Could something like CreateSpace help bring back Tal?

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Could something like CreateSpace help bring back Tal?

Postby Big Mac » Sat Jun 09, 2012 2:53 pm

Recently, someone decided to write a book that attracted both controversy and excitement (because the book was about Living Greyhawk's Bandit Kingdoms and was not authorised by WotC). I don't want to get into the IP discussion here, but the fact that it was commercially possible to publish something that was viewed as "dead and buried" was something I thought might be able to breath life into other out of print campaign settings.

The author of that book has written a blog article (the first of a set of three) about the publication process, and I've started a thread to discuss the actual process called: Publishing your own RPG book with CreateSpace. (One of the things I find pretty exciting about CreateSpace - and other Print on Demand publishers are available - is that they tie into Amazon's online stores and if you publish with CreateSpace you can have your book on sale in multiple countries on Amazon. That isn't as good as getting it into book stores, but it means that potential customers don't face excessive international shipping rates.) Please feel free to join the general discussion over in the thread I linked to.

But getting back to Talislanta, I wonder how this sort of thing could apply to Tal. Obviously SMS owns Tal, and it would not be right to do anything unless SMS says he wants to do it. But looking back at Tal, I see a lot of good stuff from authors, SMS giving the green light and a publisher not being able to make it economically possible. I wonder if the rise of Print on Demand publishing, like you have with CreateSpace might eventually create the right sort of economy where you can "cut out the middle-man" and get to the point where if SMS wants to do it and an author also wants to do it, the author could write it in their spare time (on a "labour of love" basis) and then see how much income comes in over time.

And I'm not necessarily saying this would only work for RPG stuff. Maybe this could also be a way for SMS himself to revisit his Rogue Magician Crystabal novel or for someone like Adam to put out a Tal graphic novel.

Ultimately it all comes down to the numbers and the amount of time an author would have to "gamble" on a project that may or may not refund them for that time and may or may not pay them a lot of cash above the "break even" point. And we all know that SMS is busy with other things now, so his time would also be a very critical thing. Any time SMS spends on Tal is time he is unable to spend on his musical work and that means that he would be gambling on this sort of thing too. So there would be a "break even" point for both the author and SMS. But if that ability to remove the "middle man" could

But I do wonder if this sort of publication method could cut out the middle-man* (between SMS and the autors/artists) that seems to have caused cool projects to not get to print in the past. If there was someone out there "crazy enough about Tal" to want to write stuff on the CreateSpace economic model (and that person was also someone that SMS wanted to work with) we could actually see a Tal project that was "unstoppable". It might get delayed (as the author would pretty much be self-funding the development) but, as long as they continued to want to finish it, they could get it done and get it out there.

* = In reality that middle-man is stil there, as CreateSpace is replacing the traditional publisher. But they have a business far beyond a single product line and a delays to individual books would not cause their company to crash, so the "risk" of the sort of delays that caused Tal publishers to fail before would be transferred to an author and or SMS.
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Re: Could something like CreateSpace help bring back Tal?

Postby PeterLind » Sat Jun 09, 2012 9:08 pm

You are expressing here a wish of mine . . . to see Talislanta return to print once again. If only there was a way for them to again grace the shelves of local game stores?!

Here are a couple of thouoghts of mine on how to do this:

1. Talislanta.com provides a limited license to download and print your own set of Talislanta books (see the links to Talislanta Licensing and Creative Commons). One possibility would be for there to be a public invitation for the submission of new material (source material, adventures, etc.) set in the Talislanta world for possible publication (at least electronically by download).

2. Form a small group of volunteers who are willing to take on some Talislanta editorial/development and play-test tasks under the direction of SMS. The purpose would be to advance the setting in general and to review/edit/revise existing rules as needed.
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Re: Could something like CreateSpace help bring back Tal?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Nov 18, 2012 3:30 pm

Sorry for the delay, Peter.

The way I see it, SMS has made Talislanta "free"* to end-users and that could possibly continue, with some sort of deal to allow for new books to be free in PDF form and sold commercially in dead-tree form.

* = Under certain conditions that he has chosen. Not public domain.

I think this would require a Talistanta expert, like Douglass Bramlett, to do a lot of the R&D, so that SMS knew the project didn't need a ton-o-babysitting. From what I understand, the babysitting requirement is what has made SMS less able to look after the product.

If stuff was going to carry on being free in PDF form, then a public playtest (more like what Paizo did with Pathfinder RPG and what WotC are doing with D&D Next) could be possible. That would allow a functional, alpha version or beta version to be put into the fan community, with everyone knowing that a more beautified version would/could follow.

If the functional stuff could be worked out, at whatever pace was needed, the beautification could then be something that could be proposed when the thing was already done. That could possibly be a time when Kickstarter might help turn a free low-quality PDF into a free high-quality PDF and commercial high-quality dead-tree book. With Kickstarter, a print-run could be built into the funding, so that people pledge $30, $40 or $50 and know they are getting a dead-tree book from a fixed print run, at a lower price that it will be afterwards.

The actual amount raised could include "stretch goals" to improve the product, add more artwork, include bonus content or other things (such as a "Talislanta" T-shirt). I don't know how much it would cost to hire Adam Black, to do Tal work, but maybe someone from the pro-side of things could look at the numbers and find a way to be fair to him, fair to SMS and fair to the fans.

And maybe people could also be allowed to pledge more money to get a dead-tree copy of one of the lost books or something else. Suppose that there was a bonus target and that the money above the actual cost got split between SMS and the author that never got paid. Would that be fair to SMS, the unpaid designer and the fans? I think it could be. So long as there are no legal problems** with this, it could be a way for fans to make sure that unpublished designers and SMS can be paid for unfinished work.

** = IANAL - TINLA - YMMV - TPMCN

The other issue is the market. With Talislanta shut down commercially, the fan base may not be as big as it once was. Getting a freebie, like a netbook done is one thing. You can have the "long view" with a netbook, because a fan that discovers Tal in ten years time is still going to think it is "cool stuff", but if you want to do a Kickstarter project to get something off the ground, you need to pull in the fanbase and spread the word. Fall short of the goal and the project does not go ahead. I've seen another project fail to reach its goal and have to come back in a much more scaled back form.

This sort of thing would be a gamble. Could it work? I don't know. But it certainly looks like it might make it possible for designers to work on Talislanta on a "buskware" basis, throwing their time into the hat and getting paid directly by happy fans..
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