In late August we reported on a Kickstarter campaign by French publisher Third Editions Books. The company's goal is simple - to fund the translation of (at least) three of its most popular books into English, enabling it to gain a foothold in major territories like the US.
Books like this - nowadays often referenced as 'coffee table' books - are always eye-catching, and the project is notable from our perspective due to the presence of Zelda: Archive of a Legendary Saga in the campaign, alongside Final Fantasy VII and Dark Souls: Beyond Death. A company that's well established in the French market, and with a lot of publications to its name, it seems as close to a sure bet as you're likely to see on the crowdfunding platform.
With two weeks left in the Kickstarter campaign it's progressed well, accumulating over 1000 backers and over €80,000 at the time of writing, meaning it's most of the way to its €100,000 goal. As the campaign heads into its final stretch we caught up with Thomas Bouissaguet (Cartapouille), who is working with the publishing house founders - Nicolas Courcier and Mehdi El Kanafi - to make the translations happen.
First of all, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Well, we're a bunch of friends from France, who love video games and books. Med and Nico created this sweet publishing house delivering incredible books to the French market. And I'm a journalist who realized the potential of these books on an international level, and convinced them to give it a go. We started this adventure all together and so far we're really happy!
Can you tell us about the history of Third Editions Books, such as your publishing record in France?
Third Editions is the third company where Nico and Med have worked. They created a first one when they wrote a book on Assassin's Creed together. It was called Console Syndrome Editions, after the name of their previous fanzine and website. But then they were bought by a larger French publisher. There, they published dozens of books. After a while, they wanted to work for themselves again and created Third Editions, taking with them the rights of many books they've published before. And in less than two years they published more than a book per month, working with the biggest game journalists in France.
How successful has the studio been to date in France? In your Kickstarter video you mention multiple print runs of the Legend of Zelda book, for example.
Yes, Zelda is one of the oldest titles in the catalogue. It's been sold out many times, and updated as new games would come out. On the used market you could find some of the first editions going for crazy prices on sale, up to 800 euros per book. I think that now readers in France know that we are a serious publishing house, and they trust us with every new book. We have customers that collect every single book since the beginning, and specialized media would always cover any new release we propose. And this special relationship with gamers took years of work to build, dozens of books and countless contacts through social media.
Three books are part of the campaign to be translated into English. Can you introduce these, and explain what sort of content readers can expect?
Every book is written under three major perspectives: genesis, background and analysis. The goal is to take a major franchise or game, and professionally strip it down to the core. Going from the gameplay analysis, to the lore explanation or even how the sound was intended to work on the player. It's a meticulous work with many hours of research behind it, play sessions on specific parts, interviews with devs, etc. So this process is here applied to The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy VII and Dark Souls. If you have played any of these titles, then the book should add to the level of knowledge you already have, clarifying some points or telling you what the dev was thinking at a given time. And if you are just curious about a saga without playing it, the books are written to introduce you in the universe, and then expand that knowledge. After that, some people find it enjoyable to play as they apprehend the games with more depth.
Our audience is naturally very interested in the Legend of Zelda book; what are some of the highlights, in your opinion, of that one?
Each game has its own identity, while maintaining similar gameplay mechanics. This leads to different level of perspective depending on the game. For example, Link's Awakening can relate to Jung's dream analysis, and Majora's Mask to the Mexican culture of the masks, etc. Upon that analysis, the book is peppered with trivia and dev quotes, and analyses also the gameplay, putting it into context for the time of the release. It's a great way to fill the blanks on one's lore knowledge, as well as adding depth to it.
Each game has its own identity, while maintaining similar gameplay mechanics. This leads to different level of perspective depending on the game. For example, Link's Awakening can relate to Jung's dream analysis, and Majora's Mask to the Mexican culture of the masks.
What sort of reaction have you had to the Kickstarter campaign so far?
A great one! Well, Kickstarter campaigns are kind of rollercoasters of emotions. Sometimes you get great news and you see a lot of people backing you, and sometimes nothing happens for a fairly long period and you feel depressed. It's really a hardcore job to handle, including the fact that we live in Europe and have to be working for a mainly US audience, at US hours. Our community so far is amazing, we receive a lot of comments that are really positive, coming from people believing in what we propose. That's something incredible, being unknown guys followed by more than 1000 persons. It's really a drug, the popular enthusiasm, and makes us want to work even more and add new things constantly. Some people are still sceptics, wondering how serious we are about all that, and we understand them. We have to gain this trust, to show the world that we do amazing books about games, and we will do just that.
Are you confident of hitting your funding target in the last two weeks?
Fairly confident. I mean, you never know, of course, and things could stop now, but we are at 80% of our goal in just two weeks. At the beginning, nobody could know us, now the word is spreading thanks to our amazing community. Doing the remaining 20% should be doable. That's why we are proposing new books to translate on stretch goals! You can vote for the books you want next in this poll.
A key question a number of our readers have is around licensing and rights - can you clarify that you have the full rights and approval to publish these books outside of France?
Yes, we are asked that a lot. You need rights to duplicate something that is under copyright, like a large portion of identical text or pictures. You do not need any rights to comment on copyrighted content. That's why our books are available in physical stores and on Amazon France for two years now. Having original text-only books, and covers made by independent artists is the way to keep this legal. There is no reason to shut our company down. We have contacts in the professional gaming world, of course, and devs know what we are doing. We have more readers among them than we have angry lawyers.
The books are mostly text, as you say, so do you anticipate a sizeable audience for the eBook versions, too?
eBooks are new. It's something really uncommon in France, very few people use them. Nico and Med, for example, never read a book on an e-reader nor tablet, they love the feeling of the pages too much. I, on the other hand, read hundreds of books on my Kindle for many years now. But our readers love to have physical books, as you can see on the Kickstarter campaign. However, even if eBooks are less popular than physical copies, we strongly believe that it's an opportunity for someone who doesn't want, or can't, spend a lot of money to have access to the content as well. And as every physical book comes with the same as an eBook for free, well you can switch your reading experience however you want.
Do you hope to bring more Third Editions books out in English, and if so which are next in line?
Yes! The whole point of this campaign is not to sell three books for a certain amount of money, but to set foot in the US, in particular. We want to give Third Editions an international stature. In our collection, we have many books that would have an English audience, and we want to translate them all. In the future, the goal would be to publish tailor-made books for every country/culture about popular games here and there. Everything depends on the success of this campaign and the stretch goals. But, no matter what, we don't want to let down all the backers who believed in us.
We'd like to thank Thomas for his time. If you're interested in these books be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign.