Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Track Plan Book Survey Results

Ever so slowly, I am building up chapters of what could be a track plan book of my custom layout designs along the lines of John Armstrong titles such as Twenty Custom Designed Track Plansand 18 Tailor Made Model Railroad Track Plans(Kalmbach, each out of print).

Please note that I am definitely not presuming to place myself on Armstrong's level by any means, merely using the format of these books as a point of reference. They have always been favorites of mine.

This book would join currently available single-author track plan books such as Iain Rice' Shelf Layouts for Model Railroads, Bernie Kempinski's Mid-Size Track Plans for Realistic Layouts, and Lance Mindheim's self-published 8 Realistic Track Plans For A Spare Roomand 8 Realistic Track Plans For Small Switching Layouts.

While I would like for my book to be distributed by a major publisher, I recognize that this may not be possible and I may self-publish in the end.

I would expect that the book would contain fifteen to twenty track plans, along with perhaps an additional chapter or two on some design principles. Each track plan would be accompanied by text describing the real or imagined prototype and explaining the design. I am looking for your input on what might interest you. (And of course, if the first book is somewhat successful, there's more where those plans came from!)
Survey Results

Thanks to all of you who took the time to participate in the track plan book survey, which is now closed. There were 99 or more votes for each question, so I'm very pleased with the response. Here are the results, in case anyone is curious.

Would you purchase a book of custom model railroad track plans as described?
60% Probably yes
33% Possibly
3% Probably no
2% Definitely no

Nice to know that the majority is interested! Of course, this only includes folks interested enough to respond to the poll, so there is significant sampling bias.

What should this book cost at retail?
18% $20-25
51% $15-20
10% Less than $15
18% Depends on content and quality

I thought this might be the "sweet spot". This might be more challenging in self-publishing, but it's good to know.

What about layout sizes in the track plan book?
55% A mix of layout sizes in one book is fine
45% Prefer separate books for large and small layouts

This one surprised me a bit. My favorite track plan books include a range of sizes, but that wasn't a strong preference among respondents.

Would track plan art similar to that on my Layout Design Gallery web pages be acceptable, or do you expect more in a book?
42% Layout Design Gallery art is fine
43% Book artwork must be better
14% Not sure / Don't know

I did not know what to expect with this question, but obviously I will consider the need for "prettier" track plan art in any self-publishing effort.

How do you feel about reprinting my previously-published track plans in this book?
57% A few previously-published plans would be OK
36% No, the book should be all-new material
7% Not sure / Don't know

This result was interesting to me. If the book is released through a publisher, they may choose to include some previously-published plans. For a self-publishing effort, I see that I might want to include only a very few previously-published plans that are particularly illustrative of a general concept.

I also appreciate those of you who took the time to contact me directly regarding this poll, whether the comments were positive or negative. I was a little confused by the one fellow who wrote to tell me how much he hated my first book and he would be sure to tell his friends not to buy my next book.

Unless he somehow received my teacher's copy of The Pesky Puppy, which I wrote and illustrated as a class assignment in the 4th grade, I think he must have me confused with someone else.

And, no, The Pesky Puppy is not in my plans to publish.

Monday, May 17, 2010

One Track Mind

I've been doing quite a bit of work on operating ideas for my custom track planning clients lately. I didn't realize how focused I had become in my thinking until I stopped by the dry cleaners today with clothes in one hand and a laundry ticket in the other.

"Some to pick up and some to set out", I told the clerk.

… the quizzical look on his face told me he's not a model railroader.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Canadian Prairie Crossing

My latest article in the commercial press describes an interesting custom HO scale layout design consultation project. It's found in the May/June 2010 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist mediazine (always available free at the preceding link).

The client's concept, space, and even basic footprint had been well thought-out: a pair of proto-freelanced Canadian branch lines crossing in the Alberta prairie, with grain elevators the primary signature industries.

His original footprint ideas were for an around-the-room arrangement with a movable benchwork section. Although that was certainly workable in the roughly 11 1/2' X 15' space in HO, I always like to at least try for a walk-in footprint. In this case, we were just a little shy on space and the client's original footprint was the better choice.

Click the image to see this plan in my layout design gallery
The MRH article includes some great photos of the region, as well as the track plan and a bit of description on the track planning process and trade-offs. There are even a couple of photos of the benchwork, which is well underway. It was an interesting project and I hope that readers will enjoy the article.