BtB3 - Personalised story versus personalised book???

This entry was posted on January 28, 2016 by Richard Warriner.

“Is there a difference? - ‘You bet there is’ says the team at Behind the Magic Door!”

Personalised books have been around for a little over forty years (we traced examples back to the early 70’s) – and for decades the format hasn’t really changed [Create a standard story and insert child’s name in set places to make it personalised]. Take a look on Amazon and you’ll find literally hundreds of personalised books with no doubt thousands available across the World Wide Web!

I have to declare a personal bias – I am not a fan and think this approach is frankly a bit lazy. In addition (and I apologise for using a generalisation) the typical standard of illustration was pretty mediocre. It very much looks like retailers are relying on the novelty value to triumph over quality.

So what is a personalised story?

Imagine a personalised book for your child where they have their very own story? Imagine getting the book for their sibling and – it’s a different story?

Well this is the kind of personalisation we like and so we created a book where the child (the protagonist) is the Adventurer and embarks on a quest to recover the letters of THEIR name from the villainous Shadow King… and so a great ‘Letter adventure’ was born.

Sounds complicated – how do you do that?

In the interests of fairness we should point out that this approach is indeed MUCH harder and far more complicated. Think about it - the story permutations are as numerous as the number of names in the world (and there’s lot’s of them)!

After a huge amount of research assessing ‘letter’ frequency in first names we identified our first 34 must have characters (different letters of the alphabet assigned to each). We think our approach covers more than 99% of names.

To keep the book a sensible size we did need to set a few parameters. We have a minimum of 3 characters and a maximum of 12. For the shorter names we have a bonus section to the book that ensures we maintain a good balance for the books which ensures that they are great fun for all.

Alas this approach did make it rather complicated for our illustrator, Adam. Instead of creating around 32 illustrated pages of story (standard size for a children’s picture book) we have had to create 858 individual pages (seriously! They have all been counted and catalogued). This was a huge job for our illustrator (separate blog). With each illustration being drawn by hand in Photoshop software this was an enormous undertaking!

We were determined that our web site would offer our customers a full preview of the book that they could buy (wouldn’t all customers want to see what they were buying first?). This wouldn’t be too bad for a standard ‘personalised book’ with only 32 pages – but a ‘personalised story’ with 858 page combinations is a very different matter. It took some pretty impressive algorithms to create the book preview to pull the correct pages together for each name, gender and adventurer option entered.

Why not put us to the test – try entering your name and see if your name is covered and what adventure we have created for you?

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