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Interactive Storytelling Opportunities For Authors, With Amy Stapleton — Self-Publishing Conference Highlight

Interactive Storytelling Opportunities for Authors, With Amy Stapleton — Self-Publishing Conference Highlight

The voice interactive storytelling technology powering Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can transform an audiobook into a two-way conversation between the narrator and the listener. Chatables is pioneering a new type of conversational storytelling that uses voice technology to engage story lovers in exciting new ways. Amy Stapleton describes the market, the opportunities for authors, and how you can easily get your stories published on voice assistants.

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Listen to Amy Stapleton: Interactive Storytelling

Watch Amy Stapleton: Interactive Storytelling

[email protected] is pioneering a new type of conversational storytelling that uses voice technology to engage story lovers in exciting new ways. Amy Stapleton describes the market. Click To Tweet

Read the Transcript: Interactive Storytelling

Amy Stapleton: Hi everyone, this is Amy Stapleton, co-founder of Chatables. It’s nice to be with you today even though it’s virtually. I hope everyone is safe and well, and I hope you’re enjoying the conference so far.

So, Orna Ross invited me to come and speak with you today about what we’re doing at Chatables, specifically in the area of voice technology and voice interactive storytelling.

I think we have a little bit of a, perhaps a different view than some publishers, and others do, on how we can effectively use voice technology to create a new and engaging form of storytelling. So, that’s what I wanted to chat with you a little bit about today.

The first thing I wanted to get into is the term “voice”. Really, we haven’t been using that word voice in the way that we’ve been using it in in the past five years until Amazon came out with the Alexa device. People talked about speech enabled systems and natural language, but now this term “voice” seems to be what industry has adopted to describe anything that uses automatic speech recognition and natural language processing to facilitate, let’s say, a two-way type of communication.

Now, audiobooks are obviously very popular. They’re becoming more and more popular, and people enjoy listening to them while they’re on the go or at home. The thing about audiobooks is that they are obviously, it’s a one-way communication device. So, you’re listening to a narrator, they are reading you the book, and even if they are using their voice to simulate different characters, it’s still a passive listening experience for you as the listener. There’s no way for you to talk back to the narrator of an audiobook and engage in some kind of conversation.

However, that is possible with voice technology. It’s a two-way engagement and we’re all familiar with that. Using either Google assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Siri, we understand how the two-way communication goes. There are obviously many limits right now with the technology, we can’t just say anything and expect for there to be a human-like response.

So, there are some constraints, but there is the possibility of two-way engagement between a storyteller and a listener. That’s pretty exciting, right? So, how do we use that? Now, that’s what we’re going to talk about in the presentation. I think there’s different ways to use this future of interactivity, and we at Chatables, we come at it from a somewhat different approach than others do. So, that’s what I wanted to describe. But first, let me tell you a little bit about the journey and how we got here.

I’m just going to turn off the webcam because it’ll interfere with the slides, but again, it was good to meet everyone.

So, my co-founder is Wayne Richard, and he and I actually met a couple of years ago at a voice summit. Prior to us meeting, we’d both been working in the voice space. Wayne has a long career behind him in industry information technology, and he started to get interested in voice around 2014, 2015, 2016.

He created some Amazon Alexa skills that are like adviser skills. He’s got My Real Estate Advisor, My Life Insurance Advisor and some other voice experiences like that, where you can talk to Alexa to get information. When we met, he was interested in looking for new opportunities at voice.

At the time, I had a company called Telables, and I was already working in this area of storytelling. So, my background, you see this little emblem from NASA, I actually had a long, more than a decade career at NASA, not working as an astronaut, that would have been fun, but I was in information technology. So, I was involved in a lot of complex software projects, and I had the opportunity to retire early in 2015. So, before that, I started looking around to see what I would be interested in doing once I had my freedom, and I have a background in literature, and storytelling, and writing. So, I have maybe a bit of a different perspective than someone that’s purely focused on technology, and in 2013 I saw a preview, like a demo, of this Cyclops looking robot. Some of you may already recognize him, it’s Jibo, and Jibo was a social robot, one of the first social robots. Let’s just say there was a lot of interest and a lot of press around Jibo. It was a project that initially started out of MIT and then became more of an industry marketing type of thing. They got a lot of funding; they had a very successful Kickstarter campaign. And what I liked about Jibo when I saw him, and I call it him, because he spoke with a male, sort of, boyish voice, was that this little social robot had quite a personality. It was meant to be something that you would have in your home, and you would become used to, almost as a family member.

So, it had animatronics, it could move around, it could recognize people and swivel the face to look at you as you were talking to him, and then engage you in different experiences. So, Jibo was very ambitious, and I think ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the market wasn’t quite ready for it, and Amazon came out with the Alexa device shortly after Jibo was launched, and it was a much lower price point and just easier to, let’s say, to operate, to understand what the limitations of it were. So, Amazon, the Alexa device, people ended up buying that and not so much buying the more expensive and more complex Jibo.

But this sort of got my mindset focused on, these talking devices can become personalities and we can develop a relationship with them and hey, what if they could tell us stories? And we could engage with them as they’re telling us about themselves and somehow creating this imaginary world for us, where we have some interesting stories that are coming from this virtual person that we’re engaging with on a regular basis.

So, from there, I started creating Amazon Alexa skills. One of the first ones that I created, that continues to be quite popular today, is called Tricky Genie. That is an experience that’s more for a younger audience. It’s a story puzzle game and you can go in and play it quickly within a few minutes and hear a story, you have a little bit of a challenge, and then you can try to beat the tricky genie.

But I wanted to branch out and develop more of a conversational story type experience. So, my next Alexa skill is called My Box of Chocolates, and you can see that there’s this virtual character that we created. She looks like a chef, but that’s really a chocolatier. Her name is Coco and we had four chocolatiers. And so, when you would open up your box of chocolates, in this voice experience, you know, you say, “Alexa open my box of chocolates”, then each of the chocolates represents a story, and the stories are told by these chocolatiers.

I was working with authors to write these bite-sized stories, and so I was able to publish authors in this existing Amazon Alexa experience that I had already developed. So, that was the first, let’s say, foray into creating a voice experience where we were able to publish the work of independent authors without them having to do any kind of coding. And I really liked how this experience worked, because you could hear the story from the chocolatier, and then after that story was told, we inserted a conversation that you would have about the story between yourself and Alexa, or between yourself and the chocolatier. So, it was a very informal type of conversation. It didn’t last for a long time, but it gave you the sense that you were enjoying the story and then having the opportunity to speak to someone about the story, and it would draw you into the mood of what was going on in the chocolate shop. So, it’s almost as if you had the ability to be involved in the social atmosphere of what was going on in the chocolate shop.

So, that was the idea behind that skill, and we learned a lot from that. And based on that, we have developed what we’re working on now, which I’ll tell you about more in a minute.

But first, let’s talk about the voice market, how we see it, and how we think it is going to develop. And this is really key because there are many different things that you can do as an author and use voice interactive technology, but we think it’s important to understand what the marketplace is, what kind of devices people will be using now and, in the future, so that you can tailor what you’re creating so that it’s going to work with these different, let’s call them channels, right? The most popular channel right now for engaging in a voice experience are smart speakers and voice assistance.

Amazon Alexa, Google assistant, they’re spread out globally, there’s a lot of adoption, and people are quite familiar with using them and they are a fantastic proving ground, we think, for voice interactive storytelling. Again, because you have the possibility of reaching such a large audience, if you just stick with the, let’s call it, the non-multimodal experience, so the voice-only experience, you can do that relatively inexpensively and you can try things out, what works and what doesn’t work. So, we think that’s a great way to get started with experimenting with voice interactive stories.

However, we also see that the market is developing, and as it develops, it’s becoming clear that personalities, virtual characters, are becoming more and more common, more prevalent, and we think the market is going to continue to develop in that direction. So, I have some examples for you here. We see a virtual caregiver. This is a nurse avatar that was created by a company called Electronic Caregiver, and they have a product which is Addison Care. The way it works is that if you are someone that is, let’s say aging in place, or not able to get to your doctor frequently, you can have Addison on a screen device, and she is an avatar that looks like she’s talking, and you can have a two-way communication with her. So, she is voice enabled. Right now, she can proactively ask you if you’ve taken your medication and how you’re feeling and remind you about things. But you could really imagine, if you’re an author and you think creatively, wow, wouldn’t it be fantastic if this same nurse avatar could engage someone that’s home alone in a fun storytelling experience?

So, maybe she could tell stories about herself or about things that are happening to her, or her fictional relatives or fictional neighbors, and she could draw you into her social world by telling you these stories in a way that is conversational and interesting. So, that’s what we find really exciting.

Then we have things like animated characters. Now, you’ve probably all seen animated characters in explainer videos and perhaps even virtual reality, augmented reality, right now most of those animated characters are not voicing enabled, but sometimes you can interact with them, maybe by touching a screen and deciding what you want them to say next, or just advancing the screen forward.

We think that very soon, these types of animated characters, be they just on a screen on a mobile device, or perhaps in virtual reality, we think they’re going to be voice enabled. So, just like you have the virtual caregiver who might be able to engage you in a story experience, there are animated characters that could do the same thing.

And finally, we have social robots and here’s an example of one that is really interesting that was just launched by the company, Embodied, and they have created Moxie. And Moxie is really a social assistive robot that was built and designed specifically for children, and Moxie is fully voice enabled. So, the child can engage with Moxie in conversations. Moxie can talk to the child, ask questions, the child can answer, they can do all kinds of things together, and obviously that would be another platform for a storytelling experience, where if the child maybe wants to be entertained or learn some more, you could help increase a child’s vocabulary by having interesting, engaging stories that Moxie tells, and that are so entertaining that the child can be drawn into this conversational experience with a social robot. Again, none of these things are going to replace our contact with human beings, but there are many instances where it would be great to have that kind of contact augmented by these virtual personalities that are interesting, and that could help us in different ways.

Now, how do these voice technologies compare to some of the other, let’s say, authoring opportunities that are available today and that are popular. So, we all know about Wattpad, Wattpad is very much mobile based, so it’s quite popular with younger audiences. As an author, you can create your stories, and you could write them right on your mobile device and then they will be published, and you can share them with people. And they are typically read from the mobile device, and this is a great avenue for anyone from hobby authors to even more accomplished authors. You can reach new audiences and even, if you have enough, let’s say, views or reads, you can even earn money.

Right now, most of this is not interactive. They, do offer a feature that has, let’s call them chat-based stories, where you can advance the story just by clicking on your phone and it looks as though the story is told by people that seem to be chatting, like text messaging. So, that’s interesting and it’s somewhat interactive, but it’s not really interactive because it’s more static.

But then you have other mobile authoring platforms, like Pocket Gems, they have their episode app, and it is also very popular with a younger audience. Those are more traditional interactive stories, because you look at the characters and then based on the choices that you make, so it’s choice-based, you can drive the story forward in different directions, and you make your choices, not by speaking, because again, these are not voice-enabled apps, but you make the choices by touching the screen, you select the speech bubble that you want your character to say, and then the story advances in that way. So, you can see that there are some types of interactivity there, they’re not voice-based, but it’s not completely dissimilar to what you typically might think of when you think of an interactive narrative or a voice interactive story.

So, if we take a step back and we ask ourselves, what problem are we trying to solve with some of these voice-enabled devices that we discussed earlier? Well, obviously we know that many people suffer from social isolation, especially today in the world of COVID. There are many people, especially older adults, that are separated from their families that are not able to get out and to have social interactions. So, you can imagine that if you had a virtual caregiver that has a personality, that could interact with someone who is isolated, that could be very uplifting for them. Instead of just talking to them about their health situation or asking them if they have taken their medication, perhaps this nurse could also engage the human being in a story-type experience.

It might just be as simple as creating a fictional backstory for that virtual nurse, so that when she talks to the patient, she can tell the patient what’s going on in her life and do that in a way that is engaging, and also draws the patient in so that they feel like they’re being acknowledged and included into this social world that they’re really missing because they’re not able to get out into the real world. The other issue that we have today is that people are spending a lot of time looking at their screens.

For many, research shows that this is not that great for your health, perhaps because it’s so much passive consumption. It’s distracting us from other things that are going around us in the world. It’s taking us away from our families and it’s also, ergonomically, not that great to be hunched over a smartphone all day. So, voice could be seen as possibly one solution to this situation where, if you have a voice device, and it’s voice-only, you don’t need to look at a screen.

And if you are engaging with, let’s say a virtual reality personality, you can do that without having to look at a screen. Maybe it’s a hologram, maybe it’s just a virtual personality that you’re listening to through a pair of earphones. So, voice is interesting in that it’s a new development that takes us perhaps beyond screens and more towards a natural way of interacting.

Now, as I began my journey to develop what I thought would be a really compelling way to leverage voice technology, I found that there was a typical way of doing it, and I was looking to do something different.

So, your most common form of interactive storytelling are these, let’s call them choice-based games. As we saw with the Pocket Gems episodes, those stories are all about making choices, and usually you’re trying to get to a specific outcome. So, even though there’s a story element to it, it’s obviously based on a narrative, the story kind of takes a back seat, at least in my opinion, to the gaming aspects of what’s happening. In these choice-based stories, they tend to be non-linear. So, as you make choices, then you would go down a specific path and based on that path and the choices that you make along the way, you are going to drive potentially different outcomes or even endings to the story. This is also the way role-playing games work. They’re very popular in the world of video games, but they are also becoming more popular, even in interactive stories that we see perhaps on TV, or that we engage with on the tabletop.

In a role-playing game, you take on the role of a specific protagonist in the story. Maybe you have a quest, you have a goal that you’re trying to reach, and you get to that goal by making choices throughout the game. So, I just wanted to make it clear that when you hear other people talk about, let’s call it voice-based games, voice-interactive storytelling, a lot of times they’re going to be talking about this type of branching choice-based story. There’s nothing wrong with this. These are great. People love these. And if this is something that you are really intrigued by and interested in, then I definitely encourage you to pursue it. There are other companies that are building systems that help you create these choice-based interactive role-playing games. That is not what we’re trying to do, because we are looking towards serving a different market. And that’s what I’m trying to explain in the presentation and showing you the types of, let’s say, devices that and virtual personalities that we want to be able to tell stories.

So, what are those again? Again, let’s look at these devices. We have potentially socially assisted assistive robots, we have virtual characters, maybe we have virtual personalities within augmented reality. All of these are individuals, they’re companions, they’re personalities.

So, what do they have in common? If they are voice enabled, they typically use synthetic voices that is based on text to speech technology. The reason for that is because these devices are telling you a lot of content. They have a lot of content that they’re using to engage with you.

They also, a lot of times, will dynamically generate content based on what day it is, or maybe a question that they asked you previously, they need to dynamically create that content. So, it’s just not really feasible to use human actors to create voiceovers for all that content. I mean, it’s possible, but it’s very costly, and your typical voice enabled personality device is probably not going to be using human voiceover. So, I’m saying that because at Chatables we’re using the text to speech synthetic voices. You often hear people say, oh, text to speech voices, you shouldn’t really use them for storytelling.

We want to create the feeling that you are having a conversation with a virtual character, and we think that the text to speech voice has worked well for that. They’re not perfect, but they are constantly getting better. And if you have experience writing with those voices in mind, then you can do a really good job at coming very close to a natural enough type of speech and language that people would be happy to listen to that storyteller tell you stories.

The other thing that these personalities have in common is that they are solo storytellers. Again, what I’m trying to say here is that if you have a virtual nurse and the patient is used to engaging with that virtual nurse, they’re going to expect that nurse to tell stories from her perspective, she’s the storyteller. She is the only personality that those people are engaging with. So, if you’re a writer, you’re not going to be writing a script or a drama that involves all these different characters that are interacting at the same time, because that’s not going to work if you want to take your story and make it available to be told by something like Moxie, or by the chocolatier, Coco, or by a talking robot.

You need to understand that there is a storyteller perspective, and you need to write from that perspective as if the storyteller was just having a conversation with the human, just telling them the story in a very straightforward style that you would normally use when you talk to a friend.

And lastly, you will probably hear a lot about how important or how up and coming displays are for voice devices. Amazon and Google, both have their devices that have screens, and this is often referred to as the multimodal type of experience. So, not only voice, but also screens.

It’s easy to be distracted by that, and I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with adding images, that might be something that we want to do in the future. But for right now, I think it’s important to just focus on creating the stories and making them engaging and interactive in a way that works for virtual personalities.

So, if I’m sitting across from a virtual character, and they were telling me a story, I’m not expecting them to make sound effects while they’re telling me the story.

That brings us to this term, that we’ve come up with of conversational stories. We are admittedly doing something different than what other publishers are doing, and this may not be for everyone, but we really feel like there is a need for this type of story. We also feel that there’s a market and going to be a growing market for these stories.

So, let’s just take a step back and discuss what is a conversational story. Well, what it’s not, it is not choice-based, it’s not role-playing, it’s not really branching. Although you obviously have the ability to offer different responses based on questions, but the outcome of the story is not changed as you’re interacting with the listener. That’s not the point. It’s not a game. The listener’s not trying to figure something out or succeed in a quest, you’re really having a conversational experience with a virtual character. So, it’s always, one-on-one, there’s one narrator, let’s call it a narrator or protagonist, one narrator that is telling a story to a listener. And as they are telling the story to the listener, and here’s the part where it gets interesting and challenging, as they’re telling the story, they want to take advantage of this two-way communication technology, right? So, we have found that if you create the story and you have the protagonist engage the listener in questions during the story, it can be very effective, but you need to be careful about how you craft those stories.

We’ve found that if the protagonist tries to create a genuine rapport with the listener, then they can ask questions that are based around maybe seeking some advice from the listener or trying to just figure out whether the listener has had a similar experience or confirm some thoughts that the storyteller has as they’re recounting what occurred to them. So, it’s a very personal type of interaction, and the goal is to draw the listener in, but to also make the listener feel like, Hey, you know, the storyteller is really listening to me, they’re acknowledging me as a person, and they’re also at the same time telling me something that’s really interesting, I’m interested in them, I want to know what happens next, what happened to them, and maybe I can assist them in what’s going on.

But again, the listener does not control the outcome. So that’s important.

If you want to get some information, we have created a number of writing guides. I think we actually have three writing guides that are available on our website right now. I just mention this because there’s a lot of information in these guides that will help you understand our view of a conversational story. It starts with creating a protagonist that has the storyteller perspective, and then we also go into a lot of information about the types of questions that we think work well and that engage the listener without making it feel like, hey, you know, this is just an interruption in the story, I don’t understand why this character is asking me this question right now, I’d rather just hear the story. So, it’s really important to finely tune the types of questions that you’re going to ask to enhance the engagement. And we also have a writing guide in there that talks specifically about the voice experience that we’re creating at Chatables, and that we will use to publish your story, so that’s something that I’m going to talk about in just a minute, but it’s really important to know that what Chatables is doing is, we’re not just giving you our view on how you should write a story to be conversational and the tools, we are also saying, we have created an experience in a voice first world, currently getting ready to be published on Amazon Alexa, and your story, if you follow our guidance, will be publishable within our existing experience.

Now, what we’ve created is a tool, a writing tool and editing tool, it’s very straightforward, it’s easy to use for an author. We call it Expresso, that name comes from the fact that we’re dealing with a coffee shop for our voice experience, and expression, expressing, is related to talking and to telling stories, so we called it Expresso. And this gives you the ability to write any kind of conversational story that you want. So, the great thing about it is that using this tool set, you can insert your conversational elements, we call them, your questions to the listener, anywhere in the story, there’s no specific format. You can make the story very conversational by inserting lots of questions, or you could make it more of a traditional story where the storyteller is telling something and then just engaging the listener a few times to get their opinion or to see if they can anticipate what’s going to happen next.

But that’s up to you as the author, and you can use this tool to create your own series with multiple stories in it with multiple episodes in each story. Just to give you a quick example of how a conversational element could work, this is a story where the protagonist is a male character. He has been looking at an older house that really needs a lot of work, but he’s starting to almost fall in love with this house, and he also has a bit of a dry wit. So, he asks you the listener, as he’s telling you the story, he says, hey, have you ever fallen in love with an old house that needed lots of work?

And if you respond with an affirmative response, you know, something like yes, or I sure have, or absolutely, then he’ll say, you poor dear, I can sympathize. But if you respond with a negative, then he’ll say, well, consider yourself a very lucky person. So, it’s just a quick little exchange, but acknowledges the fact that you’re there listening, and you’re building a rapport with this narrator, as he’s telling you the story.

So, how do you get involved in what we’re doing if this is interesting and intriguing to you? Well, it’s up to you to write the story. It’s your story, you’re going to own the copyright to it, you’re going to give us the right to publish it in our experience, if that’s what you would like to do, and we can help you think about the stories. There are many different types of stories that work well with the experience, which I’ll describe in a minute. We provide the tools to you and your tool as an author is, really all you need is our Expresso writing editor. Once you have your idea for the story, you can create it and you can also insert your conversational elements and we can help you with that too.

So, you’re going to make your story, your tail is going to become a conversational story told by one protagonist, and you’re going to have engaging conversational elements, questions to the listener, inserted into that story experience. And then the cool thing is we publish it. So, you don’t have to worry about any of that coding or the backend stuff, we’ve figured out how to make that work and we will make your story available to be heard by a listener in our storytelling experience.

All right. So, what is that storytelling experience that I keep referring to? Well, we’ve been working on an Amazon Alexa, it’s called a skill, and it should be available hopefully later this year, it’s called Storyteller Cafe. Now, again, this is a voice-only experience, there will not be any images. You are going to be interacting with your smart speaker. You’re not going to be interacting with Alexa or with Google assistant, but instead you will be interacting with the characters that we have created that own this cafe called The Storyteller Cafe.

There are four virtual characters, Joanna, Matthew, Brian, and Amy, and they actually use the Amazon Polly voices of the same name. So, we are using those virtual, synthetic voices.

When you enter the cafe, you will always be talking to just one of the characters at any given time, and they can engage you in some gossip. So, we’ve written a backstory for all the characters so that you know who they are, where they come from and why they ended up renting this cafe and creating it in their small town, and why they’re working together. And you can hear them, one at a time, tell you what’s going on at the cafe or what’s going on in their life, and they’ll ask you questions about it, and they’ll also maybe give you some information that they want you to tell the next person when you talk to them. So, you’re almost like a member of this social community that is all cantered around The Storyteller Cafe.

Now, to make this experience work so that we can have your story in there that listeners can hear, each of the virtual characters, besides working in the cafe and having their role in the cafe, they are also performers. They make it clear to you that when you come into the cafe, there are stories written by authors and they are going to perform these stories for you. And when they perform these stories, they can take on any different role.

So, let’s say that you have a fun series in mind that the protagonist is, maybe she’s a detective in a big city. Well, you can choose either the Joanna or the Amy voice and our characters, Joanna and Amy will perform that story in the role of your female detective. And all the stories that are in this experience are told in the conversational style that I’ve been talking about. So, it’s a one-on-one experience, you’ll hear the narrator in the role of the protagonist telling the story, and then throughout the story there will be engaging questions that will be asked. We’re not changing the outcome of the story, but it’s all about building a rapport, helping you feel like, hey, I really understand this protagonist and oh yeah, I’m helping them try to figure out what they should do and just learning more about them and getting more involved in the story as they’re telling it.

The other ability that we have with the Expresso writing tool is that you can have your protagonist remember how the listener answered certain questions, and that can be very effective because then later, either in the same episode or in future episodes, your protagonist can refer back to what the listener said previously and acknowledge what was said and use that going forward. So, just one example I can give you is that we had an author that created a story where the protagonist is on a train, going to London, and you as the listener, you’re basically sitting next to them as they’re telling you their life story on the way to London. In the first episode, the protagonist asks, have you ever been to London, and then based on the way you respond to that, much later in the story, in the third episode, as the train is pulling into the station in London, the protagonist says, Hey, I remember you said you’d never been to London before, so here’s a couple of places I think you’d really enjoy visiting. If you said that you had been to London, then he’ll say, hey, I know you said you’ve been to London before, but there’s this museum that has some new exhibits and I think you might really like to visit that. So, just the fact that they recall what you said and acknowledge that they have remembered that and that it was meaningful to them, and they use that again in the story, it can be really powerful. So, that’s another tool that we provide to you as the author in creating an effective storytelling experience.

We also are building into our Storyteller Cafe, the let’s call them purchasing, in-skill purchasing through micro-transactions. You may know that in mobile apps, it’s very common for there to be in-app purchases, and that’s a way for game developers to generate small revenue, or sometimes significant amounts of revenue by selling digital coins or other types of digital goods within mobile apps. Well, Amazon and Google have that same ability for voice app developers. We can charge for things; we can do in app or in skill purchases through our voice apps. So, we want to create a way for you, as the author, to open up potential new revenue sources. In The Storyteller Cafe, the way that we have designed this is that we will offer listeners the opportunity to purchase digital coins directly from Amazon by using their voice, so it’s all part of that Storyteller Cafe voice experience, and when they have digital coins, then after they listened to an author’s story, they have the ability, or we encourage them, to reward the author with coins, to incentivize the author to continue to write more stories. And then based on that revenue that we get through the digital coins, we will share that with you, the author.

So, that’s just one way that you, as an author, could potentially make money and have a new revenue source through these voice technologies and these third-party voice skills, like what we’re doing with The Storyteller Cafe.

The other thing that it’s important to mention is that, once you have written your conversational story, if you’re using Expresso, if you’re using the style that I’ve been discussing, it’s really great because we can store that in our database and your story can then be made available or published on multiple different platforms. It is now going to be relevant and usable through these many different channels. So, obviously it’s going to work within our Amazon Alexa voice experience, and it can work on a similar voice experience on Google Assistant, but those are just smart speakers, voice assistants. What happens if a healthcare company comes to us and they say, hey, Chatables, we have this this virtual nurse and we want him or her to be able to tell engaging stories. We want something more than just our nurse to ask people, hey, did you take your medication? So, do you happen to have any engaging, entertaining types of content that we could make available to be told by our virtual nurse? And we’ll say yes, as a matter of fact, we do, because all of these stories are written with a single storyteller in mind, and they already leverage this two-way communication. So, your client, your patient, is not just going to be passively listening to a story, but they’re going to be engaged in a social back and forth with this storyteller. We’ve written them specifically in that kind of style.

Same thing if someone from a virtual reality company comes and says, hey, we’ve created these virtual characters, do you have some stories that one or more of our virtual characters can tell? Yes, as a matter of fact, we do. So, I think that’s really what I wanted to drive home is that this conversational storytelling style is new and it’s different and it’s not necessarily easy to create an experience that works really well. But if you can do that, then there are many different ways that people can enjoy your stories, especially if you think about how the voice market is evolving and how all of these different virtual personalities are going to be part of our lives, then it’s great to work on this type of content now, that’s going to be effective for all of these virtual storytellers that we are going to have in our future.

If you’re a publisher, you might be thinking, well, how can I be involved in this, because I would also like to have my content made available through these different voice-enabled channels. I would encourage you to look into that. I often get asked, can I take my existing novel and make it voice enabled? And I would generally say, there’s no magic wand. If you’ve written something specifically to be read, it’s a novel, it’s a short story, whatever, you’re going to have to do some transformational work to make that function well on a voice-enabled platform, but we can help you with that. So, we have the authoring studio, Expresso. You just need to look at your characters and find the protagonist that you think would be the most compelling to tell the story and you’re going to need to write it in a slightly different style, a conversational style, like a one-on-one storyteller asking engaging questions. Once you’ve done that and it’s in Expresso, then again, we do all of the other technical work for you. We have the ability to make it available to these talking devices. So, we’re going to transform your story into an output that is capable to be told by a voice assistant or any other type of talking device. So, all of that, we call it the Storytelling AI as a service, once your content is there and it’s in our database, we can make it available to any of these channels.

We think that’s an exciting opportunity. So, it’s very early, there’s not many people doing this, and I think if you start experimenting now and you work with us on trying to mine those conversational stories out of your existing content, then that will be something that will really be a great thing for the future.

So, before I finish, I wanted to remind everyone that we are giving away an echo dot. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of echo dot we will actually give away, because Amazon has just announced a bunch of new devices. So, the new dot no longer looks like the one in this picture, it no longer looks like a hockey puck, it looks more like, I would call it a snow globe, some people call it a sphere. So, definitely enter the contest and maybe you’ll get one of those new echo devices. I also encourage you to visit our website and to download those writing guides that I was talking about.

In addition, I have recorded many different tutorial videos about the conversational story style that I’ve been discussing, and I also go over in detail how to use our Expresso writing tool. And we have a writing contest that you can find out about if you go to the website. We have cash prizes for that. There’s no fee to enter it, and the deadline for that is November the 15th.

So, you should still have time to enter that contest if you’re interested.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, I’m always happy to talk with people, especially with authors, you can email me directly at [email protected]

So, it was great talking to you today. I hope this has piqued your interest, and I look forward to possibly working with you on your conversational stories.

Thanks a lot.

Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads.

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