Experiments and Prototypes

Sir James. Y. Simpson and friends drink liquid chloroform in an experiment, rather than inhaling the vapor. 

Beth and I have been jumping into the deep end the last couple weeks, learning new tools, trying untested theories and cockeyed plans, and forcing ourselves to take the next big step in this publishing venture. We have worked hard since January to lay firm groundwork for Northwest Quest Publishers. We’ve done our homework and registered the company with the state and the IRS, obtained a local business license and other paperwork pronouncing us official, created our website and social media accounts, and have dutifully updated them with stories that we are thrilled to share with the community. It has been exhilarating! However, we can hardly call ourselves publishers if we don’t ever get around to actually publishing something (and blog posts don’t count.)

Toward that end, we have brought together a few ideas that have been rolling around in the cabinets for years now, ideas that were begging to be brought to life, stories that fit NWQP’s GameLit and local history mission. Moreover, they are short, fewer than 20 pages, and we think that is an ideal place to start. We are working with a barebones budget, and we hope to avoid making gigantic, bank account-crushing mistakes as we learn the ropes. (We fully expect that we’ll blunder in some unforeseen way, neglect to plan for a particular deadline, say yes to some project that we would better have avoided and vice-versa, but…let’s see if months of practice and educating ourselves can help us skirt the worst of such missteps.)

We have been trying-out various tools for layout and editing and graphic design. We are digging deep into the long-buried memories in our heads from our printing days in school and scouring reference material for the current wisdom regarding typefaces, print resolutions, column inches, trim sizes, paper weights, and coatings. We’ve been in talks with many printers, weighing out the pros and cons of material and labor costs, product quality versus shipping charges and delivery times, big online companies versus small local shops. We can sense this discussion and the resulting decisions will continue ad infinitum, for as long as we are engaged in this industry. From our previous careers, we both have learned the importance of staying nimble and embracing change as keys to longevity and sanity. For our first product, our little prototype, we are using Scribus for layout and many free online tools for converting images and other files to the proper formats. After gathering paper samples and comparing quotes, we’ve decided to have our first batch of 100 books produced at Printing Center USA.

Baker City: Parade on Main Street, 1800-2100 blocks, 1885.

The prototype is a delightful little tale that Beth wrote to kick off our Oregon Territories series, a roleplaying game world set in the 19th century Pacific Northwest. The series will start with four stories, the first of which, Tinker’s Tools, takes place in Baker City, a town with roots going back to the final days of the American Civil War and the current home to the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. The land’s memory goes back further than the arrival of white pioneers, of course. It’s a place rife with complex history, full of compelling characters with whom a game player can interact and brimming with stories to discover.

The Mint Saloon. Owner was J. W. Buckley. Sign at left says "Barber Shop in Lobby." At the right are two signs: "Puritan Club Pale Ginger Ale" "The Original [B?]arnum [Amer?]ica's Greatest [Hyp?]notist, [?] Laughs, [?] & Tears"
The Mint Saloon, Baker City, 1890-1910.

We are giddy and nervous because after all the trials and many errors, we finally sent the finished files to the printer a couple days ago. The hard copy proof of Tinker’s Tools is due to arrive tomorrow, and we can barely contain our emotions. It has been a 30-year dream for us leading to this moment, and we’re almost afraid to open the box when it arrives. Almost. We’ll most likely rip that box open with gusto and stare down at its contents for a good long while. More than licenses and taxes and websites, holding that first book in our hands will feel like this publishing company has truly come to life. Here’s to embarking on our own northwest quest. To everyone reading these lines or any of our books, we feel blessed to have you along on our travels.