In this series of articles, we will share some insights on how we’ve built this app, the community and everything around it.

We have launched the app internationally on Oct 27th 2017 and it’s available for download for the iPhone on the App Store here: Bedtime Stories — read & tell App.

We thought it would be worth to dive deeper into how Bedtime Stories came to be.

  1. How The Idea Was Born
  2. Building The Core Team
  3. Building The Content Team
  4. Developing The Stories
  5. Building A Product
  6. Building A Community

In the previous two articles, I’ve talked about how the idea was born and how the core team came to be. Great.

The idea of the app was to provide a constant stream of exciting stories — so the next logical step would be to focus on the content.

Obviously, we needed a first Storyworld to build the design & app around — so I started to write one by myself. But this was just a start and the basic idea was not to write everything “in-house” but to bring as many distinct voices into our platform as possible.

Since I run a storytelling studio I already knew some writers, but it was pretty clear that this wouldn’t be enough — we really wanted to get authors from all around the world to publish their stories with us.

So how do you find authors for children books that are willing to take the risk and join an app that’s not even on the market right now?

I’ll get to it in a minute — but first, we had to think about what kind of content we actually wanted to host — the children’s book market is huge and there are millions of books, stories, and tales already out there — what should be our niche?

Content is King

From the get-go, it was clear that we didn’t want to try and compete with mainstream children books — the world is full of well-behaved princesses who just wait to be saved by their prince, or strong boys who are not allowed to show any signs of weakness.

These kinds of stories do more harm than good. Why shouldn’t boys be allowed to be shy and girls to be brave?

So our idea is to bring empowering and diverse stories into the world — with characters that are quite the opposite of common stereotypes. We wanted to emphasize that being different doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you, but that you are actually special and unique.

The more we thought and talked about it, the more we made this our mission — in the hyper-connected modern world, it’s easier than ever to compare yourself to certain types of role models — we would provide a platform for underdog heroes, unlikely adventurers, and out-of-the-norm explorers.

With that clear vision, there was only one puzzle piece missing — we needed to find authors who are equally excited to create these stories.

Scaling the Search for Authors

Since there was no app that you can test yet, I created a pitch deck that was aimed towards authors — what is this idea about, what kind of stories do we want to tell and what makes us different from all the other.

The storytelling aspect with the Storypoints was something quite new and the serialized aspects are great too — but still, we wouldn’t publish a classic children’s book. And we couldn’t afford to pay any up-fronts but focus on royalties instead. And, most importantly, we wanted to find unique and diverse voices from all around the world.

So that’s quite an undertaking and I needed something that could scale in some way. Over the course of some very extensive research evenings, I found the perfect workflow for this undertaking: Advanced Twitter Search.

I’ve broken down the steps since it’s more efficient to tackle one step after the other, so here’s what I did:

  • Find potential authors on Twitter with important keywords — #kidlit #scbwi #childrensauthor #author #mgfiction #pb

  • Create a huge list of creatives and a link to their portfolio

  • Dive into the content and see what types of stories would be a great fit for Bedtime Stories

  • Get in touch, share our pitch deck and take it from there

The keyword #kidlit stands for Kids Literature, #mgfiction is Middle-Grade Fiction, #pb is Picture Book and #scbwi is the International Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators — those have been immensely helpful.

To my surprise, this worked really well and I got in touch with many authors that loved our idea.

Rules of Engagement

From the beginning I also wanted this project to be something special, something pure, something that’s really worthwhile and time well spent.

I did not actively create a process to start the collaboration, but from the start, I’ve had this unwritten rules in my head that really made a difference in my opinion:

  1. I made it a habit to have a short Skype chat with most of my authors — I think it’s important to get to know the people behind the stories and build a human connection.

  2. Never promise something that I wasn’t sure we can deliver. I tried to be as honest and transparent as possible: this is a project I deeply believe in, but I don’t know if it will work. We will do everything in our power to make it work, but there is no guarantee.

  3. Provide solid creative freedom for the authors. I wanted to find unique voices and distinct stories, it wouldn’t make sense to restrict their creativity and put them in a box. Of course, I bounced back and forth some ideas and I really like to collaborate closely on the creative process — but I liked the previous work of the authors already, so it’s best to give them as much creative freedom as possible.

These rules kind of happened and evolved by themselves. In retrospect, I think that they became the base of the project itself.

A Community of Storytellers

I am very used to collaborate with creative people and being an author myself, well, kind of at least, I really enjoyed setting up the creative workflow. I love to dive into new stories and get to the emotional core.

This whole process has evolved over the course of about a year, but every step of the way was really rewarding. I met so many great people on this journey — this is an aspect of the project that I didn’t foresee at all.

After some time we set up a private Facebook group for our collaborators and it grew into something really unique: a community of storytellers from all over the world.

Right now we’ve got authors from every continent and it’s truly amazing what kind of stories emerge. Over 30 authors from around the world are creating wonderful stories and we can publish new Storyworlds (with 5 stories each) every two weeks.

So while finding creative collaborators was one of the most daring challenges, it certainly was the most rewarding as well.

Stories, after all, are there to connect people, and without planning it, stories formed this unique community and it became a uniquely important pillar of Bedtime Stories.