Making a Living #4 – The two rules of marketing

Strip away everything else, all the clever gimmicks, sales, discounts, special offers, and anything else you can imagine and sales and marketing come down to just two things.

  1. Be a nice person.
  2. Offer a fair price.

That is all you need to know.

OK, so you may want a bit more than that.

Be Nice

What does being nice look like when you only have the written word to use to express it? Take a look at my product listing for Mutant Year Solo. Ignore the actual product and scroll down to the discussion area.

Every single comment by a customer, or not yet customer is answered. I go out of my way to make sure I answer every comment, good or bad. If you glance down through those discussions it ends up with people who have already bought books from me suggesting what other books they would want to buy if I wrote them. Symbaroum is mentioned and is now available and they also ask for Forbidden Lands and that one is nearly finished.

The simple process of sparing the time to answer questions has directly lead to more sales and even an impromptu focus group telling what would be popular to create in the future.

What is more, is that for all the people who didn’t ask a question, can see that the creator of this book is active and engaged. That is an important trust signal to people. Someone buying one of my books knows that if they have a problem, they can ask me directly and they will get an answer.

I don’t ask people to leave reviews. That seems to be a very current thing to do. I believe that about 1 in 2000 people asked to leave a review actually do it. If you are selling less that 2000 copies of each book, there is a very good chance that you will get zero response. When you are asking for the review, you are asking people to do things for you, when you are doing nothing for them. What is the advantage for your readers to write a review for you?

What if you offer them an incentive? That is even worse in my opinion. Now you have a situation where your existing customers know that people have been incentivised to write reviews, so if you do have any reviews they are probably fake or ‘bought’. You have devalued an important asset.

Not having reviews is not really a problem, most books on DTRPG don’t have reviews or if they do, they tend to be the big name, big ticket books. My advice is to relax about reviews, they will happen, or not happen and there is almost nothing you can do about it. You can spend the time you would have spent worrying about them in writing something productive.

What I said about discussions, and answering questions and being nice also applies to social media. You will gain more followers by being pleasant, honest and open and human, than you will be trying to act like a corporate bot, just pumping out official sales messages.

A Fair Price

Pricing is a real problem for many people starting in RPG writing. It is almost normal for people to under value their work, to be too embarrassed to charge for their books. People end up creating things for free or using Pay What You Want.

What I do is look at the marketplace. I look at similar products, of a similar quality and even size, and then price at the top end of the market. There are four reasons for doing this.

  1. Most books never sell even 50 copies. If that happens to your book, fifty times the highest price will bring in more money than fifty times the lowest price.
  2. For most people the difference between $1.99 and $4.99 is of little or no consequence. If you are spending money on games it means you are not scraping around for your last dollar. $3 more or less will make little difference to the buyer but to you it can make all the difference.
  3. If your book is more expensive you will rank higher in all the Hottest lists on DTRPG. Which will give you more visibility and as a consequence, you will sell more books.
  4. DriveThru operates a reward scheme called Publisher Promotion Points [PPP]. You can spend PPP on banner ads, featured product messages and to become deal of the day. You earn PPP at a rate of 1 per $10 of books sold, plus a fixed 10 or 20 per month. A more expensive book will earn more PPP, allowing you to do more onsite marketing, meaning you will sell more books.

The only downside to selling at a high price is that people with little or no money are less likely to buy them. But to put it harshly, if people have little or no money they are not the ideal customer for games books.

Finally, if you price high, you have more slack available to discount should you want to. Even if you don’t want to run sales yourself, DTRPG run regular sitewide sales. These typically discount everything by 25% to 40%. If you have a decent price to start with, even after discounting you are still left with something after DTRPG take their cut and the book is discounted in the sale.

Is this a fair price?

I think it is. I do not think that most people buying gamebooks realise how small the market is. Or how long these things can take to make. And don’t even think about recouping the cost of commissioning art! Fair pricing has to work for you as much as it does the customer. The customer has a choice. You have to eat. Not much choice in that!

So you want more specifics? Actual things you can do increase your sales? I will continue in another post.

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