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"Digital vs Paper Rules Publishing Article," Topic

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Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2018 7:28 a.m. PST

This week totally about miniature wargaming rules, a followup I promised on an article I did a year ago, discussing my plunge into the digital publishing and distribution arena for my Age of Valor series. Here is what happened and here is what I learned.

BTW, check out Tsuba Miniatures as regards the images portrayed at link War . Jaw dropping.


Ciao, Colonel Bill

Personal logo rampantlion Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2018 7:50 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info Bill. I find it quite interesting. My next rule set is probably going to be available digitally (my first crack at this). Not sure how it will go, but I might do both digital and hardcopy upon request.

Thanks for your article.


mghFond26 Jan 2018 10:13 a.m. PST

As a potential customer, I'm firmly in the digital camp. I've bought rules sets digitally that I simply wouldn't have spent for hardcover copies.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2018 10:15 a.m. PST

With places like wargames vault one can have both in one, POD and ebooks to suit all needs. 21st century.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Jan 2018 11:17 a.m. PST

With digital, life is good.

I concur, Bill. Digital distribution is so appealingly effortless.

Also, one should not overlook the advantage of being able to reach many potential customers who are outside the range of hard copy retail distribution and who also would be discouraged by the cost of shipping a physical object.

Cleburne186326 Jan 2018 2:55 p.m. PST

Wargame Vault's POD service is too expensive and not competitive. If you have the know-how to lay out the book and design the cover, you should be publishing the physical POD books on Amazon and Ingram Spark.

The more avenues of sale the better, and more revenue.

thomalley26 Jan 2018 5:03 p.m. PST

I wish digital rules left out all the photos of miniatures that don't explain play. I hate wasting paper and especially ink. I print in black and white, so all I get is pages of black ink. It would be ok if there were only full pages of pictures, you can work around that. But when it's padding on every page it's a mess.

Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2018 5:08 p.m. PST

All of my stuff is PDF, so printing should not be a problem, and from a design standpoint, its bad to leave white space and you always have to produce the pub in multiples of four pages to boot.

That said, for AOV I only print the charts and put the rest on my phablet.

Ciao, Colonel Bill

PS: Yes, images on each page is padding and unecessary.

jameschill26 Jan 2018 6:00 p.m. PST

I am firmly for digital. Living in the Philippines, hard copy rules are hard to get and very expensive to be shipped, especially from U.S. I really appreciate those who publish their rules in a digital format as well as hard copy. I don't print out my digital copies.

The H Man26 Jan 2018 6:54 p.m. PST

Ummm… colonel bill, its digital, so it does not have to have an even number of pages. The last page may be one sided, whoopi do. Unless you print two to a side, to make an actual book. Usually I just print A4 1 page on 1 page and put them in a folder of sleeves. This way odd pages are of no issue. Also, on pics, doing it this way means you can skip printing pages of only pics or fluff. Ink wist economy printing is the way to go, as long as you can still read it.

holien27 Jan 2018 1:31 a.m. PST

Thanks Bill interesting article.

Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2018 5:36 a.m. PST

H-Man, there is a paper version sold by On Military Matters and Caliver (their project totally, per their request, I just get a royalty), who obviously need the 4 page format.

BUT, so do regular customers who like to print double sided, two pages to a side, on large paper. Doesn't matter as all the modules are $ 4.00 regardless of page length if digital.

Images. Best practice suggests that if you have a major section section, you need to start it at the top of the next page, and in some cases (like full page maps) this is mandatory, vice starting it in the middle of a page. Think the unit labels final page, the next page being a new scenario. If I have space left over at the bottom of a previous page, I might drop a picture in.

Ciao, Colonel Bill

Tony S27 Jan 2018 7:05 a.m. PST

I'm a bit surprised about your sales breakdown, given your pricing structure. Admittedly, I'm a wargaming butterfly, and inveterate collector of rules but buying all the modules seems to me to be a no-brainer. So, I'm finding the fact that people are cherry picking odd.

But then again, perhaps that's because others have focus, and don't bother wasting money on something they'll never collect or play.

Is AOE or AOV available as PDF as well, or just hardcopy? Do you need AOE to play 18th Century Lace Wars?

(And to drag the thread back to the topic, lest I be accused and rightly so of thread hijack, I'm firmly in the PDF camp). From an author's standpoint, saving all the time consuming drudgery of getting it printed, mailing, storage, coming up with the initial investment and hoping like hell is sells enough to recoup the printing costs versus the small amount of idiots who steal the electronic copy, it seems like the PDF option is a huge win/win for everyone.

I've never heard of any author regret going PDF.

Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2018 7:15 a.m. PST

I was surprised by the sales two because I figured no brainer, and its a good selling point. However, I got a lot of "just not interested in the period" responses in the comments section of the survey.

AOV is the overall series name for all the digital modules.

AOE II will not be going PDF, and neither is Age of Honor (18th Century Lace Wars). I like to say that AT LEAST ONE member of your club needs to have AOE to play AOH or any AOV module :).

Your last two paragraphs were my final thoughts exactly, particularly for conflicts that are a bit esoteric.

Ciao, Colonel Bill

Trajanus27 Jan 2018 7:37 a.m. PST

I'm a bit conflicted over digital publishing.

I can see cost advantage for both the author/publisher and the players. Particularly where Trans Atlantic or Trans World commerce is concerned. Shipping costs from the US to anywhere being a major joke.

However, I still find paper copy a lot easier to learn from and reference during a game is not as easy even using a Tablet.

Also, there's still something of a "cheap" feel when you print from download and bind the copy in something from your local stationary store.

I have some digital rules but most of them were shipped with hard copy in a bundled set, so I hardly ever look at them. In fact the only time I've really used them is when mugging up on the rules, rather than sitting in a train carriage holding the "real thing"!

Cleburne186327 Jan 2018 8:36 a.m. PST

Amazon CreateSpace POD has branches in the UK, Europe, and Australia. I get sales of print books from all three in addition to the US. For example, customer in York buys a book, Amazon prints it there, and ships it inside the UK.

Really you are limiting yourself if you are not taking advantage of all avenues of sale, both POD and PDF.

As Bill says in the article, its not a fortune, but its not bad either. I can pay a few household utility bills a month with the income if I'm not re-investing it in the business. That's not shabby.

Trajanus27 Jan 2018 12:59 p.m. PST


POD is a good way to go if it's done by someone like Amazon. It certainly addresses my quality issue as well as the obvious one of having a real book.

I wonder if gets enough exposure. I have a couple of your books via Amazon and never knew of them running the process let alone those items were produced that way.

Cleburne186327 Jan 2018 3:03 p.m. PST

Oh yeah. I create the files, upload them to Amazon CreateSpace (and Ingram Spark for a wider range of bookstore distribution). They do all the rest. I don't have to worry about printing, shipping, etc.

Plus the pdf file sales from Wargame Vault.

Now, you do have to do all the work yourself. I had to learn book layout, graphics, creating pdf files to specifications. So there is a learning curve. But if you know Word, Photoshop, and to a lesser extent Adobe Acrobat, you are all set. Honestly, learning Photoshop was the longest learning curve, but since I had already been making maps and graphics for, I was way more than halfway there.

Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2018 6:40 p.m. PST

Hmm, I heard about CreateSpace when the CustomFlix and a similar book PDA firm were acquired by Amazon and then merged in 2009. I'll look into it as both AOE II and Napoleon vs Europe 1813 – 14 are already created PDF files and POD products.

I use MS Word and Campaign Creator III (IIRC) for all my stuff and have never needed one whit more to make a product look as though it came out of PhotoShop. This ain't your grandfather's word processor, folks.

Colonel Bill

basileus66 Inactive Member27 Jan 2018 10:10 p.m. PST

I am in the PDF camp too, particulary if tablet-friendly.

Trajanus28 Jan 2018 2:06 a.m. PST


My grandfathers word processor was a fountain pen! :o)

Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2018 5:03 a.m. PST

Heh :).

Colonel Bill

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2018 9:16 a.m. PST

One can do both pdf and paper sold by Wargames vault, no?

Mick the Metalsmith Inactive Member29 Jan 2018 11:11 a.m. PST

If you do digital rules which are my preference. One really nice feature to offer would be an editable version for those of us who like to fiddle and adjust.

UshCha29 Jan 2018 2:21 p.m. PST

we only publish in PDF. Its cheaper for ther customer and means we do not have the limitations of length. If you buy most gadghets their manual is in print form.

Cleburne186329 Jan 2018 3:28 p.m. PST

Yes, Wargame Vault offers both. However, their POD service is not as profitable and competitive as Amazon CreateSpace or Ingram Spark for the self-publisher.

kodiakblair01 Feb 2018 2:57 p.m. PST

More power to you Bill for going digital. Personally I wont buy any rules in hard copy these days. Also don't understand why folks buy digital then print them out.

About 18 month back I picked up a brand new 10" Windows 10 tablet for £40.00 GBP 100's of scanned documents now reside on it and with zoom,scroll and bookmark options as standard why bother with printing.

Trajanus02 Feb 2018 1:28 a.m. PST

What! That was from a guy down the Pub, right?

monk2002uk02 Feb 2018 10:33 a.m. PST

Yep, driving a yellow Reliant Robin…


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