Interviews by Lynne CantwellI keep seeing these ads on Facebook, enticing me to make an app, and I keep thinking it might be kind of cool to be one. Wouldn’t it be neat for my fans to be able to pull me up on their smartphones, so they can tell all their friends about me?

But the app builders I’ve seen all seem to be aimed at brick-and-mortar businesses, or else they want to include just a bio and a list of your books. And then there’s the cost. One place I saw charges for uploading your app to places like iTunes – which would seem to be the whole point of the exercise, you know? – as well as a monthly hosting fee. is an app-building service that is aimed at indie authors. Devika Soni with Authorly has agreed to take a seat in the comfy chair and answer a few questions for us.

Lynne: Devika, how could an indie author benefit from having an app?

Devika: A lot of authors choose to turn their books into apps in order to enter the digital publishing world. Authorly works best for self-published children’s book authors who want to add animations and sounds to their work to really bring it to life. Authorly allows authors to add basic animation, interactive hotspots, word-by-word highlighting, music, and sound effects. The possibilities are really endless.

Lynne: I’ve been intrigued with the idea of creating an app for my books, but I’m not sure what sort of content to include. It seems to me that an app that just gives my bio and a list of my books wouldn’t get too many downloads. What other things can authors do, short of developing a game or something similar?

Devika: The key to getting downloads is an author’s marketing strategy. It is important to utilize social media (Facebook, Twitter) to really spread the word about your new app. We have found that authors who put effort into promoting their product get incredible download numbers.

Lynne: A big question for indies, of course, is cost. What does Authorly charge for its services?

Devika: Our DIY tool is, and always will be, free. On the other hand, we offer production services for $20/page. No matter which route an author chooses to take, Authorly takes a revenue share of 20% per download. The app store takes another 30%. So the author would earn 50% of the cost of each download.

Lynne: Math isn’t my strong suit, so I want to be sure I’ve got this right. Let’s say I charged $1.00 for my app. Then I would earn 50 cents per download, and Authorly would get 20 cents?

Devika: Yes, that’s correct.

Lynne: If I built an app with Authorly, where would it go from there? Would you charge to upload it to iTunes, for instance?

Devika: We upload the app to iTunes, the Amazon Appstore, and Google Play, so you don’t have to worry about that!

Lynne: Thanks for the info, Devika. I may have to look into this further.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

33 thoughts on “LynneQuisition:”

    1. Yvonne, the one place I tried had a pretty intuitive interface for building the app — no more complicated than doing a book trailer with Animoto. 🙂 What stopped me was the cost, including the charge to upload it to retailers and a monthly hosting fee. I couldn’t see shelling out that much money for an app that would likely get very few downloads.

      Back in the day, I thought about building a website for my book SwanSong, but I quickly realized I had neither the requisite programming knowledge nor the desire to learn it. 😀 But I might be able to do an app. So I’m thinking about it.

  1. I’ve been interested in apps for some time. Even built a few on AppBuilder and have the Knox tool. Trouble is, there are two kind of apps. One is basically something that invokes a website onto a phone or tablet or whatever. Many, maybe most, of the appbuilders want to host that site and charge you rent for it.
    The other kind is “native”… it resides on the device and has needs no internet connection to work.
    I really want nativity so that somebody with my books can read them in the Baja, or what have you. I don’t care so much about special effects.
    It’s hard getting app makers to sort out where their apps reside up front. Generally anything native is really expensive, and I mean hundreds of dollars. I’m not sure what the $20 a page thing here refers to, but if it means a page in the book, it’s obviously going to cost a LOT.

    1. My main interest in apps is because I see phones and such devices as the future of reading, not Kindles and Nooks. And because outside of the US and Europe people don’t really use Kindles, they read on tablets and phones.

      1. Here in DC, on the Metro, I’m seeing a lot of people reading on their iPads. I expect that will happen more and more.

        I tend to think of apps as a value-added thing, though, not as a book delivery service. If I’m selling my books directly, then I can see the appeal of an app that someone could use to download the book directly. But if my reader can get my book elsewhere, then I need to give them an app that will make my book a richer experience for them.

        Obviously, my thinking is still evolving on this… 😉

  2. With me, it’s a bit of the dinosaur thing and a bit of the cost effective thing. Excellent interview though, Lynne.

  3. Apart from the readership thing, there is a lot that can be done with apps. James Raydel wrote six short novels (I read Heyoka Baby, which was impressive) that are linked together in an app. Aplls that are basically a menu that open different titles or chapters or formats or whatever show some interesting possibilities

  4. Lynne, when you say app for your book do you mean turning the book into an app for smart phones and whizmo gadgets?

    I am so phobic re computers that I simply boggle at the things and miss all the words. So I don’t understand.

    1. LOL, p.d.r. — you’re not the only one who’s phobic. 😀

      I think you can go in lots of different directions with an app (and yes, apps are for smartphones and the like). The one I tried to build for myself was basically a bio-and-here’s-my-books app, which I didn’t see much of a market for. Authorly’s market is children’s books, where they will more or less use your book as a springboard for a game. But there are probably other uses we haven’t figured out yet.

  5. I’m afraid I’m a dinosaur too. I see apps as gadgets, most of which languish in the bottom of a drawer somewhere coz they’re useless. I can see the point of games, or emergency alerts but apps for books? I don’t get it.:(

    1. I would want an app to be an extra bonus thing for my books. Kind of like when you buy a wall calendar and they throw in a little desk calendar and a bookmark for free. 😉 You could use it as a marketing tool, drawing in readers who wouldn’t necessarily find your book another way.

        1. See, that’s the problem. 😀 With a children’s book, it’s easier — you can make it a sort of game for the kids to go through all the stuff in your book. For adults? I dunno.

          1. After reading Linton’s reply, I can see how apps could eventually take the place of not only books, but reading as well. :/

    2. For one thing, people read your Kindle books on their phones, pcs or tablets through an amazon app. But you can go direct with your own app… and sell it on your own.
      Some uses of apps might include: “interactive” books with multiple story lines, hypernovels, books that include videos or animation (generally thought of as favoring children’s novels, but there are many other possibilities such as comics, art books, books with visuals to teach things like dance or martial arts), multimedia and/or multi-track novels of the kind you run into in online serials. (One way to do an app is essentially evoke a WordPress file). I was very interested for a project of mine (and chums) that involved 4 stories that come together into one with the addition of a fifth element.
      Basically, apps open the doors to the creation of “books” that transcend the limitations of “normal” ebooks as well as, of course, print books.

      1. I guess this is where I’m confused. To me, an app is an application that does something, whereas I still see a book as just content. I admit I have only downloaded 2 apps onto my smartphone so I’m not exactly a normal user. :/

        1. I don’t even own a smartphone. Just a stupidphone. It’s “app” is making phone calls. I have a few apps on my android tablet, which is trying to make me crazy and take over my body. But I’ve looked at apps a bit and yeah, they “do” things, but one of those things (maybe the main thing) is to present information. Maybe it’s bus schedules, maybe it’s cruise ship pricing,
          This link is to the first “most popular apps” link I grabbed.

          Notice that the top five are just presenting information, like YouTube videos or FaceBook posts. A couple are presenting maps (and of course the navigation to search them) One is stock quotations, Even the mail apps just present the information in emails and a structure for accessing them.
          So a book app is basically a way of presenting content. And not limited to text, can present moving graphics as well.
          This link is to some popular book apps.

          1. Thanks Linton, although I have to say the list of most popular apps was chilling. One day, the trad. pubs are going to realise that apps are the value added feature they need to wipe the floor with us Indies. 🙁

            Honestly? Now that I see what you’re talking about, I can’t see the point in attempting to put up a budget-quality, or a DIY type app. – why would anyone want it? This is 21st century eye-bling and there’s already lots of competition out there.

            I’m also rather chilled by the thought that in the not so distant future, super whiz bang, interactive apps will /be/ the new ‘book’. Literacy will no longer be defined as the ability to read and write, it will be defined by how well you can use apps. -shudder-

          2. That, my dear, is why even though I love gimmicks and leveraged my low level of geek tech skills into doing groovy multi-media “books” years ago, I really don’t like the idea of books getting all loaded up with music and videos and slick programs.
            If the general public comes to accept that as what books are like, and just text information is no longer enough for them, we will be right back where we were, needed capitalization and technicians and specialists to put books out.

  6. Er…thank you, I’m getting there, I think! An app is something…oops! No, still not sure but I can see interactive book/pictures/music stuff with apps but go shivery at the thought of trying to make one!

  7. I hate to run on and on with Lynne’s article, but I think it’s of interest to contemporary writers and it’s cool she opened the topic of apps.
    As I mentioned, there are “native” apps and “hosted apps”, where the app just opens and presents a web page. Most of the “make your apps for free” companies rely on renting you domain hosting for that page.
    But not all. One free way to do this is using the Google App Engine and just pointing towards your own page. If you have your own domain somewhere you can do this easily and without expense.
    Here’s a tutorial:

  8. If you can stand one more… you might try looking at an app as just a trick that allows you to place a web page (being in an html document, a WordPress blog, or whatever you can put online) on the screen of a mobile device.
    A Kindle does the same thing… a mobi file is just an html file, which is why you can have clickable TOC’s. But a mobile device allows you to show color and movement and videos.
    So what could a book look like as an html page and why bother. Let me show you a stalled-out project aimed at app-hood. In some ways it’s just a poetry book. In other ways it’s this nifty html site that an app could show on your phone.
    And this collection of short pieces

  9. Wow, this post has generated a ton of additional information. Thanks, Lynne and Lin. 😉
    Should I set up an app for my tango dancing vampires? The idea intrigues me.
    Or, as a friend suggested, I could create a recipe app for A Gourmet Demise. Guess the entrée incorrectly and you are eliminated. Asphyxiated with a sublime foie gras, or beaten with imported pepperoni. The possibilities are endless.

      1. That’s a great idea, actually. Any cute app that would involve a reader from “outside” your books but draw them into them is a pretty clever marketing tool.
        I could see “ancillary” apps that show images of characters, that give background on the period, that provide a half dozen alternative endings, “bloopers”….

  10. Great article and interview. I discovered Authorly a few months ago and am glad I did. Their online app creating tools are simple to learn. I committed myself to learning how to use their online app tools using their great tutorials. I have since created and published over 10 of my children’s books with them. 7 other them are ‘live’ and on the major app stores, and a few others are awaiting publication. It has been fun, as a self-published author and illustrator to think of how I can animate my books and add sounds. Turning my books into apps has made some of my books really come to life. Authorly is really putting for efforts to add features to make the apps even better and more interactive.

    I highly recommend checking out Authorly, especially if you are a children’s book author. (If you are curious as to some of my apps that I’ve created using Authorly, you can check out “Tongue Twisters Read-Along for Kids”, “Animal Jokes for Kids”, “Funny Jokes Storybook”, or “Knock Knock Jokes Read-Along” on the app stores)

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