'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 20 May 2012

Interview: Nina Lim, author & ebook publisher

KBR warmly welcomes the lovely Nina Lim, author and ebook publisher, with this insightful interview on her new creation. If you are interested in the ebook market, this is a must-read.

Tell us a little about you.

I’m a former university teacher turned author and mother of three.

I live in Sydney’s north, a stone’s throw from national parks, beaches and wonderful cafes.

What's your writing background?
I’ve always loved reading and writing and kids books have long held a special place in my heart. Very often the characters we read about as a child stay with us our whole lives. After I had children, I was excited to share stories and with them and revisit lots of old favourites. I became more determined to turn my own dream into reality and Super Harry’s Rotten Luck was born.

Tell us about Super Harry’s Rotten Luck.
It is a funny and heartwarming storybook app about a boy who is having a terrible run of luck, and how he finds a way to turn his luck around. It has professional narration, sound effects and word highlighting.

Harry is a loveable anti-hero who offers kids a valuable lesson – that with the right attitude and determination we all have the power to turn things around and change our luck!

Why an ebook?
The mobile app marketplace has exploded in growth since apps were first introduced way back in 2008. Kids apps in particular have been phenomenally popular. Most parents feel better when their kids are enjoying a digital story rather than playing another video game. And the convenience and mobility of the devices is unprecedented.

Did you write the story specifically for the ebook market?
Originally, I wrote it as a 32 page picture book manuscript and sent it to all the major publishers. Astonishingly, Walker Books picked it up off the slushpile and I received an email saying they were interested and were going to bring it into an editorial meeting. But in the end nothing eventuated.

Instead of getting depressed about missing out though, I decided to take it as an enormous confidence booster. The story had merit and originality and I was going to bring it to the world! At first I was going to publish it myself and a wonderful illustrator, Rebecca Kellie, came on board. Then the iPad came into my life. I read Karen Robertson’s ebooks on creating a book app, and I realised instantly that this was what I wanted to do.

When you first decided to create an ebook, how daunted were you by the processes ahead?
To be honest I didn’t feel daunted. I felt more excitement and happiness at this new beginning. Probably because I truly felt that this was what I wanted to do. I downloaded lots and lots of storybook apps (this was a really fun part). I soon got a feel for different developers and their styles. I read Karen Robertson’s ebooks on creating and marketing a book app. They were an invaluable source of information. She has created a very successful Treasure Kai series of book apps, and is a speaker and coach as well.

What made you choose PicPocket?
Early on PicPocket Books had become one of my favourite developers. I loved the type of stories they published. Their animations were subtle and fun, and succeeded in enhancing the story and not detracting from it. So when I had the chance to work with them I was thrilled at the opportunity.

Can you describe the conversion process, in a nutshell?
The conversion process happened relatively quickly, about 4 to 6 weeks. Then there was a wait to see that it was approved by Apple. Sometimes if a book app doesn’t meet certain requirements, Apple may say it needs to be sold as an ebook instead in the iBookstore, and not in the App Store. Generally speaking, a book app has more interactivity than an ebook.

Why did you choose a narrator with an American accent?
The narrator is often one of the most fun things about a book app (on a side note, if you get the chance to read the delightful book app Maid Marian Muffins by Jamie and Jessica Van Der Salm, you will enjoy one of the most marvelous narrators – ever!). I knew that I wanted a bright, young sounding female voice. And I wanted someone with a pleasant Midwest American accent to help give it the broadest international appeal.

How much a part of the conversion process were you directly involved with?
I like technology but I’m not a techie person. So I was involved with choosing the professional voice talent and discussing what sorts of interactions to include.

What was the most challenging part?
The most challenging part by far was not the digitization process but the marketing. Which is a whole other job! It is a thrill to have an app in the App Story but people need to know about it. More apps are being released everyday so it’s a challenge to make yours stand out. Having said that, the challenging part has also been one of the most enjoyable parts as I’ve got to meet so many fabulous, passionate and inspiring people.

Looking at the finished product, what do you love most about Super Harry’s Rotten Luck?
There are a lot of things that I love. I love that it gives young kids a positive and empowering message – that it is your attitude and your actions that determines how you meet the world and how the world meets you. I love the fun sound effects. I still smile every time I hear the bee buzz, the trumpet play, or the piano waltz. And I also love the personal satisfaction that comes from having an idea and seeing it all the way through to reality.

What would you do differently next time?
Next time I would use digital illustrations. It makes it a lot easier to animate. But I would still like the illustrations to have a hand drawn feel.

How valuable are ebooks for kids?
Ebooks are immensely valuable. Digital technology is here to stay. Young kids are not digital immigrants like us. They are digital natives and growing up in a world of touchscreen technology. And one of the beauties of ebooks is that they are an excellent way to get kids off video games and into reading! All reading is good reading, whether on screen or on paper.

Where do you see children’s print books heading?
I believe the future of print books is very bright. And they will share that bright future with ebooks. The two are partners in getting kids interested in great stories, characters, history, information and education. It is not one or the other. It’s both. The two are very much valued and in demand.

What’s next for Nina Lim?
I’m looking forward to creating more fun and fabulous storybook apps. My next adventure will be about a girl called Henrietta. I am super excited about that one.

We hope you enjoyed Nina's journey as much as we have. You can download Super Harry's Rotten Luck on itunes and watch trailer on youtube. Learn more about Nina's work at www.ninalim.com, and be sure to follow Super Harry on facebook!