Collaboration for success

Jonathan Higham, Author and Illustrator

It’s May 6th 2010 and I go to the iTunes website to see how my self-published children’s book apps are doing in the iPad chart. I click on the books section and then the top paid iPad sellers – and there they are at numbers 30, 56 and 58. Needless to say I’m euphoric, and I hadn’t spent a penny getting them there – so how have I managed to publish my children’s early readers without a publisher or company backing? The story goes back a couple of years when my agent wrote and said she was no longer concentrating on children’s picture books, a market so difficult in the present climate, so I was back to square one.  I did contact another literary agent who I had encountered in the 1980’s when it seemed so much easier to get my work published, but she too said she wasn’t taking on anything else. Publishers web sites also seemed to be a closed door ‘our lists are full for the time being’ or ‘no unsolicited manuscripts please’ usually on their contact pages.

So when I stumbled on an app developer called Dipali Vaidya on LinkedIn in early March 2010 who was keen to take on children’s book apps, I just knew just what to do. We talked on Skype, found we were on the same page, discussed percentage splits, and within less than a fortnight we were nearly ready with the first app, and by April 2010 had three iPhone/iPod touch books out. We were on a roll, and following the first weekend of sales of the iPad in the states, we thought there was no time to lose in getting the books converted to iPad as soon as possible.

From our first call in March, to three books out and in the top 100 iPad books chart, it had been just a month and a half.

Of course I marketed the book too – sending promo codes to just about every app review site I could find and was rewarded by a couple of reviews on theiphonemom and crazymikes. My friends too started blogging about it especially my friend and colleague, illustrator Peter Richardson, who has watched the whole process unfold from close by.

In fact children’s book apps are doing so well on the iPad that there’s talk of Apple creating a separate category, and there’s no doubting the iPad has taken America by storm. It’s being fully embraced as a new medium to access and enjoy magazines papers books and games, as well as adding new creative and stimulating dimensions to them, which Alice for the iPad has set out to do.

Of course things may not be so easy (for the likes of minnows like me) when the big guns hove into view but right now this has been a fantastic journey, where I have been in control of publishing my own books in my own way at my own pace and with no committee meetings, no heavy handed creative direction or knocking on publishers doors until my knuckles hurt. And judging by the comments about my story on Peter Richardson’s blog, many creatives are excited and motivated by the new technology too, partly perhaps because all those longer in the tooth are all a little jaded with the whole regular route to publishing, slush piles, non responses, disappointments and acquisition committees.

Jon Higham