Sunday, October 22, 2017

An open discourse on writing role-playing adventures for publications (a few words)

Cover Art by: Brian Lee
Cover for: Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock

Creating adventures for publication has been a real pleasure for me so far.  I enjoy the writing, I look forward to seeing the art I have commissioned, and even enjoy reviewing notes from the play test groups.

When writing an adventure for publication, it is important to remember that you are creating a script of sorts.  Unlike the script for a movie or play, the adventure's conclusion is uncertain.  One group may have an easy time with the encounters laid before them while another group may struggle, suffer, and die.  As the author you need to construct the adventure to be adaptable while keeping it interesting.  Remember that the quality of the story is always more important than the rules of the game.

You will want to incorporate a wide array of challenges in your adventure.  I would recommend that you do NOT make any one test, challenge, or skill a requirement to complete the adventure.  Example: If the enchanted door only opens when someone solves a riddle written in an ancient elven dialect, then if no one can read the riddle the adventure ceases to progress (imagine if Gandolf hadn't been there!?!?!).  Don't do that.  Make certain the players have a way to win while making things challenging.  Problem solving is fun.  Overcoming adversity, defeating terrible foes, rescuing those in distress, and becoming a hero are some of the most fun parts of role-playing.  Balance your challenge and rewards.

Cover Art by:  Rebecca Elisbet Coulthart
Cover for: Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow

Art for your adventure should, ideally, be created for the scene it is enhancing.  While this can be done with stock art, an illustration for the scene you are depicting may not exist.  It is important to make connections and establish a working relationship with a pool of artists you can commission as may be needed.

Regarding art:  I enjoy a wide range of art styles in my books.  I cannot in good conscious recommend that you do the same.  Most publishers adopt a style for their product lines for good reasons (your audience recognizes books you release more easily).  I may one day adopt the same policy myself.

For information about professionalism with regard to how you treat your artists, the value of art, and some ideas on how to retain their services; see my previous blog entry HERE

When integrating art into your adventure you should ask yourself, "am I going to have this book illustrated in black and white or do I want full color"?   You need to decide as it will directly impact your budge.  Do you have the budget for color?  How many books will have have to sell to earn a profit either way?  Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly.  Make smart business decisions here, as losing money because you spent too much on art is a bad position to be in.

Cover art by: Phoenix O'Faery
Variant cover for coming release on Amazon
Cover Art for:  Tale of the Wizard's Eye

Full disclosure here:  I've had one release so far with my second adventure releasing in a couple of days.  I haven't lost any money but I have only made very little to date (I need to work on my marketing).

My business model is predicated on spending little to none of my own money in development.  I've used KickStarter campaigns to fund my first two adventure modules and will be doing so again for my third.    I would like to recommend that you do the same.  There are a number of things to mention about KickStarter, how to do it, how to promote it, etc.  I'll address crowdfunding in greater detail another time.  The point you need to understand is that you don't need to take out a loan, or sell your comic book collection to fund your adventure module.  You can fund your adventure, and produce a high quality book through crowdfunding.  The one thing I will say today, is that I recommend that all revenue you earn from your crowdfunding go into creating the best book you can make, and releasing it on the platforms you want it seen on.

Paying the bills:
Pay your bills on time.  Pay your artists, your llc tax, your amazon store costs, etc.  It will look very bad for you, and shake your audience's confidence in you, if you have a web store shut down because you forgot to pay the bill.  Remember this.  Put the due dates on your desktop calendar and a reminder on your mobile device. 

Talk to an accountant, find out what you can deduct and what records you must keep.  Then keep every receipt you can use.  You will accrue expense such as postage/shipping, costs for proof copies, promotional costs, etc.  You will want to account for each expense so you know just how much money you have going out and how profitable (hopefully) your business is.  You'll need this information for your taxes (in the U.S. anyway).

I'll be writing on producing source material in a comping post.  Until then I want to thank you for coming with me on this journey.  I do hope you'll join me next time.

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