Thursday, December 11, 2014


Part of selling my book involves - unfortunately - taking a step into the bulletin board environment.  So I've been getting my toes wet lately.  I've put that off for far too long, but only because in days gone by I learned what it's like to write anything on a bulletin board.

For example, lately I wrote,

"Is there anything wrong with a DM making a vocation of their work - of treating the game as something that's done not out of light-hearted entertainment, but from a powerful desire to invest all one's nature and effort into producing a better world and a better experience for the player.

Does this make a better DM?"

This is the first thread I've started on any board in nearly two years.  Naturally, the first answer I got completely rewrote the question and then condemned it.

"A good DM is one that is always focused on maximizing the fun for his players. No DM can force his players to be super serious, when they are looking for light-hearted fun. That is the sign of a bad DM."  - Imaculata

Naturally, any sane person knows not to challenge an answer like this.  Any sane person recognizes that "producing a better world" means the same thing as "maximizing the fun for his players."  But pointing this out is a good way to get a flame war started.

The English language is a mutable thing on bulletin boards.  Every word means precisely what the writer wants it to mean, regardless of any meaning that might exist outside the writer's perception, and that meaning is free to change from sentence to sentence, as the writer likes.  As such, most of the dialogue on any bulletin board is mostly about what words mean, defining them, redefining them, debating the definition and so on until all reason and purpose is completely submerged.  There's a good reason that bulletin board posts are called 'threads.'  They unravel the moment they're written.

We should give consideration to how much influence such boards have had over the perception of many a new, young player.  It takes only a minute or two to find a post by such a player, asking a perfectly innocent question about classes or alignment or some other such subject - only to be immediately indoctrinated - and let's face it, that is the word here - into the endless shredding of the subject by whichever two diametrically opposed pundits happen to get ahold of the subject.  I envision thousands of young, ten year old boys and girls staring agape at the screen as they watch some minor question spiral into the realm of the ridiculous, fighting over whether or not a railroad has to have 'tracks' or if it can be built in the air - and whether or not that makes for a good game.

Me, well, I just want to get the words, Author of How to Run: An Advanced Guide to Managing Role-playing Games in front of as many eyeballs as possible.  If they were stacking eyeballs ten bucks to the dozen at the local supermarket, I'd be standing next to it with a poster-board.

As such, I'm willing to write a bit here and there - but unlike this blog, I have very little hope of changing the mind of anyone who has taken time to write there.  No question that there are viewers, still, in possession of their mental faculties, but . . . well, there's been something of a weeding-out process these last fifteen years.  If you're still writing arguments on bulletin boards after all this time, it's official.  You're incapable of listening.

Writing is all about listening.  That's what they say about actors, too, because if you're not listening to what the others actors are saying, you sound false and discordant.  People in written plays are expected to react to one another as if they've never heard the words before, even though the scene has been rehearsed a hundred times or more.  Reacting is a difficult thing to achieve, but when it is done right, it is brilliant.  The audience believes that the people actually are arguing with each other; they're convinced that if they were to go back stage after the performance, the argument would still be going on, about the same things.  It is what great acting is all about.

[It's also what drives me batshit crazy about Johnny Depp; he never listens to anyone.  He lives in his own little fabricated Johnny Depp space, speaking lines to himself, making it look for all the world like he's waited for everyone else in the film to shut the fuck up so he can metaphorically step two paces forward and deliver the 'Johnny Depp Special Dialogue' written expressly for him]

Arguing on a bulletin board is nothing like writing to anyone listening.  Words are secondary to the process.  The process is to produce a flame war so that the pundit with the whole day at their disposal can feel the adrenaline rush their ancestors' biological processes developed in order to hunt and run from water buffalo - only that rush is being applied to screaming stupidly, "This word means what I think it means" over and over . . . and over.

But if you are wondering what I'm doing there, I'm selling.  I don't mind saying so.  Sometimes, in order to sell to the listeners, we have to ignore the rude, silly people who are wandering around our store because they have nothing better to do.


Eric said...

I'd make sure to get something up on and as well, if you're looking for forums. The latter is the closest think I know to a decent RPG forum, although I still don't go there often. Well-curated G+ RPG circles give me a surprisingly high signal to noise ratio.

A tangent: I've noticed you don't mention Lulu sales. Is there some reason you avoid this form of marketing?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I remembered that you mentioned them before, Eric, but I'll tell you truly - I don't know they're happening.

Lulu advertises hardcore to writers wanting their material published, because they know they can make a lot of money from writers who don't know how to edit or lay out material - or a host of other publishing related issues. None of that interests me. I use Lulu as a platform, not as a service. As such, I never look to see what Lulu is doing. I never enter the sight through the front door. I have links to my specific pages and I am really only concerned with my product.

Lulu tries to contact me by email every month or so, wanting to sell me a 'package' for either $500 or $4000 that will 'promote' my book. I spoke to the salesman for this package by phone (who's name also happened to be Eric, coincidences eh?) who did not - at the beginning of the dialogue - even know the title of my book. The description of the promotion consisted of sending a flyer to 500 media outlets that I had published the book. After this conversation, I spoke to several professionals about the effectiveness of such a promotion, comparing this to my own experience on journals where I saw such promotions come across my desk. The consensus was that it wasn't worth it.

For a brief time during the FanExpo, my book How to Play a Character & Other Essays was very briefly the #1 seller on Lulu's sight across all genres - but no one I told at the time seemed to even know what Lulu was. The situation did not last long and I ceased to check the rankings.

It's nice that occasionally Lulu cuts 35% off the book and that they take this hit. If I chance to notice they're doing it, I may or may not mention it. I don't see Lulu, however, being a big player in my success.

I need AMAZON to notice me. That's the elephant in the room.

Sold 6 books through Amazon this past week. Freakin' great.

Eric said...

Ah, no, that deal sounds rotten. I hear about the Lulu sales on G+ mostly, from other DIY publishers. Are people buying more in eBook or hardcopy? I knew I'd want to make proper penciled marginal notes in mine.

Alexis Smolensk said...

And I included several pages for notes at the back.

More hardcopy than ebook, actually; about 3:1 overall.

Doug said...

As I got to the end of this post, I started thinking about Disneyland. That park was built so people could come and have fun. A heck of a lot of money is put into shows/rides/costumes/landscaping, and every year thousands of people come, so Disney must be doing something right. And Disney takes those people's fun seriously.