The ABCs of an RFP, an NDA, and Other Stuff I Had to Learn

I am now part of “a coalition of respected children’s trade book authors developing their books for electronic media.” We started a group blog, and I’ve written the latest entry, which you can read below, or at the new blog. You should click here and check out the new blog because it’s really pretty. 😎

I write and illustrate books for kids so I know all about ABCs. But RFPs and NDAs? Not so much.

Turns out RFP stands for Request for Proposal. And NDA = Non Disclosure Agreement. An RFP basically describes your idea. About 18 months ago I wrote one for my app and I drew out a storyboard with the result of every click, swipe, tilt and shake by the hand of the player.

I didn’t even know how to describe it. Was it an app? A digital book? A game? It’s actually more of a game based on my book Who Hops? No, it is a game-slash-book. That’s what it is. An interactive book?

Isn’t it?

I guess that’s another thing to add to my list, The Things I Don’t Yet Know About eBooks, Games, Apps, and Math list. (Math doesn’t apply here, but math is on every list I make about stuff I don’t know about.)

Anyway, after I wrote my RFP, I needed to find someone to turn my design into a gorgeous app type thing that would sell like crazy in iTunes. I started my search to find a developer. I put the word out, I did google searches, and looked at apps I thought were great, and even ones I don’t like, but were selling well. I approached people, and if they were interested, sent them my NDA. I didn’t show anyone my RFP and storyboard until I had their signed NDA, which legally prevents someone from disclosing what is in an RFP.

One young and talented college-aged kid told me he’d do it free. I had a couple of developers tell me they could create the app between $1,000 -$2,000.  Another company, which had created an app I think is beyond fabulous, quoted $8000. Another company I love, which is run by a dear friend, gave me a price of $25,000.

So I got quotes between free and 25 grand.

I wanted to jump at the free offer, but the phrase, “you get what you pay for” kept echoing in my head, and I didn’t want to spend all that time, energy and effort on something I wasn’t completely happy with in the end. Sometimes I regret that decision. And I couldn’t afford the 25k.

The company with the $8,000 quote told me that was the lower cost since I wanted to do the art and if I would do the animation myself. I was fine with doing the art, obviously, but I added ‘learn animation’ to my Stuff I Need To Learn About list (math never makes that to that one somehow).

I’d just gotten a big royalty check and decided I’d reinvest it in my company (AKA myself). I handed over half as a deposit and got to work.

The animation wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted and it was taking me so long to do it. And then I started getting ignored by my developer. I suspected they got a bigger client. I emailed, called, texted and sent carrier pigeons and heard nothing. I was getting nervous about my $4,000 deposit but kept assuring myself that I knew where these guys lived (yeah, 3,000 miles away, in Silicon Valley).

Finally they told me they had, indeed, snagged a big job and were fine with sending me my deposit back. I was relieved, but exhausted.

To spin it positively, I decided to wait until I learned more about what is available to me and how I can make my plan come to life.

What actually happened? I got discouraged by the thought of all the tech I’d have to add to my Stuff I Need To Learn About list and I lost steam. I was so relieved about not having spent that huge chunk of money, too, because prices were coming down bigtime. The animation was time consuming for me, and I had other work to do like my books, my podcast, and other projects.

After this experience, I was so happy when my friends and colleagues started this coalition and asked me to join in. I’m learning a lot from them, and hope my contributions will teach something, too. Now I’m learning a lot about this process and am happy there are so many companies coming up with ways to create new digital stories to ease the learning curve.

I’m happy to have a long Stuff I Need To Learn About list. As long as there is no math on it.

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