Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Turn Your Book Into an App: 5 Questions to Ask an App Developer

The following article has been written by Michel Kripalani, President of Oceanhouse Media, Inc.

You’ve decided that you want to have an app adaptation created for your book, but ePub or any other static ebook format will not suffice because you want a level of interactivity that only an app can provide. What’s next?

The world of app publishing is constantly evolving with the introduction of new technologies that affect the way apps are developed and marketed. If you’re an author looking to have your title turned into a book app, there are five key questions to ask potential app developers to help ensure your app’s success.

Note that these tips apply in particular to the booming children’s book app market.

1. What apps have you previously developed?

It’s important to discuss the developer's track record and learn whether they have the necessary software tools already in place. It’s not necessarily the number of apps that have been produced, but the quality and functionality of each app that has been developed. Take a look at how early they got to market and how the app has been supported over time.

Another good indication of the success of an app is the number of ratings it’s received relative to other apps. This will show if the app has been noticed and if users have interest in it. Furthermore, check to see how many versions are available; for instance, does the developer offer both paid and lite/free versions of the app?

2. Can you produce a universal app or only apps for iPad?

Universal apps mean that you buy the app once and it runs on all your Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). For the children’s book app market, this is important since most parents will want the advantage of having the app on multiple devices.

Many children’s focused app developers create iPad only apps, missing out on the large iPhone/iPod Touch market. There are about 15 million iPads on the market today. By contrast, there are 140 million iPhone and iPod Touch devices. A significant portion of the total addressable market is neglected if the developer can only produce an iPad-only app.

3. Are you on Android?

As the number of Android devices grows, developing Android compatible apps is a must. Find a developer familiar with Android and see what other titles they’ve developed for this burgeoning platform. From our experience, we found Android development to be significantly more challenging than iOS (Apple) development. The number of Android tablets will increase by leaps and bounds in 2011. This will open up lots of avenues for the sale of Android apps.

4. Have you designed your apps with a foundational engine in mind or is everything one-off?

Also, do you have the technical support in place to manage the details necessary to bring the app to market and manage future updates, etc.?

Building a unique engine for each new app is ineffective and can also be quite costly. Check to see if the developer has an existing engine that can be utilized as a starting point for your project, thus cutting down on development time and cost. Ask if the developer is familiar with cross-platform engines for different displays and devices (both iOS and Android, for example). The answer to this question can also provide insight into the developer’s expertise in programming and coding. If a core architecture is in place, each app can still be customized with its own unique features. Determine what added features the developer can offer for your specific app.

5. Who absorbs the risk - the author or the developer?

The commitment involved for the long-term health and success of the app should be discussed. It may be in an author’s best interest to have the developer control the pricing, app updates and technical support. Consider this:

-- Determine how quickly the app can get to market. Long development cycles (anything over just a few months) should be avoided.

-- Choose a pricing structure that is in line with the market’s demand. The app charts are highly competitive and accurately setting the app’s price can be vital to it topping the charts.

-- Once an app hits the market, it doesn’t end there. Most apps need to be updated and supported with feature upgrades. That’s the nature of software and is an even more acute need in the app industry. Also, if there have been a number of updates, that’s a good sign of the apps popularity and staying power on the charts.

Much goes into getting an app to market. Developing a relationship with the right app developer can determine whether your app gets noticed among the vast array of offerings on the market today or whether it gets buried in the sea of over 300,000 apps that are currently available.

Michel Kripalani is founder and president of Oceanhouse Media, Inc., creators of the award-winning Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. and Hay House apps. For details on their services, see http://www.oceanhousemedia.com.
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