Made in Me, developer of the Me Books picture book app, is in expansion mode. On Friday, it launched its first titles under a global English-language licensing deal with Disney, after debuting a new comic book app earlier in the week. The original Me Books app went live in October 2012 and recently hit the 1 million-download mark.
The Disney license is Made in Me’s first deal designed to reach consumers outside of its primary U.K. market. It is in final discussions with another major U.S.-based, multi-property licensor for a similar global deal, with the first titles under that license to debut as soon as April.
Nearly 200 digital books are now available through the Me Books app, from nearly every major U.K. publisher. Licensed titles have performed particularly well, according to Eric Huang, Made in Me’s development director, citing Peppa Pig as the top property, followed by Charlie and Lola and Peter Rabbit.
Disney titles are available through Me Comics, as well as via the original Me Books platform. While Me Books is aimed at preschoolers, Me Comics targets kids 5-11. “Comics were a natural next step,” notes Huang. Me Comics’ debut list featured all-ages licensed titles tied to Hasbro’s Transformers and My Little Pony, King Features’ Popeye, and Universal’s Peabody and Sherman, all sub-licensed from IDW. It also will feature titles tied to The Beano, a popular U.K. property.
Made in Me is currently talking to a number of publishers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia about offering their titles through its platforms. “Licensing will be part of that strategy, since those are the brands people want,” Huang notes.
The company works with publishers most often through licensing or sub-licensing deals involving a revenue share, but also has been known to purchase titles under trade terms similar to those typically offered to bricks-and-mortar retailers. It occasionally forges other types of financial partnership arrangements with entrepreneurial content providers.
Made in Me adds new titles each week. Books are identical to the original print versions, but with celebrity voiceovers and the ability for readers or their parents to record and save up to three of their own versions. The Me Books app, like Me Comics, is available for free on iOS and Android platforms and comes with one preloaded title.
One in five people who have downloaded the Me Books app have gone on to make an in-app purchase; prices range from $2.99 for non-licensed titles to $4.99 for key licenses such as Disney. Most of the company’s revenue, however, comes from other sources, Huang says, including marketing relationships with organizations such as apparel e-tailer Boden and Save the Children, as well as rights sales for properties that debut on Me Books.
The latter strategy is one Huang sees as having strong potential. “We’re commissioning our own content,” he says. “Me Books is a platform where we can grow a brand from scratch.” He notes that the 20,000 to 30,000 downloads the company can see for a top new picture book compares favorably with print runs for new physical picture books in either the U.K. or U.S. market. Made in Me is currently talking to TV producers and physical book publishers about serving as partners for A Home for Humphrey by Nikko Barber, one of its top home-grown titles to date.
A third app, Me Activities, which will feature coloring, drawing, and sticker tools, is planned for a summer launch. The core audience for the new app will include the older end of Me Books’ picture book fans and the younger end of the Me Comics consumer. As with the other apps, Made in Me plans to work with publishers to license activity content for distribution through Me Activities.