Stuffed Crocodile

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Tag Archives: Publishing


Now this one goes back to the early days of the hobby, and straight before the time when I got interested in the whole thing. Or rather: it fits in there in my first phase of fascination with the hobby.

Basically in the late 80s German publishing house Welt der Spiele and a few successors to that company (the whole history of the company is kind of a mystery for me, but there always seemed to be the same people involved), published a few universal modules. Often those were translations and adaptions of even earlier AD&D modules, some seem to have been original creations for the German market. One should not forget that D&D did not really take off in Germany until the end of the 90s (thanks to some really crappy translation and marketing) and there was not really a market for the whole thing. Then along come these nice adventures which have been written for AD&D, but fit in well somewhere else, and so they decide to make something out of that.

Partially it was a really shrewd move, and in a few cases this lead to some nice adventures. Adventures that did not sell out completely it seems.This might have been a factor in the demise of Welt der Spiele come to think of it…

In the middle of the 90s previous WDS employee Mario Truant had created his own publishing house: Truant. This one still is in business and even one of the more respected small game companies in Germany right now.

But in the middle 90s they noticed a bit of a problem with their heritage: there were still a lot of unsold modules taking up space in storage. And those grew harder and harder to sell the further roleplaying moved along. Still far from any renaissance of dungeon crawling, and slowly realizing that railroading might not be too good, these modules collected dust and aged.

And so someone came up with a nice way of cleaning up storage: selling them in compilations.

And that was how Troll-Welt came to be. The modules were either from the near forgotten Edition Troll imprint or from WDS itself, so they created this title (geddit? geddit? Edition Troll and Welt der Spiele!), made a cover for it (I saw that particular picture on at least two other products already), and then glued three random modules from storage into it. This gave nerds like me access to some old classics, and kept them from having to pulp the rest of them. So I guess it’s a win-win.

There is not really so much to say about Troll-Welt itself. According to the backtext the modules were chosen from stock at random (with 11 different modules possible), but so far I haven’t found any example of the thing that did not have exactly the same three modules than the one I have already. So it seems that either the advertisement was wrong (can you believe it?!), or they just had a lot more of these three modules than of others.

For reference, my copy has:

* Sternenhoeh – a translation of Mayfair Games’ Pinnacle

* Ruinen des Schreckens – a translation of Mayfair Games’ Evil Ruins

* Beowulfs Saga – a standalone railroad in a Scandinavia expy with lots of vikings

Terry Pratchett and the Maggi Soup Adverts

Back in the 90s (starting with Moving Pictures) Terry Pratchett (yet to be knighted) changed his German publisher. A rather radical move in the market for someone who had been published by Heyne for a dozen books to raising sales. I remember reading it in the Jahrbuch der Science Fiction and Fantasy 1994 (Annual of Science Fiction and Fantasy): It stated in a rather laconic tone that his books would now be published by Goldmann instead of Heyne. The brisk tone of the notice (where most others would have had a small quip with amazing insider info on different deals) might have been connected with the fact that the editor of the Jahrbuch was also the chief editor of Heyne, and he was reporting about himself losing a bestselling author.

The reason for the change was… well… the Heyne publishing house put in a soup advert in one of his books without asking, and would not promise to not do it again. As Pterry said himself:

There were a number of reasons for switching to Goldmann, but a deeply personal one for me was the way Heyne (in Sourcery, I think, although it may have been in other books) inserted a soup advert in the text … a few black lines and then something like ‘Around about now our heroes must be pretty hungry and what better than a nourishing bowl’… etc, etc. My editor was pretty sick about it, but the company wouldn’t promise not to do it again, so that made it very easy to leave them. They did it to Iain Banks, too, and apparently at a con he tore out the offending page and ate it. Without croutons.

Okay, I know what you are thinking now: What?

Here’s a picture of the whole business from the German edition of Pyramids Sourcery:

The text in the blackout section reads something like: the stairway Teppic was on was not really good for a break… but we can have one, so let’s adjourn for 5 minutes and make a cup of soup…

It might actually be pretty good fortune that Trymon spent his time reading old manuscripts, as like that he had to lose against an angry Rincewind. But this also hides a hint to the reader to watch out for proper nourishment, A small bit of nourishment, all without magic spells…etc.

It’s an ad for a 5-minute soup.

Yeah. It’s real.

That was a standard practice for Heyne back then. At least with their genre novels. And it was noticeable to a lot of people because they had the good luck of having one of the largest and best selections of SF/F-literature in the country. Mostly thanks to awesome editors.

Pratchett was not the only one with the soup adverts, I remember at least one Star Trek novel and a few non-franchise ones having the same stuff in it.

The whole thing was a holdover from the 50s or 60s, when practices like that were more common, especially with publishers of cheap genre fiction. They were rather popular for pulling in additional revenue on cheaply priced paperbacks that might not make their money back. And as the genres were not really seen as literature at all by anyone who mattered, fans and editors often had to fight bloody battles to get their stuff published even if it did go bestseller in the end. Mind you though, this was the 90s, the average price for Heyne paperbacks was 13 Marks/6,5 Euros, not the cheapest of books by then.

It was definitely out of place for a publisher which was already one of the market leaders in that time. I do have the strong suspicion that these things were a standing order from the 60s: Most likely at one point in the past the SF/F editor of Heyne got told by  management they had to run these adverts so the books could make some money back, and then they never revoked it afterwards.

I know how company policies work. It would be something like that.

Fans of course got used to it, if it gave them access to the books, why not? But it became more and more grating the more genre literature was accepted into mainstream.

And then you actually had a bestseller author like Pratchett jump ship and go to the direct contender (Goldmann), just because one of these stupid stunts. I wonder how that actually was taken by the Heyne CEOs. Back then Pratchett was at the verge of becoming a star in Germany as well, so they lost him just when he was getting big. It might just have been a secondary thing, but I never saw one of these adverts in any novel published after ’94.

Edit: the old picture from Pyramids was broken, I replaced it with another one from Sourcery, this one was even more tacky. So yes, there were multiple ones.