Guy's Blog

Guy frequently keeps this blog updated with thoughts, challenges, interviews and more!

Tag: crowdfunding

AL-front-cover

I get asked a lot about crowdfunding campaigns, especially for writers, so I thought I would do a complete breakdown of exactly where all the money came from and went to in my last campaign, which raised 12,093 euros in 30 days. Be warned, this post will make the accountants among you happy, but has nothing whatever to do with actual swords, writing, or anything other than the business side of running a crowdfunding campaign. For more general advice on crowdfunding, go here.

First, some background:

I wasn’t sure whether I should even do a campaign for this book. I had sufficient funds to pay for layout and editing without it, and as a non-fiction sequel, the already tight niche is even smaller. I asked my wife, and she said to do it so I did.* Four hours later I had shot and cut the video (with a very sore throat, hence the growl), worked out the goal and perks, and written the story text. I sent a link to the draft of the campaign to my mailing list, and was rewarded by some very useful feedback over the next few days. Another hour of work, and all the corrections that I could make in a reasonable time were done. Several folk suggested re-shooting the video, but I was too sick and it would have taken too long; because I hadn’t really planned this, we were only about 30 days out from Christmas.

The Campaign

I launched the campaign on November 23rd, and it hit its realistic target of 2,500e in about 9 hours. Realistic in that it would be enough money to pay my freelancers, and realistic in that I could reasonably expect my current readership to buy enough copies of the new book to meet that target. This was largely due to my mailing list; the people on it do tend to want to read my books and generally support my work. Keeping them informed, and perhaps more importantly asking them to get involved, really helped.

When working out your goals and perks, it is very important to bear in mind the difference between fixed and variable costs. In brief, the fixed costs are what it takes to produce the first copy: paying the freelancers, uploading the book to the printers, my time to get it to that point. The variable costs are what it costs to produce each copy after that: in this case printing and shipping, indiegogo and paypal fees, sales tax, and so on.  A common pitfall of crowdfunding campaigns is to underestimate, or simply forget, the variable costs. You might raise all your fixed costs and still end up losing money to actually fulfil your orders if you're not careful.

The campaign then followed the typical pattern; a slump in the middle, followed by a rise at the end. Starting strong certainly helps to get the word out; the day I launched, it did so well so fast it made it onto the Indiegogo homepage. According to the stats, 1,444e of contributions came direct from Indiegogo, which suggests that people found the campaign from outside my usual channels.

Where on the net are people coming from?

Most of my marketing was done through my email list, and through Facebook. According to the stats, 6,450 came from “direct traffic, email etc.”, and only 2,441 through Facebook. Twitter brought in a princely 50e. My own website, guywindsor.net/, brought in 667. This is a pretty convincing argument in favour of direct marketing, I think!

Referrals

You can see from this graph below that almost all of the trackable referrals were done using the link associated with me: 8,198 e.

 

I have edited out the names of the top referrers, because several of them backed the campaign anonymously.

Again this is not a surprise, and does not diminish the excellent and helpful efforts of many kind people. It’s just a fact that nobody does as much publicity as the ones who benefit most directly! My link generated 207 contributions in total from 1855 referrals; 8.96 referrals for every contribution; 4.419e/ referral, average contribution 39.60.

I also ran a referrals competition. There were two categories: eyeballs and sales:

Eyeballs: Whoever sends the most people to see the campaign will get two free copies of the book in hardback, sent wherever you want.

Sales: The person whose referrals generate the highest sales will also get two hardbacks, and can commission an instalment of The Swordsman’s Quick Guide, on any topic you like. I will write the booklet for you and publish it (at my discretion; if your request is vastly off-topic I might choose to simply send you the finished booklet for you to do with what you like).

If the same person wins both categories, I  add a runner-up prize; whoever comes second in the sales category gets a free hardback, signed and sent wherever you like.

How do you take part?

You need to log in to Indiegogo, which generates your own specific url for the campaign, which will look like http://igg.me/at/longsword2/x/00000 where the last set of numbers is your unique identifier. Then share this link as best you can, and Indiegogo will track the link for you.

(source)

The winners of the competition were:

Cecilia Äijälä 152e from 4 contributions and 334 referrals

Nico Moeller: 150e from 3 contributions and 20 referrals

Gindi Wauchope: 100e from 2 contributions and 53 referrals

Cecilia, the winner, generated four quite large contributions totalling 152e from 337 referrals. That’s 2.217 e/referral, but average contribution 38e.

Referrals are tricky; some kind souls managed to send 40+ people my way, and I failed to sell them a single book. The lesson here of course is that not all traffic is created equal.

Where in the world are people coming from?

It’s also interesting (to me at least) that the contributions by country are quite different to my usual pattern of book sales. In both cases the USA is the biggest market, but here Finland is the next biggest, and by quite some margin. This makes sense given that I introduced historical swordsmanship to the country and have been largely responsible for its spread here, but through normal channels, as far as I can tell, my books don’t do very well here at all! I guess folk are used to being able to ask me in person.

The Perks:

Controversially, I didn’t bother with any perk below 15e for the ebook. This was deliberate. It has been my experience that backers at the lower perk levels are just as, if not more, demanding of my time and attention as those throwing much larger sums at me. The cost:benefit ratio does not work out. I also figured that this was as low as I wanted to go price-wise to sell the book, so what, really, was I going to offer readers who can’t afford my book? I have a ton of free stuff online already, so it’s not as if poorer or less committed people can’t have a fair crack at my work.

This time, nobody went for the “Patron” perk at 1,500e; this was actually a relief, as I wanted to dedicate this book to two friends of mine, but I also couldn’t afford to pass up that kind of money if it was offered. Our glorious Patron Teemu Kari put 25,000e down to become the patron of Audatia, and the excellent Christian Cameron gave 750 dollars to be the patron of Veni Vadi Vici, so it’s worth having these more expensive perks, just don’t rely on them.

These are the perks, and how they performed. I can't get tables to work in WordPress, hence the screenshot from Pages:

The Stretch Goals

Remember, I was sick, and it was the run-up to Christmas. I couldn’t face the idea of creating a bunch of exciting stretch goals that would then commit me to a bunch of work I might not have the energy for. So the first stretch goal was, if we reached 5k, I would bundle two print and play Audatia decks into every perk. I never got round to creating another stretch goal. I felt that the value was there already; backers at even the 15e perk would get The Medieval Longsword in ebook form, Advanced Longsword: Form and Function in ebook form, and the two decks, a total value of about 40e if you bought them all separately.

In sum, the campaign generated 12,093e from 303 contributions from 273 backers.

Think like a writer

If you're a writer, thinking about doing this for your own book, take a moment to observe that most ebooks sell for under 10 euros, and most paperbacks for under 20. Yet in this campaign, the 303 total contributions cost an average of 39.91 euros. In other words, the price anchor that is in force with books, is clearly not present in the same way here, though all  I am doing is selling books. The value added, for the reader, is of course the feeling that they are directly contributing to the production of work they value. And they are. I cannot stress this enough: this is not in any way taking advantage of the backers; it's giving them the opportunity to do something they want to do, namely get involved.

So that’s where the money came from: where did it go?

Twelve thousand euros looks and feels like a big pile of cash, at least it does to me. But it is really important for you to see where it all goes, and at the end of the day, how much of it is actually income? It turns out that about 31% of the total raised is income.

Note: The Medieval Dagger order: As you can see, this perk cost me 719.75e to fulfil, and brought in 926e. Of that 926, after Indiegogo's cut, Paypal's cut, and sales tax are taken off, we have, hmmmm: 747 euros, more or less. So that perk made me no money, but, and it's a big BUT: it made a lot of backers very happy

Note: Advertising:

For the first time, I used paid Facebook ads, to see what kind of traction I’d get. I boosted 3 posts, which generated

The Medieval Dagger perk update: 510 reach and 25 clicks for 5e

Something useful from the blog (re meditation) 1867 reach and 91 clicks for 14e

Ad re referrals competition: 672 reach for 23 clicks for 8e

Ad re stretch goal: 460 reach 14 clicks, 5.57

Total spent: 32,57 for a total of 153  clicks.

1841 clicks got 207 referrals and 8198e.

So: average: 4.453e per referral. 153/4.453= 34.36

So, the FB ads probably made a tiny profit, but not when you factor in IGG’s cut, Paypal, printing, shipping, etc. But if these were new readers, from outside my current sphere of direct influence, then that is disproportionately useful, as, if they like these books, they may buy the ones that came before and will come after.

Printing and shipping costs breakdown:

Total books to print:

Paperbacks: 202

Hardbacks: 93

Costs:

Paperbacks: printing: 202x 3.74 = 755.48

Hardbacks, printing: 93 x 8.34 = 775.62

setup fees: approx 100 e

transaction fees: 1.95/order = 273 orders total, minus 51 ebook only orders= 222 transactions to process, = 432.90

Total before shipping: 2064

Shipping approx: 1200e

Costs of printing and shipping total estimated: 3264e

Actual total according to my credit card receipt: 3235.99e. Looks like my maths ain't so bad!

And my time?

Let's also take my time into account. Direct work on the campaign itself ran about 8 hours, spread over the month. Time spent manually inserting 250 or so orders into Lightning Source, about 10 hours. Plus probably another 8 hours or so of work that I wouldn't have had to do without the campaign. Figure 26 hours or so. For an income of 3790.19, that's nearly 145e/hour which is much better than what I normally make writing!

What would the book have raised without the campaign?

A paperback of Advanced Longsword: Form and Function sold through the usual channels nets me 12.96e per copy. Multiply that by 202 (the total number of books sold), and we get 2617.97e

And the hardbacks would net me about 25.50 each, times 93  is 2371.50. Together that's 4989.47

But one thing is for sure; in the wild, my hardbacks don’t sell at 50% of the numbers of my paperbacks; a ratio of almost 2:1. more like 140:22 (The Swordsman's Companion sales so far this year, paperback v hardback), or 6.4:1. At that proportion, 295 book sales would be 46 hardbacks, 249 paperbacks, which would net me about 3227+1173=4400, so nearly 600 euros less. Plus, that income would be spread out over several months, maybe a year, and so it would be that much harder to pay for the editing and layout (which are the fixed costs).

So the campaign clearly generated significantly more income than the likely sales through normal channels would have, and more importantly, brought a significant number of new readers.

Summary

I wrote this post primarily so that the backer of the campaign could see exactly where the money went. Transparency is key in crowdfunding. But I hope it's also useful to other authors thinking about running their own campaign; seeing how the costs break down, and being able to estimate how much of the money you raise is income should be very helpful. I am very pleased with how this campaign went, and very grateful to my excellent readership who support the work I'm trying to do.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, let me know in the comments below; and if you know anyone who is thinking about running a campaign, please share this with them.

*top tip for married men: your wife is always right.

Spring is in the air, the grass is pushing up under the snow, and books are making their way from my dusty hard drive and out into the world.

Ok, in Finland, spring is nowhere to be seen. My kids are going ice-skating and everyone I know has a cold. Bear with me. I have another book out, and it makes me giddy.

I'm spending most of this week fulfilling the promises made in my last Indiegogo campaign, for Advanced Longsword. That means doing battle with Lightning Source's arcane and wilfully inefficient “short run” printing interface, manually creating over 250 book orders so that the backers of the campaign will get their books in the post in a couple of weeks. I am also manually packing and shipping a boxful of The Medieval Dagger books. This is all, on the surface, very tedious, BUT it is actually really nice to feel that moment of personal connection with every backer, even as superficially as when I input their address into a web form.

Backers of Audatia should already know that WE HAVE SHIPPED THE FINAL PACKS: Liechtenauer and the Patron are done, shipped, and that marathon of a campaign is now 100% fulfilled. It only took about two years longer than expected. But it is a load off my mind. Crowdfunding is all about transparency, value, and keeping your promises.

And somehow in the middle of all this, I managed to edit together and publish The Swordsman's Quick Guide part 5: How to Teach a Basic ClassThis booklet is 10,000 words long, enough to cover the really important stuff, like safety, writing class plans, making corrections, and so on. The purpose of it is simple: to give inexperienced instructors confidence. If you've read it, do let me know what you think!

I am usually late to any party held on the internet, because I don't go looking for stuff, and I am pretty cavalier about things like facebook. Which means, much to my chagrin, that I didn't even hear about the MIGHTY WIKTENAUER Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for their vital work until after it was all over. All is not lost though; they have taken advantage of Indiegogo's InDemand option to make their campaign open-ended; you can still get in there and buy stuff!

One of the perks on the campaign is a concordance of the four versions of Il Fior di Battaglia, complete with all of the free translations etc currently available. I got sent a copy of volume one, which goes from the beginning up to the end of the sword in one hand section, a couple of days ago because it includes (with my permission, of course!) my transcription and translation of the introduction and 16 chapters of theory of Vadi's De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi, as published in my Veni Vadi Vici. I have not even begun to go through this 280 page labour of love, but just looking at it makes me quake at the amount of work that has gone into it.  The idea is to gather all the information from each of the manuscripts about every technique. Here for instance is the page detailing the 11th (in the Getty MS) play of the sword in one hand:

all four images of this play.

Where a given action is in only three, two, or one of the manuscripts, that's what you see. And that by itself is really useful to know.

This is of course extremely useful for practitioners, and absolutely everyone who does Fiore should buy both volumes. Before you rush of to do so though, I do have a couple of caveats:

These volumes do not include the manuscripts in their original order. This means that you get no sense of the book as a whole when using this concordance. In a perfect world, these would come with copies of the manuscripts intact as well; but you can download them (free) from the wiktenauer anyway, or pay a bit extra to get a package of the manuscripts of your choice sent to you. I would not recommend anyone to use the concordance who does not also have access to the un-edited un-altered manuscripts.

There are lots of problems with the translations; the one that jumped out at me when I scanned through the book was Posta Frontale translated as “the guard of the headband”, which is nonsense: frontale has been used to mean the headband on a bridle (see the Vocabolario della Crusca's entry on the word. Go to Lemmi, then to F, then Fronte, and scroll down.) but then it would be “posta di frontale” or something like it. Frontale, used in this way without a preposition is an adjective; this is “frontal guard” or something like it. Like “posta longa” is “long guard” (“extended” in this translation), and “posta di dente di zenghiaro” is the “guard of the boar's tooth”.

It is very easy to criticise, of course. And I can attest from experience that as soon as you put your work out there, especially for free, a whole lot of assholes will come out of the woodwork to shoot it down. But, some of those assholes are right in some of their criticisms. And not all of the critics are assholes. By putting your work out there to be shot at, you can find the parts that need to be fixed. I would strongly recommend anyone who uses this concordance to remember that the translations have been released for free by hard-working members of the community, to further the art. And if you can't read Fiore's words in their original language, then you have no choice but to rely on those who can. So gratitude first, criticism second. I would recommend also getting a copy of Tom Leoni's translation (currently on backorder), which is the most accurate currently available (though Tom and I have had long discussions about certain passages; he tends to modernise and elide more than I care for). But look who's talking! My own Veni Vadi Vici is so sadly riddled with errors that I am working on a second edition with far fewer mistakes (I hope). Expect a version of it to be released in a few months.

I have just bought volume two of the Fiore concordance; it is a mere 50 USD. A lot for an ebook, you might think; but this isn't an ebook. It's a way to show support; it's a useful resource; it's putting my money where my mouth is.

So let me conclude with this: absolutely nobody in the history of the renaissance of historical swordsmanship that we are currently enjoying has done more to further the availability of the manuscripts and other sources that we all depend on for the bit that makes what we do historical than the Wiktenauer team. They absolutely deserve our support. And with these concordances (two volumes on Fiore, one on Liechtenauer), they have produced tools that a generation of medieval combat practitioners will find invaluable. Go! Be generous!

And a very happy New Year to you all!

How to light and throw a grenade, according to Girard. How did you ever get by without this information before now?

I love books, and swords, and books about swords. Especially old books about swords. Through a series of happy chances, I own an original copy of Salvator Fabris' Scienza e Pratica d'Arme from 1606, a third edition of Achille Marozzo's Arte dell'Armi from 1568, and a second edition of P.J.F. Girard's Traité des Armes from 1740. “Bugger off you lucky sod”, you might very well say, and I wouldn't blame you. They are gorgeous, and a solid physical connection between us and the history and sources of arts we practice. They are also works of art in their own right, and as such are part of our common cultural heritage. Which is why I spent all day yesterday, with my friend and amateur photographer Petteri Kihlberg, photographing every page of all of them, at high resolution. The raw files are about 16mb per page, and the resolution is pretty damn good. Just setting up took two hours. You can get some idea of the results here:

Page 56 of Scienza, with a zoom-in on the poor chap being stabbed.

 

The process illuminated some interesting aspects of the books, such as this error in printing on page 112 of Scienza e Pratica:

Plate 77, covering plate 75.

The original printing had plate 75 repeated in place of plate 77, and so they cut and pasted (with real paste!) plate 77 on top. Over the centuries the paste has weakened a little, and the top corner has come a little loose, allowing us to see underneath.

The end results of yesterday's labours is about 1000 images to process. I will re-order (because we had to shoot all verso pages, then all recto pages, or it would have taken even longer), rotate and crop them, and put them online for you to download for free. Merry Christmas!

Only don't get too excited yet. This is a ton of work, and what with my crowdfunding campaign for the new Longsword book (which runs until December 24th), and my daughter's seventh birthday on Monday, and the whole Christmas thing, and writing the next new book, this may take a while to finish. My intention is to put all of the images up in decent-sized cropped jpgs as soon as I can, and if anyone needs the full-size raw files (for example for printing poster-sized prints, or producing a facsimile edition of any of these books), I'll then find a way to upload them too. They are simply too big (about 4GB per book) to host here or on my webshop.

These are your birthright. I hope you will make good use of them.

The crowdfunding campaign for my next book, Advanced Longsword, Form and Function is now live!
Would you like to win free copies of the book, or commission an instalment of The Swordsman’s Quick Guide? For this campaign, which will only run for 30 days, I am running a competition for referrals. There are two categories: eyeballs and sales.

Eyeballs

Whoever sends the most people to see the campaign will get two free copies of the book in hardback, sent wherever you want.

Sales

The person whose referrals generate the highest sales will also get two hardbacks, and can commission an instalment of The Swordsman’s Quick Guide, on any topic you like. I will write the booklet for you and publish it (at my discretion; if your request is vastly off-topic I might choose to simply send you the finished booklet for you to do with what you like).

If the same person wins both categories, I'll add a runner-up prize; whoever comes second in the sales category gets a free hardback, signed and sent wherever you like.

How do you take part? 

You need to log in to Indiegogo, which generates your own specific url for the campaign, which will look like http://igg.me/at/longsword2/x/00000 where the last set of numbers is your unique identifier. Then share this link as best you can, and Indiegogo will track the link for you.

 

https://youtu.be/Ou6dNB-L5iY

And here is the campaign link again.

Thank you very much for your support.
yours,
Guy

Hail, oh people of the sword or pen! I am sitting in Bar Pult, in Lucca, with a filthy cold, and a head full of snot. Yet today is an excellent day, because today I uploaded all the final files of Swordfighting, for Writers, Game Designers, and Martial Artists to Amazon, Lightning Source, Kobo and Selz; all except the last take time to filter through their systems, so they should be live on Friday. The printed book should be available in about a month.

Hallelujah, people. This one has been quite a marathon. I hope you enjoy the result.

Campaign Backers: I will get your physical copies out as soon as they are available through my printers; expect them in May. You should already have the ebook versions, on the books for backers page of this site. Any problems, contact me on guywindsor@gmail.com Thanks again for your patient support!

Swordfighting Cover

My friends at Pulp Literature are running another crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for their second year; I have greatly enjoyed the four volumes of short stories, novellas, poetry and artwork that constituted year one. One of their founders, Jennifer Landels, runs the mounted combat program at Academie Duello, and writes and draws swordfighting scenes (yes, chaps, huge chunks of Pulp Literature have no swords in them at all. And are STILL worth reading. Amazing.) So I sent Jen the current draft of my next book, Swordfighting, because it has advice for writers on creating good swordfights. She has been following my advice (not that she necessarily needed it!), and allowed me to share some of the results with you.

Here is a previously unpublished exclusive excerpt from Allaigna’s Song, which has been serialised in Pulp Literature issues 1-4, and will continue in 5-8; this will be part of issue 6 or 7.

We were almost at the end of the alley, when something else that glittered caught my eye.  I pulled Chal by the sleeve into a swordsmith’s shop.  Hundreds of swords and dirks hung from their hilts on the walls, and more sat scabbarded in bins behind the counter.  I paused for a moment, stunned by the bristling array of steel:  great swords and long swords by the dozen, short broad blades and long slim duelling swords, hunting daggers, ceremonial daggers, throwing knives and poignards sharp as hat pins.  It seemed there was more weaponry in this tiny shop than the whole of the Bastion’s armoury. 

Enraptured, I wandered slowly around the store under the silent, watchful gaze of  the shopkeeper.  When the sense of impatience from both her and Chal became oppressive, I stopped at the furthest case.  Catching my breath, I pointed at a slim short sword.  Page’s training aside, I still found it terrifying to talk to strangers, so I allowed myself no time to think.

“Can I see that one … please?”

The storekeep looked at me appraisingly.  “That one?  You’ve good taste, young lady,” she replied, but made no move to open the cabinet.  “Do you know what it is?”

Chal save me from answering.  She was as aghast as I had been in the apothecary. 

“A sword?  What do you need with a sword?  Don’t you get enough of that with arms practice?  And what’s wrong with the ones they give us, anyway?”

“They’re heavy, clumsy, and too big for me,” I snapped back at her.

The shopkeeper still stood with her arms crossed.

“That’s good training, that is,” she finally said.  “Learn with a heavy practice sword and you’re twice as fast and strong when you get a good one in your hands.  Like that one there. Ilvani craftsmanship.  No child’s toy.”

My ears burned.

“I’m not a child!  I’m –” I stopped.  “I can afford it,” I challenged, not knowing if I really could.

“Perhaps.  But can you use it?”

I nodded sharply.

“Very well, then.  Show me.”  She unlocked the case and brought out the sword.  It was a beautiful thing.  The handle was wrapped in green and gold threads, ending at a carved brass pommel.  The swept knuckle guard was minimal and elegant, and the blade itself, just as long as my arm, was no more than a slim two finger-widths at the hilt.  The unsharp portion was etched with delicate tracery my eyes couldn’t quite follow, of flowers and beasts intertwined in a continuous river.

It felt almost weightless compared to the clunky swords we drilled with, and it sliced the air with an easy thrum when I gave a few tentative cuts.

The shopkeep was out from behind the counter now, and for the first time I noticed her size and the muscles of her arm.  No doubt she could use any blade here, but in her hand was a short sword, of a length with the one I held, though not so beautiful.  She handed a blunting scabbard to me.

“Let’s see you use it, then,” she said, tying a matching scabbard on her own blade.

Chal gasped.  I stepped back and looked the shopkeeper in the face to see if she was joking.  She stood in a casual guard position, sword point level with my head.

“Here?”  My voice came out in timid squeak as I glanced at the narrow space hemmed in by cabinets.

She nodded, the barest smile lifting the corners of her mouth.  “Don’t break any glass or you’ll be paying for that.”

“No … thank you.  I don’t think so.”  I turned the sword over to my left hand and proffered it, hilt first.

She gave the blade a smack with her own, sending it spinning from my hand.  Without being aware I was doing it, I caught the hilt in my right once more.

“No, I think so,” she said, her smile stretching.

That smile was the goad.  With trembling fingers, I tied the blunting on, not daring to look at her face till it was done.  Stepping backward I lifted my sword into a guard that matched hers, though my point dipped and wavered while hers hovered steady before my eyes.

She began slowly, circling my point with hers to cover my sword.  I stepped back, nerves making me disengage her blade with a jerk too fast to be polite.  Still smooth and smiling she followed my turn and ended up on top again.  We spent a few moments like that, me flicking my blade back and forth, down and around, trying to gain advantage; and she never losing her unruffled calm or her superior position.

Frustrated I swung the blade around in an arc, smashing against her sword, which came up to meet mine invisibly fast.  The impact shuddered down my arm and threw my sword away.  Hers hardly moved.

She stepped forward, laughing, and tapped my exposed side with the flat of her blade.

“Never throw your weight against someone who weighs four times as much, little bird.” 

The blow stung, but not as much as the words.  Only Rhiadne was allowed to call me that.  I ducked low and cut at her feet and legs.  She stepped back almost casually and caught my sword again with hers.  I flicked my hand over, hoping to catch hers in an upswing, but she countered easily.  Neither Baredh nor the weapons master at the Bastion had ever moved so fast.  I knew she was toying with me and it was infuriating.

I ducked again and lunged, this time driving my sword upward under hers, careless of the fact she could bring her blade down fatally on my unguarded head if she chose.  With a turn that happened so fast I didn’t see it, she locked my hilt and twisted the sword from my hand.

“Tt,”  She shook her head, holding my blade in her left hand.  “It’s not done, aiming for the vitals in a friendly match.  Especially when you want something from me.  Or were you planning to walk past my bleeding corpse with a new sword?”

Fury and humiliation welled in my eyes.  I blinked them back down, but said nothing, having no faith in my voice.

She put both blades down on the counter behind her and folded her arms across her broad chest.  Head cocked to one side she peered at me once more with skin-flaying eyes.

“The sword is yours if you can afford it.”

I blinked again.  “How much?”

“A hundred and forty.”

I sagged.  It was at least a hundred more than I had.  The tears fought their way back up.  I had come into the shop on a whim that had been transformed to an obsession.  The newfound object of my desire pierced my heart and stayed there, burning.  I thought bitterly of the jewelled gold cups and flagons I filled and refilled every day.  A single one would pay for this treasure.  What good was having a prince for a grandfather when I lived on a page’s allowance?

I shook my head, and swallowed the fire.  “It’s too much.”

Her eyes, for once, looked sympathetic.  “I have others – less costly.”

She offered me the one she’d wielded.

I eyed it without moving.  It was a plain, sturdy sword, almost identical to the ones we polished every day. I shrugged and crossed my arms protectively against despair.

Chal, who’d stayed pressed in the corner till now, came forward.

“I could lend you some, Allaigna. I’ve got twenty or so left.”

I shook my head.  Not enough.  I looked up, still hugging myself.

“Could I,” I hesitated, desperately unbold, but desperate enough.  “Could I pay you some now and some later?”

“Why certainly little bird.  But I’ll keep it here till you’ve paid in full.  Twenty falcons a week for twelve weeks.”

I did the sums in my head and opened my mouth to protest.

“And I’ll throw in a lesson each time you come.”

I was torn between outrage and hope, but my lust won out.  I fished twenty falcons worth of mixed coin from my purse and spilled it on the counter,  though my hand hovered over the pile.

“How do I know you won’t just keep my money and sell the sword to someone else?”

“Well, you don’t know, do you?  That’s the nature of trade.  We can shake on it though.”

She put a fist to her heart, spat in her hand, and held it out.  I did the same, clasping her large hand with my tiny one.  She scraped the coins off the counter and passed them back to me.

“You can start paying next week.  This lesson was free.”

I nodded, and backed toward the door.

“And what about you, young lady, she called to Chal.  A dirk, perhaps?  A fine stiletto?”

“Do you fight with all your customers?” Chal asked warily.

The shopkeeper smiled.  “That depends on what they want.”

“No thank you, then,” said Chal as we made a hasty exit into the chilly winter afternoon.

Now, as if that wasn’t enough, she has also shared some of the early sketches for a mounted combat scene in one of the stories; oh you lucky people!

1a  1b2a2b

So, if you like this stuff, as you jolly well should, then hi thee to the Starter of Kick, and part with some of your hard-earned. Because if you don't, they might not make their target, and then I won't get my next four issues, and that will make me grumpy and sad. And you wouldn't want that, now, would you?

For the first time since starting this blog, I have invited a guest post. This comes from Adelheid Zimmerman, whom I got to know at WMAW last year, and who has come up with a wonderful project which she has successfully crowd-funded. In short, she is producing very high quality copper plate engraved prints of the longsword plates from Meyer's mighty treatise of 1575.

I hope you find old-school printing and the production of books as interesting as I do, and will support her campaign!

Here's Adelheid:

I have taken on a project to restore and reproduce the illustrations from Joachim Meyer's A Foundational Description of the Art of Fencing. There are two reasons that I find this project fascinating. I love that I am putting into the hands of historical european martial artists the images that the masters taught from in the form that they were intended. On a more personal level, I enjoy the artistic investigation of the restoration and visceral pleasure of producing that art in a historical manner.

When Joachim Meyer needed illustrations for his book, he commissioned the workshop of Tobias Stimmer. Meyer likely provided models and oversaw the drafting process, providing input as to the fighters' positions as well as contents of the backgrounds. Stimmer and his draftsman observed not only fighters training but also the interests and influences of the fencing school. It is impossible to know how much of the actual drafting was done by Stimmer and how much was done by an apprentice in his workshop trained to work in his style.

When a final draft was approved, it was transferred to wood and carved by a highly skilled tradesman who would then remove the negative space from a specially prepared block of hardwood. These engravings and a manuscript of the text were taken to the printer Thiebolt Berger of Strasbourg

who then laid out the lead type and woodblocks which were then printed onto pages that could be folded into signatures.

Printing in Meyer's day.

The printing process degrades the woodblock, making each successive print of slightly reduced quality. Woodcuts were generally not kept by printers. Successive editions were commissioned by Meyer's widow. While it is possible that Meyer himself kept the woodcuts, it is just as likely that each successive edition was recarved.

The making of these modern day reproductions happens in a slightly different manner from the originals 400 years ago. Instead of beginning with an artist/draftsman, I am beginning with a photograph of the original print.

For most of the reproduction work that I have done in the past, I would proceed in the manner of the Renaissance art student. I would use the same materials as the original artist and paint the piece over and over until my work was indistinguishable from the original. Doing this with the watercolors of JRR Tolkien has long been a way for me to deal with stress in my life. However, this project requires a digital approach.

For each illustration, I open the photograph into photoshop, artificially enlarge it to give myself room to work, remove all of the color information, remove anything that was paper, and make an initial pass at smoothing out the variances in line caused by both the enlargement algorithm and inconsistent application of ink in the original. Thus I have prepared my canvas and can begin the real work.

The rest of the process is spent zooming in and out. In to look at how the pixels stack and back out when I get lost in the maze of tiny squares. First I tidy up the border and remove artifacts. Next, I adjust for a curve or wrinkle in the paper. For the process of cleaning up the detail of the image, I am constantly mindful to hide my own hand and keep to the style of Stimmer. I call upon my knowledge of how the thick, sticky ink of a letterpress coats an image so fine and how the pressure and absorbency of the paper pulls it off. Using the brush and eraser tools, I fill in where a line must have been drawn and erase where a carving knife must have removed the wood of the block. My block, my ink, my paper, and my press are all slightly different than the originals. I make a few choices in line weight to compensate for these differences.

The original scans look like the one on the left; I clean them up to look like the one on the right.
The original scans look like the one on the left; I clean them up to look like the one on the right.

When my digital files are ready, I send them off to an engraver. Unlike the woodcarver who made the originals, I utilize a die manufacturer well known for their high quality service as well as environmentally and socially responsible practices. They take my digital file and use it to carve the drawing out of copper with a CNC. They then have a trained engraver go back over the image with fine tools to make sure that it is perfect before sending it to me.

When I get the copper plate from the engraver, I lock it up in my letterpress, ink the plate, and press the paper. The printing process sounds simple, but is a matter of technique and finesse. The press needs to be adjusted for each print run depending on the thickness of the plate and the paper. Even incredibly small variances in the pressure of the plate against paper make huge differences in the quality of the print. After each print the thickness of the ink application changes slightly. Even the slightest shift in the paper can produce a visible shifts in the registration.

Once the prints are pulled and the ink has dried, I go back over them and discard any that are not of a sufficiently high quality. With simpler designs, this usually results in a 10% loss. The high level of detail in these illustrations means that over half of of the prints are discarded. The remaining prints are sorted in order of quality, then labeled and numbered. If a print run produces 50 quality prints, the one of highest quality is labeled 1/50. In pencil in a location that can be hidden upon framing, I note what the image is, the name of my press, and the print's number.

This is the largest reproduction project that I have taken on to date. I have been highly encouraged by the public response that I have received, and I am looking forward to working on more projects like this.

Guy again: so, chaps, wallets out and go buy some fab artwork: you know you want to!

This is my 100th blog post, and I have just released my latest book, The Medieval Longsword, to my campaign backers. It will be up on Amazon and elsewhere soon.

TML_coversample2

By way of encouraging reviews, and to soften the blow for all those who missed the campaign, I will give away a free ebook copy of the new book to anyone who sends me a link to a review they have published, on any website (amazon, goodreads, kobo, barnes and noble, your blog, anywhere), of any of my previous books. This offer is open until July 22nd, so you can write one between now and then.

Please share this with your friends, especially with anyone you know who has bought the second edition of the Swordsman's Companion recently; they really should get the latest material, and this way they don't have to pay more for it. (If I had a way to contact my readers on Amazon, I would!)

And, once you have a copy of Medieval Longsword, and the book is released for sale (should be by the end of this week) anyone who posts a review of it and sends me a link to it before August 11th, will be sent a free ebook copy of my next book, Swordfighting, when it comes out (it's due in November). (IGG backers will be getting one anyway: but you can still post a review!)

Please note, I will honour this offer for any review, no matter whether it's positive, negative or in between. Be honest, tell the world what you really think.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the success of my recent crowdfunding campaign, where I actually got paid for writing one of my books (yes, it is unusual), I had some spare cash. I could have done something sensible, like drop it into the bottomless pit that is my mortgage, but inspired by my recent trip to Verona, I decided to invest it in a 16th or 17th century Italian swordsmanship manual. There was a copy of Achille Marozzo's Arte dell'Armi on sale at Eric Chaim Kline booksellers in Los Angeles, and thanks to the weak dollar, it was actually pretty cheap. For certain values of cheap. More than my car, less than my armour. (Which tells you something else about my priorities in life!)

One of the rationalisations that helped me to buy this book was the thought that my and my colleagues' work on historical swordsmanship actually increases the value of these books; for the same reason that famous paintings are worth more than unknown ones. So I can actually affect the value of this “investment”.

You can believe that if you like: I am certainly trying to.

Anyway, in the grand tradition of the internet, here is the now-obligatory unboxing video. Gosh, I wasn't excited at all!

http://youtu.be/PlF7JO7Bkmo

 

 

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Jaegerstock, part 3

Now that we have a working Jaegerstock, let’s take a look at lessons two and

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