By: Greg J. Schloesser
I have had the great pleasure of writing reviews and articles for Counter magazine for 14 years. In my admittedly biased opinion, I believe Counter to be the finest journal in the boardgaming hobby. The articles, reviews and commentary are all top-notch, in-depth and insightful. It is difficult to find such consistent quality material in one place (outside of the OG site, of course!)
After 15 years at the helm, Alan How and Stuart Dagger have decided to retire from the managerial and editor duties. Ben Baldanza and I have taken over these tasks and our first issue at the helm should be arriving in subscribers’ hands within the next few weeks. To quote the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it has been.”
The amount of groundwork that had to be done was staggering. Subscriptions were not accepted beyond Issue #61 (Stuart and Alan’s final issue at the helm), so we immediately had to undertake efforts to encourage current subscribers to re-subscribe. Sadly, since Counter is a print magazine, there was no database of email addresses for the subscribers. We were able to place notices in the last two issues, but knew that we should also try to contact the subscribers individually. So, I spent weeks scouring the BoardGameGeek database, hoping to find email addresses whereby to contact both current and previous subscribers. This seems to have worked, as subscriptions did increase dramatically. We also launched various campaigns to make the gaming hobby-at-large aware of Counter and hopefully prompt folks to consider subscribing.
Further, we had to investigate the financial aspects of publishing a quarterly magazine. Printing, postage, materials, advertising, etc.—all had to be researched and numbers crunched. Counter is not a hugely profitable venture; no one is going to quit their day job! Indeed, it truly is a labor of love for all involved. So, we had to make sure we made the proper arrangements so that we could cover expenses and continue to offer the magazine at a reasonable rate. This process was quite time consuming and often frustrating—especially considering today’s high postage rates and limited mailing options. While we considered printing the magazine in both Europe and the United States, it was more cost efficient, even factoring in postage costs, to print the magazine here in the U.S.
We certainly wanted to maintain our current contributors, as they are the folks who are responsible for the high quality content for which Counter is renowned. Fortunately, every current author was eager to continue their contributions, including Stuart and Alan. Ben and I also wanted to add some new voices to the mix, so we contacted numerous other folks within the hobby whose views and writing talents were widely known and respected. We were thrilled with the response, and are proud to have been joined by such notable luminaries as Paul Evans, Mitch Thomashow, Chris Kovac, Andrea Ligabue, Jim Reed, Rick Thornquist and, of course, some guy from the Opinionated Gamers website known as Dr. Dale Yu!
As the date for the June issue approached, I began receiving submissions from our contributors. I have always respected the outstanding job Stuart Dagger has done as editor; his linguistic and organizational skills are formidable, and I knew I would pale by comparison. After proofreading over and over again dozens of articles and reviews, I now have even greater admiration for his skills. Indeed, I am in awe. Everyone has different writing styles, and none of us save Stuart are experts in English grammar and style. Couple this with the fact that we have writers from numerous different countries—many of whom do not speak or write English as their primary language—and you have a formidable proofreading and editing chore. Indeed, my word processor spell checker threw a hissy-fit over the unique English (as opposed to American) spelling of numerous words by our British contingent!
It was time to hit the grammar books and websites to relearn—or learn for the first time—the proper punctuation and grammar rules. Just where does that comma go—inside or outside of quotation marks? When are parentheses appropriate as opposed to dashes? Should numbers be spelled-out or written as digits? What if they are in a sequence? These are just a few questions that I had to investigate; there were dozens and dozens more. Interestingly, I discovered that the answers often differed based on the grammar sources consulted, and the rules were often different for English and American writers. Sigh.
In addition to carefully proofreading each article, review and commentary many, many times, I also had to layout the magazine. After investigating several programs, I felt Microsoft Publisher was the best choice. It offers a great deal of flexibility and stylistic options, yet is easy to understand and operate. Further, I was already familiar with the program, so I did not need to learn it from scratch. While we desired to keep the magazine’s format essentially the same, we also wanted to make it a bit easier on the eyes. Publisher offers the ability to easily add graphics and photos, which helps break-up page-after-page of text.
Since I do nearly all of my word processing work using Microsoft Word, it was a fairly simple matter to cut-and-paste material from Word into Publisher. Well, that part was easy, but other complications soon reared their ugly heads. One aggravating problem is that Publisher doesn’t seem to care much for justified text. It delights in hyphenating words and creating large gaps between words and letters in an attempt to make the text align evenly with both sides of a column. Turning off the hyphen feature was easy, but eliminating those unsightly gaps proved very tedious and time consuming. After hours-upon-hours of work, I think I’ve learned a few tricks or two to correct Publisher’s nasty tendencies.
Finally, after working on the layout for several weeks, I thought I had everything ready to go. However, when I printed a few test pages—something I should have done much, much earlier in the process—I discovered that the print was larger than what I desired. After closer examination, I discovered that previous issues of Counter had been printed using a 9pt. font, not the 10pt. font I had believed it to be. So, I now had to change everything to the proper font size, which, of course, gave Publisher the excuse it needed to once again wreak havoc when justifying the newly sized text. So, it was back to the process of eliminating those glaring gaps and making sure everything not only aligned properly, but was also pleasing to the eye. The good news was that reducing the font allowed me to fit in quite a bit more content.
After checking, checking again, and checking even more, I was satisfied. Issue #61 was ready for printing. Even though I had reviewed it countless times, I still had to review it yet again before finally pushing that button to upload the document to the printer. I know that in spite of my meticulous reviewing, I have undoubtedly missed some things, and have certainly committed multiple grammatical faux pas. I trust Counter readers will forgive me.
Now, the waiting game begins. On Wednesday—the scheduled arrival date of the boxes of magazines—I will undoubtedly be anxiously awaiting the arrival of the UPS truck. Yes, I am terribly excited, and admittedly a bit nervous. Filling the shoes of the legendary Stuart Dagger is an impossible task. Still, I am confident that the product we are delivering is top-notch. Counter readers both new and old should really enjoy this issue. In spite of the abundance of work, the journey has been well worth it. Counter magazine is simply too valuable a resource to have its run end now. I am honored to be part of its ongoing success.
So just what does Issue #61 hold in store? In short, a LOT! Take a sneak peek at:
Ben and I sincerely hope that all of our subscribers enjoy the “new, yet still the same” Counter magazine. We encourage everyone to consider subscribing, and feel confident you will be happy you did so!