Monday, May 20, 2013

In Obscurity

To the estimable +Patrick Stuart,

Here's my take, for what it's worth, on "What to Do?".

Should you sell? Should you not sell? Should you piecemeal it? Or launch it all at once? What to do? What to do? I've been asking myself the same questions about the Swordfish Islands.

You see, we were supposed to be doing something short. Something quick. Something modeled after the old Planescape books in which they whipped up a few columns of text to each notable layer and town, sprinkled liberally with hooks, and baked for 35 minutes under the brilliant heat of Tony DiTerlizzi's artwork. And then we kept worldbuilding ('cause it was fun), and that was stupid, because now we like the skeleton we've constructed and are struggling a bit when it comes to fleshing it out. It's going, but it's not going fast, and I became convinced that if we didn't start hitting consistent little victories the whole thing would die unfinished, and unloved. A sad, aberrant little thing.

So we cut it up, and we're going to do ONE island of content for now. Will it work? Will it be acceptable? Will people like it? I don't know. The plan though, and the only way I was able to agree with the decision to dissect the islands is that we'd only release something that was whole and complete, and could stand on its own. There's nothing worse than something that *must* have other pieces to be complete and serviceable.  Your outline, as you've listed it out sounds like it's pretty damn solid. Just be sure to use your blog wallpaper as a guide (and I'm sure you will). You either need to sell the whole earth, or the ENTIRE Cenozoic, or the ENTIRE Jurassic. As long as you don't take an incomplete piece of the Holocene, and try to combine it with scraps of the Triassic and Eocene, you'll do just fine.

Now... is it *right* to sell it? Before I get into this, know that I'm a bit of an extremist on this front. Content has no value and it's what everyone wants. Give the content away for free and sell merch. I want to be like a Saturday morning cartoon. Ubiquitous. In "every household". But of course, there's a problem. The less revenue I get from the content, the longer it takes to create new content. My solution, looking back at cartoons, is to sell merch, and in this case, merch means a physical book. I want the book to be expensive. I want the book to be quality. I want the book to be something that's going to last (with use) for 30+ years like a 1st edition DMG.

I have this foolish notion that eventually I'll be able to enter into a sort of gentleman's agreement with the audience I scrape together. "If you, the audience, will help me pay my rent and bills, I will produce more content, and at a faster pace, for you to enjoy." So, I want to make Swordfish Islands as widely available as I can digitally (since digital copies cost nothing), establish a good web presence so people that DO want to offer support can do so effortlessly, and offer quality "goods" made from quality materials and filled with the content for committed individuals to buy.

The 15 year old me, wouldn't have had the money to buy the Swordfish Islands, but would have had the time to play it. The 30 year old me has the money but no time. My (deluded?) thought process is that giving away the content, but keeping an open door for the aforementioned gentleman's agreement is what the current gaming market needs.

I also think you should use kickstarter. Not to get funds to complete the writing. We've seen how those go. But when you're done, and ready, use it to raise the funds to get editing, layout and to cover the cost of a small print run. It's left a bad taste in the mouth of some, but it did so because they backed dreams and ideas, and not finished products that only needed help becoming tangible.


  1. I think you are right. The more I think about it the more I come to believe that modular publishing is the way forward. I think I will aim to produce a bunch of simple stand-alone art-free modualr pdf's.

    I can offer print on demand versions with a slight markup so I can afford art.

    Then gradually build the whole thing up over time until I have enough for an entire work and use Kickstarter funds to assemble and produce it.

  2. You know what idea I really liked? Monte Cooks' Dungeon-a-day. Now, he bailed and the new company has been a bit of a pig with the idea, but I was totally willing to pay a subscription fee to have access to new content on a "daily" basis (whatever daily might mean in this case). But, I'll caution... producing under deadline is different than producing quality product.

    1. Absolutely. That's a tough line to pull for an extended period of time. We'd tried doing a dungeon and a guild a week, and it was great for a while, but things eventually fell off. Seems like it'd be necessary to build up a pretty decent stockpile before beginning a timed release type situation.