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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 62 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Lines vs. Authors  (Read 6733 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 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
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #16 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.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #17 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.
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #18 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/
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #19 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.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #20 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.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #21 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
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #22 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.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #23 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.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #24 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.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
guildofblades
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« Reply #25 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
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
James Holloway
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« Reply #26 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.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #27 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.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
guildofblades
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« Reply #28 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
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #29 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.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
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