Say what? You published your first game? Terrific!

edited January 2014 in Story Games
So who on these forums has had a game published for the first time in the last year? Whether published by an established company or self-published, pod, pdf on DriveTHRU, whatever. Tell us about it. How are you managing the promotion, what have sales been like so far? Did you find you had to deal with stuff you hadn't bargained for? And was it a rapid learning curve? Are there things that, in retrospect, you would do differently next time? Etc.


  • I Kickstarted Short Order Heroes back in May. We did very well, pre-selling ~350 decks. Which of course doubled the size of the deck and also gave us a budget for a future expansion of the same size. New art and switching to a traditional printer added delays to the project, but we shipped out to all backers in October/November. We released to stores and the general public in late November (through Alliance), but letting stores know about us has been challenging. Since the public release we've had slow but steady direct sales via our website.

    What would I do differently? First, have fewer reward tiers in Kickstarter. Our original plan was print-on-demand, so the exclusives and blanks we offered could have been printed separately as needed. But when we moved to traditional printing they needed to be bundled for cost effectiveness, and they still were more expensive than needed. But even if we had just used print on demand, less categories would have made fulfillment better. I also didn't realize how much extra time the print process would take. Luckily I had padded my original delivery estimate knowing that problems would arise.

    Our budget for promoting is non-existent, so its mostly word of mouth via G+ and forums. The best thing I did was send 30 promo decks out before the Kickstarter to a variety of bloggers and podcasts. Only about 1/3 said anything about us, but those that did were a great help. My advice for anyone who wants to Kickstart a game is be as far as possible before you launch. And even if you don't have a lot of art, be confident enough in your own project to at least get some art commissioned. I was lucky enough to have a friend with the confidence to partner on the art. Even if you just have a cover made, it makes all the difference having something to show off on your project page.

    Anyway, those are my initial thoughts. I'd be happy to answer any questions people have. And looking forward to other people's publishing stories.
  • Gosh, I wish I could remember how I heard about Short Order Heroes. All I remember is that the concept caught my attention instantly, because it was so simple but so useful.
  • I published Steampunk Crescendo through DTRPG as a PDF. It is available on Amazon/B&N/Ingram as a hardback, but the DTRPG hardcopy is formatted completely differently and I Can't get a good proof out of it. Then I can get it on IPR.
    I have been trying FB/Twitter/G+ promotion, but I suck at promotion, so I am sure you ahve not heard of it, lol
    I am stoked, someone has purchased that game that is not friends/family, so I feel like I am officially a publisher, lol

    Steampunk Crescendo is an RPG where you play a character cursed to become a vampire if you commit evil. Meanwhile you fight vampires using Magic, Steampunk Gadgets and possibly Vampire Powers. All in a Victorian Steampunk Dystopia.

    For Mechanics geeks, it uses a modified Vince Baker's Otherkind mechanic for Conflict Resolution. Basically, you roll three dice on your turn and assign one to Attack, Defend and pursiung your stakes in the Scene. And it uses a Joe Mcdaldno-inspired Good/Evil and Goal Tracker (from a lost game called Point of Collapse).

    It is super fun and allows for great stories to be told.
    Dave M
  • To answer your questions more accurately:
    - How are you managing the promotion, what have sales been like so far?
    I have made some posts on FB, Twitter, G+. I don't have a lot of followers and I don't get much feedback, so I am not sure if this is an effective tool or not. I did make $50 profit this year, that translates into 2 pdfs and 5 hardcovers on and 7 pdfs on DTRPG. I know I need to do more to promote the book, but part of me wants to wait til I get this hardcopy thing figured out on DTRPG and get IPR up and running. And part of me doesn't know too much more I can do (other than calling attention to it on and here).

    - Did you find you had to deal with stuff you hadn't bargained for?
    Yes, marketing is a much more complicated animal than I ever imagined. A lot of the tips and info on-line work form someone who is "good" at social media, but I don't have that skill. I am working on it, but basically, sales will be a slow trickle til I figure it out...

    - And was it a rapid learning curve? Are there things that, in retrospect, you would do differently next time?
    Honestly, the trick to getting buzz/sales on your game revolves around social media. If I knew how to get people to engage with me in social media, I wold do that.

    And to be clear, a lot of it is my own fault. I visit SG every day ( too) but if I don't have something new to add, I haven't been posting me too posts. So, my foot print is pretty light on both sites. I feel like I have a lot to offer discussions about gaming, mechanics, social contract, trad vs indie, etc. but a lot of the responses I do post go overlooked. I am not sure why, so I don't know how to fix it.
    Dave M
  • edited January 2014
    For two years before launching my Kickstarter I managed to build up a sizable following on G+ just by posting about my own gaming as it happened. I was lucky that as an early adopter to g+, I got shared in a number of "gamer circles" when circle sharing was enabled. But the real secret is to be yourself. Engage others when you see a topic that is interesting, and start topics when you think of one. And just post a little something everytime you play a game. I keep meaning to post more pics to twitter. I must admit I've mostly been lurking here on Story Games, but I'm trying to be a bit more active.

    But for all my project has had a larger volume of money, I still haven't made a profit. My funds turned into a stack of cards I need to sell, and what's left needs to go toward the expansion release. So if you made an actual profit in your first year, you're doing something right. ;)
  • Thanks, I tried to do that with a blog, but I got no traction, so I stopped. I am just not good at self-promotion. My games are awesome and people who play them love them. But that is a different skillset from self-promotion. I am working on it, but it is taking time.
  • edited January 2014
    A started a new thread about using G+ here:

    Hope that helps!

    As for self promotion, I try not to spend too much time promoting my own stuff. Maybe once a week at most. The rest should just be regular game chatter about whatever you're playing/interested in at the moment.
  • I am proud to say that I had my first game, the Spark RPG, published for the first time in 2013. The kickstarter was a fairly phenominal success overall, with almost $12K raised and400 copies sent out to backers and later customers.

    Promotion is hard. Especially for a new publisher, I have relied on sponsoring conventions and generally producing free content to raise some awareness. Sales are ok, but I haven't had any luck getting into traditional distribution which limits my reach. I hadn't expected how hard it would be to get my game into retail, but I think that's the nature of the beast.

    Yeah, heck of a steep learning curve, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
  • I think almost all of the Kickstarters I found, I found because of my social network of RPG people, with somebody saying "This looks cool!"
  • I started my personal game studio late last year and I'm posting it everywhere and I'm sorry! Love Your Dystopia Games is focused on creating simple storytelling games. I am not selling my games, they are available in their current (finished or unfinished forms) for free with donations appreciated at my Patreon.
    I am looking for input and interest and friends and playtesters and whatever!
  • What is this patreon that people are talking about?
  • It's a patron system. People pledge $X per month, and that funds someone to produce stuff, generally regularly and more than once.
  • It's more complicated than that. You pledge $X per Product. Depending on the creator, they may release more than one product a month. You can cap your monthly pledge, but you should try and pledge an amount such that $X * normal monthly production < cap. As an example, Dyson Logos makes maps. He tends to publish about 8-10 a month. So even if you pledge on Patreon only $0.50, that works out to $4-5 a month. Most of the RPG developers I've seen do tend to shoot for a single PDF per month, so it can work out to that. But Patreon is a bit of a strange beast to get used to, both for the patrons and the creators.
  • It is definitely a weird one but I feel it lends itself to how I feel about my 'games'. I really don't see what I make as something I could charge for in the state they are in because I am so new to this and they probably aren't very good right now. I would have no idea just how much something like it is worth and I understand that people don't want to risk their money on getting a game they won't like or enjoy. Patreon or donation based things allow people to support, show interest and play a major part in development of these things.
    I think I would be interested though to read something about the pricing of 'indie' games if there is a discussion already out there or maybe starting one if there isn't?
  • Patreon is a great way to support those little projects you wouldn't be comfortable starting a big Kickstarter for.
  • edited January 2014
    I have been trying FB/Twitter/G+ promotion, but I suck at promotion, so I am sure you ahve not heard of it, lol
    In the closing days of the Forge, I thought we had made a lot of progress honing a pitch for Steampunk Crescendo! Did you manage to post that anywhere?
  • Yes, an only slightly modified version of that is on my lulu page, on amazon and on dtrpg.
  • @DInDenver Sorry dude, my Internet-fu is still relatively weak, so I hadn't clocked Steampunk Crescendo either. My fault not yours, so keep plugging it, and I'll take a gander when I get a spare minute (i.e. when I'm not sitting here tapping out endless threads and comments on this forum :p).
  • You do suck at promotion -- here we are talking about your game and you haven't linked it yet! Steampunk Crescendo on DriveThruRPG. I think the blurb there is nicely succinct, but it might not be obvious to people that "Oppose your Antagonist? Fight for your Goal?" are trade-offs rather than separate questions. "Be tempted" is also a bit passive, and "action-based resolution" is vague. I think a few minor tweaks could make a big difference -- to the blurb, anyway. Whether the blurb plays a major role in sales, I have no idea.
  • edited January 2014
    Also, there isn't a pic on the RPGGeek item page. You need to pimp your game wherever you can, on whatever forums you're on, even to the extent of specifically joining forums for that purpose (but obviously doing a bit if non-shill posting for a while first so as to establish yourself in that community).
  • I didn't do the Kickstarter for Spark (and I did a LOT of rpg kickstarters) being overseas and the fact that you were going to release the game anyway sway me not to.. I have picked it up already (pulled it out of the package last nite)

  • I didn't do the Kickstarter for Spark (and I did a LOT of rpg kickstarters) being overseas and the fact that you were going to release the game anyway sway me not to.. I have picked it up already (pulled it out of the package last nite)

    Thanks for picking it up and I hope you enjoy. Toss me an email so you can get your PDF? I did need to reach my goal to afford a real print run, but once I hit that I was set to print it come hell or high water. :)


  • belive it or not I don't do PDF's...
    Always good to see some one in print (and a kickstarter that finish right and didn't end in disaster;)

  • I started self-publishing my games way back in 2005, but all my sales were face-to-face, hand-to-hand. This year I published Spectrum on DTRPG, and for the first time people I've never met, in cities I've never been to, are buying my games. Which is way cool!

    Now for your questions:

    How are you managing the promotion? Badly, I expect, but I'm trying to get better at it. Spectrum has a facebook page, I have a G+ page, and a website. I feel intimidated by the amount of forum discussion out there about so many indie games. I decided to focus my posting efforts here, rather than trying to spread myself too thin accross a lot of different sites (although I have made a few posts on RPGnet, BoardGameGeek, and the AW forum). I sent a few copies of Spectrum to reviewers, but so far nothing has come of that. Something that I think is working well for promotion is that I also released a short, free game, Monster Box this year. Monster Box has been getting a lot of downloads (is 200 in a year a lot?), and I suspect that a few of those people have been coming back and buying Spectrum (or another game). But I don't know. I wish I knew how those people who are buying Spectrum found out about it.

    What have sales been like so far? I've sold 14 copies of Spectrum on DTRPG this year, which isn't a lot, but it still seems like a big deal this year, and since I didn't have to print or ship those books, it means I'm finally making (a little) money designing rpgs. I still don't know if any of those people who bought Spectrum have actually played it.

    Did you find you had to deal with stuff you hadn't bargained for? I guess all of the promotion, printing and distribution side of things I didn't really think about when I started designing games. Mostly now it's stuff I know I have to deal with if I want my games out there in the world being played (and I do!), but it's still not as much fun as making stuff.

    And was it a rapid learning curve? I guess so, but I wish it was faster! Once I settled on DTRPG things got faster and easier. I found all the different possible publishing options overwhelming, so it was good to stop researching options, pick one, and move forward.

    Are there things that, in retrospect, you would do differently next time? My big regret is that I didn't promote Spectrum before releasing it. I was developing and playtesting it for years, but when I released it online last year, no one in the wider gaming community had heard of it. Next time I want to start promoting a game early, in the design and sketch phase, do online playtesting, that sort of thing. Hopefully have a few people already interested in that game and looking forward to it's release.

    Thanks a lot for starting this thread, it's been interesting and useful to read. I especially like deinol's advice on only promoting yourself once a week, but being an active member of the community in other ways by posting about what you like.
  • belive it or not I don't do PDF's...
    Always good to see some one in print (and a kickstarter that finish right and didn't end in disaster;)

    Not doing PDF's is bound to lose you a lot of customers. Were I to buy a book from the US, it would likely cost me an additional $60 just to get it through customs, not to mention delaying it for three weeks.
    Also, I risk losing a physical book, whereas I have the option of backing up my PDF's.
  • I'm a buyer not a seller.. and while I agree with you about costs etc (I'm actually in Australia.. I used to wait 3 months for stuff to get to me;). I prefer a physical's just my personal preference..
  • My mistake, beasterbrook.

    As for the sellers, having a blog might be nice, but unless I actively search for it, I'd never see the blog. Mentioning that there's a kickstarter on facebook is in my very subjective experience a lot more useful, because, while WE may not be friends, someone will likely share with someone they know who may have someonein common with me.
  • My game Blade & Crown has now been on sale for over a year. I've sold about 25 print copies and 70 PDF copies. Considering I was originally going to consider it a success if I sold more than 10 copies, I think I'm doing pretty well. I've tried to keep realistic sales goals, so that occasional notification is mostly just a happy surprise.

    I still post pretty regularly at RPGnet and on my blog. Those are my main -- heck, nearly my only -- ongoing 'marketing' methods.
  • edited March 2014
    Last year I was contacted by Guild Companion Publications, who wanted to market some of my old Space Master stuff in PDF format on I never sold my stuff directly to market, always went through a game publishing house, but when ICE went bankrupt years ago the rights to some of these games reverted to me and I had no idea what to do with them. The GCP guys were rational and easy to work with, I would recommend them. We made a deal, they did all the scans, and so far they've sold a couple hundred PDF copies of books I thought wore past their expiration dates a decade ago. Yay oldschool revival, or something! Anyway... I'm not sure if the reporting is accurate but I can't complain, they're making a little bit of money, and I was never sure about Iron Crown's reporting either. :-)
  • It is really interesting to read other people’s experiences with self-publishing. I am absolutely grateful for the DTRPG platform and the awesome gamer community, because without that foundation, my products would never have reached an audience.

    Selling the first couple of PDFs was very satisfying to me. I instantly felt like „Hey? Someone actually is willing to spend money for my game!“ … I try to retain that sort of feeling whenever I see someone buy my game. I’ve had a full OCD going on, when I was constantly checking my sales report, just to see how many downloads I got. Especially during the free rpg giveaway phases.

    I did everything by myself, including Game Design, Writing, Illustrations, Graphic Design and Publishing. It took me over a year to create the game. The actual writing, illustration and layout part was done in about 4 months, but the concept phase was taking a lot more time. Probably even more than a year in total.

    Kickstarter wasn’t an option for me, since I’m from Austria (~I don’t have the required USA bank account), and I really don’t like the feeling of being behind fulfillment. It’s a lot of pressure, and I can’t cope with pressure. I went through a burnout during my last job, so pushing myself too much is not an option.

    I had a lot of fun with promotions (especially Pay What You Want), and the game was taken up by several reviewers. My experience with PWYW is that it’s very similar to giving your baby away for free, with some people supporting your game – sometimes even at higher prices than the regular 10 bucks. I don’t let PWYW run all the time though, because you can see a strong decline in actual sales after some time. Whenever I was able to gain a voice on G+ (through sharing), people heard my story and were willing to pay something. As soon as the game became a random „free product“ people were just downloading it for free.

    During the Global Tabletop-Day event (by Geek & Sundry), I gave Michtim away for free, because I wanted to get the game out to a bigger audience. That really worked well – with around 700 downloads in just a few couple days. Ever since PWYW is around, I would advise to use that instead though.

    Below are some figures. The game is available since late 2012. First as PDF-only product, then as Hardcover POD. I finally was able to produce a Card-based product as well, but it doesn’t sell particularly well. I will likely try to create more PDF products, because they are easily distributed.

    Michtim: Fluffy Adventures (Actual Sales)
    100 PDFs (regular model)
    80 PDFs (pay what you want)
    60 Hardcovers
    12 Calling Card Decks
    11 Calling Card DIY PDFs

    People downloaded around 1800 copies of the game for free, according to my sales report.

    In retrospect, I would have tried to connect more with the SG and crowd. I never was active on those two platforms. I didn’t even know about SG (sorry!), to begin with. But was always kind of intimidating. I was an avid review reader, but I never was on the forums. That’s something I should’ve done differently.

    On the other hand, I was an early adopter of G+, so that really helped me out.

    If you want to know more about Michtim, just head over to the Michtim Blog :)

    No sales pitch today!
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