Category Archives: Commentary

Sales History of a Story App, Enhanced eBook, Digital Thing-a-magig

Introduction

Alicewinks is a multimedia version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was conceived as an animated, portrait oriented video targeted to tablet computers (iPad, Android tablets). However, due to the vagaries of the market (Amazon and Apple do not accept vertical videos for sale), it was released on Amazon in November 2012 as 12 Android apps, one per chapter of the story. At the time Chapter 4 could be downloaded for free and the other 11 chapters were priced at $0.99. They were named AlicewinksLite Chapter X to highlight the fact that they were not the complete multimedia version of the story. Alicewinks was also made available through iBooks (Apple would not accept it as an app), including text and original illustrations, in May of 2013, and on Google Play (video only) in February 2013. The text and graphics (no video) is available on Amazon as an eBook (Amazon eBooks do not support video except on iPad and besides the file would be too large for them to support). The pure video mp4 has also available since August 2012 through a little-known video outlet called distrify.com.

Marketing

Alicewinks in iBook format was submitted to Kirkus Reviews resulting in a starred review in May 2013. It was listed by Kirkus as a “Best eBook of 2013” in late December 2013, in two categories.
In July & August 2013, Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC (W&C), the producer of Alicewinks (AW), sponsored a blog outreach through TapInfluence, a blog consolidator. In this campaign, 40 mostly female bloggers identified as appealing to Parents (“mom bloggers”) were commissioned to write a blog post and to amplify the posts on other social media (twitter/facebook/etc.) The primary focus was on the iBook version, but several of the bloggers were Android users and promoted the android apps. Starting in October 2013, W&C staff promoted AW on various social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter) and reached out to a number of journalists (resulting in two articles, one syndicated and one in Huffington Post.) The iBook was also submitted to Digital Book World for a 2014 Digital Book Award and was selected as a finalist.

Marketing Hickup

In February 2014, after an upgrade of iOS 7, we discovered that a bug had been introduced to iBooks such that the hyperlinks no longer worked. In fact, they caused iBooks to crash. We reported this to Apple. It made little sense to us to do any serious marketing while the flagship version was not working, so active marketing was suspended. The iOS 8 release finally eliminated the bug in mid September 2014.

Marketing Holidays 2014

For the holiday season 2014, we decided to market by advertising in the Books section of the online version of the New York Times. This included banner ads in both mobile and desktop, an iPad specific banner ad, and a video ad that would display only in flash enabled devices (the only video they support.) This campaign ran from November 1, 2014 until Christmas. Approximately 500K impressions were made, resulting in about 1,000 clicks. In addition to this program, we ran a banner ad on Carisa Kluver’s “Digital Media Diet” blog from October through year-end, resulting in an additional 16K impressions.

Pricing

The Alicewinks iBook was initially priced at $9.99. The AlicewinksLite Android chapter apps on Amazon were priced at $0.99 each (with Chapter 4 as a free app.) The Google play version was priced at $9.95 as was the mp4 on distrify.com. AlicewinksLite eBook on Amazon is $2.99 and AlicewinksLite on Audible.com (audiobook) is $6.95. During the 2014 holiday campaign, the price of the iBook was gradually dropped each week, from $9.99 to $4.99 to $2.99, and finally for the “Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday” weekend to $0.99. After Cyber Monday, the iBook price was left at $0.99 and the Google Play version was dropped to $0.99 and all Amazon Chapter apps except chapter 1 were dropped to free. (We have very little flexibility with the pricing of the Amazon eBook or the Audible.com audiobook.)

Results

The Audible.com audiobook has had 5 lifetime sales, one of which occurred in the 2014 holiday season. The Google Play app has had no sales since September 2014, 12 sales lifetime with 3 cancellations. The Amazon eBook has had 3 sales, one on Christmas eve and the rest earlier in 2014. The iBook has had a total of 341 downloads, of which 239 were free. Most occurred in 2013 (226 free, 71 paid at full price) with 55 in 2014. Of the 55 downloads in 2014 (shortened sales year due to Apple’s bugs), 11 were free and of the 44 paid, 7 were at the $0.99 price, the rest full price. The mp4 on distrify.com has had 11 lifetime sales. The Amazon Android app “sales” through January 4, 2015 (mostly free downloads) are summarized in the following table.
AWLiteSales

Analysis

It is extremely hard to get anyone to pay for a multimedia product independent of price or platform.

Why do Digital Storybooks Mostly Suck?

Recently at a convocation of publishers of children’s books, Nicolette Jones, children’s book editor for the Times of London, made this provocative statement: “I’ve never seen a picture book-app that does something that a book doesn’t do better.” This comment echoed through cyberspace at warp speed and has been discussed in numerous forums. Then, on October 12, 2014 on the front page of the New York Times came this article by Douglas Quenqua: “Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?”  with a lead of “Clifford the Big Red Dog looks fabulous on an iPad. He sounds good, too — tap the screen and hear him pant as a blue truck roars into the frame. ‘Go, truck, go!’ cheers the narrator.” Followed by the challenge “But does this count as story time? Or is it just screen time for babies?” These commentators are decrying the current state of “digital storybooks” the iPad/tablet incarnation of the picture book. The siren call of digital interactive picture stories has been around for a long time. In the 1990s many were created for computer screens that were to be distributed via CD-ROM technology. This “flash in the pan” disappeared so quickly that hardly anyone even noticed it. With the advent of the iPad, a new wave of digitizing has appeared and shows no sign of stopping. There are literally thousands of digital storybooks. Sadly, most of them are not very good.

Look for the rest of this story to come out soon in a different forum.

Switching gears (reverse?)

Well, this isn’t working. Which is OK i guess. I’m not sure that I expected it to work. I did get some feedback by asking a person who was tweeting about boredom to read the chapter 1 post. But, in general I don’t think too many people are interested in collaborating on a project like this.

Anyway, we will be proceeding with chapter 1 of Rabbitwinks in the style of Alicewinks. I just submitted chapter 1 of Alicewinks to the Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita in October. I hope to be able to do the same with RW chapter 1. The drop dead date is July 8, so we’ll see how that goes. I think the text is (almost) done but there is still plenty of animation work to do.

Recently a film called Numberlys has started making the rounds of film festivals (Durango, Cleveland, Florida, San Francisco, TIFF kids, etc.) What’s special about that? you might ask. Well, it’s a Vertical Video that’s what. The first in film festivals that I am aware of. This on top of the Vertical Cinema showings in Europe is making me think that the time has come (as the walrus said) to try to crack that niche.

So, going forward I will probably use this blog more as a status update than as a cooperative writing project.

Cheers,
Dave

Timelessness of Alice in Wonderland

One of my favorite things about AAiW is that it is not grounded in any particular time. There are very few trappings that would suggest a particular era. The rabbit carries a pocket watch, there is a wheelbarrow at his house. But mostly things are just people and tea and croquet and the seashore. The royalty is a bit anachronistic, but then it is anachronistic in reality too.

This is harder to capture today. Why doesn’t he have an iPhone? Or at least a kindle reader?

In our original draft of chapter 1, we will talk about a wristwatch instead of a pocket watch. And then just as we finish, Apple will probably come out with the iWatch.

So, what things are timeless? Especially in this age of flash-in-the pan technology?

Rabbitwinks – The Biopic of the Myopic White Rabbit

Alice’s Adventures from the White Rabbit’s point of view

An eBook or a story book app currently in development.

Story by David Neal & William McQueen & Laura Scholl (& you?)

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we read the story of Alice as she follows the White Rabbit down his hole and then encounters the many inhabitants of Wonderland. The White Rabbit appears at several points in Alice’s story, but what is he doing the rest of the time? That is what Rabbitwinks will explore.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

The White Rabbit lives in Wonderland as do the other characters. They know each other or at least know of each other, but Alice is a mystery, an outsider.

As Harold (the name we have given to WR) encounters the other characters there are two possible scenarios, i.e. either that character has already seen and spoken with Alice or they haven’t. The scene will be somewhat different in the two cases, but there are also the individual character’s other interests, such as the Hatter’s interest in time and watches, the Mouse’s fascination with his own tail/tale, and so on.

We may do the story-line both ways and allow the reader to do a “Choose Your path” through the story. That will entail almost twice as much work (or more if it requires an app to accomplish) so it will depend on the time and resources available. We may start with a single narrative line and add the other choices in a sequel or “release 2” version.

Alice is doing things that upset the status quo in Wonderland, such as crying the pool of tears and questioning the powers that be. She also changes size (and maybe other attributes, such as appearance and dress, which is based on the artist’s interpretation that we use in a particular scene.) The characters will be reacting to these things.

Harold is near-sighted. He is almost blind without his glasses. In addition he is “short sighted” in a figurative sense, that is to say, he does not always think through the consequences of his actions and speech.  “Burn the house down” (his own house) he is heard to say, for example in AAiW.

Another point is that we are not going to change Alice’s story. So when the WR and Alice are in the same scene, the dialog will be exactly as it is in AAiW. However, the reactions will be those of the WR rather than those of Alice.

Copyright 2014 Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC

How rabbitwinks will be created

Rabbitwinks will be created interactively. We will be posting drafts of the storyline here as well as prototype animations and original graphic elements. In addition to the story, we will discuss the characters, scenes and so forth. Also, we will be on the lookout for voice actors/actresses to use. In particular, the voice of the White Rabbit will need to be chosen. We will be looking for a ‘name’ voice artist. Suggestions welcome at any time.

Users of this site will be able to comment and make suggestions. Anyone who’s suggestion is accepted will get an acknowledgement in the actual products. If you get really involved, you might even get a writing or illustration or animation credit, who knows? You could get a voice part. We’ll find out as we go.  All suggestions that are accepted will be copyright  Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC, so don’t contribute unless you agree to that.

copyright © 2014 Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC