Friday, November 9, 2018

Subscription based Crowdfunding on Drip ~ Observations and a working hypothesis


Art by: Alexia Veldhuisen
From: Monthly PDF release on Drip

Drip has been an interesting adventure.  I've now had the page running for one month and this morning I released the second issue of the monthly PDF.  From what I have heard from the subscribers thus far, these releases are a bit hit.  I am thrilled to be releasing monthly content and beyond happy that folks enjoy the content.

This blog isn't just about what is happening and how I'm feeling. We're here to discuss the adventure of writing, self-publishing, game design and all the steps (and missteps) so you can find what works for you.  So lets get into that!

My hypothesis on subscription based crowdfunding:  (be patient, it takes a moment to arrive)

I call it a hypothesis as I have not yet completed testing my premise.  Over the coming years we'll see how well my hypothesis holds up under the data that becomes available.

After reading several articles concerning Patreon and Drip, speaking with creators who have Patreon accounts, and speaking with people who support other creators through Patreon I arrived at the following data points which support my hypothesis:

1) Subscription based crowdfunding really works best if you already have an established audience.  This is a very common sense kind of notion, that is widely believed.   I support this as likely being true.  Estimates vary widely as to what kind of numeric conversion you should anticipate based on your audience size.  My best estimates put my regular audience, spread out between KickStarter, this blog, Twitter, Instagram, MeWe, and Facebook is somewhere around two hundred individuals.
(I know, I was surprised that number was that high too!)

Given that audience size, and an initial number of subscribers of seven (7).  I have achieved a 3.5% subscription rate for my audience size.  Remember that number, it comes up later.

2) For people to subscribe to your Patreon or Drip page they must see value in what you offer.  Okay, this is the "Duh" moment in this blog entry.  Basically, you have to be offering good value for people to want to support your efforts.    Presently, I offer three different subscription levels ($1, $3 and $6 tiers) with higher level tiers encompassing the benefits of the lower tiers.

As a creator, I like this approach to subscription levels as it gives your audience common ground for what you are releasing.  It also means that having created content for the $1 subscription audience, my $3 and $6 audiences have ready made content as well.  My thoughts are that this builds the value for higher tier audiences and doesn't leave folks feeling "left out" from other tier builds. 

Price points on the tiers need to reflect the value of the release. I confess that I looked at the Patron and Drip pages of other creators to see what the going tier rates look like.  I then realized it was unlikely that I would break even on art costs for my monthly release.  If you've been following this blog, you probably know what happened next.  That's right, I said 'So be it!' and marched forward.  So I'm losing money on my Drip page due to art costs, but its a loss I can absorb.  In the meantime, I'll keep working to promote the page and will (hopefully) reach the break even point within the next ten months or so. 

3)  My current subscriber base is too small to derive meaningful statistical data. {My fellow math nerds often disagree with regard to relevant sample size.  For purposes here, I'll assume the minimal, meaningful sample size for this topic is sixty subscribers.... yes, I know... flame away.}  At the risk of using entirely unsubstantiated data references, I've looked at my current subscription data points and discovered that my highest tier ($6) is the most popular with the second highest ($3) being the next most popular.  To coin a phrase from earlier RPG sessions, "I actively disbelieve!" that $6 will continue to be the most popular and will use the $3 as the most common or average projected subscription tier.  Knowing what I require to break even on art costs, I then project that will $3 being my expected average / most common tier, that I will need 60 more subscribers to reach that break even point. 

Now, why is that important?  Because you don't want to lose money on your crowdfunding (it defeats the purpose).

So, keeping in mind the 3.5% subscription rate to my audience size and the need for a total of 67 subscribers, I can rough out what I need to grow my audience to in order to reach my break even point.  (I know we're talking about math here folks, stick with me as if you begin a Patreon or Drip page you'll want this information).   So I'm going to need to increase my audience size to 1915 people at the current subscription rate, to break even.  OR, increase the percentage of the audience who are actively subscribing. 

I don't like the way that sounds "I'm going to need to increase ...."  it makes it sound like you can control who likes what you do and who doesn't.  That isn't realistic.  I create to the best of my ability, and I am fortunate enough that some people like my material and enjoy what I do.  So let us accept that we do not control who likes what.  Let us, instead take ownership of the work we do and move forward into the working theory I'm using....

Call it "Sam's Hypothesis" or whatever you like, but here it is:

The best quality work will receive the best possible interest from your audience and the highest possible subscription rate among your audience, while growing the population of that audience.  

So there we are.  As creators, using Patreon, Drip or whatever other site we like, we must produce the best quality work possible.  Not just to retain those people who already like our material enough to support it, but as a necessity to growing the audience and the number of subscribers.  Though you may be tempted to think of subscribers as being more important than your overall audience, I'm going to shout "DON'T DO THAT!" because the fact is that one is simply a portion of the other.  The entirety of your audience is important and equally as important as the portion who support you through subscriptions. 

But what about promoting my page???? 

Okay, yeah, do that too.  But first: Create the best, highest quality work, you possibly can and do that consistently.  I'm reminded (often) to work on my promotional skills, because they sort of suck.  Let's be honest, they do. I like having my work speak for me, which is not the most productive line of thinking in today's world.  I've been very fortunate to have several people within my audience who actively help promote my books through social media (Big shout out to John (all five of you), Miguel, Leslie, West, Draco, Nerdie, Rene, Mike, Michael, Jordan, Joto, Han, PrincessP., Josh and the other Josh(es?), all of the Chris(es?)... seriously its not easy pluralizing names..., West, the Shadowrun fanfic audience, and really to all of you who read this blog).  Without them I would just be another shouting voice in the void.

Now, for everyone who likes to point out that I have a small audience and may not be the best source for deriving theories on this topic:

1) You may be right.  (Seriously, anyone who reads this blog knew I was going to admit that.) Having said that, I have asked subscribers and other creators about this topic and used their feedback for developing this working hypothesis.  If you have other feedback please do post it below, I would love to get your insights.

2) See point one! (lol) No, but seriously now, yes I have a small audience.  The people who read my blog are likely in the same position as well.  Learning to grow your audience and what to realistically expect is, (I think) more useful than saying "first grow your audience to 10000 people who love your work!", because that doesn't exactly help people who don't have huge social media presence or people who are socially awkward to begin with. For that matter, it doesn't help people who are just getting started, or who (like me) are just into to their second year of content creation. So your feedback is certainly welcome, but please lets keep the audience in mind, shall we?

Cool!

This entry was titles ".... 'On Drip'" because that is the platform I'm using.  I had a brief appearance on Patreon, but shut it down for many reasons.  Nothing against Patreon, by the way, I just wasn't doing a good job with it and that goes against my primary convictions.  Do your best in all things, right?

 Hard examples:

There are a number of creators who have attracted a sizable audience of subscribers on Patreon and/or Drip.  Below are a few to check out, see how they do things, and learn from what is working.  I'm also going to put a link to my Drip page (as I do hope you'll check that out too):

Bully Pulpit Games (On Drip):   I'm not personally familiar with their work, but with 208 active subscribers (as of this writing) they are certainly doing something right.  I'll leave it to your best judgement to judge what that may be.  I first discovered their page by scrolling through every creator on Drip.  (There wasn't a search feature, no seriously, it wasn't there).  I check out this page frequently as I'm interested in what they do.  You should too.


Story Forge (On Drip):  I don't own any Story Forge products, but I'm taking a hard look lately. The content on their Drip page is intriguing! Their Drip page is particularly interesting to me and I'll be adopting their practice of linking the Youtube videos in the public posts.  I think this is a fantastic idea, that is probably a no-brainer to someone with marketing savvy or social media acumen.  Not being either, I'll just nod knowingly and trudge forward. Check them out.

Kobold Press (Patreon):  I am a long time fan of the Kobolds.  Having said that, I'm at a loss as to why they don't have more subscribers on their Patreon page.  The Kobold Press Facebook page and Twitter account are active, engaging and personable.  My only thought is that people may not be aware of the Patreon account and the benefits it offers.  As one of the bigger 'Indy' RPG companies around, Kobold Press has years worth of audience building supporting their efforts and quality has always been top flight for their releases.  (Told you I'm a fan!)  I would really like to see their Patreon subscriber base reach 1000 or more as more funding could potentially mean more cool stuff from these people.  Something I wholeheartedly support.

Terminally Nerdy (Patreon):  One of my favorite Twitter personalities.  Patreon creators take notes.  His page is full of transparent data that tells you exactly what you're getting, what he uses the money for and gives you a perfect sense of the value of pledging. If you're looking for quality content, he's got it.  You can follow his exploits on Twitter as well, and you should.  Take a few minutes and read up on what he is creating.  It is definitely worth your time.


W.S Quinton (Drip):  Yep, me. Presently, I'm providing subscribers with detailed behind the scenes information, access to play test material, how-to information on creating KickStarter campaigns, sneak peeks at art and material in development, and the art for my monthly publication is in color and commissioned specifically for that monthly release.  I'm striving to release high quality content from the beginning, and I hope to expand the content release as more subscribers come on (allowing me the luxury of affording more art).  So check it out (please) find a tier you like (I hope) and subscribe to help me create cool stuff. 

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Thank you for joining me on my adventure in writing, self-publishing and game design.
I hope this blog continues to provide you with insights that will help you in your own efforts, and help you to avoid my own missteps. 

As always, your comments/questions/criticisms are most welcome.

Until next time, remember: Adventure Awaits!





Monday, November 5, 2018

Helping each other, a bit of advice about KickStarter Live, and shameless self-promotion!




In the time that I have been writing this blog, I have very often made mention of my belief in building community with other creators.  I have personally enjoyed doing so, have benefited from sharing information, and have develop a few new friendships along the way.  It has been beneficial and personally it has been most gratifying.

One thing I like to do, is to reach out to first time Kickstarter creators to offer encouragement, of if they are slow funding I like to recommend free things they can do to promote their campaign.  It takes just a few minutes of your day to reach out to people (bloggers, podcasters, Youtubers, etc.) who use an interview platform and put them in touch with the first time creator.  This has the remarkable benefit of providing content and provides a ready made audience for the first time creator to be introduced to.  This works best when you maintain these relationships.

Support those who have supported your efforts, and support those whose work you respect.  If you'll look over to the right you'll see the "featured crowdfunding campaign" section.  Folks don't pay for that spot, I put it there because I think their creation is cool.  This is one of the ways I make an effort to help other creators.  Those of you who have a broader social reach (so really, just about everyone who reads this blog) can have a tremendous impact on the success of a crowdfunding campaign. Remember, if you think its cool then the people who read your material will probably enjoy it too.

It really comes down to building each other up.  Share information about each other's campaigns.  Point folks to print shops and manufacturers you've had good experience with (Thanks again, Adam!).   Use the social media sharing options on your crowdfunding campaign to spread the word on things you like.  You'll find that people are usually very willing to help you in return.

'Pro' tip:

Starting with The Steel Road, I began making a habit of using KickStarter Live (their live streaming utility) to stream during the campaigns.  I've found that this is a wonderful way to connect with your audience!  While I cannot say that live streaming has had a direct impact on the amount of funding raised (there just isn't enough to data present for me to attempt a responsible correlation calculation) I will point out that The Steel Road was a great success for me and Whispers of Persephone saw even more funding from its campaign.

Yes, I'm recommending that you use this feature when you launch a KickStarter campaign.  I'm also going to recommend that you not limit it to just non-stop prattle about your project.  I try to spend about five minutes an hour talking about the project and the rest of the time taking questions, talking with guests (get to that in a moment) and making it a fun activity for all.  Making it a fun thing really does take a lot of the stress away launching the live stream, so have a good time with it.  If you look forward to it, then others will as well.

I also recommend having guests on.  I've had live streamers, podcasters, Youtubers, artists, an author and friends on my own streams.  It keeps the conversation going effortlessly, makes for a wide range of appeal, brings in fans of the guests in question, and really does make for a fun evening.  People have said that I don't live stream "the right way" in that I don't spend a LOT of time talking about my own stuff.  I do, however, take questions about the project and address them as prompltly as possible.  As a great side effect, my relationships with those guests have improved, they've picked up more viewers as audiences cross populate, and I've found more support from some of their fans as well.  Get to know people, even if they have an audience of five people that is potentially five more people you can reach.

Shameless self-promotion:

Yes indeed, it is time once again for me to plug my own stuff.  Whispers of Persephone's KickStarter campaign is complete and I'm working hard to complete the last stages before sending it to be edited.  Once Whispers fulfillment is complete, I'll be launching a holiday book.  I would like to see that campaign launch on the 14th if at all possible, so I'll be working pretty hard in the coming days to make that happen.  It will have its own KickStarter campaign with a rapid fulfillment turn around. Wish me luck!

Drip

My Drip page has entered its second month.  This month (November) will see a monster character as the subject of the month.  It is being illustrated in full color by Alexia Veldhuisen.  I've seen the black and white (pre-color) version of the art and it is stunning.  I'm looking forward to putting that PDF out and sending out the Magic in the Mail cards.

Drip (and Patreon) are wonderful resources for creators.  It is surprising how just a little bit of support can go such a long way!  I am hoping, really hoping, to achieve a milestone of fifty subscribers by the end of April 2019.  That is a BIG goal, but would (most likely) make the Drip page self-sufficient (I commission original art for the monthly release and it does cost some money) and would eventually like to expand the breadth of the material released to the subscribers.

So here is my vision of what my Drip page releases will, eventually, look like:

1) Behind the scenes releases will continue to include play test materials for subscribers.  This is already happening and I'm cautiously optimistic that this will continue to be a popular point with the subscribers.

2) Monthly release will be gradually expanded to increase content provided to the subscribers without raising price points.

3) Subscribers will have the first choice option for limited availability tiers for coming KickStarter campaigns.  One of the first examples of this will be with Tarot Adventures, Book Three: Death comes to Glenfallow.  For that campaign, I have arranged to have a fully illustrated map developed.  On that map will be ten (10) locations that KickStarter backers can pledge for to have the area named after themselves.  Drip subscribers will have the opportunity to pledge for this limited reward prior to the KickStarter going live. I'll reduce the total available tier slots available before launch.

Long term goal for Drip page:

Okay, so this is a bit of misnomer... Drip is shutting down next year and the Drip creators are being migrated to a new site.  I'm not certain what the new platform will be named so for now I'll just refer to it as Drip.  Also, I originally drew up three different long term goals but they are all dependent upon the goal below.

1) Reach 1000 subscribers!  There are a lot of reasons I want to reach this goal.  It would allow me to expand the amount of content released each month (as above), help fund the art and development for the Tarot Adventures and would (potentially) allow me to commission art for my own RPG (currently in development).

https://d.rip/w-s-quinton


You can click on the image to check out my Drip page ... I'll be updating the video in the coming days.

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Thank you once again for joining me on my adventure into self-publishing, writing and game design.  I invite you post your comments and/or questions below.

Please do remember, this blog records my experiences and thoughts. I recommend that you conduct your own research and make your own determination as what has worked for me might not work for you.  The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are mine alone (except where other people are quoted).

I hope you'll join me next time, as we continue my new adventure in game design, self-publishing and writing.

Thank you all!