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General Forge Forums => Publishing => Topic started by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 08:12:21 AM



Title: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 08:12:21 AM
Several times in recent threads, store owners, large publishers, and distributors have pointed out that game lines sell, where single books don't. I'm not going to debate that. I think it's probably true and lack the experience to add anything to the debate.

I suspect we have an opportunity to change something about the business we're in here, and I'd like some non-my thoughts on it:

We don't have to sell lines. Like musicians, authors, painters, performance artists, actors, composers, sculptors, storytellers, monologuists, and every other type of artist, we can...

get this...

put our names on our games!

A lot of folks already do this: Vincent puts his name on the front, for instance, as does Ron. But a lot of us (notably for this discussion, me) have been under the impression that saying that you're a company makes you seem bigger than you are. It turns out, it's transparent. It just makes you look like a teeny tiny basement company.

People know Ron because of Sorcerer and The Forge.

People know Vincent because of Kill Puppies for Satan and Dogs in the Vineyard. They're more likely to know the works than the people now, but they know the names.

Now, when I go to a bookstore (or Amazon, more likely these days) I'm looking for either a particular book or a book by a particular author. You probably are, too. Likewise, when I'm buying music, I'm looking for a particular musician (except in the case of Tzadik Records, which is run by a musician I like a lot).

So I think what we want to do is produce a personal brand. Make your books carry aesthetic similarities that make them a line, so someone will say, "Oh, this is a Ben Lehman game! I love his games!" and pick it up. Make things that should go next to each other on a shelf the way all my Asimov is together. Make it so that if you want to sell your games in a bookstore, the store owner will be able to buy the whole line of You.

That's my proposal. I'm'a do it myself and let you know what happens over the next few years.

Does this tap into the same thing as a product line? I don't know! Does making something a product line make it sell better outside of bookstores? I don't know!

Do you?


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: GreatWolf on December 01, 2005, 08:32:30 AM
Designer ("German") boardgames have been doing this for quite some time.  Reiner Knizia (one of the most brilliant boardgame designers currently working, IMHO) has published games with many different publishers.  However, I don't have a particular loyalty to the publisher.  I'm not generally waiting for the latest from Fantasy Flight to come out.  Instead, I'm looking to see when Reiner Knizia is releasing his next game.  The production quality is directly related to the publisher, but the gameplay is on the designer, and that's what I'm looking to see.

In part, I look for Knizia games because I appreciate some of the hallmarks of his design philosophy.  Knizia games are generally solidly rooted in mathematics, require the player to juggle the subjective value of various options, and are usually constrained so that there is not enough time on a given turn to accomplish everything that you want to accomplish.  As a result, there is a certain tension in an Knizia game (be it light games like Carcassonne: The Castle and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation or heavier one like Tigris and Euphrates or Amun-Re) that I find enjoyable.  Because Knizia has been able to establish a certain reputation, game buyers can expect certain things from his designs, and, indeed, look forward with anticipation to the various nuances that he will bring out in a future design.

Similar sorts of things could be said about Alan Moon (Ticket to Ride), Wolfgang Kramer with Richard Ulrich (El Grande, Princes of Florence), Kramer with Michael Kiesling (Tikal, Java), and so on.  Each designer (or designer team) has a certain flavor to the games that they develop, which their fans acknowledge and look for.

So, yes, this can work for you, if you can establish your reputation in this way.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: John Burdick on December 01, 2005, 09:05:09 AM
I wish books constructed by farming out chapters to various writers would identify which chapters were done by which writers. White Wolf does things by chapters, and the discussions on rpg.net often reveal who the authors were. Based on that I've formed opinions on their work. I bought Blue Rose in part because of knowing John Snead's work for White Wolf and Steve Kenson's reputation for hacking d20.

A recurring topic of debate is the clarity of Rebecca Borgstrom's writing. Every time it comes up, someone cites a chapter she didn't write as proof of unclear writing. Since the only way to know is to have been following along on the forum the entire time, that is a understandable mistake.

John


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 01, 2005, 09:32:11 AM
Hello,

Historical point: the first person to advocate this idea, Joshua, was John Wick, 2001-2002. Since he did so, and since he did sell a mighty truckload of Orkworld through personality-recognition promotion, the majority of independent PRGs have sported their authors' names on the covers.

Historical detail: Sorcerer's book cover was formatted before he made this point, although my name is on the spine. If the timing had been different, the name would have been on the front.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 09:36:52 AM
I wish books constructed by farming out chapters to various writers would identify which chapters were done by which writers.

Well, I don't know of any indie publishers who do this. It's not inconceivable, though, and I assume that, not only would proper credit be given, but there would be attention given to who got top billing, whose name was bigger, and all that stuff. It's in the nature of a collaborative exercise.

Point in fact, when Kenneth Hite reviewed The Mountain Witch, he gave particular props to Tim (the game designer), Don (the illustrator), and me (the book designer). He would not have done this if there hadn't been "About the Designer/Illustrator/Book Designer" sections on the last page.

By stark contrast, Dread, an indie game published without the Forge used not only two authors, but one of them used a pseudonym. That may be because they had an exclusive contract with another publisher or something, but it's foolish for most reasons, unless you're going to write lots of books under the name "woodelf".


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 09:39:00 AM
Historical point: the first person to advocate this idea, Joshua, was John Wick, 2001-2002. Since he did so, and since he did sell a mighty truckload of Orkworld through personality-recognition promotion, the majority of independent PRGs have sported their authors' names on the covers.

Oh, yeah, I know (though I didn't know it was Wick who brought it up). I'm proposing going beyond that. I'm proposing making a Ron Edwards brand that is as recognizable as the Vampire brand.

Quote
Historical detail: Sorcerer's book cover was formatted before he made this point, although my name is on the spine. If the timing had been different, the name would have been on the front.

It's never too late for a new cover.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Josh Roby on December 01, 2005, 09:42:32 AM
Wow, Josh, I've got to say that's a perfectly reasonable, useful, and bloody simple solution, and I can't agree more.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: chadu on December 01, 2005, 09:44:27 AM
Are we talking simply indie, because Steve Jackson Games has been doing this for decades now.

CU


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 09:45:27 AM
Well, maybe simple in theory. Developing a brand is a tough thing to do. Of course, the fewer people who do it, the better it is for those who do, I reckon.

And, for pete's sake, I'm Joshua, not Josh. Just like you.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 09:48:12 AM
Are we talking simply indie, because Steve Jackson Games has been doing this for decades now.

Well, good point. And it seems to be working well. That logotype of his means that a) there's a particular design philosophy behind this game, and b) it's refined well. I can taste a Steve Jackson rule one room over, and that means that he's done a grand job. Particularly because he's not the only guy making the games; he's got a lot of people making them for him, but using his design principles.

So, yeah, good example.

I'd also like to know some cons to this, if anyone's got one.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Josh Roby on December 01, 2005, 10:31:58 AM
Actually, Steve Jackson hasn't written a GURPS title in... I think decades.  He's far more interested in SJG's sideline projects, and lets GURPS more or less run itself these days.  Which is tangential, but also reinforces what Joshua is talking about -- it's still a Steve Jackson product.

Building a brand is certainly a hugely complex process, yes.  Putting your name on the cover of your book, however, is the simple part that I'm lauding right now.  Lots of complex things are made up of very simple steps -- I'm always happy when a simple step is expressed in clear terms.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Blankshield on December 01, 2005, 10:48:28 AM
And in a couple of years, I'll let you know how it goes on the other side of the fence, 'cause I'm not letting go of Blank Shield Press.  Mostly because I like it, and it's mine. :)  And, you know, because I'm a teeny, tiny basement company.

In hindsight though, Death's Door should have had author (ie: Me!) information identified inside the cover.  I tapped Kevin for the artwork, and forgot to give myself writing credit.  Oops!

James


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 10:56:13 AM
And in a couple of years, I'll let you know how it goes on the other side of the fence, 'cause I'm not letting go of Blank Shield Press.  Mostly because I like it, and it's mine. :)  And, you know, because I'm a teeny, tiny basement company.

Well, here's the thing: the glyphpress has been around for something like six years. Under the Bed is really just the first thing with commerciability. I'm not ditching it, either, because it's an umbrella for a bunch of projects and I don't want to rule out having other people under it.

Stephen King novels say:

Stephen King
Book Title
publishing company


The publishing company still exists and is a useful brand, but for other things.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Adam on December 01, 2005, 10:59:29 AM
I wish books constructed by farming out chapters to various writers would identify which chapters were done by which writers. White Wolf does things by chapters, and the discussions on rpg.net often reveal who the authors were. Based on that I've formed opinions on their work. I bought Blue Rose in part because of knowing John Snead's work for White Wolf and Steve Kenson's reputation for hacking d20.
FanPro typically does this with Shadowrun, as well, except for some books where many people had influence on many chapters, such as the Fourth Edition rulebook. But most of the supplements identify the author on a per chapter/section basis when possible.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: timfire on December 01, 2005, 11:00:37 AM
Is there really any difference between branding your name and branding your [/i]company[/i]? I mean, look at Cheap Ass Games---you can't rightly call them a "line" in the traditional sense, but you can call it a brand. You can expect a certain aesthetic quality and all that. How's that any different from saying "a game by Joshua Newman"?


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 01, 2005, 11:01:14 AM
I am confused.

What exactly are you suggesting, Joshua? I'm trying to figure out whether you're talking about an action and an intended effect.

The action = putting my name on my book covers, fairly big if possible (check)

The effect = brand-level perception of my name by customers

If we're talking about the action, then I guess I'm shrugging. Yes. A number of us are doing that now. Already happening; nothing wrong with bringing it up now and again.

If we're talking about the effect, then I don't see how it can be made to occurr. You either generate that kind of recognition (possibly encouraging it with the above action) or you don't.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Josh Roby on December 01, 2005, 11:04:23 AM
Tim, the only difference I see is that it's a lot easier (and habitual) for gamers to identify with a person's name rather than a possibly-clever game brand name.  I mean, intentionally courting the insane overidentification of gamers that we hate is probably kind of dangerous (how many people "hate John Wick" without having met him?), it has some potential benefits, as well.  In any case, "Joshua Newman" will probably create recognition and appreciation faster and easier than glyph press, at least in my eye.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Paul Czege on December 01, 2005, 11:04:54 AM
Is there really any difference between branding your name and branding your company?

Yes. If you're going to contribute to projects outside of your company.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on December 01, 2005, 11:10:35 AM
John (Wick) and I talked to Paul Tevis at GenCon about this very idea. It's on the Have Games Will Travel GenCon special #7.
http://havegameswilltravel.libsyn.com/


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 11:36:57 AM
Paul said what I was gonna.

Ron, I'm not talking about just putting your name on something, though it's obviously the first step. I'm talking about bookstores saying, "Oh, I'm out of book 6 of Ron Edwards' series". I'm saying that Ron Edwards (the hypothetical one) has a name people recognize on the books plus some combination of:

A house font
A range of colors
A particular book format
A number on the spine indicating its place in the series
A logo that's used on everything he contributes to
An "About the author" block in anything he contributes to

Ancillary stuff like a website that shows people who like one thing you made how to get other things you made is probably good, but obvious.

Remember, this is based on the assumption that book dealers like to have lines. I haven't really thought about this too much in terms of Internet sales. I doubt it would hurt, though, and since that's where most of our sales are now, it seems smart to consider.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 12:12:41 PM
John (Wick) and I talked to Paul Tevis at GenCon about this very idea. It's on the Have Games Will Travel GenCon special #7.
http://havegameswilltravel.libsyn.com/
[/quote

"What's next in store? What do you have now? Because I have everything else you did."

"It's a lot harder to get angrier at a person than it is at a screen name."

Now, aligning yourself with a brand, team, or what-have-you... that's built in. The "us vs. them" thing is part of human neurology. We can profit by, or fail because of, that. I don't think we can get around having identity, but we can make them up. That's what branding's about.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Paul Czege on December 01, 2005, 12:36:03 PM
Remember, this is based on the assumption that book dealers like to have lines.

Book dealers like being able to draw accurate conclusions about how well a given title is going to sell. Returnability does not mitigate all the costs of stocking and selling a book. You still have the time and staff investment of receiving the books, shelving them, and then stripping the covers and returning them when the books didn't sell. And having a title on your shelves that doesn't sell is a waste of the resource of that shelf space that you could have devoted to something that would have sold. Lines/series, shared pseudonyms, and graphic design, titling, and cover text evocative of other titles that sold well are a way for publishers to influence the decisionmaking of consumers who would otherwise base purchases on trusted endorsements and the names and reputations of authors. Lines/series are a way that publishers influence sales; book dealers who say they like lines/series are liking the sales predictability. But if you believe that enjoyment is more directly correllated with the efforts and talents of an author than publisher branding efforts, then you believe that lines/series does nothing of benefit to the consumer, or is at least of less benefit to the consumer (who will sometimes be influenced to make unsatisfying purchasing decisions) than it is to the publisher. And so I'd encourage you to put your name on the cover of your book. Doing so is an assertion that authorial efforts create enjoyment, and is no less useful to the consumer than line/series branding.

Paul


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Brennan Taylor on December 01, 2005, 12:46:57 PM
My two cents is to use your imprint as a small games publisher, sure. Adept Press or Anvilwerks or Half Meme Press, these are all good ways to have a publishing identity. However, your consumers buy these games because of the designer, and that is more important than the imprint. Be Stephen King. Jared and John Wick do this, and they are not dumb guys. I guarantee you will have fans follow you to a new imprint because of your name, the imprint is just not that important.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 01:10:51 PM
If we're talking about the effect, then I don't see how it can be made to occurr. You either generate that kind of recognition (possibly encouraging it with the above action) or you don't.

I've been thinking about this in the shower, and I think this is a misconception that a lot of people have about advertising: that somehow advertising is simply bringing a product to your attention.

It's not. It's much more nefarious than that.

It's using neurological mechanisms that evolved for stuff like facial recognition to make it so that you equate Pepsi — carbonated, colored, caffeinated sugar water — with that guy I know, Pepsi. That's why logos tend to be round and symmetrical: you're looking for faceness in them, like it or not. There are other clues, of course: shapes of eyes, color of skin... all that stuff goes toward making you recognize Pepsi as One Of Us. Hence Pepsi's Red, White, and Blue color scheme. They deviate from it only a little — a new form of Pepsi might change white to raw aluminum, or use them in different proportions. But they stay the same colors as Our Tribe.

Simply putting your name on the cover is only the first step... and maybe not even that. It might be the second step, because they first thing a brain wants to see is a face.

How to do this for a line of books...

Well, GURPS books, while not too terribly attractive, have common features. D&D books all have the overwrought angst'n'leather stuff. Vampire is a solid block of branding — so solid, they forget to edit out typos and it doesn't seem to matter.

So that's how I'm thinking about it from now out. How to do it precisely, I'm not sure. I'd sure like to see others doing other experiments so we can learn from each other, though.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 01:12:27 PM
(Curse you No Editing rule!)

Luke's done a really gorgeous job of branding with Burning Wheel, by the way. And that branding continues on in Jihad, if altered and on a lower budget. His branding even goes so far as the varnish on the cover.

Damn, I love that varnish.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: guildofblades on December 01, 2005, 04:03:51 PM
Hi All,

The Guild of Blades has been putting author and designer names on the covers/boxes of our games since the company's first game release in 1996.

However, that said...

As a company, we do not brand the author. We create a marketable brand name for the line in question and build upon that.

Why?

There are several practical business advantages to promoting a hosue built brand over promoting author/designer names. The name and/or images associated with the brand can be descriptive in a manner to more closely associate the features of the brand to its intended consumers. So a well named brand name can hold advertising value due to its wording or pictures, where there is no such value from a name (assuming equal levels or promotion given to promoting either option).  A brand is a trademark that can be solely owned by the company and can also be traded, licensed or otherwise have rights transered. A name is much harder to hold as a unique resource only the company can capitalize on. Ther German board game market is a prime example of why a company is better off not promoting authors and designers over its own house brand name. Because an author or designer can write or design games for many companies, thus diluting the power of the name as an asset to any one company.

The Guild only promotes its own brands, not its designers. Except on rare occassions. But we do recognize that the game we create are bought and played by persons who make them a part of their hobby. That nature creates fans. So we also make sure to put the author or designer's name on the product to, so fans of the designer will know it was done by them.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: James Holloway on December 01, 2005, 05:08:12 PM
Greg Costikyan used to make quite a stink about this issue in RPGs back in the early 1990s, although he wasn't talking about creator-owned products. He firmly believed that having prominent designer credit would give designers a following, but that RPG companies didn't like the idea because, of course, the same designer might design products for several companies and they didn't see any point in promoting the work of other companies. His article on the subject, published in The Gamer in 1993 or so, is on his site here: http://www.costik.com/justice.html.

This is, of course, just what Ryan's talking about, but it's not an obstacle for indie games, because the owner is the creator.

The idea of creating an identifiable brand to go with that name recognition is just taking the concept one step further, and sounds like an interesting idea -- you can see it in fiction, where (at least in the UK), all Iain Banks novels have similarly-designed covers, even though they have nothing to do with one another. They look nice on a shelf together, though.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 05:44:48 PM
Ryan's kinda making my point there.

Only one element he mentioned — the connection of a brand with particular details of the product — is not an excellent reason to self-publish.

As for connecting the details, well, people buy a Bruce Sterling novel because they liked the last one, not because it's the same. So, while you might get stuck with a particular image (Bruce being stuck with "cyberpunk"), it can be parlayed into a broader, more flexible thing.

Quote from: Guildofblades
So a well named brand name can hold advertising value due to its wording or pictures, where there is no such value from a name (assuming equal levels or promotion given to promoting either option).

Well, the Joshua A.C. Newman name doesn't say anything beyond just placing me as a person among 6 billion, and there are probably at least a few other Joshua A.C. Newmans out there. But the brand, that's another thing. I've got a logo, I've got particular game design goals, and I've got a particular aesthetic design sense.

Quote
A brand is a trademark that can be solely owned by the company and can also be traded, licensed or otherwise have rights transered.

Give me enough money and you can sell games under my name. It would have to be a lot of money and/or creative control, though. Lots of people do that when their fame because sufficient.

Quote
A name is much harder to hold as a unique resource only the company can capitalize on.

Now we get to the meat of the matter. As a self-publisher, you own that resource. No one else can have it without paying you royalties.

Quote
Ther German board game market is a prime example of why a company is better off not promoting authors and designers over its own house brand name. Because an author or designer can write or design games for many companies, thus diluting the power of the name as an asset to any one company.

Righto. So, as an independent game designer, promoting your own name not only makes your very identity an asset to your endeavor, but it also  makes you more valuable to any company that would want to hire you. You have a much stronger bargaining position that way. And that's why publishers want to subsume your identity into a larger company identity.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: guildofblades on December 01, 2005, 11:27:17 PM
>>Now we get to the meat of the matter. As a self-publisher, you own that resource. No one else can have it without paying you royalties.<<

I can see some good reasons to promote both a brand and the author/creator for a totally indie based company.

There is, of course, one downside. A brand not directly tied to a designer's name is an asset that can be transferred like any other. A name...the best that can be done there is it can be licensed. So by promoting the author's name (your own name) more or equally to the brand itself, yu just made it a fair bit more complicated for any other publisher to buy that property from you.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 01, 2005, 11:43:29 PM
Joshua A. C. Newman's
Shock: Social Science Fiction
Steve Jackson Games

... sounds awesome to me.

See, if I've done the brand development, they'll want my brand, whatever it is. And if they don't, well, they can offer the money to just use the game title or whatever. All is negotiable! I can always make more games that someone else can't fuck up.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Blankshield on December 02, 2005, 07:30:26 AM
Jared and John's recent interview with Paul Tevis has some very relevent material to this thread:

http://havegameswilltravel.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=35958


James


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: LloydBrown on December 07, 2005, 07:55:55 AM
From post 1 of this thread...

That's a fine idea, but it's really tangential to the point. 

The point of a product line is that the retailer makes $400 a year instead of $20 (in the case of a single product).  The name/company/logo/whatever on the cover doesn't affect the quantity of product on the store shelf.

Also, to be most effective, any branding effort must be repeated.  If you want to successfully establish a brand, you should repeat it.  And if you have 6-12 titles with similar trade dress coming out in a year to create your brand, then you effectively have a product line--again, whether your name is on it or not.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 07, 2005, 08:51:09 AM
Lloyd, you're repeating my point, actually:

If I've got four games that are linked not by "world" but by design philosophy, where they're numbered (with more coming soon, natch), that's an $80 line.

Quote
Also, to be most effective, any branding effort must be repeated.  If you want to successfully establish a brand, you should repeat it.  And if you have 6-12 titles with similar trade dress coming out in a year to create your brand, then you effectively have a product line--again, whether your name is on it or not.

... what do you think I'm talking about? That's exactly what I said.

Once more, with emphasis:

Quote from: glyphmonkey
So I think what we want to do is produce a personal brand. Make your books carry aesthetic similarities that make them a line, so someone will say, "Oh, this is a Ben Lehman game! I love his games!" and pick it up. Make things that should go next to each other on a shelf the way all my Asimov is together. Make it so that if you want to sell your games in a bookstore, the store owner will be able to buy the whole line of You.

Now, none of us are going to be producing any 41 books  for Vampire, but Engel, which is an amazingly attractive series aesthetically, is a series of 4 books.

Vincent will have 3 come GenCon (up from 2 last year). I'll have two, perhaps three or more with tiny games included (up from 1). Ron has six. Ben will have at least two, maybe three (up from 1). Tim will have two (up from 1). Matt W. will have two (up from 1). Matt S. will have four (up from 2. )And those are just the ones I thought up off the top of my head.

See where this is going? See why I bring this up now, before it would require a massive redesign of a pile of books to make this work? (http://secure1.white-wolf.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=48like WW has[/url)


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Roger on December 07, 2005, 09:57:14 AM
Another data point for Lines vs. Authors:

Mark ReinDotHagen co-wrote a book on tramp freighters (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0874312124/) for WEG's Star Wars game.

I suspect people who pick that up because they love Vampire, Changeling, and Wraith would be a bit disappointed.


Cheers,
Roger


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 07, 2005, 10:11:00 AM
Another data point for Lines vs. Authors:

Mark ReinDotHagen co-wrote a book on tramp freighters (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0874312124/) for WEG's Star Wars game.

I suspect people who pick that up because they love Vampire, Changeling, and Wraith would be a bit disappointed.

He's an interesting example. The dot in his name means that you can't forget it, for one thing. But that was before he devised the Vampire brand, right? I mean, the brand evolved since then.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Roger on December 08, 2005, 02:54:02 PM
But that was before he devised the Vampire brand, right?

Correct.


Cheers,
Roger


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Michael S. Miller on December 12, 2005, 03:34:24 AM
See where this is going? See why I bring this up now, before it would require a massive redesign of a pile of books to make this work?

It's interesting that this "brand identity" would work counter to the dominant design aesthetic that many of us have been following. Capes and With Great Power... look like comic books, Sorcerer looks like a text book, DitV looks like a 19th-century religious tract, etc. Creating a uniform design seems directly opposed to the whole "make it look like what it's about" thing we've been doing. It seems you've gotta choose one path or the other.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Nathan P. on December 12, 2005, 07:15:22 AM
A thought, and apologies if it's extending this thread un-necessarily...

Once a publisher has a number of titles out, even if they're published in a variety of "looks", how cool would it be to pull them all together under one cover? I mean, I would pay good money for "The Vincent Baker Collection" down the road, with edited and revised editions of kpfs, DitV, Red Sky AM, Dragon Killer, etc etc. Now that would be a full-size glossy hardcover worth every penny.

I mean, if you're interested in publishing enough games to make a line out of yourself, that might be an alternative to same-looking them - publish them idiosyncratically, and then package them together every so often (a row of Best of Clinton R. Nixon, Volumes 1 - 3, would be awfully sexy on the bookshelf....). I know fiction writers do this (I'm thinking of Steven Brust's The Book Of X (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0441008941/qid=1134400365/sr=8-4/ref=pd_bbs_4/103-8358045-2287855?n=507846&s=books&v=glance) series here). The No Press Anthology is similar to this too, and that's a wonderful collection.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Josh Roby on December 12, 2005, 09:13:37 AM
It seems you've gotta choose one path or the other.

Not necessarily.  You could still fashion the book to look like what it's about (which is a good thing) while still retaining similar elements across the "line".  Stuff like a little logo on the spine (if it has a spine), or in the corner of the cover, and using the same type style for your own name.  It is a design challenge, I'll readily admit -- not the least of which is choosing that uniform type style for your name that will "fit" with whatever books you happen to produce in the future.

Random note: White Wolf and Dream Pod Nine have unabashedly printed their internal inventory numbers on the spines of their books since forever, for exactly this reason: you can see the progression of titles and any "gaps" where you don't have that book.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 12, 2005, 09:19:01 AM
Mike, it's a challenge, but not a big deal. Joshua's right on the money.

The key is finding the things you can't change and the things you must from book to book.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Troy_Costisick on December 12, 2005, 09:28:00 AM
Heya,

It's a fine idea and hopefully one I'll get to employ this year.  This has been a very useful thread IMO, glad the issue came up.

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 15, 2005, 09:34:09 AM
Sorry to join this thread a couple days late, but there's another point I'd like to make, while we're at it.  If this starts a long discussion, we can take it to another thread.

I think, in these discussions, game authors tend to only think about themselves and putting their names on the cover.  However, while the game author is most critical in making the game successful, there are many more people involved in making the game book, as a product, successful, and, in my view, these people probably deserve to have their names on the cover too.  Comic books are a great example of this.  The writer, penciler, inker, and (in the companies that care the most about creator rights) colorer and letterists names are all on the cover. 

Even in indie games, though, it's often the case that artists, layout people, etc. are all freelancers that sell their work (and, sometimes, all rights to it) to the game author.  Personally, I tend to let my artists keep all rights to their work and simply license it for use in my (yet unpublished) games.  White Wolf's writers are all freelancers who sell their rights to White Wolf.  And if those folks deserve cover credit, I'd say that our artists and layout folks do to.  Now, they don't necessarily need equivilent credit or as prominent a name placing as the author, but it's easy to have "[author] (in big type)" and then "with [artist A], [artist B], [artist C], and [layout person] (all in smaller type)."

To summerize, if we're going to be about creator's rights, I think it's only fair that we stand for ALL the creators involved.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Brennan Taylor on December 15, 2005, 09:53:37 AM
I really like that idea, Jonathan. My upcoming project is only going to have one artist, and I think listing her name on the cover is a great idea.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 15, 2005, 09:54:53 AM
Not a bad idea, Jonathan.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Josh Roby on December 15, 2005, 10:51:08 AM
Okay, Jonathan's suggestion makes me wiggy, and when I lay out the reasons it makes me sound like an elitist ass.  Again.  So, you know, you've been warned.

Here's the thing: there's a difference between being an author and being a writer.  An author is responsible for the finished product as its creator -- the author might work with an editor, designer, etc, but the work is still theirs.  Usually, but not necessarily always, the author is also the genesis of the project, coming up with the original idea or doing the heavy lifting of development.  The author's name should definately be slapped on the cover of that work.  A writer, by contrast, is hired to write material specified by someone else, usually an editor. The role of the writer is delimited by the terms under which they work on the project. The writer does not have an authorial role in relation to the end product; it is not their creation and they are not responsible for it.  The editor is.  A writer's name does not go on the cover, although they (should) get a byline on the title or imprint page so they can add to their resume and writing credits in order to garner additional work.

Personal Tie In: Tribe 8 is not, by any means, 'mine'.  Even the Capal Book of Days is not 'mine'.  I was hired to write it and given a broad outline of what should be included.  I wrote my parts, I got paid, somebody else markets and sells it and worries about it, now.  I'm not on the cover; I do have a byline.

Which brings us to artists.  Most of the time, artists are recruited and commissioned after the text is in a state of near-completion, and they are given specifications of what art is needed for the project.  They get an order for six quarter-pages and three half-pages and they put their utmost talent into them and create a very nice product but when they're done, they're done.  Do they have an important impact on the final product?  Hell yes.  But they are far more like writers than authors, and in most cases they are not creators of the material but interpreters of the material.  If this is what the artists are doing, then they should certainly get a byline, and if they're good, the authors and editors should sing their praises in order to get them more work from other people.

I can see two scenarios in which an artist should appear on the cover.  One of them is a sorta good reason, and the other is a very good reason.  The first, only sorta-good reason is if the artist has big name recognition, because this will increase sales.  It's suboptimal, but it's also realistic and pragmatic and makes economic sense.  The other, far better reason is if the artist is involved in the development of material from the start, working in tandem with the authors to collaboratively create the content being sold.  I'm thinking of concept art, dialogue between the image-guys and the text-guys, and the like.  I think this would be awesome, would love to be involved in such a project, and would insist that the artists be put on the front cover, because in such a scenario they are as much authors as any of us text-monkeys.

(Speaking of monkeys, feel free to substitute 'page designer' for 'artist' in those two paragraphs -- the principle holds.)

In the world of comics, authorship is spread out a lot more evenly between writers, artists, inkers, et al, and so it's appropriate that these guys appear on the cover.  In a situation where a contributor is not an author (text or otherwise), however, they should not be on the cover.

That is, at least, how the world looks from my corner.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 16, 2005, 03:17:56 AM
In the first case, Joshua, what we're attempting to do here is create name recognition. You don't do that by hiding the names. Look at Osprey books: there are, what, 6, 8 plates in each one? But the artist gets a byline and people buy them by artist. I sure do: Angus McBride gets my dollars every time.

In comics, the practice of putting any creators' names on the cover is a recent thing coming from the indie comics revolution of the 80s and 90s. It's something that's served them well, and I think we should look at it.

Now, granted, a comic artist has to draw every page, but I think we can learn from Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, et al. that giving credit where it's due can be of tremendous benefit to all parties.

There's another concern, though, and this is a book design thing: you can really only put so much stuff on the cover before it becomes a muddy mess. I'm thinking that the back matter might be a good place to put this.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Jonathan Walton on December 16, 2005, 10:35:36 AM
To respond to Joshua x 2:

I agree with Joshua N. that it benefits all of us to CREATE name recognition, not just for game authors, but for artists and designers as well.  For example, I am a graphic design enthusiast.  It's fun for me to check out what prominent indie game layout guys, like Joshua N. or Matt Snyder, are doing.  Likewise, there are some great artists who seem to work on lots of cool indie games: Jennifer Rodgers, Keith Senkowski, etc.  And there are people who might begin to seek them out.  So, yes, from a marketing standpoint and from the standpoint of helping these other creators gain a following and build their careers, I think it makes sense.

Another thing: if you treat people like they don't have any stake in or real ownership of the work they create, then they DO walk away once they get paid, which is a blow to the game and the community that surrounds it, in my opinion.  Games and game lines that really respect and appreciate the people who do work for them see that respect paid back tenfold.  I'm thinking particularly of the Exalted and In Nomine communities, where game authors would often hang around on message boards or email lists or post online material in support of the game, and this had nothing to do with being paid.  When people feel like they are a real part of something, they stick around and support your game, because it becomes THEIR game too.  I don't see any reason why this wouldn't happen if artists and layout people started to feel more involved, having a strong committment and interest in seeing a game succeed.

In any case, YMMV.  This isn't a "everyone deserves front cover credit" manifesto.  Yet.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Josh Roby on December 16, 2005, 10:47:12 AM
I don't see any reason why this wouldn't happen if artists and layout people started to feel more involved, having a strong committment and interest in seeing a game succeed.

I distill my prior point down to one line: Instead of making everybody feel involved in the end product, we should actually involve them in the end product, and then print all the involved parties on the cover.


Title: Re: Lines vs. Authors
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on December 16, 2005, 11:05:04 AM
Right on, my fellow Joshua.

I work for scale with Forge folks. If I believe in a project, I'll get paid as a percentage of sales. If I don't believe in the project, I won't offer my services. Of course, there are a billion other reasons not to work on a project, too, but we're a community: believing in each other gives us power.