London Professional Series - Apps Night

By David Richardson
There was a definite 21st Century feel to the latest London Professionals Series evening. The theme was Apps and Digital Publishing. There were a good number attending and the subject was especially of interest to illustrators.

The panel were an excellent cross section in this area. We had Tom Bonnick – Digital Project and Marketing Manager of Nosy Crow; Caroline Osborn  - Head of Finance at Me Books and SCBWI’s own Nick Cross – Digital Product Manager at OUP.

All agreed that the App and Digital Publishing world is still in a developmental stage, or as Nick put it, there is still a definite ‘rounding of the wagons’. It means at times it is tough.

Tom described the App functionality of non-linear story-telling. This allows the App user to have a control on how the story gets told. He highlighted an App from Nosy Crow of the Little Red Riding Hood story, that gave ‘forks in the road’, choices that ‘led to different outcomes’ for the reader.

Apps... still in a developmental stage

There is still a debate on this way of story-telling though. When is an App a story device or a game?
Caroline spoke about the two models to Apps, the pay App and the ‘Freemium’ App. It was the conversion rate that was more significant. ‘It’s not that people download the App that is important,’ she explained. ‘It’s how much they use it.’ That’s why she feels creating a community of regular readers is essential, something that Me Books are doing.

The subject of Digital Rights was also discussed. Caroline advised writers and illustrators to become ‘savvy when it comes to digital rights’. Nosy Crow would hold the rights for their people, but elsewhere there is a complete mix with the way publishers approach this issue.

Illustrators and writers were encouraged by the panel to think about working for the Apps market. Publishers don’t necessarily expect a complete App outlined, but a good proposal could be taken up.

A good proposal could be taken up

There was a good Q&A throughout the evening and more could have been said when things were called to a halt. But, judging by the amount of chatting that went on until the close at 8.30, this is a subject where there is still a lot to talk about.

This is the fourth series meeting at our new St James venue and it’s proving to be very successful. The room is a good size and it’s good to have complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits. Early arrivals are able to meet up in the Costa Coffee next door, and return there later to extend the evening.

The next meeting is September 17 for our Industry Professionals night. Go to What's On for details.

When David isn’t busy with his SCBWI roles, including SCBWI Events Editor for Words & Pictures, he’s working hard to complete his novel for the Undiscovered Voices competition. To pay the bills, he teaches English Language & Literature, and Creative Writing to adults.


  1. Was sorry not to have been able to make it so many thanks for this write-up David! Was there any talk of the kinds of earnings the most successful apps are making for authors and publishers and the author's percentage?

    1. Everyone is very cagey about financials, to the point of paranoia! No-one gets to see the app downloads of other companies, though as Tom said, you can judge it to a certain extent by looking at your own downloads and trying to estimate the success of those above and below you on the chart.

      In terms of author/illustrator earnings, percentages can actually be lower for apps than print books because of the additional cost to the publisher of funding the app development and ongoing maintenance. But some publishers will offer a revenue share which might work out better if you get big sales. But it's a tough market and, as ever, big names will be able to negotiate a better initial contract and secure higher download rates.


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