2021 continues to be a year of transition and growth for GMPuzzles. Having brought Serkan Yürekli on-board as Managing Editor last year, and getting more support from the rest of our team, we’ve had the opportunity this year to focus on several different parts of our publishing business. At the start of the year I set our some objectives and key results for GMPuzzles. While this was just a set of internal targets, I wanted to write today to share our goals with our audience, suggest how we think we are doing, and get your feedback on anything more we need to be doing to meet our objectives.
Overall Objective: Grow Grandmaster Puzzles to be the best publisher of logic puzzles in the world.
Objective 1 (Consistency): Establish Grandmaster Puzzles as a highly reliable puzzle publisher, for both puzzle solvers and puzzle constructors.
- Owner: Serkan
- Background: In past years, Thomas’ work schedule and other commitments made the release of books and web weeks less certain. Twice we’ve had to “pause” the site when Thomas has taken on a new job. Some effects of this are that there are some promised titles, like The Art of Sudoku 2, that spent years on the backlog to be released, and authors have in the past had to wait awhile for feedback. In 2020, bringing Serkan onboard as a managing editor helped a lot, and the goal for 2021 is to continue to make our publishing process as consistent and reliable as possible, with clear publication plans and enough editorial support to never have another unexpected delay again.
- Key Result 1a: Release 48+ weeks of puzzles and solutions online throughout the year.
- Midyear score: 1.0 — we are on track to release puzzles every single week this calendar year. This will be our first year with that much content since 2014.
- Key Result 1b: Release 12 new e-book collections over the year, one per month.
- This should include individual puzzle packs as well as the launch of a more regular quarterly publication (in style of The Art of Puzzles) that includes content from several of our most popular genres and from a lot of different contributors.
- Midyear score: 0.9 — we will release at least 12 books this year but just missed in May the “one per month” goal due to some delays on one ambitious title. But we have a plan for our next year of e-books, including our next releases in June and July of a TomTom collection and a Sudoku pack with Even/Odd Sudoku and Thermo-Sudoku. We’re planning for the first Grandmaster Puzzles Quarterly collection to come out after that.
- Key Result 1c: Complete implementation of a regular puzzle submission and request system for authors.
- This should be connected to our book plans and web releases, to have a more stable flow of accepted puzzles and published puzzles. We should be accepting about the same numbers of puzzles in a year that we have opportunities to publish.
- Midyear score: 0.5 — Serkan is doing a great job getting regular feedback to contributors who email our submissions address, but we still need to do better on a few aspects of this puzzle flow. First, while we have guidelines for how to submit puzzles to us, we should be clearer on “why to write for us” and “what we are looking for”. We get a lot of unsolicited submissions we have to reject because they do not meet our publication needs or our GMPuzzles style guidelines like being visually/esthetically interesting. While we’ve also planned for our next several books, we have not placed an open call for submissions towards these books yet and expect to do that by end of year.
- For any author with open questions, including status of puzzles or needing to send in an invoice, please email our submissions address to ask for an update. For anyone wanting to contribute puzzles, feel free to also email us to start a dialogue on how your puzzles might fit in our future plans.
- Stretch Goal: Release 3+ backlogged puzzle titles including a collection of all our past patreon bonus puzzles, a collection or our past giant puzzle rewards, and/or expanded versions of older out-of-print books where GMPuzzles has the right to republish (like TomTom Puzzles or Mutant Sudoku).
- No midyear update here yet, but one of my own goals for second half of year when I have time is to finish the Patreon book and then rerelease (with more content) my very first TomTom book from over a decade ago.
Objective 2 (Accessibility): Establish Grandmaster Puzzles as the best destination for logic-puzzle solvers of all levels, from beginners to experts.
- Owner: Thomas
- Background: While our puzzles are high-quality, they are usually on the more difficult end of the spectrum. And by releasing as a blog form, there is no easy way for a new solver to encounter our puzzles and have a good initial experience. Further, even for experienced puzzle solvers, our available solving options (i.e., printable PDFs) limit some solving options. Our goal in 2021 is to continue to improve on our accessibility so that we can grow the audience for GMPuzzles content and make the site an easier destination for new puzzles solvers to find and grow to love.
- Key Result 2a: Complete new web flow / introduction sections for at least 10 main genres at GMPuzzles.
- This should include beginner packs pulled from prior web content with their own solving flow, web or video tutorials to discuss the rules and info and how to get started on the puzzle type, and other appropriate content to improve the experience for beginning solvers.
- Midyear score: 0.0 — Due to later key results (including digital solution options), we have not focused on rebuilding our webflows yet.
- Key Result 2b: Add online solving for 100% of new web puzzles as possible.
- This will begin in “beta” form in 2021 using penpa-edit tool (originally from opt-pan and then extended by swaroopg92), with more improvements to be implemented throughout the year to make the solving tools easier to use and more blended with our overall web experience.
- Midyear score: 1.0 — every 2021 puzzle has been on Penpa-Edit and we’ve added several hundred from our archive to the tool as well, with a new stretch goal to finish all digitization by end of the year. We’ve also set ourselves up in working with Swaroop for active development and updates to our tools based on solver feedback.
- Key Result 2c: Release at least 2 YouTube solving videos per week for our new web content, with some of these videos being suited more for beginners (including filling some of the goals of key result 2a and 2b for more accessibility).
- Midyear score: 1.0 — I am making videos for almost every puzzle we post now, but am considering how to balance these kinds of videos versus some “intro to [puzzle style]” videos or other content to help with key result 2a on accessibility above.
Objective 3 (Scaling): Continue to release high-quality content while exploring new venues for our puzzles to reach a broader audience.
- Owner: Thomas
- Background: Our puzzle content has been top notch from the start, and we want to keep this intact as we scale our company and distribution into additional channels.
- Key Result 3a: Continue our long-standing streak of having no published “broken puzzles” with zero or multiple* solutions.
- (*except in very rare cases where puzzles are meant to have multiple solutions such as the few puzzles we’ve now posted to the site that can be solved as two different puzzle genres.)
- Midyear score: 1.0 — the quality streak continues with no broken puzzles in our history of publication. Yes, errors like small typos in setting up web posts or occasional server issues have happened, but our puzzles have never had an error in them to frustrate a solver.
- Key Result 3b: Contribute GMPuzzles content to select magazines and international puzzle competitions.
- Including at a minimum writing a Puzzle Grand Prix round in 2021 and setting up the team for the 2022 World Sudoku and Puzzle Championships sponsored by Grandmaster Puzzles in Toronto.
- Midyear score: 0.5 — We have completed a Puzzle Grand Prix round for the year which will be held next weekend, but the WSPC plans have been further delayed due to COVID. We have separately started conversations to license some of our puzzles to other magazines/app providers but don’t have anything material to share on this front yet.
- Key Result 3c: Fully support [REDACTED] needs, a project that will utilize our GMPuzzles content.
- Midyear score: [redacted] — can’t share more on this yet, but if our overall goal is to be the best publisher of logic puzzles in the world, this opportunity to bring more of our puzzles to a new audience may be a big step for us in the coming years.
So that is our set of Objectives and Key Results that I shared with our team in early January and that I’ve put some grades on here in June. I shared them here as I want you, our GMPuzzles community, to share your own feedback on how we are doing. And any other ideas of how to improve our site’s “consistency”, “accessibility”, and “scaling” or other key results we should be tracking are welcome too.