Building instructions and buying my models

A while back I posted that I was considering how best to share building instructions for my creations. There were several comments on that post and also a few email exchanges I had with people over this topic, and I’ve also had a chance to discuss it in person with a few people at BrickCon in Seattle this past October. And what I’ve decided on is this:

  • I won’t give it away for free. Sorry if that’s disappointing, but although I am a big fan of open source software, the reason that works well is because the users can contribute back to the development of the software by adding features and fixing bugs, and submitting patches to the author. LEGO creations are fundamentally different from that, in that once I’ve created a design I’m really not interested in collaborating with other builders to change it. I might take some feedback and revise it based on that, but I’m not going to accept patches for my models. So the open source model doesn’t really suit my LEGO creations.
  • Similarly I am a fan of Creative Commons, but again the main benefit of that is the ability for people to incorporate my work (such as my photos, which are licensed with Creative Commons) into other works without having to jump through a lot of hoops to get approval. Some of my photos have been used by Web sites and even mainstream news sources because of this. But I don’t think that would translate into LEGO model designs.
  • I won’t use LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) because you give up too many of your rights when uploading the designs to LEGO’s site. It would be convenient to use Design By Me to create kits from my models, but then it would be LEGO profiting from it instead of me. Is that too selfish? I think if I’m going to go through the effort of creating instructions for a model, as opposed to just photographing it or even creating an LDraw file of it, I’d like to receive something for my efforts. (LDraw is the easy part, it’s making the instructions that’s harder – even though LPub does a lot of the work, there’s still a great deal of manual adjustment of the layout to get it to where I want it).
  • Selling kits of my models is something I’ve thought about a lot, and I may do it for one or two models, but the problem is obtaining the parts. It’s rare to find one BrickLink store that has all the parts for a model, so I’d have to order them from several stores – or deplete the parts in my collection, which again means going to BrickLink to replace them.
  • What I know I can do is sell PDF or printed copies of the instructions. To that end, I’m planning on setting up a store on and listing the instructions there in both ebook and printed format, and some kits for small and popular models I’ve designed.

So, watch this space for an announcement when I get my Etsy store up, and in the meantime let me know if there are any particular models of mine you’d like to get the instructions for. Prices for smaller models will be around $20. I’m not generally interested in doing custom work, but if the idea grabs my interest I may do it. But in general I would refer you to someone who does that for a living.

How best to share building instructions for my creations?

Every once in a while I get a request to share building instructions for my models. I am willing to do so, but haven’t quite figured out the best way. I was wondering if people might want to comment and make some suggestions?

Some possibilities for formats are are:

  • LDraw files
  • PDF of instructions generated using LDraw and LDpub
  • Printed instructions in black & white or color

The ugly side of the equation comes when I contemplate compensation.  Do I sell them or just give them away?  I think it depends on how much work I have to put into them.  I won’t go through the trouble of creating printed instructions for free, but I might be willing to share the LDraw files for free (Creative Commons licensed).  The question is, how much would people be willing to pay, and is that enough to justify the work it would take me to prepare nice looking instructions?