Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Small Publisher Marketing

I think we need to break out the mould. 

I'll preface this post by saying I'm not a marketing expert.  I have however had 14 years of experience working in the recording business/record label business for a small company.  There are similar lines. What we as a company keep coming up against is the overwhelming amount of material that is out there.  The goods news though is that we are a "niche" marketing company.  Which means that most of the music we sell is not widely popular.  (much like the OSR).  As I said there are similar lines.

First things first, I know I've made a few mistakes with 3 Toadstools, and I intend to correct them.

What I see for the most part is the following:

Patreon Pages

Distribution thru Lulu, drivethrurpg, amazon etc.

All of these are good things!

What I see from DIY OSR publishers. 

Patreon Pages

Distribution thru Lulu, drivethrurpg, amazon etc.

Why yes its exactly the same thing isn't it.


I have almost completed my adventure/module/epic set of rules/etc
I'd like to get a kickstarter going.
If the kickstarter is funded you will get the following depending on contribution

Free (Pay what you want) no art pdf version, complimentary
pdf download
softcover + pdf download
hardcover + pdf download
hardcover + pdf download + first born child.

While these form of marketing and crowd funding is perfectly acceptable way of going about it.  Part of the problem becomes the sea of other projects that are very similar to this.  (Mind you there have been some seriously cool swag given away in some ks's).

Alternatively some publishers manage to get products out by sheer will and no real financial considerations.  (I'm one of these crazy people).  Create product, beg borrow and (clipart) and find an awesome graphic designer that can help you out for a share of the royalties, finish product, then throw at virtual fan to see if anything flies back.

There are happy mediums to both ways.  However in both cases in order to make any kind of a dent sales you need to have a strong social media presence, and a strong product (don't forget that).  As I stated earlier the "sea of products, and posts".

What I'm asking is, is there another way to do this?

One thought briefly occurred to me, the idea series adventures.  Much like the way "The Green Mile" was originally published.  In order to do something like this however, you would need to have a good percentage of the work completed.

Another thing I've considered is writing specifically for one rule set (as a lot of publishers to do), creating a rule set of my own (which can be a silly notion).   More importantly writing adventures set in a well fleshed out campaign setting.  Yes I'm looking at you WOTC, there's a reason people keep buying the stuff.  Part of it is having the source material.  In much the same way as CD compilations work.  Here's a song you might like, if you like the artist here's the CD code to buy the whole album.

As a community project I am really intrigued by the whole White Star thing.  Its of course the new flavor everyone is enjoying.  But it has staying power, its new its different, it still has that 1974 goodness we have all come to appreciate.  Same with "Crimson Dragon Slayer", another new rule set, with a world attached to it, a community that is contributing heavily to the development and continued development of it.  In both instances however it its 1 publisher that started the community and is hoping other follow suit and write for it.

What would be a cool idea, is to create a OSR world, somewhere were we can all add our own input to.  Write adventures for.

The issue becomes "what system?", "can we have trolls as a playable race?"  etc.

Creating a co-op idea would be cool.  A group of like minded OSR publishers forming a NEW publishing company, that would work towards having the following:

A OSR type rule set
A campaign setting
Adventures written within the campaign setting.

Sometimes there is strength in numbers.

Getting back to breaking the mould.  There's is a variety of amazing examples of that

Red & Pleasant Land 
Yoon Sin 
Crimson Dragon Slayer 
Dyson's Patreon Page 
White Star 

Just some thoughts.

- keep the dice rolling


  1. I like your thinking. I might add that like the indie music industry, having a community, a following, street team, etc. is a must for getting past the noise—we purchase stuff because other people we know or admire endorse or purchase it as well.

    Since I've been working on the idea of a series of short adventures that continue from one to another like a TV series or an old film/radio serial, I would love to put together a regular publication that is a collection of adventures. It would be "non-denominational" in that the systems and genres could be anything. It would have a very Heavy Metal Magazine vibe. It should also include comics and stories (short stories and serials.)
    I like the idea of a community company (co-operative?)
    Lets do this!

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  3. Some of us have formed a co-op like that (the Hydra Cooperative on drivethr/rpgnow). The first product was kickstarted (_Slumbering Ursine Dunes_ and its related products for Labyrinth Lord), but we also brought in the previously published _Ruins & Ronin_, _Weird Adventures_, and _Strange Stars_ .

    1. That's great Trey! that's exactly what I was thinking. I'm going to talk to a few people and see if I can't get something going like that. There's power in numbers.

  4. I think it would be hard to beat the marketing muscle of Lulu and DriveThruRPG.

    But I do see a need to another marketing channel. I am optimistic about the OSR Quarterly. I was hoping Gygax would get more traction too.

    1. I believe its hard to beat Lulu & Drivethru as well. I'm just trying to think outside of the proverbial box that has been created. I have a few local gaming stores that I'm hoping to drop stuff off at. not taking a ton of stock in that. But yah, just trying to think outside the box a bit. Not that there is anything wrong with the above sources. It just feels like everyone is at the same game.

    2. Much like other types of marketing I tend to worry if things get lost in the shuffle that is the internet.