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Emma D. Dryden

Story App Production: It's a Team Sport

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Story App Production: It's a Team Sport

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...

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Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby!

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Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby!

Hi everyone! I've just returned from a week enjoying a big tasty bite of the Big Apple. Even in chilly January, that most amazing city welcomed me with warm open arms.

I went for meetings. Lots of them. On Wednesday, they went on for 10 straight hours!

I met with some of the most inspiring leaders in the world of digital storytelling -- the funders and directors of NYC's top cultural institutions and philanthropic organizations -- as well as a few serial start-up entrepreneurs, mentors all, and an angel investor.

And now there are meetings here in London to follow those in NY.

I'm pitching the TTT&T concept to validate whether or not we're on the right track before the Team and I rev up our engines to mach speed. Do we know our audience well? Are we responding to real needs? Are we offering the right solution for them?

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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…

 

Prologue
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!


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We're a Team! Introducing Emma D. Dryden

Where in the world is Emma? Guess correctly and win a free download of  Beware Madame la Guillotine!

Where in the world is Emma? Guess correctly and win a free download of Beware Madame la Guillotine!

It's Official! Time Traveler Tours & Tales will open its virtual doors on 24 March 2014, at the Bologna Children's Book Fair with the announcement that we are now soliciting submissions.

In the lead up to the official launch of both company and website (coming very soon!), we would like to introduce each and every one of us.

Today we present Emma D. Dryden, Editorial & Publishing Consultant, who has been time traveling since she was a very little girl, through books and stories.

So passionate is Emma about the world of writing that she has made it her business, and has thus been at the heart of the children's publishing industry for the whole of her adult life.

We are honored and proud to be able to count Emma as one of our time-traveling, storytelling number. Her knowledge of the industry and keen understanding of our craft have already served to catapult our infant start-up to adolescent status!

Please don't forget to add your wishes of welcome and congratulations to Emma in the comments to the right. A special prize will be offered to anyone who can guess where in the world she is in the above image.

~  ~  ~

Emma D. Dryden is the founder of drydenbks, a premier children’s editorial and publishing consultancy firm which she established after twenty-five years as a highly regarded children’s book editor and publisher. She consults and/or collaborates with authors, illustrators, agents, domestic and foreign publishers, students, and with app & eBook developers.

During the course of her career, Emma has edited hundreds of books for children and young readers and during her tenure with Atheneum and  McElderry Books, many of her titles hit bestseller lists in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and other national publications. Books published under Emma's guidance have received numerous awards and medals, including but not limited to the Newbery Medal, Newbery Honor, and Caldecott Honor.

Emma speaks regularly on craft, the digital landscape, and reinvention, and her blog “Our Stories, Ourselves” explores the intertwined themes of life and writing. She is on the Board of Advisors of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and can be followed online at Twitter (@drydenbks), Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

 

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