By Dave Sokolowski
I never set out to self-publish, really. But I guess I never was going to end up as “just a writer” either, so maybe it’s better this way. And by “this way” I mean self-publishing a Cthulhu Dark scenario funded via Kickstarter, and now finishing up a self-published Call of Cthulhu scenario also funded via Kickstarter.
The RPG industry has clearly fully embraced Kickstarter, and as more and more companies publish larger and larger projects via the platform, it may seem that self-publishing is the route to success for your RPG project. The problem that I discovered (and that clearly most failed projects discover, perhaps too late) is that self-publishing an RPG via Kickstarter is less about writing and more about your abilities as a project manager.
Yes, you need to have good content (such as an RPG scenario, setting, resource or campaign book), but your content is no good just sitting on your computer. Your backers care a lot more about your dates and ability to deliver than your content (seriously, they do), and managing your publishing project will take as much time (if not more) as your writing does. Successfully project managing your Kickstarter boils down to three key components then: scope, resources, and communication.
For scope, we already know to keep stretch goals simple and planned ahead of time. Make sure you have a picture of everything you’re going to deliver, how it’s going to be produced, and how long each item takes before you add them to your Kickstarter in any way. If you’re not sure, then don’t add them! Better to have no stretch goals than to have 20 that you cannot produce.
You must understand who is going to produce your project — who are the resources you’ll be relying on to finish your delivery? If you plan to truly do the whole thing yourself (how many envelopes can you pack, seal and address a day? How long will it take to do 1000?) then make sure you communicate that to your backers. The more success you find, the more your project will need to scale, which means you’ll need more help. Get those people lined up ahead of time.
None of this matters, though, if you can’t communicate. This is the single most important part of any Kickstarter, and cannot be emphasized enough. It is almost impossible to under-communicate, especially once the project is completed and you have backers’ money. They want to know the project’s status and when books will be delivered. But here’s the rub — bad news is better than no news. Again, it cannot be overstated — communicate bad news, communicate no news, communicate if you don’t want to communicate. But tell your backers what is happening and they will be so much happier.
Self-publishing is a trying, lonely and ultimately maddening endeavor reserved for those who need to own their vision from beginning to end. The process is full of pitfalls and traps along the way, and requires a certain skillset to complete successfully. However, success can be found by utilizing simple project management skills and making sure you communicate, communicate, communicate!
Dave Sokolowski is a writer of short fiction and horror game material, whose credits include “Wrath of the Sulfurer” in Tales of the Caribbean from Golden Goblin Press as well as contributions to the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion. He has launched two successful Kickstarters, “He Who Laughs Last” for Cthulhu Dark and “Sun Spots” for Call of Cthulhu. You can check in on his doings at the Weird 8 page on Facebook.