Zine Quest – Starting Line In Sight…

For the briefest of moments I was going to title this: Finish line in sight… but then I came to my senses. The starting line is in sight, and the kickstarter page for Corsairs is almost ready to be submitted for approval. I need to make some small final adjustments, run over the maths again for the millionth time, and hit submit… it is close!

The bleed has been adjusted (I made an error with the cover that has been fixed), and the finished book will use a light blue cover stock.

A part of all the organisation and planning that has gone into this is sorting out the costs of shipping. Shipping from Australia is expensive, and maybe, just maybe, the currency conversion rates for the weak Australian dollar in comparison to the US dollar, the Euro, or the Pound, will make a difference, but the fact remains: shipping from Australia is expensive. Working out exactly what those incidental costs will be is important. The cost of printing the zine is A, the cost of art, writing, and all those other creative parts B, the cost of shipping is C, and the cost of the shipping materials is D.

The cover is 250gsm stock, while the interior pages are 100gsm. The zine is saddle stitched, and printed in black and white. Again, the printed book will have a light blue cover.

A+B+C+D is what the zine costs me, to send to you, the backer. I have quotes for A, a cost for B, and know what D will be. The cost of C, shipping, is dependent on weight. The weight of the zine, the weight of the packaging, and the added weight of shipping labels and so forth.

To aid in this process, and to make sure everything is ready to roll as it should be, I have had a test book printed. This proof helps me for a number of reasons, one: I can test the actual finished weight of the zine. Two, I can make any adjustments required (already I can see that aspects of the character sheet are too close to the gutter and need to be adjusted), and so on. Plus, it is super nice to hold a physical copy of the zine, and to see what it will look like.

It should be noted that the print proof is not using blue stock for the cover (as the finished zine will), but all the paper weights are correct and accurate, and will give me the information I need to move forward with shipping estimates. I must say that I am rather happy with the finished product. A neat, nice looking little booklet that contains all the rules required to go a-plundering the ships and shipping lanes of the Alderil Empire in a sky ship are present and correct! Very nice!

A sneak peek at the contents – all the rules and background included. Rules for characters and actions, rules for creating characters, rules for ships and ship to ship combat, rules and lists of equipment, scoundrels, a quick reference, and the obligatory character and ship sheets!
Also, my playtesters complained that I didn’t mention all the arson they undertook in the dedication, and to be fair to them, there was a lot of it.

Zine Quest – Shipping from Down Under

I went to a local post office. I figured it was better to speak to someone with expertise rather than noodle around on the Australia Post website for hours to find the same information.

“If I was interested in sending an A5 booklet. This size (I had two samples). What would the cost be to post domestically? Internationally? To the US? The UK? Europe? China? etc…

Before too long the scales held the samples (both), and a price was forthcoming.

“How much?”

Shipping from Australia is expensive. Hell, shipping to Australia is expensive, in the instances when I have purchased games from overseas the shipping has often cost more than the game.

Shipping domestically is fairly well priced, a little over a dollar for something like an A5 Zine, plus the cost of the envelope it is put in.

Shipping internationally, wow.

A5 booklets can be sent as letters in the appropriate packaging, packaging from Australia Post can cost anywhere between $50 for 100 envelopes, through to $90, depending on the quality. In other places, like Office Works or similar stores that specialise in stationary and office supplies, you can find cheaper alternatives.

Postage costs, in the case a zine being sent as a letter, are based on weight. If the total weight (the weight of the booklet and the envelope together) is less than 50g, then the cost to send to most places internationally is $3.20. Between 50g and 125g, and the price jumps to $8.30. If it’s between 125g and 225g, the prices jumps again to $13.50, and beyond that and you’re probably not sending a zine.

So I’m waiting for the printer to get back to me with options and projected weights, and the choice here lies somewhere between getting as low a weight as possible and maintaining a level of quality.

The postage costs are high, which makes them difficult to roll into a backing level in the case of the Zine Quest. If my zine ends up weighing over 50g (envelope included), which is likely, it will mean adding or absorbing $8.30 on top of the cost of printing, and on top of any additional margin for losses, profits, and so on).

What does this mean for the Corsairs Kickstarter? Well, if the weight is over 50g, which is likely, it means that I will likely charge for shipping on top of the cost of the Zine – backing levels will be set at x, shipping at y, and backers who want a physical copy will be required to pay x+y.

If, in the unlikely scenario, that the weight is beneath 50g, then I may be able to increase the cost of the backing level for the physical Zine slightly, and absorb some of the shipping costs. Is the prospect of ‘free shipping’ worth it? What will it bring to the campaign? These are questions I need to ask myself.

On the upside the Australia dollar is fairly weak compared to most major currencies, so my $8.30 (well, $8.30 plus the cost of the envelope) for shipping translates to about $5.70 USD, €5.15 EUR, ₤4.5 GPB, $7.5 CAD, or ¥39.5 CNY. Perhaps that makes it more palatable, perhaps it doesn’t…

All food for thought!

Zine Quest – Moving Forward

Tentative cover…

As Zine Quest approaches with the unstoppable momentum of… a… a thing with unstoppable momentum, preparations are well underway. The rules are fairly well finalised, and playtesting continues apace. Layout is almost complete, though I have a few more pieces of art to finish. I have finished the cover, and have investigated shipping costs. I still need to confirm with the publisher, and finalise the weight of the zine, which will give me the final shipping costs, but everything is moving, and generally speaking, it’s moving forward.

Prior to Zine Quest, everything has since been modified to accommodate the KS rules for colour.

It has been a lot of fun running through playtests, we’re currently in the process of testing a mini-campaign that will be available as a stretch goal, should Corsairs make it that far. There has been much chaos, many fires, and even a riot or two in the ports of the floating island of Teboa. All good fun!

Playtesting with the old character and ship sheets, but with the new rules.

Over the course of playtesting, we have changed a bunch of the smaller rules, streamlined some others, and heavily modified stats throughout. Playtesting is such a valuable process. I was thrilled the core mechanisms held together and work well, but playtesting has helped everything else. The book has been significantly restructured as a result of feedback, as well as a result of flipping through to find things during play. If I had my time over, I wouldn’t draft the zine in a layout program like Affinity – I would write it in word, and transfer it to Affinity, but it has been a hell of a learning process, and I feel much more comfortable dealing with Affinity had I done it the other way around.

The manor house, storage sheds and stables are all on fire… it was meant to be such a simple mission!

At the moment I am working through a list of updates, creating the Kickstarter page, and working on ideas for Stretch Goals. When I get the final weights from the printer, I will be in a better place to set the funding goal, backing levels, and make the choice about whether to roll shipping into the price, or to charge for it separately. Being in Australia has some serious implications for shipping, and everything comes back to weight, but I’ll write more about this another day.

With everything coming together, albeit slowly, I am hoping that Corsairs will be launched as a part of the Zine Quest in the first or second week of February! Keep your patchless eye open for it!

Colludium Two, Available Now!

Colludium Two is an RPG bundle containing a great collection of indie and small press RPGs. It’s a tiered bundle: for $10 gets you 7 games, $25 gets you 15 games, and $50 gets you 20 games! There are a bunch of really neat RPGs in this bundle, with a wide range of mechanisms and themes, and it represents many, many hours of potential gaming!

My own micro-rpg: Brigands of Sherwood, is a part of the Colludium Two bundle. In Brigands of Sherwood you play a proper brigand trying to steal enough loot to retire on. It’s not an easy life though: the Sheriff and soldiers are after you, and every time Robin Hood is about everyone expects you to give you’re hard-stolen loot away!

While Brigands of Sherwood can be found PWYW, this bundle is a great way of acquiring many nights of entertainment for a very reasonable price, and at a significant discount compared to the cost of buying them individually. The Colludium bundle has the added bonus of seeing all money paid going to the creators of the games. You can find the bundle over on Itch.io here.

Bundles like these are a fantastic way of supporting indie creators. Being a small-time example I can tell you it makes a significant difference! The four games I have released this year (Freedom or Toaster, Brigands of Sherwood, The Hoppy Pops, and Owlbear Omelette), have collectively had more than 500 downloads (a drop in the ocean for many games, but it’s a start!). Of these, the game that has been paid for most often has been Owlbear Omelette, and this was while it was a part of the Colludium One bundle. The money earned is not a enough for me to retire on by any stretch, but it makes a difference.

Speaking of making a difference, the other thing that can help creators out significantly is ratings and reviews. If you have downloaded any games on Itch or DriveThruRPG that you have liked or enjoyed, consider going back and giving them a rating, comment, or a review. Not only do nice comments give the creator warm fuzzies, but they help other gamers to find those games!

Here’s to happy gaming, and a glass raised to adventurers everywhere!

Zine Quest – Honing…

Time is sliding by and December is passing. Usually the amount of freelance I get over the December/January period slows as the holidays approach, but this year everything seems to be ramping up. I have two main freelance pieces to work on, one for Devil’s Run, and one for Infinity, and I need to find time to continue researching and honing Corsairs for the Zine Quest, as well as getting answers and finding more questions on the whole process.

I’ll write about some of my ongoing research another day, but for now I am excited. I’m excited because I’ve kicked off a playtest mini-campaign, the first adventure is done, and the next should see high action, and really put some different aspects of the mechanics to the test. I won’t go into the details, because if I find space (and if the project is successful enough) this mini-campaign will be a part of the stretch goals for the campaign. Suffice to say that an issue with a Customs house on the floating island of Teboa has the characters investigating the possibility that some of the customs agents are skimming the goods brought in for trade. The first adventure was a lot of zany fun as the characters set themselves on the path, found information, did some snooping, and caused general mayhem. In the next session we should see suspicions come to a head, and the implications may run deeper than anyone suspects!

What was that I mentioned above? Yes! The first stretch goal for the Zine Quest campaign for Corsairs is going to revolve around including a mini-campaign in the booklet! This will mean more pages, and a great jumping off point for any Corsairs interested in sailing the skies around the infamous pirate isle of Teboa!

Zine Quest 2 – Printing…

Everything is a learning curve. All the questions I have about printing have been answered, and new ones have taken their place.

A friend of mine was kind enough to ask a couple of printers they know for some quotes. I won’t list the specific printers here (as I haven’t asked them for permission to do so), but it helps to give some context and idea. I have listed one set of prices, as the quotes were about the same. All the prices below are listed are in Australian dollars.

As a quick aside: files would be submitted to the printer in ‘printer layout’ for booklet printing, so the first spread (two pages side by side) would be pgs 32 & 1, and so on through the document. The file for the cover (4 single pages – front outside, front inside, back inside, back outside) would be generally submitted as separate files. A good article on that can be found here. An article on paper weights can be found here (both links have been added to the Zine page).

For a saddle-stitched 32 page A5 booklet, on 113 gsm paper, and a 300 gsm cover with a matt cellosheen covering (a plastic layer over the cover for protection, like a magazine cover, which could also be gloss, etc), digitally printed (too small a volume for offset printing):

  • 50 copies sits around $580
  • 100 copies sits around $800
  • 200 copies sits around $1300

For 50 physical copies each Zine would cost around $11.60 to print. For 100 copies each Zine would come down to about $8.00, and for 200 it would reduce to about $6.50. Obviously volume is cheaper. Each copy would also need to have shipping costs added (though this could be charged after the Kickstarter as opposed to included in the backing level).

Additionally, any other costs, for things such as art, editing, layout, and so on, would need to be defrayed across the copies printed to come up with the final value per copy, which would then give a clear indication of the cost per Zine, and therefore what the backing levels should look like. It’s worth remembering that Kickstarter is going to take a slice of the funds if the project succeeds, as is whatever other companies are involved in the post-campaign period and fulfillment (if any). Lastly, it is probably a good idea to tack a few dollars on for a profit per copy, and then a little more to pad out any costs, in case something turns out to cost more than was projected, or something else comes up.

What does this all mean for Corsairs? Well, I’m in the process of finalising the document itself, that is writing and editing. I’m looking into art and artists, and what the costs involved there could be. I’m looking at the costs of Zines from the first Zine Quest to get an idea of what a reasonable price might look like. I’m completing small pieces of art to include in the book. I’m preparing for more playtesting. And lastly I’m reading and asking lots of questions…

It is tempting to think that the easier option is to print a larger volume, but this then means a higher funding goal, and no-one wants boxes and boxes of their games sitting around the house. I think if the option for digital and the option for a physical copy are both offered separately, most people will opt for the digital. Especially if they are international. These prices are, from what I can tell with preliminary research, much higher than the printing service offered by DTRPG, but I have no idea how they stack up in terms of quality. From what I can tell the printing quote above is for a much higher gsm paper stock than that offered through DTRPG POD service. Something to investigate!

I’m sure there is a ton I’m missing, not seeing, or don’t know are things I’m missing yet, but hopefully that will be revealed in the coming month or so.

Last aside for today: the layout program I am using is called Affinity (link on the Zine page), and it allows you to move pages around easily, so I’m working directly on the file, and will shift the pages around to the final layout once everything is finished, edited, and ready to go.