I’ve been working with TTRPG on the side of my dayjob for 22 months now. I’m almost completing 2 years since my first sale, which happened on 2020, February 29th. I’ve already shared my experiences along the way, which you can find below. Now I’d like to talk about 2021 as a whole.
Content Warning: I’ll share some data and financial amounts.
This year was filled with A LOT of work. I sadly don’t track hours spent precisely but my initial weekly spent was 25h and I have now reduced it to 20h on top of my 40h dayjob. The work involved publishing multiple products on the DMsGuild, all of which were collaborations with other creators. I also worked on a few writing gigs for a flat-rate and on several map commissions. In March, I created a publisher account on DrivethruRPG in which I’ve published individual maps and a few map packs. I’ve worked the whole year with the Chessenta’s Tyranny team to bring this campaign module alive. While we’re not there yet, we’re not too far either! And finally, I ran a successful Kickstarter.
Something else that was really nice was that I created a Discord server to discuss email marketing, which started with a few people and is now already on a few dozens. I’ve gotten many great insights there as it’s filled with great people from the TTRPG business. Most of what I learned about running a Kickstarter came from there. The server was surely quite the help! As I’ve mentioned in my marketing post, I’ve been focusing effort and some funds (very little) to grow my email list, which is now over 2,000 subscribers (plus 1,000 on DTRPG). This has been another great boon to my business. Very recently, on Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and currently during the Holidays, I’ve ran sales in which I’ve put out bundles with many of my products at 90% OFF. Sounds dumb? Yes. But it works. Very well (see “Key Insights”).
I changed one aspect in 2021 which was to had my marketing team creating title art/logo for the cover of each of my releases. One of my business strategies is to provide great presentation to catch eyes. I do this by finding a nice stock art piece, sometimes tweaking it a bit, and adding the title art on it. It’s proving effective so far as nearly all of my Encounter products have reached the Top 10 position (or better) in the Most Popular banner of the DMsGuild. Also, most of these products reached the Best-Seller status in a short time. That’s of course not ONLY because of the cover/presentation, but also due to other factors (see “Key Insights”).
Last but not least, Amazing Encounters & Places funded 584%, which is nice! It was a great experience which I’ll detail once it’s completely over (meaning, 100% fulfilled). I’ll tell you one thing though: it’s VERY tough to run, on your own, a big KS project which involves international logistics and offset printing of books and maps. I to run 2 Kickstarters per year but I decided that it’s too much. One a year is enough. Also, I need to wait and see how this whole blockchain topic will develop anyways.
Before I share my insights that could or could not help you, fellow creators, let me share some lifetime and yearly stats so you can get an idea of what’s achievable in such a short timeframe (not even 2 years).
Revenue and source breakdown
I finished 2020 with 40 titles being retrieved when searching for “Zeuch”. Let’s breakdown my current catalog. I’m not counting Shard because it contains the same products that are in DTRPG.
Search for Zeuch: DMsGuild – 114; DTRPG: 75. Total: 189. 2021 Goal: 80, exceeded by 136%.
DMsGuild Authored: 74; 31 title in 2021: 3 adventures, 9 encounters (2 translations to PT-BR), 12 maps and map packs, 4 supplements.
DTRPG Authored: 66; 65 maps and map packs; 1 encounters.
Some titles appear under my name because people used my maps and credited me, some are bundles, so my catalog isn’t actually 189. It’s 140 (75% of the goal for the year).
See show graphs below about a few overall stats.
I apparently didn’t track how many Metals I ended up in 2020, so let’s talk about the overall Metals, both from DMsGuild and DTRPG. As you could see above, I have 100 Best-Selling products. A good portion of them came from the Holiday map Mega Bundle, which netted me around 65+ Silvers.
I started the year slightly below 1,000 followers, and I’m now at ~1,600, meaning that my follower count growth has decrease a bit. It’s understandable as I’ve been very busy with all the stuff at CZRPG so I don’t have much time to interact and engage there. I do have scheduled tweets promoting my back catalog and I also promote new and upcoming releases there.
I started the year with less than 150 email subscribers and I’m now over 2050. I have a second list which I don’t own but I can use, which is the DrivethruRPG customer list, which is over 1,150 emails. This list is a bit more limited as I can only link products from OneBookShelf there. Still, both this lists give me direct access to 3,200 people. While this may not seem a huge number, it’s already quite effective. I intend to continue growing my lists moving forward.
Let me share with you some of the things I feel have worked for me, so you can decide if any of this would make sense for you.
Having a great number of titles under your name brings quite some benefits! Let’s list a few:
- It drives organic sales as the more titles you have, the better your chances of someone searching for something and finding your product.
- Releasing new product drives back catalog sales, so the more the merrier!
- Can serve as proof of competence, mainly if a good portion of your catalog is composed of Best-Sellers, like in my case.
- Can help you with special sales (see below).
Solo vs Collabs
I wrote about this topic already in this post, and while my 2021 revenue was still majoritarily from solo work, collabs help you build up a catalog which can be rather helpful on sales (see below). I still think that ideally, a mix of solo and collabs is a good approach. I just didn’t have the time for any solo work in 2021.
This tool can, at times, work wonders for sales purposes. I won’t get into the details as I wrote about how I handle this in another post. But check the value of a list that can be observed during big sales! For reference, here’s how I handled those them.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday
I created the Ultimate Encounter Bundle which is composed of 11 Best-Sellers, 170 encounter, 140 maps with 900 versions, and I set it at 90% off. The price was USD 8.09 for one week. A blatant steal. I also ran a sales on DrivethruRPG in which all my products were at 50% OFF. I promoted this on social media, Discord servers, and email. The end result was a revenue of ~$ 550, which I was quite happy about. So besides having brought great revenue to me, it also boosted the revenue of all the people who collaborated with me on those titles, in addition to have catapulted all titles into higher Metals since each product sold in average 110 units. Coppers went to Silver, Silvers to Electrum, Electrum to Gold, and even my Gold reached Platinum. A great deal for literally everyone!
I bundled all my 69 maps into CZRPG Map Mega Bundle at 90% off, for a price of $ 19.99. It’s composed of 80 maps with 800 versions, all with Commercial Use. The results were very surprising: $ 1,578 in 2 weeks!! I had no Metals on DTRPG and now I have 69! Nice 😛
While not all these sales came from emails, let me show you the marketing data from DTRPG for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Holiday sales:
You can see that the majority came from email, but we can’t forget about social media. They’re free to use!
I found that nice-looking covers, plus great artwork (all this can be cheap!) when coupled with good marketing strategies, can work wonders! I was able to reach Most Popular banners and metal fast, helping out all of the involved people (writers, editors, etc). Check my most recent titles from the DMsGuild to see how I’ve been handling that.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, even if you feel like the person you’d like to talk to is “on another level”. I’ve done it several times and I reaped the benefits in different ways. I’d have many examples but I’ll state the first one, which was the one that brought the most impact at the time. I already mentioned this in my previous post but it’s a good example. Back in march 2020, I was alone without any creator community. I then saw Anthony‘s success on Twitter. So I reached out, we talked a bit, until he directed me to a Discord server full of creators, which helped me immensely to learn and grow as a creator. Something to remember: the “No” is certain. You can try for a “Yes” 🙂
Back in 2020 I was on a more complicated path which I tried to slowly correct this year. Last year, I would often sacrifice sleep to work on CZRPG. I stopped playing games aside from TLOU2 and some Bordelands 3. Still, it was very limited. This year, I’ve made an effort to sleep at least 7 hours, if not 8. Also, I’ve been allowed myself to game just a bit (mobile games and PS4). You need to be careful to take care of yourself to avoid a burnout.
This year has kept me really busy as you can imagine from what I described here, but it’s also been very rewarding. I’m really glad on how things are going at CZRPG and my plans moving forward are continuing with monthly releases on DMsGuild, brining writers and editors much like I’ve done in 2021. Besides, I’ll start a Patreon and I partnered with the great cartographer Mimicmaps, so stay tuned for early January! Finally, depending on how the situation progress with Kickstarter, my plan would be to go for Volume 2, which will actually be called something else.
Like always, feel free to leave any comment 🙂