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Tamson Weston: What About Apps? Five Reasons for Picture Book Authors to Stay the Course

As promised, I have children's book author and editor Tamson Weston back for another guest post on picture books. Tamson was most recently an editor for Disney Hyperion and now does editorial consultancy through Tamson Weston Books. If you missed her first post, "Top 5 Picture Book Publishing Tips from Successful Agents" you can read it here. And you can find her on Twitter @tamsonbooks.

What About Apps? Five Reasons for Picture Book Authors to Stay the Course.

A few weeks ago I wrote post for this blog about the state of picture books. There is some belief that the world of apps is somehow to blame for this downward turn. It’s tempting to blame things on technology, sometimes. But the picture book market started to dip long before the onset of apps—mostly due to a glut of picture books that came earlier and a lack of space for them at the big chains. The rise of apps for kids, despite the impression we may be getting from the media, has really yet to happen. Sure, some kids have early access to Ipads, but most don’t. As of the middle of this year, just 8% of adults in the US owned tablet computers. And if you’ve tried out kids’ apps, you know they’re really much more difficult to enjoy on a smart phone. This may change, but if you’re a picture book author, what you’re doing should not change. Here’s why:

1. Picture Books are shareable; Ipads make car rides bearable. While Ipads and tablets may help keep kids busy, most parents still enjoy cuddling up with their kid and turning pages. Many want to relive the experience of their childhood via their kids and this means sharing favorite books.

2. You can’t submit a picture book app—or at least not through the traditional means. Agents aren’t acquiring apps writers yet. They’ve told me—and Rick Richter of Ruckus Media has confirmed—that the majority of apps are being created from pre-existing content and most of the remainder of them have been made to order by a writer who was hired specifically for that purpose. In other words, there isn’t really a broad and consistent submission policy yet for apps creators.

3. One man’s app is another man’s picture book: The distinction between a picture book and an app happens in development. It may be that what you had envisioned as a picture book may eventually make a good app, but your focus should be the same regardless—good writing.

4. Picture book lovers are still out there! If you’ve been paying attention over the past month, you’ve noticed that picture book lovers everywhere are renewing their commitment to the format--see here, here and here. People who love picture books want more picture books to read. Don’t you?

5. Writing picture books is fun! If you dig deep enough you can always find a reason NOT to keep writing picture books. But if you like it, why would you want to do that? Just write, for Pete’s sake.
Thanks to Mary Kole, Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Emily Van Beek at Folio, Tracey Adams from Adams Literary, Erin Murphy at Erin Murphy Literary, Rick Richter from Ruckus Media for your insight.

Tamson Weston is a published children's book author and editor with over 15 years experience at several prestigious publishing houses including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Disney Hyperion. She has edited many acclaimed and award-winning books for children of all ages. Tamson loves to collaborate with people and help authors, illustrators, agents and publishers bring projects to their full potential.

Among the authors Tamson has worked with with are Adam Rex, Mac Barnett, Robert Weinstock, Adam Gopnik, Jane Leslie Conly, Anne Rockwell, Deborah Hopkinson, Jen Violi, Alexander Stadler, Dan Santat, Florence Parry Heide, Dandi Daley Mackall, Brian Biggs, Marilyn Singer, Megan Cash and Mark Newgarden.

Tamson has an MFA in Writing and Literature. You can visit her website at Tamson Weston Books.


Laura Pauling said...

I don't see apps taking over the pb market. I agree. It's for the car ride, the waiting room. But most parents will want the book when it comes to bed time!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Thanks for this. I've been feeling pretty down about PBs lately, and this may be just the kick in the butt I needed to get going again. :-)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice Tamson. I agree that it's more fun to read a book with your little kid rather than an e-reader. I used to love reading books to my daughter at that age.

Casey McCormick said...

Thank you, again, for the post, Tamson! We have apps and picture books in our home, and you're absolutely right. I don't ever see the apps replacing our nightly reading of paper books!

Natalie said...

I love picture books, and while I can see the use for being able to have them available on electronic devices, to me, there's nothing like holding it in your hands and turning the pages yourself. Maybe that's just me being nostalgic though!

Lydia Kang said...

I love PBs. I don't think an e-version will ever be the same.

Theresa Milstein said...

I hope apps don't take over the picture book market. I read picture books to my infant, turning the pages and pointing to the pictures. Such sweet memories.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

These are encouraging words indeed. For my own part, I can't picture bedtime with an iPad ever being comparable to bedtime with a picture book.
I think there will always be a need for picture books.

Cathy Ballou Mealey said...

I don't think apps will ever replace PB's either.

I will add that we love authors who have lots of bonus gizmos and features on their websites like coloring pages, crafts, word searches, etc. That adds another dimension to the PB experience that makes kids ask for the same books and authors over and over!

Genevievepetrillo said...

I totally agree. There's nothing like a good looking, good sounding picture book. Story + Pictures = YAY!