Several years ago, I first published Jamais Plus, a collection of two short stories–one of them interactive–that focus on an investigation into the death of Edgar Allan Poe. The book was the first I used in joining Amazon’s KDP Select program–my first time going all-in, and exclusive, with Amazon. The first story of the collection uses the html coding to make the ebook interactive, such that readers can, at certain points in the story, choose one action or another to progress–which makes the structure very much akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books so many readers, including myself, loved as children.
Turns out, enough readers loved those books that the actual phrase Choose Your Own Adventure is trademarked, and registered to a Vermont company called ChooseCo. ChooseCo was founded by a guy named Raymond Montgomery, who was one of the original writers of the series. Apparently, the original series started in the early seventies, when a guy named Edward Packard had the idea to personalize stories for his children. He started it as “Adventures for You,” and brought on several writers, including Montgomery. When the series gained popularity, Bantam books bought it and rebranded it as “Choose Your Own Adventure,” which is the phrase we all know and remember, and the one Bantam trademarked.
Random House bought Bantam sometime later, and eventually let the trademark lapse, at which point Montgomery founded ChooseCo and registered the trademark for the company, and has been republishing those beloved stories for Kindle. Packard, meanwhile, uses the phrase “U-Ventures,” and looks to be affiliated with Simon & Schuster.
At least, I think that’s how it shook out. That’s the story as I’ve been able to determine it over the past week. Why have I been trying to figure it out, you ask?
Because last week, I got an email from Kindle that Raven Noir could no longer be sold as such, due to a complaint from a rights holder. I was surprised, because I endeavored to ensure that everything appropriated was public domain. The story is sort of fan fiction, really, featuring Poe’s fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin (and one of the stories features Charles Dickens), but it’s not like Dupin’s under copyright.
No, the problem was that, in trying to help fans of that genre of story find mine, I’d subtitled “Raven Noir” as a “Choose Your Own Investigation of the . . .”
And ChooseCo cried foul. They had a trademark to protect.
Everyone was very accommodating. I wrote to ChooseCo and talked to two of their associates, and in the end simply had to remove the “Choose Your Own” words from the title, description, and meta-data. Done and done.
Just got word that the book is now live again. You can find it right here.
I like the story. It’s the first fiction I wrote in the graduate program where I studied writing, and I think it’s an interesting demonstration of how feedback can so markedly change a story’s execution. The first version was a lark, snappy and brisk, while the second was darker and more somber, perhaps more complex, too. And regardless of whether the story or characters are complex, the structure now is, considering that it’s coded that way.
I rather like that the mixed review the story has notes you can tell there are two authors, and posits the “original Edgar Allen [sic] Poe story,” given that I wrote both. I’ve sometimes feared my writing voice gets so strong you can tell it’s me, but I suppose not so much. That’s sort of fun.
I think the story is, too. I hope you’ll give it a try, if you haven’t already.