Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tempering Expectations: Kinda Sorta a Timeline of My 1st Product

Lately there have been a lot of new folks getting into publishing their own thing, whether it is a zine, adventure or supplement.  What I've also seen, is the rumblings of disappointment in the sales.  I'm not an expert, but I have a few years under my belt with small press publications.  So everything I'm writing is from my experience and it may or may not pertain to you.

Everyone has their own idea of success.  Some measure success by a certain number of sales, others measure success by the amount of money they can put in their pocket and then there are those that feel that succeeded by getting their product published.  None of these ideas of success it wrong by any means.  They don't have to stand alone from one another, it can be a combo or two or more and other ideas of success combines. 

With more and more gaming material being released some of these folks are disappointed by the response.  While I can't tell you what is good and what is not so good I'll just share some of the experiences I've had.

My first product I published was Knowledge Illuminates (KI) back in February, 2011.  I'd been blogging for almost two years, getting to know the OSR community and I caught the self-publishing bug.  While I was very excited to release KI.  My expectations were low.  I thought if I could sell 25 copies it was a success and if on the outside chance I could sell 50, I'd be thrilled.  My friend +Rob Conley, who did the maps, proclaimed I'd sell a 100.  I covered my ears, "I can't hear you!"  I didn't want to get my hopes up that high.  I hadn't even sold 1 yet.

I released KI and immediately had to go back and edit it again.  My excitement to release the product made me jump the gun.  And I wrote a post about Why I Should Listen to My Wife

The sale jumped out of the gate very well.  I sold 37 copies in February.  Hell, KI was #1 on RPGNow for about 10 minutes, but it was there.  Within a couple of weeks I'd already hit my goal and then some.  The main reason why KI did well was:
  • I had been around a couple of years and folks got to know me through my blog.  Got to know what I was about and were willing to give the adventure a chance.  
  • The other reason was they did reviews.  I asked a bunch of folks if they would do a review and sent them a comp copy to do so.  This alone helped out tremendously.  
  • And overall, the OSR was supportive and helpful, even when there was some controversy over the price I set.  I set it at $4.  My reasoning for that was, it was my wife's lucky number.  Who was I to deny the laws of the universe.  It got people talking and that helped.
  • I did the best job I could do at the time.
In March I sold 15 copies.  The sales came in one or two.  By the end of the month they had dried up.  In April I didn't have any more sales until +James Maliszewski did a review and he was responsible for getting the 13 sales I had that month.  So in the first three months I had surpassed my expectation by selling 65 units.  Holy crap, maybe I did have a chance at a 100.

May 2011 - 4 sales

June 2011 - 3 sales

July 2011 - 1 sale

August, September, October 2011 - 0 sales

While the initial success was great, it tailed off very quickly.  My problem at the time was, I had no follow up product ready to go.  

Since I have been doing The Manor, follow-up releases are huge.  With each new release I get more sales from my older products.  I was doing the numbers for this month sales and 10 new folks picked up issue #1 of the Manor that was released 27 months ago.  On non-release months these tail sales add up and keep you motivated.

Because I kept at it, released new products, continued to blog and get involved with giveaway/contests/Kickstarters, to date Knowledge Illuminates has sold 416 copies.  WAY more than I ever thought it would sell.

No matter what your expectation is, the key to to keep publishing the best product you can do.  Publish what gets you excited.  And for god's sake, have fun with it.  If you can transfer your excitement, the fun you had with creating the process into a written form, you won't have to worry about sales.  They'll come your way, but just don't wait for them.  Move on to the next thing that is making you want to roll dice.

14 comments:

  1. These kind of posts from you are what got me into publishing The Undercroft. It's so unbelievably useful to have someone with experience talk extensively and honestly about brass tacks.

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    1. Glad you did Daniel. The Undercroft is a great zine. Looking forward to future issues.

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  2. Totally. This is very relevant to me right now, so I posted some blurb as a follow up - http://acrossthevilayet.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/026-zine-publishing-and-all-that.html

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    1. Best of luck with you upcoming zine. As soon as it's ready to go you'll have one auto sale.

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  3. Great post, Tim! I think it's helpful dose of reality to anyone who has dreams of making it big self publishing game content with only one product. But I especially like the last paragraph - it really doesn't matter if you sell a ton of something, if you didn't enjoy creating it in the first place.

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  4. Ok, fine! I'll stop whining. Jeez! ;)

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    1. heh, Tom, just keep plugging away. There is no whining in zining. Get issue #2 out there.

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  5. Tim you are a zine God, and not one of those that lurk in a metal bowl in an overgrown temple in a ruined city that splurge out in a mass of tentacles and teeth to consume the population, but one the good ones. After reading one of your zine posts I start hankering to buy more paper, ink and a center punch stapler.

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    1. Man, I'm glad I'm one of the good ones, but the bad one sounds very cool. I hope one day you decide to get more paper, ink and a center whole punch.

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  6. 416...and *I* still haven't purchased a copy!
    ; )

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    1. Maybe when it hits 500 you'll snag a copy :P

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  7. I'll echo what Daniel said above; it's really helpful and great to have these posts. Personally I've been _extraordinarily_ pleased with Secrets, and the issues have all been on my end as I figure out what kind of things work for me (having a complete product done before I open my mouth) and what things don't (preorders). I've literally run out of copies to sell, but have more by the time #3 is ready. (I'm also going to put the pdfs on RPGNow.)

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    1. Glad you find them helpful Nathan. Secrets is an excellent zine. I'm still figuring things out also. Each time I get closer to figuring it out, some how it slips away. I think offering PDFs is a great more. There a lot of gamers that only buy PDFs. It's a great extra revenue that doesn't cost you anything, you don't have to do anything except let the orders roll in. Then you can use the money to find your next project or if you're like me, buy the latest monster manual someone put out. I can't help myself.

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