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Reducing Production Costs and Increasing Profits with Cartography

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I bet that the first two part of the title caught your interest as a content creator and this is a blog post based on my experience. It may not work for everyone, but if this works for YOU, it would greatly benefit your business. let’s go straight onto the topic, but first a brief context.

I got into cartography thanks to the recommendation of a cartographer who I was intending to hire to make the maps for The Great Trial, my first paid product. This cartographer was kind enough to suggest some tools to get me started with map making. I started with WonderDraft and Dungeon Painter Studio and used those software to create the maps for that product (which were later replaced by Inkarnate/DungeonDraft maps of higher quality). I wasn’t satisfied with the tools and looked for alternatives, settling for Inkarnate and DungeonDraft. In March 2020, I did 32 maps with a single month of Inkarnate Pro. I was so excited with the tool!

OK, but how did this help me?

Well, I first posted all maps in my Pinterest in a specific Board, and later on put all of them on my website. I then started to promote my maps on social media (Twitter and FB) and Discord groups. Around late April I got first commission: a capital city for @DMShoes (great guy!). I got paid USD 75, meaning this got me the equivalent to 3 years of Inkarnate subscription. So that a cost I wouldn’t need to have in 3 years. Next, I worked on The Isle of Endless Fog  an 80-page adventure and setting in which I created 32 unique maps with a total of 86 maps considering their different versions. These maps were released in a separated package, the adventure containing 11/20 and the pack, 32/86. And THIS is how it started.

My Strategy

From there onwards, for each product that would make sense (almost all of them), I heavily invested in creating high quality maps to accompany the module. I did this for all modules but Maraxax’s Domain (it has only the dungeon map), Encounters with the Dark Powers and Encounters in Castle Ravenloft, as those products didn’t need maps. All my other products got enough maps to allow me to create additional products based off those maps. I have a wide variety of map packs for many (but not all) situations DMs put their groups through. While it’s impossible to assess and get accurate data on how much my maps have contributed to the success of products like Encounters in Icewind Dale (16/24 maps) and Encounters in Barovia (17/130 maps. yes, 1-3-0), they sure helped direct and indirectly. Overall, I published roughly 150/500 maps in 2020.

“I’m not convinced yet”

I agree that it’s a bit vague. So let’s be more specific. Although I cannot assess how much maps have helped the products they accompany, let’s talk about Map Packs and Map Commissions. I have 12 released maps packs and did a few commissions in 2020, and up to February 2021, I already completed 2 big map commissions, 1 small one, and I’m booked with another medium and big one. Let’s break this down:

Map Packs

So far, they’ve earned me USD 1,232.71, and USD USD 928 came from my Icewind Dale and Barovian map packs, which already sold 561 copies in total. All this in less than a year. I consider this quite reasonable. 

Map Commissions

I already got all kinds of commissions: capital cities, cities, regional/world maps and battle maps of many kinds. My prices vary greatly depending on the size of the map, the complexity level and how many rooms there are, all of which affect the time it will take me to map. Considering all these commissions, it’ll end up in around USD 1170. I believe that commissions may keep coming this year as many people already know me for my maps and even though they aren’t perfect, I get very good feedback about them.

Conclusion

Besides not having to pay for maps that I’d need in my products, my map business represents, so far, 24% of my revenue with TTRPG which is pretty good! This is nearly 3500% return on my investment made on mapping tools (not factoring in my time though!) It’s something I GREATLY enjoy and it’s good to see the results they bring. It’s part of my strategy and it seems to be working, so I’ll keep going!
Before I finish this article, I’ll leave you a video that may help you with the detailing aspect of maps. I might do a more specific post about how to use Inkarnate, though there are many tutorials and videos online. Hope this one helps you!