Today’s interview is with Jodi Murphy of Geek Club Books
Thank you for participating our interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.
The most important thing to know about me is that I am a mom! I have two adult children–24 year old daughter and 28 year old son–and my son has Asperger’s Syndrome. My background and experience is in marketing and I’ve worked on a variety of projects—branding, launches, collateral, events, public relations—primarily in high tech, lifestyle, and home design industries. I was a journalist in for the luxury/design industry and was co-founder of Nesting Newbies, one of the first independent digital lifestyle magazines about cooking, entertaining and decorating
How did the idea for your app come about?
I have always had to think creatively when it comes to helping my son with his learning disabilities and social challenges. When he was growing up in the early and mid-80s, there were very few programs and interventions for children on the autism spectrum. In fact, doctors and clinicians never talked about or rarely diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. Today, there is very little support for adults on the spectrum—so once again I am thinking out-of-the-box to find opportunities for him to showcase his talents, earn a sustainable living, and feel the confidence that comes from self-achievement.
It came to me that we could help others and him by sharing his real life experiences in a unique, respectful and, hopefully, entertaining way to show how someone on the spectrum overcomes obstacles, triumphs over social anxieties, and thrives…quirks and all! And since my son is a voice actor, I chose to create a storybook app over publishing a book.
And how long was the process from the original idea to the release of the app?
The process took about 11 months from original idea to The Mighty League, Vol. 1 – The Terrible Taunting being released on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.
Did you hire a developer or do it yourself?
I partnered with Tom and Bill Anderson from Customizabooks (Blackfish Children’s Books) for the development of our app. These brothers come from the video game industry and have created an incredible platform for children’s story apps. This gave them a strong foundation upon which they built in our custom features—comic book style layout, hidden notebook with age-appropriate information on Aspergers and bullying, and choose a boy or girl protagonist. These are just a few of the special features they were able to customize—and within a very short time frame, I might add.
What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome in the development process?
My own self-doubt–I’ve worked on numerous creative endeavors, but never one so near and dear to my heart. I’ve had moments of panic and fear of rejection wondering why I’m putting my family out into the limelight. But working on this app feels right and it’s my way of advocating for my son and others like him.
Have you had much support during the development process (from family, peers, Apple Inc.)?
I’ve had tremendous support from the very beginning! My daughter wrote the manuscript and I wrote the secret notebook text. My husband, my parents and my mother-in-law invested in the app so I didn’t have to crowd fund. Kim Johnson of Kim Johnson Studios took photos of my son at 10 and created our Aspie hero and his sidekick, Mr. Reginald T. Hedgehog. “Mr. Redge” is important because my son called himself a hedgehog…”prickly and unapproachable on the outside but warm and tender on the inside.” He’s the link to the hidden notebook on every page.
Since we’re involved in so many creative activities, I was able to tap into resources for the app and our website. For example, AndyZ is a very popular children’s performing artist in the San Francisco Bay Area and he jumped on board to write an original score and lyrics for the app. With so many supportive and talented people involved, it’s just been such a wonderful experience to make the Mighty League app.
What are your plans for the future? Will you be developing any more apps?
We hope to be able to produce an entire series as there are many “real” tales to tell from my son’s unique perspective of the world! We already have a concept for the Mighty League, Vol. 2 and my daughter is ready to write the manuscript.
What sort of feedback has your app been receiving so far?
I am writing this only 3 days after the app went live on the app stores and we’re already getting the kinds of reviews that have made the hard work and panic moments all worthwhile. One mom sent me a message that she read the Mighty League with her 8 year old at bedtime and it felt like they were reading about him. She said she’s read a few things designed for children and our app had all the right elements—it feels real! And she liked that the story stands alone and we layer in the Aspergers in “that brilliant notebook.”
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone considering creating their own app?
If you’ve never created an app before I highly recommend Karen Robertson’s e-books and her online Book App Academy. You can find her at digitalkidsauthor.com. I can’t say enough about how much they helped me through every step of the process.
Make sure that you go into it from the very beginning knowing that you’ll need to devote 50% of your time on the app, and the other 50% on marketing. Make sure you enjoy interacting on social media because it’s best way to build relationships and a community. Get to know your intended audience, support them, and let them get to know you. Be generous and grateful. Have fun!
Thank you so much for talking with us today and sharing a bit about your company. We really appreciated the chance to get to know you!
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Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).