The Road to Reaving – Part X

"Spearing the enemy"; photo by Peter Wort

It’s been quite a journey, hasn’t it? The story’s not over, however. Read on for what lay ahead on the Reaving road.

Art in Miniature

One of the neat things about this book is that the illustrations are a mix of Catalyst’s standard art and that of touched up and altered miniature photos. Back when Ray and I first discussed the art requirements (new logos, bio illos, etc.) I’d thrown out the idea of using miniature photos as art, but not in a way they’re used in the Starterbooks and core rulebooks. I wanted to use dynamic art: I’m a huge fan of miniature dioramas, from train sets to museum pieces illustrating history, and often spend time at home creating them. (Not big set-piece stuff, but small ones that fit on a hexbase or small platform.) Why not try merging photography with miniatures and creating some new art?

This was the book to do it in. As you saw in my last entry, the layout approach for the book was different; why not the same with the art?

So we put out a call to the great artists at Camo Specs Online – and they answered. Boy, did they answer. Within a week, we had over a hundred photos to pick and play with. Many of the ones we chose for the book I’ve been showcasing in this blog series and I think readers of the book will agree that it was a successful experiment all around.

 

How to Use This Book (final text)

To Market, To Market

Back in September, when WOR was just beginning to get underway, I requested that CGL not announce anything regarding the project. Not a whisper that it was being worked on. This was partially to allow me to work on it uninterruptedly, and partially to drop the book as a surprise reveal at some point, much as Catalyst had done with Jihad Secrets: The Blake Documents. With no one aware it was being worked on, projected dates could theoretically slip and adjust as necessary and no one would be “wounded” from another “late” project.

The request turned out to be fortituous when November/December rolled around, as I discussed earlier.

Things began to unravel slightly when Randall, in his exuberance, announced on Facebook and Twitter that the WOR cover had been assigned. Fortunately, CGL has a tendancy to solicit cover art well in advance of a project, so it was quickly waved off as “yes, it’s been solicited, but it’s not due any time soon.” The matter, though it had created a mini-firestorm on various BattleTech forums, subsided just as fast.

In February, after looking anew at the project once the bulk of my other book was out of the way, I submitted a rough marketing plan to Randall and Herb, along with the revamped outline. I wanted to leak the project slowly, trickling out vague information at first that would slowly escalate as the book neared completion. To confuse things, I would also leak “false” material, getting speculation going and start driving up anticipation. I began doing so through my Twitter account and vague notations on the main BattleTech forum, answering questions with either a question or some vapid response. (It was even more interesting since my Twitter account is “private” which meant that I had total control over who saw the initial hints…)

As writing began again in March, I would often take a quick “thought break” (it’s something I do in the course of my work, allowing my mind to shift tracks momentarily to help keep my creativity from slamming into a writer’s block wall) and find either a telling-but-not sentence in my draft or make some comment regarding the plot and post it on Twitter. Never anything concrete, but enough to see what reaction might be and how convoluted some of the conjecture would get. It was somewhat entertaining in many respects, as I could see anticipation begin to mount.

The speculative fires lit again, I used April Fool’s Day to drop some gas on it and posted a mostly-true outline of the project, removing many of the more obvious plot line information. I hesitated using any of the main story points as teasers or fake-outs for the simple reason I’d stated elsewhere: this book was opening uncharted territory, and the more surprises for the reader that could be maintained, the better. So I built up some inoccuous stuff and avoided any mention of…well, those surprises. (Yeah, like you thought I’d divulge that now.)

Page 14-15 preview (final text)

As the text in its final form took shape, more and more of my leaks came out. I started dropping hints right here in this blog, mixing both actual portions of the text (and sidebars) with cutting-room floor material from previous rewrites. I also began receiving sketches from Brent Evans, CGL’s Art Director, and slid a few of those among the mix.

So far, CGL was letting me handle all of the WOR hype. Randall nearly blew things open a couple of times, but the “mistakes” he’d made actually ended up being beneficial. I’d initially wanted to debut the cover art here, but he posted it on CGL’s Facebook page. That drove up speculation and fueled anticipation even more.

Once the book’s text was completed, my next phase in the marketing hype machine began. That’s pretty easy to describe: you’re reading the tenth part of it.

Looking back over the entire process, I’m actually quite proud with how much fake and real is mixed into the entire run. And all without divulging the Really Big Secret Twists in the book, too…something I’m really excited about. Because as I read the speculation threads and the comments on Facebook and Twitter, I can’t help but smile, knowing that most of it is wrong. And it’s all because I kept the key elements of the book completely off the marketing table from the start.

I’m also quite pleased with our playtester and factchecker apparatus; they’ve done a great job in keeping their mouths shut. Of course, they’ve only seen chapters 4-8, 10 and 11. Only a handful of people have seen the “update” section and even less the short fiction and establishing chapter. So they’ll even get to experience some of the fun the fans will enjoy.

With the book uploaded to the printer, our deadlines met, we waited with baited breath for the first blue-line proofs. As they came in over the course of the next couple of days, it was stunning. I’ve seen all of my previous work in print before, but there’s something truly special about seeing the proofs of this one. We caught a couple of errors and then signed off on it. It was now truly well out of our hands.

So why not drop the PDF to the fans?

Simple. I wanted the hype to build even more. We vaguely hinted that something big had gone on to print, but never outright said it was WOR. What I wanted was for the PDF to release near the actual street date of the book. This was so that I could really hit the “sweet spot” of the project’s reveal – release it too far ahead and all the secrets would be spilled out by enthusiastic fans who don’t mind reading electronic copies. That might sour those fans who are nominal Clan players (or don’t much care about these factions) and dissuade them from buying it.

See, Clan books are not big sellers in the whole of the BattleTech catalog. They comprise a good percentage, but it’s not the driving force. So a book like this, with it touching on mainly Clan factions, was automatically going into the fight with a handicap. I made sure we added material that would appeal to a greater fanbase – the new ProtoMech rules, just enough new toys, and the radical build-a-campaign style, but it still wouldn’t enter the race with an edge like any Davion-themed book does.

I wanted the PDF/print release window to be tightened to a more defined level; just enough time for PDF lovers to get the ‘first taste’ but not a long wait for standard book buyers. Randall graciously agreed to let me experiment, and that’s what we’ve done. The PDF will release, followed closely by a street date. My hope was that all of the heightened expectations for the book would drive curiosity and therefore, sales.

That was the plan.

Page 46-47 preview (final text)

The plan changed two weeks ago.

As ever, another twist in the Reaving story…but this one’s ultimately a happy ending. It’s not my ideal ending, but considering everything that happened to this book over the last 11 months, I’m more pleased than anything.

See…the printer did an awesome thing. They printed up a bunch of the book in record fashion…

…enough for it to be at GenCon

…and therefore, allowing the PDF to go on sale sometime on Wednesday, August 3

…and the street date to follow in mid-September.

Let the Wars of Reaving begin.

(Continued? Yes. Expect an Epilogue after GenCon.)

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