This week we welcome Shannon Gilligan from the Chooseco, publisher of the ever-popular Choose Your Own Adventure series, who shares about the rebirth of the series for a new generation.
My husband R.A. Montgomery and I formed Chooseco in 2003. Ray was the original series publisher and one of its first authors, over 40 years ago in 1976! Ray’s work on role-playing simulations for the Peace Corps informed his vision for the Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) series, written in the second person, where “You” were often given adult skills and empowered to move through the branching narrative by making a series of critically important decisions before reaching The End. Some choices and endings were more desirable than others (at least, in theory).
The re-readability of the books is what drove the early success of the series. They were so original for the era. They were also one of the first series that had such a wide market appeal – to girls and to boys, to a very wide age range of readers from 8-13, and to accomplished fluent readers as well as reluctant readers. Teachers and librarians adored them then and adore them now.
When Ray sold his publishing company, keeping out the series, he found an agent that submitted it to 14 New York publishers. They all turned it down. Bantam was funding up a children’s imprint. Ray thought the only reason that Bantam bought it was that they had an adult books editor fielding manuscripts while they staffed the new division.
Bantam wanted six books, more than Ray could possibly provide solo, so he negotiated a key clause: hiring other writers for the series. That became a real hallmark. So many different points of view coming from the knowledge bases of so many different authors made for a really rich series. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, CYOA experienced unparalleled success. By the late 90s, due to some internal changes at the original publisher (three mergers in ten years), Bantam gradually let the series go out of print. When rights to his copyrights and the trademark reverted to us, we formed Chooseco in 2003. The timing was auspicious. At this point, many of the original series fans were beginning to have children of their own.
We relaunched commercially in 2005 with an initial exclusive to Barnes & Noble. Since then, we has re-issued both new editions of original bestselling Choose Your Own Adventure titles and published over 25 brand new and original titles. The response has been tremendous: we’ve sold 10 million copies since the relaunch and it’s been terrific to see a new generation of kids fall in love with this format.
Shannon Gilligan began writing fiction for a living after graduating from Williams College in 1981. She has written over fifteen books for children, including eleven in the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages. She spent a decade working on story-based computer games in the 1990s. Gilligan’s day job is publisher of Chooseco. She lives in Warren, Vermont but travels widely.