RVG Interviews Sam Dyer.
It gives me great please to announce our next interview is with Sam Dyer. Sam is the brains behind Bitmap Books who started out withsome hugely successful Kickstarter campaigns for for Retro Gaming Books.
Commodore 64: a visual Compendium
Commodore Amiga: a visual Compendium
Sinclair ZX Spectrum: a visual Compendium
Above are just a few of the fantastic books Sam has released, Bitmap books currently has many titles in its portfolio, with more in production and plenty of contenders on its to-do list! So check back regularly to see what other gaming icons are being celebrated in book form.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Sam, could you start by telling us a little about you?
My name is Sam Dyer, I’m 34 years old and live in the beautiful English city of Bath with my wife and Daughter. I’m a Graphic Designer who is hugely passionate about design and retro gaming (of course!).
How did you first become inspired to make the Compendium books?
It all spawns from my love of the Commodore 64 and how it inspired me as a child to be a designer. I used to spend ages staring in awe at the pixel art and wished to one day that I could do something like that. I had the idea a few years ago to create a C64 ‘art book’ as it fuses my two passions perfectly.
Image from Commodore 64: a visual Commpendium book
What were the challenges you faced with the first book that learned from and were able to avoid the second time around?
The main lesson I have learnt is collating the content for the book and organising timelines around writers, editors and printing etc… With my first two books I sort of felt my way through the process with no real structure. The downside of this was that it caused more work and stress that it needed to. So far with the Spectrum book I am working closely with Andy Roberts who has helping me with creating a nice harmonious process for pulling the book together!
You have been very successful using Kickstarter to get these projects funded. You've done two Commodore books and a Sinclair ZX Spectrum book. Any plans for similar books looking at Atari computers?
The aim is to do a whole series of visual compendium books so yes, Atari will be covered for sure. How could they not?
What made you go the route of Crowd Fundraising?
If it weren’t for crowd funding, the books wouldn’t happen so was my only real option. Crowd funding is perfect for start up projects like this.
What are some of the pitfalls, if any during the Kickstarter campaign on your books?
Trying to please everyone! There is no point trying, because you can’t! That and taking criticism personally is something I have had to learn to deal with. A thick skin is essential.
Knowing that your officially a massive C64 Fan, was the first compendium something you came up with in a short period of time?
As mentioned above, I’d had the idea for a few years. From the first decision to do a Kickstarter to delivery of the book took roughly 8 months.
What was the thinking behind this book?
I wanted to showcase the thing that I’m most interested in - the pixel art. I noticed that there wasn’t a similar book on the market so decided to go for it. I’m not into loads of words and I firmly believe that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. If I make the reader remember a fond memory from their childhood as a direct result of looking at the book then that is a massive thing me. How powerful is that?!
Where you faced with many obstacles in contacting people you wanted to have within the book?
Not really. I was hugely lucky that Andy Roberts initially introduced me to his contacts such as Jon Hare, Robin Levy and Gary Penn. Once they were on-board it all snowballed from there and got easier.
What were the logistics of handling delivery of the your first book to the backers? Getting the perks made, special requests e.g. The Thalamus Pledge, the Oliver Frey Ocean Book Pledges? what did this involve and how did you go about it?
Lots of hard work! Via my contacts I asked around to see if anyone would be willing to sign a poster or a game etc… From there I built some limited perks. I packed all 1000 books from my front room - never again!!! Essentially it was just a lot of organising and keeping on top of things using spread sheets.
Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Sam, please tell us a little about you and your gaming history.
I started off with a Commodore 64 which was handed down by my Uncle. My two best friends had the Amstrad CPC and the ZX Spectrum so we used to go round each others houses playing some amazing games. I had the C64 for a fair few years until the same Uncle gave me his Atari ST which felt like huge lead forward. I can vividly remember being very excited because Dizzy now had red gloves!! I was jealous of my mates who had the Amiga so saved up of months doing a daily paper round until I could afford an Amiga 600 then spent years playing SWOS and Monkey Island. During this time I also had a GameGear (oddly) and then for some reason got rid of the Amiga and started collecting Commodore 64 games again! I then went onto the PS1 for a fair few years until I discovered girls and alcohol and had a break until I got my PS2 in 2002. Im proud to say that that is the most modern console I have ever owned. Nowadays I have an N64, ZX Spectrum +2A, Amiga 1200 and Commodore 64.
Where there any reasons why you decided to go with 8.5" x 5" book size, considering the amount of visual content? was this a cheaper and more affordable route?
Yes, it was cost effective and I also like the format. It also meant I could add more pages for the budget. Its small enough to pick up a have quick flick through and not too big that it sticks out of a bookshelf. Some like the size, some don’t but personally I think its cute and suits the style of book well.
Being a Graphic Designer myself, on average how many pages of content were you able to produce a week as regards to getting the book completed? or were you working on it long term?
Probably 4/5 spreads per night completed. Maybe less if I have other things to do like answering emails etc…
Is there anything you would of done differently on the c64 book, e.g improvements or added even more unique stuff to it?
I would have offered a hardback option from the start with he C64 book as that is something that many people were/are after. I should have listened more to the feedback.
Image from Commodore Amiga: a visual Commpendium book
Onto your Second Book the "Amiga Compendium", which I own and absolutely love . Raising something near to £140,000 pounds must of been overwhelming to you, what went through your mind when seeing this?
I couldn’t believe it and was incredibly humbled. Surprisingly, I didn’t let that huge number intimidate me and I relished in the pressure to deliver a book that justified that huge price tag. This is what i do for a living on a day-to-basis so pulling the book together kind of comes naturally.
Knowing the Amiga Community to be one of the most welcoming, Was there anybody you wanted in the Amiga book that was unable or didn't want to be involved?
Is it? Only joking…! The only person who said ‘no’ to appear in the book was Peter Molyneux. He said he was too busy to write 100 words ;-)
Was there any reason why you didn't go down the multi-media route with the PDF of the Amiga book, as you did with the C64 book?
Time. The c64 multi-media PDF took weeks for me (and friends) to do and it was a stretch goal so i was committed to doing it. The thought of doing that with the Amiga book scared me so I didn’t offer it again.
Off topic question, what did your work colleagues think of all this? doing a book based on computer systems they possible never heard of or wondered, "Why the hell is he doing that?" type impressions?
They don’t know :-) I keep my work and home life very separate but if they did know, they would be proud of what I’ve achieved.
Any anecdotes you'd like to share while researching and that wasn't able to go into the Amiga book?
Not really. Pretty much everything I wanted to go into the Amiga book, went in.
How many Compendium Books are you planning to do in volumetric numbers? (Hopefully this question will be a RVG Exclusive lol)
I’d like to reach 10 in the series and cover all the major systems. I can’t reveal which one is next (sorry) but 2016 is going to be a big year…!
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