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Once upon a time, some crazy smart person got the idea of taking a children’s story previously passed down through oral storytelling and turning it into a book. This spawned a whole new tradition, and an industry that has thrived for centuries with a work-flow process that involves several distinct phases and teams and can take several years to complete the goal of creating an illustrated story book.

It works like this:

An author first creates a manuscript that is acceptable to an editor. The editor will then work with the author to bring that story to a point of excellence, at which point this editorial team passes the story off to a design team.

The art designer will select the perfect illustrator, who must then be given ample time to realize his or her vision. The designer then lays out the book, selecting fonts and other design elements, and drops in the finished artwork.

The combined effort is provided to the production team in the form of print-ready galleys eventually to be published. And while proofs are being run to test for color and trim accuracy, the marketing team revs up the process of distributing the book to reviewers just as the sales team works to get it into stores.

It is a proven practice and will remain the preferred method of making an illustrated story book for many years to come. Because it works. For books. 

But the job of realizing the electronic cousin of an illustrated children’s book—the story app—requires a very different process and a new cast of characters. It works something like this...

In the digital ecosystem, production speeds up with teams working more in lock step, rather than relay style. New editions are possible with the click of a few buttons, making it possible—even favorable for testing purposes—to publish a work in iterative chunks; that is, launching not in a fully finished state, but a simplified one that is added to over time.

The author, editor, and publisher tend to collaborate more at the outset to realize a manuscript not limited to a story text, but requiring content for interactive elements, text boxes, navigational instructions, etc., as well. And the creative team expands, adding to the ranks of editorial, design, and production teams, the following contributors:

  • Development, or programming, team

  • User experience (UX) designer

  • User interface (UI) designer

  • Game developer, if the app is to include interactive learning elements and features

  • Animator, if images are to move

  • Educational consultant, to assure that the app is developmentally appropriate to the target age

  • Beta-testers, to ensure that the book and design are intuitive to use

To wit: It takes a lot of people-power to realize a great story app.

Team efforts overlap. For example, in our current process, as author Mary Hoffman and team editor Emma D. Dryden have been working together to perfect the manuscript for In the Footsteps of Giants, I’ve been working with our art, user interface, and user experience consultants to design the look and feel of our future story app.

Mary and I have been preparing a list of image suggestions to pass off to our photo editor, Cynthia Carris Alonso, who has begun the process of researching and obtaining rights to use the visual content to accompany Roxie Munro’s original artwork commissioned at the start of the process.

In the meantime, our marketing team, including Dan Blank and his team at WeGrowMedia, is already strategizing plans in anticipation of a June launch. And I am now on the hunt for vocal talent that can record and send to us raw files that we will then engineer with added sound effects. (If you're interested in auditioning, contact me here.)

We couldn’t do any of this without at least a draft story to work with. But neither did we need a completed manuscript to begin production. Indeed, the first and last piece of the puzzle to be signed off on will be the manuscript, for it will likely change again once we are inside the recording studio.

Which is why I say that creating a story app is a team sport, and a highly collaborative effort at that!

If you want to know more about the story-creation part of the process, read my last post here. In upcoming posts, I’ll focus on our work to select interactive features, illustrative elements, and audio assets that enhance storytelling. As well as announce the great news of our most recent partnerships.

Stay tuned!

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