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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 64 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Getting the Word Out  (Read 4160 times)
Adam Riemenschneider
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« on: November 28, 2007, 03:04:31 PM »

Okay, I've written the game. Playtested the game. Rewritten the game. The layout, graphics, and printing are done. I've got a stack of them in the corner. Now what?

How did you "working Forge publishers" first get the word out?

I suppose I'm a bit of an anomaly, in that I've literally kept my head down for the last few years doing all that game writing work, so that I'm out of touch when it comes to new avenues of distribution. I have a very basic e-commerce website up, but beyond that and a list of friends' emails, I don't know what next steps to take.

I've discovered RPGNow, and RPGnet, and will approach those avenues. What other larger, indie-friendly websites have you encountered, and found to be helpful.

Also, Indie Press Revolution seems interesting, and I like the attitude in their Podcasts. Does any have any experience with them that they'd share with me?

How about any other distribution avenues? Catalogs, both online and in print?

Thank you for the eyeball time.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2007, 03:59:10 PM »

Whoa. The actual books are sitting in your place? How many?

If that's what you meant, then from my perspective, you have a problem. Let me know if I'm reading you correctly.

Best, Ron
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2007, 06:24:10 PM »

I'm not published, so I've got no real world advice. I do have a few tidbits, though...

First, answer Ron's question, and listen to what else he says. He's probably been doing this whole indie publishing thing longer than most anyone else here.

Second, put a link to your site in your signature, everywhere you post (assuming it's appropriate, as it is here). It's non-obnoxious, and it'll generate at least SOME hits. I'd probably be looking at your site right now if you had a link in your signature.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Adam Riemenschneider
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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2007, 06:37:21 PM »

Ah, fixed the "URL in signature" part. I had it in my profile, but not in my sig.

Ron - yep, finished product. I'm not in debt with it - I slowly saved up my bartending tips so I could start my business. I started out small, though - 200 copies of my core book, 100 copies of a supplement. Beyond printing/shipping costs, my own time in writing/layout/graphics/playtesting, and standard secretary of state assumed name stuffs (standard starting a business costs), I'm not out anything. Heck, even my website guy is on commission, not up-front payment.

My personal finances do *not* depend on sales. I plan on getting into this slowly and sanely. I understand that the time/financial investment I have *already put in* might seem a bit, er, optimistic. But I'm okay with it.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2007, 08:43:30 PM »

Hi Adam,

Okay, there are some good things here and some maybe trouble-things.

First, as you say, you didn't go into debt to do this. Fantastic! That's way ahead.

Second, the trouble is, it's as if you've baked a cake without inviting anyone to the party, or even more accurately, without going to lots of parties and being involved with the general activity of eating and baking cakes.

If this were 1997, you'd be in great shape. You could go to the GAMA Trade Show, make nice to a bunch of retailers, meet a whole bunch of people whose names you've seen in RPGs all your life, and try to get a contract with a distributor. Now, economically, that so-called success would fuck you in every orifice and not in a good way, but hey, that was the way to do it, and you would be all set as far as the culture was concerned. You'd fit.

Let's look at things as they are now, not then, and let's also get technical.

1. You have what is called a "short run" of your book on hand. This isn't debt, in the sense that you do not owe creditors, but in money terms, you are in the red: you've incurred costs but have seen no return. (In tax terms, it's even worse, because those books are considered an asset, which means they are taxable - i.e, in money terms, more cost than merely their production so far.)

2. In some ways, you've made it harder by printing. Given services like Lulu.com, which use genuine print-on-demand ordering, you'd never even have to look at a copy of your book except your own, and not one copy would be printed unless the profit-bearing payment by a customer was already in hand. However, that's not so bad. Your current stock isn't a tax hardship and hell, I prefer short-run printing myself, for a number of reasons. You've made it a little harder, maybe, but not much; you're still in the zone of how it can be done. If you'd printed 8000 copies, this would be a very different post.

3. No one knows about your game. To speak of the Forge community specifically, we don't know what it's about, how it is the same or differs from other games, what's neat about it, or how much it costs. Nor do we know what it was like for you to publish, what your experiences were, what your decisions were, and what problems cropped up. That's more than seeing an ad in a magazine; I'm talking about your game, before its release, being embedded in the cottage-industry matrix of practitioners, including designers and not-yet and don't-wanna designers alike, but also all customers.

4. Your concern at this time is to find customers. Not middlemen, not stores, not distributors, not (God help us) "the industry," not advertisers, not brick-and-mortar, not on-line, and not any sort of service at all. No one can find you customers, ever - not RPGNow, not IPR, not anyone. They provide a very important service, and you'll need to make some choices about all those options eventually, yes! But right now, building the actual customer base, getting knowledge of your game into the community at large, is something you have to do. Their services won't work unless that gets done.

What I'm saying is that in order to reach the goal of commerce regarding your game (people ordering it, people paying for it, you collecting money for it), you will do best to lay a foundation of recognition, play, appreciation, and dedication to help, among your fellow role-players, some of whom happen to design and publish just like you. Once you have that foundation, then yeah, you should consider IPR or whoever and set up your basic concept of how you want the product to change hands.

Does that sound reasonable? Should we go over any aspect of what I'm saying here, maybe refine it to your needs, before talking about how to do that next step?

Best, Ron
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Adam Riemenschneider
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« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2007, 08:18:48 AM »

Ron,

First, I just want to say I appreciate your reply. I know it sounds mushy on the surface, but I am appreciative and want to say so.

I only found you folks here at the Forge quite recently - I was already looking for a *printer* when I happily stumbled in. I want to pause here, because I might miscommunicate this very important point. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy discussing game theory, development, mechanics, building worlds, etc, etc... I do! I love this stuff. I really wish I had found the Forge *years* ago. What I *am* trying to say is that, due to my unique circumstances, I entered the community with, in my mind, my first finished product in hand.

From your comments re: 1997, it looks like I missed the traditional boat by about a decade. Which makes me smile.

My fellow Forge-ites, Ron, everyone - the circumstance relayed above is why you haven't heard of me. And when I arrived, I felt it would be, well, *rude* to simply fling my game into your faces saying "look what I did!" without hanging around for awhile. I didn't want to appear out of nowhere and spam a press release at you all. I respect this community, little that I know of it, too much to behave in such a manner. I simply absorbed what I could, asked a few questions here and there, made some initial decisions about the sales model I wanted to follow, and got my books in hand.

Regarding points #3-4, Ron, this is essentially why I started this thread. No one knows about my game. And really, this isn't the thread I want to do it in (I'll start another thread for that, and hopefully plop it in the right category). I want to know "how to get the word out," or, as you (Ron) so accurately refined it, Find Customers. I'm following you so far.

Ron, how did you initially build your customer base? Sorcerer came before the Forge, right?

How about the rest of you fine folks?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2007, 10:41:04 AM »

Hi Adam,

My post so far is nothing more than preliminaries, to make sure I understand where you are, without any judgments or should-have-done. You're here! And that's good. And without thousands sunk into debt, which is better.

OK, here are my recommendations, in order of priority. The priority is based on order of action, not importance; they're all important. I've based some of them on what I did with Sorcerer, which indeed preceded the Forge, and some of them on the conditions and opportunities that pertain today. (For instance, back in 1996, Sorcerer benefited from webrings; today, that's not a very useful recommendation.)

1. Forge posting. (i) The most important forum for you is Actual Play. Write about playing your game. Relate your experiences to other games you've played, to show why and how your game has solved hassles or expressed particular things you liked the most. Respond to others' threads too, without any need for referencing your own game; if you base these responses in genuine interest in the issues they've brought up, it orients everyone toward the kind of play you favor and the kinds of play-issues that your mind turns toward. (ii) I also recommend posting in Playtesting, in which you can identify the most significant changes that the game design underwent during that process. It's OK to post retroactively in Playtesting, because that content is important for everyone. Be up-front about stuff that you suffered over, or stuff that you think you were wrong about, or even conflicts among the people involved - the sunny "we all agree, always" corporate image isn't a sell point, but honesty as a fellow practitioner is. (iii) You've clearly made a lot of careful, considered decisions about your investments and financing for this project. Tell all about it in Publishing; again, not only does this spread knowledge of your game, but the more insight and experience you offer (especially the embarassing parts, if any), the more you add to the community, which itself is greatly appreciated and sparks interest in the game, which is more important.

2. General forum and internet presence. The Forge is only one place, with a dedicated purpose and a distinct subcultural mindset, and that ain't enough. This is a tricky thing, because the internet is a rotten addictive place, but if you choose your target sites carefully and limit your time, then I recommend choosing about four sites to frequent. It's not so much about pushing your game, as about being present and contributing to the purposes of each site as a genuine participant. People like that. If you post decently and are a good citizen at "RPG Discussion Site X," then people will click on your sig link and otherwise be interested in your game and whatever work you are doing too.

3. Beef up your website a bit. I figure this is already under way in terms of content and information about the game itself (downloadable character sheets, summary of the game setting, and similar). I suggest providing a little something for a visitor actually to do - any way in which he or she can interact with you, the publisher, leaving any sort of record of activity or information at the site. This builds a community feel for your game not only for that person, but for new visitors as they arrive and see it.

4. Identify like-minded publishers and players here at the Forge and at other sites - sort of a personal circle of colleagues, people who like your game content and whose games you like. Not only can you build a network of links among your individual sites for cross-advertising, but you can also refer to those games as a touchpoint for comparison during posting and interactions. The nice thing about this kind of advertising is that it's 100% honest and mutual, and potential customers can really see and feel the difference between it and the more familiar pimping which they see all the time.

After all this gets going, then it's time to think about sales venue. You have the buy-button on your own site, which is great. You'll also discover the joys of personally fulfilling, i.e. mailing, your game to customers. That joy has been known to wear off, quite quickly in some cases (me for instance). So what next? We can certainly help with that. Before I post about it, though, do you have any questions or comments or anything about what I've said in this post?

Best, Ron
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2007, 12:25:04 PM »

Heya Adam,

Welcome to the Forge, btw!  I was wondering.  Do you happen to have a BLog where you maybe talked about your game while you were designing and playtesting it?  Or did one of your playtesters perhaps have such a blog?

Peace,

-Troy
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Adam Riemenschneider
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« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2007, 12:26:55 PM »

Right with you, so far. This is good stuff.

Ironically, I had sent a gentle whip-cracking at my web guy last night. The only thing mentioned that is not in the immediate pipe is the next level of interactivity, preferably an in-site forum. Changes will hopefully be up within 12 hours. I *do* have a Livejournal up about my game publishing, though (Hi Troy! You posted while I was typing! I'll include it in my sig), which the game site will cross-link to.

Ron, you brought up that webrings are an artifact of the past... I'm wondering, though, how well a network of crosslinking might work. You've got a healthy amount of Links on your site, but I don't see any that go to "Games I Like" or whatnot. If Forge-ites are networking anyway... or is this another thing that was tried, and didn't work out so well?

Once I increase my overall community presence, especially here, and deepen my networks... what steps are further down the road? I'm *guessing* this is going to involve Cons, face-time at the "good" Gaming stores (as per discussions on other threads), more generalized Press Releases to more public boards, and possibly advertising. Or am I shooting too far ahead again?

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2007, 02:56:38 PM »

Hi Adam,

I'm glad you mentioned that. Everything about cons and store time and similar belongs on my list - actually, probably at #2. Guaranteed I'd miss at least one thing ...

Here are some thoughts on that item. First, I suggest finding things to do at the con that are genuinely enjoyable and which utilize your personal strengths as a promoter. Me, I dislike sign-up games in the traditional GenCon sense; Luke Crane loves them and sells buckets of games with them. Second, I suggest finding cons which are good for your purposes - rather small local ones worked well for me, for instance, although again, this is something one matches to one's personality rather than following a fixed list. Also, nowadays we have cons like Jiffycon and Dreamation that didn't exist before, in which independent publishing is not only present, but showcased as a primary feature. You might even hook up with the organizers and help out that way.

As you can see, the same principles are in action: mutualism, interaction, apprecation, honest showcasing of quality, and choosing options that suit you.

Now for some of your other inquiries ... well, the Sorcerer site was ideal for its purposes in 2001-2002. To put it broadly and without mincing words, it ain't a real great example of what to do today. Back then, the link page was solid gold; now, I doubt anyone even looks, and you can see they haven't been updated for at least three years. I'd like to do a full site makeover soon.

Here's a thought which may not be good advice at all: I'm not sure that individual forums are a great idea at publisher sites, at least not by default. I see forums as agorae, places where people gather and do stuff, or places from which one might enter any shopping-place, and my take on things is that one should integrate one's shopping-place with existing forums. But! All of that is mainly an aesthetic and intuitive point, and shouldn't be taken as advice in your case. It's something to consider, that's all, and to choose mindfully. I guess another way to put it is, if you have a forum at your site, what is interesting about it that makes me want to return to it, independently of being interested in your game? Here's a good counter-example to my points: the Burning Wheel forum, which does quite well for Luke's games.

Best, Ron
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Adam Riemenschneider
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2007, 05:01:32 PM »

Good stuff.

I'm still leaning toward a forum as opposed to a guestbook, if only for the value of extended conversations about products, ideas for changes, sessions, and the like. To help develop a micro Factions community, if you will.

The website has been updated. He did a lot better than I was expecting, and I knew that he did good work. I'm actually pretty lucky to know someone like him.

I'm already noodling on what else I want to add to the site. At the risk of derailing a thread where I'm the OP (and making this a discussion just about websites), I'm looking at:

For Certain:
1): Core book versions of the character sheets, PDF
2): Player's Guide versions of the character sheets, PDF
3): Game Introduction, PDF of the actual core book, pages 5-19. Gives people a good idea of what the game world is about, and of the book quality, without giving away too much.
4): Short tutorial on basic game mechanics
5): Short tutorial on Special Abilities mechanics
6): Short tutorial on Ritual Magic mechanics
7): Calendar, for which Cons/events I'll be headed to
Cool: "Available at" section, for when/if I get my game into brick-and-mortar gaming stores
9): Game Errata, for when I find it.

Debating:
1): Links to other, like minded websites (gaming or otherwise)
2): Reviews, of my stuff done by others (when/if they occur)
3): FAQ

I'm trying to conceive of the website as the final destination for once I've "Gotten the Word Out." Potential customers have made an effort to go to my website. I want the site to help them make a purchase decision, and for the site to be a useful place for them to return to on a fairly regular basis (so they can find other products they might also want to buy).

So, what am I missing/forgetting in either department? Helping make a purchase, and getting them to visit regularly?

Thanks,

-a-

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xenopulse
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« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2007, 02:53:29 PM »

Hi Adam,

Small publishers like us depend on word of mouth in this day and age. Knowledge of and excitement about your game needs to grow organically. The more presence you have, the better. If your game is good, word will spread. Here are a few ways to approach this:

1. Send review copies to well-known reviewers. I'd suggest getting in touch with C.W.Richeson, for example, over at RPG.net. A review there can easily expose your game to over a thousand readers.

2. Run your own game for other people. Then ask them, very nicely, to post about their experiences. We call that Actual Play Reports. There are many good venues to show off your game that way; here, story-games.com, rpg.net, and other places.

3. I don't know if you've had your game tested by an outside group. That is, have you handed the game to someone you didn't know, who didn't know anything about your game, and have them run it just from your text? I would hope so, but sometimes new designers forget the outside testing, or think it's not necessary. If you haven't, put out the word, and let those people talk about their testing publicly. If you have, tap into those players to write reports about it after the fact.

4. Conventions. As said above. Schedule running your own game, as many slots as you can. That'll probably let you into the convention for free as well Smiley

That's for starters. If you sign up with IPR, hit me up for a product exchange. We've done that, in PDF form at least, among a few publishers there so that we can cross-promote each other's games. Really, this is all about getting the word out about your game, through as many channels as you can. If it's good, with enough people looking at it, it'll develop a following.

Good luck Smiley
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2007, 02:26:05 PM »

Another itty-bitty piece of advice: Put the price for the books on your site. I was curious about the cost, and had to go to your paypal site to get the price.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Adam Riemenschneider
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« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2007, 08:51:00 AM »

Whoa! Whoops. I missed that when I reviewed it with the webguy. They were on there in the old version of the site.... thanks for the heads up. I shall now go and crack the whip.

-a-
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Seth M. Drebitko
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« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2007, 07:49:13 PM »

  One major piece of advice to aspiring networkers is news letters are one of your MOST important tools. You see unless your site has allot of “stickiness” (reason to stay, or even come back) your going to be forgotten. Word of advice you’ll never be as sticky as companies like wotc you don’t have the money so turn to other methods. With stickiness out the window you need to get people in a mailing list so you can tap them on the shoulder every so often and remind them you’re their. To get them in number on your front page should be devoted to getting people into you mailing list, second you should have a link someplace on each page to get people to join. As incentive to join you should create a small adventure and fast play bundle that is exclusive to the free e-zine sigfn up.
  Now that you have the person in your “pond”, make sure to train them by sending them consistent e-mails offering “bonuses” and “incentives” which keeps your site someplace near the forefront of their mind. Once they are getting your e-zines every so often your articles they receive will strike a cord and inspire them, causing them to forward it over to their friends so it’s important to have a sign up in each email to let others sign up from these forwarded emails. You’ll also want to make sure to keep a log of these articles on your site so people can read up on what they have missed, and make sure to also include pitches of all your products that are similar in subject.
  Other than to increase customer retention your list can be used in the following ways:

1: Provide ads, for other indie companies and such for a small fee
2: You could every semi regularly promote via affiliate programs like Amazon mood setting cd’s, and or books as a mention in your list to make a bit of extra change here and there.
3: The articles that are piling up could be collected together by similarities and then sold as their own book.

Regards, Seth   
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