Last week was a busy and eventful one. It started and ended with my submission to the first annual BookTech Award and Pitch Challenge, sponsored by FutureBook, with two conference events sandwiched in between. The pitch challenge application forced me to get laser focused on communicating the problem I’m attempting to solve as a publisher. It all started with the opening question, “What is your target industry?” which threw me into a familiar tailspin.
I’ve long struggled with this question, to be honest, because I feel that my work and motivations straddle three sectors: educational tourism, children's literature, and the school and library markets. Yet, every business mentor I’ve ever worked has advocated that I hone my efforts to address the needs of one single audience. But how, when the whole point of our multi-format publishing model is to allow us to go broad?
With this question weighing on my mind, I grabbed my trusty Nepalese walking stick – my best friend after my two-month-long convalescence – and ventured forth into London in hopes, among other things, of gaining some deeper clarification on TTT&T's larger purpose and publishing objectives.
Tuesday found me with my kidlit peeps at The Bookseller's annual Children’s Book Conference. The conversation there thoroughly affirmed for me that we’re on the right track as far as our multi-format publishing model is concerned. Thursday I was at the Museum of London for The International Museum Ideas Conference. Again, I felt I was with my peeps, this time the representatives of the world’s top museums: the standard-bearers of dynamic, participatory, and educational cultural experiences, for young and old alike.
But despite these exciting brainstorms with colleagues from across the industries, I still could not pinpoint my one true audience. Indeed, if anything, I felt affirmed that my feet were planted solidly in multiple camps. Then, Dan reminded me that it was time to parse the results of our recent community survey.
Thanks to you, my dear followers, I found the answer…
Who You Are
As a group, you are a mix of mid- and late-career professionals, educators, parents, writers and other artists, as well as a few retirees who all possess a driving passion to create, whether in conjunction with your work lives or in addition to it. You also appear to put kids and education at the center of your individual efforts. And, I’m gratified to learn, you find inspiration in both my journey as well as my willingness to babble on about it on a near-weekly basis.
What You Desire
The majority of you communicated a strong entrepreneurial spirit. You want tips and guidance on how to live by your creativity. You are trekking an individual path and you have joined me to be in good company. In particular, you would like more information from me on how to raise money, particularly through crowd-sourced funding. You also want nuts-and-bolts insights on how to develop such products as apps, interactive books, and audio books, as well as economical solutions for print publications.
A solid quarter of you seek guidance on the writing craft as well as advice on developing the habits and discipline that make a creative life possible, especially when you have other demands on your time. You appear especially curious about how to pull the story out of history -- although some of you prefer other subjects, like science and worms -- and elevate it to the level of wonder for young readers.
Another quarter of you are looking to add tips and tricks to your parenting and/or teaching toolboxes. You want to know how to guide young people in conducting historical research as well as retelling the bounty of that research through story. You also want to understand more about how to harness the power of technology in your work with kids, either to aid and enliven your practice or because you fear it and want to understand the pros and cons of digital products more thoroughly.
Who WE Are
You all enjoy my behind-the-scenes vantage point with regard to the process of conceiving and producing our story-based historical title suites. Several of you have asked me to post actual content from our stories as we write them, like the serializations of Dickens or Dumas. Great idea!
And I’m thrilled to learn you've all locked elbows with me. Whether teacher, writer, parent, librarian, creative professional, or retiree looking to follow a long-term dream, you share a curiosity about how I came to be where I am today.
Your willingness to give these near-weekly ramblings of mine a few minutes of your time on a regular basis moves and inspires me. It comforts me. It helps me get back into the chair each and every morning. It supports and buoys me to know that I am not bushwhacking this trail alone.
Where Do I Fit In? Where do We Fit In?
Indeed, we are a complex group, hailing from different professional sectors though united by a singular passion: to turn kids on to history, culture, the arts, science, what have you, even if it means breaking boundaries to do so. Especially if it means breaking boundaries to do so.
So how did I finally answer the pitch challenge question? Like this:
Time Traveler Tours & Tales is a digital-first multi-format publishing startup straddling educational tourism, children's literature, and the school and library markets. We Turn History On, producing interactive media for youth that marry the traditional power of first-person narrative with the magic of the touchscreen to create portals to the past. We aim to put the Story back in History, and empower our audiences to discover yesteryear with those who made it. Our mission is to ensure that no young person says, "History is boring!" ever again. Our goal is to make our content available where our audiences -- digital natives all -- what it most.
The truth was staring me right in the face the whole time. So that’s what I went with.
Thanks for the Insight! Wish me luck!
One caveat about the surveys:
As the survey was 100% anonymous, I do not know the identity of the many respondents. So if you asked me for a manuscript review, I’m afraid I cannot comply unless you reach out to me directly. I would urge you, however, to contact Team TTT&T member Emma D. Dryden. She is the editorial brain behind this operation, and another inspirational example of how to lead a creative life. She is able to review manuscripts from multiple genres, whereas I must focus my energies at present on reviewing pitches for TTT&T. As for advice and guidance on how to create fearlessly, I encourage you to subscribe to Dan Blank's blog in addition to mine. His interviews with creative individuals tell it like it is and never cease to inspire.