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.

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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).

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