This Is How Books Are Made
Hi there everyone,
With our new book enTRAPment getting ever closer to release, I wanted to share what a typical book cycle looks like for us here at Beyond the Horizon. I know from other companies that htey have a similar pattern to how it's done, so I thought it might be interesting for you. If not, please feel free to simply ignore this week's blog post.
So, how does a book like enTRAPment come about?
There are a number of stages:
The Idea Stage
The Priority and Scheduling Stage
The Assignment and Writing Stage
The Editing Stage
The Layout Stage
The Proof Stage
(Note: I'll be using enTRAPment as an example throughout this blog post).
1: The Idea Stage
The idea stage is exactly what it sounds like. It is when the idea comes into the mind of one of the team and they start imagining what could be in it. This process is different for each team member. Kim usually comes up with a title first and has some idea of what he wants in it (sometimes he also has a very firm idea of 1 or 2 things that he wants in - or something that annoys him in gaming, and builds around that), Beth usually gets a strange idea she wants to flesh out and Miguel normally starts from a combination of mechanics and story that he wants to build up around. As said, each team member comes to their ideas from different places.
enTRAPment actually came from that annoyance part that I (Kim here, hi!) have with the way traps are presented in the Core Rules of 5th Edition. It bothered me that you had to read through them every single time when they could have been presented better, so I designed a new template for how I would want it to look to be more readable, and then it went from there.
2: The Priority and Scheduling Stage
This and the following stages are the same for all books after the Idea Stage. This is where Kim and the writers look at their schedules and what is already planned and see where this new book fits in. In the case of enTRAPment, it originally didn't have that high a priority, but as some other projects moved around, time was found where it would fit in, so in it went. (There are other FAR more long-term projects that I would love to get to, but due to circumstances outside my control, they keep getting moved. Like I REALLY want to publish a particular Campaign Setting that I've been working on for a long time now, but it's very time-consuming)
3: The Assignment and Writing Stage
This is where the writer for it is found. This is normally whoever had the idea in the first place, but not always. Sometimes this will be a brief of "I have this idea for a book, and I want X in it. Feel free to play around with that" and at other times it'll be very specific. Especially with those coming in from outside of the team (hopefully more of those soon) an assignment will tend to be more specific in what is required from it and will involve various templates and writing guides.
For enTRAPment, I reached out to Beth Jones and asked if she'd be interested in writing the book with me. We had a pretty specific list we wanted to make (though we carved that out together) as we had a number of art pieces that we wanted to create traps for, and we wanted to reimagine the ones in the core rules to fit the new template. And then we went to work.
4: Editing Stage
Now this stage may have 1 or 2 editors. If it's written by 1 author, another will be the editor (usually Kim as the editor, but when he writes something, the editor will be another of the team), or by 2 people editing each other's work if there are 2 or more authors. Editing can, especially at the larger companies, feel a bit as if you're being run over as an author - you do your work, and when you see it released, suddenly a load of things have changed. Any you don't know why. That's not to say that there aren't good reasons (there usually are), but it is frustrating.
We do not do that here. Instead, we share the document (via Google Docs) with the editing comments in place. Then an author has 3 options: accept the change, decline the change, or ask and answer questions. As much as possible, especially with newer authors, this is critical! There are a lot of things to change in a new person's input so that it fits with Beyond the Horizon, but how will they know if you don't tell them what that is? So comments get put in to explain why something is done here and the author has a chance to explain their thinking so that the editor can go "Oh, that's what they meant. Can we clarify this somehow?".
We believe it makes for better books, and with enTRAPment we followed this process as well.
5: Layout Stage
This is currently done solely by me. I find artwork that fits and put it through Adobe InDesign to create two versions of our books (or at least anything over 20 pages): A print version and a PDF version. This then gets sent to the author to see, and make comments on, in case there are any issues, and then it goes back to layout to finish.
6: Proofing Stage
Easily the most frustrating part of the process. Currently, all our print products are only available on DrivethruRPG, and when we upload a print book it has to go through a process of verification at DrivethruRPG, re-verification at the printers, setup, order a proof print, print a proof print, ship a proof print and receive it. This can take weeks. For example, with the book prior to enTRAPment (Cloudsea), it took nearly 6 weeks for this process to finish, and there's nothing you can do to hurry it up.
What's worse is that if there is an issue when you get it (one major enough to warrant fixing), then you have to go through this process once more. This is why it's critical that the layout stage and the feedback on that is as thorough as possible.
7: Release the book.
That's where you can get your hands on it at all the marketplaces. DrivethruRPG, OpenGamingStore, Itch.io, and Amazon. After that, we can only hope that you like what we've created, and then we start the process again. (Admittedly we usually have several books going through the 7 stages at any given time, but the point still stands).
See you next week!