Author Archive

1-Star review galore and a new POD title!

| September 17th, 2015 | No Comments »

I woke up this morning with 68 new emails; apparently one of our fine customers has decided to rate most of our titles 1-star. Now, I’m sure this was done after long and careful deliberation with a thorough review of each of the dozens of products in question, and *not* some childish attempt to exact petty revenge for daring to publish Tournament of Rapists.

In other news I got some files from Chris the other night and we’re going to be releasing our first POD book very soon!

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What I’m Working On Now

| December 5th, 2011 | No Comments »

As you can read from the last post, I have my iPad configured to do blog posts now. With my Blue-Tooth keyboard I am all set to get more regular posts up. So, just what am I working on right now?

Well, for starters I have some kick ass art coming in for the next Black Tokyo release. I’ll post some images soon. I also got a great piece of art back for a Sci-Fi setting I’m working on.

The Sci-Fi setting is still in the early stages of development, but the concept art piece I commissioned came in looking great. I have some setting notes and am planning a three tier release. The setting will be released with rules for the Traveller and Savage Worlds system. I’m also plotting some fiction set in the new setting that will also help it really take shape.

I sent some scripts over to an artist for the Pandora Rising project as well. Once the comic-book style pages come back I’ll put those out as a free preview of the setting. This project has been on the drawing board for a long time. I plan to do the setting akin to the War of the Dead series of linked adventures that take players from their “normal” world and throw them into the new reality. I really like that way of introducing a new setting.

The follow on will be the campaign book which will be more like what most RPG players are used to. I’m calling that Pandora Risen, and it will be more like picking up the Ebberron setting book or the Forgotten Realms setting book where all of the world is mapped, major powers and people detailed etc.

On the fiction front I’m also plotting out a short story based on the Black Tokyo setting with the intent to put it out on DriveThruFiction.

Lest you all think I forgot, I am still working on the Digital Copy Retail Experiment. I’ll update you soon on how that’s going.

I demo’d a new card game over the weekend. I was down in Virginia to see my daughter in a school play, and stopped by the local game store I used to work at to see my buddy Lee Garvin of Reality Cheque fame and the author of Tales From the Floating Vagabond. Well, it turns out he and a customer had worked out a new card game called:

Badass Zombie Killers!

With a name like that you *can’t* go wrong! The premise is that the zombie hoard has arisen and you have a very short period of time to construct the most badass zombie killing weapon you can from what you can scrounge. From there the hilarity begins.. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t know what I’m allowed to say or not but I thought it was an awesome game. You win the game by having the highest “Badassery” rating for your chosen weapon when the hoard arrives at your door and it’s time to start zombie killing. Think more like Munchkin than Magic. No collectable cards but they were darn funny reads. I can’t wait to see the artwork to go with the descriptions I read.

Lee and I are in talks about getting a table together at this years GenCon. With luck you will all be able to come by and demo the game for yourself then.

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Blogsy for the iPad test post

| December 5th, 2011 | No Comments »

I was reading about some guy who is using his iPad full time instead of his laptop and he mentioned using the Blogsy app to update his blogs.  I downloaded it and set up a couple of my blogs in the control panel.  Easy as pie! Doing a first test post using my iPad and Blogsy.

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Why OneBookShelf is the best digital RPG storefront.

| December 2nd, 2011 | No Comments »

I’ve been toying around with the idea for this post for a while. I’ve said it before in other forums, but with the advent of DriveThruFiction I thought it would be a good time to lay it all out in one mega-post.

OneBookShelf (OBS) and its child sites, RPGNow and DriveThruRPG are the hands down winners in the digital RPG market. Whats more, they are so far ahead of everyone else, I don’t ever see Paizo, WOTC or other publishers/storefronts ever catching up.

I’ll even go one step further, and say that by carrying over the features they offer to RPG publishers to DriveThruFiction; they offer advantages even Amazon, Apple and B&N can’t touch.

Big words, I know. Lets break it down…

Money. Let’s talk %’s people. When OBS merged and they changed the payout numbers there was *a lot* of bitching in our tiny little industry. A few big names even left the site if I recall correctly. Now, I was not a big fan of making less per sale, but the promise of a bigger market was what OBS said to justify the fees. Fast forward a few years and what do we have? A bigger market? I’d say yes to that score. Also, since then we have Apple, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords all in essentially the same business except for the focus on RPG content. What is the average % of each sale these online retailers take?

  • Apple: 30%
  • B&N: 35%
  • Amazon: 30%
  • Smashwords: 15% (On top of whatever the stores charge.)
  • OBS: 35%
  • Paizo 25%

Notice a pattern there? That’s right! OBS has been charging about the same all along as what the big guns in the publishing industry decided they needed to charge to remain competitive. And they were a few years ahead of the game.

Since we are on the topic of money, lets talk about getting paid. OBS is hands down the absolute winner in this category, even when you factor in the “Big Dogs” like Amazon and Apple. With OBS I can get paid as often as I want. Go ahead and read that again. As. Often. As. I. Want. I can cash out my royalties any time I darn well please, have it transferred directly to my PayPal account and since I have a PayPal debit card I can hit the ATM and have *cash* in my hand within a few minutes. No one else even comes close. (Yes, there is a 1$ fee from PayPal but I’ll take that over having to wait for the post office to bring me a check that I then have to sign and haul to my bank, or waiting about a month for a direct deposit to hit.)

Paizo: They send me a dead-tree paper check every 30 days or so. Seriously, get with the program and start using PayPal Paizo! :-)

Amazon, Apple and all the rest are also in the pay-every-30-days camp. (Unless some of them pay quarterly, I haven’t bothered to dig into it too deeply.)

Oh, and OBS also lets me set up royalty payments that are auto-magically directed to the person. That is *HUGE*. That means collaboration is seamless since it gets you out of the accounting business, having to work out the amount due and sending it along. Paizo doesn’t do that, heck Amazon doesn’t even do that.

In summary OBS is very competitive on the % of funds they earn from each sale. They are hands-down the industry leader in getting earnings to the publisher/author.

I could end this post here, but there is so much more to cover! Let’s continue…

Promotion. Let’s talk about getting the word out about your product, making it look good when you do manage to hijack some eyeballs and helping you build your brand.

On OBS I have near complete control over the sales listing. I can massage the text, the layout, add images and I’ve even toyed around with embedding video and audio into the listing. I can change the listing as needed just by logging in and editing the entry.

They stole borrowed my implementation of the flash flip book and audio commentary feature. What’s more, what took me hours and hours of monkeying around and fiddling with they turned into a plug-and-play feature that every publisher can use to their benefit. Let that sink it for a second. I am an IT professional in my full time job, so I know my way around things like web scripting, Flash and web hosting. I managed to hack together Flash flip books of my product, record and audio commentary to go along with it and start putting those on my listings. I can’t begin to tell you time and labor intensive it was. OBS saw the idea, recognized it was a good one and made it *easy* for everyone to use. They are innovating on behalf of publishers who would otherwise not have the time or expertise to experiment on their own.

Not to let OBS off the hook entirely, as I think they could improve their flip-book code to make it work with longer books. Once you get over about twenty pages it just seems to choke. I have never had a large book preview work right out of the box. Also, I *hate* the measly three or four page default preview. Should be longer. Publishers; make your previews as large as possible. At a retail store I can open a book and flip through the pages. The online flip-books are there to re-create that process, so let customers see what they are buying! ( Now that is just my opinion, and it is hardly OBS’s fault, but I figured I’d stick that in there for all to see.)

Also, tied in with the look of the sales listing are the header and footer tools. If you check out one of Skortched Urf’ Studios sales listings you will see a footer we spent a little time tweaking that includes links to our various categories, a pointer to this blog as well as a scrolling banner with a selection of our titles that links to them. I can change the footer, create different ones for different categories and even stack different footers! (I haven’t messed with the headers as much as I would like, but I assume I have as much freedom there as I do with the footers.)

Lets continue with promotion and talk about email. OBS lets me email anyone who has ever purchased one of my products. They let me email people who have one of my products in their wishlist. I can sort, refine and finesse the report to people interested in a specific title, line or genre. Want to know what that kind of customer interaction costs? If you wanted to do it on your own it would cost you about $20 bucks a month. How do I know that? Because that’s what it costs me to have a aweber account. OBS includes most of what aweber does for free just for having a publisher account.

There are also email newsletters sent out by OBS, banner ads on the OBS sites you can take advantage of and none of them will cost you money. Just use your Publisher Promotion Points (PPP).

True, their featured reviewers are hit-or-miss. Not on the actual reviews, but in getting them to post a review of everything they download.

Lets finish off the promotion section with how easy it is to create special discounts, send free copies and create bundles or even subscriptions. (More on the subscription option when we start talking about DrveThruFiction.)

Information. Now lets talk about the data OBS gives me from my sales. I can run sales reports for the month all the way back to when I first started publishing. I can sort the sales by how many per month or lump them into one big overall view. This makes it easy to see what is selling the best, what lines need support and what just plain isn’t working.

That’s all well and good, but what about trying to wring more sales out of my existing catalog? OBS has me covered there too. I ran a report on Campaign Overlay: Fantasy Firearms and found out the following:

PENDING PURCHASES: 43 in wish lists
1 in shopping carts
86.3% potential growth

There are 43 people out there with that title in their wish list, and one fine fellow with it in his shopping cart. Given that I have already sold 51 copies of the PDF that leaves 86.3% growth if I get all of those people to actually buy the title. If I so choose, I can now create a special discount code and send it out to *just those* people with it in their wishlist! So I did. Several of them have chosen not to receive emails from the OBS system, but I still managed to get a discount code into the hands of 32 of those people who showed enough interest in that title to put it on their wish list!

The OBS email summary:

Sent 32 emails (out of 43 matching customers, 32 accepting mail).

So on the one hand I can blast an email to over 7,000 people when I target anyone who ever purchased one of my titles. (Including free PDF’s I donated to the various charity bundles.) or I can narrow down my focus to an individual title and email a few dozen targeted customers. Honestly, that is a very impressive marketing infrastructure.

(Oh, and if anyone reading this wants to pick up a copy of Campaign Overlay: Fantasy Firearms for half off, click HERE.)

I can run a product analysis on any individual title, as well as see how many page views each title has and how many page views per sale the average is. I know how many times I need to get eyeballs on a sales listing to convert it into a sale! Did you know that for every six people I get to look at Black Tokyo -Tales of the Tatakama I make one sale? That is my best preforming title so far as page views to sales goes. My worst product takes over 2,000 page views to become a sale! That is a clear indicator that I need to take a closer look at the cover, description, sales listing, category filters and other metrics to increase that.

Summary. So, putting all of that information together I have no problem saying that OBS is the hands-down winner when it comes to the RPG digital market. Why don’t I think Paizo or WOTC will catch up? Simply put; the OBS staff. They didn’t put up a standard, off the shelf online store and run with it. They have invested in coders who tweak and improve and add real-value features like the ones I’ve mentioned above. Sure, it *could* happen but to me it would be like B&N catching Amazon; I just don’t see it.

[Yes, I know I haven’t covered the print program at all. I’m still getting my feet wet in that area so I don’t have enough experience there yet. The fact that they have the program is a big “Win” in my book, though.]

Areas for improvement. No, OBS doesn’t do everything right, no one does. So what would I like to see them add or improve? I love the product and publisher discussion forums integrated into the Paizo storefront. I’d love to see something like that implemented into OBS. Their staff and featured reviewers program needs a major overhaul. The one best thing about Amazon is their reviews. That sets them apart from just about all other online stores. It builds a sense of community at Amazon. I’d really like to see us capture something like that on the OBS sites. I think the “discussion board” feature Paizo has might help along those lines.

DriveThruFiction. OK, I know they merged a couple of the niche prose sites into the new DriveThruFiction and I think its awesome! Ebooks are exploding, and gaming related sci-fi, fantasy and horror is a natural fit. So what will help DriveThruFiction stand out from Amazon and the other “big dog” storefronts? The same stuff I already talked about above! Amazon doesn’t pay you whenever you want. They don’t let you email customers with your book in their wish list. Another thing Amazon doesn’t do is let you buy books in a serialized or subscription format. Think War of the Burning Sky or War of the Dead. Now transfer that idea over into a serialized novel.

It seems to be working for these guys, why not DriveThruFiction authors? Add in the royalty auto-payment tools and collaborations between authors is now easier than ever.

No, I don’t think that OBS will give Amazon a run for their money in e-publishing. But I do think that they can carve out a nice piece of the market for themselves akin to what Baen is doing with their sci-fi and fantasy storefront.

A word of caution to early DriveThruFiction publishers. I have noticed that some of the covers are pretty lousy. Some of the descriptions are far too sparse. It’s the same problem many small RPG publishers have too. A good looking cover doesn’t have to cost a lot of dough. Be creative. Or, here’s an idea, go ahead and spend a little dough to get a decent looking cover! With freelance artists all over the web, stock art sites like iStockPhoto and plenty of other resources a good cover really isn’t that hard or expensive. I’d hate to see DriveThruFiction’s growth suffer because a bunch of “gold rush” companies sling up any crappy cover that belongs on a refrigerator rather than a book.

I’m excited for all the OBS has done in the past, and can’t wait to start using DriveThruFiction in conjunction with Amazon, Smashwords and other sites to get our fiction releases into the market.

These are exciting times to be a writer, a publisher and a fan in our industry!

-Mark Cathro
Skortched Urf’ Studios

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Back into the swing of things

| November 17th, 2011 | No Comments »

I can now say I am officially moved into our new place here in Boston! The boxes are unpacked, the house is in order so we can have people come visit. Even starting to make a few friends.

Time to get back on the publishing train. Back when Skortched Urf’ Studios started, we were doing near two releases *a week* for the first year. While I’m not planning to replicate that feat just yet, I do think we can be more consistent than we have been. And when I say that, I am not talking about Chris Field and Otherverse games. Hes been on a roll for the last few years, with no signs of slowing down. What I’d like to do is start matching his output with Skortched Urf’ Studios projects.

So what do we have in the pipeline? I have a Pathfinder project a freelancer pitched to me on deck. I made a few suggestions and he has been busily revising and adding to the idea. Look for that soon. Also, I am dusting off an idea I had even before we published our first product. I have some concept art already done, more in development and several free previews coming soon. I’m calling the setting “Pandora Rising”. It will be a kick-ass modern setting where we re-introduce magic and fantasy elements in an cool and interesting way. I’m leaning towards making the initial release for the Savage Worlds rule set. More info on that soon.

On the Traveller front I’d hard at work on a new line called “Augments & Upgrades” which will cover all kinds of cool stuff your character can spend his credits on. Think of it as the Cybernetics book on steroids. That will be a series of short PDF’s with each detailing a specific area of augments. The first one, detailing various power plants and incorporating the Drain mechanic carried over from some of Chris Field’s D20 Modern cybernetics releases, will be out soon and I’ll probably make that one a free release. Following that will be PDF’s that cover various types of augments grouped by type such as Appearance, Armor & Protection, Stealth & Surveillance, Weapons, Sensors etc.

While Pathfinder is all the rage these days, I haven’t done much for the system. I am thinking of updating all of our Adventurer Essentials PDF’s and adding more content for a Pathfinder re-release of each, as well as adding the ones that still need doing like the ten foot pole!

Add in some fiction writing and a few other ideas that aren’t quite ready to be released and it is starting to look like 2012 is going to be a busy year!

Oh, and if your still reading this, please take a moment to sign up for “The List” using the form on the right hand side of the site.

When we send out a customer email it usually goes to over 7,000 people! While I love the idea that I can reach that many gamers, and will continue to use the RPGNow mail feature, I also see the real value in identifying our “True Fans”. Signing up for our mailing list of your own free will is a sure sign of that. Lets face it, most of those 7,000 people are ones who purchased one of the charity bundles RPGNow has done in response to the many natural disasters that have hit over the years. We think those have been great and were happy to donate products, and will do so in the future. But that doesn’t translate into us being able to reach our fans specifically; hence “The List”!

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OBS customer email I just sent…

| November 14th, 2011 | No Comments »

Hello all!

If you are recieving this email it is because you have purchased some of our products in the past. Unfortunately, I know that also includes several free items we donated to some of the disaster relief bundles RPGNow/DriveThruRPG/OBS have done in the past. So some of you reading this *might* not to get bombarded with every new release we put out. I get it, I’ve unsubscribed from a few lists myself. But, naturally Skortched Urf’ Studios wants to keep an open line of communication with our fans, as well as fans of our imprint partner Otherverse Games. So we have set up a second, opt-in only email list specifically for you!

To sign up for “The List” please go HERE.

So what’s in it for you? “The List” is for our true fans, and to reward them we will send out special discounts, occasional products that will never be avaliable anywhere else, and insidee information on our upcoming releases!

It’s our way of saying “Thank You” to the people that have helped us reach where we are now, and want to come along for the ride to where we are going next!

New Releases and Product Highlights

Otherverse America Revised Edition

Chris Field of Otherverse Games has taken his otherverse America setting to a whole new level. Included in this MASSIVE revision of the Otherverse America setting:

283 Page Full Color Otherverse America Core Rulebook

132 Page Full Color Otherverse America Game Master’s Guide

Printer Firendly versions are also included.

Over 400 pages of lavishly illustrated content from the mind of Chris Field!

This title normally sells for $26.99 but for alimited time it’s on sale for $17.95; over 30% off! Buy your copy HERE.

We also released the PDF version of our first print product for the Pathfinder RPG:

Campaign Overlay: Fantasy Firearms

Introducing firearms into a fantasy setting requires more than just gunpowder used by Orcs and Elves. Draksmoke adds that fantasy element to the simple discovery that charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter go BOOM when you mix and ignite them.

Draksmoke is fantasy gunpowder. Made from the burning liquid dragons use to make their deadly flames, Draksmoke is a dragon’s breath weapon in powdered form. Few alchemists know the secret to producing true Draksmoke, and they guard it with their lives. Rich and powerful guilds have risen up around those that know the secrets: The Black Brotherhood, the Armigers and the Monopolist Consortium all trade in mundane gunpowder, powerful Draksmoke and newly forged firearms; each pursuing their own ends.

To make use of such a powerful substance, new weapons have been hammered out on the forges of the world. Only the finest steel tempered in the blood of dragons can withstand the power expended by Draksmoke. Naturally, new magicks have been conceived to protect warriors, kings, and knaves alike.

* Included in this Sourcebook: Four new player species
* 10 new monsters
* 11 new spells
* 2 new Clerical Domains
* 30 new feats
* Dozens of new weapons (both mundane and magical)
* and more!

Everything you need to bring real firepower to your fantasy campaign!

One of our Facebook fans had this to say about Fantasy Firearms:

“The book is awesome. I personally don’t use the Draksmoke elements, as in my world Black Powder/Gunpowder exists, but the book is an essential part of my PF games. I owned both “FF” PDF’s from RPGNow before I bought this, but there is still more than enough content here to buy this as well!”

The print version sells for $24.99, but the PDF can be had for just $10.99! Buy your copy HERE.

And some of our other recent releases:


-Skortched Urf’ Studios




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7 RPG Perls of Wisdom

| September 26th, 2011 | No Comments »

From one of my long-time friends and a member of my online RPG game by way of advice to our buddy who is DM’ing his daughter and her friends in their first RPG…words we can (and have!) all live by:

  1. Prudent dice rolling is required for party happiness and success. They were right to berate the ranger for sucking. Hopefully in the future said Ranger will suck less. However the occasional death of a party member will remind everyone that dice rolls are important.
  2. If your not cheating you are not trying. Not every dice roll needs to be in the presence of the DM nor accurately reported.
  3. Learn the rules of the game so you can successfully argue with the DM. Getting the DM to capitulate can not only save the party from harm but can also pay good dividends in general party happiness.
  4. Always write down an extra zero when told how many experience points you have been awarded. This will allow your characters to get stronger faster and therefore survive more encounters.
  5. Have a shape shifter that can only turn into small furry woodland creatures such as a titmouse, owl or other worthless creature.
  6. Whenever anyone finds gold or silver coins, everyone should write it down; after a brief argument of who will take the treasure. This will allow the group to gather wealth faster
  7. Learn to bitch, whine and complain. The average DM will not be able to tolerate such an assault to the ears for any extended period of time and will assuredly change the course of the game just to make the bitching stop. If this is not working fast enough threaten to quit playing.
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On the Ground in Beantown!

| September 3rd, 2011 | No Comments »

I arrived safely. Most of my stuff did too. (Still waiting for a third of it to be delivered.) I have internet connectivity. Will be releasing the new and improved Otherverse America this weekend! Look for it soon!! *End Transmission*

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One Week To Boston!

| August 25th, 2011 | No Comments »

I’m homeless. Sold my home last week. I have all my stuff packed up in Relo-Cubes and a truck took them up North. I’m staying with a friend for the rest of my time in the D.C. area. A week from today I’ll be moving into my new apartment with my wife.

I’m not going to lie; all this has put a crimp on our publishing schedule. But I intend to crank it waay up once I get settled in up North. I’m already scoping out some freelance help. I’m shopping for a new computer. The one I have at home now is over four years old; that’s like seventy in computer years! I bought it with profits from the first Black Tokyo title! Anyway, I’m going to set up the new office and get cracking on some long overdue titles that need to be pushed out.

My final days are already planned out here. The last couple of days have been “goodbye” lunches from coworkers. Tomorrow is another. (I’m going to hit the game shop at lunch today!) Saturday will be spent teaching a women’s only NRA Basic Pistol Course at NRA HQ in Fairfax with my good friend who works there in the Education & Training division. Sunday is set aside for time with my parents. Monday the guy they hired to replace me shows up so I’ll have him for half a day after orientation, and all day Tuesday to continue his training. Wednesday I’m taking off early to pack up the car and head North. I’ll drive as far as I feel like and stop at a hotel; then finish the trip Thursday to Boston where I will begin unloading the Relo-Cubes and cursing my ability to cram too much stuff into small spaces. I’ll have the long holiday weekend to unpack. The Tuesday after Labor day I start my new gig up there. (I was able to transfer within the same company I work for now, which is awesome!)

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Aug 2011 Update

| August 11th, 2011 | No Comments »

What a couple of month’s its been! Things are crazy busy over here.

First, I finished doing all the work to the house and put it up for sale. After a whopping seven days on the market we had a cash offer! We settle on Monday. Tonight I’m having a couple of relo-cubes delivered. (Like PODS, only better.) Saturday I have several friends and some family coming over to help me finish packing. Sunday will be spent cleaning up the house. Monday morning we close!

I’ll spend the remainder of Aug living with a friend in Maryland and head up to Boston for the first weekend in September where we will unload the relo-cubes and move into our new apartment there. A few weeks back my wife and I signed a lease on the place, so that is good to go. It will be smaller than our current home, but until we decide the long term housing arrangements we think renting for a year or two is the best option.

So once settled in our new place the plan is to fire up the publishing schedule and move forward on some long overdue projects. In the mean time Chris Field has been putting stuff out at a furious pace.

I was very sorry to miss Gen Con this year but it just wasn’t in the cards. Next year for sure.

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June 21 2011 Update

| June 21st, 2011 | No Comments »

No, I have not stopped working on the Digital Download Experiment; in fact there are some very cool things happening behind the scenes. We’ve opened a dialogue with the fine folks at One Book Shelf about it. More information as it becomes available!

Last weekend was my last day working the part-time job at the game store. My wife has officially stopped working at her current job and we are in full-blown get-the-house-ready-to-sell mode. So naturally, after three years in the house without any problems the master bathroom started to leak and now the ceiling of the living room has a big water splotch. The plumber is coming over today to find the cause of the leak but for sure we will be painting the entire ceiling, which totally SUCKS cuz I was trying to avoid that.

My wife and her parents got the basement painted so now it’s up to me to put in the new flooring which I’ll be doing this week. After we finish all that we will finally be able to actually put the house up for sale!

On the publishing front I got my first check for Fantasy Firearms in the mail. While I can’t sneeze at the amount I will admit I was somewhat disappointed in the total number of units sold so far. I went with Mongoose because of their experience getting products into the market and their name recognition, but all that apparently wasn’t enough to get as many books sold the first quarter as I was hoping. We’ll see how the summer picks up, what with GenCon coming up and all.

I put up the new RPG Battlechangers last night from Chris Field and Otherverse Games. That one looks like a lot of fun, I have to admit. Chris has several more products on deck as well so look for them soon. I also saw on Chris Fields website that he’s thinking of doing a Pathfinder Modern rule set. I was initially against it as I was *sure* Paizo was going to do it, but there wasn’t even a rumor of it coming out of Paizo Con last week. So I told Chris I think it’s a great idea and offered to help if he wanted it. I have a ton of art and plenty of content. I’ll keep you posted, but even if Chris goes it alone I can’t think of any writers I know of that can make the old D20 Modern rules “sing” like Chris can; he’ll bring the fresh and deliver a top-notch system if anyone can. Yes, I pledged to the Kinckstarter that the Super Genius guys were trying to do, but $70,000 is a lot of scratch to put up for a RPG project. There are those guys (I forget the company name off the top of my head) who *OWN* the Psionics rules for Pathfinder; so why not Chris Field for a P-Modern version?

I spent an hour yesterday at my credit union setting up a business account because they didn’t want to take the $60 check that Paizo wrote me for last month’s earnings. (Even though I’ve been depositing small checks for about a year now.) So anyway, I now have an “Official” Skortched Urf’ Studios business checking account. (They had some trouble pronouncing it at the credit union!) So someone please tel me why Paizo can’t just send me funds via PayPal like everyone else in the free world? Come on guys, get with the program. I love the prestige of having a checking account with checks and an ATM card and all, but I write out like three checks a year since everything else is on a bill pay service or paid via credit or debit card. Paizo, you guys really need to move into the 21st century instead of mailing checks out to everyone.

Well, that’s about all for now. More info soon!


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A Big Update -Boston here I come!

| June 1st, 2011 | No Comments »

Well, as the three people that read this Blog know (Hi Mom!) my wife has been looking for a job. Well, she found one! She recently graduated with a Masters in Public Health and that landed her a job in Boston at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. She is *incredibly* excited about it since she went to college in Boston and loves the area. She was offered enough money that it doesn’t make any sense to stay here in VA, so we’re moving!

The company I work for full time has their HQ in Bedford, MA so I’m seeing what I can do to transfer up there. But even if I can’t right away, her new income will allow me to find another job or *possibly* go full time with Skortched Urf’ Studios. We’re still crunching the numbers and beating the bushes within the company to see if I can swing a transfer so I can keep my full-time income; which is plan ‘A’. (Though plan ‘B’ with me publishing and writing full time is also very enticing!)

She starts in early July so I have about five weeks to pack, prepare my current house for sale, and move to Boston. We’ll probably drive up there next weekend to start looking for a place. I’m going to be busy. I’m both sad and excited at the same time; sad to leave the DC area as I have grown up here, but excited to begin life in a new city.

On to other topics; the Digital Product at Retail Experiment continues!

I took the cards to the game store last weekend and showed them to Lee Garvin. We showed them to lots of customers to get input and feedback. Overall the feedback for the concept was extremely positive! The VistaPrint cards are a tad too thin, we concluded, so we’re looking at 16pt card stock from some other printers. Lee and I also concluded that the idea of using a credit-card sized plastic card with the scratch-off download code in conjunction with a 4×6 paper hanging card would be optimal in terms of customer recognition of *what the product is* as well as security since to get to the scratch-off code you would have to remove the plastic card from the hanging card. I did , however see a ton of the same type of cards at Best Buy over the weekend for all kinds of things like XBox live points, NetFlix and CinemaNow etc.

That brings up another point that needs addressing. I think we as publishers need to decide on a standard format for these cards. Look at CD’s and DVD’s; they all come in the same size box unless its a special collector edition or something. These hanging cards should be the same general size since the ultimate goal is that many publishers on board. I am proposing that a standard 4×6 inch card be that “standard” size. Most printers are already set up to do cards that size, and it leaves plenty of real-estate for images and sales text. Scratch-off cards for XBox live and Game Stop games are a bit smaller, but I don’t see a need to exactly emulate them in this case as we *want* room to tell our customers what the product is. So 4×6; what do you guys think?

Louis is working on a back end system to handle the download codes. I have two options I’m toying with myself, but I’d be happy to use a single middle-man for delivery if the price is right. (Are you listening One Book Shelf?) Between us we’ll come up with a good system for handling and protecting the download side of the equation.

More info soon! (I feel the need to go home and watch the Boondock Saints for some reason.)

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Digital Copy Experiment Video Update #3

| May 29th, 2011 | No Comments »

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Digital Copy experiment update #2

| May 27th, 2011 | No Comments »

I got the peg hook hole punch in the mail yesterday and tried it out on a giveaway postcard B&N had for the Nook. Perfect. I like the size of the card and the hole punch is heavy duty and will work great. Of course, I also found some other printers that will do the hole for you and even round off the corners if I so desire. I agree with Louis about the thickness of the card making the item “feel” more substantial; but that is what the test is for. If the VistaPrint cards do well enough, it will be hard to find a cheaper alternative.

The tracking numbers indicate that the cards will be here either tomorrow or Tuesday (with Monday being a holiday and all).

I’ve had a little bit of feedback indicating that the retailer community is reluctant to embrace the digital content idea. While I can’t disagree with that, I can say that the store owner I know has been hit very hard by the down turn in the economy and the two stores he’s owned for near 20 years are desperately trying to increase sales. Two of his employees, myself and Lee Garvin of Reality Cheque publishing, publish digital content that we could put in his store next week and it would cost him zero dollars. If I get Louis to send me some of his we have the start of a “Digital Content Section” in his stores to test the waters. Lets say Louis gets his local store on board and we send some of our products down there; that would be three test stores with three prolific PDF publishers able to fill a small section. I can also say that since the Kindle, Nook and iPad have been released, as well as all the new smart phones, XBox DLC add-ons etc. that the “idea” of buying digital content is not as weird as it once was. I mean *everyone* has gotten a gift card from Amazon or iTunes in the last few years, right?

Does that mean I expect a thousand retailers to start ordering in our Digital Copy cards? Nope. But every single one that does is one more chance I have to sell my stuff to the people that want it. I’d be happy if it was only three to five stores that did it. But honestly I think that number can be larger. What if it’s ten stores that embrace the idea? Would I be happy with ten stores carrying my stuff? You bet! (Remember, if I sell ten lousy copies of Fantasy Firearms I break even.) More importantly, I’d get even more excited when the distributors start carrying them. After all, to most store owners all items are just “things that go on the shelf” that then get turned around and sold to customers. Do you think a savvy retailer *cares* if it’s a card instead of a book? I think they will look at the smaller price point and realize it’s an easier sell to get someone to part with two or five or even ten bucks than the latest Fantasy Flight full color hardcover at $59.95. Plus you can fit four different titles via hook in the same space that a standard book takes up. Maybe most retailers won’t “see” that, but I *know* some will.

For those retailers that simply refuse to do anything different so be it. I’m not trying to change the industry so much trying to give the ones who want a “piece” of the digital market a chance to get it.

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Digital Copy Experiment Update

| May 25th, 2011 | No Comments »

OK, first of all I found some awesome stickers that already include the scratch-off coating! I ordered 500 of them for about a nickle each. They are sized near perfectly for the postcard I already ordered, but in the future I can easily adjust the cards to match the stickers. Like the postcards I can save money by ordering in bulk but 500 should last me a good while. The site I found them at sells a bunch of different styles and sizes of stickers at very reasonable prices. I was even more shocked at how cheap the shipping was for my order! In total I spent $24.99 (including shipping) for 500 stickers which comes out to .05 cents each.

The full color front-and-back postcards I ordered from Vistaprint cost me $26.91. (Again, shipping included and I went with one week shipping instead of the cheaper 21 day option.) Adding these two totals together and dividing to get the cost per card makes it .32 cents per card for my out of pocket cost. (Now I will admit here that I also invested in a one-time capital expenditure of $37.49 for a hole punch that is shaped to fit retail wall hangers. I did not include that in my per-unit average since it is good for an unlimited number of products and the more of these I make the cost will come down over time. But in the interest of full disclosure I figured I would share.)

If I sell the cards to retailers for $5.50, less my .32 cent cost I stand to make $5.18 per Digital Copy sold. That means I need to sell ten total copies to recoup my investment. (Minus the hole punch; that would take another seven copies.)

Now, what if I can reduce the cost of the postcards even more? I did color printing on the front and back of my initial order since I knew I would need a glossy surface for the scratch off ink. With the discovery of the stickers, that is no longer the case! The stickers include the glossy surface with permanent adhesive so once it is stuck on the product then you can’t get it off without ruining it. What that also means is I could just as easily stick it on a regular paper background and it will work just as well! Vistaprint sells packs of 100 postcards for “Free” where all you pay is the shipping. I re-ran my cards from yesterday through their online ordering system to see what it would cost me with the B&W back of the cards and the slow shipping option; it came to just $6.42. That’s about .07 cents per card. Add the .05 cents for the scratch-off sticker and your looking at about .12 cents per card! Can you make some money selling short two or three dollar PDF’s when you cost is .12 cents? I think so!

You can also use them as give-aways at cons or shows. Also, I’ve seen several publishers who want to include a free copy of the PDF with the purchase of a print copy; I can see this as an easy way to do that if you have retailers give a card away when someone buys the print version.

Now the trick is to figure out how to get them widely accepted in the regular distribution channel, as well as how OBS/DriveThru/RPGNow gets paid for their services. They way the test works now is a discount coupon code that gives the customer 100% off since they paid for the product at retail. In the long run that isn’t going to work, but it’s fine for the test run. As it stands now, OBS will not be getting a “cut” since the sale is for zero dollars. No, I’m not trying to juke them out of some money; as I said I could easily set the download up from my own website but I see real value in building a single “Place” to go for digital RPG’s and OBS is that place. So the question now becomes how would they make money under this arrangement? I’m not sure they would deserve the full 35% cut they get from standard digital sales since I “drove” the sale through the retail market *to* the online one. In this case they would simply be fulfilling the order; and possibly gaining a new customer that might not otherwise be on their site. But having said that, the hosting and digital fulfillment does deserve some form of remuneration. Maybe OBS starts selling these cards into the retail distribution channel on behalf of publishers? Maybe they “charge” my publisher account for each download by tracking the code I used on the cards? Still not sure, but we’ll figure something out!

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The Digital Copy Retail Experiment

| May 24th, 2011 | No Comments »

So I was on Twitter today when Louis put out a link to a very interesting article. The gist of it was selling copies of your digital content in the form of a plastic Gift Card like you see at checkout counters and those sections at grocery stores. I know Louis has always been trying to figure out a great way to let retail stores sell digital products but to date nothing has really caught on.

Well, that article got me thinking; why does it have to be a plastic gift card? It could be something as simple as a full color business card-sized product or even a postcard since that would give you more room for your sales pitch. So after work I busted out Photoshop and whipped up a quick template for selling Campaign Overlay: Fantasy Firearms at retail. Check it out:

I have the print MSRP listed as well as the digital price. I included a bar code so that a retailer could add it to their retail POS system if they have one. I was also quick to prominently display the “Digital Copy” text so there would be no confusion by the customer. I went to VistaPrint and ordered a batch of 100 glossy front and back cards with some expedited shipping. Once I get them I will use a peg-hook hole punch on them so that they can be easily hung on a peg. My final price for a hundred postcards with expedited shipping is about .27 cents per card. I could get that much lower if I didn’t do color on both sides of the card, used slower shipping or ordered in larger quantities.

I used the RPGNow feature that lets me create a special discount code; which in this case is 100% off so using the card will get you a fee download. (Since they will pay for it at the time of purchase, naturally.) I threw on the DriveThru and RPGNow logos since that is where the download will come from. Though I could just as easily set up a download link from my own personal website. But as this is a test-run with possible implications for other products and publishers I figured I’d use the OBS guys and push brick-and-mortar customers to their digital storefront!

Where the code is on the back I have the promo code and download URL. I’ll be covering that up with the same stuff they use for scratch off lottery tickets. I found a couple of good DIY articles on the web on how to do it. Once the code is covered up and the scratch off ink is dry, I’ll post some at the local store I work at as a test. If it works out, then I can easily see a small “Digital Download Section” sporting a bunch of cards for various downloadable products. Heck, I could fill up a small section with just my PDF’s!

Selling a PDF for $10.99 is one thing, but could you make any money on smaller PDF’s? That is the question! Lets say I want to sell some of my $1.99 PDF’s at retail; would the numbers “work”? I figure the retailer gets the card for 50% off so a $1.99 PDF Digital Copy card will sell to him for a nice round buck. ($1.00) That leaves me with a buck to absorb my costs as well as to generate a little profit. If I can get the cards done for a generous .30 cents that would leave me .70 cents profit; not counting some time invested in applying the scratch off ink to the cards. My wife is really into rubber stamps and scrap booking; and I anticipate using a stamp to complete the cards so the time investment should not prove too much. (Famous last words, I know!)

What if you sold a bundle of short PDF’s to a retailer instead of just one? I could see selling a pack of ten or twenty mixed titles as a retail bundle to get your short products on the shelves. Heck, if you sold a whole mess of cards to a retailer to display it would be easy to include a ton of Digital Copies in the Retail Bundle at an even greater discount. Remember, there is a really “long tail” on PDF’s so if I put ones up that have already paid for them selves selling as PDF’s online, then even a smaller fraction of profits from the retail pipeline is still pure profit!

I’ll post an update in a week or so when the cards come in.


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Mid-May Update

| May 19th, 2011 | No Comments »

Yeah, yeah, I know. I *really* need to get on top of this blog posting thing. Lots going on. Lets get to it…

Chris Field is cranking out material at a furious pace. His last PDF just dropped off the front page so look for another title later today. He’s got a slew of them on deck and at least two major projects in the pipeline. (Have you seen the new cover for his Otherverse America setting? It friggin’ rocks!)

The wife still hasn’t found full-time employment but she is interviewing like crazy. she had a phone interview last week with a company that will be flying her in this Monday for an in-person interview. She’s crazy excited about that one and hopes she gets it. If she does it would probobly mean a move from VA to where the company is located. If the money is right, I told her we would go. She also has another interview with another big-name company on Wednesday, as a follow up to her phone interview a few days ago. That would be more local, though I *know* she would prefer to other job. (I’m not naming names or anything until its official; cuz right now it’s just a phone call and a trip to interview and not a solid time-to-pack-our-stuff job offer.

We’ve been playing the Savage Worlds fantasy RPG online using Fantasy Grounds II and Skype and it’s going pretty well. My brother is having connection issues with FGII as he was unable to connect the last two times we played so we just rolled for him in the software and did everything else via Skype. We played last night and it was a blast!

I broke down and bought the Infinity rule book as well as a starting kit. (Line Cossacks.) I have started painting them already so my painting table is getting pretty crowded!

In publishing news I am itching to start back in to a regular production schedule. I dusted off the Augments & Upgrades ideas for Traveller and am aiming to put them out on at least a weekly basis. I have a few larger projects on deck as well.

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I know, I know…

| April 4th, 2011 | No Comments »

Two months without an update, I know. I suck at this whole blog updating thing.

Lets re-cap what happened in the past couple months. February; I spent all month sick as a dog. Came up for air about mid-month to buy chocolates and a big ass card for my wife and then went back to bed. don’t remember much else. March wasn’t much better, but had less sickness and more working. In no particular order here are some random thoughts…

-Fantasy Firearms came out. The store I work at ordered one copy that sold out like ten minutes after they put it on the shelf. So they ordrered six more copies. (I guess someone mentioned to the guy doing the orders that it was my book!) I bought one copy for myself just cuz. The remaining copies all sold fairly quickly. I abused my position at the store by putting it prominently on the top shelf of the new release rack and even sticking a copy next to the Pathfinder Core Rulebook in our Pathfinder section. I have not heard from Mongoose about what sales look like from their end. I’ll be putting the PDF version out later this week so that should be good as well.

-In my personal life I attended a three day NRA Training Counselor Workshop so in addition to being an NRA certified instructor, I can teach people to become NRA certified instructors themselves. It was three days of bookwork and teaching, with not a single shot fired; which is odd for an NRA class, huh? I’m working with my friend who works for the NRA teaching free woman’s courses and we have another class later this month.

-My wife is still looking for a job. She’s working now at a temp position that has plenty of work for her but wants to find something permanent. Fingers crossed!

-We had a flood in our basement due to a backed up pipe. This was discovered the same day that our blower fan died on the furnace. Cost me near a grand as I had the plumber and the HVAC guys traipsing around in the basement. I had to cut a huge swath of carpet out so we are going to have to re-do the floor.

-We played an awesome game of the Savage Worlds RPG last weekend when my twin brother was visiting. We wanted to game, but one-shot adventures can be problematic. I made up the characters before hand so everyone was playing “themselves” with some fun edges and hindrances thrown in. (I had Addiction: Diet Coke as a major hinderence for example.) The game started with “us” sitting around the table playing an RPG because my brother was in town, and then the Zombie Apocolypse kicked off! Since we were in my friends house who works for the NRA and has a rather large gun collection we were off to a great start. There were looting thugs, zombies, and soldiers. The players were wise enough not to heed the evacuation order to report to pour old high school which was over-run by the infected. :-)

-We had such a good time playing Savage Worlds we are kicking off a fantasy campaign using the rule set using the Fantasy Grounds software to play online. I’m looking foward to playing with some of my friends and family that live too far away to get together IRL. I’ll let you know how it goes.

-Yesterday I spent some time actually painting some figures! I darn near finished my Raputina Faction for Malifaux. I need to pick up a couple of colors I’m missing but for being so out of practice I think they are turning out pretty nice. Pics soon. There is a guy running demo’s at our game store on Saturday’s so I’m bringing them with me next weekend to get in a game or two after I get off work. I have two factions and the rule book but have never actually played the game yet! I have also promised myself I’d finish painting the two factions I own before I get any more. Can’t wait to pick up the Gremlins!!

The new Infinity core rules just hit and the figures look AWESOME! I am so tempted to get this game. If only I had some more disposable income!

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Fantasy Firearms is almost here!

| January 31st, 2011 | No Comments »

So as most of you (meaning the three or four people that read this blog ~Hi Mom!) know I am working part time at my Friendly Local Game Store to earn some extra money. Part of the job is really cool because, well I work at a game store! (Sometimes the smell of certain customers can be a BIG down side. I mean seriously, what is with some gamers that they can’t take a shower every gorram’ day?) Anyway, I digress. I was flipping through the latest ACD catalog looking for something else when I cam across this:

Looks like we are all “Official” and what not! It’s kind of exciting to see my book appearing in web stores across the web and now in the pipeline for distribution.

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The First Post of the New Year

| January 5th, 2011 | No Comments »

Hello all, Happy New Year!

Lots to cover, so I’ll jump right in.

Our first print release Campaign Overlay: Fantasy Firearms will hit the shelves of your local game store next month. I’m already seeing it show up in various online stores, which I admit is kinda cool.

Chris Field is sending me all kinds of neat stuff to put out. The layout for Black Tokyo III (still untitled as of yet, I’m thinking of calling it either “Into the Black Else” or rifting on the previous title and coming up with a couple of opposite words akin to Chastity & Depravity. What do you think?) The layout is done, and I worked on the cover last night. Chris sent me a couple of other smaller projects as well, including a new D7ACU.

I’m waiting to get my hands on the new Cybernetics release for Mongoose Traveller as that will dove-tail nicely into the Augments & Upgrades PDF line I’m working on. With luck I’ll pick it up this weekend. I like the idea of some shorter, focused PDF’s that will eventually build up into a print release.

So what am I working on? Well, several things. I am still cranking away as the editor of a small indy horror-comedy called Nudist Camp Zombie Massacre and you will even find my name on IMDB so I must “be somebody” now! :-) I’m trying to get the final cut finished of all the shot footage so far, with several more scenes to be shot when the weather turns warm again.

I have also started the manuscript for a new Modern RPG setting I’m calling “Department 7: Enemies Foreign & Domestic”. Yes, that’s right, I’m doing a Department 7 RPG. I think the initial release will be for the Savage Worlds setting. Naturally, there will be a Pathfinder Modern version when it see’s the light of day. (Prediction: I bet Paizo is working on it as we speak, and if they are not then they really should be!)

Here is a quick and rough blurb about the setting:

In the wake of the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001 it was announced that a new cabinet level position dedicated to securing the American homeland would be created, consolidating various government agencies with often overlapping duties under a new, unified banner. In the raw aftermath of this generations sorrow, the bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law in record time.

Thus was created the Department of Homeland Security, the most significant transformation of the U.S. government in over half-century by transforming and realigning a confusing patchwork of government activities into a single department whose primary mission is to protect the homeland.

This massive re-alignment of twenty-two government agencies under the new DHS was a lie.

The power concentrated in this new federal behemoth was designed to do one thing; lose a small and newly created agency in the billion dollar power shuffle.

The creation of the Department of Homeland Security was, at its core, a diversion to hide from the world, the public and even the elected representatives the true role Department 7 has in safeguarding America.

So does that sound like a game you would be interested in playing?

I also want to do some prose/fiction writing this year. If you have spent any time reading Joe Konrath’s Blog then you know that there is money to be made via the Kindle and other ebook readers.

I also want to do some more actual gaming this year too. I don’t do enough, but then again do any of us? I’ve still got the Savage Worlds War of the Dead game coming up and we are trading emails about the next session of our Star Wars Saga Edition Sith campaign later this month.

I also plan to get a few more people into gaming this year. One at a time, introduce new players by running games or inviting them to join your group. That’s how you grow the hobby, so I plan to do my part. I’m going to take some new people shooting this year also. I took my parents and my sister to the range last week; the first time my mom had ever shot a pistol in her life. (Though she had done some rifle shooting as a kid on the farm in Kansas.) Both hobbies could stand to have a few more participants this year.

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