Board Game Calendar

My quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar with images from BoardGameGeek. Order at www.boardgamecalendar.com.

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The Calendars are Here! The Calendars are Here!

Chad DeShon
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This blog chronicles my quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar that highlights 55 different creative photographs that have been uploaded by BGG users. You can order the calendar at boardgamecalendar.com.

They weren't supposed to get here until Monday, but through the miracle of UPS the 2012 Board Game Desk Calendars arrived at my house from printers on Friday night.

I was incredibly nervous while opening the two forty pound boxes that contained the calendars. I was so scared the the printers had screwed something up. Maybe the colors would be all wrong. Maybe they put the binding on the wrong edge. Maybe it wouldn't be the right paper. Maybe the glossy side of the paper would be on the wrong side.

The calendars were shrunk wrapped into groups of five. The covers and bindings looked wonderful. I ripped open the shrink wrap and started flipping through every page. They look great. Just liked I hoped they would. These are calendars I can be proud to sell.

To make sure everyone gets their calendars by Christmas, I wanted to get the international orders (save Canada) in the mail on Saturday morning. My wife addressed all the envelopes for me so that they would be legible.

The customs forms weren't so lucky. After filling out so many, my hand was seriously cramping. I was rushing to get them all filled out before the post office closed. I hope I did everything right and that everyone gets their calendars without trouble.

All the international orders went out on Saturday. Monday morning I made a second trip to the post office to ship the calendars to the US and Canada.

When I estimated shipping costs, I thought the calendars would weigh about 6 ounces each. I didn't include the weight of the packaging or the increased weight for upgrading the paper quality. The calendars ended up weighing almost a full pound! Result: I ended up spending twice what I thought I would on shipping. Whenever people talk about how much international shipping costs, they aren't exaggerating. Ouch.

I am so happy to finally see a finished product after all this work. Some of you should be getting your calendars in the next couple days. I hope you're as happy with them as I am.


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Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:05 pm
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Choosing the photographs

Chad DeShon
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This blog chronicles my quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar that highlights 55 different creative photographs that have been uploaded by BGG users. You can order the calendar at boardgamecalendar.com.

The most commented on, questioned, and criticized aspect of the Board Game Calendar is the selection of photographs. Which photos I choose to include, and which photos I choose not to include.

Some of the remarks have been negative: "I don't see anything special about the photos you choose.", or "This picture is way better. Why didn't you include it?". But most have just been inquisitive. People want to know how I made the selections. People who have a photograph in the calendar are curious as to why that particular one was chosen. Others are just curious about the process.

Here's the main criteria that I used. I didn't explicitly set out with all of these in mind, but formed them as I started picking out photos with the goal of creating a well-rounded, yet consistent set. There are probably additional factors that I have forgotten about or that were more subconscious.

1. Game Components
BGG divides photographs into three categories: people, game, and creative. I wanted this calendar to feature games, game boards, game boxes, and game bits. So I didn't consider photos of people playing games or pictures that are comics or game parodies.

2. Commercial Use Allowed
Since I didn't start working on this calendar until October, I didn't have time to attempt to contact people to try to get permission to use their photographs. I also really wanted to support people who had already chosen to allow other people to use their images. I choose to limit my search to photos that were licensed to allow commercial use. (More on the awesomeness of the Creative Commons License here.)

3. Resolution
You probably know that you need a higher quality image for print than you do for viewing on a computer monitor. Monitors only show about 90 dots per inch, while printing requires 250-300 dots per inch. Since each photograph is printed 8.5 inches wide, I was only able to consider that were at least 2200 pixels wide. Of course, many people only consider on screen viewing when choosing what quality of photo they should upload. I had to pass up many great shots because they weren't high enough resolution.

4. Filled the frame
This one is pretty straight forward. The photos are being printed full page. So, I'm not going to use images where the action only takes place on one side of the photo, even if it is otherwise a great image.

5. Artistic
The calendar features images that required some artist thought, composition, or framing by the photographer. I want to see contrasting color, dynamic lighting, or creative arrangements. If someone sees the calendar on your desk, the photo should make them want to ask you about it. Perfect shots of game boards or boxes are very helpful when evaluating a game, but not what I was looking for in the calendar.

6. Popular Game
Bonus points if the image comes from a game that most people would recognize. Even more points if it isn't immediately obvious what game it is from, but you can figure it out after a second look.

7. Pique Interest
If it isn't a game that people will recognize, then I hope the components will be featured in a way that will make you curious enough to learn more about the game.

8. Variety
Finally, I tried to feature a variety of different types of game. Abstracts, war games, Euros, and kids games. Games in progress, bits by themselves, games with custom enhancements, shots that are carefully arranged, and shots that were taken ad hoc. This allows the calendar to appeal to more people, keeps things from becoming repetitive, and hopefully will expose you to some games you wouldn't otherwise see.

My process was pretty straight forward: I looked at a lot of pictures. I don't know how many thousands of photos I scanned through. Thankfully BGG allows you to filter and only see photographs that are licensed to allow commercial use. Truthfully, I think I have seen a thumbnail of every photo on BGG that allows commercial use.

Every time I saw a good one, I would check its resolution. Unfortunately, many of them (especially older pictures) weren't high enough for print. But if it was, it got saved to my hard drive. Then I narrowed those down, little by little, to the 55 that made it into the 2012 Board Game Desk Calendar.
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Wed Dec 7, 2011 4:14 pm
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You don't market cat food to cats

Chad DeShon
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This blog chronicles my quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar that highlights 55 different creative photographs that have been uploaded by BGG users. You can order the calendar at BoardGameCalendar.com.

When I first thought about how I would market the Board Game Calendar, I thought it was going to be easy. Board gamers will want the calender, and board gamers hang out on BGG. So, I'll write about the calendar on BGG, and sales will come raining it. This really is the perfect Christmas gift for a board gamer.

To an extend, that has worked. But I missed something key in my initial train of thought. For many people, calendars fall into the gift category. A board game calendar is something they would like to receive, but maybe not something they are going to buy for themselves.

When I write about the calendar on BGG, the end consumer is becoming aware of the calendar. But that isn't who I need to reach. I need your spouses, parents, friends, weird uncles, and children to know about the calender. They are the ones who will buy it for you as a gift.

This is a trickier proposition. Board gamers have a website they all visit. There isn't one website where all the people who know board gamers hang out together (although maybe there should be). I am left with trying to reach your friends and family through you. Here's how I'm going to do it:

1) First, consider just buying the calendar for yourself. If you must, wrap it up, put it under the tree, and put a tag on it that says "From Santa".

2) Second, are there any friends or family near you right now? If so, pretend to be talking to yourself, but talk loud enough that they will be able to hear you. Say, "Wow, that's a cool idea." Pause a few seconds. "I'd really like to have one or two of those". Wait a few more seconds. "<Name of friend or family>, someone made a board game desk calendar. Check it out at BoardGameCalendar.com. I think it is pretty sweet."

3) For friends or family that are not with you right now, you are going to have to try something less subtle. This is where I have done a little work to help you out. I just created a page on BoardGameCalendar.com called "What is this?". You can send your friends or family who don't play board games to this page. I've explained the whole board game situation to them. Now they will feel educated, and they'll know they are getting you something you want.

To help them out, I've made it so you can personalize the page. If you're going to email a link to someone, then this is what you want to send them: http://boardgamecalendar.com/pages/what-is-this?Brad. See the part at the end, after the question mark, where it says "Brad"? You can change that to your name, and your name will appear in the explanation instead of Brad. Pretty clever, huh? This way they won't forget who they're supposed to give the calendar to come Christmas morning.

In case it wasn't clear, you are the cats in the analogy. I think this is a really interesting problem; a puzzle I want to solve. I am surrounded by the people who are most likely to want the calendar. Counterintuitively, those people might not be the ones most likely to buy the calendar. Hopefully this explanation page will help.
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Thu Dec 1, 2011 5:45 am
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Cyber Monday - 10% Off - Weekly Board Game Desk Calendar

Chad DeShon
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This blog chronicles my quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar that highlights 55 different creative photographs that have been uploaded by BGG users. You can order the calendar at boardgamecalendar.com.

If you order your calendar today you can save 10% by using coupon code MONDAY. You will be prompted for the code in the very last step of the checkout process after entering your payment information.

The 2012 Board Game Desk Calendar is a 8.5" x 5.5", 110 page, weekly calendar that features full page board game photographs. The photos were all taken and uploaded by BGG users. Each page also contains a tip/challenge to help you determine which game to play each week.

You can order the calendar at boardgamecalendar.com.
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Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:43 pm
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BGG Con Report

Chad DeShon
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This blog chronicles my quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar that highlights 54 different creative photographs that have been uploaded by BGG users. You can order the calendar at boardgamecalendar.com.


Like everyone else I talked to, I had a great time at BGG Con. The endless stream of games was great. Battling Tops was over the top in the best way possible. The game show was remarkable. The highlight for me personally was a game of Junta that started at 1am and ended at 5am.

As I posted earlier, I was hoping to promote the board game calendar a little. I was shocked by the number of people who already heard of it. A number of people came up to me and said they had read about the calendar on BGG and thought it was a great idea. I even met some of the people who have photographs featured in the calendar.

It was weird to be walking down the hall and hear someone say, "Hey, are the guy who made the calendar?" Even when I was eating at Hard Eights, someone stopped me to say hi and chat about the calendar. Even better, he stopped me again later to give me cash for a calendar.

My first few blog posts must have been too pessimistic. Often I was asked if I was actually going to get the calendar printed. The answer is yes, yes, yes. I have sent files to the printer and approved the proof. They should be shipping calendars to me soon, and then I will be able to ship them on to the dozens of people who have already ordered one. If you were waiting to place an order because you didn't know for sure it is was really going to happen, then wait no more. Order a calendar at boardgamecalendar.com.

If you talked to me about the calendar at BGG Con, then thank you. It's very encouraging to hear that other people like what you are working on.

If we played games together at BGG Con, then thank you. I got to play some of my favorites with new people and some games that I have been wanting to try for a long time.
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Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:26 am
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BGG Con + T-shirt

Chad DeShon
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This blog chronicles my quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar that highlights 54 different creative photographs that have been uploaded by BGG users. You can order the calendar at boardgamecalendar.com.

I'm at my first ever BGG Con. Although I am here to play games, I figured this would be a great opportunity to promote the calendar.

The best promotion I could think of was to look like a fool. So, I created two BoardGameCalendar.com t-shirts. I used iron transfer paper. I wouldn't say they look good, but they get the message out.

I'm kicking myself a little because the shirts turned out glossy. If I would have read the directions for the iron transfer paper I would have known to peel the sheet off while it was still hot if I wanted a matte finish. Instead I waited for the sheet to cool before peeling it, which is what you are supposed to do for glossy finish.

If you are at BGG Con, come say hi to the guy in the goofy t-shirt. If you aren't, here's a picture:




Forgive my typos and brevity. I am posting from my phone.
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Wed Nov 16, 2011 5:25 am
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10% Off for Secret Santa Participants

Chad DeShon
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If you're thinking of buying the Board Game Weekly Desk Calendar for your Secret Santa, then I have good news for you. You can get 10% off of your order by using coupon code SANTA. High quality prints of 55 beautiful photos from BGG users for 10% less.

Just go through the normal purchase process at BoardGameCalendar.com. You will be able to enter the code in the very last step, after you have entered your payment information. Discount is valid until the end of the day Tuesday.

I am also happy to report that the calendar design has been finalized. Here is a sample page.

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Sun Nov 13, 2011 3:39 am
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Picking a Font

Chad DeShon
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This blog chronicles my quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar that highlights 54 different creative photographs that have been uploaded by BGG users. You can order the calendar at boardgamecalendar.com.


Most of the hard work designing the calendar is done now. I have picked a printer. Chosen a page size, weight, and finish. I have selected, cropped, and scaled the photographs. And, made sure they all have high enough resolution.

The easy part is all that is left. I need to design the "calendar part" (the part that lists the days of the week) of the calendar. Turns out this isn't so easy after all.

Each page represents one week. Each page needs just: seven dates, seven days of the week, the current month, and maybe some lines between the days. I could just slap all those elements on the page, and the calendar would be functional. But, I want more than just functional. I want clean, simple, out of the way, eloquent.

When you're working with so few elements, they start to get in your head. The repetition in the words starts to look funny. The letters "day" are on each page 7 times. Hmmm. Maybe I should abbreviate. How much left margin should there be? Is the date or the day of the week more important? What shade of gray is the perfect shade? How thick should the dividing lines be? How should I display the month when a week spans two months?

There's one more choice: font. I've never been much of a typography snob, but I think it can certainly matter. I mean, if I were making a reprint of heavy German election game, I wouldn't use Comic Sans. For the calendar, I was considering Inconsolata, but then I realize it is monospaced. Now, I'm looking at Arimo, but I haven't made a decision yet.

Picking this font is a little different than normal. I am only worried about the appearance of 19 particular words, 31 numbers, and the number 2012. Many fonts have funny looking lowercase y's, capital J's, or 3's. Those particular letters are very important to me. Every day ends in Y and three months are led off with the letter J. If there are any amateur (or professional) typographers in the crowd, feel free to leave a comment with your favorite/recommendation.

In the big picture, these are small questions. But whenever you are working on a project, the part you are working on at the current moment seems huge. That delusion allows us to make sure the small things (the easy things) get done, and get done properly. There's beauty in the details.
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Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:48 am
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You Can Go Your Own Way

Chad DeShon
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This blog chronicles my quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar that highlights 54 different creative photographs that have been uploaded by BGG users. You can order the calendar at boardgamecalendar.com.


In my previous post, I told you that I was changing the process for getting the calendar printed away from my original plan. I had planned on using a calendar template provided by the print shop. Now I am going to use a more custom solution instead. That has caused some things to change:

1. 500 Using the calendar template, I would have needed to print at least 500 calendars. This would have been very risky. I have no idea how many calendars I will be able to sell. Now I'll be able to print smaller quantities.

My previous post mentioned that I still hadn't sold any calendars. I am proud to report that is no longer the case. Thank you if you have already placed your order.

2. 6 - 8 weeks The calendar template had a 6-8 week lead time. I wouldn't have received any of them from the printer until December. I don't understand what was going to take so long, but the custom designed calendar can be printed in a week. This will allow early purchasers to tell their friends about their awesome new calendar, while their friends still have time to buy their own.

3. Expectations A local print shop was kind enough to order a sample calendar made from the template. It wasn't as cool as the pictures made it seem. It had a cardboard cover that I thought we be useful, but it wasn't. It looked like it would prop the calendar up for you. In reality it was floppy and too big for the pages inside. With a custom solution, that pointless piece can be removed.

3. Bigger By creating my own design, I can make the calendar bigger. Each page will be 5.5 x 8.5 inches. If I used the template, each page would have been about half that size. Music is better when it is louder, and these photographs look better when they are larger.

4. Full bleed Full bleed is print shop speak that means printing all the way to the edge of the page with no margin or border. Printers can't print that close to the edge. To achieve this affect the paper has to be trimmed after the printing is done. This wasn't an option with the template, but it is on a custom job. Full bleed will give the calendar a bolder, fuller, professional feel.

5. Thick paper A calendar made from the template would have used normal 20lb paper, like you would see in a normal copy machine. Instead of that, I am going to use paper that is three times thicker. 120lb card stock. Each page will be as thick as a post card.

6. Shine I'll be able to use paper that is glossy on one side, but matte on the other. The glossy coating on the side with the image will allow the photograph to pop. It will look like a nice photograph should. The other side, which lists the days of the week, won't have the glossy coating so it will be easy to write on.

7. Eight days a week With no template, I am free to make the "list of days" part of the calendar look however I want. I hadn't given much thought to this half of the calendar before. Instead I had focused more on the beautiful photographs. This part will stay clean and simple so that it is useful but the focus stays on the pictures. I'll have more to say about this design process (layout, fonts, line styles, weights, etc) in my next post.

Initially I was upset that I wouldn't be able to use the template, but the calendar is going to be much better without it. I'm more excited than ever to get the new bigger, brighter, better calender into everyone's hands. If I can impress people with the 2012 calendar, then the 2013 calendar should sell itself.


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Thu Oct 27, 2011 8:00 am
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Rejection

Chad DeShon
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This blog chronicles my quest to publish and sell a weekly desk calendar that highlights the creative images that have been uploaded by BGG users. You can order the calendar at boardgamecalendar.com


Let's cut right to it. No one has placed any orders for the board game calendar yet. Not a single order. That burns.

This isn't the first setback. (Setback isn't even the right word. Non-launch might be more appropriate. For it to be a setback, I would have to have some progress first.) There have been multiple times when I should have thrown in the towel.

I thought I would be able to fund the printing through KickStarter. It looks easy. Every week I see another game raising tens of thousands of dollars. I figured it would be easy for my small project to get funded. I didn't get the chance to even try. KickStarter rejected me.

KickStart is the place people go when the "traditional" funding resources won't fund them. KickStarter is for the crazy projects. It harnesses the power of the people. They didn't think my idea was even good enough to show the people. The place for rejects rejected me. It's like having your cousin refuse to go to prom with you.

I pressed on. I told myself (and still believe) that I was rejected because KickStarter wants to fund projects that are more original. I didn't explain how the calendar is a physical representation on an ongoing community art project that is taking place in the image galleries right here on BoardGameGeek. I didn't show how it was different than just another calendar with cute cats.

So I took the message straight to the people and laid out my idea in a forum post on BGG. I told everyone I was gauging interest in an awesome calendar idea, and even included a few samples images of what the calendar would look like.

Crickets.

In a super lame move, I replied to my own thread, and added even more details and more images. Still, no replies.

Does this mean people don't want the calendar? I don't think so. Instead, I think it means that BBGers don't want to discuss yet another great idea. You see these types of posts all the time. Someone has a great idea, and they want everyone else to get just as excited. Where is that user a week later? Normally they are gone, on to pursue their next great idea. Ideas are cheap. Everyone has ideas. It's always going to be hard to get other people excited about your product when it is still just an idea. Real artists ship.

If that's the case, then I will ship. I made an online store, produced mock ups of the calender, and started this blog to try to get people interested. And it's worked. For the first time, real people who aren't related to me started replying. My blog posts have thumbs and comments. People have sent me GeekMail. Advice and opinions have been offered. What I didn't get though was sales. No one actually typed in those 16 magic digits and sent me money.

I need to have files to the printer by this coming Monday in order to ship the calendars in time for Christmas. The minimum order is 500 calendars. I have some choices.

1. Go ahead and place the order. Then, channel my inner salesman and try to get a few hundred sold over the next couple months. This is a horrible idea. All the evidence says that there is no way I will be able to sell hundreds of these.

This could very easily end in me losing thousands of dollars. With no money but lots of calendars, I will have to give one to everyone I know as a Christmas present. It will be terribly awkward watching them pretend to like it.

2. Accept the fact that there is no demand for these calenders. I could return to just playing board game and forget all about printing pretty pictures of them. I am too suborn (optimistic) to choose this option.

More time is need to develop a market for this calendar. Most people won't consider buying it until Christmas gift buying season starts in full force after Thanksgiving. Further, this is a product that might struggle its first couple years, but then start to really grow after that. A high quality 2012 calendar could produce sales of the 2013 calendar via word of mouth.

3. Find a way to print less than 500 calendars. This is what I am doing now. It hasn't been easy, but I have found a way it will be possible.

The calendar will look a little different than some of the pictures I posted earlier. It won't have the fancy cover that is was going to have before, but it will be bigger now (8.5 x 5.5 inches). I think that is actually better because it will show off the photographs better.

The point of this post isn't to gather your pity, but rather to share the process. Five years from now, everyone on BGG is going to be order the 2017 calendar, and this post will serve as a reminder to how it all started.

The calendar is still for sale at boardgamecalendar.com. I have removed the old images and will have more detailed pictures of the new format as soon as possible.
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Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:26 pm
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