RMU and Kickstarter

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I’ve mentioned Kickstarter, and Patreon, a few times in the past. For those who aren’t that familiar with them, what both of those, and others like Indiegogo, do is reduce the risk for making products. Essentially, you are getting a guaranteed income rather than a potential one. The guaranteed income may be lower – but if a product doesn’t work out it will actually be higher. So, lower risk.

Now, I don’t actually think that it would be a good idea running a Kickstarter to complete RMU. The process is simply taking too long, and depends too much on freelancers with variable time, that running a Kickstarter would have a very high risk of simply annoying the backers due to how long it takes. There’s a great article on running regular Kickstarters by a very successful one man band in The Sandbox #1.

OneBookShelf and Print on Demand

What I do think Kickstarter could help with is getting RMU out there. Sure, OneBookShelf is a great network for electronic and print on demand books, but it doesn’t really work for getting the books in bricks and mortar shops. OBS does offer a discount for bulk purchases, up to 20% for 250+, but that’s a lot of books, a lot of investment and the margins aren’t really that great. 50-99 books only gives a 5% discount and 100-249 10%. The smaller amounts will work for conventions and similar, but not really for distributing to shops.

Making Money

In such a case you need a margin that’s high enough that both retailer and publisher makes money. Supposedly TSR was losing money on its boxes in the 90s; no matter what you think, if every product loses you money, you cannot make it back on volume. All that does is simply cost more money.

To really get into bricks and mortar means dealing with traditional printing and distributors, and that has problems itself – especially as, for books, the U.S. has an appalling concept whereby retailers can get back everything they paid for books even though they haven’t returned the product but destroyed it. I can’t think of anywhere else where you would be given a full refund for a product you’d chucked away. RPGs might not be classed as books, but as games, but it’s still a potential problem. Again, with TSR and, I think, the old ICE, both wound up with problems due to traditional distribution.

KickstarterHow Kickstarter Could Help

So, you want to get into bricks and mortar shops but you can’t afford the risk – which could easily destroy the company – of paying for up front printing and distribution of books, which may never make the money back. That’s where I think that Kickstarter could help. If a successful campaign was run that could pay for this, the risk would be greatly reduced. It would also be possible to reduce the risk for retailers, by offering books on sale or return – they may well not want to risk money on inventory that they have no definite interest in.

Setting up such a campaign would need some careful planning to make sure the numbers work, and might not get a huge amount of support to begin with, but, if done successfully, it could get RMU out there in front of a wider audience – and, by having physical books for sale in shops, make the system look like it’s here to stay.

14 Replies to “RMU and Kickstarter”

  1. There is a side advantage as well. Simply featuring on Kickstarter will raise the profile of RMU above the level of just us existing users.

    1. True, and I think Rolemaster could do with a higher profile than it currently has. I doubt that an initial Kickstarter would really interest many other than those who are still fans, but it might perk interest again in the system from those who knew it in the past, and it could garner attention from younger players as well.

  2. Given your experience it might be great for you to blog about your own publishing:

    1. Thoughts on art/layout
    2. Quality and pricing
    3. What sells
    4. Impact of reviews on sales
    5. How to get your products found when there is so much out there.

    1. Interesting idea. Do you have any other topics as well as those five that you’d like to see covered? It can be easier sometimes working from prompts.

      1. I teach a workshop called “Starting your own business” which is a basic tutorial for budding entrepreneurs. I was envisioning the same thing. There are lots of “how to’s” online, but you have practical experience so you might have some nuggets of wisdom that might help other writers take the next step. I’ve been surprised we’ve seen less uploads on RMForums and even here on the blog; I’ve encouraged people to post up SW material on the Misc SW thread and only one person has done so. I wonder if people are worried about posting something up that’s not quite polished, edited and finished. If that’s the case, they’ll be hesitant to do the same on RPGNow?

        1. The first time I did it (publishing on RPGnow) I basically had a mentor, Kwickham on the RMForums, who just guided me through it. Once I had published one thing it was like opening the floodgates.

          The absolute key ingredient is finishing projects. As GMs we do not have to produce print ready documents. House rules just need the basic workable rules but not fully worked examples. Adventures we create are for our own worlds or versions of bought settings so we do not weave that into the adventures we write, published adventures need that bit of setting the scene. Our adventures are often off shoots or inspired by existing loose threads in our campaigns we do not need to create the adventure hooks to launch an adventure but a stand alone adventure does need these.

          It is a lot of these little things that add to the burden for a budding indy publisher.

          If you publish to the RMForum vault then your work is out in the public domain and there is not much else you can do with it. If you want to publish elsewhere then you hit the ICE IP wall.

          I would also add that it is really difficult to make a living out of RPG games, supplements and adventures. It is easy to make a few hundred dollars in added income but making a living seems to be just the top 1%, if that.

          1. I think it would be possible to make a living – with caveats. Firstly, it helps if you don’t have expensive needs to start. Secondly, if you don’t need the income immediately it can be reinvested in everything from stock art to freelancers. Thirdly, some of that income can be reinvested outside the industry. The sort of money that others spend on Kickstarter I actually tend to make microinvestments with on CrowdCube. Fourthly, diversify within the industry as well. Fiction, comic books – even apps.

        2. I think people often think that their own work isn’t good enough. I basically started when I looked at some supplements published on RPGNow and thought “I could do that. Actually, I think I could do that better.” And it kind of snowballed from there. At least a few publishers started with less than professional items (one, with nearly 2,000, still published them on occasion. Fortunately they’ve now hired an editor for at least some lines). I haven’t quite approached it in a completely business-like manner, as I enjoy doing it.

          1. 1. I’m not concerned about making money, sales are just a way to measure the appeal of your work.
            2. Im surprised how hard it is to get collaborators: art, layouts etc given how many people put thir stuff out there for free. Its almost like the mind set is either free or too expensive.
            3. Im the example of 80-90% completion, but Ill put it out there anyway.
            4. There has been comments that once I post something on the forums it cancels its value as a commercial product. I say hogwash! Most of my uploads are early versions that I leave out a bunch of material.
            5. If ICE ever opened up IP, I have a group that would throw a bit of money to start up a publishing co. Just to get decades of work in published form. We could ramp up quickly.

            1. I agree that publishing on the forums,
              or anywhere for free does not really cancel the commercial value. It can reduce it if yhe same thing is available in two places one for a price and one for free.

              My first publication was a repurposed set of blog posts and the first few issues of the fanzine were ‘best of’ reprints of blog posts.

              They both sold on RPGnow, despite being available for free on the blog.

            2. Artwork is often the biggest problem. The industry doesn’t have the biggest margins, so people who can get paid, want to get paid, rather than do stuff for free. If they do anything collaborative, it looks to be off their own back (for example, Jacob E. Blackmon’s ICONS/M&M3 supplements).

              Regarding free stuff cancelling the value of a commercial product, I can provide several examples off the top of my head where this isn’t true. Stars Without Number, Mutant Future and Labyrinth Lord are all available in free, no-artwork PDF versions, as well as paid-for art PDFs and printed books. The latter still sell.

              Truthfully, it doesn’t require much money to set up. Some things I recall reading suggested that too much money can actually be a problem. Once again, it’s the art and cartography that can be a problem. Over the past few years I’ve published over 400,000 words of material, and that’s all from scratch. With the amount of material you have, you could easily crush ICE in terms of product production.

              I am writing that article you suggested as well on self publishing. I think it will be ready next week. It’s turning out longer than I expected.

  3. Being as ICE is a small company, Kickstarter might be an excellent way to go to get the books and pdfs into our hands quicker. I have backed many projects on Kickstarter and have generally been satisfied with what I’ve received. There are a number of known companies who put products on Kickstarter, and then produce more copies for the aftermarket. Frog God Games, Matthew Colville, Critical Role, Columbia Games (HarnMaster) and Stone Blade Publishing (Ascension) are just a few I’ve encountered and backed. Most companies are able to offer a bit of a discount to backers and still often make money on the deal, as backers pre-pay for their goodies. There is usually enough money left over to make extra copies that can then be passed on to distributers so people who aren’t able to back the Kickstarter can still get their hands on the goods. Some publishers will even allow backers who can’t get in initially to still back the product by paying them directly. I’ve been able to do this in most cases as well. Usually I wind up missing the Kickstarter deadline because I’m retired military and am only paid on the first of the month. Kickstarter only gives 7 days to pay and then you’re dropped. If the kickstarter ends in the middle of or more than 7 days before the first, I am out of money, having paid my bills, other kickstarters, utilities, etc. I am also disabled and so can’t work to make more money due to my age as well. It is also a condition of my disability that I am not permitted to work.

    1. You are absolutely right. You can add Troll Lord Games to that list as well. Another advantage to the publisher is that if you know in advance that you need X many hardback books and Y many softbacks, you can do an offset print run, which is higher quality and cheaper to produce than print on demand. That is even factoring in having a 3rd party deal with the distribution.
      ICE has always been resistant to kickstarters. I personally feel that it is one of two things. ICE is run as a part-time or hobby business, running a successful Kickstarter does two things, the first is it takes a lot of time pre- and during the campaign to generate interest. Secondly, it put pressure on you to then produce the finished game in a timely fashion. RMu is anything but timely.
      I could easily imagine an element of anxiety as well. If RMu is all about relaunching RM and ICE, if the kickstarter had failed, it does not create a very good impression.

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