Monday, 25 December 2017

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Handmade leather cover

A friend of mine runs his own leatherwork business, and he sent me a surprise Christmas present - a handmade leather cover for Saga of the Goblin Horde. It's awesome! Thank you very much +Mathew Halstead :)

Check it out:

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Print your own book

Now that the proofs for Saga of the Goblin Horde have been ordered, received, and checked (photos here), I feel comfortable releasing the print-ready files into the wild for others to use. You can download them from here:


You will need a front and back cover, and one of the PDFs, depending on whether you want your book to be in color or black and white. It should go without saying (but I'll state it anyway): if you want to print a hardcover PDF, you must use the hardcover covers, and if you want to print a softcover PDF, you must use the softcover covers. Don't mix them.

In case you're wondering why I use RGB instead of CMYK for the color PDFs, the answer is that Lulu prefers RGB, and the CMYK versions are really big (which can cause problems with the Lulu preparation process). Rather than confuse people with even more PDFs, I decided to stick with one color option.

Printing Saga of the Goblin Horde

Go to and create an account, then move your mouse over "Create", and select "Print Book" from the pull-down menu.

Choose the format you want to print: standard paperback, premium paperback, or professional hardcover. There's a video here which compares the standard and premium, however if you want a cheaper option, my personal suggestion would be premium black and white rather than standard color.

You will need to set the paper size to "US Letter". If that option isn't listed under the format, scroll down to the bottom of the page to view all the available sizes.

You can also set the binding, and choose between color and black and white. Be aware that not all combinations are permitted, so if you select one option it may disable something else. Once you've set everything, scroll back up and set the number of pages to 114.

Scroll up and down and double-check that you've got the right format, page size, binding and interior print. Once again, some combinations are not permitted, and different bindings and paper have different minimum and maximum page counts. If everything is correct, click "Make this book".

Set the title and author, and—this is very important—make sure you select "Make available only to me". Otherwise you'll start selling my book, which you're not allowed to do (otherwise I'd be doing it myself!). Click "Save & Continue" to proceed.

Click "Choose File", select the appropriate PDF, and then click "Upload".

Once it's finished uploading, click "Make Print-Ready File". If this fails, just try again, sometimes it can take a few attempts.

You now have the option of downloading and reviewing the PDF. Make sure you do this, even if it's just to take a quick skim through the pages. In particular, if you've uploaded the wrong file you probably won't have any bleed, which means your page will look like this:

See the white border around the page? That will appear on the printed book as well. You do not want that, it looks rubbish. If you selected the correct PDF there will be no white border:

No white border means the background will cover the entire page. Once you've confirmed that the PDF looks good, click "Save & Continue" and set up the cover.

Select "Themes" and "ImageOnly" so that Lulu doesn't try to print text across the cover. Then on the right hand side of the screen, press the orange "Add Images" button, click "Upload your images", then once you've uploaded you can drag them (from the right) and drop them (over the black images in the center with the camera icons). If you hover over the image it'll tell you the file name, the back cover should go on the left (the one with the barcode) and the front cover on the right.

You can also change the text on the spine by clicking on it, as well as the font and color. I experimented with different colors, but in the end found white looked the best. If you'd prefer to have nothing on the spine, you can simply delete the text.

Once you're done, click "Preview & Make Print-Ready Cover" (in the bottom right corner).

The preview always looks like that for me, it's not particularly useful. But if you click "Make Print-Ready Cover" and download it, you can double-check that it looks like this:

Make sure the back cover is on the left, the front cover on the right, and that the spine contains the correct text without spelling mistakes. Once you're done, click "Save & Continue".

You can now review the project. Once again, please double check that you've set it to "Private Access". You have permission to print the PDF for personal use, but you're not allowed to sell it.

I recommend downloading both the interior and cover files, to double check that they're correct. Once you're happy with it, click "Save & Finish". You can then click "Order a Proof Copy", or click "My Projects" from the front page of Lulu followed by "View/Buy".


At the time of writing this, the cost of printing the PDFs is as follows:

Standard B&W softcover: £3.51 / $2.97 / €4.76
Standard color softcover: £5.56 / $7.62 / (N/A)
Premium B&W softcover: £4.38 / $4.82 / €6.85
Premium color softcover: £19.94 / $22.74 / €23.28
Premium B&W hardcover: £13.38 / $14.07 / €11.08
Premium color hardcover: £28.70 / $32.74 / €23.74

Shipping is added on top of that, of course. Lulu is not cheap. However they always have lots of special offers such as a percentage discount on the book, buy three get one free, free shipping, etc. I picked up my hardcover with a 30% discount for Black Friday (and then discovered there was a 40% discount on Cyber Monday, d'oh).

You can only use one discount code per purchase, but you should always use one (if you can't find one you like, try closing your connection with something in your basket, and they will usually email you a code to try and encourage you to complete the purchase!)

Printing other PDFs

The solution I've described here can in theory be used to print other PDFs as well, however Lulu cannot print PDFs that contain transparent images, and I'm not sure if it supports version 1.5 (which is what I usually use). In fact, my print-ready PDFs were deliberately generated with version 1.3 in order to remove any transparencies.

You'll also find PDFs designed for the screen usually have a lower resolution to keep their file size down (I typically go with 150 DPI), while those intended for printing are usually 300 DPI.

PDFs designed for the screen also lack a bleed area (meaning the pages will probably have a white border when printed), they may not have sufficient space for the gutter (the text may be very close to the spine), and the cover will be part of the PDF (meaning that the first page after the front cover will be another picture of the front cover).

That doesn't mean the results will be bad, but they won't be as good as they are when using a PDF that's been specifically designed for printing. I will describe how to configure a print-ready PDF in a future blog post.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Lulu: Print on Demand

Last month I ordered a softcover copy of Saga of the Goblin Horde from Lulu. Despite a few minor issues, I was very pleased with it (you can see the photos of it here). After resolving the issues with the PDF, I decided to order a hardcover, and today it finally arrived.

Overall the book looks really good, it feels solid, the paper is thick, and the colors have come out well. Once again there are some minor issues (described below), but in general I'm very happy with it.

I added a black border within the bleed area around the outside of the cover, as I didn't want to lose any of the picture, and the edges already fade into black. A wraparound cover with bleed would have been much nicer, obviously, but I still think it looks pretty good.

The name of the book is not quite aligned with the author name.

One of the corners was a bit scrunched up. The book was securely packed, but the box had clearly been treated quite roughly, so perhaps this was an issue with UPS.

It seems that if the numbers of pages isn't divisible by four, Lulu will add blank pages at the end. I guess I could have added some extra artwork, but that would have pushed the price up - and there would still be at least one blank page at the front and back because of the binding. So really, it's just one extra blank page at the end.

Lulu's hardcovers are 10.75" by 8.25" (rather than the usual 11" by 8.5"), so I had to prepare a separate PDF for the hardcover. The text is quite close to the gutter, but I don't think it's too bad. It's certainly readable.

The resized map looks good (the map in the previous softcover had some of the text labels chopped off, so this time I moved everything in from the edges).

I discovered with the softcover that I can't print transparent images. I worked around the issue by creating separate page backgrounds for the hot air balloon (pictured above) and the arcane gauntlet, instead of drawing a transparent image over the standard page background.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Using DriveThruRPG: One Month On

Last month I started offering Saga of the Goblin Horde through DriveThruRPG, as a way to build up interest in the setting, and establish a captive audience for my future publications. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what sort of reception it's received after the first month.

I uploaded the main Saga of the Goblin Horde setting book on 3rd November, and it went live on 6th November. I then uploaded Bone of Contention and Worm Food on the 8th, Root of the Problem on the 10th, the Archetypes on the 15th, Cold Spell on the 19th, Hot Water on the 21st, Egg Hunt on the 26th, and Can of Wyrms on the 28th. You can see the download numbers for November here:

It's worth noting Cold Spell was a new One Sheet I hadn't previously released, and I promoted it on Facebook, G+, Twitter, and the Pinnacle forums. The other PDFs had previously been available on my website, and I wasn't sure how many people didn't bother re-downloading them because they already had an earlier version, but from looking at the download figures for Cold Spell, it seems to be fairly comparable with the other One Sheets.

DriveThruRPG promoted the setting book and the archetypes as "Free Product of the Week" in two of their newsletters, and that definitely boosted the downloads for those two products.

The main setting book has 14 ratings (12 five-star and 2 four-star) and 8 written reviews (or 9, if you include the one someone wrote in the discussions section). None of the other products have any ratings or reviews.

In total I've attracted 1768 unique customers in the first month, of whom 1457 have consented to be emailed. I don't know how this compares to anyone else, or how many people are actually interested in the setting (as opposed to just downloading it because it's free), but I feel it's a good start.

Even though I'm not selling anything, I still receive 20 Publisher Promotion Points (PPP) per month, which I'm saving up to promote future products. I regret not signing up for a publisher account earlier; if I'd used DriveThruRPG from the start I'd have earned hundreds of PPP by now!