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.

Zine Quest 2 – You Don't Know What You Don't Know…

Until, that is, you try to do it.

Having finally settled myself on the idea of using Corsairs for the upcoming Zine Quest, I’m left with a whole bunch of ‘what next’ questions I know I need to answer, and whole lot more I don’t even know I need to answer yet.

What questions? Well I have a to-do list, and part of that list is comprised of the things I need to finish on the game itself, and a larger part of that list is the host of things I need to learn, find answers to, and do. This list is far from complete, and I have the feeling that I’ll be adding a whole lot more questions to it as I work through this process from knowing nothing, to getting a Zine Kickstarter ready to launch for February’s Zine Quest 2.

I recently had the opportunity to speak briefly with the kind and excellent Ben Hoban of Red Genie Games. In that short call Ben covered a myriad of things about Red Genie’s own experiences and learning curve with the first Zine Quest, and the practicalities of things like printing, and shipping. He also talked about momentum in a Kickstarter, keeping things moving, keeping people involved. Having things to reveal or show about the project, and getting input from backers along the way.

I spoke to a local graphic design company I know, and they talked about the differences between offset and digital printing, and some of the considerations to take into account. They also gave me the names of some of the printers they have used and would recommend, and I have added them to the Zine Quest page on this website.

I spoke to an artist about the costs and things involved with commissioning art, the things like licences for commercial use, and the costs involved (which will vary from artist to artist). In fact, I spent hours and hours looking through Twitter, Deviant Art, and ArtStation for artists who listed they were interested in freelance work, and whose styles I felt would suit Corsairs. Contact information is hard to come by at times, and as of writing this, there are still many emails that have gone unanswered, and which may never be answered.

Still there are questions, questions about printing and costs, about the weight of the paper and cover, the weight of the finished book, and the costs of shipping that may be involved if I have to send physical copies around Australia or overseas. There are questions about layout in preparation for printing, And there are questions about what the overall costs involved are going to be. These costs will indicate what the funding goal for the project will be, as well as what the cost per physical copy will need to be. There are questions about taxes and fees, particularly for overseas markets. There are questions I am not yet aware are questions, that I will need to find, and then find answers to.

It’s a process, but a process I have started. Links I find, articles I find, and information I uncover I will endeavor to add to the Zine page here in case it should prove useful to anyone else going through the same process. Which reminds me… if YOU are going through this process and have any links to share please let me know! I’ll add them to the Zines page and hopefully they’ll be useful to others as well! Also consider joining up here, collaboration can be a powerful way of helping each other get things done!

Zine Quest 2 – Choices

Will I or won’t I? Oh, the agony of choice…

‘What choice?’ I hear you bellow at the screen in rapturous anticipation.

Ok, calm down. It’s this: with the goal of participating in next year’s Zine Quest abuzz in my mind, the question that burns most keenly is whether to use the game I have been working on, Corsairs, for my zine, or whether to develop a new game specifically for the purpose.

Corsairs is in late development, and had Zine Quest not hoved into view on the horizon like an ice-burg with bloody intent, it would have been released this month through itch.io and DriveThru, like my other micro-rpgs.

But… But… with Zine Quest approaching, am I best to set my sights higher? Am I best to take this game, already close to completion, and use that for the Zine Quest? It gives me time to focus on the other aspects that need to be done: to get art, to finish and polish the writing, to add some things… Or should I finish and release Corsairs, and then develop a new game for Zine Quest?

I think I have the answer… using Corsairs for my zine will allow me more time to playtest, allow me more time to really add to what is there, allow me time to get art, and allow me time to polish everything and lay it out ready. Yes, I know that Kickstarters don’t need to be finished when the project launches, but having it well developed already gives me space in the next months to delve into publication, packaging, shipping, and all those other aspects that are involved.

I had Corsairs nearly fully laid out in A4, and now I need to start again in A5, I’m sure for professionals this is only a small hurdle, but I am still learning, and layout takes me time. I think it will be worth it though, Corsairs will be a developed and playtested game, it will include all the rules required for characters, ships, and ship combat. It will include background material, and will also probably include at least one adventure.

I think it will be awesome. No, it won’t replace D&D, but it isn’t designed to. It’s designed for short run campaigns, for high action and adventure, for quick play, and hopefully, much fun! For anyone looking forward to Zine Quest, I hope that the prospect of broad-sides and daring-do in the skies among floating islands has you as excited as I am!

Zine Quest 2 – Beginnings

In February of 2019 Kickstarter ran something called Zine Quest. Zine Quest was an invitation to creators to launch RPG related Zine Kickstarter projects. These zines are small (A5 or smaller) booklets paying homage to and heralding back to the early days of the role playing game hobby. They may contain full games, or contain RPG related content.

In response 103 Zines were launched on Kickstarter over the course of February, and according to this article from Kickstarter, these projects had a 93% success rate. From zines containing games about Cats and Goblin towns, to maps and mazes, adventures, and articles, these zines ran the gamut. I heard about the Zine Quest too late to participate this year, but have been holding out for news as to whether Kickstarter would run it again in 2020. They are.

Zine Quest 2 will be launching in February of 2020, and this coming year I bet there will be more Zines; I’ll be interested to see how it goes. I for one am hoping to add something to the mix.

What will it involve? A zine must contain RPG related content (full games, adventures, articles, or whatever else a creator can think of). A Zine needs to be A5 or smaller, and must be unbound, folded, saddle stitched, or stapled, no hard cover or perfect binding. A zine must feature one colour printing, although it doesn’t have to be black on white paper. The Kickstarter campaign should have no more than a two-week funding period, and may be launched anywhere between February the 2nd, and February the 29th, 2020. The page containing all the relevant information is here.

To help myself (and hopefully anyone else), I have added a Zine Quest page to this website with links I have picked up trawling the interwebs. Hopefully the links are a useful source of information for anyone looking to participate, and it’s something I’ll be adding to (so if you have any good links or information, please let me know and I’ll add it!). I have also made a Facebook group for Aussie creators, though people from anywhere in the world are welcome to join up. I hope this is a place where people can share resources, ask questions, and offer support to one another as we work towards creating something for and launching our Zine Quest campaigns.

So if you have links that would be useful, I’d love to add them here, and if you are considering joining in the Zine Quest 2020, we’d love to have you in the Facebook group!

Now to ponder my next steps…