Starting July 2011, we began working with our first round of authors. We were able to greatly improve our app experience by supporting voice overs, video content, and in-app purchases along with usability improvements based on initial customer feedback. We also added the ability to produce e-books for the Kindle and Nook readers to our Transmedia Publishing Press.
Since our authors had an existing audience of subscribers, fans and followers, we collaborated on a marketing guide and took the time to coach our authors to leverage their existing followers to create a fan-base around their products. We built a web-page for each product, along with sign-up forms for fans who wanted to receive updates and embeddable banners for the authors to place on their blogs. Overall, our authors did a great job of promoting these pages before the launch of their product, getting 70+ Facebook likes in 2 days. However, we did not see the same level of interest for signing up for fan updates.
We decided to try out different pricing strategies for these products in an effort to better understand the marketplace. Salaverry MMA and 400 Calories or Less were released as free apps with a part of the content available for free and an option to purchase additional content within the app. The remainder of the apps (One Foot in Front of the Other, Cooking Light Done Right and Niya’s Indian Cuisine) were released as paid apps at varying price points.
Each of the cookbook apps contained approximately the same amount of content: 3-4 cookbook titles per app, each containing on average 40 recipes. Additionally, each cookbook title was released as its own e-book, available for sale on the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook stores. By August 2011, we had 13 eBooks for sale.
Our first round of publishing with authors gave us a lot of valuable insight. We discovered a basic, profitable model for working with authors. Our best-seller was the free 400 Calories or Less app: with over 10 five-star reviews within its first few days on the store, the app was featured as the #1 New & Noteworthy app in Health & Fitness, and was downloaded over 20k times and saw over 200 in-app sales in its first month. 400 Calories or Less continues to be downloaded over 200 times a day during its second month on the store.
The success of 400 Calories or Less is a clear indication of the potential reach of free apps on the iTunes store, and was a testament to the value of positive reviews by fans. Moving forward, we are continuing to improve the quality of our apps, offer more value to our users, aim to build a large fan-base around our products, and explore alternative monetization opportunities.