Publisher Interview: Jonathan Jacobs of Nevermet Press

Back in 2009, I had an opportunity through a different review site (BlogCritics.org) to review an anthology of gaming-related articles that was edited and compiled by Jonathan Jacobs – Open Game Table, Volume 1. The OGT pulled together the best of a collection of articles from many of the top RPG-related blogs and websites of 2009. Back then I was just pondering getting back into gaming myself and happy to offer my own take on the results of that great project.

Then in 2010, Jonathan was looking for help with the second volume and I volunteered to filter through a portion of the nearly 400 amazing submissions. Again, Jonathan and the other volunteers did a great job pulling together another collection of great articles from bloggers across the gaming web space. And I was happy to write up a review of Open Game Table, Volume 2 when the project was completed.

So as you can see – even before he started Nevermet Press, he was heavily involved in the gaming community. Somehow he also managed to help get Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom pulled together in 2010 with a huge crew of writers contributing.  Brother Ptolemy was definitely one of my favorite supplements/adventures of the year.

And then in 2011, Nevermet Press shifted gears and started publishing amazing collections of short fiction in the Stories in the Ether quarterly anthology. Instead of game content, these books are collections of fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction short stories from a variety of authors across the board. Nevermet just published volume 3 this year and I’ve been hooked since the first issue.

But who’s the man behind Nevermet Press and all these great projects? I’ve only known him as “Jonathan Jacobs, PhD.” so I thought I’d interview him and learn a bit more! (By the way, I asked about the PhD and it’s in molecular genetics though he now works in the biodefense industry in bioinformatics, cell line engineering and functional genomics. Or to put it succinctly – back off man, he’s a scientist!)

Stories in the Ether has been a fun read so far (on my Kindle and on my iPad). How’s it been received by the gaming community vs. the broader fiction community?

Stories in the Ether has been an exciting experiment for Nevermet Press – it was our first non-gaming related project. The eBooks themselves have not sold very well, but this is largely due to the fact that all the fiction is available for free from our main blog every Friday. That being said, Stories in the Ether continues to be one of our biggest draws in terms of website traffic and social media sharing. People seem to be really enjoying it and it’s a great way for new authors to gain new readers and for established authors to experiment in a new market. I hope to eventually publish Stories in the Ether eBooks -ahead- of the blog, but to do that requires a sustained effort on behalf of my review team. I’ve recently doubled the number of first-line reviewers involved with the project in the hopes that we can eventually build up a “back log” of accepted stories a full Quarter in advance, which would then make the “eBook ahead of the blog” approach possible.

So – although the raw sales are nothing to write home about – the Series overall has been a big success in terms of drawing new readers to the website. I credit the Stories in the Ether project as the single biggest source of energy and enthusiasm from our fans in recent months. Our RSS subscriber base is the highest it’s ever been and we are sustaining more daily readers (on average) than ever as well. We’ve seen a recent flurry of guest blog posts from new authors as a result and our new weekly book and game review column, Clockwork Reviews, seems to be taking off as well. We’re also now starting to receive manuscripts for longer works of fiction, and in Q3 we should see the publication of our first full length novel. All I’ll say about that is it’s about Nordic werewolves, Russians, and Nazis… you read it here first.

Though I love the gaming community, I can only hope that distributing the collection on Kindle and iTunes has opened up the number of potential readers. Has that been the case?

It has. It’s a bit of a headache though. We used to use Lulu solely for all our publishing needs, but I discovered in mid-2010 that they were not able to get our books into the markets we wanted, so I decided to do it all piecemeal. Now we have our books on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBookstore, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, Sony eBooks, DieselBooks, and of course – DriveThruFiction.com. This makes for a lot of clicking and remembering of URLs and checking reports and paperwork. It’s worth it though, because our content is reaching more people – which is a good thing.

Nevermet Press has changed a bit between Open Gaming Table, Volume 1 and Stories in the Ether, Volume 1, but the dedication to producing well-written content has never wavered. What’s been behind the shift in focus from gaming material to short stories?

I’ve always had a love for the intersection between gaming and fiction – I just didn’t know how to focus that energy. I’m still figuring it out. To be honest, after the Dead Queens of Morvena project crashed before it left the run way (it would have been a fantastic product), I decided to close shop. I made notice to everyone who was connected to NMP that I was closing up. The push back I received was not only encouraging, but it brought it to my attention that what I needed to do was to start focusing on on a single project that I was personally going to be able to see through. Fiction seemed like a good choice. I have always loved short stories, and with how much everyone’s attention is split these days it seems like short-form fiction is something I think we are going to see more of in the future. Plus, it’s a larger market than table-top games, so I figured it would make sense in terms of boosting our fan base.

Beyond the announcement of new Stories in the Ether volumes, can you share any details about what’s next for Nevermet in the gaming arena? Brother Ptolemy & the Hidden Kingdom has been one of my favorite books of the last couple of years and I’m hoping there’s something new in the pipeline.

Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom is a gem. It truly embodies everything Michael Brewer and I originally set out to do with Nevermet Press at the beginning: that is, create RPG products using a collaborative, crowd-sourced approach. It was a huge cat-herding exercise though (have you
seen the author list for that?) and in the end it proved to be far more work to pull off than I think I’ll be able to muster again any time soon.

As for other gaming projects – yes. I hope so. I’m currently working on a Pathfinder project with artist Rob Torno and Jeral Toi (of Paizo Superstar RPG fame) – a Steampunk Folio of sorts that focuses on Victoriana styled undead that can be used in a broad range of fantasy and gothic campaign settings to spice things up, steampunk-style. I wish I could say that project is close to being finished, but there are a few more creatures and loose ends to finish before it’s ready for pre-reviews. I’ll keep you posted. Also – although I have not written about it in over a year publicly, Loaerth & Feywyrd is still simmering. I’m hoping for a 2013 release for that as both a RPG game setting and a shared universe for fiction writers looking for a well-thought out fantasy steampunk setting.

As someone who obviously loves gaming, what was the first roleplaying game you ever played? And what are you playing now? Any good gaming stories to share?

D&D, of course! I was 10 – I wedged my way into my older brother’s gaming group in the 1980’s and eventually stole all his books when they lost interest. Car Wars, GURPS, Marvel RPG, and Shadowrun soon followed. Currently? I’m playing Pathfinder. I stopped playing 4E in 2009 for Savage Worlds – which was a breath of fresh air. Savage Worlds remains one of my all time favorite games, but the familiarity factor of Pathfinder (3E) has brought me back to a 3E D&D mindset lately. I know it’s not flawless, but every game has it’s weaknesses. Pathfinders are few, and I’m willing to overlook them when we run into them. My current bi-weekly game is 1E AD&D Greyhawk using Pathfinder RPG rules – we’re in the middle of A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade and having a blast.

How would you describe the perfect roleplaying game session?

One with a beginning, a middle, and an end – like a good Shakespearean play. The PCs also usually win some and definitely lose some, but win in the end.

Do you play any other board or card games? What are your favorites?

I was a Magic: The Gathering card-crack junkie during Alliance in the late 1990’s – thank the gods I went to MtG Rehab Camp (aka Ebay). Yes – I play board games too. A friend of mine has quarterly “Board Game Slams” where about 20 people crash at his house and play marathon board games from dusk till dawn. Good times. Favorite game now? I would say the Battlestar Galactica Board Game – there’s nothing quite like being a Cylon and convincing the rest of the players that you are humans and having someone else thrown in the brig instead. =D

What are some of your favorite RPG books or resources you find yourself using regularly? Do you use any kind of electronic devices at the game table?

In terms of books – I tend to horde old Dungeon magazines for adventures. I use those more than anything. All my Pathfinder books (except for the Core Rules) are in PDF form, so yeah… I make heavy use of my iPad at the table. All my GM notes and rants are still in a notebook though – old habits die hard. I tried using Evernote, and then a Google Sites wiki, and then Obsidian Portal for a while to manage campaign information, but then it just became a second job and stopped doing it.

What would be your dream project to work on if you had the chance?

For work or play? If I could work on games and still make even half my professional salary I would definitely take a sabbatical and give it a shot full time. Dream project? To work on a team developing a game that integrated social media with roleplaying games and the semantic web. But I know that’s not in the cards – for me at least. To do something like that – or even anything remotely close to it – you have to go all in.

———————-

I want to thank Jonathan for answering my questions and wish him continued success with all the many irons he has in the fire at Nevermet Press!

Check out the Nevermet Press website for more about existing and upcoming projects and if you’re a fan of short fiction, I’d definitely encourage you to check out any of the Stories in the Ether volumes.

If you’re interested in some of my reviews of Nevermet Press products so far, here are a few:

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