Yesterday, I made my first-ever self-published e-book, The Geek’s Guide to Indianapolis, available for sale on Amazon, and for free check-out via Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners Lending Library. It’s very exciting to have it out there and available now. I’ve already ordered 500 business cards from Vistaprint with some information about the book and a shortened URL.
In the interest of showing more of what the book is about, I’m going to post a couple of excerpts here. Rather than duplicate the Kindle sample content, I’m picking from a little later in the book so you can see some of the advice and other information I provide.
The Geek’s Guide to Indianapolis is actually two guides in one. Part of it is advice for how to prepare for Gen Con and what to do when you get there, and the other part is information on all the best places to visit in Indianapolis. So, I’m going to excerpt a section from each part.
First, from the “At the Con” chapter comes this advice on how to commission artwork at the Exhibition Hall Artist’s Alley.
Gen Con has a pretty big Artist’s Alley, with lots of artists there selling original art and taking commissions for artwork. Commissioning artwork of RPG characters and other subjects of interest is a lot of fun, but it can be even more fun if you’re prepared for it ahead of time. Here are some things I’ve learned to do in the years I’ve been commissioning art at Gen Con and other conventions.
- Prepare a commission sheet. If you know ahead of time you’re going to commission some art of a specific character, get together a commission sheet with as thorough a description of that character as possible, and perhaps some pictures of other commissions you’ve had or art from elsewhere that best represents the character you want. Type it up on a word processor and print it out. It’s going to be hard enough for the artist to match your vision of the character as it is, but you can increase your chances by giving them something legible they can refer to instead of stammering out your spur-of-the-moment description and hoping they take good notes. Make several copies so you can leave one with each artist. It would be helpful to have your contact information on the sheet, too.
- Get there early. If you’re hoping to be able to pick up the sketch by the end of the convention, get your commissions in as soon as possible. Thursday morning, if you can. Artists, especially popular ones, are busy people. The sooner you get your requests in, the more likely you’ll be able to leave the con with your artwork instead of waiting and hoping for them to send it to you. (And you do want to do this, if at all possible. It’s a lot less work for them to hand it over to you than it is for them to mail it to you, which means it’s less likely they’ll be delayed by other things once they get back home.)
- Check their portfolio first. If you want to commission a specific style of art, make sure the artist you’re interested in works in that style. If you ask someone who draws only G-rated cute furry animals to draw you a nude pin-up, that’s probably not going to go over too well. See what they’ve drawn already and use some common sense.
- Make all your commissions at once. If you can, anyway. At Gen Con, when you buy something from an artist, including making a commission, they give you a form to take to the art cashier counter with your payment. If you want to minimize your standing-in-line time, you might want to go ahead and make as many commissions (and other art gallery purchases) as you can at once, then take them all up to the cashier in one batch so you only have to stand in line for them once.
- Photograph your receipt. Or whatever else the artist gives you with their contact information. That way you’ll have a digital copy you can refer to later if there’s any problem or other delay in getting your commission. Trust me, it’s all too easy to lose track of who you commissioned. I lost a $100 commission from a Gen Con artist because I couldn’t remember who that artist was to follow up. That’s a mistake I won’t ever make again.
- Have a plan for getting the art home. All that money you spent on art will be for naught if the art gets all scrunched up on the way home. If you’re going to be traveling by plane, bus, or some other method where you can’t guarantee your luggage will remain undisturbed, you might want to pick up some mailing supplies from one of the nearby mailing shops and mail it to yourself before you go home.
- Thank the artist politely, even if you’re disappointed. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it just in case. When you commission art, you pay your money and you take your chances. Even if you give them a detailed commission sheet, there’s no guarantee that artist’s vision is going to match yours in every particular. Sometimes you’ll get something that’s just perfect. Other times, you’ll wonder what they were thinking. But either way, they put their best effort into it—it’s not their fault they can’t read your mind. So tell them it’s great, even if you privately think it sucks. It’s just polite.
The next section is excerpted from the chapter listing a number of excellent Indianapolis restaurants and bars out-of-towners might want to visit. It begins with a section explaining Indiana’s weird liquor laws. This is followed by a list of local Indianapolis wineries and wine stores, as an example of the format I use to describe each business—name, address, phone number, distance from the Indiana Convention Center, and a description.
(In the e-book, each business listing has hyperlinks to the business’s homepage and Google Maps location, but they didn’t seem to transfer over when I copied the excerpt.)
SIDEBAR: Indiana State Liquor Laws
There are several little quirks of Indiana state liquor law that might be important to Gen Con attendees.
First, any establishment that serves individual drinks is required by law to maintain a certain minimum level of food service, including such items as sandwiches (or equivalents, such as tacos or hot pockets) and soup for at least 25 people. There are a few places that hold to the letter of the law while skirting the spirit (such as Sun King’s downtown tasting room, with its $10 microwave Hot Pockets) and a couple that seem to disregard it altogether, but by and large, this means that Gen Con attendees can be sure that they can get a bite to eat at almost any bar or pub. (At least, when it’s not late at night and they’ve closed their kitchens. They’re theoretically supposed to maintain their food service “at all times” they also serve drinks, but not all of them do.) It’s not the guessing game it might be in some states.
Second, Happy Hour drink specials are illegal in Indiana. Seriously. Bars are required to offer drinks at the same price to everyone regardless of who they are or when they arrive. Any drinks on sale have to be on sale from open to close all that day. You’ll find plenty of all-day drink specials, and Happy Four food specials, but not Happy Hour drinks.
Third—and here’s where things start to get really weird—the only places you can buy refrigerated cans or bottles of beer are liquor stores (or microbreweries, if they sell in cans or bottles). I’m not kidding. In Indiana, grocery stores and convenience stores are prohibited by law from selling you cold beer. (They’re not really happy about that, and have filed suit to try to get the law overturned, but they lost in the lower court and their appeal hadn’t gone anywhere by the time I wrote this.) Bear that in mind: if you want beer that’s drinkable right now, liquor stores are it. Or you could use that life-hack involving wrapping the can or bottle in a wet paper towel and putting it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. But those are your only options.
Last, and most importantly, stores cannot sell packaged alcohol on Sunday. (Or Christmas Day, but Gen Con is hardly likely to fall on that.) I gather that Indiana is the only state in the union where this Sunday blue law still applies not just to liquor, but also to beer and wine.
It’s important that you know this coming in, because you probably won’t see any signs or barricades up on the liquor sections of grocery or drug stores warning you ahead of time—most locals know this law already. The stores will just refuse to sell it to you when you get to the checkout, and it will be embarrassing all around. (Trust me, I speak from experience.) The one exception is that you may buy up to two cases of microbrewery beer on Sunday (including cans, bottles, and filling growlers) if the beer was brewed on the same premises where it is being sold.
(Also, you can’t buy booze at bars or stores between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. on any day. So if you game into the wee small early morning hours, you’re out of luck for a drink unless you planned ahead.)
If you’re planning a Sunday end-of-con party, make sure you stock up on your six-packs and cases ahead of time. You can still buy drinks in bars on Sunday, however, as long as it’s not between 3 and 7 in the morning.
Although Indianapolis is considerably more about beer than wine, the city still has ample fruit of the vine available for those who come looking.
- Easley Winery
- 205 N College Ave
- (317) 636-4516
- Distance: 1.2 mi (1.9 km)
Just up the block from the Sun King Brewery, this winery’s owners were involved in the early 1970s push to legalize wineries in Indiana. In business since 1974, this is one of the main downtown destinations for wine connoisseurs.
- Mass Ave Wine
- 878 Massachusetts Ave
- (317) 972-7966
- Distance: 1.7 mi (2.7 km)
A convenient little wine store/wine, port, and mixed drinks bar out on Mass Ave near Yats. They have a pretty good selection, and pretty good knowledge of the contents, too.
- New Day Craft Mead & Cider
- 1102 Prospect St
- (888) 632-3379
- Distance: 1.7 mi (2.7 km)
It might be more appropriate to group this meadery and ciderhouse in with the breweries, but what the heck, mead is technically honey “wine” and there are more than enough breweries on their own. Apart from producing some tasty meads and ciders, this establishment is right next door to Fountain Square’s own FLGS, Game Paradise. Stop in for a glass of mead and then see what the game store has to offer—or vice versa!
- Chateau Thomas Winery
- 6291 Cambridge Way
- (317) 837-9463
- Distance: 15.2 mi (24.3 km)
Chateau Thomas is one of the largest, best-known wineries in the Indianapolis area. If you’re a wine fan and going to be passing through, be sure and stop in to see what they have to offer.
As I said in the previous article, the e-book is sold DRM-free for easy conversion—and if you can’t convert it yourself, email me your Amazon receipt and I’ll send you the EPUB in return.
Self-publishing is very exciting. I hope you enjoy the book!