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.
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.
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.