Update: Preorders of Masks are now sold out!
I need to make a couple of changes to the preorder process for our newest book, Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game . I’ll explain the changes first, then the reasons behind them.
Here’s what’s changing:
The hardcover edition will now be a limited print run
There will only be two opportunities to buy the hardcover edition: by preordering it from Engine Publishing  or picking it up at the Studio 2 Publishing booth (#320) at GenCon 2011. After those copies are gone, the hardcover edition will not be reprinted (barring incredibly unusual circumstances). You’ll be able to buy the softcover edition directly from Engine Publishing, in retail stores, and online in various places.
It’s possible that I may have a few copies left over after preorders, but I can’t guarantee it. If you want Masks in hardcover, your best bet is to preorder it now .
If you want to guarantee that you get a hardcover, preorder by 7/20
In order to have books in hand to ship in early August, I have to order them soon — tomorrow, in fact! If you want to guarantee that you get one of the limited hardcover copies, please preorder by 10:00 pm Mountain on 7/20. We’ll keep preorders open until 7/29 or until we run out of books to sell, whichever comes first.
To be completely clear: If you’ve already preordered Masks, or do so by 7/20, you will receive one of the limited run of hardcover copies. If you wait past 7/20, you might still be able to snag the hardcover, but quantities will be limited to what I have on hand.
Books will ship in early August
I spoke to our printer yesterday, and they are currently backlogged. There’s a good chance I won’t be able to start shipping books out on 8/1 as planned, because I likely won’t have them by then. As soon as they come in, I’ll turn them around as quickly as I can — I want you to get your book as soon as possible!
The softcover edition
We’ve always planned to print a softcover edition for retail sales; the only change here is that this will now become the “main” edition of Masks, and will also be the edition I sell through the Engine Publishing website. It will be available in August for $34.95, and will include a free PDF copy. There will also be a package deal with Eureka (price TBD), and stores should have the softcover edition on their shelves in October.
The PDF edition
We’ve had a lot of requests for the standalone PDF edition of Masks, which will be available once preorders close. It will now be priced at $16.95 (not $19.95, as previously planned). It’s DRM-free and fully bookmarked and hyperlinked. As with the print edition, we’ll be offering this in a package deal with the Eureka PDF (price also TBD).
Eight rave reviews
Since launch day, Masks has received several more rave reviews, the latest from EN World , Obsidian Portal , and Newbie DM . If you’re still on the fence about the book, you can check out all eight reviews  in one place.
Why the changes?
Firstly, I apologize for making changes midstream — that wasn’t part of the plan for Masks. And I say “I” because while this book is very much a Gnome Stew team effort, I’m the publisher and this stuff is my responsibility.
Doing Masks in hardcover was an experiment. Even though it’s our second book together, and we have a year of experience selling Eureka, this is all still pretty new.
We knew the hardcover edition would cost more to produce than the softcover, but we wanted to make sure the price was reasonable for as many GMs as possible. For a book of this size and quality, we thought $39.95 was reasonable — even though that price point doesn’t fully cover the difference in cost between the hardcover and the softcover. In other words, to keep the book within reach of more GMs, we deliberately absorbed some of the cost ourselves.
Masks in hardcover should really be $44.95 or more; at $39.95, it doesn’t make financial sense for us to keep the hardcover edition in print. So we’re switching to softcover, and making the hardcover a limited run. The end result will be a nice limited hardcover for those who want it, and a lower-cost softcover for those who don’t.
The reason I can’t guarantee hardcover availability after 7/20 is a bit more inside baseball-y than that, but here it is. The plan with Masks (as with Eureka) was to wait until around this time to order our first print run from the printer. I have enough sales data now to make an informed guess about how many copies we’ll need for preorders, and I can use the revenue from preorders to order additional copies to sell in the future.
…Except that now I’m not using hardcover revenues to order more hardcovers, I’m using hardcover revenues to order softcovers. That means I can’t take a guess and then add extra copies on top of that, because I don’t want extra hardcovers — I want extra softcovers. 7/20 is the cutoff to make that work, and I’ll be ordering our entire hardcover print run, plus our first softcover print run, on 7/21.
Thanks for reading, and hopefully for understanding, and again I apologize for the changes. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to field them in the comments — and if you want to preorder the limited hardcover of Masks, which I hope you will, don’t wait too long !