Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Game designers, publishers, and writers: Treat yourself!

Map by: James Lee
For: Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock

Map by James Lee from the soon to be released 5th edition adventure,
Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock.  (Early version of the map)

You wrote your book, illustrated your comic, created a great game, funded your project, managed your printing and production, marketed your product to garner attention and now people are reading it and/or playing it.  Congratulations!

Your work is far from over, as you'll be fulfilling orders (or overseeing such), promoting, managing the money (and taxes that follow the money), and going through all those processes which govern the business end of your work.  In other words, you're managing your sales pipeline and working a LOT.

During all this excitement it can be very easy to feel overwhelmed.  The problem this causes is that it can discourage you from creating new projects.  After all, who wants to add to their work load?  Stop!  Don't let the specter of more work dissuade you.  More work simply means that more people are reading your material, playing your games, and that you're making more money.  Don't be a one hit wonder.  Take a moment to recharge your energy, and to encourage yourself and your creative process.

The following are some things you can do, which I have found useful in re-energizing my creativity and in encouraging me to step up and tackle the next project:

1) Personal promotional appearances:  Book signings and speaking engagements (small panel or whole room).  It is great fun to discuss the work of writing with other writers, to talk about games and game theory with other game designers, and to encourage others who are aspiring to produce their work.  Take some time to speak with others who are experiencing the same labors you are.  Whether you develop a sense of camaraderie, friendly rivalry, learn, or mentor others; you'll find that the socializing your experience is quite refreshing. 

Making these appearances can also be quite productive for your business as well.  By building community, making connections, and providing the benefit of your own experiences you can learn others.  I would also encourage you to assist those in your community in their endeavors where possible.  You may have noticed that I maintain a link to featured crowd funding projects on this page now.  Doing so has yielded a tangible benefit to each of those projects by helping to expand awareness.  {As a side note, I want to convey my gratitude to those of you who have supported these campaigns. I don't receive any financial incentive for this.  It does benefit those creators whom I network with and there is a certain amount of reciprocal aid from those people as they share my project links around too.}

2) Physical activity:  Take a walk, go to the gym, or otherwise undertake some form of physical action you enjoy.  This doesn't have to be a life changing exercise.  It is healthy to get up from your desk, get your muscles moving, to take a break from your work.  Of late, I've fallen into the trap of toiling away at my desk.  Don't do that to yourself.  Get up and go for a bit.  I like to play with my children until they go to sleep then work after they are down.  If you have children this is a good option, but do make certain you are getting some physical activity through the day too.  It will help clear your mind and reinvigorate you.

3) Invest in yourself and your business:  This is very important.  Once you have revenue coming in from your product, use the money purposefully.  Do you need a new camera for your podcasts and social media activity?  Do you need a scale for your mailings?  Is there a tool or software that can increase your productivity, streamline your operations, or otherwise alleviate some of the burden of work?  If so, invest in it!

Hard work will get you far.  Working efficiently and completing your work with less strain, cost, and labor will afford you the ability to do more.  Whether you are investing in a better scanner/printer, subscribing to a fulfillment service, or otherwise optimizing your operation; you will improve your long term market ability by investing in your operation.

4)  Take a break:  Make time for family and friends.  Take a day off to rest and recharge.  This will help you to maintain a healthy balance between your work and personal life.  Don't let your work overshadow your happiness.  You owe it to yourself, and to your fans/customers, to have joy in your life.  It WILL show in your work product. 

Take care of yourself, treat yourself, and live a little.  Use your time and money wisely to grow your business in an efficient way.  Refine your processes to ease your work load.  Make a point to enjoy yourself so you don't burn out.  Use these simple points to keep yourself motivated and working toward your goals.


Thank you for joining me today on my adventure into writing, game design, and self-publishing.

I am presently working to complete the fulfillment of the Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock  Kickstarter campaign.  The map above was created for that book and the image is used with permission and under contract.  All rights are reserved.

In May of 2018 (next month) I plan to launch the KickStarter campaign for The Steel Road, a source book containing fifty exotic weapons from far flung parts of the world.  Each weapon is illustrated, described, and contains an illustration and description of an enchanted "legendary" version of each.  I hope you'll check that on KickStarter when it goes live and support that fantastic book!

As always your comments and questions are most welcome.

I hope you'll join me again next time!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Productive uses for KickStarter "profits" ~ advice to new creators

Art from "The Steel Road"
Artist: Zachary Viola


There, do I have your attention?   Good.   KickStarter and other crowdfunding platforms have been a terrific boon to small press self-publishers, game designers, and indie comic book creators.

Money from your crowdfunding campaign allows you the luxury of creating your project and may also provide the funding to improve upon it. I have always advocated that you use the funding to enhance your product to make it the best value for your backers as is possible.  Hold on to that idea, as it is important in building and retaining your audience.  People who see that you are creating high quality products are more likely to support your future endeavors. 

I would like to point out that you will very often have some residual funding left over.  While it's nice to call this "profit" and go about your day, I want to point out some uses for these funds that I advocate for, and which you may wish to consider.  Please note: this entry is NOT addressing the costs incurred by the KickStarter campaign (fees, production costs, shipping/fulfillment, etc.), we're just looking at the money made in excess of what you need, and how any such funds can be put to good use.

Art from "The Steel Road"
Artist: Zachary Viola

Productive Uses of 'profits' from a KickStarter campaign:

1) Bonuses:  For my first KickStarter I was able to provide a small bonus to my artists. While this was literally just a few dollars, it was very well received.  I tell you, without hesitation, that I don't miss those few extra dollars but my artists definitely appreciated it.  Morale has been very high ever since.  You cannot put a price tag on having people who are eager to work with you, who enjoy working for you, and who respect / trust you.  Consider this as an option, and be certain to weigh it against the following considerations.

2) Product marketing:  Extra revenue is a fantastic resource for your project once it is ready to be made commercially available.  Even a small amount can go to good use in paying for add space.  Give this some critical thought, as a well run marketing campaign should translate into sales.  This is where your revenue begins.

3) Product production:  Do you want to take your project to a convention for sale?  Do you want to make your product available for sale on your website?  If so, then odds are you're going to need inventory, which means you'll need money to create it, store it, ship it, etc.  A word of caution on this, however, be mindful of your tax obligation on inventory at year's end.  Consult a tax professional for specific guidance on this point.

4) Research and Development:  Fancy way of saying, 'costs for developing future products'.  This is one thing I've been terrible at doing.  I've focused my efforts on my first three points here (above) and have historically neglected this point.  This has put me in the position of having to fund initial costs out of pocket.  I don't recommend you do that.  Instead, I recommend that you take any excess funding and allocate a portion of that for future product development.  This will help ease the burden of your future crowdfunding efforts.

5) Taxes:  This is IMPORTANT!  Consult a tax professional regarding your tax liability.  This is one thing I had found very little information on in my own research before launching my first KickStarter campaign.  Now I'm factoring it in for each.  I recommend finding a local Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in your area, and consult with them on this issue.  Save yourself a tax-time headache by planning ahead in this point.  Once you are aware of your tax obligations (if any), then you can put aside the funds to cover any tax obligation you may incur.

Art from "The Steel Road"
Artist: Zachary Viola

I hope you will find great benefit in using KickStarter and other crowdfunding platforms to bring your projects to new fans and so you can see your dreams realized.  I hope you'll take these points and use them to enhance your own experience with crowdfunding and project development!


Thank you for joining me today on my adventure in writing, game design, and self publishing.  It is always my hope that by sharing my experiences and insights that this blog will help you to avoid pitfalls I have encountered, and that it will help you to achieve your own goals in developing games, writing, and publishing.

As always, your comments are most welcome!

I hope you will share this entry with others.

The art included in this entry is from my coming project "The Steel Road" which I plan to have up on KickStarter in May (2018).  All art for "The Steel Road" is copyright (c) of Zachary Viola (2017 and 2018) and is used under contract and with permission. All rights are reserved.  I hope you will support that great project and share it with others.

Thanks again!

W.S. Quinton

Friday, April 6, 2018

Work, failure, success, and YOU! More art from "The Steel Road"!

Art from "The Steel Road"  African weapons chapter
Art by: Zachary Viola

About work:

I have an ordinary day job.

It's true.  I work for the courts during the regular day-time office hours.  After my day job work hours are done, and after the children are asleep, I work on things related to my books, games, and publishing efforts.  I do sleep, I promise I do.  I usually work on my writing and publishing endeavors, and the numerous small tasks that make them possible, until midnight. 

Some nights I say 'no' and I write while watching anime or YouTube videos.  What can I say?  I'm a huge nerd. 

As with most day jobs, I have small periods of my own time.  During these break times I am quite guilty of working.  I usually take my notepad and write things down that have occurred to me, jot down plot notes, doodle rough outlines, and otherwise add to my growing pile of projects I want to develop and insights into projects I am developing. A perfect example of this is that I wrote the first four paragraphs of the entry during my lunch break.

The key concept I'm trying to convey is that by working when you can, every day and at every opportunity, you can accomplish a lot.  Elon Musk once commented about working eighty to one hundred hour weeks as opposed to working forty hour weeks and how much more you can accomplish in that time.  (You can see a clip of that interview HERE.)  While I'm not going to recommend that you work hundred hour weeks, I find that if you devote your time and effort to your goal, you bring yourself closer to realizing it. I firmly believe that to be true.  I feel that I usually accomplish quite a bit so long as I continue to work each day, in as much a capacity as I can. 

For those of you who want to release your own novel, or comic book, or design and produce your own game, this work ethic is a must.  You have to get up and make your dream a reality, or it will forever remain a dream. 


About failure:

Failure is a fantastic opportunity for learning.  You can, and should, learn as much from a project that fails as you can.  What did you do wrong?  Is my idea something people are interested in? What could I have done to make the project successful?  Those are questions you should ask yourself.  Give yourself honest answers.  Don't be satisfied with what should be, dig deep and find out what is.  This is a key distinction to make, as it will reveal whether your projects are viable or if they are not. 

If your idea isn't viable, if people aren't interested in it, or if it isn't possible then you should look into what it is that makes it that way.  If a project can't be done at a certain budget point is there a way to refine your method to decrease costs?  If people aren't interested in it, why aren't they and what, if anything, can excite people about your idea?  If you project just isn't possible, is there a technology that you need to develop or adopt to make it possible?  Take a long hard look at the issues standing in your way and make a realistic appraisal of what it will take to bring your project to life.

A project's failing does not make you a failure. Please take a moment to digest that previous sentence, because it is very important. I have done a lot of research by reviewing crowd funding campaigns.  I have noticed an alarming trend where people who have their first campaign fail, don't seem to try again.  I say this is alarming because I do not belief that creative people are usually limited to a single idea.  If your project fails, do NOT be afraid to try again with a new idea.  Innovation doesn't come from stagnation, it comes from people who are brave enough to put forth new ideas.  Be brave, don't let the past control your future.


About success:

Having a successful project, regardless of how successful it may be, is a wonderful feeling.  I hope you have that experience in your life.  Success can be a heady experience, it can drive some people to see more and greater success while in others they may be content to bask in the wonder of it.  Which you choose to do, is up to you and your overall goals.  If you want to build a business, create value, and make an impact then I believe you must allow success to motivate you to new successes in future projects. 

Building on past success can also be a risk.  By way of example, let me cite my coming project "The Steel Road".  For that project I have high hopes that people will be excited by it, support it's KickStarter campaign, and that it will actually generate a bit of revenue I can use to help fund the initial costs of a particular pair of coming projects.  By committing those dollars earned to future projects I am risking that money.  Is it worth it to me?  It certainly is, because I am working to build a business that provides books for people to enjoy.  Investing money earned into more development is simply a basic principle of business, but one that carries with it the risk of loss.  It also brings with it the potential for success.  Examine both possibilities and determine whether you will dare the risk or not.

Success without ethical responsibility is not success at all, just greed.  This is a moralistic viewpoint, my own, and I don't expect everyone to agree with me.  My point is this: If you can succeed at your projects with a clear conscious, knowing you have acted ethically and in good faith, then you have nothing to fear if people question your product, actions, or development.  Be honest with persons in your efforts and you will find that your success is all the sweeter for it.  {I know I'm going to get flamed for this point and that is fine.  Comment section is below.}


About ART:

Art is incredibly important in the fields I'm working and developing for.  Comic books and role-playing games need art.  Card games and board games need art as well.  When you need art, you need artists.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?

I've written previous entries on the artists I've worked with.  You can find my most recent such entry HERE!

With artists, please do understand that you are dealing with people who possess a valuable skill set.  While I understand the desire to find art at the lowest price available, I do not condone doing so at the expense of your artists.  Pay fairly, pay promptly, and be a good client.  You will, after all, need their services again in the future.  Build strong business relationships with your artists, you're going to need them.


About You:

Surprise!  Yes, this is about you.  You've made it this far in this short article about some things I am very convicted about.  I encourage you to develop your own projects.  Bring your own book, comic book, or game to the world.  Be responsible to yourself, be open and honest with your audience, create to the highest quality level you can, and enjoy the process!

Thank you for joining me on my adventure into writing, self-publishing, and game design.  I wish for you tremendous success and I hope you'll join me next time as my adventure continues.

I hope you will enjoy my coming projects, and I hope I will enjoy yours!


One last thing:

There is a really cool indie comic series, "Coronary".  It's creator, Ryan Burke, is running a Kickstarter campaign right now to fund the latest edition.  Check it out at the link below.

Note:  All art from "The Steel Road" is copyright(c) of Zachary Viola (Copyright dates 2017 and 2018) and is used under contract and with permission.  All rights are reserved. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

What all the excitement is about: The Steel Road and what the KickStarter campaign will look like

Legendary version of the Bagh Nakh
Art from: The Steel Road
Artist: Zachary Viola

You may have noticed that I'm pretty excited about each project I develop.  It's simple really, if I'm not excited about something how can I expect anyone else to be? 

Throughout the year that this blog has existed I've spoken about projects like "Tale of the Wizard's Eye", "The Draw of Glenfallow", "Comet over Echo Rock", and "47 Furious Tails".  I've teased out samples of art, clips from page drafts, discussed development, talked about crowd funding,  and hinted at projects that were in development.   It has been an exciting first year!

One of the projects I hinted at last summer was a project that was being developed under the title "Bare Steel and Drawn Blood" which went through several title changes as I struggled to find a title that worked with the theme of the book.  That book is soon to be hitting KickStarter (look for it in May if all goes according to plan) under its release title "The Steel Road".

I know, my last two entries have been about this book.  I am just really excited about it, and there is certainly a LOT to be excited about!  This book details fifty weapons from around the world with each weapon being illustrated!

Yes!  Let me make sure everyone understands that point:  Each and EVERY weapon is illustrated! 

But this book doesn't just stop with fifty images of weapons, no.  There is an illustration for each weapon in its common form, and then an illustration of the enchanted "legendary" version of the weapon.  Of itself, that is one hundred weapon illustrations!  

As you may have seen in previous entries about this book (and those illustrations that are included in this entry), the art for "The Steel Road" is done in a sketchbook style.  I wanted this book to have an authentic look to its pages and Zachary Viola (the artist whose work graces this book) agreed with the concept.  Zack set to work in the summer of 2017 to create the art for this book.  He's been creating art for this project for more than eight months as of this writing! 

What The Steel Road is about:

The Steel Road is about bringing exotic weapons from around the world to your role-playing game table. 

This book will be made available in print and pdf formats for your use and enjoyment.  Providing game play statistics, weapon information, all original art, and a background narrative; you will enjoy this book for play and as an attractive addition to your collection. 

It's not just tables and stats.  I've based weapon information on the real world data. Illustrations have been sketched to be true to the dimensions and appearance of the common, mundane versions,  while being elaborated upon in true fantasy tradition, for the enchanted versions.  The PDF versions of the book, which I'm releasing through, will be printable.  This will allow you to print single pages of weapon data for easy reference for your character or adventure scenario.  (Note:  These images are for personal use only.  We are not releasing the art for commercial use.)

Two versions of the book are being developed.  The first version is created for use with the 5th edition game mechanic of the worlds original role-playing game, and released under the open game license as described in the system reference document (SRD5.1) as published by Wizards of the Coast.  To be clear, neither I, Zachary Viola, or Sinopa Publishing LLC are affiliated or employed by WoTC. (You have to love the restrictions placed within the Open Game License.)   The second version is a Pathfinder compatible version.  The Steel Road marks my first publication of a Pathfinder compatible book so I'm looking forward to steping into that role-playing community. 

Basically, I created this book to expand the scope of weapons available in a fun and exciting way.  None of the weapon statistics are copied from anywhere. I created them wholly from my own design.  Any resemblance to other game play representations is coincidental and unintended.  Many of the weapons described in this book haven't been seen in any 5th edition OGL book (that I've ever seen anyway).

What The Steel Road isn't:

The Steel Road isn't heavy with rules.  There are a few optional rules which were created for particular weapons.  These optional rules are meant to enhance the play experience, not to bog down your session.  If you don't like them, please don't use them.  Players, in all instances please remember that your game master has the final say on rules integration.  Let us not waste game time arguing.  Have fun and game on!

The material within this book is NOT released as open content. Do not reprint this material for commercial purposes.  All art within this book was created by, and copyright of,  Zachary Viola and is used under contract and with permission.  All rights to reproduction of art from this book are reserved.  

I designed and wrote this book to be a fun addition to your role-playing game resources.  It is not a history book.  Descriptions of weapons are based on the real world weapon, many of which I have experience handling.  Enchanted versions of these weapons are designed to be used in game play.  As such, many of them do not possess the full scope of powers attributed to them from their real world legends.  It would be game breaking, for example, to give the Trident of Poseidon all of its reputed abilities!

The KickStarter campaign: How, and when, can I get a copy?

The Steel Road will have its crowd funding campaign through KickStarter in May (again, assuming everything continues on schedule as it has been).

I'm using KickStarter to fund the art and backer rewards.  I also wanted to make the book available to people in a cost effective way, keeping costs to a minimum, and making the book as affordable as possible.  KickStarter is a great way to accomplish all of those things.

Another thing I wanted to do, was encourage people to back it (obvious, right?) and provide a real value to backers.  To do this, I'm going to be offering some fantastic early backer rewards.  I think this is a great way to provide a great deal to all of you who have been following this blog who may want a copy.  So, for the first seventy-two (72) hours of the campaign (the first three days), you can get PDF  and Print on Demand codes for either version for backing the Kickstarter at $8.  You can get the PDF and Print on Demand codes for both versions (during that same seventy-two hour period) for backing the KickStarter at $14 (All of these backer levels are in U.S. Dollars).

Go ahead, reread that if you must.  It's true.  You'll be able to get a PDF copy AND the POD code (which lets you order a print copy from DTRPG and only pay the printing cost plus shipping).  Personally, I think that is a good deal, but I wanted it to be GREAT.  So I'm making those backer rewards stretch goal eligible as well. Keep reading for more on the stretch goals (after physical rewards), there is a lot of value that I'm packing into this KickStarter campaign.

Physical rewards include signed print copies, as well as copies with unique sketches done by Zach Viola.  So if you want a one of a kind copy, completely unlike anyone else's, you can certainly get one!  For the physical rewards the copy will be a soft cover, unless we reach the stretch goal, in which case it will be a hard cover.

Stretch goals for the KickStarter campaign are designed to be easy to fulfill and yet be a real value to the backers.

Our first stretch goal makes these books available in hard cover edition as well as the soft cover edition.  All backers who have print on demand codes as part of their backer rewards will receive a code for both soft and hard copies. 

The second stretch goal will add an additional section to the book, which will detail the merchant caravan of the book's narrator.  It will include information on non-player characters, resources, notes on incorporating the caravan into your campaign, as well as a selection of story hooks for your use. 

In a similar vein, I'm going to also include a Social Goal in this campaign. I've seen these popping up in a few KickStarter campaigns over the last several months and I think they are a fantastic idea. This will be my first campaign to have such a goal.  I'm a big believer in keeping things simple, so I've modeled this goal along those lines.  Our social goal is to reach one thousand backers!  If the campaign ends with one thousand backers (or more) I'll commission a new cover to be used exclusively for kickstarter backers.  All backers who receive a POD code will receive a code for that book as well.  In order to prevent non-backers from buying that edition (it has to be live for you to redeem the code through dtrpg, at least that is my understanding) I'll be setting the retail price to an astronomically obscene amount.  Backers will only pay the printing plus shipping costs with the POD code.  Reaching this goal will cause those backers receiving signed and sketch copies to receive the KickStarter backer exclusive version  for those physical rewards.

Fulfillment of the backer rewards:

The Kickstarter campaign will not go live until I have proof copies of the 5th ed rule set version in hand.  My goal is to conduct fulfillment immediately upon receipt of funds from KickStarter.  This will place fulfillment in the month of June, assuming the Kickstarter campaign launches in early May or as late as July if it launches in late May.  The KickStarter page will specify fulfillment projections when it goes live.  

Please do note that the fulfillment is a projection, it may get pushed back to July by the date the campaign launches.  If so, it will be so stated in the campaign. I'm a huge believer in full disclosure and transparency.  The images below were captured from the draft of the KickStarter campaign I am presently working on.  Some of the data may change but the reward levels should remain the same as shown below.

These early backer rewards will be available for those first three days of the campaign:

I hope to see a lot of people taking advantage of these early backer levels.  This is one way for me to 'Thank you' to all of you who have been following this blog and sharing the news of my projects.  Thank you!

After the first three days the backer levels are more in line with a project of this scale:

As you can see, the backer rewards are still a good value for backers.

I'll be disclosing the physical reward levels for signed and sketch copies, as well as a pair of higher end backer rewards in a future blog entry.  Full disclosure on that: I need a final calculation on print and shipping costs that I don't yet have, and I want to be able to account for all of those costs.   

What the KickStarter campaign does for this project:

Using KickStarter allows me to pay for art as well as cover costs for backer rewards.  This makes projects like this possible.

Any revenue in excess of those funds used to pay for art and fulfill backer rewards will be used towards operating expenses and for future project development. (Specifically for 47 Furious Tails and Whispers of Persephone).

For those of you who are planning your own projects, I highly recommend crowdfunding efforts.  It will help you to not only mitigate the risk of loss but also to gauge interest in your project.  You can also very often enjoy feedback from your backers that can help you improve your products. (Make use of such feedback!)

So ladies and gentlemen, gamers and game developers of all ages, that is why I'm so excited about this book.  It is the first source book I'm releasing, and it's packed with good stuff.

I hope you'll share this with other people to help spread the word and raise awareness.  Sharing this blog post with others can help us to reach the social goal and make The Steel Road a success!


Thank you all for joining me once again on my adventure in game development, writing and self-publishing.  I hope that you find this blog useful to your own endeavors as you write and create.

I want to thank Zachary Viola, for his extraordinary work on The Steel Road!  It really wouldn't be the as cool without his hard work and dedication to this project.

As always, your comments are most welcome.  Please +1 and share to social media if you've enjoyed this entry.

Until next time, when I hope you'll join me again!

W.S. "Sam" Quinton


If you're a comic book fan, check out the following KickStarter campaign: