People don’t always think of print books as being interactive, or using games, but they are and they do. I write mainly nonfiction and concept books, as well as interactive apps.  To engage children and keep them interested, and to impart information in a fun way, much of my work uses a form of “gamification”: lift-the-flap, mazes, guessing games, inside-outside concepts, search-n-find, ABCs and numbers, puzzles, matching games, hidden objects, word/noun object recognition, and so forth.

EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures uses mazes to explore and understand ecosystems, to see the vegetation and geology, and a finding/counting game to learn about which animals live in the habitat. In Hatch! an egg or a clutch of eggs is shown. Children try to guess what kind of bird it is from hints (“The bird that lays these eggs is found on every continent except Antarctica.” “This one never drinks water” “…fastest running two-legged animal on Earth. But it can’t fly.”). In Busy Builders children see the giant bug, and then turn the page to check out the unusual kinds of structures certain bugs make, and why. In Slithery Snakes they are encouraged to try to figure out what kind of snake it is from the close-up scaly skin patterns shown, along with tantalizing facts about the critter: “Its common name comes from its skin pattern (like a precious stone) and its unique tail (which sounds like a child’s toy).” Turn the page and the answer appears, visually, with its name, and more fun facts – you see the snake in its home, with other creatures that live in the same habitat. In Mazeways: A to Z, the letter of the alphabet forms a maze … A is for Airport (ever been to Heathrow or JFK? They really ARE a maze!), H is for Highway, L is for Library, R is for Ranch, and so on –  you are playing, but also learning more about the places and how they work. In Market Maze (Holiday House, Spring 2015) children explore where food comes from and how it arrives at their town greenmarkets. All of these are nonfiction subjects, with a structure that encourages play, learning, and engagement.

Many subjects lend themselves to these sorts of game-like interactive formats. Authors and illustrators of children’s nonfiction materials should consider these devices. For learning about a person, an animal, a historical period, science, a place, or even a fictional character, you can start with a question, and note fun facts that may allow the child to guess who or what you are interested in, before they get to the satisfying answer. Or in a more interactive way, they can lift flaps, play matching games, find and count things, solve a maze…

Engaging in games helps children with concentration, setting goals, problem-solving, working together and collaboration (many allow multiple players), perseverance, and celebrate achieving goals. Many games, and mazes in particular, also help children learn decision-making and critical thinking skills. They make them think ahead and plan steps in advance. Mazes teach alternative ways to solve problems and judge spatial relationships. For younger children, they help develop fine motor skills; for older children, maneuvering through mazes helps improve handwriting. Game formats are particularly suited to reluctant readers, boys, and special needs children. And they’re fun!

(FYI, in June, I’ll be doing a workshop at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference on “gamification” [primarily for interactive apps] with Kellian Adams Pletcher, founder and senior producer at Green Door Labs.)

In the educational community, and among parents, learning via games has gained credibility, respect, and lots of interest in the last couple of years.

If you want to learn more about the “gamification” of children’s materials, here are some great links:

Three Keys to Gamification for Education    http://www.informationweek.com/mobile/mobile-devices/3-keys-to-gamification-for-education/d/d-id/1109937?

The Gamification of Education    http://www.knewton.com/gamification-education/

Four Benefits of Gamifying Education in Your Classroom    http://www.esparklearning.com/gamification-of-education/

Vegetables or Candy? Digital Book World looks at the Gamification of Children’s Books    http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/55546-vegetables-or-candy-dbw-panel-looks-at-gamification-of-children-s-books.html

Games Based Learning Analysis and Planning Tool     http://www.games-ed.co.uk/resources/Games-Based-Learning-Analysis-and-Planning-Tool-0.9.pdf

Gamification and Education: The Core Principle   http://iridescentlearning.blogspot.com/2013/05/gamification-and-education-core.html

Game-based Learning: Analyzing a Rising Sector   http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/initiative/games-and-learning-publishing-council-analyzing-a-rising-sector/

Using Gaming Principles to Engage Students http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/using-gaming-principles-to-engage-students/

The importance of Play in raising inner-directed (“intrinsic”) children (rather than “extrinsic” more materialistic kids)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201001/the-decline-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, on Facebook, I did a “small rant on a snowy day,” and thought I’d post it on this blog…

“I wish more of my children’s book illustrator friends would do apps. You are needed! The ‘art’ in most kids’ apps these days (particularly the ones purporting to be educational) looks so much alike – computer-generated, bright primary colors, cartoon-y… Children recognize good art, and deserve it. Children’s book artists have so much more style and variety.”

To expand a bit: Art makes content. Kids love and appreciate beauty. Why shouldn’t they have well-crafted and elegantly-made visuals, seamlessly integrated?

An anecdote: On a school visit once, after the program, we had a Q&A. Later, as I was packing up my materials (which included big spreads of the original art – this was before Powerpoint), a teacher came up with a 3rd grade girl, and said, “Ellen had a question – you didn’t call on her.”

“Oh,” I said, “What is your question?”

Ellen asked, “How do you make them so pretty?”

I almost teared up, and kept her question on a post-it in my studio for years. I have never forgotten that girl.

Do not underestimate the power of beauty.

Here is a quote from a great recent post by the app developer and author, Sarah Towle:

“…However, lacking in the above equation, I felt, was the time-honored lesson to be drawn from the world of children’s publishing: that the visual element serves a valuable role too, and one often neglected in today’s interactive media for kids.

As a children’s author and a connoisseur of picture book art, I was shocked by the low visual quality of some of the media products we studied at Dust or Magic. Many of them, I’m sorry to say, were just plain ugly, with illustrations that looked little better than clip art.

Anyone working on behalf of children must appreciate the role that great illustration plays in communicating with and teaching children. In illustrated books, the story and images weave seamlessly together to create something better than the sum of their parts. Indeed, great illustrations tell at least 50% of the story and can make an already great text shine even brighter.

Yet, this is not often the case in today’s digital products.

Not all children’s digital media will contain story. They don’t all have too. But digital media are nothing if not visual. It is imperative, therefore, that we developers make our products visually appealing. To make them works of art.”

You can read the rest of her post here:

http://sarahtowle.com/…/26/j07i91um0k19nt0aeuku4avd5xx3as

The 13th Annual Dust or Magic Institute: Magic-Making Factor #4

So lots of illustrators and authors responded to my FB mini-rant (we also need better and well-edited writing in apps! I’ve seen purported “educational” apps with spelling and grammatical mistakes.). They are very interested in doing apps but many don’t know where to start. Here’s a kind of “basics” post I did about a year ago for Digital Storytime…of course, things have changed in the last year, including the fact that you now get 100 free promo codes with each app publication and update, and I now have a new app out based upon the maze app, called “Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure.”

An a-MAZE-ing Transition: Roxie Munro Talks about Print, Digital & Lessons Learned

http://digitalmediadiet.com/?p=2266

But the main problem, of course and sadly, is money. There are various issues re ROI (return on investment) – a few, of many (also discussed in the Digital Storytime blog, above):  development costs are high/price point for apps is low; marketing is very difficult; discovery is an issue; there are too many kinds of devices out there which require different platforms, and so on …

And children’s book authors and illustrators, who have so much to offer the app world in creativity and originality, have to eat and support themselves, their families, and their art too.

But, I just wish more of these talented folks could make apps! The industry needs them.

One of the most exciting days in the life of a children’s book author (or illustrator) is when you learn that your book has been accepted for publication. But, receiving, years later, the often inevitable “We regret to say…” publisher’s letter announcing that your book is going OP (out-of-print) is rarely welcome.

This isn’t always bad news though…particularly these days, when there are so many options available for authors. But first, you have to make sure, when you sign the original contract, that you can ask for the rights back when the book goes out-of-print (OP). All mainstream publisher’s book contracts contain a clause referring to this. Not “out of stock,” but “out of print.” You need to clarify what OP means… I just signed a contract and had them add language that specifies that if the only edition available is an electronic one, there must be a minimum number of sales/income (usually spread over two royalty periods or one year) for the book to be considered in print. Whatever the number/amount is, it should be sensible in terms of the kind of book and likely sales, for print or ebooks. So make sure that a POD (print on demand) or electronic version does not constitute being “in print,” unless you also specify an amount (sales or income) for those options. (Because most publishers aren’t yet doing apps, in my latest contract, I retained the app rights only, among the electronic options.)

You don’t need a lawyer; just send a letter asking for the rights to be reverted to you. They usually have six months to respond to your request; if they don’t, the rights automatically revert to the author anyway. Some publishers send back the copyright papers; some don’t. Also, and this is important, ask for the electronic files/printer’s files (or printer’s film, if it is an old book). You may have to pay a fee for this, but it is worth it if you ever want to reprint or sell the rights. (In my case, a lot of original illustrations have been sold and are unavailable; it would be impossible to rescan them.)

The publisher usually allows you to buy a quantity of your books at a deep discount, when they notify you that your book is going OP. Always do this! The first few years I didn’t quite understand that OP meant (that, unless another publisher or opportunity comes along, that is IT for your book!), so I didn’t buy enough copies, and now only have a few left of some of my titles, which sell occasionally for a lot on Ebay!

So, now your book is OP, and you have had the rights reverted to you, and have acquired the electronic files. There are many opportunities available now to recycle, reprint, and reuse your content.

You may want to make (and will need to market) your own print book, ebook, or app. You may be able to find a publisher to reissue the whole book again (with perhaps an update, or a reworked cover). For this you get a new contract and new advance. The contract is similar to any original book contract, but the advance is usually less. (I’ve sold the rights for three of my OP books, which have been reprinted, with four more OP books in negotiation right now to be reissued, and have sold one book’s rights to make an app.)

And licensing is a great option… anywhere from a picture or paragraph, to whole chapter excerpts. If the book was still in print, you would usually get 50% of the fee (the publisher does the negotiation and gets the other 50%), but if you own all the rights, you get it all! There are various algorithms that will help you calculate what to charge (and, for a model, check the past rights deals done by your publisher; they usually send the details to you). Fees are mostly determined by the size of image or excerpt and quantity of print and e-rights requested (not necessarily the duration of the license). Usually they come to you, so marketing rights like this on your own is not easy. The way it works: the request is sent to your publisher the first time, and they forward it to you (because the rights have reverted). If you have already licensed to the company, from now on they will come directly to you, often to relicense the materials after the agreed upon time period for the first license has expired. They supply the forms and language in their letter/request; you just agree to it, give a price, a credit line, and sign. I’ve sold rights to excerpts from my books (most written with my husband, Bo Zaunders) for thousands of dollars to the IOWA State Reading Tests (used throughout the USA), as well as other school tests. With CCSS (Common Core) coming along (whether we like it or not), testing will continue to be a big part of education. You may also get reprint requests for visual images or covers, for various publications.

Besides reissuing or reprinting all or part of the book in a traditional print format, as mentioned, you can remake it, or parts of it, into a POD (print-on-demand) book, an ebook, an app, or other transmedia forms (website, blog series, etc).

Consider all of your hard work – creativity and ideas, research, crafting the book, your intellectual property – a tangible asset. Its value does not end when the print run is finished. Think of it as unique content, available to be “exploited” (by you!) in more and different ways. This is a wonderful time in publishing – great variety, a multitude of formats – and for authors, more control than ever over our work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am happy to announce that my excellent app developer, OCG Studios, is a Founding Member of the Moms With Apps KWI (Know What’s Inside) Program, created to let parents (and educators, librarians, etc) know what is in our apps. We will be allowed to use the badge (kind of like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval) on our apps and website, because we comply with the COPPA requirements for children under 13 years old, follow Best Practices for Children, and are a developer member of MWA. KWI-Logo-Large-02 Moms With Apps has clear understandable (read: not legalese or too jargon-y) info on their site.

However, COPPA (The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), which went into effect July 1, 2013, also applies to websites (notice the word Online), Facebook, and other social media sites. So if you are an author or illustrator, and have a website with any pages geared  to or appealing to children under 13, you need to have a Privacy Policy on your site – if you offer downloadables like coloring pages, bookmarks; if you collect any info re children (email addresses, photos from school visits or children reading your books, kid’s birthdays, locations, any analytics); if children can access your site and email you for author bio or info; if you have social media buttons, an availability to purchase items, 3rd-party ads, etc, you need to pop a privacy policy on your site ASAP. Or remove them from your site. I am not a lawyer, but it isn’t that complex. From what I understand, it isn’t that you cannot HAVE social media buttons (although why would you, on pages geared to under 13-year-olds, when they should not use them?), or downloadables, or purchases, etc – you have to disclose that you do. If you do collect certain analytics or data, you must have parental consent (see below).

Your Privacy policy should reflect YOUR specific practices. The idea is data minimization. Transparency. I have a simple PP on my website: http://www.roxiemunro.com/privacy-policy.html (It also must be easily accessible –  in the navigation menu, on your home page, or in the footer.) You must also give a contact for people who may wish you to delete info.

 

Here are some straightforward answers re COPPA (although it mentions apps in particular, it applies to websites too): http://www.act4apps.org/coppabasics/

Here are some FAQs from the Dept of Justice site: http://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/complying-coppa-frequently-asked-questions (The Federal Trade Commission oversees the actual law.)

UPDATE:

Okay, folks, the FTC is going after the big guys. Good! But, as I mentioned in this blog months ago, they are not only going after apps for not complying, they are checking websites, as noted in the first paragraph. So just put a Privacy Policy up if your site appeals to children under 13. http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/legal-privacy/16834.html

                                                   Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 3.58.55 PM

I presented several programs last week at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference at SUNY New Paltz (June 14, 15, and 16). Lionel Bender and Sally Isaacs did a terrific job. It was perfectly organized…from the programs, to the venue, to the timing of everything from intensives to workshops to critiques to the social time built in. Exceeded my (rather high!) expectations.

Okay. So what’s the overview?

Well, I felt that the beauty of the conference concept was that it appealed to midlist and mid-career authors and illustrators, unlike SCBWI which seems to target beginners. It gave nonfiction a long-overdue emphasis, and addressed current issues like the Common Core. And faced the digital revolution head-on with up-to-date info.

The faculty included, besides Lionel and me, Andy Boyles (Highlights), Mary Kay Carson (NF author, Bats! app), Robin T. Brown (Nat’l Geo kids), Kent Brown (Highlights Foundation), Vicki Cobb (iNK Think Tank, NF author), John Bemelmans Marciano (author), Laura P. Salas (NF author), Alyssa Pusey (Charlesbridge Sr Editor), Karen Robertson (app expert), Joy Butts (Time Home Entertainment), Melissa Stewart (NF author), Rebecca Graziano (Pearson), Patricia Stockland (Lerner, Editor-in-Chief), Peggy Thomas (NF author), Lou Waryncia (Cobblestone), others.

      Publishers Panel  Listening

And the attendees were writers, illustrators, librarians, and other kidlit folks. I asked a few where they were from, and they came from all over – PA, NY, WV, MA, GA, MD, FL, CA, DE, IL, OH, NC, TX, NJ…

I did a 3-hour Intensive with Lionel Bender on Transmedia (taking your story or idea across multiple media, like print, ebooks, TV, websites, interactive apps; showed KIWiStoryBooks and the new AR apps by OCG Studios). And three workshops: Reinventing Yourself: Using your skills in new markets (career paths, professional practices, dealing with rejection, using social media, fresh directions…); a panel with Karen Robertson (“Treasure Kai”) and Mary Kay Carson (“Bats!”) on Creating our apps; and The Business Side of Apps: Contracts and Costs (also how to make an app, the App Store, marketing, COPPA, profit/loss, iOS/Android). Plus did three critiques.

Because I was doing my own programs, or critiques,  almost the whole time, I got to sit in on only one workshop:  the excellent Mary Kay Carson on School Visits. Vicki Cobb’s Keynote was entertaining and witty, but she got serious when she talked about some of the absurdities of testing and the rigid way we are sometimes expected to write nonfiction. The Publishers Panel discussed The Future of Children’s Nonfiction, which needless to say is entering a robust time, what with Common Core and the coming digital age. For more extensive coverage, go to Rocco Staino’s piece in School Library Journal and Krystyna Poray Guddu’s article in Publishers Weekly. All in all, quite a busy, fun, and gratifying conference.

          Izumi Ashizawa & Roxie Munro     Roxie Munro Reinvent Talk    Roxie & Nancy Pi-Sunyer

Bo and I stayed in the dorm next door (here checking the iPhone on a bunk-type bed) – rather primitive, but cozy and just fine, particularly when I did a mental 180, and decided to view it like camping, in which case it was luxurious compared to a tent.

                                                        checking iphone in dorm room

The responses to the conference have been amazing – everyone has been raving about it, and feels like they are in on the beginning of something big. We’re almost afraid that it was TOO successful – that it will get too popular. Learned a lot, met new friends and reconnected with good buddies, and like the lady below, had a really good time!

                                      Fun Conf dinner

Authors all over are playing tag.

Someone came up with the idea to have a “blog hop”– a writer answers a few questions about his or her work, then tags two other authors in the post, and then they post and tag two other people and so on. Last week I was tagged by Mina Javaherbin, the award-winning author of Goal and The Secret Message. Her wonderful books are multicultural…she is interested in the “new global village way of life.” Mina and I met up in New York a couple years ago, and connected immediately – she is brilliant, vibrant, and involved. Please check out her websitehttp://minajavaherbin.com/ ) and her great books!

So on to The Next Big Thing questions for me:

1. What is the title of your work-in-progress? Slithery Snakes

Roxie Munro

2. Where did the idea come from? It evolved from a series of nature books I’ve created: Hatch! (about birds); Busy Builders (bugs); EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures (ecosystems); Desert Days, Desert Nights (desert habitats).

3. What genre does your book come under? Nonfiction, or informational, children’s picture books.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?  Sir Hiss from the animated “Robin Hood” movie, the viper in “Kung Fu Panda,” Nagini in “Harry Potter”?

5. One sentence synopsis for your book? Brilliantly painted snake skin patterns, and some fun facts – try to guess the snake species; turn the page to see the answer, with the snake in its habitat.

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? Out in August from Two Lions, Amazon Children’s Publishing.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Six months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Hmmmm – maybe books by Lynne Cherry or Mia Posada.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? I think certain aspects of nature can be stranger than anything you can dream up!

10.What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The vibrant colors and patterns, and some fun and wild information about snakes!

And now, I am tagging two wonderful children’s book folks:

Pat Cummings (website: http://www.patcummings.com/ ) has been an artist all her life. She speaks at conferences, teaches, cohosts “Cover to Cover” (a talk show about the children’s book industry), and works with CBBC (Children’s Book Boot Camp). She’s also involved with PEN and SCBWI. Pat’s fabulous books, many of which she both writes and illustrates, have a strong graphic look …powerful and compelling.

Joy Chu has worked with books most of her life, as a designer and art director for many major publishers. She now runs Joy Chu Designs, as a graphic designer and publishing consultant. Her work has been cited by AIGA, BookBuilders West, the Society of Illustrators, National Book Awards, Print, Step-by-Step, and Publishers Weekly. She’s active in SCBWI, teaches, and writes the popular Got Story Countdown blog. (http://gotstorycountdown.wordpress.com/ )

On Saturdays, my preferred way to get to the studio is the 7 train, but on weekends this late winter/early spring, it’s been out for maintenance work. So, for exercise, I’ve been walking a mile (20 blocks) up Park Avenue and then block or two to the east, to get the E train at 53rd Street.

Today is crisp, with brilliant sun streaking in from the east down the streets and glittering between the high buildings. So I walk north through my Murray Hill neighborhood – semi-elegant prewar apartment buildings lining the broad avenue. Wander through Grand Central, marveling at the glorious space created by the huge vaulted ceiling. You never get used to it. Slip a glance over to the cool Apple store on the mezzanine. At 45th Street cut through a block-long interior passageway and pop out on a bright and open Park Avenue. It’s a Saturday…no business people – quiet and beautiful. Looking up, a lot of sky, sunlit canyons, and a profusion of man-made patterns – windows, a multitude of floors, vast shining facades, towering edifices. Many of these huge glass monuments to industry have big open plazas (a zoning code so they can build higher). Walk a few steps up to a couple of the plazas, to feel the space.  Some have cool public sculptures, and even fountains.  Pass the Waldorf Astoria…sleepy tourists wander out blinking in the bright sun. Beyond, there’s a guy leading an Ayn Rand tour…captains of industry theme, I guess. Further up, on St Bart’s church grounds there’s a permanent white tent with a cafe. At 53rd Street I cut across a plaza with two pools with bubbling fountains. East to the shiny Citycorps building.

I think: there is someone waking up west of here, in Idaho or Montana, maybe an artist like me, walking out into the brilliant sunlight, seeing their own world of high pristine monumental structures, gleaming.

At Citicorps, I go down the escalator, into the bowels of the city, to the E train.