for her. This made me want to consider self-published print versions.

The first company I tried out was Bookemon. It allowed me to upload artwork in landscape dimensions in full color and order on an as-needed basis. The only qualms I have with Bookemon is if you only want one copy, it’s a minimum of $15 shipped, which is kind of pricey for a small book. Also, if you allow the general public to order your book from Bookemon, they can read the entire book without buying it and Bookemon takes a royalty fee. I’m considering trying CreateSpace or Lulu for my next book and I’ll post about the process when I decide.

On the technical side, converting a book app to print-ready artwork was fairly easy and just took a little knowledge of resolution. Most digital artwork is 72dpi and printed work is 300dpi or higher. The book on Bookemon is 7.75″x5.75″, so I created a new document in Photoshop at that size with a resolution of 300dpi. Then I changed the image size resolution to 72dpi and got the new dimensions. I changed the stage size to those new dimensions of my Flash file and scaled down the artwork page by page. Since Flash creates vector artwork, there was no loss in quality. I exported each page as a .png file at 300dpi and uploaded them to Bookemon.

A few days later the print books had arrived and the line quality looks great.

 

Because of the vector artwork and high-resolution exporting, the artwork is crisp and colors are vivid. It’s nice to have an interactive digital version as well as a traditional print version of the books. For my next book, Maddie Bear’s Birthday, I may try to implement an in-app purchase in the app version that allows you to order a print version as well. First, I have to finish drawing the book and then decide on a publisher.

Have any questions about going from digital to print? Leave a comment.

Public-Funded Apps

In my previous blog post about being a one-man studio, I noted that since I create my personal apps as a hobby, I don’t have funding for sound effects, narration, etc. Now for my current project, which is a storybook series called “Maddie Bear Books“, I’m in the same boat.

Once I finish the storyline and illustrations for the first book of the series, I don’t have any money to pay a professional narrator or to buy any sound effects/music that I can’t create myself. To try to raise some funds, I decided to start a “Bearstarter” campaign. It’s a lot like Kickstarter, but without the Kickstarter fees, overhead costs of shipping and producing rewards, minimum monetary goals to meet, etc.

The benefit of going this route is that if people want to donate out of the goodness of their hearts, there’s no minimum amount to raise or if they want a physical product for their donation, I also have signed prints available. All of the proceeds go directly into app and book production and it’s a cool chance to be part of a project from the very beginning.

Click on Maddie Bear for more information.

Click for Bearstarter Information!
Click for Bearstarter Information!

Mobile Apps & Social Media

I recently decided that I would start working on my next mobile app, a children’s eBook series. I wanted to base the story off of my daughter and two of my friends’ daughters using anthropomorphic animals. However, if you’ve been following the trend of mobile apps these days, you know that you need to spend just as much time marketing your apps as you have developing them. Before I have even finished writing the storyline to my new app series, I spent some time pre-marketing it.

Maddie Bear's Birthday

I did a web search to make sure there weren’t similar products with similar names already coming up on Google. Then I purchased a domain name and made a temporary website placeholder (www.MaddieBearBooks.com) as well as started a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MaddieBearBooks). I figured the last account I would need would be a Twitter account (www.twitter.com/MaddieBearBooks) and then I’d have all the major bases covered. However, after hearing Noah Malewicz say he also did Instagram to promote his app “City Birds” during the Corona Geek Hangout, I figured I should hit that market as well.

The thing was, I didn’t want to create an Instagram account just to have one. After perusing other Instagram users’ images, it seemed like there were way too many “selfies”, food pictures, and the like, so I decided to try something a little bit more creative for Maddie Bear’s page.

http://instagram.com/maddiebearbooks
Maddie Bear jumps off the Adobe Flash stage onto the timeline.
http://instagram.com/maddiebearbooks
Maddie Bear takes drawing her story on the Wacom Cintiq into her own hands.
http://instagram.com/maddiebearbooks
Maddie Bear takes my Sharpie pen to write her name on paper.

I thought doing some illusions and tricks might be a little more visually enticing to look at versus pictures of me drawing the artwork. Whether if all of this social media marketing will pay off or not is yet to be seen, I should probably finish the app first…

Picked-On Poindexter

For the past few months, I have been working with Huggable Melodies to create a storybook app to go along with their stuffed plush animal line. Today, Apple finally approved the iPad version and I’m happy to announce that you can download it for both the iPad and Kindle Fire!

It’s on a special introductory sale price of $.99 USD, so don’t hesitate to scoop it up before it goes up to regular price. It’s already featured in Kwik’s Showcase which you can check out here.

App Review: Scouting Thomas

As a father of a 13-month old, I’m always looking for new children’s apps that she’ll be interested in now and ones that she might have interest in years from now. It’s actually the reason I wrote, illustrated, and programmed the Colin Turtle children’s book series. I recently stumbled across a new app called “Scouting Thomas” through social media and I was instantly interested by the great artwork style.

Scouting Thomas

Opening the app, I was immediately impressed by the well-animated intro sequence of Thomas and Buddy roasting marshmallows.  I tapped on the animation, and Buddy’s marshmallow burst into flames and Thomas quickly put out the flames using a fire extinguisher. It was cute, funny, and being an animator and app developer myself, I was impressed that there was such fluid animation on a splash screen of an app.

The next screen I visited was the Jokes & Game page. Here you can tap on Buddy and watch him tell kid-friendly jokes to Thomas. The jokes are a bit corny and might be slightly too sophisticated for very young children, but I think kids in the demographic that Flying Monkey Pie Productions are aiming for, will enjoy the humor. The games screen offers a crossword, Scrabble-like game where users can solve questions by jumbling supplied letters. Here I was impressed that the app offered a game, a joke screen and an introduction animation without making the app running the least bit slowly on my iPad. The only qualms I had thus far were that the kids didn’t speak, you have to read everything yourself, and the controls to the game were a bit clunky. While moving letters around to solve a puzzle, you had to make sure that there wasn’t a letter in the space to where you wanted to move it, otherwise the letters would overlap in the same space. I would have liked to see the letters shift down one space to make puzzle-solving quicker and easier.

Scouting Thomas 2

One part I did enjoy was that after reading all of Buddy’s jokes, you get rewarded with a scout badge. Throughout the app, you can earn different badges for completing various tasks. I think kids would enjoy being rewarded for going through each part of the application and performing different actions.

Scouting Thomas Badges

Next, I visited the how-to section. This section is an interactive portion that shows you how to make a contraption that shoots out marshmallows. You drag the parts on the screen connecting them, and when you’re done, you know how to make your own marshmallow shooter. You also earn another scout badge for completing the contraption in the app. I didn’t have the parts needed, so I did not get to test out actually making the marshmallow shooter. Could be a fun weekend project when my daughter is loder though.

There is also a theater section where you can watch a short animated film. I was really impressed by this because the animation is fluid and the frame-rate never dropped. I was probably more impressed by the theater than most people would be that purchase the app, but it’s probably because I know how difficult it can be to make a great animation and also have it play well on a mobile device.

There is a comic book section as well, where you can tap on each panel of a comic strip and have the speech balloons appear. This is where I would have really liked to hear the kids actually speaking, but I’m well-aware of the costs of professional voice actors, so I wasn’t terribly surprised by the lack of kids’ voices. Still, I think it’s what could have taken this app from being great to being a fantastic experience.

Overall, I am still amazed by how much the creators were able to fit into a single mobile app and not only that, to keep the quality of the work so high. Kids will love this app because of all of the different activities, and adults will be surprised by the high level of quality that the app displays. Pick this app up if you’ve got little ones and want to keep them entertained.

iTunes