In most ways I am your typical indie creator. I write all my own books*, I source the art (I cannot draw to save my own skin) and I do the layout.
I think I am mostly unskilled. I am dyslexic and or autistic. These things were not tested for when I was at school, but my daughter is autistic and everyone remarks that we are incredibly similar. I certainly display all the typical behaviours.
I know almost nothing about art, or layout. I look at other people’s books and try and emulate what I see. Most people can function on a ‘I know what I like’ level, while not being able to create something truly unique of their own. That is me.
My game design, writing and layout may be terrible, but there is one skill that almost all indie game creators lack and that is marketing. Sales and marketing is the one function that has almost every indie cringing and recoiling. This is a pity as a mediocre book with great marketing is going to out sell the best book ever written, if no one knows it exists.
If you want to support your household income, or make a living from your games and game books, you are going to need to learn the two most important elements in selling.
Most Important Element
Be a nice person
It really is as simple as that. Don’t try and rip people off, don’t try and be something your not. If people ask you questions about your book try and be helpful. All of these things will help you sell more books.
Let me take the last one in that list as an example. If you asked a question about one of my books on DrivethruRPG, and I answer it. Everyone else that looks will instantly see that the author is around and cares about the book. Or to put it another way, the book is supported. That is a major reassurance. If you buy something and don’t understand it, knowing there is someone to help is important.
If you want to see this in action, take a look at my Mutant Year Solo book. Not the product as much, scroll down to the discussion below. This is not high pressure selling, it isn’t even selling. I am just trying to be genuinely helpful and if I cannot write something, such as Aliens, I explain why. As a consequence people are reassured and confident to buy other books of mine.
I think that when many people think of sales and marketing they are thinking of trying to force or trick or manipulate people into buying something they don’t want or need. I don’t do any of that. I wouldn’t want to do any of that. Simply being nice, is a double reward. When I am nice, people respond in kind, which makes me feel good if I get nice comments from happy people. If I can reassure people that they will be looked after if they have spent some of their hard earned money on my books then I think that will reassure other people who may still be undecided.
The Other Most Important Element
Ask a fair price
The key here is what do I mean by fair. I don’t mean cheap. How long did you spend researching, writing, designing and testing your game stuff? How many books do you really expect to sell? Most game books sell less than 200 copies, ever.
When you are next on DriveThru look at the metal ratings for the books you browse. Copper means more than 51. Silver, more than 101, Electrum more than 251 and Gold over 501. Unless you are only looking at the big brand books I would guess that most of what you look at won’t even be copper.
Two thirds of all books never sell more than 50 copies.
That is a horrible thought. But there are in excess of 300,000 books for sale on DriveThru. They cannot all be on the hottest sellers lists, or the newest sellers list. Once a book is not new any more, and that could be two or three days in a popular category or on the homepage, it needs to be selling dozens a day to stay on the hottest lists.
The rules I released last Monday are now the 4th most popular book under $5
and the 6th hottest Small Press…
But in a few days time it will slip further and further down the lists and new books come out. I have a niche that I work in, it is a small niche and I cannot change that. I will never out compete any of the traditionally played game supplements just because there are more people who play as a group than there are people who play solo.
So what as this got to do with a fair price?
Knave, the ‘parent’ game costs $2.99. The adventure written by Ben Milton costs $1.50. To make A Lonely Knave fit in with the style of Knave and the published adventure, it is equally small and I felt that $1.50 was the most I could charge for what amounts to a for page booklet (US Letter, landscape, 2 sides folded in half). That was the ‘fair price’.
Contrast that with The Crusaders Solo Handbook. The Handbook pairs up with Castles & Crusades. Functionally, it is still a set of solo rules. Knave is an OSR style game that can use just about any OGL monster manual, C&C is an OSR style game that can use just about any OGL monster manual.
The solo handbook is 34 pages and costs $4.95.
So why the difference in price? When I started with C&C I bought the Castle Keepers Guide, the Players Handbook and the Treasures & Monsters book. I invested the time into reading, learning and playing the game (ok, playing the game was fun but you know what I mean). My investment was both financial and personal. The game is laid out ready to go to print.
I have also included a lot more content about handling different situations and playing adventure modules.
I put far more in, so I charge more.
That is fair to me.
Is $4.95 too much do charge for a book that will give you hundreds of hours of pleasure?
I don’t think it is.
I would almost define Fair as the highest price that the market will stand for the book you have created. Creators have been complaining for decades that they are underpaid. How are we ever going to change that if people compete on price and race to be the cheapest? If you spent 100 hours solo playing C&C using my book, which is only 25 evenings, that would be 5¢ an hour. There is virtually no other form of entertainment that could come close to that.
Just for context, that C&C book was released a month ago. It has sold about 60 copies, 15 a week. That is enough to make it the 3rd hottest selling book in the entire C&C category. If you are not a creator reading this, ‘just’ a player or GM, that is how tight the margins are in this industry.
Just put the two parts together, Be nice and charge a fair price is about as simple as it can get. Anyone can do it. Everyone should do it.
I have one more thing to say on price. I have made it a ‘thing’ to offer 40% discounts to you, my blog readers. Without you, there would be no point in me writing this blog. I see those discounts as a thank you for giving me your time.