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Author Topic: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion  (Read 38783 times)
Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2006, 08:52:32 AM »

I don't pretend to be an expert, I've just published three books and writing my own now, but I do the write-straight-to-layout thing. I usually do the pure text approach, and when writing for somebody else to lay out, I mark the text with xml tags or similar to give necessary layout instructions. But when writing my current project Eleanor's Dream I've found that what do you know, I write easily and with a good flow straight to layout! And I can gauge the text's rhythm for the reader while doing it, measuring the length to be exactly right. I also lose track less often in my text, can make decisions of necessary illustration while writing, and so on. Overall it's been superior method thus far for this project.

Of course, I don't expect the layout I write in to survive in the actual layout process, especially as I'm currently writing into a web-pdf spread layout, but plan on publishing as a book. And this is definitely not something to do as your first venture into making a book, you have to have the work outlined and planned, and know how to move your text between implementations.

About what to give to layout guys: as both layout guy and writer I prefer to tag the text structurally with xml. It's increasingly well supported, easy to transform to something else, and as flexible as it needs to be. Also allows analyzing your text in new and weird ways, the browser xml tree as the simplest example. I could well do the writing in some word processor and just have it add the xml, if I wanted to. It minimizes the layout work, because the text conforms to expectations without exceptions, removing the need for the typical manual step in moving the text to the layout program. Compare to word processors like Word, which are a nightmare and practically useless as "pre-layout" structuring tools for most layout systems, as you have to copy the structure to your layout program manually. Also compare to non-structured text, which has all those drawbacks David mentions.

About Ron's story, which was both entertaining and educational: If Matt's reading this, could you elaborate on why the cover didn't work for the printer? I do my own layouts and thus have become very, very interested in common layout catastrophes. I have my own list of everything from printers with too low lpis to
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2006, 10:20:02 AM »

About Ron's story, which was both entertaining and educational: If Matt's reading this, could you elaborate on why the cover didn't work for the printer? I do my own layouts and thus have become very, very interested in common layout catastrophes. I have my own list of everything from printers with too low lpis to

Yep. I had lots of grief getting the grayscale images the right tone. So, I cheated. Keith's pics were line art. So, I set them to REGISTRATION in InDesign. Now, they wer DARK! Good. Turns out, however, that this was a very bad idea.

Registration means that all values of CMYK were 100%. But, I was ignorant that the cover was to be done in two color only. Having the black actually set to 4-color 100% meant that Ron would have to pay more and they weren't expecting that to happen. So, happily, I scaled it back to plain ol' Black, which is one color. (I am pretty ignorant of how they make it a two color -- presumably the other color is the pink, but I have no idea how that actually works since the pink itself used Magenta and Yellow values, if I recall rightly.)

Also, here was a bit of frustrating weirdness that caused a delay. Ron sent me back the printers request for bleed marks. Great, says I. No sweat. I set up the bleed marks approrpriately in InDesign, and then exported to PDF. Here's the tricky bit that had me pulling out my hair ...

The printer could only accept up to 18" wide paper. That was just within my guideline. It should have been no problem. I checked, checked again, and re-checked the damn bleed settings and marks. Everything was correct. But, the damn PDF was something like 18.22" wide. No good. Where was this extra width coming from? Argh!

Finally, I figured it out. When I exported to PDF from InDesign, I had bleed marks on the page. Turns out, by default, these were JUST long enough to make the PDF document expand to beyond 18". When I figured that out, finally, I just removed the marks entirely. Then, the document worked just like it should have, well within the 18" limits.

This bleed marks bit caused at least 2 days of delay for Ron. What a pain in the ass!
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Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

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Clay
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« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2006, 10:33:04 AM »

What Clinton said.  Also, because I got paid to write that article (by the magazine, not Clinton).

Seriously, I took his plain-text version of The Shadow of Yesterday and turned it into a PDF with a functioning table of contents in two hours.  It was great for a reference copy, even if it looks exactly like a technical manual.  I used a different set of tools than he did, but the fact that it was plain text made it very easy to transform.  Everything reads text.
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2006, 10:58:00 AM »

Thanks for the details, Matt. Have to watch out for that if I'm ever doing other than CMYK in the covers. I've had my own foibles with grayscale vs. bitmap pictures resently: Finnish digital presses have an annoying habit of assuming that if you're using a digital press, you'll be happy with whatever quality of shit they choose to print for you. It appears that roughly half of the so-called digital presses are unable to produce lines per inch above something like 45, which makes for the interesting effect of totally screwing up grayscales, while leaving everything else looking fine. It took me two books and a year to come to the conclusion that the problem is not my inexperience, but the incompetense of some of those presses.

Registration means that all values of CMYK were 100%. But, I was ignorant that the cover was to be done in two color only. Having the black actually set to 4-color 100% meant that Ron would have to pay more and they weren't expecting that to happen. So, happily, I scaled it back to plain ol' Black, which is one color. (I am pretty ignorant of how they make it a two color -- presumably the other color is the pink, but I have no idea how that actually works since the pink itself used Magenta and Yellow values, if I recall rightly.)

They pretty much find the closest matching Pantone color, and use that, I imagine. Perhaps they have some suitable program at the press to take your CMYK-defined pink and separate it from the rest of the picture? From what I've read, it used to be so that you separated the colors at the repro stage and simply printed the same sheets several times (however many colors you had) with different inks. Don't know if the digital press machines somehow do it in one go. When we did MLwM, the cover was practically duocolor, but the printer didn't have the capability for doing that, so they did the cover with a 4-colour machine.
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David Berg
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« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2006, 03:42:27 PM »

Ron, thanks for the thorough description, it's clearly been a great springboard for addressing some specifics about the process.  I'd like to diverge from layout for a moment and ask about:

Printing

I have gone through many bidding processes with printers, and after a while, you hit on the one you like the most and stick with them, only looking elsewhere if the job really doesn't suit them. Therefore for Sorcerer books, I use Patterson Printing; for POD books, I use Express Media. I know their strong and weak points, I like their prices, and the books look good.

Do you have any advice to someone who has never gone through the bidding process?  Any tips on what to look for and look out for with regards to printers, and how best to search for a good one?

Distribution

I asked Express Media to ship 85 to IPR and 15 to me at home.

I am guessing that this means you don't expect to sell too many copies in person.  Is this because you don't get a large number of interested buyers at conventions, or because most interested buyers at cons are just as happy to visit a web site to purchase your game? 

Or, do you figure that regardless of how many copies you sell at a con, you will sell about 6 times as many online?

Did in-person sales account for a greater percentage of your total when you started doing this than they do now?

Technically, I should have put up a webpage for the game . . . It seemed a little less important now that IPR handles my on-line ordering

In addition to the obvious benefits of having your work appear in one place with lots of other cool games, are there any further advantages to having IPR handle your on-line ordering instead of doing it yourself directly through your own website?  Any offsetting costs?

I appreciate you sharing your experience with aspiring neophytes like myself.

-Dave
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2006, 04:56:00 PM »

Do you have any advice to someone who has never gone through the bidding process?  Any tips on what to look for and look out for with regards to printers, and how best to search for a good one?

I could swear I started a thread a month ago or so, but it isn't there...
There are so many printers, and I know of so few, especially with the added limitation of living abroad and wanting the books printed within the USA.
Which Printers are out there? What are their strengths and weaknesses? why did you end up using them and for what?
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2006, 06:51:54 PM »

Guy, your post is empty of content. Please restrain yourself while I talk to Dave. If you're wondering where a thread is, ask me by private message. Threads are not deleted here.

Dave, here's the basic thread about printers and bidding for you: What are the common mistakes of printing? See also:
POD printer roundup
Printer recommendations
Distributor questions (actually mostly about printing)
POD vs. distributors

Regarding my print run and anticipated sales, you're misunderstanding the situation. Brennan will be bringing the bulk of the print run to GenCon, whatever hasn't sold yet out of the 85 - or, who knows, however many more I've printed if they sell out before then. The 15 I requested are not for convention sales, but as a backup personal stock for archival purposes or extremely local sales, and for sending to artists and so on.

To answer your questions about that, my in-person sales are ... how does one put this ... extremely high at conventions.

Also, you might not be aware that 100 copies for one of my smaller games tends to sell out fairly soon, and I then hit a cycle of "order more" without really thinking about it much. The 100 as a total has nothing to do with anticipated sales, it's merely an affordable chunk and easy-to-store batch.

The chief benefit of using IPR isn't the association with other games, although that's a good thing and I don't discount it. But bluntly, Adept Press' web presence and ordering sites on its homepage are already established (now those buttons lead to IPR). For me, the whole point of using IPR is never, ever having to fulfill a game myself ever, ever again. The very name of this activity, "fulfillment," is an obscene joke. Daily, I praise IPR and Key 20 for being strange and obviously demented enough to do this for me. I wouldn't ever ever do it again, not for love nor money.

Good questions!

Best, Ron
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David Berg
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« Reply #22 on: April 28, 2006, 09:48:24 PM »

Ron, thanks for linking all those threads.

I did indeed guess completely wrong on my distribution query, I should instead have simply asked:

For a first-time game publisher with a small initial print run (due to, y'know, not knowing if more than a handful of people will buy it), how would you recommend dividing my promotion and sales efforts between in-person and online?

If this is an issue that has already been discussed ad nauseum on these forums, feel free to admonish me for not browsing them more thoroughly before asking...

For me, the whole point of using IPR is never, ever having to fulfill a game myself ever, ever again. The very name of this activity, "fulfillment," is an obscene joke.

Is "fulfillment" simply getting some UPS envelopes, sticking books in them, addressing them, and taking them to the UPS store?  Is there more to it, or am I simply making it sound like less of a pain in the butt than it is?

Thanks,
-Dave
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #23 on: April 29, 2006, 07:14:37 AM »

Hi David,

Quote
For a first-time game publisher with a small initial print run (due to, y'know, not knowing if more than a handful of people will buy it), how would you recommend dividing my promotion and sales efforts between in-person and online?

You're making an artificial distinction. The answer is, when you're in an in-person sales situation like a convention, you max out your promotion/sales effort in that context, and when you're not, you max out your promotion/sales effort on-line. There's no

I think you have this idea that you'll say "I'm printing X books" with some notion of how many are going to sell in which way. There's no point to that, for two reasons.

1. In the brave new world of POD printing, getting a few more books when you sell out is just a button-click away.

2. Cons last a couple of days; on-line sales are an ongoing thing.

Maybe it'll be easier if I explain the LuLu model rather than the short-run model. With LuLu, or with some other POD companies, you don't make a print run at all. Every on-line order, they print and send a book, end of story. Oh, here comes a convention in a couple of months. Hey guys, print me up X books for my con; and they do.

See? The on-line sales are an ongoing, low-level, long-term whirrr of sales. The con is an add-on, for which you bring as many books as you think you can sell at that con, at that time. Whatever doesn't, save for the next con.

Now let's take it to the short-run model which I prefer. It's practically exactly the same, in that about 100 books are printed, and used as a bank for on-line sales until it gets low, then 100 books are printed, and so on. If a con is coming up, I have Brennan (IPR) send me (or bring, if he's there) a batch of books from the bank. Whatever doesn't sell, no big deal, those books are still in the bank.

It's not like you stamp "con" on one book and "on-line sale" on another. Looking at all the books in the bank, their number steadily decreases through on-line sales. When I want books for a con, I grab'em from the bank. Whenever the bank gets low for any reason, order some more to be printed.

Everyone should adjust this model (instant POD or short-run) slightly for their own purposes, but the basic idea is sound. For instance, Sorcerer presents a trickier situation, because the books are not POD but traditional print - I have to print 1000 books or so at a time for it to be cost-effective. Store orders get factored in as well. But that just modifies the model in my case and isn't a big deal for explaining here.

Does that help at all?

Also, yes, you've described fulfillment accurately. If you don't think it's a pain in the ass now, tell me after you've moved 100 books that way. One or two publishers seem to enjoy fulfillment past that point, but they are obviously deranged.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: April 29, 2006, 08:31:10 AM »

Pure self-serving announcement: the book is now available for purchase at IPR.

Back now to our regularly scheduled discussion.
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Bryan Hansel
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« Reply #25 on: April 29, 2006, 10:56:15 AM »

Ron, would there be any reason to switch your Sorcerer game from traditional printing to a short run method or why have you decided to stick with traditional printing for Sorcerer?

I also echo your fulfillment comments. I sell photographic prints via my website and wholesale to local stores.  There is nothing worse than having to deal with getting the order together, boxing it, and mailing it...and if they want it shipped via UPS it's even worse. Total energy sap of utter boredom.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #26 on: April 29, 2006, 11:15:19 AM »

Hi Bryan,

The fact is that no current POD company can match the current physical quality of the Sorcerer core book. The case-bound, clothbound, hybrid-sewn, leaf-stamped, slip-cover combination is something a traditional printer can organize without any infrastructural maneuvering - but even the most diverse POD company, at this time, would have to scramble to figure out how to arrange any of this, probably with a lot of out-sourcing. To do it for short runs would be incredibly labor-intensive and, in my view, logistically unreliable on their parts.

(Just as Sorcerer's rules-features are still being discovered as innovations by many players, close to 10 years following their first public appearance, the book's physical design still sets one of the highest bars in role-playing. I stress that gaudiness is one thing, but raw physical quality is another.)

For the supplements, which are paperback, I looked into it about a year ago and made a few calls. The general response was that for books of this size (non-traditional dimensions, remember), the per-book cost of any print run size would actually exceed my current cost per book using Patterson Printing. It helps, you see, that my traditional printer already has all the film and all the specs for those books, without any hassle, and I have a good relationship with them which tends to cut me some slack when it comes to unexpected glitches or corrections. So I have to compare, not start-up costs between traditional and POD printing, but established traditional vs. start-up POD costs. And the latter come out as a money-sink in comparison, for the Sorcerer supplements, not least because I'd demand their absolute best quality, and also considering those intangibles with Patterson which have been a real blessing on occasion.

On the other hand, It Was a Mutual Decision was physically designed with current POD capabilities in mind, so it actually is built to optimize their strengths - net effect, sharp and cheap at the same time. I still can't help picking up and handling the book, and everyone I've showed it too instantly grabs it and does the same.

Best, Ron
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David Berg
Member

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« Reply #27 on: April 29, 2006, 02:12:14 PM »

Ron, thanks for describing the POD, short-run, and traditional modes of printing.  My questions about online vs in-person sales were based in part on my ignorance of the flexibility afforded by some of these systems (as I think you gathered).

I still have some questions about the relative costs of these modes, and which book formats are optimal for each, but I think I'll read those threads you linked before pestering you for any more specifics.  (Though, of course, if you have a concise breakdown at your fingertips, I'd love to see it.)

Thanks again,
-Dave
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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #28 on: April 30, 2006, 04:24:38 AM »

Ron,

Thanks, this is enlightening and juicy. Even moreso than the "How I published Sorcerer" stuff.

I don't think I saw any mention of whether your short-bound format caused any trouble or extra cost with your publisher. I had wondered about that a while back.

Regarding your nifty insights on the "impulse buy" styling, I'm somewhat curious; Do you think, content-wise, (and assuming you'd deal with the distribution for such) that this game actually could be sold on the counter at a major bookstore? Or is it just an aesthetic choice?

Speaking of which... The cover graphic looks really good, judging by the little thumbnail on IPR. Much less pink that your essay had led me to fear.


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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 on: April 30, 2006, 06:09:33 AM »

Hi Larry,

Quote
I don't think I saw any mention of whether your short-bound format caused any trouble or extra cost with your publisher. I had wondered about that a while back.

None. They don't care which edge they slap glue into.

For those of you dealing with printers, whether POD or traditional, you should learn about the dimensions that they are set up to print without any cutting-down afterward. Sorcerer is a non-traditional size: about 10" by 6.5". That's an extra step for the printer, because they print it on 11" by 8.5" and then trim it.

In my experience, printers do 11" by 8.5" without any trouble, and if I'm not mistaken, they do 9" by 6" without any trouble either (I could be wrong; they might have to trim to it, but if they do, at least they're used to it). I think they can do 17" by 11" and 14" by 8.5" all right too.

Now, one thing we discovered here at the Forge a few years ago, and Luke discovered by himself because he's Luke, is that printing exactly 1/2 of a standard size is also easy for a printer - slicing it in half is no big deal to them, and they don't charge for it. Cool! That's why 8.5" by 5.5" is looking so common, as well as the fact that it's a nifty pocket-size as an object as well. You can do the same with the larger standard sizes, if you want.

Quote
Regarding your nifty insights on the "impulse buy" styling, I'm somewhat curious; Do you think, content-wise, (and assuming you'd deal with the distribution for such) that this game actually could be sold on the counter at a major bookstore?

"Could" it? I think so. That's what I call staying open to fortuitous opportunities, as opposed to actual business plan. If it had been an actual goal to get the book into bookstores, and not in the RPG ghetto section either, then I'd have run this entire project differently from the start.

Everyone, do not bug me about what I mean. That's not on-topic here.

Quote
Or is it just an aesthetic choice?

Dunno what you mean. Of course it's an aesthetic choice. Whether it's an aesthetic choice that has economic impact remains to be seen. To be clear, it'll take a lot more than a look & feel to get an RPG (or RPG-like thing) into the shelves of a mainstream American bookstore in a productive way. (Any piece of shit can make it into the RPG ghetto, and obviously does.)

Regarding pink? Heh ... you should see this book my wife just bought, "The Girl's Guide to Being the Boss (Without Being a Bitch)." This is a big-money item, highly rated, widely read, well-written, acclaimed, etc. And a solid half of the cover, front back and spine, is hot pink. My little lettering tain't nothin'.

Best, Ron
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