How to Sell Your Indie iPad App: Lessons From the No. 1 iPad App in the App Store

Mr. Capucilli.

Earlier today Betabeat posted a memo: How not to sell your indie iPhone game, a list of tactics that didn’t work. Matt Capucilli, a freelancer who lives in the East Village, built the no. 1 iPad app currently on sale. Video Time Machine, a curated collection of videos categorized by time period and type and just $.99, got picked up by Apple and featured in the App Store last Thursday. Since then, Mr. Capucilli has earned “what could be considered one person’s salary,” for an entire year.

The app beat out Angry Birds for iPad and the iPhone version is hovering at no. 2 in the entertainment category. “If we hit number one in the iPhone app store, it’s going to be over. Game over! Retirement!” Mr. Capucilli told Betabeat over beers at last night’s East Village Tech Meetup.

So how do you get to be the no. 1 selling iPad app? There’s not much you can do, Mr. Capucilli said. He built the app about two months ago for his friend Justin Johnson (Brooklyn) who along with Del Shoopman (L.A.) had created an internet-popular but just marginally profitable website, YouTube Time Machine and wanted an app for it.

They hosted a launch party for the iPhone and iPad apps and hired a PR firm to field calls to and from media, which has been helpful, Mr. Capucilli said, but to which he does not attribute much of the app’s success.

There are a few things you can try, he says:

1. Make something cool.

2. Make something Apple will like.

3. Have a good icon.

4. Have a friend who works at Apple on the App Store. (He doesn’t, but seems like good strat.)

“You can’t do anything. The only thing you can do is make something awesome and innovative. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m only saying that because it’s true. It’s Apple’s discretion because in order to get anywhere in the top ranks–unless you’re a huge gaming company with a bunch of titles–but if you’re on your own or you’re a small company, is for Apple to recognize your product, look at it and feature you,” he said.

The Video Time Machine, which he designed and coded, is his second iPhone app, he said. His first app, a game called Clock Blocks, was moderately successful; it earned “five figures” in profit, he said. Before that he was a Flash developer for five years.

Based on how many people rate an app, he said, he’s estimating that the current no. 1 iPhone app–Street Fighter–makes $50,000 a day. The days of the iPhone app millionaires might be over, but indie developers still have a shot at the big time.

Correction: This post originally had Del Shoopman’s name wrong. He is Del, not Doug. Betabeat regrets the error.

How to Sell Your Indie iPad App: Lessons From the No. 1 iPad App in the App Store