I suppose I ought to have made at least one post last month… At the beginning of the Kickstarter, say, to try to drive more traffic to it (as though this blog got any traffic, at this point), or perhaps during the campaign, to give more background on the project or on myself or on my plans for the future… But instead I forgot to think such thoughts until now, until well after the campaign has ended: Until after the stresses of the last several months have had a chance to dissipate.
My mind is finally beginning to clear from the clouds and stresses brought on by six months of marketing.
I have now spent more time thinking about and working on the marketing for Teratozoic than I’ve spent: Thinking about and developing the game and refining the gameplay and creating the art and doing the graphic design and writing the rules and play-testing with dozens and dozens of people.
This literally sickened me, though I won’t go into the details here; you know what various colds and flus are like, and probably know how stress weakens the immune system to allow them easy access. The last month or two have been awful. But now it’s over.
The Kickstarter was quite successful. More successful, by far, than any prior crowdfunding attempt I’ve ever made, bringing in $6511 in pledges from 323 backers. That’s an order of magnitude more funding and more backers than my next-most-successful campaign. There’ll even be a little money left over after fulfilling all the rewards, this time: Usually I barely manage to cover my expenses, or fall a bit short. All that extra time and effort and money (which wouldn’t have been possible without another round of crowdfunding I did back in April) spent on marketing seems to have paid off.
The result falls neatly between success and great success: Three or four times more than I needed to fulfill the game and cover expenses, and three or four times less than I needed to actually have the game mass-produced instead of POD-produced. (Another three times as much as that and I could have started offering proper stretch goals.) I need about 266 copies for backers, and a few more to cover shipping and manufacturing errors, so I’m making Teratozoic a signed, numbered limited edition of 300 copies. I’ll be hand-assembling every copy, anyway, so going the extra step to sign & number them seemed reasonable, and adds value.
Plus, it hammers a nail in the game’s coffin for other people, making it easier to communicate that the game is dead. Once I’ve delivered every pledged-for copy, any remainder will be available for direct sales, but they’ll merely be dead copies sitting up on my shelf—and once they’re gone, that’s it for the game. 300 copies of the First Edition, no more. I’m not sure I’ll even be playing it much, once all is said and done; I’ve now played (or watched played) more games of Teratozoic than any other game in my life. Including Scrabble. (Even if we pretend my 18+ Scrabble variants are the same game.) ((Which is nuts. I’ve played no small amount of Scrabble.))
Getting everything from the manufacturers I’m working with will take a couple of months, then assembling & shipping everything will take a week or two, and then there’s days, weeks, maybe months waiting for everything to get delivered to backers.
In the meantime, I’m working on other projects. I have a few other games in early development; one or more of them may be great enough to pursue beyond prototype stage. My mind has recently begun prompting me to start writing again—spitting out short SciFi stories and horror texts and doing deep world-building without really intending to. …so I might get back to writing again, soon, too. I’m not sure I can stand getting back to marketing again, though. Not at anywhere near the scale I just did to get this moderate level of success. Certainly not soon, possibly not ever.
Partially because, here’s how the math shakes out: My net from raising funds from three or four patrons is generally enough to cover my expenses and produce the work I want to produce, plus enriching relationships with friends who appreciate and can afford to help support my work (whether financially, via useful feedback, or both). My net after fulfillment from raising funds from 300+ backers is a couple hundred more dollars than that (which certainly helps to fund the next project; I won’t deny it), but also six months of excruciating marketing.
How bad does marketing make me feel (on top of the physical illnesses mentioned earlier), you may wonder? Awful enough that, upon witnessing or reading about the deleterious effects of marketing on my mental and emotional state, various of my friends and family suggested I seek therapy and/or institutionalization and/or lots of (prescription) drugs. I even had strangers on the Internet reaching out to me to suggest coping techniques. I figured it out, though: Just avoid the [expletive deleted] marketing.
Turns out it isn’t (just) the big, dense crowds at a comicon which were freaking me out. I’ve been to bigger, more-crowded comicons without issue—even since I started having trouble facing PHXCC. The difference is that I freak out when I’m there with the intention of doing marketing, and I have a fairly good time when I’m there to have a good time. Even just at this summer’s Phoenix Comicon where I had an anxiety attack from trying to figure out the game room & how to demo Teratozoic, then a worse one from trying to walk the Exhibitor Hall (trying to think of who & how to market my game to the people & vendors there), I then went upstairs to the one panel I was interested in … and I was fine. No stress. Enjoyed the panel. Went home happily resolved not to try any more marketing that day. I also attended a small, local gaming convention right in the middle of my Kickstarter campaign for Teratozoic; I was freaking out about it beforehand because of how freaked out I was by the whole gaming area at PHXCC, and the expectations put on me by other people that I ought to be demoing my game there… and the only time I got even a little stressed while I was there was …you may have guessed it; ran into some game reviewers & marketed the game to them, even having to teach them the game because I was freaking out about some bad reviews I’d just been getting from people who hadn’t bothered to learn the game or play it more than once before writing reviews. The rest of the time was fine, sometimes fun. Almost dull; nowhere near a freak-out.
I’m not crazy. Not the way people have thought these recent months. Marketing makes me crazy, and when I don’t do marketing, the crazy goes away with it. If it hurts when you do that, stop doing it, right?
Right, so. Probably never again. Possibly extremely-small-run, very expensive, potentially even hand-crafted games in the future. Probably books that go straight to eBook and no messing with print runs. Maybe giving up on crowdfunding if it requires more than a couple Facebook posts to let people know the option exists. Heck, I’d even consider taking up seasonal work with a traditional employer; it might be less of a mental and emotional burden than marketing. (Unless it was sales. Sales is almost, but not quite, as awful as marketing.) …Though probably not that; there are enough ways to get my creations out there without spending money that I can learn to be satisfied with; at least marketing gave me fewer migraines than working a day job. Or if someone wants to volunteer to market my projects for me, or at best work on spec (since I have no real marketing budget), that might be okay, too. As long as I don’t have to do it.