Friday, December 21, 2012

The Plan

Step 1: Successful Kickstarter of Players Manual
Step 2: ???
Step 3: PROFIT!!!

Now that the Adventures Dark and Deep™ Players Manual has been successfully funded (thanks again to all who backed it!), I thought it would be a good idea to give a little insight into where I think things are going, business-wise, and what I'm looking at for a business model and so forth.

It should come as no surprise that BRW Games, LLC, the company I started to publish my gaming stuff, is not my primary source of income, nor do I expect it to be in the near future. It's a hobby, something that I do in my spare time (in and around my everyday job, my family, my religion, and other things). I confess I like the creative aspects like planning and writing considerably more than I do the tedious business aspects like promotion, accounting, etc., but that doesn't mean it can't be approached in a somewhat organized manner.

The "big picture" is that I want to get the ADD rules published and out of the way so I can get to work on new and more creative stuff. I've got a mess of adventure modules I'd like to publish, and a setting (Erseta) that I think has a lot of potential.

First, I want to finish up ADD. If I know the Players Manual is on schedule to go out the door by March of 2013, that lets me have the Kickstarter for the Game Masters Toolkit in March. Assuming that is also on the same schedule, I can have it out the door by June and do the Bestiary Kickstarter in June. And that means that I can have the Bestiary out in  Q3 of 2013, which is something I'd very much like to do.

I've been working on these rules for more than two years now. I'm ready for the project to be complete, because I can't do the adventures and other fun stuff until the rules are done. And that will also mean the Kickstartering will be done for a good long while. (Yay!) Frankly, I only want to do Kickstarters for big huge things that I can't fund myself, and the Bestiary will be the last one of those for quite some time.

Once the rules are done and out, I can focus on writing adventures and setting type material. Some of it will be free stuff that I put out here (like the Gazetteers for the Lands Beyond the Flanaess that I still want to get to, plus one or two Greyhawk-specific projects that I've been wanting to do for years), and others will be sold on and its sister sites.

That brings up a point about the business model. Everything is done on a shoestring, and everything is as self-sustaining as possible. By using print on demand, I'm able to significantly lower my up-front costs, which in turn makes everything possible. It is true that RPGNow takes a cut of my sales, but for my situation the cost is worth not having to deal with the hassles and costs of shipping, warehousing, and up-front printing. I figure my time not spent going to the post office (figuring my hourly rate from my day job), plus the money not spent on storage space for stock, is worth the minor chunk that RPGNow takes from each sale. Plus it's pretty much profit from day one; I don't need to worry about selling X books to recoup the cost of a print run.

What sort of other stuff do I have in mind? Well, there are a lot of little adventure ideas that I'd like to commit to paper. Some of the stuff will be spinoffs from Castle of the Mad Archmage (publishing in the first half of 2013 by Black Blade Publishing), some will be completely stand-alone adventures that can be plugged in just about any campaign, some might be specific to Erseta. They'll need a few pieces of art, but nothing near like the art the rulebooks need, and I can fund that with the profits from the books and such. The whole thing then becomes self-perpetuating, and all is right with the world. No more Kickstarters unless something huge rears its head.

I do have at least two other games on the drawing board, in various states of completion; Adventures Great and Glorious (a combination of "domain management", mass combat, and political intrigue that can be played separately or in connection with ADD) has not been forgotten, and Sail the Solar Winds (a space opera RPG) is still knocking at the back of my mind. But new games are way down on the list. Like 2015 or later. I just want to relax and write some fun stuff that shows off the rules I've already got.

Kickstarter Analysis: ADD Players Manual

As promised, I thought I'd go through some of the details of how the Kickstater campaign for the Adventures Dark and Deep™ Players Manual went. This can be compared to the campaign for the first book, A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore, for which I did a similar analysis after it's Kickstarter campaign concluded.

I decided to do some things very deliberately differently for the Players Manual. First and foremost, I decided that I'd let the project stand or fall on its own. There were not going to be any stretch goals, no synergies with other projects, etc. I wanted this to be about the book itself, because this was going to be my first real opportunity to gauge interest in the game system from a commercial standpoint.

Too, there were differences in the way the funding was handled. For Forgotten Lore, the reward levels for the books were higher ($30 for the softcover and $60 for the hardcover) and the overall goal was lower ($2,500). The goal could be lower because there was to be less art in that book. So, in essence, I needed a relatively few hard-core supporters to meet the goal. And, sure enough, the goal was met and surpassed, coming in at $7,459 with a total of 244 backers.

For the Players Manual, the situation was different. Because there was going to be a lot more art in this book (mainly because it's much longer, page-wise), the goal had to be that much higher; in this case $6,500. However, because I now had a much better idea of the process and the costs involved (thanks to the experience from the first book), I knew I could offer the books themselves for less; still $30 for the softcover, but the hardcover could be had for only $40. That's much more in line with the cost of other, similar game books, and I think it showed. Almost five times as many people selected the hardcover option over the softcover, whereas for Forgotten Lore, twice as many people chose the softcover.

And that showed, too. Despite the fact that there were fewer overall backers, since so many more people opted for the hardcover over the softcover, the second Kickstarter actually made more money (236 backers, $8,601 raised).

Also, because there were no gimmicks involved, the fundraising showed a much more steady rate of increase:

As expected, there's a big jump at the beginning, a relatively long period of minimum growth, and then another boost at the end as the campaign comes to a finish. This is helped by the fact that Kickstarter itself sends out reminders to people, plus I had a number of wonderful folks pumping the book on their blogs and elsewhere.

I should also point out that as of this writing, only $180 in pledges remain to be collected (because the credit card that was used when the pledge was made was refused at the end of the Kickstarter). From what I understand, that's a pretty good number; there are tales of other campaigns that suffer enormous shrinkage when it comes time to collect. Kickstarter keeps sending out reminders for two weeks, so hopefully that number will get even better.

All in all, this Kickstarter didn't have nearly the frantic feel that the first one did. I had much longer to go before it made goal, but it did so without my having to resort to loads of stretch goals. I feel good about the fact that the book was able to stand up on its own, and look forward to the next campaign for the Game Masters Toolkit.

Now, the Bestiary, I probably will feel frantic about, because it's so huge, but I'll worry about that bridge when I come to it.