Revisions to My Publishing Model

February 4, 2008

Finally, an update after a long hiatus. I’ve been dealing with work and real life for the past several months, without much time to devote to Push 2, but I’m beginning to gear up again.

My time away from working on Push has given me new insights into how to make the journal a less stressful and more productive project for me. Hopefully, my fellow contributors can get exciting about the new plan with me, since it’ll be more difficult (if not impossible) to implement without their cooperation. I’ve been ruminating and speaking with a few folks about my plans, but things really started to get rolling when Brennan Taylor emailed me that Indie Press Revolution was running out of copies of Push 1. I wrote in return:

I’m currently in the middle of rethinking my publishing operation. Like Clinton, I’m excited about turning my business back into a hobby and we’ve been trying to brainstorm on how to do this. Unfortunately,
it’ll likely require removing Push 1 from distribution through IPR, which I probably should have warned you about earlier. I apologize. But I think my products will be gradually moving to a free, at cost, or for charity, non-profit model.

This is not at all a reflection on my dissatisfaction with IPR. IPR is the greatest thing that’s happened to indie roleplaying in a long time. The move is really a reflection of my dissatisfaction with self-publishing under the model established by folks on the Forge. It’s a great model, but it doesn’t really fit my publishing goals, so I’m going to try to figure out something else. It may crash and burn horribly and I may come crawling back to IPR, hat in hand (or have new products a year or so down the road that are meant for this model), but I feel like I need to at least give this a shot.

I hope you understand and I really look forward to the opportunity to work with you and/or IPR in the future.

Brennan was very gracious about this, as I expected he would be, and even expressed his sympathies, since IPR has always dominated more of his game design and play time more than he wanted it to, I think. Being involved in publishing or distribution is not a small commitment. I certainly do not envy Brennan the amount of work it takes to run IPR, even with the excellent help he has now in Fred Hicks.

Then, the IPR member publishers — on the mailing list that I am still a member of, for now — began discussing what it would take for IPR to collectively put out a magazine of short articles or supplemental game materials. I wrote in reponse to some of this discussion:

I’m in the midst of totally revising the way I do Push, hopefully making it much easier for me to administer, and I can imagine doing an IPR magazine under a similar format. What I’m thinking about doing with Push is:

  • edit / layout one article at a time, working with the author(s) directly
  • post each article online in HTML / PDF format as the editing / layout is finished
  • once I have a number of articles done (say 5), enough for an issue, collect them and make that issue available in print
  • move on to prepping articles for the next issue

This kind of “rolling” publication model might work really well for an IPR magazine, because you do it in chunks, one piece at a time. That means that progress occurs in measurable steps and you only have to hound one contributor at a time instead of the “herding cats” approach I previously took with Push (and Matt took with Daedalus, I gather).

Certainly, one of the things I’ve always found the most challenging about Push is knowing which piece of the puzzle to tackle on any given day. For example, as I prepare to get back to work on Push 2, what’s my next move? Do I contact Eero about suggested revisions / additions to his game about memory palaces? Do I do redlines for Bill White’s article about using roleplaying games as educational tools in the classroom? Do I edit Thomas Robertson’s interview of Sarah Kahn into something that we can publish? Do I contact the various people who haven’t sent in drafts yet, talking them through whatever writing difficulties they’ve been having? Under the old model, I felt like I had to do all of the above at the same time, keeping track of everything but never really feeling like I was making progress on the issue as a whole.

I’m really excited about the prospects of working on a issue one article at a time, working with the author when they are available and ready to turn out a finished product. And then being able to post it once it’s done, have one article in the bag for a given issue, get immediate feedback on the posted article through the website (feedback that might eventually be included in the marginal commentary in the print version), and move on to the next piece of the puzzle. That seems, to me, like a model that’s likely to work much better with my busy schedule and the busy schedules of all the other contributors.

I’ve already contacted the contributors to Push 1, asking if I can cease commercial sales of that issue and post the contents online, in preparations for Push 2. Now, my next step is contacting folks who submitted or planned to submit to Push 2 and run this new plan by them. Hopefully they’ll still be interested and I can start polishing up existing drafts for immediate release on this website, which I’ve already begun revising. First up will probably be Eero’s game and Bill’s article + game, assuming everything goes well. Can’t wait.