Guest Post :: Michelle Anaya Talks Storybook Apps

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Becoming a published author had always been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I wrote in journals, jotted ideas on post its, scribbled and doodled in sketch books but my partial stories and ideas never went beyond that. My blog was the first in many steps taken to becoming a more disciplined writer.

About two years ago I decided to stop treating my writing as a hobby and there was no turning back.


First I did lots of research, bought books on writing and joined the online writing group CBI clubhouse. Learning best practices and getting valuable insight from published authors and industry experts was extremely helpful for laying the groundwork before get ting started. The only negative surprise was learning that my prospects of getting published were similar to those of winning the lottery. I forged ahead anyway with the writing and submission process.

My main roadblock was that I needed to be previously published with a built in audience before a publisher would even consider looking at my work.

Creating e-books seemed to be a good way of building an audience and it was while researching e-books that I discovered digital book apps.

I was blown away by the level of interactivity in book apps and so was my son. He noticed while I was reading a book app called Treasure Kai, and got so absorbed in it that he put aside the game he was playing and commandeered the iPad. I realized at that moment that this was the perfect vehicle to reach reluctant readers.


Good first steps that worked for me.

* Having the manuscripts professionally edited and critiqued. It’s much better to spend a little $$ upfront than having to do damage control afterwards.

* Researching the product by downloading many 4/5star apps to see which features would enhance the book app being worked on.

* Taking note of which companies built the really interesting & innovative apps.

* Taking note of the amazing illustrators in books and apps. A great illustrator is invaluable resource because their icon/cover design is what the customer sees first.

* Delegating duties and playing to my strengths; I’m a creative person so I decided early on to take care of all the creative aspects including the product management and to leaving the code writing to the experts.



Building relationships have been the key factor for me in getting a foothold in the world of writing and publishing. Writers are incredibly supportive and willing to share news, information and opportunities. Writing groups such as the CBI clubhouse and The Book App Alliance has exposed me to opportunities for publicity and learning new information. There are also many developer groups on face book, Linkedin and twitter. I recently had two blog posts written on my apps after meeting bloggers on twitter’s @StoryAppChat.



I loved the interesting journey and adventure of creating my apps but there were a few bumps along the way. I’ve now learned to always have a plan B & C.


* During development on my first app Grendel’s Great Escape, my illustrator stepped away from the project mid way due to personal issues & I had to start over from scratch. I had to scramble to find a new illustrator and stay within budget and timeframe.

More recently I’ve also had to rename one of my apps because another company had secured a trademark for the same name, their trademark covers all electronic media.


* Since digital devices are continually being updated, so must the apps being played on them. Imagine my surprise & panic when my app needed an update and I was informed that my app development company was closing it’s doors. Axe’s Monster Fest wasn’t functioning properly on an android device, irritable customers were giving bad reviews instead of contacting me, and I had to find a new developer fast!



To date, most of my marketing has been via social media, app reviews and articles by bloggers and local media. In a perfect world I’d prefer to be marketing less and writing more, but the reality is that apps are incredibly difficult to sell. I though that with such a low price point, they’d be much easier to move. The reality is that consumers don’t see value in software. It’s not a tangible thing so they assume that it should be free. Another drawback is that most children’s apps don’t get revenue from in app purchases or ads, so indie authors like myself have to find creative ways to get our apps seen.

My favorite form of marketing however is creating book app trailers, I learned how to create videos out of necessity after the prices rose beyond my budget. I enjoy the creative aspects of it and I have enough technical knowledge to create exactly what I need. I’ve recently expanded to creating trailers for other developers.


I am currently working on my third book app which is a follow-up to Axe’s Monster Fest. There are many types of book apps and I’m making this one a bit differently. Axe’s World Tour will be created in a “choose your own adventure” format and will feature more game play than the first two apps. It will also have more educational content, such as building world music awareness and geography.


Creating book apps has been a labor of love and the fact that it exposes my writing to a global audience is a major plus.


Michelle Anaya is a mom, founder of Blue Sandpiper Imprints, and a children’s book app author. Her book apps Grendel’s Great Escape and Axe’s Monster Fest were inspired by her sons. Michelle writes interactive books with positive overtones to reach reluctant readers and provide a productive screen-time alternate with to video games.


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