Somewhere, at some time, this conversation has taken place.
Vice President of Content Marketing: Next on the schedule ... the time has come again to release the Wizard of Oz. We're going to call it a 'Nostalgia Edition.'
Distribution Coordinator: Good. Good idea.
Content Manager: Excellent. What special features will it include?
Vice President of Content Marketing: We'll get to that. First, there's a matter that needs to be addressed. As I understand it, it's an old film.
Content Manager: Yes, I think it was made ... what, 60 years ago?
Operations Consultant: 75. We want to take advantage of the anniversary.
Vice President of Content Marketing: It doesn't matter. The point is that it's old. And as I understand it, parts of the film are actually in black-and-white.
Content Manager: Yes, something like twenty minutes.
Vice President of Content Marketing: Right. A part at the beginning and (checks notes) about two minutes at the end. What are we going to do about that?
Distribution Coordinator: I'm sorry ... are you saying the rest of it is in color, except for twenty minutes?
Operations Consultant: Yes. The film runs 101 minutes.
Distribution Coordinator: So ... what was that about? Did they just run out of money?
Operations Consultant: We don't know why they did it that way.
Vice President of Content Marketing: None of this is the point. What are we going to do about it?
Content Manager: Well, people definitely don't like black-and-white films. We have testing for that.
Operations Consultant: We could colorize it.
Vice President of Content Marketing: How much will that cost?
Operations Consultant: Much less than we're going to make on the resale.
Vice President of Content Marketing: Done. Look into it, see if there are any issues and get back to me. Let's talk about what additional content we'll be adding ...
I love marketing.
I have decided to go with the original title I planned, and damn the misery it may create for me. There are some bitter realities that have to be faced, particularly in that I'll be selling to book to people who have never heard of the blog, and don't know that the content isn't horribly dry and dull. There's a very real possibility that the marketing forces that are pushing me towards a title change are right, and that the book is going to fall flat on its face because it isn't exciting enough on the outside.
And still, there's the reality that I'm not trying just to pimp out another crap book on the market that needs a jazzy title in order to have value. I only need to think about the times I have wandered the shelves of gaming stores, looking for something that isn't just more of the same. 'More of the same' is the watch-phrase for the role-playing world, and is a principle that is adhered to not only by the business end of the game, but by the grassroots as well, as is evident in bulletin boards and blogs. If I post a particular point, I can count on getting the same basic response - take yesterday, for instance, when I titled the post Splitting the Party and the entire readership responded with, "this is going to be more of the same" ... only to be surprised when it was not.
On some level we're all trained. We wade through the shelves, where every book's spine is colored with incomprehensible goo because it is a slice of the cover image that stretches from the front cover to the back, and every title is in the same collection of clever medieval fonts, as if THIS time the book you buy really will prove to be useful because we haven't deviated from the font that says it was written by old monks in the fourteenth century. I'm not saying this angrily, mind. It's all a bit sad. I feel a bit sad.
I'm told now that the game store in my city, the Sentry Box, is the "Largest in Canada." I have no idea how valid that is. I don't imagine there are many game stores across the country that it needs to compete with, and at any rate we in Canada all know that's just another way of saying, "Smaller than many stores in the U.S." That's a fact of life.
It's fairly big for a store, and it has lots and lots of stuff. I never buy anything there. The last thing would have been a battle map that was 4 feet by 3 ... I never use it. There may be 46,000 items in the store, but for all the value they have for me, the store might just as well be empty. There's a game association that meets there, that has been playing 4e (where I stopped in months ago), but now I understand they are making a rule that says if you don't play D&D Next, you're not permitted to play there. That's a little fascist in my opinion, but it's probably good business for the store somehow.
My point is that what I have looked for over the past 20 years is something different. 'Different' is not in the offing. I'm not sure I'd recognize it if it were, what with all the dramatic artwork blending together into one big swirl. I know that when I've stopped there (it's across the street from my favorite music bar), and I take something off the shelf, all I see is more of the same. Another set of skill-based rules, another collection of armor and weapons, another smattering of magic presented as chi, karma, voodoo or supernatural vampirism. The words change but the idea doesn't. You are this, you are part of this group, people in this group have these abilities, you can choose which ones to expand upon, here is your dress, here is your pre-made collection of moral-codes you obey, etcetera. Pick from one of a hundred different groups according to what moral-code you like. On every level it is the same as picking whether you prefer sea salt & dill Triskets, tomato & old ham, Greek gyro & fennel or menthol & old tire. It's a choice. It carries the illusion of freedom because there are lots and lots of choices. More than you'll ever have time to play.
In all that, I mostly want to look different. I want the book to sound different. I want the fellow walking by my table to see the highest quality booth, with smart, together people talking animately and passionately about role-playing games, and then to look at the white book with a simple, sharp image on it and think, "This is unexpected and different."
I'm setting myself up for having to sell refrigerators to Eskimos ... but I have a team supporting me that have all made their living on the basis of sales. I have done that, too. There's a reality about sales that many people in marketing fail to grasp.
It isn't the product that makes the sale. It's the salesperson. The benefit here is that when I bamboozle the buyer into buying the product against their best instincts, because I've convinced them long enough to get their money, they'll be pleasantly surprised to find they've bought something valuable.
I'm counting on that.