Event Report: Picture Books for the Digital Age with Eric Huang

I first heard Eric Huang speak at the SCBWI Winchester conference last October. I was inspired by the creativity of the apps, characters and stories Made in Me were developing for Me Books - but what particularly struck a chord, was Eric’s suggestion that authors and illustrators should start thinking about themselves as creators.

Pitching a concept to Eric...

In the digital and marketing age, characters and the worlds we create for them, can live beyond the page, in fact they can jump about and talk or even make an appearance as a stuffed toy in Tesco.

Exciting and inspiring? Yes, I think so. So when I saw a SCBWI masterclass scheduled with Eric, I jumped at the chance to learn more.

Made in Me doesn’t think about publishing in the way traditional publishers do. Most publishers don’t market themselves; they market their books and their authors (and sometimes not even this). Penguin is one of the few publishers that do.

Made in Me doesn't think about publishing in the way traditional publishers do.

In contrast, games, TV, film and comic book creators (and just about any other consumer facing brand) consider branding very early on in the development process.

They build characters and a world for the characters to live in. They think about the UX (the user experience) and the user interactivity with the brand. This might include: apps, games, stationary, toys, clothing or food. Moshi Monsters is a good example.

Eric pointed out that a lot of entertainment brand profits come from rights, licensing and merchandise, and these big entertainment brands, more often than not, originate from books, e.g. How to Train Your Dragon, Paddington.

Happy masterclass attendees.

So when creating a picture book, think about its potential. 

These are some of the questions Eric suggests creators ask themselves. 

  • Can the characters and world live beyond a single story? If not, how can you make the concept stronger?
  • Do you want your name or the characters/book series to be the brand? 
  • How do you want your creation to be treated? Eric suggests writing a brand bible. Creators should always think carefully before signing away creative rights. 

Eric pointed out the benefits of writing story apps. 

  • It’s a good test market. Concepts can be adjusted until they work. 
  • Think big. Start small and brand build. 
  • Interactivity doesn’t just mean audio or animation. Handheld devices feature microphones, video and cameras. These can be utilised interactively to enhance the UX and link the digital world with the physical world. The best digital experiences are those that tap into existing behaviours and patterns of play. 
  • Creative partnerships (illustrator/writer/animator combos) are welcome to pitch. 

Eric: Think big. Start small and brand build.

Eric’s marketing tips.

  • Build a brand website. 
  • Achieve search engine optimization. 
  • Think when and how people are using digital stories.
  • Concepts that generate an emotional response work best, e.g. on the Moshi Monsters website, children can decorate their own room. Also look at lostmy.name, a personalised digital book. 

For inspiration Eric suggested the following: 

Obviously www.madeinme.com where you can visit Stomp! and Trevor the Troll and www.mebooks.co which is the downloadable story app.


www.caribuapp.com (Skype for book readers)

www.nosycrow.com/apps (more story apps )

www.teachyourmonstertoread.com (a learning to read interactive game)

Eric is accepting submissions. Email: eric@madeinme.com

Eric Huang is Development Director at Made in Me, an award winning digital publisher in London specialising in children's entertainment. He looks after IP development and partnerships around creating and launching digital brands 

By Kate Peridot 

Kate Peridot is a picture book and YA author. Her first illustrated story, The Elephant Carnival was published last year by Walker Books. She has a blog: Adventures in Fiction at www.kateperidot.com or find her on twitter @kateperidot.


  1. Great write-up Kate, thanks. Excellent advice from Eric. He's certainly got me thinking about Branding and the bigger picture.

  2. Thanks, Kate. Eric is such a creative thinker and inspiring speaker.

  3. Fab day. Great content. Thanks to all involved.


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