Thursday, June 29, 2017

An open discourse on the business of writing for role-playing games, with art from Tale of the Wizard's Eye.

Art by: Brian Lee
You can learn more about Brian Lee and his art HERE.

Let's discuss the business side of publishing.

Admittedly I'm new to the business.  I've encountered a lot of strange practices in the last few months I would like to discuss my position.

Part One (marketing):

Over the last few months I've been asked by several people how I expect to sell anything, how I market my products, and what my expectations are.  So lets talk about this and I invite you to comment with your observations, criticisms, experience, suggestions, etc.

My process to date, has been to utilize social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogger, etc) to begin growing interest in what I'm writing and doing.  This is a very basic approach I garnered from observation and from research into the desktop publishing business, prior to getting involved.

Have I purchased any advertising?  No.  I don't have disposable cash laying around at this point.  So budgetary necessity means that presently I'm relying upon organic growth as followers, friends, and casual readers spread the word on what I'm doing through sharing.   Has it worked?  Don't know.  My first book will be going up for sale on in July.  I'll let you know in January how effective it's release was.

Relying upon a slow growth medium is difficult to stomach for many people.  For me it provides only a minimal concern, primarily driven from my desire to pay my contributors well.  I must then have revenue coming in, in order to pay it out.  Presently I'm feeling very optimistic about this proposition. My optimism stems from a few key indicators I'm seeing on my platforms.  Last week, for example, I had over 400 unique visitors across the Sinopa Publishing Facebook page.  How many of those were bots, I do not know, but the traffic volume is intriguing.

So what will I do to continue my marketing?  I will continue to utilize social media outlets, I will keep blogging about aspects of the process as I learn, and I will continue to ask people to share my story and projects with those in their circles and ask those people to share beyond.  Even if only one in a million people respond, then as Facebook has two billion users presently, I can hope to see around 2000 people seeing what I'm working on.  For now though, I'm incredible happy with the 400 visitors and almost 60 followers Sinopa Publishing has now (that is a LOT more than I expected to have by the end of this year, so I'm ahead in my mind).

Part Two (working with artists):

Art by Brian Lee

On the topic of working with artists, I have been called many things:  foolish, ignorant, a dreamer, unrealistic, and worse.  By and large those comments have come from folks who have been working at publishing and are interested in getting the best art for the lowest price they can.  My interests are not so narrow.

Working with artists I feel is no different than working with people in other professional fields.  If you want quality work you should expect to pay a premium for the quality you are obtaining.  If it narrows my profit margin then so be it.  I plan on never feeling that I have taken advantage of a artist by paying them poorly.  Am I paying high dollar amounts?  Not really.  As mentioned above I don't have disposable cash laying around.  Am I paying them at a level we all can agree upon as fair?  Certainly.  I also reserve the right to pay a bonus to the artists if a title does well.

Why would I do that?  I do that because I want the artists to succeed as the books succeed as well.  I want the artists who have agreed to work with me to benefit from the success of books just as I do. I want artists to not only know that I will pay them, but that I will treat them with the respect that their skill levels should command.

Think of it this way:  where I live, in Kentucky, it is a common practice to leave holiday cards for your letter carrier, to send Christmas cards to your doctor and dentist, and to exchange such pleasantries between professionals you interact with.  This has the effect of showing those persons that you appreciate their work, not just because you pay them, but because they have a direct impact on your life.  So to it is with the artists I work with.  My first kickstarter campaign, done for Tale of the Wizard's Eye, was a success.  The funding level was exceeded, and as a result I am able to pay a small bonus to the artists above their agreed upon payment. Does this take money out of my pocket?  Certainly it does, but not much, and not enough to worry me or make me miss that money.  Will it help the artists?  Probably not much as it was a very small bonus, but it sets the precedent for a good model of practice.

In short, pay what you can to your artists, not just what you can get away with.  You'll find your artists appreciate working with you.  I know the ones I work with seem to.  For more of my opinion on the topic of artists see my previous posts on the subject.  (Comments are welcome, profanity is not, thank you).

Part Three (providing for your customers):

Art by Zachary Viola
You can learn more about Zachary Viola and his art HERE.

Customers, readers, followers, what ever you may call those people who buy your products and enjoy your work.  You owe them everything.

Let me make that clear as I have worked in many different businesses and in all of them it boils down to the same thing:  You owe your success to those who buy things from you.

Don't forget this fact.  The moment you decide to cut corners, the moment you find yourself saying "I can make just a little more money if I do this ...." is the same as saying, "how can I exploit my consumer to make as much as possible".  Don't do it.

People are going to say that I don't understand capitalism.  Those people are wrong.
You will not earn your money on a single product (best selling work aside), you will have to produce a catalog of works where your customers come back and buy your stuff.  Earning a small profit per sale is important, earning a large profit per sale is dangerous to your long term earnings.

Point of fact: not everyone can afford a $25 book.  I have been in financial straights where I could not afford a $5 book.  So if you can profit at $5 then why cut out that part of the market that can't afford a higher price?

This point is similar to that about paying artists.  Charge what is profitable, not what the market will bear.  Don't gouge your customers, its bad form, bad business, a terrible practice, and the more I condemn it the better.  Don't do it.

Part Four (Community):

Art by Brian Lee

I've been a part of this blogger community for a couple of months now.  I'm still feeling my way around and trying to get the feel for blogging and about the topics I want to address.  This blog is focused on my experiences as I move into publishing in role-playing games.  I've had what I consider to be a LOT of views on this blog (around 2600 last time I checked).  While not viral by any means I think it quite an accomplishment for a first timer in a busy field.  (Feel free to disagree, I'm just happy folks are checking out the posts).  If you have suggestions for improving content here, I'm open to your suggestions.

When folks have asked me about my blog experience I've told them it has been interesting.  I've have limited engagement from readers.  Primarily folks have reached out to me on Facebook to argue my positions, and that is fine (though I prefer comments here, please).  I did have to delete a post due to content, because (I'm sorry) I don't want to hear about your anatomical challenges. Thank you anyway.   The engagement has been beneficial though in that about 900 people have visited the artist biography pages to learn about the work the artists do, and most visitors have gone on to view the online galleries, stores, and Facebook pages linked in those pages as well.  This benefits the artists by bringing more potential clients to them, and I'm happy to do it.

I am very interested in what other people have to say about self-publishing/desk-top publishing (whatever term you may apply, there are others).  So I do try to find blogs that speak to the experience.  I am finding more and more that are of interest on particular topics, such as KickStarter campaign development, building audiences, things like that.  I like to comment and ask questions on those blogs because I have questions (duh) and because it is what I wish to see on my blog (more engagement with the readers).

So I'll ask that you take a moment, comment something below, and please do the same for other blogs you visit.  It helps the blogger to engage with the reader and may help to improve the blog quality.

Part Five (help one another):

Tale of the Wizard's Eye cover art by Phoenix O'Faery

You can learn more about Phoenix and her art HERE.

Competition is good for business and great for the consumer.  Don't be a jerk.
Help out new people who are looking to come into the self-publishing field.  Point them to information and give advice you know to be sound.  Don't guess, don't experiment, be a decent human being and give the new folks the benefit of your experience such as it may be.

I'm going to advocate this for a number of reasons, but one of the most compelling reasons is that someone did this for me.

Stewart Wieck, who recently passed away, was kind enough to provide excellent advice to me.  It was clear I was new, it was clear there were things I was doing wrong, and it was clear that I could benefit from his advice.  He told me a few simple things (that now seem incredibly obvious) and they benefited me directly.   So I'll pass this forward.  If I don't know I'll say so.  If something worked for me I'll provide that information too.  No merry chases down the rabbit hole.

Lets take Stewart's example and build a strong, competitive community that welcomes innovation.

We are, all of us in the role-playing game field, standing upon the shoulders of giants.  Let us not corrupt the wonder of their works by being jerks to those who will come after us.  Be kind, be helpful, and let the fun and games continue as new innovators are encouraged, new writers are cultivated, and new talents have the spotlight shined upon them.

Special thanks to Steve Sechi, for the inspiration.

Thank you for taking the time read this entry.

You can find Sinopa Publishing on Facebook the Foxgirl logo was designed and created by Jennifer Fraggle Dee, who is an amazing talent.

Thanks for joining me on my journey.  I hope to see you here next time.


  1. Thank you for this... All of this.

    I too am working on self publishing novels and adventures and I found all of what has been said here to be helpful, both for me and, I think, the community at Large.

    1. You are welcome. We do stand on the shoulders of giants. My big inspiration in the rpg world has been Steve Sechi (Talislanta is AMAZING), and he and Stewart gave me some simple good advise. So for you, I say, write well and often, ask questions, do your research and be proud of each and every customer your work touches.

  2. Oh, and don't be afraid to ask people to share your social media posts if they liked it. Its a little thing, but every person who learns about what you're working on is a person who may find joy in your work.

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