A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer



Kickstarter… Or Not

I have a lot of thoughts and ideas that are constantly rolling around in my head, and if the average day contained more than 24 hours I would most probably put them down on paper and publish them for the world to enjoy. But there's always one thing about my publications that makes me somewhat self-conscious and question the quality of my own work: they aren't "artsy".

Like I've mentioned on this blog before, I am not an artist. Sure I can make tactical maps, but that's not what I'm talking about when it comes to being an artist; I'm talking about actual hand-drawn images to give my product a little more of an artistic flair. Every time I finish a product and am about to publish it, I spend weeks trying to figure out what I'm going to do about cover art because I don't consider it a true product without one. My last product, Death's Edge, was published without cover art (the image you see on the listing is a very low resolution stock image; I do not have license to an image of sufficient resolution to publish), and that actually bothers me a great deal. It just feels... wrong... ya know?

I got lucky with The Heart of Fire: I was able to find the perfect image on DeviantArt and I contacted the artist to see about licensing it. The artist allowed me to license it, gave me a very reasonable price for it, and most importantly I was able to afford it at the time. Nowadays the return on investment for 4th Edition products is nowhere near what it once was - I haven't made a profit on any product in ages - so it's hard to justify spending money to commission art or to pay for existing art when you know you're not going to make the money back in sales.

So I've considered Kickstarter as a means to fund the creative aspects of the project and pay for commissioned artists to create the covers and interstitial art in my publications. I have actually written up at least three separate projects in order to fund some ideas of mine... but I've never had the courage to hit the "post" button for a variety of reasons.

My biggest problem is that I don't really consider this a self-sustaining business. That's always been my problem: I do this for fun, so I'm not actively looking at this as a means to put food on the table. As a result, any aggressive efforts to try to make a strong revenue stream from these products feels kind of inappropriate, and it feels kind of awkward to ask complete strangers to spend their hard earned money to have me do what I consider a hobby, a pastime. Sure, you can pay me all you want to buy an existing product, but are people seriously going to pay me to create something that doesn't exist yet and I was going to do anyway simply because I want to?

Secondly, because of the mathematician that I am I've done the numbers a lot, and in the back of my mind I question whether it'll be worth it. If everyone provides just enough funding to get a digital version it's all great because that's considered 100% profit, but once you start getting in to the higher reward levels the profit dwindles. Let's assume that everyone (or at least a majority of backers) decides to get the hard-copy version of the product; if I have to spend $20 to get a $25 backer his reward, I could risk not getting enough margin to pay for the commissioned art in the first place. The two solutions to this - either put the project goal higher or make the cost of the hard-copy rewards higher - put the project at risk of not getting funded.

Finally, and this might sound silly... there's the issue of the video. You see, I am not a salesman, and I am very self-conscious about things like that, so much so that my online persona has no trace of what I look like or even what I sound like. Heck, if it weren't for me putting my Twitter handle on my GenCon badge nobody would have known who the hell I was. So sitting in front of a camera and trying to sell my product to you feels rather awkward, especially when I'm doing what I'm doing for fun and not for profit. I would much rather stay behind the scenes, maintain the notion that I am the "digital rabbit", and have people buy my product because they want it and not because I told them to buy it.

So now I've got this planned product, the next two parts to the campaign path following Death's Edge, that I question whether to do it on Kickstarter or not. I have the project typed up and pretty much ready to hit "post", but it feels both risky and inappropriate for all the above reasons. There are other reasons for my hesitation, such as my plans for The Fields of Bone being almost identical to the Reavers of the Harkenworld module (which is part of the 4E DM's Kit), but that's a small issue compared to all the other issues with Kickstarter mentioned above.

Maybe one of these days I'll come up with something that I feel worthy to be funded in such a way, and maybe that'll be enough for me to come out from behind my rabbit face and try to sell people on it. Time will tell, I guess.

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  1. I hear you. It’s hard to make a pitch, let alone a pitch posted on a service that may be seen by millions, with all those millions of preconceptions. But in truth, people expect pitches on Kickstarter.

    I’m not much of a salesperson myself. I’ve always failed in such position due to honesty. It is a good way to influence those people who appreciate it, but they seem to be in the minority. I can’t bring myself to bend the truth to my will, and the lie of omission seems inappropriate to me when I’m trying to sell something.

    In addition, it’s always been hard for me to just get out there in front of public opinion. Failure on a public scale is a daunting prospect.

    I hope that you’re able to move forward in the future.

    As an aside, I liked that you used art from DeviantArt. Visual artists are often even more private than we are, and getting their art out there is a great thing in and of itself!

  2. I only got 3400 fro my KS. if i ran it this year i might have gotten more easily. its a shame that the video has to be so good and the quality of product can’t speak for itself. people with video editing and management skills are a step ahead regardless of their ability to complete or create. I did run over budget with my book, but that’s because i wanted it to better than I had intended when I ran the KS. Art is expensive…

    Good luck. I think you should go for it!

  3. The video doesn’t have to be that good, really. Your REWARDS need to be good. Basically, treat Kickstarter as a way of handing out discounts or bennies to people willing to preorder, and you’ll get interest.