Daily Illuminator

August 3, 2010: How A GURPS Book Is Created

GURPS Characters The question arises from time to time: "How is a GURPS book created?" The answer is a bit long for a FAQ, and changes from time to time (and no two publishers do things exactly the same way). Here's our process, in broad strokes.

  • Solicitation. The publisher (that's us!) and the author come to an agreement on the topic, outline, and word count of the project.
  • First Draft. Once the writer finishes with the first draft, we evaluate it. If there are issues, we'll bounce it back for rewrites. If the issues are minor, it moves on to . . .
  • Playtesting. A group of wild dingos, er, GURPS fans, reads through the draft and gives feedback, sometimes in the form of hundreds(!!) of notes.
  • Second draft. The writer takes the manuscript and the piles of notes, both from the editor and playtest, and blends it all together into a second draft.
  • Editing. The accepted second draft is then placed in the hands of an editor, who checks rules against canon, grammar and spelling against our style, and the content against the outline. As you might imagine, this requires a great deal of time and attention, which is why we use the Orbital Mind Control Lasers to . . . oops, never mind.
  • Layout. Of all the processes involved in making a GURPS book, this is the most mysterious to me. Font, kerning, color choices, and art specs -- it's a bunch of weird jargon and inscrutible hand-waving as far as I'm concerned. In the end, however, we've got words on pages, arranged in an attractive way, with some pretty pictures to illustrate some concepts.

You'll notice at this point, I haven't specificed the final destination of this book; it could be a hardcover destined for your FLGS, or it could be a PDF for e23. That's because up to this point, all GURPS books are treated virtually the same -- the same scrutiny, the same people, the same costs.

After this point, hardcovers and PDF follow separate paths.

Hardcovers go through:

  • Print buying. This process takes the file and matches it to a printer, along with price quotes and scheduling. It's a stage that's heavy on the formality and paperwork, but if you cut corners during it . . . oh boy!
  • Printing. These days, the technology of printing is a moving target. New techniques and equipment make smaller print runs more economical and faster. Paper shortages and shipping concerns move things in the opposite direction. Just when you think you know what's going on, there's a shipping container shortage, or an entire country takes a holiday. This stage also accounts for nearly half the sunk costs of the book!
  • Distribution solicitation. You've heard of distributors, the link between publishers and retailers. They generally need to know what's coming out at least three months before they receive it.
  • Shipping and Warehousing. Well, those cases have to get from here to there somehow.

PDFs skip most of those steps, which makes it pretty obvious why they're cheaper, easier, and faster to do. In fact, once the manuscript has been laid out, there's only one step left:

  • Create the PDF. This is a bit more complex than it sounds, with the addition of bookmarks, and a bit of behind-the-scenes paper-shuffling.

After all this, the book is ready to be purchased by you, the GURPS fan.

Now you know how a GURPS book is made . . . and knowing is evil. No, wait . . . "power is half the battle"? Or was it "illusion is the ultimate knowledge"? I've been talking to Phil too much -- all those '80s slogans have melted together in my brain.

-- Paul Chapman

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