Magical Industrial Revolution - Kickstarter Update + Public Domain Tips

As of this post, we're just below 300% funding on the M.I.R Kickstarter! Hooray!

If you missed the announcements, all initial stretch goals have been cleared. That's 3 pamphlets and a bunch of art upgrades. Just 7 days remain. It's a short kickstarter, so spread the word; it'll be over before you know it.

For the last three days, I've been picking final art pieces for the book. While the excellent team of artists have provided lots of great pieces, the intent was always to use public domain art to fill in certain areas. Between Dore's London, old advertisements, and Punch magazine, I'm spoiled for choice.

When I started the project last year, I created a folder full of public domain odds and ends. As the project grew and the scope became more clear, the illustrations were sorted into subfolders: city scenes, citizens, monsters, wizards, industrial equipment, etc. Initial drafts used these illustrations as placeholders or reference images.

Now that it's time to put together the final copy, I'm going back through the folders, pulling out the best illustrations, whitepointing them (or checking past work) and manually cleaning up errors and distortions.

Some get composited (in this case, a recitation has turned into an invocation), but most illustrations are fine as-is.

I'm also checking licenses, publication dates, etc. to make absolutely certain the works are in the public domain. In some cases, where I'd really like to use a piece but can't find a high-quality scan, I've even scanned it myself from my library or from an archival collection.

  • Use multiple search engines to find what you're looking for. Google lets you search based on license and file size, which can be handy but can also ignore improperly tagged files.
  • Collect handy resource pages.
  • Save everything, listing the original site in the filename.
  • If you're sending works to a publisher or editor to include in a document, also send the original files + spares or alternates, just in case they need to make edits.
  • Dig deeper. Sites like the Public Domain Review are fantastic, but you can follow links into their original books to sometimes find higher-quality scans.
  • Grab multiple file shapes. Long horizontal illustrations, tall one-column scenes, square, rectangles, circles, things that can be partially masked by text, etc.
And the most important tip, in my opinion: 
  • Text before art.
Wherever possible, condense your text. Pages to paragraphs, paragraphs to d100 tables, d100 tables to 2-column d10 tables, etc. Figure out what your goal is and work towards that. Cut superfluous information. Then decide what you want to do with the art in the space remaining.

Given the choice between the "perfect" piece of art and an extra little table of helpful information, I'll go with the table every time.

I've tried to ensure M.I.R maintains the same standards as my other books. Clean lines. Ease of photocopying or home printing. No huge ink-sucking black blocks (no matter how cool they'd look).

It's important to make sure information is spaced out and properly landmarked (I like using art as "weenies" to help readers navigate a book), but in the end, if you're writing a book that's a toolbox, it's probably best to include as many tools as possible.


  1. I'm so excited to see this become a fully realized book!

  2. You made it onto io9!