Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Steel Road: Art, project development, promotional efforts, and crowdfunding concepts

I've been quite busy with projects for the last few months.  Comet over Echo Rock is almost ready for proofs to be ordered, so fulfillment is right around the corner.  This means I'm gearing up for the promotion of the next book release.  I'll be discussing what the book is, and presenting a sample of the fantastic art going into its production.  Finally, I'll discuss some of the thoughts behind the production, promotional efforts, and preparations leading up the crowdfunding campaigns.  I hope you'll find this information of use for your own projects as well.

If you enjoy this entry please share it with others.


THE STEEL ROAD ~ Art by: Zachary Viola  Written by: W.S. Quinton

The world has been a dangerous place throughout human history.  Every civilization has developed its own weaponry with which to confront enemy threats.  As geography divided the world, cultures evolved their weaponry in unique ways.

Trade flourished between civilizations and as caravans and fleets traveled the globe they encountered a vast array of exotic weapons.  Within The Steel Road we chronicle the journey of a caravan of weapon merchants.  Each weapon described is sketched to provide an authentic art style.

As both a role-playing game resource and art book you'll enjoy The Steel Road as you travel the world on the edge of a blade!

A sample of images we're using in this fantastic book.  Enjoy!


Project Development ~

As with any project, The Steel Road began with a simple idea:  Wouldn't it be cool to have a source book of exotic weapons where every weapon was illustrated?

Sounds simple, doesn't it?

As with anything that is genuinely worth doing, the project wasn't as simple as it sounded.  The simple idea needed definition.  What weapons would be included?  What size book are we talking about?  If each weapon is to be illustrated will we include an enchanted version and if so will it need a separate illustration?  What page count range will the book be designed for?  How is printing going to be handled?  How will we get copies into people's hands? How much money will it take to develop the project?  How long will art take? When will the book need to be released? How do the tasks involved fit into the existing development calendar? The list of questions grew as the scope of the project became more evident.

Don't be daunted by this!  You can accomplish any project you are determined to complete so long as you: (1) Plan your project out; and (2) Don't quit.  So planning began with conversations with the artist who immediately wanted this project, Zachary Viola.  We discussed the project, formulated a realistic goal for the number of weapons to be developed and illustrated, calculated the timeline, agreed to compensation, and signed the contracts.   Art was assigned to Zach and he began the work of illustrating the book in the summer of 2017.  It is a LOT of art ladies and gentlemen!

Weapon statistic design, weapon description, and narrative writing fell firmly on my shoulders.  It's a task for which there is great responsibility to create content at the highest level of quality I can.  Through development a few ideas emerged that were key to making The Steel Road a great product. A book people would not only use, but use often and enjoy.

The concept was finalized, with the introduction of a narrator who tells his story as he journeys the world.  This made ordering the chapters important as we wanted the journey to evolve organically.  This is to give you, the reader, a feeling of natural progression of the travels of the merchant caravan.  It is, arguably, a minor thing but I felt it was particularly important.  The Steel Road is more than just a catalog of weapon images and statistics, its a book I hope you cherish and enjoy using.

For those of you devising your own projects:  Careful formulation of production schedules, promotion events (see previous entries regarding podcasts, personal appearances, etc.),  planning and executing your crowdfunding efforts (assuming you're using crowdfunding) will help you to identify and accomplish key tasks.

Promotional Efforts ~

It is important to introduce people to your work.  If you are an author or game designer you hope people will read your work and play your games.  To introduce people to your creations, use your promotional campaigns to show people what you do.  Showcase the excitement of your game or the appeal of your book.  Your promotional efforts aren't about maximizing your profits as much as they are about bringing attention to what you are doing.  People will decide if they want your product based on what they know about it.  First step then, is to let them know about your project.

If you have little to know budget they you want to maximize your social media efforts. If you have followers on your social media pages, ask them to share your information with others.  Create fun content that people enjoy, allow people the joy of being curious about your design, and be genuine and honest in all your efforts.

I'm a big fan of no/low-cost promotions.  I've had good success with live streaming, pod cast interviews, sending information to bloggers, making appearances at local comic shop and game stores, and sharing information on audience appropriate pages. It's a simple approach, and one well suited for people with no budget for promotional expenses or marketing expertise.  For those of you who are well experienced with promotions/marketing this is remarkably low stress approach.

Crowdfunding ~

Crowdfunding is about getting the project funded for completion.  For The Steel Road, there was a tremendous amount of art created.  Funding for that project will be used for backer reward fulfillment and to pay the artist.  Surplus revenue will be applied to funding future projects.  The crowdfunding campaign for this book will focus on providing value to the backers while striving to meet our funding goal.

Here's how I'm setting up the crowdfunding campaign:

1)  Kickstarter ~ Kickstarter is the only crowdfunding platform I've had any real success with.  To date I've had three of my four campaigns successfully funded there.  I'll be launching a short campaign on that platform to reach our minimum funding goal, with stretch and social goals set to help us reach levels of funding that allow for additional content to be added as well as adding an exclusive cover for backers.

2) PDF and Print on Demand Code Rewards ~ The Steel Road is coming out at over 100 pages, with more than 100 illustrations.  It will be made available in a printable PDF and print on demand codes for low cost backer rewards. I'm making these rewards stretch goal eligible, to provide the maximum value for all backers!

3) Sketch copies ~ There is a very limited number of backer rewards available where backers will get their digital rewards plus a print copy with a unique sketch in the cover done by Zachary Viola.  For backers who want something unique.  This offers a rare opportunity for the backers and is something Zach and I thought was a reward.

4) Signed copies ~ I have a great appreciation for signed copies.  I'm told I do it in a weird way as I personalize the signature to the individual backer.  The Steel Road will offer signed copies for backers to give their reward that personal touch.

5) Dedications ~ Each version of the book, (5th edtion OGL version and the Pathfinder Compatible edition) will have their own dedication.  The backer will be able to dedicate that edition to his/her friends and/or family by name.  This is a great reward tier if you and your group want to be immortalized in a particular edition.

Stretch goals will bring a hard cover version as well as additional content.  I've also put aa social goal in place aimed at my personal goal of reaching one thousand backers (I know, its a tall order)!

The campaign for The Steel Road is planned to be a fast and furious three weeks of excitement.  The first three days of the campaign, will feature special 'early backer' levels allowing backers to get PDF and POD codes for either version of the book for only $8 USD.  Want both 5th ed and Pathfinder compatible versions?  That's cool, I've got an 'early backer' level for that too!

I really want this book to reach as many gaming tables as possible.  I hope The Steel Road will make it to your table as well.


For all of you who are developing your own titles: I hope this blog has provided you with insights that have been beneficial. I've written about my ideas, my ethics, my work schedules, my successes and my mistakes.  It's been a wild year of diving into the deep end of the pool of writing and self-publishing, followed by a lot of paddling to keep from drowning 😉.  If I can do this, so can you.

Thank you all for joining me on this great adventure.  I hope to see you next time as well.

P.S.: I've also been writing fan fiction for one of my all time favorite role-playing games.  It's a fun hobby of mine, telling the fictionalized stories based on game play.  So check out "Fan Fiction ~ Tommy's Story" for more (I recommend starting at the beginning as the stories run chronologically).

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Development, things to come, and art for "The Steel Road"

From: The Steel Road
Art by: Zachary Viola
A friend of mine recently said to me, "I don't know how you do it all."  This was in reference to my writing, blogging, publishing efforts, promotional work, crowdfunding campaigns, raising kids, and going through my divorce while working full time during the day. It sounds very daunting when you write it all out. I admit that I felt a bit conflicted about my friend's opinion. He is convinced that I achieve a great deal.  My perception, however, is that I actually just accomplish a little each day.  With each task I complete, I take another step toward completion of my projects.

Many of you who read this blog are interested in producing your own materials. I am certain you have had moments when you felt overwhelmed by the job ahead.  I know I've certainly had moments when I have looked at my "to do" list and it seemed impossibly huge.  Anything extraordinary, any kind of remarkable accomplishment, is going to require some extra effort. The thing to remember, is that any large task is really just the sum total of several small jobs. I encourage you to put your pen to paper, your fingers to the keys, and your time to the small tasks.  You'll have to set forth the effort. But if you can accomplish a little bit each day, or each day that you have a moment to work in, the work accomplished piles up.  You'll get a step closer to completion with every play test, every page written, and with every task you complete toward your goal.  Don't let naysayers deter you, don't allow an incomplete project to lay fallow, and don't worry about what other people are doing. Create your vision, bring it to the world, and enjoy the incredible sensation of seeing people appreciate your work.

I recommend to each of you (the writers, the visual artists, the game designers, bloggers, etc.), that you not let yourself become disheartened as you work.  Believe me, I know that sometimes it can seem like writing and developing games and titles can feel like a never ending task.  Its a lot like eating a whole cow, you do it one bite at a time (yes, I know the saying is 'elephant'). So get the outline written, write through that tough scene that has you wringing your hands, correct that layer you aren't happy with, and bring your vision to life.

People will say things like "Wow, how did you do that?!" or "That must have been SO hard!" but really its just that you were willing to put in the work, in order to accomplish your goal.  Don't be afraid to do the work, don't be scared of not seeing immediate results, and above all... DON'T GIVE UP!  You can produce your vision if you will just do the work to make it happen.

You may feel like you're not doing enough to get done.  I sympathize as I feel that way very often.  I have a full time day job, I have small children, and I have a divorce I'm dealing with.  Believe me, I know what it feels like to have your time tied up.  Certainly take a little time to relax and unwind, but don't sacrifice your vision.  Dust yourself off and get a little done.  Only have twenty minutes to write? Well, then write for twenty minutes.  I usually keep a notepad with me or some other way that I can write down notes, ideas, and / or blocks of text.  I encourage you to do the same.

Completing your project is very simply a matter of doing the work to get it done.  It won't always be easy.  This blog entry is a perfect example of that.  I didn't know what I wanted to talk about and I went through three different ideas before I found what was most important to me right now.  I wrote this for you, and to confront my own demons as they howl in my ear trying to decry my own efforts.  (Back hellspawn, BACK!) So this entry was beneficial for me as it allowed me to refocus on the important details.  So tonight I'll write, even if it's only a few words, and get that little bit done.  Day by day, and page by page, I'll complete those projects and more.

I hope you'll do the same.

Below are the things I'm working on right now.  Items in development and those things rolling into development.

As of this writing, I'm polishing up Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock for its backer release /fulfillment.  Schedule is to release in April so time is coming up.  I had my laptop die and that slowed things considerably until I was able to get a new system (thanks to my friend Justin, for helping me out with that).  Art is done except for maps, which should be completed shortly.


What comes next:

Once fulfillment is complete for CoER, I'll be finishing up "The Steel Road" 5th edition OGL version.  I'll be creating the Pathfinder Compatible version as well and should complete that during its KickStarter campaign.

"The Steel Road" is a source book of exotic weapons from around the world.  It features fifty weapons, each of which is illustrated.  For each of the weapons within the book there is also an illustrated and fully defined enchanted "legendary" version of that weapon type.  This book provides you with a great range of available weapons for your game.  I have developed each weapon's statistics from real world data.  None of the stats presented are duplicated from any other text.  {In short, we're not copying anyone!}  The book is presented in an art style that mimics a sketchbook.  This is in keeping with the theme, as information is presented from our fictitious 'narrator', a leader of caravan of weapons merchants, as they traverse the far flung corners of the world.

From: The Steel Road
Art by: Zachary Viola

Following fulfillment of "The Steel Road" Kicstarter campaign, I will be commissioning the initial art for use in "Whispers of Persephone".

"Whispers of Persephone" is a resource book for players and game masters alike.  It brings a new arcane tradition to the 5th edition OGL mechanic, "Stygian Necromancy".  This book is being designed to resemble a spell book, containing pages of new spells, rituals, rules for ritual sacrifice (how and why you do it), notes on the tradition itself, tips on playing an evil spell caster, fiction concerning the Stygian Necromancers, and material to help bring the "DARK" back to the 'dark arts'!


In the late summer of 2018, I will be re-launching crowdfunding campaigns for "47 Furious Tails, Issue One".  If you've been following this blog since summer of 2017, you may recall that we didn't reach the funding goal on our first attempt.  To remedy this, I'm diverting any profits above operating costs into making this comic book a reality.

"47 Furious Tails" is a comic book re-telling of the Ako Incident. The story of 47 samurai who defied the will of the Shogunate to avenge the death of their lord, Asano Naganori. This series uses anthropomorphic characters to depict these legendary samurai.  You'll see samurai squirrels, foxes, monkeys and more as the tale unfolds.  Issue one begins before Lord Asano's last journey to Edo.  You'll see our insights into the way these samurai may have lived.

Based on historical and literary accounts of the incident, this comic series strives to bring the tale back to the modern era.  You'll see brutal samurai action throughout the series, experience intrigue, and catch a glimpse into the beautiful and deadly traditions of the samurai!


Late Fall and Winter of 2018

Tarot Adventures, Book Three:  Death comes to Glenfallow.

The Tarot Adventures continue in the later half of 2018.  I'll be releasing Death comes to Glenfallow, and if time permits, I will strive to release Book four as well (more on that title later).
Death comes to Glenfallow will bring yet more adversity to the denizens of Glenfallow, more challenges to the player characters, and more opportunities for heroics.

Luther's Revenge 

The sequel to my first adventure release, Tale of the Wizard's Eye, Luther's Revenge is a dark tale filled with assassins, murderous plots, and deceits targeting the player characters.  Look for fantastic art from none other than Lotus Blair  to make this a beautiful book.  Designed for high level characters as a difficult to deadly level challenge.  Be

Things on the back burner (I.E. my pile of other projects)

Children's books ~ I've written four children's in 2017 and I'm still waiting on illustrations on the first.  These projects are important to me, so I'm working on them as well.  It is likely that one or maybe two of these book will be released this year.

Card game ~ A friend of mine had a kickstarter to fund his own card game.  I thought to myself, "I can create a card game, sure" and so I bent my will to the task of designing a card game.  It was not as easy as I expected!  That said, the design is done, it just needs art and lay out to be completed then I can test it.  This isn't a high priority for me at the moment, so it is sitting in my "to play test" pile of projects.  (That pile is basically for things that I will inflict upon my play testers... they are such tolerant souls).

My original RPG ~ I have tons of work done on this and probably one hundred or more pages left to write  I don't have any art for this other than a few pieces for the bestiary so I'll have to fund that through crowd funding (and its going to take a LOT of money, so wish me luck and I hope you'll support the effort).  I'll run this game by my game group for play testing and we'll see how it shakes out.

I want to thank you all for once again joining me on my journey as I explore game design, self-publishing, and writing.  I hope you find this blog useful, of benefit, and that it helps you to avoid the mistakes that I have made while providing some clarity for your own efforts.

I hope you'll join me next time as we continue this bold adventure.

W.S. "Sam" Quinton

The Tarot Adventures series is trademarked by Sinopa Publishing LLC and W.S. Quinton.  All rights reserved.

The Steel Road is copyright (c) 2018 by W.S. Quinton and released by Sinopa Publishing LLC.  All art included in The Steel Road is copyright (c) 2017 and 2018 by Zachary Viola and is used with permission and under contract. All rights reserved.

47 Furious Tails is copyright (c) 2017 by W.S. Quinton and released by Sinopa Publishnig LLC. All art included in 47 Furious Tails is being created by Alexia Veldhuisen on commission from Sinopa Publishing LLC.  All rights reserved.

Whispers of Persephone is copyright (c) 2018 by W.S. Quinton and released by Sinopa Publishing LLC.  All art included in Whispers of Persephone is being created by Christian Martinez on commission from Sinopa Publishing LLC.  All rights reserved.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Call of Cthulhu Crossover character concept

Very recently an old friend (of more than twenty years) asked me for a character concept for a new Call of Cthulhu campaign.  I did my usual, job of presenting him with a concept that I thought was cool and fun, but that his group didn't want to allow for.

Now before we get into what I recommended, understand that I only play Call of Cthulhu in the months of October and November, and I usually act as the game master, storyteller, punisher of players.  I haven't run a game in the current edition yet either.  One last disclaimer, I've had players complain of nightmares from game sessions ... which should probably be taken as a compliment I suppose, but is a bit off-putting for most groups. You should also be aware that I am a big Dr. Who fan.  Given some of the bad guys the Doctor has faced in the past, facing mythos creatures seems very interesting thing.

Still here?  Groovy.  So the concept I presented to my friend was ...

Dr.  Jamal King (Phd. Bio-chemistry)
Age: 29
Ethnicity: African American
Gender: Male


Born in the United States, Dr. King completed his Phd in England in 2045.  He became a companion to the Doctor (female) and traversed time and space seeing a variety of wonders. Something of a history buff, his travels with the Doctor into the past were a genuine treat for Dr. King.  He did come into conflict with the Doctor over the subject of making changes to the time lines, and fled from the Doctor during a visit in 1920 to Lodi, California. The Doctor confronted Dr. King and after a great argument, she left the intractable time traveler behind.

Dr. King was aware of the racial inequality of the period but was, nonetheless, shocked by the rampant racism he encountered. Desperate to change the course of history, Dr. King advocates for renewable energy sources while working in a laboratory for DeWhitt Chemical Engineering.  He has been saving money for a trip to Austria where he intends to assassinate Adolf Hitler in a bid to stop the second world war from occurring. 

Dr. King misses a number of conveniences from the 21st century, but is willing to sacrifice the internet, Netflix, and computer assisted research if it means he can help brunt the damages of fascism and help avert the environmental destruction of the fossil fuel age.  He plans to popularize the electric automobile, and is working to develop an environmental movement. 

Introduction to the Mythos:

While working at DeWhitt, he was called upon to analyze a curious organic compound.  The substance has defied his best efforts, so he is working from a premise that it is formulated from transuranic elements.  He is working on development of a crude spectrograph to test that theory. 

The substance is spoor from an extraterrestrial being that exists in a state between three and four dimensions.  As such the spoor fluctuates and is defying quantification. Dr. King's analysis to date has yielded some curious results of interest to his supervisors at DeWhitt.  Dr. King's boss routinely claims his work as his own to enhance his own reputation.  Unknown to Dr. King, or anyone else at DeWhitt, Dr. King's boss is a mythos cultist determined to bring the age of the old ones to Earth.


I thought it was an interesting idea that wouldn't need adaptation of the game mechanic.  Cthulhu mythology already includes instances of different types of time travel, and having an investigator from out of time who claims to be a time traveler (crazy right?) would be fun. 

Alas, my friend's game master didn't like the idea of crossing genres. 

I know this entry isn't much like my others, but I thought I would share a bit of my game life with you all.

Thanks for joining me on my blog as I explore writing, game design and self-publishing (and get some personal insights into my more mad moments). 

I hope you enjoy and find usefulness from this blog.  I hope to see you next time!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A short entry on RPG story development

TriShula from India
Early art by: Zachary Viola
Art from: The Steel Road

If you have been playing role-playing games for any length of time, you are aware that there are many genres, game systems, and settings available for your enjoyment. Regardless of what type of game you are enjoying, an important component to any campaign is the story being created by interactions between the player characters and the plot points presented by the game master.

When you are developing a story for your RPG session keep in mind that it will likely NOT proceed in a manner exactly as you expect it to.  Player actions will often change the narrative with unforeseen results. Player interactions with NPCs can go awry, take on more in-depth properties, or the players may choose not to interact at all.  As the player characters interact with your plot points, you should be flexible enough to adapt the story's progression to a logical consistency with your overall plot and how the player characters have affected it.  This is not to say you should rely entirely upon improvisation, but to encourage you to help your stories grow organically from player participation.

To prepare a story that is adaptable you should flesh out the motivations of the NPCs.  This will help you conceive how those characters would react. This makes your story more dynamic and flexible.  Remember that the NPCs should react according to their character.

Address your story elements with attention to the interests of the players and their characters.  The story hook, grabs the attention of the players and Player characters, and should draw them into the story.  The antagonist(s) oppose your players/PCs and provide conflict.  Create antagonists that are interesting and that fit with the story.  Give them motivations that drive them to act and react.  Good stories have an ending of some kind.  Whether your ending is a springboard into the next adventure or not, make sure that your ending concludes or at least staves off the conflict created by the antagonists.  Wiley antagonists might escape to oppose the the players and PCs again, their plots only foiled for the time being.

Game sessions where the story unfolds are certainly more memorable, and generally far more enjoyable.  For your story, you'll want challenges for your player characters to confront that appeal to your players as well.  Use the challenges to move the story along, as well as to reveal new twists in the plot upon resolution of those plot points.  As an example, if your group is chasing bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside, then confronted and defeated the villains. How will they feel when they discover that the bandits were in the employ of a neighboring lord who sent them to stir up trouble?  Something like that may need to be looked into and the local lord should, perhaps, be notified as well.  Use these points to inspire your players to action and they will narrate the tale of what their characters do, and the story shall unfold in a more natural way.

Create stories that grab the attention of your players, that will facilitate the involvement of the player characters, and be flexible enough to adapt the reaction of the NPCs as the story unfolds.  When you are writing and designing your story, look for classic conflict themes for inspiration, or from real life.  Do you have conflict in your life that plays a huge role in your real life story?  If so it can certainly be a source of material for your game.

Thank you for joining me today on my New Adventure into writing, self-publishing and game design.  As always, I do hope to see you next times.

I saw a kickstarter campaign that I thought was really cool.  So in addition to "I am the Greatest, Hero Edition I also leave you with the link to a neat wooden dice case.  Check them out and support the ones you like.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Steel Road ~ weapons out of Africa, Europa, India, and more

Sjambok from Africa   Art by: Zachary Viola
From: The Steel Road

My first published rpg source book.  I like the sound of that!

It's not as easy as one might think. Picking weapons, looking for weapons that haven't been used before, and building descriptions for both the mundane version and the enchanted version is a good bit of work.  I have to say, I'm enjoying it!

As you may have noticed from past posts, we've put together a few weapons from each area we're touching on.  It's not meant to be a comprehensive list of all weapons from each area.  Instead, each weapon is native, historically speaking, to the region or continent in question.  The Sjambok above, is native to Africa. Its a painful device still in use this day.  Used like a whip and capable of inflicting horrible pain as well as injuring the target, the Sjambok sees use in modern day for crowd/riot-control.  A terrifying weapon, particularly if you have ever been on the receiving end!

The Talwar, from India
Art by: Zachary Viola

India has a long, rich history and has seen remarkable weapon development throughout the ages. The Talwar is a fantastic weapon, and is iconic for far eastern, and exotic locations.  Wherever spices may have flowed in the ancient world, so to the Talwar would be known as a weapon to be respected.

A weapon well suited for broad flourishes and quick slashes, the Talwar is light enough to be used by the common foot soldier yet heavy enough to cleave through bone.

The Tanto from Japan
Art by: Zachary Viola

From the earliest development we intended to cover weapons that had not been seen in rpg source books.  Japan has seen a great deal of weaponry from it's history covered in other books, so we focused on weapons that we hadn't seen, or that were iconic and deserving of attention (particularly if I felt the weapon deserved more attention).  The chisel tipped tanto was one of the first weapons I knew we wanted to include. Too often this fantastic feat of weapon engineering has been given short shrift as "equivalent to a dagger" when in truth daggers vary tremendously, and few are as remarkable.

With its chiseled tip the tanto is excellent at punching through armor, while it's keen edge can cut through tough hide and hard muscle with surprising ease.  The tanto requires exacting skill to forge, and is a valuable weapon in close quarters.


Zachary spend a great deal of time on the sketchbook style for these weapons.  Each is illustrated to give you a genuine depiction of the authentic weapon, and then the enchanted "legendary" versions were embellished for thematic effect reflecting their special powers.  Intriguing, isn't it?

The Steel Road will be released in both a 5th edition and Pathfinder compatible versions.  Art and production will be funded through a KickStarter campaign, which will launch after fulfillment of Comet over Echo Rock (Tarot Adventures, Book Two).

For the KickStarter we'll be offering a really special backer reward level for the first 72 hours of the campaign.  Backers will be able to get PDF and a print on demand code (a code that lets you pay only the printing cost and shipping cost for a copy... this is facilitated through for only $8!  Even better though, all backer rewards with print on demand codes are eligible for the stretch goals we currently have formulated. {So once we launch, come out soon to support this book and get your copy at the lowest backer level I can offer!}

I'm hoping to reach a thousand backers for this campaign, or more.  That's a HUGE goal to reach, so I hope you'll come out when the campaign launches and support this great book, and help spread the word! So please share this with other gamers to help build the momentum we're looking for to reach our goals! Keep your eyes open, and watch here for more art to be teased and more information on this exciting resource.

As always, thank you for coming along with me on my adventure into game design, self-publishing, and writing.  I hope to see you next time.

(Coming to KickStarter soon!)

All art provided by : Zachary Viola
Each illustration is copyright (c) Zachary Viola

Friday, February 16, 2018

A few notes on growing your audience (some basics) *edited*

I am the first to admit that I'm a novice blogger.  I dove into blogging to share my experiences as a writer, game designer, and as a publisher.  It is my hope, that by sharing my experiences I would help others to avoid the pitfalls I find (and often fall face first into).

One of the issues in common with each (blogger, game designer, publisher, and writer) is the need to grow your audience.  That imperative to reach out and draw people to your work. In many ways, I've been reinventing the wheel quite a lot.  I've read a little, spoken with another, far more experienced, blogger, and tried to learn what I can along the way.  I've made mistakes which could have been avoided, and I've learned a little bit along the way.

My largest mistake as a blogger has touched each element of my efforts.  I failed to do a small thing, and it made things much harder than they could have been.  What did I do?  I didn't make intelligent efforts to grow my audience.  I call this a mistake, because I think it may be a flaw in my own approach.  Since launching my blogs and beginning the publication of my books, I have wanted more interaction with my audience and wasn't much concerned about the number of people I reached.  This was a bad decision. I failed to take simple steps to get the word out about all I've been doing. I think the truth is that in growing your audience you promote the kind of interaction I was hoping for.

This isn't going to be an entry on "how to be a good blogger".  I'm not particularly well qualified to give such advice, yet.  This entry is more on, "how not to make a few ridiculous mistakes", sprinkled with a bit of "things you can do to grow your audience".

Mistakes you don't want to make:

1) Failing to share your work ~  I know it sounds incredibly foolish, but when I started blogging I didn't share my posts.  As in I literally didn't use the share feature, nor did I use the share to social media feature.  Once I finally worked up the nerve to share an entry from my blog, I finally had people reading an entry.  As rudimentary as this sounds, don't be afraid to share your work with others.

2) Poor use of social media platforms ~ I knew remarkably little about social media a year ago.  Using social media to share your work isn't as simple as posting it on your Facebook wall, tweeting it to your followers, or making snappy comments on Instagram.  You need to target your audience so they can see your work.  You also need to illicit help.  So ask others with interests similar to your, to share your work.  Use appropriate hashtags.  Use hashtags that are truly relevant to the material you are sharing. You don't want to be "that guy" who tags things incorrectly, because your audience engagement will be minimal.

3) Writing fluff ~ Seriously!  You cannot just post links to your crowdfunding campaigns and expect people to flock to your banner. No, you need to build your audience by creating  engagement through the content you provide.  You need to produce content that has value to your audience.  You need to produce things that people in your audience want to see. You want to provide value because, if you do, you'll find that you have more people paying attention to you.

4) Abusing your audience ~ If you've been reading this blog you've seen me mention time and again how your audience isn't your personal money machine.  Don't treat them like they are.  Be honest, respect their intelligence and interests, and create content that is useful and fun.  In other words, don't be a jerk.

Steps to growing your audience:

1)  Join groups, chats, and channels that share interests in the type of material you provide~  Enjoy the company and companionship.  Learn, participate, and be a person. Be real, and honest.  Your participation in these communities will draw people to you.  Create content with an eye toward what is wanted and/or needed by these communities.  Be ORIGINAL in your vision, pleasant and precise in your posts, and honest. (This is your social media work... its IMPORTANT)

2)  Garner help from those who follow you ~ Any time a person will share you work with others, you increase your potential audience.  Share to them and ask them to share as well.  Spread the word and show people that your content is interesting, useful, or otherwise valuable in some way.

3) Respond to comments, questions, and emails ~  Before you set up a blog, set up a new email account specifically for that media.  Answer questions honestly, use professional language, and accept feedback from your audience.

4)  Continue to hone your writing skills ~ Create interesting, original content, and don't be afraid to admit it when you make a mistake.  Take feedback from your audience on what they might like to see from you.   Keep your content as interesting (and honest) as it can be.  I will recommend, however, that you stay away from low brow shenanigans as you will lose audience members through attrition as they mature. Keep things interesting and classy.

5) Be careful of the links you embed into your pages ~  As you may have noticed I have only a few items embedded on this blog.  You will see that I feature a crowdfunding campaign (either one of mine, or one I found interesting, or because I know the people conducting the campaign) on the page.  Such as I'm doing now ~

I do this to help promote the campaign in question.  Which is to say, to support the team behind the project by making it easier for people to find them.  One or two is enough (in my honest opinion).  I also place affiliate links to Amazon.  Those are to items or services I thought were cool and/or related to the blog in question.

If you're going to use such features, make sure they are for things that your readers would find interesting.  You aren't trying to sell the world to each and every person, you're really just helping people become of aware of cool projects, or goods and services they may enjoy.

{Note:  I was not financially compensated for posting the link to Ghost Assassin.  I'm actually a backer for that campaign, because I think the art is awesome and I'm really looking forward to having a copy in my collection}.

But, be mindful of the links you use.  Make certain they work, and check them periodically.  I like building them onto the page layout, so I can easily update them across the board.  Its also one reason I almost never post links within the blog (but that is just my thing, the above link is used as an example and to promote a campaign I'm very impressed with).  Broken links get people nowhere, and don't do anything for you.  Keep your blog and its features operating, and your audience will be more likely to stick around and grow.

6)  Have fun ~  Don't make blogging a chore. Enjoy the writing you do, the research you conduct, and the people you interact with. People react to joy in others.  Its contagious so start an outbreak of joy.

7) Define your audience ~  I had to edit this point in, as I failed to point it out originally (Thank you Aaron!).  You have to know who you are writing for in order to provide content for them.  I write this blog for a small range of people.  As I've posted before, I hope you can use the information provided in these entries to avoid the mistakes I make, and use those things that have worked for me.

That's pretty much it for my present understanding of growing your audience.  Many of you know I have multiple blogs now, addressing children's books, book reviews, and blogs where I post my own fan fiction (I'm such a nerd).  This is my effort to create content of value for my readers.  I recommend it for anyone who has a lot of creativity they need to utilize, and a lot of ideas they want to explore.

This is it for today.  I hope you enjoyed the post.
If you did like this content, please do share it with others (see, growing an audience!)

Thank you for accompanying me on this adventure.  I hope I'll see you next time.

W.S. Quinton

I wish to extend my thanks to : Beloch Shrike and Aaron McLin for their feedback.

Note One:  This entry has been edited.  I received some nice feedback and made a few changes to clean this up a bit. Changes included rewording the lead-ins for "mistakes" and inserted point #7 and removed clumsy sentence from #2 Garner help from those who follow you.

Note Two:  Always edit your work before you publish it 😁  I wrote this last night, and published it after only a brief read through, and I missed some grammatical errors.  (Yeah, don't do that)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"When you're a writer people say the damnedest things!" OR "Not everyone likes chocolate" I had title trouble today...

Art by Zachary Viola
From: "The Steel Road" an rpg source book

When you set out to write and self-publish, you will find that many of your friends will have questions and opinions about your endeavors.  You are likely to hear both negative and positive responses, even from dearest friends and relatives.  I believe this is not unusual, as I've experienced both and I've spoken to a number of other authors who have  experienced the same phenomena.

So lets take a look at some opinions I've heard, and I'll tell you my thoughts on each.  To get them out of the way, we'll start with the negative or dissuasive things I've been told.  For our purposes here today, I'll call them "Pessimistic" opinions

Pessimistic Opinions:

1)  You'll never make any money ~  I have heard this more than once.  You may hear this from people for a number of reasons.  Some people are trying to be kind and curtail what they perceive as unrealistic expectations.  People may have their own baggage that is coloring their judgement (maybe they are frustrated writers themselves).  Still others are simply envious of your daring to put yourself and your talent on display.  Regardless of the motivation, lets take a look the argument on it's face.

What people are usually saying when they make this argument is that you won't make a living as a writer.  They don't believe, or don't want you to believe, that you can earn money to sustain yourself by writing out your ideas for the consumption of others.  While, for many people, it is true that they do not earn enough money from their publications to support themselves, it is certainly not true of all authors.  I firmly believe it is no one's place to decide whether you will make enough money writing to make it your career, other than you.  I'm not going to tell you "You can't do it".  You may have the next 'Harry Potter' series on your desk for all I know.  I'm also not going to tell you 'Quit your day job and write all day', because that may do horrific harm to you.

What I am going to say, is that you, and really ONLY you, can make that determination.  Write well and often, do your due diligence in whether you want to seek out a publisher or self-publish. In other words, write because you want to and because you believe you can.  It doesn't matter if you've found your premiere, break-out story yet.  It matters that you are writing and developing your skill, and that you aren't giving up.

2)  You're not a good writer ~ I think every writer has had this happen.  I think the best thing to remember when someone decries your writing, your stories, or your capabilities is to realize that not everyone in the world likes chocolate.  Its true.  I work with a lady who doesn't like chocolate and it amazes me.  The same is true with writers. Not everyone likes Jim Butcher, or Charles Stross, or Tolkien; but MANY people derive great enjoyment from the works those authors have produced.  So take it with a grain of salt, and when someone says "You suck.... your work is terrible.... your plot has huge holes in it..." or whatever else that may be hurtful to hear; remember that 'not everyone likes chocolate'.  The next thing you should do is take a look at what they say, analyze your work critically and see if you need to improve.

3)  There are too many writers out there and no original ideas ~ I've heard people who claim they want to be writers make this lamentable statement.  They are wrong. There isn't a lot of ambiguity here.  People who argue this point are simply mistaken.  Maybe they haven't been able to find an idea they want to write and conclude that no original ideas remain.  While that is terribly sad, it should shine light on the fact that what they are going through is a drought of ideas. Work to inspire these people by example.  Write what you may, and prove them wrong.  Who knows, you may inspire greatness in them.

4)  Being an author isn't easy ~  This is true.  Its not easy.  It is, in point of fact, a great deal of work.  It is even more labor intensive when you don't have the benefit of an established publisher to market your work for you, to see to printing, schedule promotions/book signings, edit your work, and bring the finished product to market.  Each of the tasks listed above, are done by people.  As a person yourself, you can learn to do each.  It is a great deal of work, but writing the book is just the first step.  To get people to read it you have to make them aware of it, and convince them to read it.

5)  When will you find time to write? ~  A question begs an answer, and this is a simple question with an equally simple answer.  You find time to write when you can.  For me, its on my phone at work while I'm taking a break, or at home after the kids go to sleep or before they wake up in the morning.  You can make time for you to write in.  You simply have to willing to.  So rather than watch a television show or Youtube and lose track of your day, put pen to paper or fingers to keys and write.  You will surprised at how much work you can accomplish by writing even a small amount each day.

There are uncounted additional reasons people may throw at your to dissuade you from writing.  The five above are simply the ones I've most commonly encountered or have discussed with other writers.  The rationale to keep writing remains the same, however, because if you ever stop writing you may lose years before you decide to take up the pen again.  That is what happened to me.  I wish I had continued to write, even if it means I was writing badly the entirety of the time, rather than having stopped.  I lost many stories that I never got to tell because I stopped writing.  Save yourself the regret, and keep writing.

As for positive responses, we'll call these items "affirmative" for purposes of this discussion.   Don't let kind words over inflate your ego, or let your commitment to excellence lapse.The following are some of the common things you may or will soon encounter.

1)  You're such a good writer ~ Fans are awesome.  Don't let it go to your head.  I've been remarkably fortunate with my first two published adventure modules, to have had people tell me those books were fantastic.  I've also had the joy of people telling me they intend to follow each book I write.  Those are high compliments.  Don't let them get in the way of your best work.  You should want to earn your reader's respect and loyalty with each book you write.  A book is never really "good enough" for you as a writer.  It should either be done to the best of your ability, or not done yet.  There really should not be room in your creation process for 'good enough'.

2) I bet you'll make lots of money ~ Great thought.  I've not accomplished that, but you very well may.  I know writers who make enough from their publications to supplement their income nicely, and I know of several who make a modest living from their books alone.  Don't count on making lots of money, until that money is in your custody (I.E. its in the bank).  There also needs to be more to motivate you aside from monetary gain.  If all you are wanting to do is chase money, there are much more reliable avenues for you to explore. If you should make lots of money, I will be very happy for you.

3)  I wish I could write like you ~ That person probably can.  Let them know that.  There are a lot of inspirational and flowery ways to say it, but talent thrives when it is cultivated.  Encourage people to try.  They can only succeed if they will make the effort.


Shameless self-promotion:

The art above was created by Zachary Viola for a coming project of mine "The Steel Road".  That book will be coming to KickStarter for funding once fulfillment for Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock has been fulfilled.

"The Steel Road" is an rpg weapon source book filled with fifty (50) exotic weapons from around the world.  Each weapon entry also details an enchanted version, to provide new and exciting magical weapons for your campaign.  Zachary Viola has illustrated each weapon in a sketch book style, reflecting the theme of the book.

"The Steel Road" will be released for 5th edition game mechanic as well as in a Pathfinder Compatible version.

Spoiler: For the first 72 hours of the KickStarter campaign I will be offering PDF copies and Print on demand codes (to print at costs + shipping) for at a sweet rate of $8. I'm hoping to reach 1000 backers or more for this campaign and I hope you'll join me, share the link, and pledge your support to bring "The Steel Road" to gaming tables around the world.


Thank you for joining me on my adventure into writing, self-publishing, and game design.  I hope I'll see you here next time.

W.S. Quinton

*Edit* I just realized this marks the 70th entry on this blog... hard to believe how quickly they piled up.