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Home of RPGs by Matt Snyder, including Dust Devils, Nine Worlds, 44: A Game of Automatic Fear, and The Ladykillers

Marketing Co-Operative Proposal, Part 1: Membership

(This is the second post. See Introduction and Proposal for the first post.)

Part 1: Membership Entry & Exit

Membership must allow for both entry and exit from the co-operative. Membership will inevitably turn over as publishers largely operate as a “spare time” activity.

Entry requirements will require both a vetting process from existing members and/or founders, and at least one existing product to begin.

The vetting process will involve a vote either by member body or committee. Evaluations will be based on perceived viability of the product within the marketplace and confidence level of reciprocal activity from the member-elect. (Vetting will inevitably be a problematic issue; the cooperative needs clear rules to evaluate product and members, as well as means to resolve disputes during evaluation.)

Additionally, the cooperative could consider “associate members” who participate without a product – likely members who offer specific skills. Again, this requires explicit processes for member entry and exit, much like those of publisher-members. (The co-operative charter will also need to specify how an associate could become a publisher member should the participant choose to become a publisher later.)

Membership Obligations

The co-operative requires members to:

  • Fund the cooperative: This proposal version does not specify funding. Possible funding options include: One-time member feeds, annual fees, quarterly fees, or monthly fees;
  • Represent the cooperative: Represent the cooperative, its brand, and its member products while interacting with RPG hobbyists;
  • Participate in and/or volunteer for duties and tasks for marketing activities. Tasks will be outlined by member proposals and strategies, and assigned by member committees or member vote;
  • Write marketing proposals for any new product for which the member seeks representation by the co-operative;
  • Possibly modifying or amending product to improve market viability. This is also a potentially problematic requirement, and may require discussion and means to resolve disputes.

Membership benefits

The co-operative offers members the following benefits:

  • Improved visibility and sales;
  • Voting and input on co-operative decisions and activities;
  • Representation on co-operative marketing activities (promotions, web site, newsletters, convention appearances, etc.);
  • Team-written marketing proposals and critiques;
  • Collective bargaining with distributors;
  • Inclusion in marketing research, including online surveys;
  • Metrics for products (web traffic for product pages, sales, comparative data, etc.) .

Marketing Co-Operative Proposal: Introduction and Proposal

As mentioned in earlier posts, I have put together a “white paper” on how publishers might form a marketing co-operative. This post includes the introduction and core proposal. I’ll post Parts 1 & 2 in later posts.

This is a DRAFT. It is not in final form, and not edited much so far. In fact, I’m still writing part 2. It also means I’ll likely edit the post as thoughts and feedback arrive.

But, I think it worth posting the intro and Part 1 now so that I don’t delay much longer.


Introduction

Creator-owned role-playing game (RPG) publishing (a.k.a. “indie” publishing) defines as its central tenet that: The creator(s) of a game product owns the majority of the product’s intellectual property and has ultimate responsibility for key business decisions for the product, including publishing decisions regarding distribution.

This definition of creator-owned publishing implicitly leaves marketing decisions in the hands of the owner. For example, decisions about distribution are key marketing decision.

However, such decisions need not be performed by the creator-owner for the publisher to maintain its operational goals (which are self-defined and often relatively modest). In that sense, marketing services are roughly analogous to other services used by creator-owned publishers. Many creator-owned publishers hire independent graphic design and illustration or art services from other individuals (or simply benefit from such individuals’ generosity). These creative services also impact marketing decisions, namely the product design.

In short, there is nothing definitional in the movement of creator-owned publishing that excludes marketing services conducted by individuals or firms distinct from the creator-owner.

And yet, to date, the vast majority of creator-owned publishers rely (understandably) on their own individual efforts. This proposal contends that this effort is largely wasteful. It prevents creator-owners from achieving greater levels of success, and absorbs resources and time that most would rather spend on other more rewarding creative efforts.

Indeed, because of this conflict of resources and rewarding efforts, many creator-owners perceive a dichotomy between creative efforts and marketing. Again, this proposal contends this is a false dichotomy that also prevents publishers from achieving greater levels of success. Compartmentalizing “marketing” as a process distinct from other creative efforts is a serious mistake.

Caveat: What This Proposal is Not

The preceding paragraphs may pose a challenge to assumptions or values held among creator-owned publishers. However, this proposal is not a condemnation of all creator-owned publishing. It is not a universal critique to all creator-owned publishers. As noted above, success among creator-owned publishers is self-defined. This proposal supports and respects this value, with a firm understanding of the history and purpose of that value.

This proposal does not claim to be the sole means to achieving greater levels of success. It focuses on a set of marketing strategies and distribution of resources among cooperating publishers. Many other strategies are possible, of course.

To be clear:

  • No publisher must achieve greater levels of success.
  • This proposal makes no claim as the sole means to achieve greater levels of success.

Small Press Publishing

This proposal defines small press publishing as small-scale RPG designers and publishers which include significant creative materials not own by the creator (e.g. freelance writers), and/or operations where key decisions (about publishing and distribution) are not made by a creator-owners. Such publishing is also frequently called “indie” RPGs.

While small press publishing allows for greater diversity of marketing and design work than creator-owned publishing, in practice its small scale – and usually small team of individuals – results in similar resource limitations.

Therefore, this proposal also includes small press publishing, and suggests such operations are also likely to benefit.

Proposal: Marketing Co-operative

This paper proposes co-operative marketing entities owned and operated by the role-playing game publisher members (and, possibly, non-publisher associate members). The primary goals of the co-operative are:

  1. Increase sales for publisher members;
  2. Expand the reach of “indie” RPGs to other hobbyists;
  3. Free up resources and time for publisher members;
  4. Provide players simpler means to discover, purchase, and play members’ RPGs.

The following sections propose the general concepts for membership and operations. And, these sections outline marketing strategies. Finally, additional items suggest possible expansions of co-operative’s scope.

[ Continue to Part 1: Membership ]

Bringing it all back home

My preceding post was about how to proceed as a publisher. All well and good, but what does that mean in terms of fun games people can get and play?

First off, it would mean making Dust Devils available again soon. This will mean something simple — like Lulu or a comparable offering — in the short term. If that goes well enough, Nine Worlds could follow suit. 44: A Game of Automatic Fear will continue to be a free-with-registration game. I don’t have plans currently to offer a print version, but that’s possible.

My intention is that all of these games would be secondary products. Which implies I have at least one primary product. Well, I’m working on it.

In fact, my design notebooks, as always, fill up with a smattering of game designs. I can dismiss some more easily these days. I have a sharper yard stick to measure up ideas. If I don’t think an idea has broader appeal among RPG hobbyists than, say, Dust Devils, the idea is done for.

One game concept keeps coming back, which is a good sign it’s the right one. The working title is Exodus Squadron.

The short version: It’s my take on Battlestar Gallactica (the new one, of course — yes, I realize there’s already a licensed RPG).

The not-as-short version goes like this: Players portray space fighter pilots. Their job is to protect a human fleet as it escapes bondage by an alien race, racing home. Characters come from the various castes of humanity enslaved. Play rotates among three playspaces — space battles, the mothership/fleet, and “away team.” Each playspace feeds into the others in various ways.

The game will be aimed at a maturing gamer audience, one that has great interest in such fun subject matter, but increasingly less time to prepare sessions and conduct play. The point will be exciting tactical combats mixed with dramatically paced downtimes and interesting exploration. Ideally, each session of play is a single stellar system or encounter, easily prepared (or downloaded) on 1-2 pages. These series of “jumps” comprise a campaign — say, a dozen such episodes before reaching a conclusion at the home world (presumably earth).

That audience is not necessarily “indie gamers,” by which I mean story gamers or those interested in narrativist play. If they enjoy the thing, fantastic. But, my intention spend efforts and resources reaching some sliver of other gamers.

Design for Exodus Squadron is still in early phases. I have some working bits and bobs, but no playtest is close. I have a strong vision for both the look and feel of the product, and for the color and themes of the setting and game.

I’ll be posting more about it as the game develops.

Publishing intrigue and fatigue

I’m still toiling away on a conceptual “white paper” on how indie RPG publishers could form a marketing co-0perative. I sneak it in between toiling away on graduate classes, full time day job, and family life. So, for those I told to look here soon, patience please!

As I write this thing, I’m simultaneously intrigued and fatigued. I’m intrigued by the opportunity to work with others creatively and (hopefully) elevate successes. And, selfishly, I’m fatigued by the notion of spending such time and energy on things other than my own works.

Assuming I will indeed pursue some kind of publishing path, I will face an inevitable choice.

Choice No. 1: Start up this little (and boy would it be little) marketing co-operative venture and try to raise the bar a bit on indie RPG publishing for my self and a few others.

Choice No. 2: Reboot my own publishing ambitions. For my purposes, I’d have to assemble a small team of partners. I’d likely also have to abandon creator owned publishing.

To be honest, Choice No. 2 sounds more appealing right now. Both choices have uncertainties, of course. There’s little to guarantee a marketing co-operative will actually elevate the members’ successes. There’s not even a guarantee that members will agree on strategy and products and so on. And, since choice No. 2 basically means I’d be forming a new publishing enterprise, what makes me think I’d succeed in the face of all those obstacles faced by all?

Both choices also require a lot of effort for a little reward. While that may be my downfall in the future (it certainly was in the past), I recognize that’s a difficult part of the endeavor.

Regardless of my choice, I’ll post this marketing co-operative concept because I think it contains many good ideas.

44 by the numbers

It’s been three months since I released 44: A Game of Automatic Fear for free.

I’m pleased with the reaction so far. People played the game within a week of its release. I expect more will happen as time goes on.

Traffic to the 44 blog has been relatively steady, with the usual and expected initial release spike.

  • Page views were about 3,000 since October.
  • About 1,700 people visited the site (including this “main” blog). Slightly more than I would have guessed.
  • 366 people registered to my blog. Some percentage are certainly spam. But, nice!
  • I estimate around 250 PDF downloads, perhaps more.
  • There was notable activity from several countries, including the UK,  Italy, Spain, Poland and others.

Meanwhile, I’ve been pretty quiet and enjoying it. For one, I read most of the Pathfinder book, which was a hot and cold experience.

I’ve been thinking a lot about publishing and desiging RPGs, the indie scene, business and marketing. I have far more questions than answers, more problems than solutions. Still trying to figure out where and how to go from here.

44: A Game of Automatic Fear RPG now available for free

44: A Game of Automatic Fear

44: A Game of Automatic Fear

I’m pleased to announce that 44: A Game of Automatic fear is now available for free on this web site.

Visit the 44 page. Access to the free game does require registration at this site.

Enjoy!

44 in layout

My newest game, 44: A Game of Automatic fear is currently in layout.

I’m doing several versions of the game in an effort to provide players formats they can use however they like. These include:

  • 6×9 PDF
  • 8.5×11 PDF
  • HTML pages (on this website)
  • A single HTML file of the entire game for offline use

I’m also toying with creating a 11×8.5 PDF version for on-screen reading and use.

The layout is styled heavily on a real-life booklet the U.S. Government put out in the 1950s about how to survive a nuclear attack. I pretty much stole the layout entirely; it’s really good. Plus, it lends a subtle, paranoid feel to the game.

The real trick will be making the game available to people who become members of my website. It will be free, and I ONLY use your email to let you know I put out more game material or games. No more than 1 email a month. Realistically, probably a couple emails per year.

Publishing Easily Marketable Games

The guys at Harmonix, who created Rock Band, just summed up the biggest problem I see in indie RPGs.

Oh, a quick clarification: When I say indie RPGs I mean creator-owned publishing. I don’t necessarily mean “small press” although nearly all creator owners I know of are small press. Confused? Yeah, I know.

We naively believed that if we … created a game that was fun, it would be successful. What we failed to recognize was that you have to make games that are easily marketable.

This is strongly counter to approaches and philosophies that several of my pals and peers have, and counter to my own stated philosophies in recent years. I’m not saying people can’t or shouldn’t have different ideas about this.

Neither am I saying that creator-owned publishers aren’t profitable or successful on their creator’s terms. I know many that are both. My own games were remarkably profitable all considered, and I still own them which itself has value.

What I am saying is that creator-owned publishing has a big flaw. One of the defining characteristics of indie publishing is that the creator defines his own success. I’m still ok with that. I like that about creator-owned publishing.

However, suppose I define my success as “I will sell 2,000 units over the next 2 years” where a unit is a RPG “main” book/publication of some kind. Under the current definitions of creator-owned publishing, this is Herculean. I won’t say it’s impossible. I will say that almost no one has done it. Luke Crane, who’s a friend, leads the pack. Even he admitted it’s extremely difficult. I don’t think he sold 2,000 of any of Burning Wheel or Burning Empires in 2 years, but I’m not certain about that. He did it and more; it just took longer.

So, the problem is this: Creator-owned publishing doesn’t literally mean it’s impossible to achieve reasonable business goals. (I find it reasonable to have a part-time business that sells 1,000 things per year.) But, it does mean that it’s basically impossible in practical terms.

Why is this the problem? Well, just like those Harmonix guys said. Marketing. We don’t make games that the vast majority of gamers demand.

But wait!

Now, there are a couple arguments about this — which I argued in support of myself previously.

First, one argument is that the indie scene creates games for non-gamers (i.e. people who don’t play role-playing games much or at all). In other words, people are saying that indie publishers need to create a new market. Anecdotally, sure, people converted “regular folks” into players of indie games. In practical terms, these numbers are part of the reason it’s nigh-impossible to sell 1,000 units a year.

Indie publishers are terrible at creating new markets. They have no idea how. They have basically no resources (certainly no budgets). They rely on information tainted by confirmation bias and absurdly small samples of info from fellow enthusiasts. (When I say “they” here, I include myself. I preached this idea about new markets. I now view it as a bad idea, especially because it makes people who are already doing EVERYTHING in their operation to work harder than new product developers at big marketing departments. It’s crazy.)

Second, another argument is that the indie scene creates games for disaffected gamers, so “gamers” aren’t their market anyway. For hobbyists who don’t find what they want in the mainstream products. I find no flaw in this argument! I suspect it’s quite correct, as far as it goes. Which isn’t too far, and that’s the problem. Even if there are somewhere, out there, a bunch of these kinds of gamers that would be well suited to a bunch of indie games, I believe they are wholly ignorant about indie games! They don’t even know they exist, let alone what they’re like!

In all fairness, I’ve got no data to confirm this. I wish I had data to think better about this stuff. I have a bunch of anecdotes that lead me to conclude that the indie scene is so tiny and contained that well over 2,000 potential buyers over the next 2 years are certainly out there … buying mainstream games. The indie scene is <i>hardcore</i>. Ultra hardcore. When I look at, say, a guy I used to game with in college and keep in contact with, I see a guy who would love, I dunno, Agon or Lacuna. He has never heard of Agon. Hell, he’s never even cracked open Dust Devils as far as I know, and he’s a good friend of mine. I doubt he even knows what Savage Worlds is about. But, Pathfinder? He just told me he’s all interested. We haven’t played together in years. He just knew about it and is interested.

So what?

Now, there’s a giant, deserved “So what?” brewing here. It’s fair. So what, indeed. I’m not saying creator-owned publishing in general is doing it wrong. Given its resources in particular, it’s doing pretty damn well! Why change? I see no need for any individual to change. This is a goals issue — a matter of how one defines one’s success as a publisher.

But, I do see opportunities for someone inclined to changed his or her philosophies about all this publishing stuff. That may include me. I don’t know. I have so little free time and resources these days it’s hard to commit to anything.

But, I think there’s a lot a person could do along a spectrum of publishing set-ups.

Before I spell out some ideas about that, let me say that each involves something I don’t think happens very much. It requires a publisher to make tough choices about what will get him the most sales and actual play. I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that all games are not created equal. I think it’s slightly controversial to say that some games should have been left on the cutting room floor.

It’s controversial to say that because who the fuck am I to say what an individual “should” do with his game? To answer that, I’m no one. Seriously, I don’t want to tell some publisher that. But, I just did, sorta. Damn. My point is that I think too few creator owners abandon a game for reasons of success metrics, rather than, say, artistic vision or something similar.

I digress. Now, on to my thoughts on publishing frameworks.

Individual creator-owners could create a kind of publishing co-operative, pool resources, and reach more gamers with those resources. I believe they’d have to make very, very hard decisions about what games to market. In fact, I suspet that’d be a deal-breaker for some.

Another example: Someone could create a marketing entity where creator-owners pay to have their games better marketed. This may or may not dismantle creator-ownership because I see the marketing agent making decisions about positioning and possibly even price to make it succeed.

There is of course the more drastic answer, which is to say relinquish true creator-ownership and go in another direction. It needn’t be the traditional model of hiring freelancers for content and so on. It could be co-op or partnership ideas where the group creates whole new products/properties. That is, some kind of shared ownership, rather than owner-freelancer. Again, hard decisions about creative vision would have to happen.

Good ideas

Assuming any of the above works, just putting any ol’ game out there because it has creative vision and passion behind it won’t work. What’d those guys say? “What we failed to recognize was that you have to make games that are easily marketable.”

I know this first hand. My game Nine Worlds fails this test. Hell, it failed that test within the indie scene alone! It’s a strange beast to the vast swath of potential games out there. I love it; it’s just not easily marketable.

So, just from a personal perspective, I’d love to see indie games and mainstream games cross-pollinate. Indie publishers have crazy, awesome ideas. Some are revolutionary, so much so they’d turn off many “mainstream” gamers. Still, a lot of those ideas have a place at the table of mainstream gamers. I can see a lot of play techniques developed for indie games working in D&D and Shadowrun and you name it. By and large, that’s not happening much.

And, looking from the other direction, there are lots of ways mainstream games can get indie publishers a wider audience for things they create. This is particularly true with open licenses for games like Savage Worlds or Pathfinder and others. Assuming he even wanted to (which I’m sure he doesn’t, by the way), could John Harper create a remarkable Savage Worlds product that would sell 2,000 units in 2 years? Probably. It’d certainly be easier to do than him selling 2,000 units of Agon in 2 years.

Wrap it up

If you bothered to read this far, then chances are you’re aware I stopped publishing my games in fall of 2008. The thinking above was a major reason why. I had other reasons, too. This article is not meant as a poke in the eye toward any of my friends and colleagues. You all are doing a hell of a lot more than me lately! I think you create incredibly cool things. I just changed my mind about some (not all) of the underpinnings of why I’d want to do likewise.

I have no idea what I do as a creator now. I have two thoughts about it. I do relatively little, maybe publish some free games and material on my site. The other is that I start something new, but I’m almost certain doing so requires me to collaborate with others. I can’t accomplish what I want on my own anymore, but I don’t have some devious plan cooked up.

I welcome a conversation about all this from any publisher’s perspective.

2009 Layout Contest Results!

 Announcing the winners of the 2009 Layout Contest. Thanks to our participants! We saw some some common ideas and some unique vision in each entries. Each needed a bit more polish — very understandable given the tough constraints of the contest.
The judges’ criteria were as follows:
  1. (40%) Information Design: Consistency, usability, & readability.
  2. (20%) Art Direction: Selection of artwork, contextual placement, cover design, overall vision, and original art or artwork modfications
  3. (20%) Use of Typography: Readability, composition, and “color”
  4. (20%) Aesthetic Appeal: Conveys color & atmosphere of the game, pleasing to look at

1st place: José Jiménez

Jose Jimenez cover

José Jiménez cover

Jose Jimenez layout

José Jiménez layout

Jose Jimenez character sheet

José Jiménez character sheet

Judges Comments

  • Has the design basics, but needs a few more passes. The Mouseguard size is an interesting choice, but doesn’t bring much to the layout. That said, there is a lot of promise in the layout overall and is just steps away from being cooked to perfection.
  • In general, composition of the interior pages is open and organized, it breathes. Good. Styles use strong contrast to set off sections of text. Folios on bottom are helpful. In general, use  of illustrations is effective and contextual. Creative cropping sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.
  • This person has a reasonable sense of design and a basic knowledge of layout programs. The layout shows promise.

CONGRATULATIONS JOSÉ! You win:

  • Agon by John Harper
  • Dust Devils by Matt Snyder
  • Mouse Guard by Luke Crane
  • A print of artwork from Conspiracy of Shadows by Keith Senkowski
  • 2nd place: Micah Bauer

    Micah Bauer cover

    Micah Bauer cover

    Micah Bauer layout

    Micah Bauer layout

    Micah Bauer character sheet

    Micah Bauer character sheet

    Judges comments:

    • This entry is killed by random styles and page breaks with little consideration to the readability of the document. Nothing is seamless here. Some fluff, but no fire.
    • Nice work on the cover. While I like the texture of the interior pages, the layout lacks more helpful architecture. It has no folios or guides, which will make the reference-heavy text more readable and useful for players. Watch orphans, particularly on subheadings and headings.
    • This person looked at Mouse Guard and built a layout based on its form and look. They built four, maybe five, style sheets and then blindly (and blandly applied them throughout). This entrant has overlooked the crucial art of layout — to take all the parts that don’t fit and make them look seamless and readable. 

    3rd place: Bill Brown

    Bill Browne covers (Bill split the lifepaths into a separate book)

    Bill Browne covers (Bill split the lifepaths into a separate book)

    Bill Browne layout

    Bill Browne layout

    Bill Browne character sheet

    Bill Browne character sheet

    Judges comments:

    • It was a solid effort. Tried to layout the entire book to make it follow a single theme. Lacked nuance, but the effort was solid.
    • The general layout of the interior pages is dense — needs more room to “breathe.” Notably, the gutter — the space between columns, needs more room, as do the margins. Also, I like the colored boxes for player reference, but they need more padding between text and box edges.
    • This guy really tried. He tinkered with the layout for the whole book and really tried to make it work as a whole. The artistry is lacking, but the effort is clear and appreciated.

    Layout Contest tutorial part 2: Designing the page

    In my previous entry, I explained my initial steps for my book designs. I settled on type and some style sheets. I also mentioned sketching a page template. That’s what this entry’s all about.

    I always have a mind’s eye view of my designs. I do my best to capture that imagined vision, but it isn’t always easy.

    For Conspiracy of Shadows: Dirty Hands, I wanted to capture a gritty, horrific look and feel. And, I also wanted a medieval vibe. There are a number of ways to do both. Games Workshop does it to various effect in many of its Warhammer books (including the Black Industries cum Fantasy Flight Games versions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay).

    For this project, I had a slightly different vision. I wanted the book to combine old typography with modern day grunge effects. I envisioned grungy scrollwork that’s been the rage the last couple years. Think stuff that looks like tatoos. Barbed scrollwork, maybe splatters of blood. But, I also wanted a more modern, “layered” look. It might still be some distressed boxes. The idea was how Keith presents his work. It has a very strong historical fantasy element. But, he also mixes it up with some modern elements. In the comic book dialog, for example, the medieval guys swear with modern words. I love that effect. It may seem anachronistic, but it works.

    But, I face a challenge. Doing that kind of illustration is damn hard and tedious. I’m no illustrator, but I can use Adobe Illustrator with good results. So, I needed models. I started web searching. I was particularly interested in terms like “scrollwork” and “eastern european” and some others. I finally discovered a few inspiring pages from Serbian manuscripts and, oddly enough, the modern-day vestments of an Australian priest.

    inspiration-screenshot

    Inspiration from Serbian Manuscripts, a priest's vestments, and some lineart scrollwork.

    Those helped me bring an imagined vision into some concrete terms, but I still had plenty of work ahead.

    Choosing page and text sizes

    For starters, I had to decide on a page size and text area. As always, I turned to my handy Bringhurst. The Elements of Tyopgraphic Style has some genius information about page size ratios, choosing text blocks, and choosing other page elements like folios, magins and so on.

    I wanted to have a 2-column layout, because I never seem to make them work well. I wanted another stab at it (not to mention it’s much more like a medieval manuscript). But, I also didn’t want letter size. I’m just tired of letter size. So, I settled on one of my go-to sizes, half-legal. It’s a broad page size (7 inches x 8.5 inches). A nice, squat thing with plenty of horizontal space. From there, I had to choose a text block size and location. Bringhurst’s many ratios and ideas about “chords” of rectangles helped.

    I confess I get wrapped up in the esoterric stuff with these ratios. It’s amusing to me. But, in truth, I fudge here and there. I just like to play around. Here’s my pencil sketches of page design:

    pagedesign-sketches

    My pencil sketches showing page size and text block ratios and measurements, plus some initial scrollwork ideas.

    Here you can see a couple things. I sketched out the basic page (top left) and worked through the measurements (in picas — I always use picas, mainly because I'm used to them from way back). The star-pattern looking thing on the bottom left is mostly nonsense — me aping Bringhurst's stuff to learn. But, it did remind me that the page is divided evenly into thirds of 14 picas. Double that (and add a gutter) and – VOILA! – a "meaningful" column width.

    Even more intersting is the stuff on the right side. That's me sketching out those initial scrollwork ideas, as well as some "hanging" illustrations with magin captions. That should make for interesting options in layout, but there really aren't any captions. Hmmm. Well, an idea for stuff later on then.

    Next, I have to take all these sketches into digital form. Since I know I'm doing the scrollwork (by far the trickiest part) in Adobe Illustrator, I started there. I created a 2-page spread (just a landscape legal page), and set guides for all my magins and text block sizes. I used some gray boxes to represent text and some other elements. That way, I knew the confines of my scrollwork and other elements so I could do a very, very rough digital sketch for the shape. Like so:

    scrollwork-drawing

    The page takes shape in Illustrator. Note the crudely drawn scrollwork border overlapping with the precisely drawn version.

    Here, you can see my clumsy first sketch (just drawn with me dragging the mouse on the pencil or brush tool). And, the crisper, better looking version of me making it work in the pen tool, which is my secret weapon in illustrator. I did a similar process to this when I designed folios for Nine Worlds.

    The page started taking shape. But, I knew I had a problem. So far, I couldn’t figure out how to give the page design that layered, more modern shape I was trying to capture. So, I just started drawing more rectangles, though not entirely without purpose. I was thinking about where chapter headings, even guide words could go. Here’s the result:

    The final page prototype. Note the angled bars top left and horizontal bars top right. I placed the inspiration art to test illustration locations on the template.

    The final page prototype. Note the angled bars top left and horizontal bars top right. I placed the inspiration art to test illustration locations on the template.

    The page finally takes shape. From vision to form. But, there’s still a lot of work to do, not least of all the scroll work. And, of course, pagination of the text itself. Both of those will take a lot of time to complete.

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