Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Grinding Gear: Update + Other Things

The Grinding Gear is sitting in my living room (and at my desk, and on the kitchen table, and in the bookshelf, and on the bookshelf).

Pre-orders, review copies, and another vendor solicitation have already been sent out.

Vendor packages and publisher courtesy copies go out tomorrow.

When the vendors who place their order this week all have their packages, I will make the announcements, put it back up for sale, hit the message boards, and it'll be Grinding Gear-o-mania (meanwhile, I hope to be wrapping up production on the next thing by that time... but we all know that Iggar Vi has the curse of no speed...). The PDF will go on sale at the same time as these announcements, since I did this pre-order for the print version this time.

The Grinding Gear includes some designer notes with the module, but if you're interested in some more trivia about it, look at the thread on the LotFP Forum here.

A note about shipping: I recently invested in some stiff protecting envelopes, but with the Grinding Gear, it pushes the postage up to the next category. In real terms, if you're outside of Europe, if I pop it in a normal envelope, it costs 3,20€ to mail (that's $4.80 for you Americans). If I use one of the protective envelopes, it is 5,40€ ($8.10). You'll forgive me if I use the sturdier envelopes only for orders of two or more books for direct orders. And cross fingers that things don't get shredded in transit, although I haven't received a single report of that happening since I started publishing. But now that it's just an issue of cost, it'll likely start happening right and left. *sigh*

While we're talking about money...

The decision was made to not be a cut-rate rock-bottom price publisher. When I released the first printing of the Creature Generator, I charged just 4,50€, postage included (1,40€ at the time to the States). It included rushed art and the cover, which looks great on the screen, didn't show up well at all. Later that year, Fantasy Fucking Vietnam was 3,81€, same deal (postage for that size increased to 1,55€, where it remains). These were photocopied, mind you.

So now The Grinding Gear is going to be 10€ when you order direct (3,20€ of which is postage). I am only concerned because the adventure length is "16 pages + 3 covers." It makes it sound like there's not a lot of adventure in there if you go by just page count, and it costs the same as the 36 page People of Pembrooktonshire. Let me discuss why I chose this format.

First, full-color covers, and professional maps. I know old-schoolers tend not to care about fancy production values, but I hope an actual color cover is not beyond reason. And while the maps I have done for my earlier releases have been at least functional, I never want to present something like that Dragon Cave map from No Dignity in Death in one of my adventures again.

Also, those of you who have purchased my adventures already know that I use a clean layout with small font. Even though these are A5 pages, I would wager than 1 page of an LotFP book equals a page of the average full-size book when you consider margins, font size, etc. Or nearly so anyway. Goodman Games took my 28 page (including cover) A5 size Creature Generator and turned it into a 32 page (plus cover) full-size book, for instance.

By the way, I publish in A5 size because I find that size far more convenient for placing behind a screen or holding while playing.

Then there are the detached covers. This is not done for nostalgia purposes. There are three maps in this adventure, plus a player handout. There are some complaints about the pull-out section of No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides which I find reasonable. Why should you be expected to disassemble the book to use the product? And putting maps within the adventure itself, unless in the same spread as the entire description of the map contents, leads to in-game page flipping. I don't like that when I buy an adventure, and so I try to keep the maps separate in my products. Yes, Death Frost Doom has two in-book maps, but those are extremely simple locations, I think.

So if people don't want them to be in a center pull-out (and no one has contacted me to say "Great idea, that!"), and I can't stand them in the book, they have to be separate. And if they are going to be separate, it would look like shit for them to just be a detached sheet of paper. There aren't enough of them for a "map book" as was included with the old TSR supermodules either. So... extra cover inserts, much like the original Desert of Desolation individual modules. Only the outer cover is in color though.

Because I didn't want any blank sides on those, I included a two page designer note "Cheat Sheet" to make a little bit of sense out of some of the seemingly random elements in the adventure, plus added another piece of artwork.

But that adds to the production cost. So once you start getting these, you guys need to let me know if you prefer a center pull-out section, which will allow the modules to be less expensive, or the multi-cover inserts which look fancier and prevent the need of tearing sheets or bending staples, but increase the cost.

Which format I'll use for future releases is entirely up to public opinion. I don't mind either way.

Now I know that this all might sound a bit... defensive. I am absolutely proud of this thing, and I thought enough of the adventure itself to run it for two different groups before ever thinking of it as a publishing project. I have no doubts about the quality of The Grinding Gear as an adventure.

I do feel I need to sell this as a product, and explain the decisions made to upgrade certain features that result in the higher price:page count ratio than earlier releases (especially in light of this post). I read the news all the time and it's all "unemployment high, the dollar low, and economic hardships blah blah blah." I am aware. I printed 500 instead of 250 not because of a surge of interest in LotFP products, but to keep the per-unit price down. This does have a big impact: a $2 price difference for those of you buying through Noble Knight, if my calculations are correct. I'm crossing my fingers that the release builds enough interest and momentum to justify the increased print run, but if not, I still saved customers a bit of money.

(With this release and the promo campaign that'll kick off in a couple weeks, I hope some of the European vendors end up moving plenty of copies... right now I think in terms of Noble Knight and dollar exchange rates because by far most of my print sales happen through Noble Knight.)

I hope this next bit doesn't make me seem overly greedy, but I'll be up front about it and let you decide: PDF prices, starting with The Grinding Gear, will go up. The Grinding Gear PDF will be $6 (tentative). The formula for pricing PDFs when Death Frost Doom came out was 50% of Noble Knight's sale price. I still think 50% of print price is a good formula, but NK's sale price isn't the real price. This is mail-order, so basic shipping costs should be taken into consideration for that formula as well (although weighted less than the price of the actual thing). These PDFs are fully bookmarked and formatted specifically for the PDF (larger font, and no columns so it's easier to read on screen), in both Letter and A4 formats. Starting with this release the organization of the files will be better, and printer-friendly versions of the maps and handouts are included in addition to the regular versions.

So that's where things are.

Questions? Comments?


  1. I wish you the best of luck!

    I have questions about printing books specifically, but I'd like to email you those in a few days.

  2. "So once you start getting these, you guys need to let me know if you prefer a center pull-out section, which will allow the modules to be less expensive, or the multi-cover inserts which look fancier and prevent the need of tearing sheets or bending staples, but increase the cost."

    If you don't mind getting a comment from someone who hasn't yet seen his copy, but is sure that he doesn't need to--

    I vastly prefer the idea of maps and such being on a detached cover. Better artwork, more artwork, and other aesthetics don't bother me one way or the other. Price is of course always a concern, but when it's a question of quality, the increased cost is justifiable, and it's not as if your stuff is over-priced or expensive.

    So a long-winded way of saying, yes _please_ keep those things that need to be separate from the module on multi-cover inserts. I've lost too many pieces of books over the years because they had to be removed. Also, removing things makes the rest of the book likelier to fall apart. Sorry for the length.

  3. oh, yeah--and I wish you the best of luck, too

  4. Of course I haven't seen them up-close and in person yet, but my preference is for quality, so on principle I applaud your design decisions. I can't wait until GG is available on your web store -- I came into some money this week and am ready to buy!