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Rule of life: Everything worth doing is harder than it looks.
I talked yesterday about getting things going with Jason Richards Publishing, mostly just announcing that such a thing exists and that you can run over to DriveThruRPG and download some great gaming materials, for free. I thought that tonight I would go a little deeper and talk about the waves of emotion that I've endured these last few days.
Don't worry, I won't get girly or anything. Read on and maybe, just maybe, I'll have something inspirational to say.
In another forum this week, I told somebody that "writers write," and that most writers I know are completely consumed by it, all the time. It's not that an author spends all of his or her time working on whatever is currently paying the bills, or is under deadline, or whatever, but that even free time away from whatever serves as the latest gig is often spent writing, or thinking about writing, or planning the next thing to be written. I think about elements of writing whenever I hear a song, or while I'm sitting in meetings at work, or on the treadmill. It's how I can write my latest article or edit a short story or layout pages or whatever, and then come here and blog and not be totally burned out. I compared it to an artist who, even when not working on a paying job, still sketches constantly. It's just what you do, because on some level it's who you are.
It's that sort of drive that has led me to begin to self-publish. As anyone who has followed this blog at all knows, my main gig has always been freelancing for Palladium Books. I write articles and contribute to compilations and throw in some editing and project coordination and have turned out two full manuscripts. The bummer about freelancing is that you can finish up a project and then it sits on a shelf somewhere for months or even years, waiting its turn, especially at a place like Palladium which is desperately fighting off one disaster or another, it seems. Aside from the fact that if your stuff isn't printed, you generally don't see any money (and I'm not going to mislead you, that is a factor), there is the painful element of waiting for something that you have created to see the light of day. Thanks to non-disclosure agreements, you can't even really talk about it, or at least not to the extent you might want to.
My solution? Write whatever the hell I want and do whatever the hell I want with it. That's not to say that I don't still want to work for other publishers, because I certainly love doing that. But, by cutting out the middle man I can stand on my own hill and pelt unsuspecting passers-by with the rocks of my silly, silly words.
This is easier said than done. Publishing on my own is not worth it to me if the product sucks. I have faith in my ability as a writer, but that's not enough. What else does that mean? Well, hiring artists, for one, because you definitely don't want me drawing up the characters that live in my brain. And once I have the art, and my ridiculous notions put to paper, I have to present it. That means learning to do document layouts in some sort of desktop publishing software. And after that, I have to choose a proper marketplace and learn how to get the word out. And then, WHOA! That just ballooned from a little writing project into a full-on undertaking.
This is where we get to the part where I'm terrified. Once I finally had products produced and ready to go, I had no idea what to expect (still don't, really). How many of these things can I expect to give away for free, let alone sell? How many people will even be aware of my product? What if one of my detractors (I have detractors, can you believe that?) lays down the first review on DriveThru and that sours the buying public? What if, what if, what if.
What if I fail?
But then, largely thanks to support from friends and collaborators like Mike Mumah and Jason Marker and Josh Hilden, I just can't help but be excited. I'm looking at my sales report on the products I've put up for free so far, and people are downloading them! Today's installment had a better first day than my initial offerings, and those first two than I posted on Tuesday had just as many downloads today as yesterday. What will tomorrow's offering bring? What a rush! Somewhere in the back of my mind I wonder if maybe this idea doesn't suck, and maybe it can work.
What if I succeed?!
It's a long road ahead, and I won't know the answer to any of the big questions for weeks or months down the road. I don't yet know if anyone is interested in actually purchasing anything, or if I just make decent free downloads. I haven't yet had to grind through creating content when I'm not really "feeling it" or had to fight with an artist or guest author about deadlines or money or whatever. Those will be the big tests, but for right now, I feel good, and you know what? That ain't bad.
One more time: Complete Characters are available for free all week at DriveThruRPG.com, so be sure to check them out!