Size Matters

Posted: April 20, 2010 in Dead of Night, publishing
Tags: ,

One of the key design considerations with Dead of Night II was the physical size of the finished book. What size and format should it be printed in? Is this something designers normally consider? I don’t know, but with  Dead of Night it’s a real biggie (no pun intended). For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dead of Night, the the first edition book was truly pocket-sized – about 4 inches x 5 inches, if I recall correctly.

This was a great gimmick – hell, I’m the first to admit to the fact that when I started writing it, that was all there was to the game – and worked wonders at grabbing people’s attention when it was sitting on the stall at a convention. The end result is achieved, the book is in the hands of the punter and half the battle is won. Great, surely?

But, turns out that the format has it’s downside. I started to hear back from retailers that they kept losing the book on their shelves because it was so small, and hence ordered more copies. What’s wrong with that, I’ll pretend to hear you cry? Surely that’s another sale you can chalk up. Well, yes, short-term, that might be a win. But it plays hell with the long term prospects of the game – a retailer is only going to make this mistake once, after all. After all, if it’s missing on the shelf, no one is going to find it to buy, so it’s not going to get into the hands of the customers or get reordered. Those customers who did find a copy weren’t entirely happy with the format either. My friend Scott also managed to lose a copy in his house, and other feedback suggested that its size made it awkward to flip through and read.

Of course, the story is a little more complex than that, or else I’d just change the size and quit yabbering about it. See, some people actually liked the small format. It was pocket sized, after all, so people found it easy to just have with them to flick through on the bus or grab for a game at short notice. It was unique too, and that appealed on its own level.

Whilst I could see both sides of the argument, I started to lean towards the argument that bigger was better. I’d come to the realisation that the game itself was far more than the pocket nature of the format, and that the format stood in the way of others realising that somewhat. It also didn’t fit on my shelf terribly well, and was a pain in the ass to display at conventions. Paul Bourne, who is designing and illustrating the second edition, put the nail in the coffin of the format argument, expressing his preference for a larger format to best make use of the artwork (which you’ll get to see sooner rather than later!).

So, digest sized it is. You can still fit it in your pocket if you roll it up, but you won’t be losing it on bookshelves any time soon.

  1. I prefer smaller books as well. My favourites are the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition, and the various “pocket” books that Mongoose published (Traveller, etc.) and Cubicle 7 are also doing (Thrilling Tales, etc.)

    Larger books are good because they fit in the standard size for roleplaying books, but if two versions of the same book were available (standard and pocket), I’d go for pocket each time.

    • andrewkenrick says:

      Even in its larger size Dead of Night remains roughly the same size as the Explorer’s Edition. The first edition was even smaller than a paperback book, truly pocket-sized.

  2. Paul Fricker says:

    If you mean Scott Dorward, hell, you could lose a sack of dead badgers in his house! No offence Scott, but I fear for my life when I sit in your lounge and look at those teetering columns of books and DVDs.

    I can see the dilemma Andy.

    The unspeakable Oath used to be published in an odd format, like A5 but wider, I think US letter folded in half. It was really cool and I love it. Then it went standard A4 / magazine size with a colour cover and that seems pretty dull to me. Somehow it wasn’t special and lacked the intimacy of the cheaper smaller product.

    I think that the size you’re going for will make the sellers happy as it will fit their shelves among all their other similar products. I guess the question is do you want to just be mixed in among the other products?

  3. Scott Dorward says:

    No offence taken, Paul! I was going to post much the same thing.

    While I love the idea of the tiny size of the first edition in principle, I can carry a digest-sized book in my pocket just as easily. Also, anything that means I’ll be able to see Mr Bourne’s artwork in more detail has got to be good!

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