Friday, June 9, 2017
Leveling up as a Publisher... Experience I've gained so far
Art from "Tale of the Wizard's Eye" by Zachary Viola
After several weeks of design, writing, play testing, modification, re-writing, art development, and promotion, I am very near release of the first role-playing game adventure book I will publish as a publisher.
You can check out the Tale of the Wizard's Eye KickStarter HERE
Things I've discovered:
Design -- the overall design of a good adventure story remains critical. You have to have conflict in the story, a sense of a starting point, and a sense of completion. So for those of you who, like me, are new to self-publishing; don't lose sight of the narrative. Write, don't just juggle encounter calculations. Keep your theme intact, keep your non-player characters interesting, and make your book fun and useful.
Writing -- I have a bad habit of writing in a way that mirrors my speech. This is problematic and creates a need for strenuous editing. Having said that, it does make it easier for me to put words on the screen and to convey what I'm trying to, so I CAN then clean up the grammar at a later time. (Many of you, no doubt, have noticed that I'm a bit loose with my grammar on the blog... apologies for that.) The key point here is to keep writing. Don't stop. If you don't have an adventure idea, then write something else. I recently took up writing fan fiction for another rpg title (not sanctioned, not commercialized, just something fun for me to do). I'm making writing a habit. I recommend you do the same thing. It is dreadfully difficult to start writing again, once you have stopped. Don't fall into that trap. You can always edit later, and should, as it is a fantastically great skill to develop.
Play testing -- play testing is a funny animal. When I was play testing products for other companies, it was always a neat, fun experience. Playing a new game with your friends with everyone trying to figure out the rules, and often needing to house rule something as the game mechanics may not have accounted for a particular thing wasn't a problem, it was part of the process. As a game designer and publisher, I look forward to hearing from the play testers but I also envy them a bit. Then I take their feedback, see where they've found omissions, mistakes, or design flaws and work to correct those problems. For all of you who are going to be writing material for submission for role-playing games, please take advantage, use the time, and get a group, or five groups or more, of play testers to play through and help refine your title. You won't be sorry.
Art Development -- Let the artists work... don't micromanage (its a bad idea anywhere, really), but stay in the development loop on the art that is being done. If it is going to be in your book, then it is important. Be good to your artists. The art displayed for this blog entry (an important entry in this blog) was done by Zachary Viola. If you are looking for a professional artist to produce illustrations for your book then I recommend him. Do I recommend all of the artist I use? Yes! If I wouldn't recommend their work, I wouldn't use their work in my books.
Promotion -- I haven't spent any money on advertisement yet. I probably should, but I really don't want to yet. I don't have a lot of money to spare for advertising. I refuse to buy email lists to spam people. I like the word of mouth appeal that my first adventure module has enjoyed. Will I buy some advertising in the future? I probably will, as I would like to expand awareness and hopefully see a return on such an investment, but it will just have to wait. Should you advertise your products? If you want to reach a larger market, then yes. (addendum: Do the math. Calculate how many sales you would need in order to make the expense of your add campaign profitable. I've read too many postings where people have spent $200 dollars on adds and only seen a $50 dollar increase in sales.)
Mistakes I've made:
Formatting -- Text boxes are your friend, but you have to lay them out carefully. My first formatting of Tale of the Wizard's Eye had 97 errors in the file relating to the text boxes. With a page count of 41 pages (at that time) I was averaging more than two file errors a page. While it didn't take long to fix, I've discovered it would have been far easier to have corrected errors as they appeared rather than go back and make all those micro adjustments. Take it from me on this... it's important.
Web Page -- I didn't have a professional design my web page -- I started work on the web page, but haven't had the time to complete it. I'm not a web designer, but I know that what I have doesn't look as good as I would like. I will have the Sinopa Publishing LLC web site designed and up as soon as funding permits. But I genuinely regret not having done so yet. Don't make this mistake. It is embarrassing in this age to not have a web page and store. You have been advised.
For other mistakes see previous blog entries, there have been a few.
It is incredibly exciting when you first look at your formatted book file. I don't have my proof copies yet, but I imagine it will be much the same sensation. To look at what you have crafted, see how the art enhances the text, and to know "I did this" is an amazing feeling. I hope you all have the opportunity to feel that some day.
Money is not the most important of things. Sure, make a little money for yourself. I have always said that if I make enough money to take my wife out to dinner (which also means paying for a babysitter so not really all that cheap) I would be happy. I still hold to that. I'm excited in that I believe the books I'm releasing will make a little money for me, but it is actually a bit more exciting to know that the artists who did so much for these books will also be getting paid (by me). It is nice to know that you were some help to someone pursuing their dream of being a professional artist.
Promotion of your books sometimes feels like you are waving a flag at traffic. It is a weird feeling for me. It is, however, very necessary. If you go to the writer forums for any of the self-publisher systems (CreateSpace, Kindle, etc.) you will see that many people lament that no one is picking up their books, and that they haven't done anything to promote it. Do yourself a favor and don't start promoting once the book is done. Get an "In development" page up on your web page(s) and make folks aware of what is coming (or put it up on a product page and indicate the release date, you know, whichever suits you).
Set up book signings (I'm serious). Do podcast interviews. Blog about your coming book(s) (like I do here). Put things out on your social media outlets. Network with other people to help spread awareness. Very important, KEEP DOING THESE THINGS! When you stop promoting your books, people will stop seeing them. Remember that.
Be good to those people who are following you. Take their insights on what they like, what they don't, and what they would like to see that they haven't. That information is worth everything, which is why I invite comments (Yet sadly see so few).
I'll be focusing on other titles (while still promoting TotWE) going forward.
You will see a link on the right side of the blog page soon that will have title information. Title information will be posted, and once those titles are released, links to the sale points of the books will be active.
I've read several opinions stating that you should have a link or avenue for people to purchase your products on every page. They should not have to navigate all over the place to do so. With a blog, this can get a bit crowded, I think. So I'm going to work on tuning the blog to get people to the commercial portals as easily as possible. So take that thinking to heart.
Thank you for continuing on with me on this great adventure.
Please remember to share these posts with others.
As always your comments are welcome and I hope you will join me next time, for more of this adventure.