NOTES FROM A DYSLEXIC PUBLISHER # 5
Turning a mass market paperback into a trivia game
as challenging and fun to play as Jeopardy! or Trivial Pursuit
is anything but trivial.
I confess. I am a nerd. I love watching Jeopardy! and playing trivia games. One of the benefits of publishing nonfiction titles is that you pick up a lot of interesting but “useless” information. The real test comes when you are called upon to remember any one fact floating around your head.
For years, every Tuesday night, my teammates and I had played a trivia game called Buzztime at a restaurant called Houlihan’s. The game is played by watching a TV monitor that flashes a series of questions on a TV screen with five numbered answers from which to choose. You have only 30 seconds in which to press in your selected answer into a playbox that each team member is given. The longer it takes to answer a question correctly, the less points you receive. Get it wrong, and you get nothing. Now, there are two ways you can compete. You can either play against the other players assembled there at your location, or you and your friends can play as a team in real time against thousands of other teams located around the US and Canada. It has always been a lot of fun.
Over the years, I have purchased several trivia books that promoted themselves as “fun to play” but that were decidedly not. To get the answers, for instance, I found that you had to either keep turning to the back of the book—trying, all the while, not to see the answers to the next questions—or you had to instead turn the book upside down, and again try not to see the other answers. I had always thought there had to be a better way. While being dyslexic may screw up several of your cognitive skills, it also sometimes forces you to think outside the “game” box.
The challenge was to put together a trivia game in book form that didn’t give away answers to the reader.
THE ANSWER: What if you set up a row of four questions on each page, but instead of reading the questions from top to bottom, the game was played by turning to the next page where the answer appeared to the right of the next question in that row. It was definitely different, but it worked.
Now it was a matter of getting some really good questions.
THE ANSWER: Reach out to Buzztime, the company behind the trivia games I had been playing for years, and see if they would be interest in providing us with some questions. They loved the idea, but something was still missing.
How do I get people who don’t necessary know what Buzztime is to notice the trivia book?
THE ANSWER: Try to get some celebrities to help choose the questions in their respective fields and attach their names to each title, and that’s what we did.
To start out, we first got the legendary TV host Joe “Memory Lane” Franklin for all things showbiz. We then got basketball great Rick Barry for sports. For rock ’n roll, we were able to get Micky Dolenz, actor/singer of the ’60s pop sensation, The Monkees. For all things TV, we got beloved Eight Is Enough dad Dick Van Patten; and for all things movie, we locked in with comic improv genius Fred Willard. The books were all coming together, but one piece of the puzzle was still missing.
In nearly all the trivia games I had ever played, the answers to the questions were usually very short. As a nerd, I always wanted to know a little more about the answers to questions I didn’t know.
FINAL ANSWER: Provide more facts about each of the answers in all the books. And that’s how the Buzztime Trivia Series was put together. So if you love playing trivia, these books are a great way to play anytime and anywhere—without needing Wi-Fi or batteries.
And to all my nerdy friends out there, here’s one of my favorite questions:
Q. Who was President of the American government before George Washington?
- John Hanson
- William Penn
- Alexander Hamilton
- Jonathan Reese
- John Adams
Yours in all things (trivial or otherwise),
Rudy Shur, Publisher
Square One Publishers, Inc.
Ph: 516-535-2010 x 111
P.S. Here below is a link to our list of “Trivia” titles. Work hard, play hard!