Speaking at PePcon in Chicago: June 15-18

April 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m going to speaking at PePcon in Chicago this summer. This is the fifth Print + ePublishing Conference, hosted by the fine people that run InDesignSecrets and CreativePro. I’ve attended three of the four previous PePcons, and it’s always a smoothly-run show with great speakers and a collaborative, sharing atmosphere. It attracts a pretty wide variety of designers and designer-related people: from government employees trying to efficiently make hundreds of forms that are accessible and meet up with tons of standards, to small newspaper people still working on bridging the paper/digital worlds, to automation experts, typeface designers, and more.

This year’s Speakers List is a great one — including Chris Kitchener, the lead product manager for InDesign; Deke McClelland, trainer extraordinaire (and a fine singer,, too…), and keynote speaker Lynda Weinman, co-founder of Lynda.com.

And me? I’ll be jamming out 20 minutes on automated production InDesign: from spreadsheets to InDesign to the printed page. I’ll probably cover this talking about card game design, with a side trip to the fun of automating contracts (Everyone loves contracts!). And bonus, aside from InDesign, we’ll only use free and/or Open Source tools.

If you’re interested in attending PePcon, let me slide you this nice discount code to save $50: CH23B

NewImage

I hope to see you there!

Game Designer’s Workshop: Posthuman Studios Interview

April 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

At Gen Con 2013, the owners of Posthuman Studios (Rob Boyle, Brian Cross, Jack Graham, and myself) sat down with the folks at Roleplaying Public Radio to record this episode of Game Designer’s Workshop.

We were a little tipsy when this interview started (it was, after all, after business hours at Gen Con …), and we were moreso by the end of it. The audio levels fluctuate, and Jack Grahaman yells in a way that would be obnoxious if he wasn’t so damned funny.

This isn’t like your standard game-related podcast. We talked about how we all started gaming, how we met each other, how we started working together, and why we’re still working together. It’s hella honest, insightful and even a little bit useful in places.

Making things with people that you love and respect is awesome. I hope you enjoy hearing us talk about that.

Smart Folders to fix Dropbox Limitation

March 17th, 2014 § 3 comments § permalink

I’ve complained several times since Dropbox updated their client that the new UI is lacking in one significant respect: the number of recent files shown is only 3, and that is not configurable in any way:

Dropbox 1

For someone who uses Dropbox for actual work, this is laughable—if we’re away from our computer for a few hours, a dozen or more files could easily be uploaded or edited. Even if we don’t have to take action on those files, it’s good to stay up to date on what’s going on.

If you’re using OS X, the best way to do so is to set up a Smart Folder. Mine uses the following parameters:

Dropbox 2

Open the Finder and select your Dropbox folder, then hit File -> New Smart Folder.

Personally, I want to see anything updated in the last 24 hours, so I select the option of “Last Modified Date” and set it to “Within last 1 day.” This also will display files that were created within the last day, as well.

Then click Save, and be sure that the “Add to Sidebar” option is ticked.

BTW, if you’d like to tell Dropbox that you want more recent files, I started a thread about this on their feature request forum a few months ago.

Any other things you do to make Dropbox more productive for you? Share ‘em in the comments!

Removing TextEdit from OS X Mavericks

March 13th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

I have pretty strong feelings about the OS X app, TextEdit: I do not like it. It is not useful to me, I do not like text and rich text editors in the same application, and I never want to use it. I never want to accidentally open it. Any time it is opened, it is wasted time and added frustration.

If you like using it, this tip is not for you!

But if you want to delete it, you’ll notice that OS X Mavericks gives you this error if you try and delete it (or some other apps, like Chess and Stickies) from the Finder:

Screen Shot 2014 03 13 at 5 13 59 PM

Mavericks, I am still the boss of you.

Open up Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app) and paste this command into it:


sudo rm -rf /Applications/TextEdit.app/

You’ll be prompted for your password; this is the password that belongs to your admin account on your Mac. Type it in, hit the enter key, and TextEdit should be vanquished. The next time you update OS X, it might reinstall it.

My preferred text editor on OS X is TextWrangler. It’s free and amazing.

“Fairness,” book prices, electronic book prices

January 17th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

(This was originally a Tumblr post, but my blog is a better long-term archive for it. Minor edits since I first posted it to Tumblr.)

People often say that electronic versions of books should cost less than the print versions due to production costs being lower.

This is a simplistic statement that is flawed on several levels:

#1: Not all books are published in both print and electronic format now, so electronic-only format books have to bear the entire burden of earning out, whereas a book published in print and electronically amortizes many of the expenses across two releases. Some books would not exist in electronic format at all (at their current quality level) if print versions did not help pay for the content. Electronic-only books need the ability to earn-out on all expenses.

#2: The production vs. content (writing, editing, art, graphic design, indexing, etc.) costs of books vary wildly, depending on the type of book, the publisher, the printing method and quantity, etc. Unless you have inside information or reliable experience, you can’t look at a book and tell how much it cost to make and where that money was spent. Even if you can make that estimation, you almost certainly have no idea how back-end contracts are structured and how people are being paid. Some publishers and authors are more transparent about this than others, but information learned in one field may be completely useless in another.

Furthermore, some say that authors and creators shouldn’t earn more on electronic copies than they would selling a print copy. So, for example, if it cost $2 to print/ship/etc a book that sold for $10, and the author also makes $2 on each sale (all of these numbers are completely made up for the purposes of a simple example), then the ebook version should sell for $8 and the author should continue to make $2. All the savings should be passed to the customer; no profits for the creator should be added.

The issue with the above is there is nothing that has defined the author’s $2 as a “fair” royalty beyond what the business has dictated in the past. The publishing business is changing, authors have more control, and often more responsibilities: if you can afford the $10 book to begin with, a situation that pays the author more is not going to hurt you. And it may well benefit you, because if the author is making twice as much on that book, they can probably afford to spend more time writing and have a higher quality of life, which is going to lead to better and more consistent work.

Beyond that: the argument that “ebooks aren’t as good as print” is rooted in emotion and history, but as time passes it’s becoming more and more obvious that in some cases, and especially in some genres and book styles, electronic books offer more utility and convenience to the reader. Should the creators not be rewarded for that?

The counter argument to that is that some of the features of electronic books — searching, bookmarks, etc. — are “inherent to the format” and thus the creators shouldn’t be benefit. The same people will also extoll the virtues of print books that are also inherent to the format, and the authors and creators end up benefitting from that! So it’s a wash; all formats have inherent flaws and bonuses.

New Skin Deep texture: Happy Distress!

November 26th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

SD TEXT003 HappyDistress 900px

Happy Distress! is the newest Skin Deep texture; it’s available on DriveThruRPG for only $5, and it contains 12 different files: eleven 8.5×11 300DPI distressed textures, and one larger 600DPI file that is a scan of the various pieces of duct tape that were used to create the analog textures. I thought they looked cool so I included them—they’ll do some nice work making distressed type or edge work!

All of these graphics are Creative Commons licensed, so you can use them in commercial projects as long as you credit me. There is no limit on how you can use them or what medium (print, web, iPad app, etc.)

I also made a quick video that outlines the contents and has a quick demo on how these textures can be used to help quickly enhance a book cover:

SD TEXT004 HappyDistress stack

I’ve also made a Skin Deep Sample Pack available, with 120DPI graphics from each pack available for free (not CC-licensed.)

Posthuman Textures become Skin Deep!

November 8th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

In late 2011 Posthuman Studios’ released 3 texture packs that I designed under the name Posthuman Textures. Today, I have pulled them under my own control and renamed them Skin Deep. I will be devoting more time in the near future to releasing new texture packs and other graphic design resources.

By pulling these under my own wing, I’m able to devote more time to them — as niche projects, devoting Posthuman Studios’ time to them didn’t make sense.

Three texture sets are currently available:

Battered and Blasted

SD TEXT000 BatteredAndBlasted stack

Dead Television Explosion

SD TEXT001 DeadTelevisionExplosion stack

Something Died

SD TEXT002 SomethingDied stack

Each set is $5 and available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license, which means you can use them in and modify them for commercial projects (Books, electronic books, websites, no limitations!) as long as you attribute me as the original creator.

Turning Air Canada’s display screen off

November 5th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Flying Air Canada and want to turn the display screen off in front of you?:

  1. Tap once to get to the language selection screen.
  2. Select a language
  3. Tap near the bottom to select the brightness/volume screen.
  4. Tap the screen off button!

With that visual distraction no longer in front of you, you can enjoy your laptop and iPad at the exact same time!

Kickstarter Problems That Just Aren’t That Big of a Deal

October 25th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s a quickie: We let people pick up copies of Tranhuman at Gen Con. In our backer surveys, we asked if they wanted to do so, and from that data we created a handy checklist of people so they could sign off on their copies and I could import that data back by hand into the Kickstarter database later.

Of course, a few people showed up at the booth and wanted to pick up their copies, even though they didn’t say they would in the backer survey.

That was no real problem; we verified that they were backers, had them sign off, and I added that information to the database later.

Here’s the hiccup: one of the people that signed off on their copy has a relatively common first and last name, and there are two people with that exact same name registered as backers. Which one of them picked up their copy? No way to solve this except to go right to them and ask—hey, did you?

In the meantime, I realized that during the first wave of shipping one of those people had a copy of Transhuman shipped to them; and as luck would have it, that person was the one who picked up their copy at Gen Con. So they’ll get an extra book for their gaming group, we eat a few dollars in shipping costs, and life goes on.

Making Announcements: Pitfalls & Products

September 25th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I started writing this post over a year ago, and have been sitting on it incomplete for a long time. I feel that in the age of Kickstarter and stretch goals and the frenzied changes to publishing and creation, this is more important than ever. But finishing this post has proved troublesome, so I’m throwing it out as part post, part series-of-notes. Maybe with some discussion I’ll rework it into a revised post.

Onwards!

Announcements are fun. They generate buzz and good feelings. So it is tempting to announce many things and announce them early — and also to announce things to “mask” bad news or to cover up a slowness in your production schedule.

But every announcement is a promise. Some announcements have more promise than others — literally and figuratively. Typically, the further in advance an announcement is, the smaller and vaguer the promises are.

Every single announcement you make creates, to using Getting Things Done terminology, at least one “open loop.” It creates at least one — and usually many more — questions that can be asked of you. Each announcement, then, creates more work for you, beyond the actual work in building the project. It also adds more of a mental toll and will wear you down if things don’t go well. There are few things more frustrating and demoralizing than explaining to someone — a customer or some sort of business partner — that a project has slipped.

If you have six different upcoming projects announced, there are going to be fans who only care about one of those projects. They may have cared about projects A and B, but now that you’ve announced projects C, D, E, and F, they have fixated on project E. Anything that doesn’t relate to project E no longer matters. Not only have you created an un-ideal business situation (You want them to buy all six projects, not just E!), but any time you post a status update for any of the projects that aren’t E, you’ll be greeted with the question: “But what’s up with E?!?” — and even though that question can be read in a flattering anticipatory way, it can also be frustrating to have spent time and effort on a project to have someone dismiss it with their desire to see the next project.

I, and companies I have worked for, have made every single possible mistake when announcing projects. Here are some of them:

  • Announcing something at a time that takes attention away from another upcoming project. If you are planning on releasing a new book on January 15th, announcing on January 8th that will be releasing an entirely different book in August is likely to reduce attention on the shortly-upcoming title.
  • Announcing too many things at once, making none of them seem important.
  • Making announcements too complicated. A complex announcement should be structured in a way that broadly introduces things, then narrows focus to talk about specifics, and in the end sums up the announcements and leads to a call for action (preorder a book, vote in the ENnnies, etc.) If you give people too many choices, they are more likely to make the simplest choice, which is to do nothing!

Here’s some ways to do it right:

Announce consistently. Establish a list of standards — information that you must know before you announce something, even if that information is not yet disclosed. Do not make announcements that are out of scale with the size of the project; t-shirts going on sale is not the same weight as signing a well known author to a three book deal. If you shout from the rooftops about everything, people will stop paying attention. Establish a plan for how you propagate your announcements through your social networks and try to point people towards your “home base” — probably your website, but perhaps your Facebook page, etc.

Don’t make major announcements in a row without actually releasing something, even if that something doesn’t relate to those major announcements. Too many announcements looks like vaporware.

Anticipate questions you will be asked and answer them in the announcement. If the announce/situation is complex, you may want to include a FAQ in the announcement, or have it at ready to dole out as necessary. Quickly update your post (new info where necessary, note at top linking down to change) if necessary.

Proofread that bastard. Three proofreaders, every time — looking for spelling, grammar, wrong/outdated info, bad hyperlinks, etc.

If you are correcting misinformation, do not repeat the misinformation. Especially when posts are often only seen in part (people skimming, partial RSS feeds, those awful previews on Facebook) you don’t want to raise the chances of people seeing only the old information. State the correct information, don’t repeat or restate any incorrect information.

Don’t give people a chance to hop away from the announcement too early.

If you are working with a partner, licensee, etc, give them a copy of the final announcement as soon as possible and let them know when you plan to post it. They can help propagate it, and won’t accidentally spread misinformation.

If this were a finished article, it would have a conclusion. Help me write it?