Spine Treatments

When obtaining art assets for books in the roleplaying industry, I have noticed there is a lot of input into getting the interior artwork and cover artwork. With selling pdfs (and other electronic editions) through places like DriveThruRPG, you’ll find that those files have the front cover, the back cover, and the interior. They are usually in that order so you can view the pdf as a two-up document with a separate page for the front cover, preserving the page spreads in the printed work. What seems to be forgotten — or at least not considered fully — is the treatment for the spine of the book. I find this odd, because at a store, your book is more likely to be shelved spine-out.

I hadn’t really noticed this until I developed the cover for Magpie Games’ Urban Shadows. For that book’s cover, we only had the front artwork which was to be placed on a black background. The back artwork was a composite of four of the character types, combined specifically for that space. We used an interesting typeface for the logo (and some chapter headings) with a white fill at about 85% opacity, re-purposing it for the spine. I wanted to make it big, bleeding over the edge of the printed spine. As a happy accident, this wound up looking amazing on bookshelves.

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2017 ENnie Awards and Layout Influence on a Line

7th Sea was nominated for seven ENnies. Products I worked on have been nominated for (and won) ENnies in the past, but not all of the awards are things I feel I should get an award for. Like last year Urban Shadows was up for Best Rules and Product of the Year. If Urban Shadows had won Product of the Year, I would have gone out and gotten a copy of the medal because layout has to do with creating the whole product. It won Best Rules, which had nothing to do with me, so I am okay with no award for Thomas.

7th Sea‘s Mark Richardson, our staff cartographer, was nominated for Best Cartography this year. Discussing the nominations, we realized this is the only award with nominations for 7th Sea products that was as close to 100% a single person’s award. Mark may have had guidance and feedback from others on the John Wick Presents team, but it’s as close to 100% his sole work as anything else JWP put out there.

This stood out to me because we’re pretty much working as a team on the products. On Pirate Nations, there are dozens of people who made that book into a thing that could be nominated for Best Supplement.

If we look at Best Writing, if a 7th Sea book was nominated for that, we’d have a lead developer, about six writers, two “additional” writers, two to four editors and proofreaders, and even me involved, sharing the credit. (Although my contribution to the writing is more in line edits, where I have collaborated with the lead developer to rewrite short passages to make copy fit into the space the design allows. Minor stuff, really.) But if we look at Unknown Armies (which is nominated), I would say that at least 97% of that is all Greg Stolze with some edits from proofreaders and maybe some developmental editing. On Unknown Armies, that was a creator’s vision going through the product; on 7th Sea, we have a developer for the book guiding a stable of writers through an entire work.

So I’m going to look through the nominations for product I’ve worked on, and show you how much input your layout artist has on each of these.

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