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  1.  

    Well, there are two. The first one is the July release, which I see as having grey covers with a black tape-bound spine, and the same kind of general look you see with screenplays or novels in pre-release, editorial format. It will be written as a very, very clear instruction manual with only a certain amount of inspirational text. The reader will get a very good idea of what the upcoming book is going to be like, and they'll be able to play Spione or at least a stripped-down version of it.

    The second is a real book, just like you'd see in a bookstore. It will not be designed physically or graphically in any way like a role-playing game. The cover graphic will depict the Wall with a person walking near it; the back will feature many acronyms of espionage agencies and some promotional blurbs. The text will be ... well, let's just say I'm writing in a manner that I call my "Berlin voice" - harsh, clear, opinionated, intriguing, and often funny in a cutting way.

    I am currently torn about the issue of "gear" to accompany the book. On the one hand, I'd like the purchase to be a single thing, a single read, a single "this is a mental bomb, not just a book" feeling to it. On the other, stuff like ready-made dossiers, a custom pack of playing cards, cool agency handouts, and more seem like they'd make a good boxed set.

    As I mentioned in the other thread, the book will be available in both English and German. I'll see if I can get the first version written quickly enough for a translator to have it ready for July; if that's not possible, then the first version will be English-only.

    As I've also mentioned before, very little of the current text for download will see print in the book. Although the rules of Spione are now fixed, their presentation and physicality are still finding their final forms. The profiles are being rewritten for "voice" issues, and I'm still unsure about how they'll actually fit into the flow of the book. A lot of framing text which will clarify who I am and why the hell I'm doing this will be added.

    Questions, concerns, suggestions?

    • CommentAuthorGreatWolf
    • CommentTimeApr 13th 2006
     

    Regarding the physical presentation of the book, have you considered examining analagous products, particularly in Germany? I'm trying to think of other non-RPG game books that are out there. Right now, all I'm coming up with are logic and puzzle books.

    Part of the problem is that I don't think that the general public is used to the idea of a game that is in the form of a book. Boardgaming is making a return (specifically driven from Germany, actually), so we've advanced somewhat from "game"="electronic". Still, I'm wondering if people will be looking for the "game box" and potentially intimidated by a game that requires a thick book to play. (In this context, "thick book"="more than a pamphlet".) So, oddly enough, I wonder if a "boxed set" would be a bridge for people to understand what Spione is all about.

    In addition, including the extra "gear" could be another big boost. Again, based on boardgaming, I think that people buying a game are expecting to be given everything needed to play the game, with the possible exception of writing implements. So, having Dossiers and glossy maps and such would communicate "game" to the general public.

    And, while I'm typing, I thought of an analagous product. Have you seen the "How To Host A Murder Mystery" boxed sets that are out there? I don't know how well they are selling, but I do know that they are making in-roads in the mainstream public. It might be worth your while to see how these games are being produced and marketed.

    These are just thoughts off the top of my head. Hope that they are helpful.

    Seth

  2.  

    Oh, I've considered it all. I go back and forth, back and forth.

    1. I like the idea of a single book, and then picking up a normal deck of cards. Nothing complicated about it.

    2. I also like the idea of gear, including the book, perhaps in a box.

    Two ideas, I like them both, I can't do both, One is cheaper, more easily bought and utilized; one is pricier, more uniquely "game" like. We can speculate endlessly about which is a better sale item, but it's mere speculation.

    Am I selling a book or a game? That is the question. I don't know the answer. My ultimate decision has to be made pretty soon.

    Now, the good news is that the immediate product in development is the book-thing to be used at the July event in Berlin. That isn't going to be anything except a book, or proto-book, and working on that permits me to turn the book/game, book-only/game-box question over in my mind for a bit longer.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorGreatWolf
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2006
     

    That does help. Perhaps it would be worth bouncing the idea off the folks who show up for the July event? Perhaps even a survey, tucked in the back of the prerelease? It may not be the best sampling of your target audience, but it might yield some profitable results.

    Or will that be too late?

  3.  

    I've decided: the book. If a future upgrade seems called for, I can do that.

    There are several reasons, including ...

    1. Bookstores sell (a) books and (b) other stuff. I'd rather fall into the (a) category, i.e. an object they really do sell without qualms, not be something they have to consider "do we sell this kind of thing?"

    2. I'd like the book itself to be worth someone's time, and visibly, experientially so at first contact. When you buy a box, you're buying a box ... and what's in it may or may not be what you want to do.

    3. Ultimately, I have decided (risked) that the simplicity of "buy a book, grab a pack of cards" overrides the niftiness of "buy a box, open it to find a plethora of pretty things."

    So - executive decision made, bayonet the wounded, forward march.

    Let's talk about the book!

  4.  

    Let's.

    A question: modern book-design, it seems to me, is very much about situating the book in the cultural field with a pin-point accuracy. The basic goal is to transmit the information about a) what sub-culture the book is in and b) who it is for as efficiently as possible. For instance, blurb texts and context descriptions for the author (or the book, in case of classics) serve these functions. I find your situation interesting in that you're very vocally separating yourself from the rpg market. So, the question: who's going to write your blurbs? Have you thought about asking a big spy fiction name to do one? Is there any storygaming names with name recognition to ask? Paul Czege? Actually, do you even want storygaming names on your book covers, or will you completely cut that cultural tie?

    The cover graphic: this might be too early, but what I'm seeing is something that's a bit posterized, not a straight-up photograph. Perhaps a clear Wall-image background with a stylized human figure? The straight up photograph tends to focus on the person in the picture, so usually they use a silhouette or posterizing or similar to depict a human being in general. I'm also seeing a white background color, to stand out on a shelf.

    Anyway, this is so exciting! I have my own game coming up next winter, and I have to wrestle with rather similar book design problems. It's quite cool to imagine getting a game book that looks like a espionage history, like the ones you showed me last summer.

    (A side-note: your laid-to-rest quandary about box vs. book seems to solve itself if you consider the extra materials like custom decks something to be included at a later stage in the business plan; you can sell those separately at your web-site, and if the book takes off, a boxed set seems like something you'd make to build upon that success later. Of course, you probably said this already in your latest.)

    • CommentAuthorGreatWolf
    • CommentTimeApr 17th 2006
     

    Will there be room in the book for photographs? I'm not thinking of game art per se. Rather, I'm thinking very specifically of the photo-inserts that often appear in biographies, like the edition of The Falcon and the Snowman that I'm currently reading. So, for example, perhaps you have a couple pictures of the Wall from various decades, portraits of important Cold War spies (like Philby or Wolfe, if there are any pictures of him now), and suchlike. This could be helpful from a play perspective (pictures can help communicate Color), and it would also lend some authoritative weight to the book.

  5.  

    Wow ... Eero, you're reading my mind across the Atlantic. Stop that.

    who's going to write your blurbs? Have you thought about asking a big spy fiction name to do one?

    Yes. That's another line-item for the loan budget. You don't get those without play $$$ for them ...

    The cover graphic: this might be too early, but what I'm seeing is something that's a bit posterized, not a straight-up photograph. Perhaps a clear Wall-image background with a stylized human figure? The straight up photograph tends to focus on the person in the picture, so usually they use a silhouette or posterizing or similar to depict a human being in general.

    Exactly. Exactly. It just so happens that one of Juergen's pictures of me at the Wall Memorial turned out to be perfect, especially as a basis for a graphic artist to turn his mad skilz on.

    Although I'm aiming toward charcoal gray with standout-color title text, as the first try for the color scheme.

    Seth, photos aren't a bad idea at all ... obviously, the typical RPG illustration scheme is right out the window. I don't know much about acquiring usable photos, though, and in some ways, I'm moved by the fact that spy fiction is so cerebral, so utterly non-illustrated, as to avoid pictures altogether.

    Diagrams, maps, and other educational graphics seem called for, though.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorGreatWolf
    • CommentTimeApr 17th 2006
     

    This is a simple question, but I didn't see it answered above, so....

    Will this be a hardc-over book with a dust jacket? Or will it be a soft-cover?

    Also, what dimensions are you planning on going with?

    Seth

  6.  

    You're right! I didn't say that, did I? Didn't intend to be mysterious ....

    My current thinking for the November release is a paperback about 256 to 288 pages thick. Its dimensions would be 8.5" by 5.5", the same as Polaris or Burning Wheel, with a thickness more like the latter. Or possibly 9" by 6".

    I'm basing those dimensions from observing most of the spy fiction and sources I'm reading - standard paperback dimensions for first release.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorBen Lehman
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2006
     

    Ron, something you said just set off serious alarm bells for me.

    Eero: "Have you thought about asking a big spy fiction name to do one?"

    Ron: "Yes. That's another line-item for the loan budget. You don't get those without play $$$ for them ..."

    Huh? I've known a lot of authors and sat side-saddle on the publication of a lot of books, and I've never once heard of paying someone money to write a blurb for your book. The stanard operating procedure seems to be that you or your editor contacts them or their agent, describe the book, ask if they would like to take a look at it. Unless they respond negatively (so both positive responses and neutrals or no responses), you send them a pre-print copy of the book, and wait for them to write a response. Whether or not they do depends on:

    1) How much buzz your book is getting.
    2) Whether they think your book is going to be a big deal, and want their name attached to it.
    3) Whether they like it.
    4) Free time.

    If you send out a 50-60 copies, you should get enough response to have some good blurbs on the back of your book.

    Who told you that you needed to pay for a blurb? This sounds to me like victimization of a new publisher.

    yrs--
    --Ben

  7.  

    Well OK then. Networking? I can do that.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorBen Lehman
    • CommentTimeApr 20th 2006
     

    When you get a little closer to print-copy-land, let's talk about bound galleys and so on. Or let me put you in touch with someone who can.

    yrs--
    --Ben

    • CommentAuthorGreatWolf
    • CommentTimeMay 17th 2006
     

    Another question: have you settled on a cover price yet? Part of my asking is purely selfish; I want a copy when it's released, and I want to make sure that I have funds in hand when it comes off the press.

    Seth

  8.  

    That's a good question. I'd like to price it at the equivalent of a paperback book of the same size, which if I'm not mistaken, is somewhere in the $9.95 range currently. But the exact price isn't certain yet.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorFrank T
    • CommentTimeMay 26th 2006
     

    “A lot of framing text which will clarify who I am and why the hell I'm doing this will be added.”

    This occurs to me always when reading non-fiction books by American authors. The author talks directly to the reader and is very often appraising, selling, arguing, insisting. “Many people have written to me saying how right I was”, is a sentence you might read there. Or, “I have done this for 20 years and therefore I know exactly what I am talking about.” Please note that German non-fiction books are not like that. They get down to facts instantly. You can generally expect German readers to consider your point without you holding their hand. Personally, I don’t like an author bothering me with his ego, and I suspect that many Germans might feel the same. It’s an issue with the Sorcerer text also, I’ve heard several different people complain about it on different forums.

    If I may, I would suggest to cut the appraisal part from the German version. A clearly distinguished introduction about your person and your work, one or two pages at most, would seem more appropriate to me. On the other hand, we are getting used to the American way more and more.

    - Frank

  9.  

    I can see the merits of that outlook.

    What I'm grappling with is the mythology of the Cold War which is treated as reality in American culture. There are certain events and cause-and-effect moments which are flatly not true - not true then, not true now, but repeated over and over.

    There must be some way to make it clear that book is breaking out of that mythology. The fact that a modern American is trying to do so is problematic to start; there is no reason for Americans to be self-reflective in this way when we enjoy such life-styles and can congratulate one another on how wonderful we are. And since I'm making a specific point about some very German things, this sets up tension ... I'm hoping that it's interesting tension.

    So finding a way to get that tension going is what I'm talking about. I have to be in there somehow.

    And yet the "me me me" quality of most American non-fiction is definitely not what I'm after. It's a difficult problem.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorFrank T
    • CommentTimeMay 26th 2006
     

    Ah, I see. Well, you'll figure that out. Just wanted to make you aware of the different cultural angles here. While we Germans have pretty much adapted American pop culture and many aspects of American lifestyle, the way we communicate when it comes down to business is still more different than you’d probably expect.

    I was won over pretty quickly when I saw how thoroughly you had done your research and how much you actually *knew* about the real thing. However, I was reading an English text directed at American readers. So I was reading an American explaining Germany to other Americans, and I thought, “Hey, that guy’s done his homework.” An American explaining Germany to Germans is a different matter.

    These different cultural angles are actually pretty interesting. Looking forward to delve deeper into that in July.

    - Frank

  10.  

    Boy, it's tough!! I've been working on the manuscript all morning while thinking about your post.

    Well, the solution is obvious. You're just going to have to read the next draft and "go German" on it, so I don't end up embarassing myself.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and your attention to this issue especially.

    (But it's really tough.)

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorFrank T
    • CommentTimeMay 26th 2006
     

    Gladly.

    - Frank

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