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Turning Books Into Apps

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 2, 2011

An app can be a useful tool for writers. Why create an app for your reader community? Several reasons may prompt an author to consider doing an app and offering it to readers. In a recent symposium in the Author’s Guild Bulletin, titled “Books, Apps & Multimedia: The New Digital Landscape”, these reasons are discussed in detail.

App developers can work two ways. One may charge up-front costs. Another company might charge nothing in advance but split the revenue with you. You’ll need to find the one that’s right for you. Check out the apps of a developer and decide which functions you want your app to do. Also, carefully check which rights you’ll retain. You want to be able to make film or audio deals later on aside from the app. Also, will the developer link to different retailers? How do they promote their apps?

Don’t confuse apps with enhanced e-books. Apps are software, while an enhanced e-book is a book with audio and/or video content. For example, the former is sold on iTunes, while the latter is sold in the iBookstore.

Here are some of the pointers from this article to help you determine if creating an app might be a useful tool in your promotional arsenal.

  • Various kinds of content can be included in an app, such as photos, video, audio recordings, and links to other sites.
  • You can keep track of reader interactions with the app to see what interests them.
  • The app can serve as a companion to your series, offering new exclusive content.
  • Including share options to social networks on the app will help spread the word.
  • An author can send messages to app subscribers alerting them of upcoming events, new releases, etc.
  • A community discussion group on the app can stimulate readers to share opinions.
  • An app can be constantly updated with new material. You can add interviews and reviews, excerpts from works in progress or the next book in a series, short stories or articles written just for the app.
  • Make sure the app has a buy link to your book.

Once you’ve created your app, you’ll need to decide on pricing. Will the app be free as an enticement to buy your book? Or will it cost a small amount and act as a companion to the series? You’ll also want to have a marketing plan in place for getting the app noticed once it’s available. Consider getting a sponsor, as in a company who compliments something in your story (i.e. a dog mystery writer partners with a pet food company). Creating the app is one task. Marketing it is the other.

And while we’re on the subject of new technology, do you know about Kindlegraph for readers, who want a signed copy of their e-book? Or have you heard about how a reader who has a question while reading your Kindle book can send you a message via Twitter? Read about it here ( and here (

With all these great new technologies out there and new ones arriving every day, it gets harder to keep up. Just remember this motto: The Writing Comes First.

Happy Labor Day Weekend!


6 Responses to “Turning Books Into Apps”

  1. Wow, I’m still in the dark as to what a book app is, or does. I’ve never seen one used. Then again, I don’t have a smart phone so apps mean very little to me in general. Lordy, one more thing to learn! 🙂

  2. I think apps may work well for someone with a popular series but not so much for midlist authors. As you say, it’s another time sink.

  3. It’s an intriguing option but I agree with you when you say it’s more for the recognized author will a popular series. Like any marketing tool, it could become a time sink if you don’t learn how to manage it in an efficient manner, but I’d prefer to think of it as another tool to consider adding to in my marketing toolbox.

  4. If there weren’t any cost up front, like using a And developer who splits the revenue, it might be worth a try down the road by an author looking for new promo techniques. But keep in mind that an app calls for constantly updating or adding new data.

  5. You made such an important point. Writing MUST come first. This Kindlegraph is interesting though.

  6. Thanks, Ciara. Storytelling seems to be going in a multi-media direction. What this means for authors remains to be seen. As for Kindlegraph, it is a cool tool for getting an author’s digital signature on a Kindle book.

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