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Beth Lower


Bologna Sneak Peek: Time Traveler Tours & Tales Are Now Open for Author Submissions

I am thrilled to announce that on 24 March 2014, at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, I will throw open the virtual doors of my burgeoning twin digital imprints, Time Traveler Tours & Tales, for author submissions.

Thanks to the editorial and programming firepower I have now assembled in Team TTT&T, Time Traveler Tours & Tales aims to produce a full suite of digital publications: storyapps, interactive books, eBooks, print on demand paperback books, and curriculum guides dedicated to bringing history to life through story and games. We now seek authors of creative nonfiction and historical fiction interested in publishing across the formats and in being a part of a promising start-up now positioning itself to scale worldwide.

If you’re coming to the Fair and want to hear more, I will be officially launching the endeavor at the SCBWI Stand (Pavilion 26, Booth A/66) from 1:00-2:00pm.

Now, I can almost hear you saying, Sarah, What the What? Why in the world would you want to become a digital publisher? Are you mad? I’ve certainly asked that plenty of time myself.

I will be recounting the story of Why? at the Fair. So for those of you planning to attend my talk and launch announcement, go on and bounce. We all have plenty to read in cyberspace. Go read someone else’s blog and I’ll see you at the Fair.

But, for those of you who can’t be with me in Bologna, please read on. I want you to know my story, for it is also the story of the digital revolution…


I launch my debut bilingual storyapp tour, Beware Madame La Guillotine, A Revolutionary Tour of Paris, to rave reviews and numerous accolades.

But you know that part of the story, ‘cause it’s the only part of the story I’ve ever told. What you don’t know is that there’s been a dark underbelly to my story, too. A truly gloomy, sometimes sinister side. So allow me to skip right to that, to tell what was really happening behind all my happy-go-lucky bluster…

Chapter One
Despite the critical success of Beware Mme la Guillotine (BMLG), I was forced to halt production of any further storyapp iTineraries in the spring of 2012. The pre-production plan with my then-development partner had been that BMLG would provide a structure onto which all future TTT storyapps could be constructed. The model would be: one build, many apps. From an economical standpoint, BMLG would be the most expensive app to produce, with all others coming in at a fraction of that cost.

I bought into this plan, heavily considering I was using personal savings to support it. I entrusted my dev partner to the task. But no sooner had BMLG gone live in its fully realized bilingual form when my now ex-dev partner would change his tune completely.

All apps going forward, he informed me, will cost just as much to produce as BMLG.


Chapter Two
I couldn’t afford to go on. It wasn’t economically viable for me to do so, for the mathematical reality faced – then as now – by the app developer is this:

Apps are expensive to build
nearly impossible to find in the increasingly noisy AppStore
the culture of the AppStore pushes prices down.

Anything over $2.99 is considered expensive. And I was hoping to get $7.99 for BMLG. But the only time the app ever really moved was during promotional events with Moms With Apps or the Educational App Store when I set it to free or 99 cents. Then, downloads would shoot to between 500-1000. But no one, NO ONE, was thanking me with a review.

So BMLG very quickly fell out of Apple’s sights. Though she began her life with two whole weeks as an Apple New & Noteworthy App, and many months in What’s Hot, once she fell out of view, there was no getting her back. She was no longer “discoverable.” 

The only way to realize ROI (return on investment) in the AppStore is to sell cheap, in massive volume, and to engineer into your app structure the need for users to purchase additional bits and pieces. This works very well in the gaming world – think: Angry Birds.

But for storyapps with a limited audience like mine – kids in Paris with an iPhone or iPod Touch – as well as legal and ethical restrictions on exploiting youth with in-app purchases, the model of bespoke app development simply doesn’t work.


Chapter Three
I was loathe to give up. I had already come so far. My concept – to bring history to life through story and games by harnessing the latest in interactive technology – had proven itself with BMLG.

So I took my source code and set out to find another developer, one who would buy into my concept and help me achieve my original goal of developing an app publishing platform.

My search was arduous, Sisyphean even. No one wanted to work with my first guy’s code: in part, because developers (it turns out) are mostly prima donnas; in part, because (it turned out) the code was a big, fat mess.

I would have to start all over. And I was all out of money.

When I finally gave up searching, that’s when things really started to happen.


Chapter Four
Apple launched iBooks Author, and I spent a few weeks setting BMLG up for that environment. Why not? I had all the creative assets and image permissions. iBA is a free download, so no dev costs if you do it yourself. And while not as interactive as the App, the BMLG iBook looks and feels great.

What’s more, teachers and librarians love it.

But I could spend 25-hour days marketing the thing and still not sell enough to warrant my time investment. Plus, all the marketing was interfering with my ability to produce new work.

That’s when it dawned on me that it would be easier to sell in collaboration. The key: Cross-Promotion.

Currently, when you land on my Apple preview page you see one lonely book. It’s beautiful, to be sure, and it may be just what you need. But who wants to party with a wallflower?

Now imagine that page filled with titles by many authors. Suddenly you have a rockin’ party. As a consumer, you feel immediately more confidant about joining the dance. Just look at all that social proof!

Chapter Five
So I decided to produce for the tablet environment instead and to invite others to join me: A coalition of quality creative nonfiction authors writing under a single brand: Time Traveler Tales.

I teamed up with star Editor & Publishing Consultant, Emma D. Dryden. Together we envisioned a library full of interactive stories that bring history to life across devices and markets, written by ace authors of creative nonfiction and historical fiction with also have active online presences.

We brought Beth Lower, Art Designer for the BMLG storyapp, back into the picture and set out to build a new website and image. Then Marcie Colleen leapt in to produce professional curriculum guides to go along with out stories. Caitlin Hoffman and Sebastian Hallum-Clarke also climbed on board as Community Manager and In-House Tech Guru, respectively.

I was writing again, producing my next interactive title with Emma’s able guidance. And the team was working to “define” the Time Traveler Tales brand.


Chapter Six
Meanwhile, BMLG, the storyapp, sat languishing in the AppStore, dying a slow death with each new iOS update. I was doing nothing to save her, merely counting the days when I’d have to pull her off the Store.

Then, into my life re-walked the team at Bluespark Labs. Their Founder, Michael Tucker, had been one of the original beta-testers of the BMLG tour. He’d loved the concept then and is in a position now, having built his own creative digital development agency, to help reignite the Time Traveler Tours vision.

And so Team TTT&T was born. Blending our respective talents, we will now unite the very best in interactive storytelling with the latest in mobile technology to revolutionize the discovery of history by digital natives on mobile and tablet formats – we’re even throwing in POD editions, because we can.

Chapter Seven
So, at long last, I am thrilled to announce that my twin digital imprints, Time Traveler Tours & Tales, are now open for author submissions.

Accepted authors will become part of the TTT&T Author Atelier, an online forum offering ongoing editorial support for all works in development.

Stories will first be produced as tablet iTales, eTales, and POD paperback books. Common Core aligned curriculum guides will be produced to support their use in schools.

Stories will then be adapted and expanded for the mobile environment and republished as interactive iTineraries.

Royalties to authors will be generous.


Time Traveler Tours & Tales bring history to life at the tips of your fingers.
Consider joining us. Let’s make history together!



Art Desiging an App: Meet the Art Director, Beth Lower


As I wrote in last week's post, How Many People Does it Take to Build a StoryApp?, producing a good StoryApp can require a pretty extensive, and expensive, team.

In addition to the work of the author, illustrator and program developer, you may also need a UX (user experience) designer or a game mechanics expert, depending on the features and navigation you wish to include in your app. If you're developing for children, you may need the help of an educational consultant to ensure that your content is appropriate for the development age and/or to create related curricular materials. And if you don't have a mechanism in place to market your app, you will, most assuredly, need a publicist as well.

But the one person you can absolutely not live without is your Art Director.

I'll never forget the moment when I realized just how true this is. I developed Beware Madame La Guillotine on a shoestring, as you know, and therefore hoped to get away with using Apple's palette of preset buttons, icons and other graphic elements. But when my programmer sent me the initial mock ups, I couldn't believe my eyes.

Several "u" words came immediately to mind: unbecoming, undesirable, uninteresting, and unpromising were among them. But the word that really screamed in my ears was "ugly". It was not unique. It looked like most of other apps in the App Store.

In walked Beth Lower, graphic artist extraordinaire. Beth is an acclaimed Art Director, well known in the magazine world. She came to my StoryApp eager to learn all she could about app development and ready to apply her already proven graphic design skills to the digital environment.

We still had to cut corners from a financial point of view. We used Apple presets in the static content of the nav and tool bars, for example. But all dynamic content in the body of the app, such buttons, text layout, illustration set up, graphic icons and maps -- you name it -- were realized thanks to Beth's artistic eye and creative contribution. I look very forward to collaborating with her again.