The 2013 ENnies nominations have been announced and voting is now open. I caught up with Marin Ralya of Engine Publishing. Martin is an ENnie-nominated juggernaut: Engine Publishing for Fans’ Favorite Publisher; third system-neutral book for GMs, Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Session Prep, for Best Writing; and Gnome Stew for Best Blog and Best Website. Voting begins on Monday, July 22 and runs to Wednesday, July 31. The ceremony itself will be on Friday, August 16, in the Union Station Grand Hall at 8 pm with the cocktail reception beginning at 6:30 pm.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your company.
Martin Ralya (MR): I co-founded Gnome Stew with my fellow gnomes back in 2008, and started Engine Publishing in 2009 in order to publish our first book together, Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters. Since then I’ve published a book a year with the authors of Gnome Stew and other talented freelancers, all aimed at game masters. It’s been a great ride so far.
MT: Have you had any other products nominated for ENnies in the past?
MR: Gnome Stew won Silver for Best Blog in 2010 and 2011 and Gold in 2012, and Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game won Gold for Best Aid/Accessory in 2012.
In terms of nominations, Masks was nominated for Product of the Year in 2012, my previous GMing blog, Treasure Tables, was nominated for Best Fan Site in 2007, and one of the first gaming products I worked on, Bits of the Wilderness: Into the Open, was nominated for Best Electronic Book in 2006.
MT: Why should voters vote for your product/site? What sets it apart?
MR: Gnome Stew is the most widely read GMing blog in the world, and has been serving up almost-daily free articles for five years. We moved over the Treasure Tables archives last year, bringing the total up to over 2,300 articles. The authors of the site, and our proofreader, are great guys who love GMing, and I think it shows.
Phil Vecchione, the author of Never Unprepared, penned one of the most unique books for GMs I’ve ever seen. Never Unprepared fuses project management with session prep, and it’s one of those books that can change how even veteran GMs look at doing what they do. I’ve been GMing for 25 years and I learned a lot from Never Unprepared.
Engine Publishing, like Gnome Stew and Never Unprepared, is a labor of love. It’s also a way for me to publish the kinds of books I wish existed, pay freelancers the way I wish I’d always been paid as a freelancer — generally less than 24 hours after project completion — and do things that I believe in, like publish DRM-free PDFs, include PDFs with every print book, and allow authors to retain the rights to their work.
MT: How do you feel about the state of the gaming industry today?
MR: I’m not good at speculating about big-picture stuff, so take this with a grain of salt, but it’s a fantastic time to be a gamer. There’s more cool, creative stuff for gamers to play and use in their games, and more ways to game, than at any point in the last 25 years. It’s awesome.
MT: How hard is it for a game publisher in this economy?
MR: It might sound odd, but I sometimes think I’m fortunate that Engine Publishing isn’t my day job. Publishing is a funny business, and even though I’m still new to it I can already tell that it would be a big challenge if it was my day job. I don’t envy small-press publishers who are trying to make a full-time go of it.
MT: How has Kickstarter changed or influenced your business model, if at all?
MR: It hasn’t yet. Engine Publishing is fortunate to have loyal fans, a reputation for producing quality books and tackling the types of book other publishers might not, and the ability to secure capital without crowdfunding. When we run a preorder, we start taking money once the book is at the printer; customers get their PDFs as soon as they preorder, and books follow 4-6 weeks or so later. It may not be as sexy as Kickstarter, but it works for us.
MT: What’s next for your company?
MR: I’ve always got ideas in the wings clamoring to be let out, but at this point in the year I don’t have a firm plan for our next product. There are some half-developed plans for multi-author books along the lines of Eureka and Masks being kicked around, Phil, the author of Never Unprepared, has another book in mind, and I have a GM-less game I designed that I’d like to publish at some point.
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where?
MR: I will not, unfortunately. I rarely miss it, but this year things just didn’t line up in time. Instead, I’ll be in northern Ontario on a road trip with my dad, which isn’t a bad alternative. I hope I have a cell phone signal on ENnies night!
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
MR: Engine Publishing has a company website and blog at http://www.enginepublishing.com, and each of our books — including Never Unprepared — has its own product page with reviews, preview PDFs, and more.
Gnome Stew lives at http://www.gnomestew.com, and new articles are published almost every weekday.
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
MR: Good luck to everyone whose work was nominated for an ENnie this year! And thank you for inviting me to chat about the Stew, Engine, and Never Unprepared, Mike.
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