I spent some time this weekend updating an old Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) book I wrote when I was younger. Over two decades ago I entered the book manuscript entitled “The Two Sides of Africa” in a CYOA publishing contest. Although my manuscript wasn’t selected, I received a personalized letter from the publisher, Bantam Books, Inc. letting me know that my story was a serious contender. After the contest ended, I shelved the manuscript and didn’t touch it again for another two decades. This weekend I pulled it off the shelf, dusted it off (literally) and started updating it. It’s a great story that needed some grammar and stylistic updates.
I loved the CYOA series as a kid and bought the first 75 books (I still have them). Back then, Bantam Books published the books almost monthly for $1.99. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that one of the original CYOA authors, R. A. Montgomery, bought the rights to the series from Bantam in the early 2000’s and revived it. Montgomery founded a company called Chooseco to publish and market the series. He also reissued some of his old CYOA books and published a few new ones. I noticed that the price per book has gone up considerably since the 1980’s – they now cost $6.99 a book. That’s probably because Chooseco has higher overhead than a mega-publisher like Bantam (now owned by Random House).
CYOA books were the first ones to employ rudimentary hyperlinks, a common feature on today’s web pages, to carry the story. The books feature several different stories and endings and force the reader to choose between two or three divergent story options as it progresses. The series spawned several knock-offs and was quite popular in the 1980’s. It faded as a genre after the Internet took off in the mid-1990’s. That’s a shame, because the books are tailor made for the Internet. While Chooseco has helped revived the genre, it’s unlikely that it will make a significant comeback unless they become popular on Amazon’s Kindle or another electronic book reader.
I learned about Chooseco after I started updating my manuscript (now called “Adventures in Africa”). Although the company states that it does not accept unsolicited manuscripts, I’m planning to contact them after I update the story and tell them about my story. Perhaps nostalgia will persuade them to take a second look at my manuscript…two decades later.