We're so excited about the launch of
the interactive book version of
Beware Mme la Guillotine
that we're giving away 50 FREE COPIES!
Click here to enter:
Under its new imprint, Time Traveler Tales, the 1st interactive book published by Time Traveler Tours will hit iBookstores worldwide on 6 February 2013. Simultaneously, our resident tech guru has just launched his own Mac App, a handy tool for syncing your recently opened files with the cloud called Quicksand.
To mark this auspicious double occasion, we felt it the perfect time to introduce TTT Tech Guru, Sebastian Hallum Clarke: the young man behind all things tech at Time Traveler Tours and Tales.
Hi Sebastian! Why don't you start by telling us a bit about yourself.
Sure! My name is Sebastian Hallum Clarke, I’m 15 years old, and I live in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. I’ve always had a strong interest in technology, and it’s been great to put this in practice though my work with Time Traveler Tours. I’ve moved around a lot, having lived in New York, London, and most recently Paris, where I met Sarah. I love traveling. I speak English, French and a small amount of Spanish. I joined the TTT team in May 2012.
Tell us about the projects you've worked on during your time with Time Traveler Tours?
When I started at TTT, my first big project was revamping the company’s social media pages. Facebook had just introduced their new timeline design, so I worked with Sarah to reorganise the content, and to help position TTT’s social media strategy to better engage with users.
(In fact, we're putting together a Facebook launch right now to promote the interactive book. The fun starts on Sunday, 3 Feb, with a Book Giveaway and continues on Wednesday -- release day -- with an FB event. Head on over there now and like our page to be eligible for a free giveaway of the book.)
My next, still ongoing project was working on helping prepare the TTT for its next big step in mobile app offerings. I can’t say much about this at the moment, but I can tell you that it involved a lot of wireframes, and when it’s released, it will completely revolutionise the way you think about visiting historical locations.
Most recently, I’ve been working on our new interactive iPad book, Beware Madame La Guillotine, the new, book version of Time Traveler Tours’ critically acclaimed iOS app.
What prompted development of an interactive book?
We knew that our iOS app was a fantastic way for people visiting Paris to learn about the frightening time in history that was the French Revolution, but we also knew that there were many people all around the world who can’t make it to Paris who would still like to learn about Charlotte’s adventures.
In early 2012, when Apple announced that a new format of interactive books for the iPad would debut in its iBookstore, we instantly knew that it would be a fantastic way for people all over the world to immerse themselves in the captivating story of Beware Madame La Guillotine. We saw that through the exciting usage of interactive media, like audio-visual content and games, we could bring the magic of the city of lights to history students and armchair travelers at home.
What was your role in the production of the interactive book?
My main job was dealing with the technical end of the publication. Every week, Sarah would send me a couple of chapters which she had adapted from the iOS app. I would then go into iBooks Author, Apple’s tool for creating interactive books, and paste the text into the book. I’d drop in the images connected to that chapter, and then add in the interactive content that Sarah had written to go along with the story. Then it would be back to Sarah to sort out the layout for each page, and make sure that all of the design elements were correctly presented.
How did you find the experience of creating a book destined for the iBookstore?
Getting a grip on how the whole iBooks publishing system works certainly took a while. It’s immensely powerful, but not for the faint of heart. We had several hiccups along the way, but that’ll be for another blog post!
Indeed, stay tuned for more about this remarkable technical wizard who the TTT could not currently do without. There's much more to learn about this fascinating young man. Don't for get to check out his website.
Now, go forth and like the TTT so you can be eligible to win a free copy of the interactive book!
On February 6, 2013, Time Traveler Tours brings to the iBookstore the same award-winning concept it pioneered in the App Store – history through story and games – under the imprint Time Traveler Tales.
A mash up of the American Girl series (but global) and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (but focused on history), Time Traveler Tales interactive books reveal the past through creative non-fiction storytelling and interactive games.
As with their mobile iTineraries, each story in the coming Time Traveler Tales collection is a 1st person account of history by a figure whose actions helped shape that time. Tales are rooted in historical fact and illustrated with full-color period artwork. They are peppered throughout with interactive images and maps, multiple-choice questions, and puzzles that extend and enhance reader understanding of the narrators’ place and époque.
Targeted to youth, ages 12 and up, Time Traveler Tales are perfect companions for history, social studies, and humanities classrooms the world over.
They also make great reading for history buffs and armchair travelers.
The first interactive book in the collection, Beware Madame La Guillotine, is a trip back in time to the French Revolution, narrated by 24-year-old school-girl-turned-murderess, Charlotte Corday. While in prison and awaiting execution by guillotine, Charlotte recounts her personal journey through Paris at the time of the French Revolution. Explaining how and why she stabbed radical propagandist Jean-Paul Marat, she leads the reader from the Palais Royal, where she bought her murder weapon, to her prison, the Conciergerie, the Revolution’s antechamber to the guillotine.
As Charlotte weaves her yarn, she demystifies in a way that is captivating, yet comprehensible, the complex, cataclysmic, paradigmatic social shift set off by the French Revolution that rocked not only her nation, but eventually the world. She leaves readers wondering if violence is ever justified.
Time Traveler Tours & Tales Founder and Creative Director, Sarah Towle, is a career educator, writer, and inveterate traveler who moved to Paris in 2004. Frustrated by a lack of engaging cultural opportunities for youth, she began writing story-based historical itineraries for her then-preteen daughter. She knew she’d found the perfect delivery mechanism for these Tours when she held an iPhone in her hand for the first time.
Time Traveler Tours first app, also recounting Charlotte's story, was a School Library Journal Top 10 2011 App, a Teachers With Apps Top 10 2011 Tried & True Classroom App, and a Top 10 2012 Educational Travel App by the World Youth & Student Educational Travel Confederation.
The unveiling of Apple’s iBooks Author in 2012 opened yet a new door for Sarah and the Time Traveler Tours concept, enabling her to republish her Tours as Tales for the benefit of students and educators.
Combining the traditional power of narrative with the latest in technology, Time Traveler Tours & Tales put the past in the palm of your hand and allow you to discover history with those who made it.
Beware Madame La Guillotine: The French Revolution with Charlotte Corday will be available in iBookstores worldwide from February 6, 2013, for the introductory price of USD 4.99.
To request an advance copy for review, and/or schedule an interview, please contact Sarah Towle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time Traveler Tours Annual Report
The truth is, 2012 was a roller-coaster ride here at Time Traveler Tours. So just being up and running on January 1, 2013, felt like a great success. The past 12 months were a time of learning, introspection, and redirection. So, in this Annual Report, I offer you a sampling of our misadventures in the hopes that you may benefit from our mistakes...
January was the high point or our year, to be honest, with the bilingual release of Beware Mme la Guillotine (BMLG) finally hitting the App Store. Preceding it by six months, the English release had already garnered several excellent reviews as well as two Top 10 2011 distinctions. But the bilingual version was the true fulfillment of a dream; a dream that was five years in the making and a period of non-stop creativity: writing, curating images, developing spec docs and wire frames, learning to record and mix audio, working with art directors and translators and programming geeks.
It was an exhilarating time. Now the project was finally realized, published, and ready for purchase in the App Store.
But in February reality hit. I had no plan to sell it. In all the creative excitement, I had failed to construct a marketing strategy.
I cannot stress enough the difficulty of getting your app noticed when there are billions of others in the App Store. It’s a Sisyphean task for even the best product to rise above the noise, especially without a marketing plan and budget.
Lesson #1: It’s imperative to promote and market a product before and during launch.
After that, it’s old news.
We were lucky that the Anglophone version of Beware Mme la Guillotine picked up interest from Kirkus, NPR affiliates, School Library Journal, and Teachers with Apps in 2011 We were also lucky that it won the hearts and minds of many travel and writing bloggers who interviewed me or offered me guest posting opportunities to help keep the buzz going into 2012. But although now fully bilingual, Beware Mme la Guillotine was no longer news.
The 2nd month of 2012 also brought the 2nd blow: The developer of BMLG informed me that app #2 would cost just as much to build, defying previous expectations and exploding our remaining budget.
When we started working together, the plan was to make many apps. BMLG would be the main investment, the most expensive to build, for it would be the framework into which all subsequent content packages would be dropped. These would be wired together for a quarter of the cost of BMLG, I was informed, bringing the price of development down over time. The more apps, the more economical the investment.
Based on this plan, I bootstrapped BMLG, reaching deep into my own pocket as well as raising money through a 2011 Kickstarter campaign. I budgeted for development of app #2 at a quarter of the price, and that’s all the money I had left for development when bilingual BMLG launched.
Had there been a paradigm shift in development practice over the course of our year working together? Had my developer deliberately led me on? Had he so grossly under-estimated the cost to develop BMLG that he was now trying to make up for it in future projects? Or was he perhaps trying to cut me off, having found a new and more interesting project to move on to?
Whatever the truth, there was now no way #2 would be in the App Store in summer 2012. We had already lost momentum.
Lesson #2: There are lots of developers out there, but good ones are difficult to find and even more difficult to hold onto. They also don’t like to work with another’s code. So in addition to securing the rights to your project source code, be sure to hire a technical advisor or assistant to ensure that all code is readable and well organized throughout the development process. I did not do this and now I was going to have to start over.
I limped into March, suffering near total paralysis and with my beloved cat dying of cancer. I was demoralized. Feeling betrayed and like a total idiot for not realizing that my developer had built me a custom car, and was now the only mechanic in the whole wide world who could fix it. I was stuck with him and he could charge me whatever he wanted. In the event BMLG suffered a break down that I could not afford to fix, I would have no choice but to pull it off the App Store.
I was also then coming to understand that although apps are expensive to build, they do not fetch a high price tag. In today’s digital culture, the smaller the screen size, the cheaper the price. So creating and selling complex story-based historical mobile apps for tourism, it turns out, would never be a viable business model, not without additional revenue streams.
Lesson #3: In actual fact, the odds of you making a living (never mind striking gold) creating apps range from limited to none. Additional revenue streams are a must in order to build a viable business that includes publishing apps.
By the end of the 1st quarter, I considered giving up. But I’d already come so far. That’s when I resolved to build a factory rather than a series of custom cars. That way I could publish my apps without need of a developer, and publish others’ apps as well. I could create white-label apps for other cultural institutions, and rent out space in the factory (i.e., license the tool) for other app makers’ use.
To do this I would need a technical partner, someone to share the vision, as well as shoulder the risk and reap the eventual reward; someone with whom I could work side-by-side, using an agile publishing process, creating in sprints with regular testing to ensure that our products truly fill a need, and are not just what we think the public wants, as I had done with Beware Mme la Guillotine.
I attended a Paris Start-Up Weekend. I was terrified, but convinced that I could always duck out if it wasn’t working for me. Happily, it did work out. Very well, in fact. I pitched my concept, made the cut to form a team, and spent an action-packed weekend building a new storyapp from scratch with an ace developer and a talented young graphic artist. Our team won 2nd place.
Our prize? Free mentoring at the Paris-based business accelerator, DojoBoost, IF the developer and I managed to stay together. We gave it a good try, but our goals were too divergent and neither of us wanted to compromise our vision. It was an amiable parting. No harm, no foul. At the very least, I earned some serious self-cred and discovered that the Time Traveler Tours concept really does have legs. And I left with some theoretical access to money.
In May a friend of my daughter’s took Beware Mme la Guillotine out for a spin with his mum. He then requested a meeting. He knew I was looking to update the wire-frame and he had sketched out a new model for me. He also knew I was searching for additional revenue streams and advocated republishing the content as an interactive book with iBooks Author, expressly for the educational market. Sebastian is only 15 and already much smarter than me. I hired him on the spot and he’s been an invaluable member of my team ever since.
Meanwhile a braces-wearing coding genius fell out of the heavens and into my lap. He’d heard about the concept and was excited about it. He understood what I wanted to do and said he knew just how to do it, offering to help build the publishing platform of my dreams in Drupal, promising that when he was through I would never have need of a developer again. He would even help me get it off the ground for free. It would be fun for him, he said. A new challenge. He would have the first sprint case ready for testing by the end of June.
Lesson #4: Free doesn't work. People need to be valued and are compelled by a promise of remuneration. This guy, unfortunately, did not have a test case ready in June. He had nothing. But he did make me see that my vision was a real possibility, and he showed me the way forward. For that I am grateful.
In June I began my first-ever business class, and pursued talks with numerous dev firms about partnering with Time Traveler Tours to build a CMS in Drupal. I did a lot of yoga to try to keep my heart rate down.
Then, as July came to a close, Beware Mme la Guillotine was named a Top 10 Finalist for the World Youth and Student Educational Travel Confederation’s 2012 App Yap Contest. This was further validation that the concept works and that I was on the right track. However, I was faced with a problem. It was up to me to crowd source public votes for the App Yap contest.
In August I had plans to be on vacation with my family. And I was in desperate need of a break. But I knew all too well from my Kickstarter days that crowd-sourcing support is a ton of work, all the more so when you have limited Internet access and time. So I used Buffer to set up automatic tweets, also linked to my Facebook page, to do the work for me. I scheduled calls-to-action to go out at 5pm all over the Anglophone world one day each week throughout the month.
On one level, this was a huge success as I managed to pull off a 2nd place in the App Yap public vote count. But, it turns out, some of my regular followers got pissed at the recurrent tweets and cut me off. They thought I was being too “me, me, me”. I thought I’d earned that right, since I tweet other peoples’ stuff 90% of the time for the rest of the year. But not everyone agreed.
Lesson #5: The down side of putting yourself out there is it’s impossible to please everyone. Rejection exists, whether you’re published,
Fortunately, not everyone was disgruntled, because August is also when my agent and I started talking about joining forces to create a niche digital publishing boutique of eBooks, iBooks, and eventually apps, representing the authors and illustrators of Hen&ink Literary Studio.
By September I was convinced that if I were ever to do any more apps, I would have to do it right; I would have to seek out the best development firm possible and raise the capital to build my factory. I commenced negotiations with a Paris-based dev firm that owns a publishing platform much like the one I wish to build. With a few tweaks, I asked, could they make their tool work for my apps, too? They looked into it, but decided they could not.
That’s when I started to listen to my contact at Bluespark Labs. He’d been following my progress since May 2011 when he beta-tested Beware Mme la Guillotine with his wife, who later reviewed it here. He understood exactly what I wanted to do, and urged me to engage him and his team to enter into a discovery process to create a foolproof plan. ‘It doesn’t cost you anything to talk’, he said. And I was getting tired of taking foolish missteps.
The end of September took me to San Diego to WYSTC conference for the announcement App Yap winner. The winner was not BMLG, but I was proud to be there among the Top 10 finalists. I used the time to do some serious networking with industry thought leaders. I met a lot of folks in the world of student and educational travel, all of whom loved BMLG and wanted more. I had found my target niche as well as potential future clients and investors. More solid validation.
In October, still talking to BlueSpark, I gave my editor the finished manuscript for the next StoryApp tour, Day of the Dead. I was writing again. And, Man!, did that feel good.
November: Sebastian and I are so engrossed with getting the iBook edition of BMLG out the door that I thought of little else. But the BlueSpark dudes are starting to win me over.
Lesson #6: The way of the future for content creators is transmedia, i.e., the technique of storytelling across multiple platforms using current digital formats. I had to get my story onto as many platforms as possible to reach as many audiences as possible.
December: They’ve won. The BlueSpark team and I kick-off the discovery phase of our hopeful future collaboration. But only after Seb and I manage to submit the BMLG iBook to Apple.
And so a cycle closes and we arrive at January, 2013. This new year begins with the first interactive book by Time Traveler Tales awaiting approval in the iBook Store, along with a whole new outlook, a new set of learning curves to surmount, and a new challenge: This year, I’m going changing identities once again, adding 'publisher' to my bag of tricks.
Am I ready? You bet I am.
My next step? To create a community of writers and illustrators who want to join me for what I hope will be an incredible ride. And while we’re all working together creating content, I’ll go try and drum up some dough.
Care to participate? Go ahead. Contact Me.
Here's to a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year full of vision and success for us all!