45: Art Advice with Publish and Author John Baltisberger

45: Art Advice with Publish and Author John Baltisberger

Posted by Nicholas Ribera on

In this conversation, Nick and John discuss the difference between a press and a publisher, as well as John's recent Kickstarter failures and his upcoming project, Overgrowth. They also talk about the importance of marketing and creating an engaging project page on Kickstarter. Nick discusses his plans to create a regular deck of playing cards and launch a Kickstarter project. He shares the pricing details and discounts for backers. John talks about the importance of budgeting in publishing and the costs involved in editing, layout, and cover design. They also discuss the timing of querying agents and the importance of presentation in book pitches. John advises against using AI audiobook channels and emphasizes the benefits of working with human narrators. They also touch on the choice between self-publishing and working with a publisher like Podium for audiobooks. In this part of the conversation, John discusses the pros and cons of using a platform like Podium for self-publishing an audiobook. He emphasizes the importance of owning your work and highlights the benefits of self-publishing. They also discuss how to support a self-published author as a significant other, including providing feedback, leaving reviews, and promoting their work on social media. The conversation then shifts to cover design, with John recommending finding reputable cover artists and creating a price list. They also caution against working with predatory publishers and share resources to identify reputable publishers. The conversation concludes with a reminder to review books and support artists.

You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:

Nick (00:01.482)

Welcome back everybody, I have John Baltisberger with me again. Wonderful publisher behind Madness Heart Press. Wait, sorry. I know last time we talked about you calling it a press, not a publishing company. Do you still call yourself a publisher? Do you call yourself a presser?

John Baltisberger (00:05.19)


John Baltisberger (00:19.526)

I'm a publisher. It is a publishing house, right? But the name of the company is Madness Heart Press.

Nick (00:23.434)


Nick (00:27.37)

Gotcha, okay. Is there like any real difference between a press and a publisher?

John Baltisberger (00:32.422)

So the weird thing is that various companies and different types of businesses use the word press. So Paul Bearer Press is a shirt printing company. I've seen record labels use word press because they're pressing vinyl. So different companies use word press. So it has more of a...

Nick (00:54.314)


John Baltisberger (01:03.174)

It has a pretty wide use case. On the other hand, publishing can also refer to games and movies and lots of other media. So, you know, it's, it takes some work, even after I tell people I'm a press or I'm a publisher, it takes some work to explain what that means.

Nick (01:13.916)

Mm -hmm.

Nick (01:25.066)

Okay, no, I get it. I mean, my trademark isn't printing, even though I don't really consider myself a printer. It just made the most sense for all the products I was getting to get it in that category. Well, anyway, so thanks for that. So I'm lucky to have John with me again. We're going to do another in the series of art advice. I found some great questions on Reddit that we can run through from someone who's on the publishing side of a lot of these questions. That's exciting.

And I know you've also been working a whole bunch of cool shit. So since I last had you on, I think you've probably done three or four Kickstarters since the last time we recorded. So there was, welcome to the Slaughter League, Splatter League, sorry, welcome to the Splatter League. Your novel, I don't know, why don't you just list some of the things you've done in the last few months.

John Baltisberger (01:52.966)


John Baltisberger (02:02.47)

John Baltisberger (02:07.398)


John Baltisberger (02:14.694)

So let's see, I think my Morgborg novel was done when we last met up, but we did Journey Through the Dying Lands, which is a multi -author Morgborg short story anthology. We did Welcome to the Splatter League, which is a... Splatter League is a new Super's game set in a new system I built called Badass, because saying badass is fun.

I had a failed Kickstarter and we're about to relaunch that as a new product, which is another badass game called Overgrowth.

Nick (02:52.746)

Tell me a bit about why that one failed, because I remember you posted on Facebook, hey this project failed, ask me anything. What were some of the things that you came up with as reasons why it didn't work?

John Baltisberger (03:02.214)


John Baltisberger (03:07.078)

There are a lot of different things that kind of came together in this perfect storm to create a failure there. The first is I didn't market it correctly on the page. I used some weaker art as opposed to more eye -catching art for the main image. I didn't say that it was a role -playing game right out the gate in the like title description. And...

Nick (03:33.706)


John Baltisberger (03:36.838)

Honestly, when you're putting together a Kickstarter, people should be able to look at just the title and kind of know what it is immediately. Because a lot of people just scroll through that first page looking at the titles and don't click on anything that doesn't grab their specific interest. So you want it to be known immediately. Third, I launched it during ZineQuest, which means I was competing with three to 400 other

RPG projects at that time. And like we're always competing with each other, right? Even though as a community, we're very supportive. We still have limited funds. We still have a limit on how much shit we can back at any one time. So I created a extra hardship for myself because I not only needed to get people's attention, I needed to get people's attention well enough that they chose me over

Nick (04:21.148)


John Baltisberger (04:35.75)

some other incredibly cool projects that were available at the time. On top of all that, I did my promotion schedule. I didn't even start until a couple days before the project launched. So I didn't have any pre -launch backers ready, and it just killed it. And so I'm trying to do better this time. and finally.

John Baltisberger (05:06.566)

It was my original vision for this game was another pocket map like odd gobs. Odd gobs did incredible. It's an amazing game. It's a great product. It's an entire game system on one folding map, which is super cool. But folding maps are expensive to print and they have really high minimums. So in order to make...

Nick (05:21.674)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (05:33.67)

the folding maps at a price point that made sense for me, I needed to raise about $4 ,000. And that's before the artist gets paid. And that's before I make any money. That's just print costs. And we were close to funding at like my minimum level for the Kickstarter page.

but we were nowhere clear to funding at a point where we could actually make money from the game. And while I am okay breaking even on projects, I'm okay. Like if I can make a cool thing, I'm okay if I don't make money. Cause I have a day job. But.

Nick (06:17.226)

Right. Well, it's not it's not just that. I mean, you and I also we have an avenue to sell our leftover product. And we know if the Kickstarter itself is not going to deliver profit, we have the systems in place to eventually find that profit over the next year or two. And it takes a lot to get to that stage. But it ends up giving us a lot of freedom in what we can consider a failure.

John Baltisberger (06:34.918)


John Baltisberger (06:42.886)

That's absolutely, absolutely true. When I'm looking at projects, I do not look only at the launch. I look at the lifespan of that project. Now, for books, that lifespan feels a lot shorter for viable sales. But the truth is, is that my contracts with the authors that I publish is five years. So I look to make back my money within five years.

And for games, odd gods, I ended up losing money after I paid the artist and the print cost and all that. But because I've been selling it still, I've made profit. It just took an extra year. And so while I could have made the game funding minimal, the print costs would have been such at the minimums that...

It would have not been easy to make my money back. It would have been difficult to make the money back and it would have tied our hands from doing more cool shit with it. I'm doing it as a, I just, I wanted to do it as a zine. I think it's going to be a paperback at this point. Cause I have about 12 ,000 words written for the game now. And we have obviously art stuff and layout stuff for it, but.

because we're doing it as a book instead of a map, it's going to cost me a lot less to make. And I'm getting to really build out the world and the setting and the rules and really explore the system and setting a lot more than I was going to be able to. So in the end, it's a positive.

Nick (08:27.53)

It is weird that a book costs less to make than a folding map.

John Baltisberger (08:33.03)

Only from a material size perspective, when you look at unfolding map, when you look at a book, it's essentially a thicker piece of paper and lots of single pieces of paper. That's a book. For a folding map, it is like a vinyl covers, a special paper that has like a cotton woven into it.

to make it more durable. And then they have to print that, print those things, glue them together, and then put them in a machine to fold them correctly. So there's all these different aspects to the printing process and manufacturing process that make certain products cost more. It's kind of like air travel, right? You can travel to Greece for cheaper than you can travel to Brazil.

because more flights are going to Greece than are going to Brazil, even though Brazil is much closer to where I am than Greece. That was the case years ago. It may be different now, but...

Nick (09:42.186)

But yeah, I get you saying it's like the equipment is more readily used to make books. So there's more competition and people have developed ways I'm doing it better. Not as many large maps are being printed as used to be. So tell me a bit then about what this new project is you're working on.

John Baltisberger (09:48.422)

Mm -hmm. Yeah.

John Baltisberger (09:53.67)


John Baltisberger (09:57.478)


John Baltisberger (10:03.782)

So the game is called Overgrowth. It's going to be a book. It is the tagline is epic spell wars meets Captain Planet. So over the top, gonzo wizards dueling with magic that has a very eco punk centric theme.

Nick (10:18.762)

John Baltisberger (10:32.046)

Basically, druids who have been twisted by foul magic are battling corporate warlocks who are poisoning the earth and kind of creating ecological damage. The idea is that they're creating ecological damage as a sacrifice to gain more power. Instead of sacrificing a virgin, they're sacrificing a forest or a swamp.

Nick (10:52.298)


John Baltisberger (11:01.542)

and the players are deranged and mutated nature wizards, kind of going over the top and murdering anything that stands in their path to stopping that.

Nick (11:15.338)

And instead he uses the same badass system as Splatter League.

John Baltisberger (11:19.782)

Yeah, so I built the badass system for Splatter League, but once I was done, I realized like I missed a few things that I wanted to refine, which that's just game development, right? And then I realized like there's a lot more I could do with this. And so this is kind of my next step in the evolution of the badass system. I have another game planned for after this where I'm going to try a few different things. And the goal is to see how flexible this...

Nick (11:30.026)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (11:49.67)

very open -ended, crunch -like game is, because I'm a big believer that while open -ended games are fun, having that definition within them that allows players to really feel like the mechanics matter to the game is really meaningful. And I think you see that in games like, you know,

Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, even like Cyberpunk, systems that are built for a game tend to be more popular than wildly open -ended systems. I'm not saying that's good or bad, it's just kind of how it is. And it's because those games have a unified vision. And so I'm really testing the badass system to see if it can be used to create a unified vision for a game.

Nick (12:30.858)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (12:45.574)

as opposed to just kind of being something you slap.

Nick (12:50.41)

Okay. And so when do you plan on launching this one on Kickstarter?

John Baltisberger (12:55.238)

My plan is to kind of launch this at the end of this month. It's May 13th today. I'm hoping to launch around the 27th or 28th this month. We are running Overgrowth on Wondering Monster, our actual play podcast. So I'll be able to kind of like put that on the Kickstarter pay tool. We'll be actually able to see what the game is, how it plays and...

Nick (13:12.65)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (13:22.438)

Hopefully I'll have the chance to do a few more of these these podcast appearances and start getting the word out to more and more people.

Nick (13:28.042)

Well, what kind of prep have you done leading up to it? Because you mentioned you didn't have a lot of lead time of marketing the first time around. So are you using BackerKit Launch?

John Baltisberger (13:36.07)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (13:40.39)

I'm not using BackerKit Launch. I have a few issues with BackerKit. Namely, I think it tends to cost me more than it gets me. What I am, I'm also doing, I'm, this project is going to have two options. One is a print on demand model.

Nick (13:46.25)

Mm -hmm.

Nick (14:04.106)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (14:04.422)

where I drive through RPG where I send you your code and use it. That's it. And I'm going to do a collector's edition hardback version, which is only going to go, I'm only going to ship to the US. But I can do all of that through my personal online store. That's the model I use for Spider League. It went really well. So I'm going to do that again to minimize the amount of money I'm paying for third party.

systems and fulfillment. But to answer the original question, I'm doing interviews, I'm talking to people, I'm trying to promote it across various social media networks more. And I'm going to be sending out emails to all my other project backers this weekend. Yeah, just.

Nick (14:57.514)

So do you have like a call to action webpage or something that you send people to?

John Baltisberger (15:01.158)

I kind of, right? I have, I use Linktree extensively. I think Linktree is a fantastic tool. If you're not using Linktree, look into it, it's great. But it's at the very top of my Linktree and the Linktree is the link I use for everything. So my business card goes to my Linktree. All of my like profiles on all my social media has my Linktree listed.

And that's because it has access to every site I'm on and all of my social media and all my contact information But at the very top of that if you're looking for me, the very first thing is going to be overgrowth pre -launch on Kickstarter live Which we'll see how it goes we're gonna you know, keep trying more and more things until So the original overgrowth with the map

its funding goal was $2 ,000. What I needed, as I mentioned, was at least 4 ,000. The funding goal for this book is $100. So I'm going to fund immediately. And once a project funds and you start seeing 700 % funded, people are much more likely to donate to a project that's funded or especially if it's like crazy funded.

Nick (16:03.85)


John Baltisberger (16:28.12)

because the higher that percentage number is, mentally people say, this is popular. This is, people want this. I want this too. There's a lot of weird psychological manipulation that goes into marketing that I'm not a huge fan of, but so long as you're not being dishonest, I think it's okay to, I think it's necessary to engage in that sort of thing.

Again, so long as you're being honest with what you're doing. I can set the funding goal at $100 because I can make this for $100. It won't have everything I want in it. My real goal is still $5 ,000 at which point we're going to do like a fully illustrated full color bestiary. But I can make this right now with no money. So, you know.

Hopefully we fund $400.

Nick (17:27.806)

No, but you make a good point. I mean, there's so many things that you learn that makes a Kickstarter work better. One thing I've been thinking about lately in regards to Kickstarter is the banner image, because I'm always trying to market to myself. I think about how I interact with Kickstarter, how I browse projects. When zine quest happened, how did I choose which ones to click on? And

John Baltisberger (17:36.742)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (17:42.854)


Nick (17:58.058)

So with that in mind, if I'm thinking of myself as my typical customer, I guess what I'm getting at is I feel like I should have a mock -up of the product on the banner image. But when I think about the projects I click on, there's usually no mock -up of the product. I usually click on products that have big text, few words,

a graphic design element that is a statement about like what this is intending. And so this latest project that I'm doing too, I decided to not put my 3D mock -up of the products. And so that kind of felt weird doing that. But I don't know, I was just wondering what your thoughts are. Like, do you have an image of the book on it or you just kind of leaning on the art?

John Baltisberger (18:52.646)

So I don't have, I don't. I do have a piece of the cover. So I shared my screen. I don't know if you're, if people listening will be able to see this, but you can see here, I'll click. You can see this is the original banner. It said overgrowth and it had this on it. And this obviously on that main page is going to be completely unreadable. The colors are very similar. It's not a bad picture.

Nick (18:57.866)

Yeah, I'm seeing it.

John Baltisberger (19:20.838)

but it is a terrible cover image. And if you go to, let's see, trying to do this live. If you go to how we actually look at Kickstarter, what you see is the title and some kind of image, and that's it. When you're scrolling, that's all you see. And so for...

Nick (19:31.338)


Nick (19:39.274)

Mm -hmm.

Yeah, and as we can see, sometimes there's a mock -up of the product, most of the time there's not. Yeah.

John Baltisberger (19:46.086)

Right, like here. Yeah, most of the time there's not. And I think a mock -up of the product is really important when it's not a book. Because you know what a book looks like. You don't need that. But if it's, you know, minis or something, like, yeah, there's no mock -ups here. But what I was gonna say is, if you go to the new one, come on now, there we go. Here's the new one.

Nick (19:55.594)

That's a good point.

John Baltisberger (20:13.862)

The title is Overgrowth Epic Spell Wars Meets Captain Planet Dash a TTRPG. You know exactly what the game is immediately. And the cover.

Nick (20:20.874)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (20:27.814)

the cover image, just the title and some cool art of snakes bursting out of a man's face. So it's much more readable. The art is much more developed. There's a lot more depth to the art. And again, you have all the information you need to know that it's an interesting game in the title that will be on the like main page. So you see everything immediately.

Nick (20:32.33)

Yeah. Yeah.

John Baltisberger (20:57.51)

as opposed to before you just saw overgrowth. And I think the part down here was a folding map game about strange nature wizards. So it's a completely... I've revamped the entirety of what the initial interaction with this product is going to be. And I did that all based on that failed Kickstarter.

You know, it taught me a lot about trying to market using Kickstarter, which at the end of the day, that's what it is, right? Kickstarter is a marketing tool that we're trying to get pre -orders from so that we can afford to make the thing.

Nick (21:25.611)


John Baltisberger (21:44.934)

I learned a lot. I think I'm hoping that this will be, you know, a much more successful launch. That said, you know, it's still, it's still slow going.

Nick (21:57.674)

Well, so like when I look at all of my from my most to my least successful Kickstarter, maybe 10 % of my pledges come from people who I marketed towards. The other 90 % is people who are just browsing Kickstarter. So you have to really think about how you're going to be standing out in the Kickstarter environment and marketing to people who are already on Kickstarter. And that's such a different.

John Baltisberger (22:11.462)

Mm -hmm.

Nick (22:27.69)

task than marketing to people on your own email list. I mean, it's way harder, for sure. But...

John Baltisberger (22:31.654)

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that's the part of the thing is you mentioned marketing to yourself, right? I have backed at this point. Let me just go to my own profile here because this is painful. This is a painful thing I'm about to share with you. I've backed 260 projects since March of 2012. Marketing to me is apparently very easy.

Nick (22:46.282)

Nick (22:58.858)

Well, I would tell you my number, but for some reason I'm not logged into Kickstarter right now.

John Baltisberger (23:01.734)

John Baltisberger (23:06.694)

Now, I will tell you that only 220 of those projects were game projects.

Nick (23:14.73)

So now I'm curious about my number. I'm pretty sure I'm over 100. I've backed 106, created 19. Okay.

John Baltisberger (23:20.454)

Nice, not bad. I mean, the good thing about that is when you look at my profile and you see that I've created and run four on this profile, I have another profile for myself as opposed to the game company. But you said I've created four, I've backed 260. You know I'm like an established member of this community. I've done successful games. I've fulfilled those games.

Nick (23:35.626)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (23:49.35)

So there's a level of trust when you see those things where you know that I'm not just like coming in, no idea what the scene is like, no idea what the process is like and throwing something against the wall, which is a lot of people's first or second Kickstarters.

Nick (24:05.994)

Well, I know for me personally, I don't ever look to see how many Kickstarters someone has created, because I get a sense of trust just on how much effort they put into that project page.

John Baltisberger (24:17.254)

That is a huge thing that not enough people actually pay attention to.

Nick (24:22.09)

So like, but I mean, I have no evidence of this, but I feel like the Kickstarter search result algorithm is going to try and favor people who have pledged to more projects. Just a guess, because I feel like it should do that.

John Baltisberger (24:36.23)

Yeah, I am considered a super backer. I think if I back 30 more projects, they send me a trophy or something, come to my house and make me dinner. They should. I've definitely paid someone's salary at that company. But no, that's especially true on game projects. There's nothing more disheartening than seeing someone who has a cool idea.

Nick (24:40.49)

Ha ha.

Nick (24:45.322)

Really? that's fun.


John Baltisberger (25:03.174)

and you go to their page and it's like one paragraph and no art assets. There's nothing that makes me say this isn't getting made faster than seeing zero art assets on a page.

Nick (25:07.69)


Nick (25:13.514)

So there was a project I found a few months ago or something, and it was a deck of regular playing cards, but it was featuring art from vintage skiing posters. And the creator was in France, I think it was, and it was just gorgeous, but it was just one paragraph. And then also the backs of the cards had the image, so you could tell what...

John Baltisberger (25:29.318)


Nick (25:41.162)

cards were in someone's hand, which I think works in Bridge, but no other games. They're from Quebec, sorry. But anyways, I'm just a sucker for like vintage winter sports advertising. So I don't know why. I just thought it was beautiful. But...

John Baltisberger (25:46.022)


John Baltisberger (25:53.094)

That's such a weird niche! Now, I will say I have right here a deck of tarot cards featuring Japanese samurai art. Like, vintage samurai art. So like, I get it to some degree, but... yeah. There's death. they're beautiful! They're beautiful! But yeah, I... The playing card things is a weird thing, because I often see playing cards that I'm like, that's gorgeous, I kind of want that. I'm not...

Nick (26:02.218)

awesome. Yeah.

Nick (26:07.338)

Well, that's beautiful.

John Baltisberger (26:21.926)

spending $30 on another deck of just regular ass playing cards.

Nick (26:26.794)

Well, so with I've wanted to make a regular deck of playing cards for a while. And when I was doing the my last tarot project, which is currently in production, the Taroki Jali, I made each card look like a vintage Italian horror film movie poster. And I really liked the art that I was coming up with for that. And I also the little symbolism I did for all the different minor arcana suits. And I was like, you know what? Let's make this into a playing card deck. So I got a price quote from the company I'm always using.

John Baltisberger (26:38.502)

Mm -hmm.

Nick (26:55.37)

And 500 units was only about $1 .20 each. And that blew my mind. So I'm like, what? I will throw that in on my order, of course. And so I quickly whipped up a Kickstarter project, which I'm going to try and launch on Friday. Again, just $100 because I'm getting 500 made no matter what. I know I'll have no trouble selling 500. But if I could sell a bunch of them, you know, even before, that's even better.

John Baltisberger (27:24.838)


Nick (27:25.13)

And I'm doing MSRP on that at $10 for people who pledged to the original Tarot Kickstarter project. They're getting it for five if they want to do it as an add -on through BaccarKid.

John Baltisberger (27:37.638)

Does that include for the retail backers?

Nick (27:42.282)

No, wait. Sorry, people who pledged to the original Kickstarter project for Taroki Jali, they get a discount. People who pledged to the new Kickstarter don't.

John Baltisberger (27:55.334)

I pledged at the retail level for Taro Jiali. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, hold on, let me, we're gonna, God.

Nick (27:59.782)

you did? Wait, what do you mean retail lever? Sorry. I mean, you did it through Kickstarter or through BackerKit afterwards.

Maybe I haven't thought about this plan as much as I should.

John Baltisberger (28:11.782)

I was like, I'll just pull this up real, there you're at the, you're close to the top. It's fine. Let's see here. I ba... Where's my, my backing. There's a way to look at your own. View pledge. There we go. See, we know we're, Nick and I are professionals. We do this all the time. I promise. I backed, where was it? Wholesale. The wholesale level is what I'm talking about. There we go.

Nick (28:17.098)


Nick (28:29.162)


Nick (28:37.002)

awesome. Yeah, yeah. So what I'm doing is I'm just adding this as an item in BackerKit. So when you go finish in BackerKit, it'll just be an add -on. And yeah. And so, well, actually with the wholesale order, you can mix and match different products. I mean, I'm just going to reach out to all the wholesale backers to coordinate exactly what you want. But basically, you're just getting a credit to do a larger wholesale order.

John Baltisberger (28:45.382)

make sense.

Yeah. Okay.

John Baltisberger (29:04.678)

Make sense.

Nick (29:04.938)

So you don't have to do 10 copies of Taroki Jyali if you want to mix it with other stuff, including those card decks, which I'm guessing all wholesale for five. But like, I mean, we're showing how all the sausage is made here, but it blew my mind that it's only $1 .50 for 54 cards in a tuck box with a shelf hanger. So, beautiful.

John Baltisberger (29:17.606)

Yeah. Yeah. No.

John Baltisberger (29:24.39)

Yeah, it's really good pricing. You showed it to me the other day. And I mean, that's part of the looking at things as a publisher is understanding what it's going to cost us. Cause there's manufacturing and labor costs and all that. And then there's shipping costs. And then Nick, you don't have this, but I have this in spades is art and layout costs. Cause I'm not an artist. I'm a writer.

Nick (29:51.882)


John Baltisberger (29:54.406)

and a literary publisher. So just for instance, today, I spent $400 on two covers by the incredible Simone Tameta, who drew a cover for, I can't remember, can I use profanity on this? Okay, who did a cover for a book coming out called, Nympho Shark Fuck Frenzy. And it's an incredible cover, he outdid himself.

Nick (30:17.898)


John Baltisberger (30:21.926)

and a cover for Torture the Centers by Judith Sonnet by the...

incredible Jim Agpalza. But like, yeah, that's $400. That's two per book, that's $200 plus. So a lot of times what happens for people that are kind of newer to this whole thing is they'll do, they'll like plan to go to a convention and they'll look at the conventions cost as being, you know, the cost of the table, the hotel and the travel.

That adds up to a lot really quickly. And then they'll just go and they'll sell, let's say, $500 worth of books and say, that was incredible, I made money. Like, okay, did you make money? Because now what was your cost to get that book edited and laid out and the cover? And after that, what was the cost of the wholesale that you got or the production cost?

Because you have to subtract all of those costs before you can determine if you've made a dime. And I think a lot of people forget to budget in all of the things that go into it and all the time, the cost of labor that goes into it. But all that said, you already did most of the labor. You did the art yourself. You're doing the layout yourself. Again, the labor was already...

Nick (31:54.506)

It's true.

John Baltisberger (31:56.646)

mostly done because you had done them for the Tarot Gialli. So it makes sense. It's a great idea and a great add -on. Whenever you can use already done art or labor to do a new product, do that. Save yourself that money.

Nick (32:02.602)


Nick (32:17.77)

Yeah, I know I'm always I'm always every time I come up with something like I'm like, thank goodness I was able to do this stuff myself because I would be stuck I hate being stuck behind someone else's timelines and I mean, you know how tough that is but like I just love that I have the freedom to create a project from start to finish and I want to involve more people I want to do more working with other people but I

John Baltisberger (32:37.51)

Mm -hmm.

Nick (32:46.602)

I don't like when it slows down my production. And I know you're a pretty fast writer, so. Cool.

John Baltisberger (32:49.702)

I'll work with you anytime, Nick. You're a joy to work with. And I can work for... Yeah, I work pretty quickly, so you don't have to worry about me. Yeah. Yeah.

Nick (33:03.37)

All right, well, let's move into some of these questions that I found on Reddit. So, all right, and there's gonna be some terminology about publishing that I know nothing about, so feel free to explain it to the listeners. So we start off with a question from IndieFatigable. Is there a right wrong time of year to query? I was recently chatting with a fellow aspiring author who's in a panic trying to get their manuscript.

John Baltisberger (33:07.75)


Nick (33:30.122)

and query package out over the summer before, and I quote, the flood of nano -rimo queries drowns agents slush piles. Is this a valid concern? I'm tentatively targeting late 2024, early 2025 to start querying. Am I shooting myself in the foot sending the query down during the months of November through February? Is there an ideal time of the year to query or is my friend stressing about nothing? What is this person talking about?

John Baltisberger (33:58.79)

Let me answer real quick and then I'll kind of explain. Your friend is stressing for nothing. So NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writers Month. In general, what it is is people attempt to write a full length novel between the dates of November 1st and November 30th. It comes out to something like 1700 words a day.

Nick (34:03.05)


John Baltisberger (34:29.034)

Which is certainly doable, but it takes discipline and willpower. It's a really, really good exercise for beginning writers to kind of like learn that discipline.

That said, most professional writers and most writers I know, like every month is like every month we're trying to do that. So that said.

John Baltisberger (35:03.942)

If your query doesn't stand out amongst others, no matter how flooded it is, you need to work on it harder.

The truth is that most publishers have a timeframe in which they look at books. Madness Heart Press has their submission period starting in February. And it usually goes from February to the end of March. Usually, sometimes it's shorter than that. This year it was, because I got good...

books. But I think D &T publishing, if I'm not mistaken, theirs is in like April or June. Everyone has their own rules. Every publishing house, like there's publishing houses that who don't have a set time, they just launch their submission period when they have room. Trying to hold off because you think there's some magical time that's going to increase your

isn't going to work. Put less concern into timing and more concern into presentation. Have a tagline or a one -sentence pitch that will get people's attention. One example is Odd Gobbs, the game. It's anti -capitalist goblins working the gig economy in a cyberpunk dystopia. When I say that at my table,

they buy it almost 100 % of the time. One of my bestselling series is the Abhorrent series and it's usually an axolotl on heroin destroys San Antonio, Texas. Now it's way more in depth. It's a much more complex book than that, but that's the tagline that I give people. I'm clearing the book right now.

John Baltisberger (37:17.734)

And I haven't found the right tagline or I haven't found the right publisher, but getting, getting, figuring out what about your book should excite people that step one, because when I hear a cool book pitch, I'm going to be excited no matter what else is on my plate. And most publishers are like me where they, they want the cool stuff. And if your book,

John Baltisberger (37:47.462)

If you have written another...

John Baltisberger (37:53.478)

prophesied man saves the world and rescues the hot princess trope book Nothing you do is going to make that exciting and nothing you do is going to make that stand out because it doesn't Everyone's already written that book. I've written that book You know what I mean? So if you write that book cool Don't focus on that focus on what makes it interesting is the prophesied hero a cuttlefish?

Nick (38:10.986)


John Baltisberger (38:22.63)

A cuttlefish is saving the world and a woman falls in love with it. Okay, now I want to know what the hell you're talking about. So there are bookmills that will pick up your shitty trite.

books any day of the week, but if you want a good publisher, it needs to be interesting and that matters a lot more than time.

Nick (38:51.914)

So, so what would you, what is Queering a book?

John Baltisberger (39:01.062)

Yes, then I guess that would be step one. When you're clearing a book, you're taking your manuscript that you wrote and you're sending it to publishers and agents with the hopes that they will either publish it or represent it.

Nick (39:02.282)


Nick (39:15.338)

Okay, gotcha. So I guess in board game terms, that would be like a sell sheet. Okay, so are you sending them the full manuscript or are you just sending them like a one -pager describing it?

John Baltisberger (39:20.166)

Yeah, no, absolutely.

John Baltisberger (39:26.822)

Every publisher wants something different. So for me, what I ask for is your name, the name of the book, the genre of the book. I want a kind of full synopsis, meaning like what happens in your book, what is the story of your book, and who are the main characters. And then I want to know...

a couple of sentences about the author. That's all I want. I know from that if I'm going to want to see more of your book. Some authors ask or some publishers or agents ask for the first 10 pages. Some ask for like the first two chapters. It just entirely depends on the publisher.

Nick (40:16.746)

So you don't have to do like, you don't have to worry about like graphics or anything. It could all just be text and an email. Okay.

John Baltisberger (40:20.582)

No, no, no, no, you shouldn't. In fact, for books, for literary books, there shouldn't be any graphics, right? Because there's not going to be like, there won't be unless of course you're making a picture book. For instance, you and I have talked about doing an art book and you showed me the art because that's the main thing it's going to be. I'm talking to Simone Tometta about doing an art book too and like it's about art. But that's, you know, that's the exception, not the rule.

Nick (40:26.89)

Right. OK.

Nick (40:38.218)

Mm -hmm. Right.

John Baltisberger (40:50.486)

A little while ago, a gentleman named Kirby Dinner, Christian Death, I think is his handle on Kickstarter. He sent me a game called Alter Shock, which is a miniature skirmish game inspired by Quake 2. And it's done.

Nick (41:04.554)

One of my favorite bands.

Nick (41:16.586)

Hm. Fine.

John Baltisberger (41:19.75)

Like, it's laid out, the art's all there, so he sent me like everything, it was like, I just want a publisher for this. But that's, you know, again, that's different. Publishing games and art books is different than publishing literary books. But there are some similarities.

Nick (41:37.578)

well i guess related to that i do have another question for you is madness heart press the imprint for your novels as well as your art book or as well as your games or is it all different.

John Baltisberger (41:50.534)

So Madness Heart Press is a press, right? And it has a couple of imprints. There's Madness Heart Games, which is an imprint that publishes RPGs. There's a God of Triad that publishes Jewish genre fiction. There is Gutter Mystic Books, which is for non -fiction and satire.

And then there's Manus Heart Press, which is splatter punk and bizarro. I don't self, I don't really self publish my novels. I send my novels out to other publishers because I don't want people to think that Manus Heart Press is a self publishing thing.

Nick (42:40.074)

splatter league though that is from the games yeah right okay

John Baltisberger (42:42.254)

So I do self -publish my games, because I think that's kind of the standard, is generally speaking, people self -publish their games. I do publish other people's games. I publish Alexi Vela, I publish Red Room, Nate Sutherland, I just published Dinner After Midnight, and will be publishing his Morgborg hack, Sulfur, as well. And then I published...

Nick (42:48.938)


John Baltisberger (43:10.47)

I'm going to publish Kirby Dinner's, Alter Shock. But for game stuff, I don't mind self -publishing because that's kind of industry standard. But for literature, it's very important that people know that Madness Heart Press is not a vanity project. It is not John Baldisberger publishing John Baldisberger's book, under a different name to make him look legitimate. I publish, I published...

Nick (43:22.186)

Right, that makes sense.

John Baltisberger (43:38.854)

over a hundred books by over 30 different authors. So it's important to kind of separate John Baldesberger from Madness Heart Press.

Nick (43:45.706)

Mm -hmm.

Okay. Alright, so the next question comes from Leah Rose Author, and she says, email from agent query or R &R. I've been querying my narrative nonfiction book for the past two weeks and I've gotten several requests for a full so far. Haven't heard back on those yet. A few days ago, a third agent who got the full proposal as part of the query by request emailed me and asked to set up a meeting.

Her email said that she read the proposal and thinks it is, quote, incredibly well done. She shared it with a colleague, but they, quote, both have reservations about structure and emphasis. To be honest, so do I. One of the things I really hope an agent can help with. She asked to set up a Zoom meeting between me, her, and her colleague. I guess my questions are, does this sound more like a meeting for an offer or an R &R? Sounds like an R &R to me, but I'm also wondering if they are just trying to see if I'm easy to work with.

Is it normal to have two agents from an agency on a call? I think they work together quite frequently, but I haven't seen that talked about much here. Thank you. So starting off, what is an R &R?

John Baltisberger (44:55.526)

Sure. I haven't heard that phrase. My guess is read and...

I'm just looking to see because I haven't heard that exact phrase, but it sounds developmental, right? A developmental edit. Like, we're going to read through this and recommend changes or bits and pieces. Dev editing is a super important aspect of writing and game development, everything. It's when you give your work to someone else and they point out the problems. Now, from a game design, here's the thing, from a game design,

Nick (45:05.45)




Nick (45:30.762)

Right, yeah, yeah.

John Baltisberger (45:34.534)

perspective, it's exactly the same as play testing because someone else who reads it will say, hey, you should do X. Don't do X, but look at what they're trying to fix and figure out your own solution for it. Now, this agent could be newer in that agency and still be working with a mentor. Maybe they tag team certain markets.

Maybe they just like working together. That doesn't raise any red flags to me. Now, what this likely is is not a single instance where it's only an R and R, only a deal, only this. They're probably looking at all of these things. Like they want to make sure you're easy to work with. They want to make sure you're open to making changes and open to developmenting, develop, pardon me, developing it in different directions. They want to...

They want to see all these things because they're all important to a business relationship. But flip side, you get to do all those things too. You get to see where they think the problems are and you can see if their problems are things that you love or if their problems are things that you're like, yeah, that's a really good point. You want that second one. You also get to see if there are people you can stand to talk to and be around.

Another really important aspect, a lot of times when you're first breaking into a creative field, the first person who gives you the time of day you end up marrying and that's awful. It's better to not have an agent and retain control of your work and be happy than it is to get an agent and feel like you're shackled to someone you can't stand. So like.

Nick (47:02.458)

I bet.

John Baltisberger (47:25.318)

I would take the meeting. I would feel, I would go in feeling confident. I would go in without any sort of agenda of my own and see kind of where they're leading it. And at the end of the day, if you don't feel comfortable with them, if you don't feel like it was a good meeting, no skin off your back. You have it queried to other people.

Nick (47:44.682)

Would it be useful as a writer to have an agent?

John Baltisberger (47:49.158)

yeah, yeah. You don't have to. There's lots of really successful authors that don't have agents. But if you want to get into the big five, you're gonna need an agent.

Nick (48:08.426)

Do you have an agent?

John Baltisberger (48:10.726)

I used to have an acting agent. I've queried a couple of agents, but I don't. Currently.

Nick (48:21.386)

I'm just curious about it. Just wondering if that's like a goal that aspiring writers should have or... Okay.

John Baltisberger (48:25.19)

It is a goal. I want to get an agent. But as a publisher, I sometimes like... Part of the problem with being a publisher is I'll query a couple of times. They're like, well, that didn't work. Fuck it, I'll put it out myself. It's a really easy route for me to go because I... Separate from Madness Art Press, I have an imprint for self -publishing called Kaiju Press Publications or Kaiju Poet Publications.

Those books don't go on my website, on the Manistar Press website, and I don't put the resources from Manistar Press into promoting those. So they move slower, but I can do it. I've done it before, I'll do it again, I'm sure.

Nick (49:12.554)

Prize Ticket 1576 writes, is this a scam? Some AI audiobook YouTube channels want to use my story to make audiobooks. Hello all, recently I have received requests from several... Yeah?

John Baltisberger (49:25.286)

I'm gonna stop you right there, Nick. Don't. Don't. Don't.

Is it a scam? Maybe not. But will it be bad for you? Yes. And there's a couple of reasons for that. The first is by and large, the indie crowd is vehemently anti -AI. So if you use AI or you empower AI, it's going to create a negative relationship with other creatives in the field. Second, you will piss off every single audio book reader.

in the community, bar none. They will remember that you did this and you'll be blacklisted to them. Maybe it's petty, but it will happen. Third, you're feeding your work into AI algorithm, making it easier to copy you and to plagiarize your work. Just don't do it. The, like just, acx .com, it's audibles like,

Nick (50:28.618)


John Baltisberger (50:33.958)

matchmaking service for audiobook readers. They have an option that lets you connect with an audiobook reader who will just get royalties, just split your royalties with you. You don't get a lot, but you're going to get more than you would with this YouTube channel. And you'll retain ownership of your work and an actual human narrator will read your book for the service and they'll set it all up for you.

So like that is way better and doesn't cost you anything. Or find an audio book reader who you can afford. I've worked with an amazing reader who only charges $25 per finished hour, which is insane. That's a crazy price. And if he's listening, it's not a crazy price. You're doing great, man. Thank you. And I work with one that charges $50 per finished hour, which again,

Nick (51:21.194)


Nick (51:28.714)


John Baltisberger (51:34.086)

is insane because a lot of them charge $250 per finished hour. But they're very good. Look.

Don't, don't, don't. Even if you don't have any sort of malevolent feelings towards AI, a lot of people in the indie creator community do, and you'll be creating bad blood for yourself for no benefit.

Nick (52:05.226)

Well, related to what you're saying about the audible.

Nick (52:12.298)

ACX thing. I remember I don't I didn't memorize internalize any of these details, but I remember seeing on tik -tok people sounding the alarms about Spotify's new books on tape system Where they have some type of feature where you could submit your book and then they will do that for you do the voice to text whatever you want to call it and Or I guess be the way around text to voice narration

and put it up on Spotify for you. But the fine print of it says that they own all rights to the characters of your book and the ability to make more books in that series if they want. So that's scary.

John Baltisberger (52:50.214)

Mm -hmm.

Yeah. Yeah, read, read, look, there's a, there's a phrase in dev that's screw them in the EULA. Meaning you can put whatever you want in the end user license agreement and they're not going to read it. They're going to sign it. I recently, I was recently part of a court case for wrongful death. And this was going on for like two years. And at the end,

the opposing side was like, well, they signed this agreement saying that we're not reliable for anything that happens. It's like, all right, well, they got us into the eula. Just read them. It's a pain in the ass, it sucks. Get a lawyer. So, you know, when you're agreeing to use an app, it's like, whatever. But when you're talking about your creative work, your IP, that you spent hours upon hours upon.

Nick (53:30.986)


Nick (53:47.946)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (53:49.542)

hours putting together, don't half -ass the protection of your creative work. It's because these corporations will always fuck us as hard as they can.

Nick (53:54.794)

Mm -hmm.

Nick (54:02.57)

Alright, so the next one comes from Bainin, and the subject is Podium or Self -Publish. I've been writing a fantasy lit RPG for a while now, five months. I have finished book one and reached the middle of book two. I had considered self -publishing and found a narrator who would do it in the realm of 3000 bucks, which I could afford without financially putting myself in a bad spot. Out of curiosity, I reached out to Podium, who is interested in acquiring the audio rights to my story.

and I'm unsure what the better call would be. I'm still due to meet with their director of acquisition and we'll ask what they can offer precisely and have a lawyer look over any potential contract. Does anyone have experience with self -publishing audio books or working with Podium? I'd love to hear some opinions. So pretty similar to what we've been chatting about. I've just never heard of Podium.

John Baltisberger (54:51.078)

Yeah, I'm not okay. Reading, reading, but I mean...

These don't look terrible. Okay, here's my thought.

Since this is, I don't know, well, you didn't say if this was your first book or not, just that you've been working on this for a while. If this is your first book and you don't have an audience, maybe go through Podium. Now that said, are you losing ownership at that point? The nice thing about self -publishing your audio book is you would own...

everything about it. Meaning you could put it on Audible, but you could also put it on anywhere else, including your own store. You could put it on a USB and sell it at tables. And I'm guessing that Podium is going to be an exclusive agreement, meaning they're going to put it on there and then you don't get to put it anywhere else. It looks like they do put this stuff on

Amazon slash audible. So fine. But again, I just, it's almost always better to own your work than it is to share. That said, they also have a marketing department. And so they might take that off the plate for you. I would say, I would say it's going to depend entirely on their, their contract. And if their contract is solid and doesn't screw you over, go for a podium.

Nick (56:35.114)

I'm reading their website, says, podium leverages proprietary technology to identify these groundbreaking storytellers and with a creator economy mentality brings forth industry leading production capabilities focused on quality as well as deep digital expertise in distribution and overall monetization. Podiums partnership with both authors and narrators sits at the center of this process. So I guess it's a tool that.

John Baltisberger (56:43.59)

Yeah, okay.

Nick (57:03.658)

helps combine the narrators with the authors in order to get the book published and then, I don't know, interesting. Library of only 3 ,500 titles. Yeah.

John Baltisberger (57:12.87)

Yeah, I mean, it looks like an audio book publisher, which like, yeah, I don't see any problem with that if that's actually what they are. But again, read the contract, send the contract to your lawyer and make sure it is what you want it to be. Because it is easy to get, it is real easy to get screwed in this industry.

Nick (57:36.158)

All right, so the next one comes from Ty Oaken's. Subject is, how do best support a self -publishing author? I'll skip the TLDR because we're not here for that. So we'll go to the full one. My wife and I met and fell in love over books. She supported me through a lot of things, an MMA career, my PhD, and a career move across country. Recently, she decided to pursue being an author and has committed to it 100%.

I read a ton and do my best to support creatively, but I know nothing about the publishing process or the logistics of it, so I feel really lost as I try to be as supportive of her as she has been for me throughout my life. As a self -published or aspiring author, what would be the biggest help a significant other could give you, and what would you absolutely not want? How could I go above and beyond?

John Baltisberger (58:29.478)

So read her books, ask her if she wants dev feedback, you know, if she wants parts of the book that you don't think work or could be stronger, let her know that. Don't give her specific suggestions, just say what you thought wasn't as strong. That is if that's what she wants. She may want you to just read them and gush about them, and that's fine too, as her partner.

The main thing that a self -published author needs, I'm making eye contact so you listen to me, is reviews. We need reviews. If you read one of her books that's out, review it on Amazon and Goodreads. Encourage everyone else to. If any of your friends or her friends say, I read your book, immediately say, hey, thank you.

Nick (59:09.258)


John Baltisberger (59:27.526)

Could you review it on Amazon's Goodreads? People should be fucking sick of hearing you ask if they reviewed it. Because reviews matter that much. It is the number one thing that we need. If you're on social media and she's not, promote the hell out of her on social media. If you're both on social media, promote the heck out of it. Reshare her stuff, like her post, promote her stuff.

Nick (59:52.714)

Mm -mm.

John Baltisberger (59:56.87)

If you're on tick, like wherever you see her kind of lagging behind in promotion, you pick up the ball and run with it. because we're all, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. And part of the great thing about, you know, a partnership, like a marriage is you can pick up the ball where she's weaker. just like she was picking up the ball when you were in grad school, on things that you were dropping. So.

Also, give her time and space to write. If you see that she's writing every day at a certain time, make note of that and leave her the fuck alone while she writes. If you see that she is struggling to write during certain times, maybe say, hey, do you want me to leave you alone at a different time? Or...

Hey, I know she's working in the morning. Do you want me to make coffee and breakfast while so you can focus on writing? You know, figure out what works for her and then find a way to work around that schedule or to support her having that schedule. Because that's huge.

Nick (01:01:10.154)

Great advice there.

Alright, next comes from Little Forest Cat. I've never heard of ReadZ, but where do you go for covers?

John Baltisberger (01:01:36.678)

Readsy, yeah, I've heard of Readsy. I don't, I've never, so as an established publisher, again, over a hundred books, I've never used Readsy.

So I understand what you're saying about pre -made covers. I totally get it. However, the most successful cover artist in the indie horror scene right now is probably Don Noble. And he has a website full of pre -made covers. Now that said, you don't have to do that, but you need to have enough pre -made covers or covers you've worked on.

in order to showcase your work. So the cover artists I work with are Simone Tameta, Don Noble, and Jim Magpalza, and Luke Spooner. I met all of these people because I knew their work from other authors. And I developed a relationship because I saw their art being posted when other authors are publishing, like, here's my new book, covered by...

So you need to have a portfolio you can show. Other piece of advice is have a price list. If you're just getting started.

Look, I know what art costs, but if you're just getting started and you don't have any kind of name to yourself yet, don't try to charge $400 for a cover. Don't try to charge $200 for a cover because you're going to be more expensive than more established artists. I'm not saying your work's not worth that. I'm not saying you can't eventually charge that, but I am saying that if you're unproven,

John Baltisberger (01:03:35.59)

and I can get someone else who is proven for cheaper, who I've worked with, I'm probably gonna go with that person. That said, if your art kicks ass and you're affordable, I'm absolutely going to use you for something. I'll buy a pre, I often buy pre -mades that look cool and then put them in a folder to use at a later date. So make art.

Nick (01:03:59.434)

So how would those artists get that art in front of you? Like, where should they be posting, hashtags, whatever?

John Baltisberger (01:04:06.454)

I see art on Instagram, I see art on Facebook, I see art on Twitter. If you post something super sick, people are going to share it, they're gonna repost, they're going to redo it. And ask your friends to like say, hey, friend who has a much bigger name in the scene than I do, would you mind amplifying this? Would you mind resharing this? Because I'm trying to get work.

If you have friends that are authors already, ask them if you can make their next cover. And then show or read one of their books and make fan art of their book, right? Make a cover of their book, even if it already has a cover and then send it to them. It's like, hey man, I love your book. I made this art. Feel free to use that as promotional stuff. You know, it sucks, right? Because what I'm basically saying is work for exposure.

Don't actually make a cover for anyone without them paying you, but create art that people can use and people will start like taking notice. The Facebook groups are useful, but you have to post. I recommend making a sell sheet that has like different styles of art with a price list on it. So Simone does that where it's like small art.

$35, a line art, $50. Black and white, this size, this much. Full color painting, this much. And so that lets a publisher or author know like, that's in my budget. I can afford that and it looks good. And that's a huge driver.

Nick (01:05:51.818)

So I can say one thing I've done is since I'm going to Origins next month, the convention, I got a bunch of my illustrations printed on four by six or I think there may be five by seven postcards. The back is all my contact information and each postcard has a different illustration I've done. So I can fan them out to someone and be like, hey, I'm an illustrator. Take one that is a style that might be useful to you and then contact me if you need me.

So I got this through Moo .com, where when you do all the prints, they don't all have to be the same image. So I'm excited to see how that works out well, to see how that works and if that works out well. Because I figure if a potential customer can pick one that makes sense for them, they'll remember that interaction a lot better than if I just handed them something with a bunch of images on it.

John Baltisberger (01:06:28.39)


John Baltisberger (01:06:43.526)

I always recommend going to conferences and conventions. As an artist, go to... what's that fucking page? Go to... I can't think of it. They print... Go to any printer service. it's gonna drive me crazy. I've ordered so much stuff from them, I cannot remember for the life of me who they are.

have bookmarks made where one side of the bookmark is some cool ass art that you made and the other side is your contact info and maybe even a price list of like front cover this much, full cover wrap this much, internal art this much. And then just give those out to say like, hey, I'm a new cover artist. I'm looking to work with authors.

please take one of my bookmarks and if you have a project, keep me in mind and just give those out because a lot of our artists, authors, mind you, are still like going to shutter stock and filling together really shitty covers with stock imagery.

Nick (01:07:45.322)

That's a good idea.

John Baltisberger (01:08:03.974)

But if they have your card and you're, you know, affordable for an ebook cover...

It just makes sense. So bookmarks, just get your name out there. And again, a price list, like, I know a lot of artists don't have a set price list and they're really mad at me for saying all this, but a price list is the first thing I, as a publisher and author, ask for. Whenever anyone comes to me and says, hey, I make art, I say, what's your price list? What are your rates? Immediate, like almost a knee jerk response. I could hate your art. I will still ask for a price list.

Nick (01:08:36.426)


Well, it's funny you say that because like I don't have rates. I mean, I have an hourly rate that I use for everything from layout, from photography, from graphic design, from helping you unload your truck. No matter what it is, I'm going to charge $35 an hour at this point. And so like I really should have. I know if I wanted to do more commissions, I should have dedicated prices that I could tie to specific images and be like this image here.

John Baltisberger (01:08:55.238)


John Baltisberger (01:09:07.654)


Nick (01:09:08.906)

would cost you $200 or something like that. But.

John Baltisberger (01:09:11.558)

But you should basically know how long a piece of art is gonna take you. Like if I show you a piece and say, hey, I love this, how much is it going to cost me? I bet you can look at it as an established artist and say, that would probably take me four hours. So that would cost you $150.

Nick (01:09:15.402)


Nick (01:09:32.746)

Mm -hmm. Right. No, that's basically what I do. But I know, like, it would be better for the potential customer if I did have some type of thing on my website or whatever that listed pricing, something like that. But it's also like I don't want to do more commissions. It's like I should. But it's just not fun to only get paid once when I could get paid a million times for something that I own. Yeah. Yeah.

John Baltisberger (01:09:56.806)

That's true. That's why I like working with artists as opposed to hiring artists for one piece. Or honestly, what I tend to do is I develop relationships with artists and I have a cheaper rate than most people because I'm hiring them 10 to 20 times a year. I just had a cover done by Simone. It would have probably cost most people $500.

It's really nice. It's big. It's painted. I paid a lot less than that, but I've also paid Simone a few thousand dollars this year because I hire him so often. And then on overgrowth, which he's doing all the art for, we're doing the royalty split. So he's going to have ownership of that and be paid importuity every time I sell a copy. And, you know, that's another deal. Now I will say,

Artists do not expect that. Most authors want to pay you for a piece of cover art and then own it. And they should. I've had artists, I've had authors come to me and say, man, they want a piece of this royalty and they want, like, they're giving me a license to just use it for the front cover and then I can't use it for anything else. I say, walk away from that deal. When you buy a piece of art for your book, right,

you should own that and be able to use it to promote your book and be able to use it for whatever. So also know what you're offering. So if you're just doing a license, that's fine. But personally, I would not pay for a license for a cover piece. I would do something like an art book where you get paid every time I sell one, or I would be willing to do an RPG book with an artist, right? Where...

I don't pay them upfront, but they get royalties every single time I sell a book. But again, those are different models and just find out what works best for you.

Nick (01:12:05.29)

So this last one I have is kind of long, but feel free to interject with your commentary. It's really just someone giving their feedback on a predatory publisher that they ended up accidentally working with.

John Baltisberger (01:12:18.086)

I have a lot to say about that, I just dealt with that.

Nick (01:12:20.362)

Alright, so this comes from BooBoy92 and the subject line is Olympia Publishers Review. Don't bother like seriously as you furiously Google Olympia Publishers. Okay. Okay, I know you are all going to say, well, I told you so and you're a sucker. I know, I know.

John Baltisberger (01:12:35.174)

I'm making sure it's on the bad publisher list actually.

Nick (01:12:46.154)

But it's absolutely critical I share my experience of going with Olympia Publishers so you don't have to. A company which while describing itself as a hybrid publisher is nothing more than a hyper expensive self -publishing service that offers absolutely no benefits whatsoever and does everything on a bare minimum.

John Baltisberger (01:13:00.902)

Okay, okay, hold on. Hybrid publishing, don't do it. It's... So hybrid publisher... there it is, right... Publish... Okay, I'll share this screen for all of our friends there. This is the Horizine slash publishers. Don't pay to be published. Right there. son of a gun, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

Nick (01:13:06.538)

What is that? What does that mean?

Nick (01:13:12.906)


Nick (01:13:27.818)

Yeah, no problem. So for anyone listening to the podcast, this is a website John is sharing. It says, don't pay to be published. Book publishing companies that don't require an agent.

John Baltisberger (01:13:31.686)

Stay safe.

John Baltisberger (01:13:40.902)

Yes. Okay. So hybrid publishers tend to be a thing like, Hey, you pay us to do your cover and your art or all of this. And then we publish your book and it's rip. So the truth is, and this is non -negotiable, completely non -negotiable. This is me. This isn't me, John, the guy you've never heard of or John, the guy you kind of like. This is.

I'm your father now. I'm your dad. Never pay a publisher one goddamn cent. Not a single one. I'm a publisher. I have never taken a penny from anyone I have worked with. Now I charge as a writer, I charge as a designer, but I do not charge as a publisher. So.

Nick (01:14:12.202)


John Baltisberger (01:14:38.022)

You mentioned, here we are, this is Publishers to Avoid. And right here, Olympia. They want an upfront fee. Right here. If they ask for money, they are thieves and scam artists. Up above, here's a list of reputable small press publishers. We'll just go down here to, there we go, Madness Heart Press. Jeannie.

Nick (01:14:40.348)


Nick (01:15:01.898)

Nice. Nice.

John Baltisberger (01:15:06.886)

Jeannie who owns the horror zine looks over this stuff and she keeps a running tab of a hybrid and vanity publishers so that people know Who is a scam artist and don't work with them? And just to show what came in the mail. These are Kaiju poet John Baldisberger stick holographic stickers Yes, okay, so

Nick (01:15:31.082)


John Baltisberger (01:15:35.878)

Yeah, if there's more, that's fine, but like off the bat, never, ever, ever, ever pay a publisher anything. That is a scam. A publisher pays you, not the other way around.

Nick (01:15:52.042)

So Boo Boy went on to write, if you submit to Olympia Publishers, you'll be required to submit a quote, contributory contract, which costs circa 2200 pounds. Now being near the end of this process, I can absolutely say there is no benefit to doing this whatsoever. With myself having increasingly had to pay for third party services anyway, on top of this, because what they offered was so poor or insufficient. Olympia will now proofread or edit your work.

They will house style it to a professional appearance, but they do not correct or pick up on grammar mistakes. They offer no feedback. I had to do this myself or pay someone addition to it. Olympia offers dogshit tier cover design service, which looks unappealing using the cheapest graphic designers they could afford. They could find you're trying to look up some of their books. The proposals for the cover they offered me were so bad and so amateur, I could have done better myself. If you look at their books on sale, they all look dreadful.

John Baltisberger (01:16:39.558)

Yeah, yeah.

Nick (01:16:50.218)

Not trusting them, I paid privately again for an artist to create a design for me. Despite doing it for them, it took three months for Olympia to get back to me and add a title to that cover, which looked like it had been made on Microsoft Word with WordArt.

John Baltisberger (01:16:56.262)

John Baltisberger (01:17:03.814)

He's not, like, look at this, he is not joking.

Nick (01:17:09.098)

John Baltisberger (01:17:10.246)


Ugh, these are... These are really bad.

Nick (01:17:18.89)

rough. There's a cover, a novel cover designer on TikTok that I follow. His videos are incredible. I'm just like, just so inspiring graphic design choices. And anyways, yeah, those are rough. Beast in the bin. Okay.

John Baltisberger (01:17:27.014)


John Baltisberger (01:17:34.406)


the other thing to kind of know about this, is what he said immediately there. They didn't do anything for him, but an amateur layout and an, and paid someone probably on Fiverr. so this is, this is my website.

Nick (01:18:00.106)

I like that Mercy Kills cover.

John Baltisberger (01:18:01.67)

Yeah, so that is Luke Spooner. This was Don Noble, Luke Spooner. Nate did this one himself. Artist, Luke, I did this one, Luke, John Clayton. I can tell you the artist who did every single book on this site, because none of them were done through Fiverr, none of them were done through AI. All of these are actual art.

pieces, right? Except for the ones I did that look terrible. Because we all start somewhere. I it's just so frustrating. He paid $2 ,000 over $2 ,000 pounds rather for this company, Olympia Press to do layout.

Nick (01:18:31.21)

Mm -hmm.

Nick (01:18:52.362)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (01:19:00.326)

Layout for...

Layout for role -playing games cost a lot of money because there are a lot of different elements and a lot of different art things that have to go into it. Layout for a novel shouldn't cost more than like $200 on an outside. That's ridiculous. When I do layout for friends, I ask for like, buy me a cheeseburger. Like...

Nick (01:19:15.626)


John Baltisberger (01:19:32.582)

Like maybe $20 if I want to go get a Brito and a Coke. You know, it's work, right? But layout is not hard work. I have a layout artist I use for really intense graphically challenging book novels. Like if there's graphics or there's weird things with setting like House of Leaves style shit. Or...

Nick (01:19:46.026)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (01:20:02.438)

anthologies because there's a lot of different layout challenges for anthologies. I don't pay like, she doesn't charge me 2000 pounds, I'll tell you that much. So it's really upsetting to hear because what these companies do, hybrid, no, they're scam, it's a scam. It's a, they're con artists. I don't care if they say they're a vanity press or a hybrid publishing, they're scam artists.

Nick (01:20:23.146)


John Baltisberger (01:20:31.878)

I call myself a micro press, right? Or a boutique press sometimes, because we're small, but we're professional. You give me a finished manuscript, I then send it to a editor, one of the best in the industry as far as I'm concerned. And she does three passes where she sends it back and forth to you to answer issues and to...

and then she'll clean it all up and she'll send it to me. I do the layout. I hire one of our artists to make the cover based on what you want the cover to look like, but it's created for you. I do set up the distribution, I set up the marketing, I set up the social media, I do everything for that book.

And all you do is promote it on your stuff and collect royalties. That should be all you have to do. That's it. If you have to do anything yourself, other than promote it.

Nick (01:21:28.65)


John Baltisberger (01:21:37.286)

they are stealing from you. Because I get 50%, like as an indie publisher, I get 50 % of your royalties. I see that as I have to earn that. I have to earn the right to get any portion of your royalties. Because you did the hard, you wrote the book, that's the hard part. I'm basically taking the boring and frustrating part of the workload off of you so you can keep writing.

anything, any, yeah, it just, it makes me so mad. It makes me so I'm pisses me off so much to hear this kind of story.

Nick (01:22:15.818)

Well, on that note, I want to thank you for your time and for all the listeners who came in to listen to you once again. We can follow you all at Twitter .com slash one Moncast for the Wandering Monster podcast, Twitter .com slash MHP underscore horror. Is that right? For Madness Heart Press and Twitter .com slash Kaiju Poet for your specific things, your specific writings.

John Baltisberger (01:22:20.55)

Thank you.

John Baltisberger (01:22:29.638)

Mm -hmm.

John Baltisberger (01:22:35.59)

That's right. Correct.

John Baltisberger (01:22:41.798)


Nick (01:22:43.85)

kaijupoet .com and madnessheart .press. And if they wanted to specifically find your project, the Overgrowth,

John Baltisberger (01:22:54.63)

Mm -hmm. So that is tinyurl .com slash overgrowth dash game.

Nick (01:23:02.538)

Okay. I'll let you know. One thing I do for all of my Kickstarter projects is I create a sub domain on my website that goes directly to it. So like overgrowth .madnessheart .press, which is automatically redirect to whatever you need it to. Okay.

John Baltisberger (01:23:13.35)

Yeah, yeah, I did that for a odd gobs odd gobs .com took you directly to the thing but Yeah, I guess I needed like $5 ,000 for that game. So I was pulling out all the stops

Nick (01:23:25.386)

Yeah, well I don't, I mean I don't always buy a whole new domain, but with GoDaddy I could put as many free subdomains as I want. So, yeah. Anyways, anything you want to leave us with?

John Baltisberger (01:23:32.998)

Gotcha, gotcha.

John Baltisberger (01:23:39.974)

Writing and publishing is hard. It's not easy. It oftentimes isn't fun. But don't let anyone tell you that self -publishing is a mistake. Just keep in mind that you need to be professional. You need to hire an editor, cover artists, all that stuff. Hey, there's a cover artist looking for work on this show. So like you can get it done. Don't lose heart.

Nick (01:24:02.826)


John Baltisberger (01:24:08.198)

And don't go all out. Don't think that your first book is going to make you millions and you're going to get to retire. Do it because you love writing and because you want your books to be out there. And hopefully you'll be able to make a living doing it. But you got to do it for the love.

Nick (01:24:24.554)

Awesome. And I also want to highlight review, right? Review for books you like.

John Baltisberger (01:24:30.246)

Yes, holy shit. Review games and books you like, art you like, like, A, it keeps us going. Like seeing a positive review is like wind beneath our sails and B, it, it, it, getting a bunch of reviews for a book is what gets us on the algorithm. So if you want us to succeed, review our stuff.

Nick (01:24:53.706)

And to the listeners, please review this podcast. So, yep. Thank you so much. And I do hope to, at some point in the future, be on one Moncast when I have my next role playing game ready for some play testing and breaking, hopefully. Awesome. All right. Thank you so much, John.

John Baltisberger (01:24:56.838)

Do it.

John Baltisberger (01:25:08.166)


John Baltisberger (01:25:12.23)

Thank you.

A Conversation with John Baltisberger:



Chain Assembly: Art for profit sake is recorded through Riverside FM, distributed through Spotify for podcasters, and edited on Adobe Audition. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you learned anything useful or found this podcast helpful, please rate and review us five stars. If you want to learn more about me or my art, head over to ChainAssembly.com.

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