Chooseco is a purpose-built publishing house which brought the groundbreaking Choose Your Own Adventure gamebook series back to print in 2006. Since the series relaunch, Chooseco has sold over 16 million copies as well as expanded its list to include linear fiction with the YA trilogy Weregirl.
The original and best-known gamebooks in the world, the Choose Your Own Adventure series has been translated into 40 languages and has 270 million books in print worldwide. Chooseco has expanded the brand’s presence through selective licensing. Twentieth Century Fox/Disney has licensed the film rights using emerging technology developed by CTRLMovie to allow audience participation in a theatrical release. In 2018, a license of Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger to Z-Man Games saw unprecedented success in the first Choose Your Own Adventure board game.
Chooseco is based in North Central Vermont. It boasts a top-notch creative team dedicated to promoting literacy through immersive gamebooks based on the principles of series founder R. A. Montgomery.
WE STAND WITH UKRAINE.
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Choose Your Own Adventure® gamebooks began life in 1979 as the first publishing effort of a new division at Bantam Books focused on younger readers. The series of interactive gamebooks initially had only so-so sales, until some genius in marketing had the idea to "seed" 100,000 books in libraries across the country (thank you, whoever you are!). Overnight, the books became hugely popular. Between 1979-1999, the series sold over 250 million copies worldwide and was translated into 38 languages.
The original “classic” Choose Your Own Adventure series contained 184 gamebooks authored by 30 different writers. The books were set in locations around the globe, in outer space, under the sea and in a number of distinctly imagined fantasy worlds. Over the course of its publication, CYOA featured every known literary genre. The last new title in the original series was released by Bantam (which had by then become a division of Random House) in 1998. The series of gamebooks is currently published independent publishing company, Chooseco LLC, of Waitsfield, Vermont, founded in 2003 by author and series founder R. A. Montgomery and his wife, author Shannon Gilligan.
CYOA has its roots in game theory and role-playing simulations. In 1976, R. A. Montgomery was running Vermont Crossroads Press, a small publisher known for its innovative children’s list, when he was approached by Ed Packard with a manuscript entitled Sugarcane Island. Montgomery, who had been involved in the design of interactive role-playing games in the early 1970’s for both government and industry, recognized an RPG in book form and quickly agreed to publish it. He christened the gamebook series “The Adventures of You." When Packard opted to publish his next book with Lippincott hoping for wider distribution, Montgomery wrote the second book in the series himself. Journey Under the Sea was published in 1977 under the pen name Robert Mountain. Publishers Weekly wrote at the time that the series was “an original idea, well carried out.”In 1978, Montgomery sold his interest in the press, but retained rights to The Adventures of You. He brought the gamebook series to Bantam Books, who was starting a new children’s book division. Montgomery signed a contract for six books in 1978, and invited Ed Packard and another former VCP writer, Doug Terman, to contribute books to the new venture. Bantam renamed the series Choose Your Own Adventure.Between 1979-1999, Bantam published 184 original Choose Your Own Adventure titles and nearly 100 additional titles in various spin-off series. Over 250 million books were printed in 38 languages, making Choose Your Own Adventure the fourth bestselling children's book series of all time. The series went out of print between 1999-2004, when Montgomery formed Chooseco to restore the gamebook series to print and expand into new media. Several of the original series authors returned to contribute.
Choose Your Own Adventure’s “you” centered choices have been cited as an influence in numerous games and media that followed the series. Japan’s popular Bishoujo video games, which combine narratives with gameplay, mark the beginning of “the trend in modern gaming toward using technology to allow players control over their stories…taking on characteristics of highly detailed Choose Your Own Adventure novels.” The Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks are credited with the heightened popularity of Role Playing Games, including Dungeons and Dragons. Mass Effect II also credits the Choose Your Own Adventure series as an inspiration in its narrative-based adaptive difficulty settings. FormSoft’s Adventure Player, a portable memory stick for PlayStation, allows players to build narrative-based games. The Interactive Fiction community has also credited Choose Your Own Adventure as being a major influence of their existence.
In addition to its mainstream popularity, Choose Your Own Adventure has been cited by numerous educators as a uniquely effective method for helping students learn to read. The series has documented popular appeal for the reluctant reader due to its interactivity. Choose Your Own Adventure has also been used specifically in technology lesson plans in elementary, high school and college curricula, as well as in professional development tools.
At least one, but often several, endings depicting a highly desired resolution, often involving the discovery of a handsome monetary reward. For beautiful visualizations of Choose Your Own Adventure story structures, please visit: http://samizdat.cc/cyoa/
Endings that result in the death of “you," your companions or both. Many times these sorts of negative endings include transformation of the “you” into a non-human form and becoming permanently stuck in the transformed state.
Other endings may be either satisfactory (but not the most desired ending) or unsatisfactory (but not totally bad).
Occasionally a particular set of choices will throw the reader into a loop where they repeatedly reach the same page (often with a reference to the situation being familiar). At this point the reader's only option is to restart the adventure.
As the series progressed, the length of the plot threads increased. Consequently, the number of endings decreased. The earliest books often contained nearly forty possible endings, while later titles contained as few as eight.
270 million books in print, 16 million since the relaunch in 2005
Published in more than 40 languages
The 4th bestselling children's series of all time (Wikipedia, "List of best-selling book series")
48 titles in the re-launched classic series (ages 7-14) including Journey Under the Sea, Space and Beyond, The Abominable Snowman, and Mystery of the Maya.
3 Choose Your Own Nightmare horror titles Blood Island, Eighth Grade Witch and Snake Invasion.
5 Choose Your Own Adventure: Spies historical fiction titles Spies: James Armistead Lafayette, Spies: Mata Hari, Spies: Mary Bowser, Spies: Harry Houdini, and Spies: Noor Inayat Khan.
27 titles in the Dragonlarks series for younger readers (ages 5-9) including Your Very Own Robot, The Haunted House, and Ghost Island.
YOU are the hero of the story and make choices leading to multiple endings in every book...
Themes include swashbuckling adventure, travel, mystery, fantasy, world culture, ancient civilizations, scary creatures, and space.
Numerous recurring characters.
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Raymond Almiran Montgomery, original publisher and author of the incredibly popular Choose Your Own Adventure book series for children, the 4th bestselling children's series of all time, died at his home in Warren, Vermont, on Sunday, November 9th. He was 78 years old. Cause of death was not disclosed.
Montgomery, known to friends as Ray, attended Hopkins Grammar School, Williston Academy, and graduated from Williams College in 1958. After getting kicked out of Yale Divinity School the following year for spending too much time skiing and mountain climbing, Ray focused next on what became a lifelong passion--innovative methods of teaching young students. He first worked at the Wall Street Journal, going into classrooms to encourage teachers to use the Journal in their curriculum. Subsequently he became Assistant Dean of Faculty under Professor Jacques Barzun, Dean of Faculty, at Columbia University, from 1963 to 1965. He founded the Waitsfield Summer School in Waitsfield, Vermont, in 1966. At the time, it was a revolutionary program aimed at children with learning challenges, in which the English curriculum was experientially based and gaming was used exclusively to teach basic math.
Montgomery's innovative work at the Waitsfield Summer School drew the attention of Clark Abt Associates, the famous Cambridge think tank, where he went to work in 1969. Abt's influential book Serious Games from 1970 was an analysis of the effectiveness of role-playing for problem solving, which significantly influenced Montgomery. After leaving Abt, Montgomery subsequently developed a role-playing game for Edison Electric Institute called The Energy Environment Game. The game asked players to assume various roles in a community; all had a stake in the outcome, trying to resolve the scarcity of electricity resources. It was used widely in high schools across the country during the first energy crisis in 1971. Montgomery also designed numerous innovative role-playing programs for training Peace Corps volunteers in cultural awareness and sensitivity. He travelled frequently to West and North Africa during this time to teach Peace Corps trainers for his programs.
With a young family growing up in Vermont, Montgomery wanted to work closer to home. So he co-founded Vermont Crossroads Press with his first wife, Constance Cappel, in 1975. The press was initially meant to focus on publishing high quality books for young readers. But Montgomery soon found numerous other books worthy of publication. He bought the first political thriller by Doug Terman, The 3-Megaton Gamble, which was pulled from the warehouse before shipping so that Scribner's could officially publish it as First Strike in 1978. He also published The Centered Skier by Automotive Hall of Famer Denise McCluggage. McCluggage's book mixed elements of sports psychology with Zen Buddhism and became the basis for several skiing teaching programs around the country. Mr. Montgomery also published The Woodburner's Encyclopedia, which became the bible to many in search of alternative energy in cold climates. The title sold over 100,000 copies, which was a signal achievement for such a small press.
In 1977, an author named Ed Packard approached Montgomery about publishing his interactive children's book Sugarcane Island. The young publisher saw it for what it was: a role-playing game in book form, and eagerly agreed to put it in print. He felt so confident about it that he announced it as the first in a series entitled The Adventures of You. When Packard left Vermont Crossroads Press to write his next book for Lippincott, Montgomery wrote the subsequent book—Journey Under the Sea—and published it under the pen name Robert Mountain. When his marriage ended in divorce a short while later, Montgomery sold his interest in the press to his ex-wife, and brought "The Adventures of You" to Bantam Books, which was looking for something "different" with which to inaugurate a new children's book division. Bantam offered Montgomery a contract for Journey Under the Sea along with five more untitled books, and renamed the series Choose Your Own Adventure. Little did Bantam or Montgomery realize that a publishing legend was about to be born. Choose Your Own Adventure went on to sell more than 260 million copies across more than 230 titles in over 40 languages, making it the 4th bestselling series of children's books in the world.
From the first contract, Montgomery opted not to use ghost writers, but to acknowledge every Choose Your Own Adventure author by his or her name. This ran counter to the standard publishing practice of the time of crediting all books to the founding author. This act helped launch the publishing careers of several young authors, including Doug Wilhelm, Jay Leibold, and Laban Carrick Hill, a winner of the National Book Award. He also invited Ed Packard back to write more books, along with Doug Terman, who wrote under the pen name D. Terman. After the first two CYOA contracts, Montgomery shared the writing responsibility for the series evenly with Ed Packard.
"I have edited and published hundreds of children's books, but overseeing CYOA at Bantam was the high point of my long career. I knew at the time that the series was making a major contribution to literacy, and that was immensely rewarding," notes Ron Buehl, former VP and Editor in Chief at Bantam Books.
Ray Montgomery's interests extended to new technology. He was an early owner of an Apple II. He helped adapt two Choose Your Own Adventure books as games for the Atari console in 1984. Then he was "evangelized" by Apple Computer in 1990 to develop software for CD-ROM on the Macintosh. His most notable project from this era was a creativity tool for kids entitled Comic Creator that he designed and produced with his wife, Shannon Gilligan. Comic Creator was featured as Best New Software in People Magazine in 1995.
Montgomery continued to write books for Choose Your Own Adventure throughout his career. His final title, Gus vs. The Robot King, was released in September 2014. Montgomery and Gilligan took over the series when Bantam Doubleday Dell, now an imprint at Penguin Random, stopped publishing new Choose Your Own Adventure books in 2000. In 2003, they co-founded Chooseco LLC to re-launch the series. Montgomery, who was passionate about education all his life, felt that interactive fiction was critical to reluctant readers in achieving reading fluency, which is the final stage of achieving true literacy. He thus felt it was imperative to keep the books in print. Chooseco has sold ten million copies of 65 CYOA titles in the past nine years.
A movie based on the series is currently in development at Fox Films. Montgomery is survived by his wife, Shannon Gilligan, of Warren, Vermont, his son, Anson Montgomery, of Warren, Vermont, his daughter-in-law, Rebecca Montgomery, granddaughters Avery and Lila Montgomery and his sister, Joyce Hobson of Portland, Oregon. He was predeceased by his son Ramsey Montgomery III in 2008.
A private memorial was held in the spring of 2015.
Originally appeared in The Valley Reporter on November 19, 2014.
"Obituary: R. A. Montgomery" in Publishers Weekly
"R. A. Montgomery, 78, Dies; Published Choose Your Own Adventure Series" in NYTimes