When we interviewed Graham Walmsley (of Trail of Cthulhu, Cthulhu Dark and Stealing Cthulhu fame) a couple of weeks back, he had lots of intriguing and thought-provoking things to say about Lovecraftian gaming. He also had a wealth of well-considered things to say about publishing, and in particular small-press or self-publication of gaming material. We thought it would be great to get Graham back to answer another couple of questions about the intersection of these two topics … publishing Lovecraftian stuff.
Here’s what happened.
CR: Knowing Lovecraftian gamers, I would imagine that many readers would have, at one time or another, given thought to self-publication of their own-written material. As someone who has been more successful than most in establishing their own small press, what do you think are the key challenges to making a self-published book a success? Is it different for PDF publishing vs print publishing?
There are the practical things: playtesting, layout, art, printing. But those are fairly simple. (And, if people are looking to get started, I’m always happy to talk people through the process. I’d love to see more self-publishing.)
But the difficult part is finding an audience. What you must do, here, is engage with people: go to conventions, run your scenarios for people, get them excited about your stuff. Until you’ve got that excitement, you’re sunk.
Too many people write something on their own, then hope they can find an audience for it. That’s all wrong. You need to be engaging with people from the start.
CR: In talking about publishers engaging better with what’s happening with their games at the grassroots level, do you have any thoughts about ways in which companies can better tap into this (largely underutilized) source of product inspiration?
It’s funny. I rarely see publishers playing games at conventions. I genuinely don’t understand it. How can you find out what’s going on if you don’t play? So that’s the first thing: I think they should play more.
I’d also like to see projects originating from writers. When I’ve worked for larger companies, what has often happened is: they give me a brief and a word limit. I then write whatever they ask me to write. I’d like to see writers proposing projects.
And, to be fair, I’ve seen that happen, but I’d like to see more of it. There are such talented writers out there, with such amazing ideas. I’d love them to have more of a free rein.
CR: Well thanks for that, Graham … I guess we had better send the shoggoth off to catch some other poor unfortunate! You are free to go (but watch the Hound of Tindalos on your way out).