Measuring Success: The First Year In Review

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There are differences between levels of success and they’re based on the goals we lay down. Yet no matter how you look at it, we all view success as a means of moving forward and upwards. There’s a momentum behind it and when you get a lot of it behind you, even in small doses, things can really move in directions you never imagined. That’s the mantra I live by when it comes to anything I do. I start small and I let it grow and don’t look back until I can see things have really progressed in ways I had not expected and yet always hoped for.

I guess that’s a long way to say… Welcome to another edition of our Measuring Success series! Where I figuratively pull back the curtain to reveal nothing more than a lone man frantically pushing a lot of buttons in the hopes of creating something magical. And that would be me, Todd Crapper, the publisher of Broken Ruler Games and Pusher Of All Buttons. Not only is it time for an update on this bi-annual sales report for all curious onlookers and fellow independent publishers, it’s also a review of BRG’ first year as a registered business. If you’ve never read any of the previous installments in this series, you can find them all here. Basically, I open up the books and spill the beans on how well my business is doing.

Right off the bat, let’s begin with the good news. We made money! The majority of that stems from the High Plains Samurai Kickstarter, which means that profit is going to be very short lived. But still… we made money! If I take away the Kickstarter funds, we are working in the red but that is very much expected with numerous projects and partnerships in the works, memberships fees, printing costs, and more. There have also been some valuable lessons learned – some of them troubling, others eye opening. As you’ll see below, we’ve also started moving into some exiting new directions for 2018. Put on your goggles, folks, because it’s time to dive into the deep end of the pool.

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What Did We Sell?

Every one of these posts starts off with a big giant spreadsheet containing sales from multiple sources – DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, CreateSpace/Amazon, the Open Gaming Store, Epimas, and others. Below is the complete sales data from September 2016 to August 2017.

Product

OBS Sales (DriveThruRPG/ RPGNow)

Open Gaming Store Sales

Convention/ Direct Sales

Total
Sales

Total Gross

Killshot: The Director’s Cut

83

11

94

$143.90

PDF

26

26

Hardcover

2

2

Hardcover + PDF

1

1

Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal

9

9

Killshot Files #0

26

11

37

Killshot Files #1

9

9

$12.00

Killshot Files #2

10

10

$27.97

ScreenPlay

314

20

16

350

$450.45

PDF

37

2

39

Softcover

2

16

18

Softcover + PDF

4

4

Ironbound

105

18

105

$8.84

The Blessed and the Damned

150

150

Dial M For Monster

16

16

$68.50

TOTAL

397

31

16

444

$711.66

dialm_finalcoverOverall, sales were down 44% compared to the previous year (and before I registered BRG as a business). The main reason is a lack of new products during this first year. Aside from Dial M For Monster, which bombed, all of my focus this past year was spent preparing the HPS Kickstarter, engaging with distribution channels and connecting with publishing organizations. All things considered, it’s not a harsh drop and is quite acceptable when you consider this crowded RPG market (particularly on DriveThruRPG). These numbers do not include either of the free playtests for ScreenPlay and High Plains Samurai, which helped keep BRG active and increased the size of our audience. These playtests combined were downloaded 1,640 times since 2016 – an impressive amount that helped us raise $6,411 on Kickstarter this year.

What these numbers provide is a benchmark for 2017-18, one I’m quite hopeful can be jumped over and left in the dust when the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game is released in Fall 2018. If I play my cards right, there will also be some early momentum from Summer convention sales and will also be available through North American distribution with Indie Press Revolution (they’ve already requested a restock of 20 copies of ScreenPlay, in fact). While the past couple of months have been off to a slow start, my eyes are looking towards March 2018 for the numbers to make a running charge at that benchmark.

Otherwise, there hasn’t been any significant change in sales since the previous MS post. If you’re interested to read a summary on the first six months’ sales, click here.

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What Did I Learn?

If there’s one area that has been the biggest eye-opener, it’s been bookkeeping. Detailing every single transaction, noting it across different reports, multiple currencies, transfers, and all the financial data needed to run a business has changed significantly in our second year. With new opportunities now available to BRG products, including access to distribution through IPR, there’s going to be more to track and I need to keep everything organized in a way that will make sense 365 days of the year.

Balancing the demands of running your own business with the need to create new material has also been challenging with a few adjustments made along the way. This has also lead to a better approach on dedicating time for project management, scheduling and budgeting to get ahead of the train rather than racing after it. There has been more time placed on setting up new opportunities for BRG to pave the way for a larger release with High Plains Samurai than anything else I’ve ever done. While not a conscious goal, there is a chance HPS‘ core rulebook could premiere at Gen Con 2018! An opportunity too good to miss. With these matters handled during the first year of operation, I can now get back to the creative side of the business before stepping back into the marketing and publishing sides. Different hats, as they say.

I’ve also discovered that it is possible to go with only 5 hours sleep for two weeks straight but it’s not going to feel good by the end.

One of those nice and unexpected (yet secretly hoped for) benefits of this past year has been the contacts and support from other indie RPG publishers, particularly with the members of the IGDN. They were incredibly helpful filling in the gaps and tightening up the presentation for the Kickstarter and I’ve been able to work with industry figureheads such as Mark Diaz Truman, Sarah Richardson, Emily Care Boss, and others on the Metatopia Scholarship program. It’s given me a couple of geek-out moments, for sure, but the most important benefit has been that sense of inclusion. Of community and knowing there are others who are just as mad dog crazy as I am about doing this. It’s also offered up a lot to think about when it comes to marketing and communicating with my customers, from setting up a subscription newsletter, to Patreon, and other things that would need a post unto themselves. All told, being part of the IGDN started to teach me how I can responsibly grow BRG.

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I also had a blast going on some of my favourite podcasts, including Misdirected Mark and The Gauntlet. Plus there were the personal connections made by attending Breakout in March and shaking hands with fantastic publishers and game designers like Fraser Simons, and Hamish Cameron. Knowing there are people out there you could be trapped on a deserted island with and talk about game design uninterrupted…? Priceless.

Going back to the benchmark mentioned above, this year’s sales were more than enough to handle expenses, printing and shipping costs, convention attendance, travel, and others. One of the advantages of working almost completely online is the savings; it’s quite possible to make a lot of business arrangements without leaving your chair. This means as long as I can at least pull in these kinds of numbers year-to-year, the business can continue to stay afloat. And that requires a continuous release schedule, something my editor, Vince Harper, brought up during one of our earlier production meetings.

Hmm, perhaps now would be a good time to get to the fun question…

What’s In Store For 2018?

So glad you asked! Thanks to the 273 honorable backers who helped make this happen, we’ll be rolling out the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game in two phases.

  • breakout2018-logo_324x179In March 2018, you can try out High Plains Samurai: Legends as a free download. Legends provides players with everything they need to play out one-shots in the One Land, perfect for convention play and to test out your wire-fu storytelling skills. Will include pre-generated characters, character & scene notes and three storylines. A print-on-demand (POD) version will also be available for a reasonable price (currently in the $10-$15 range based on final page count). We’re on target to premiere Legends at Breakout 2018 in Toronto, Canada and my plan is to have softcover copies available there as well.

  • Then in the Fall of 2018, the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game core rulebook will reveal everything you need to begin magnificent and dangerous tales from the One Land. Complete with character creation, advice for Writers and Directors, detailed introductions to the Five Cities and the Wastes, and more. This core guide to the game will be sold in PDF, POD, and softcover (prices yet to be determined) on all OneBookShelf sites, Amazon, and at major conventions and (hopefully) local gaming stores across North America (but I’ll settle with a handful… for now).

Plans are also underway for a dedicated High Plains Samurai website, publishing Fraser Ronald’s origin story of Black Scorpion, moving forward with the Atlas of the One Land project, I’m currently plotting out some ideas for a series of mini-games, and the wheels are spinning on a Black Scorpion’s Revenge Kickstarter late next year or early 2019. There will be more to come about these projects… soon. Stay tuned.

In Conclusion…

I’m quite pleased with this first year. Capped off with the success of the Kickstarter and the knowledge gained during the first 365 days of official operation, I’m really looking forward to applying these to the next 365 days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hyperventilating deep down inside but optimistically hyperventilating. If such a thing exists. All in all, I’m very happy with this first year.

If you have any questions or comments on what you’ve seen here, I’d be happy to follow up with more information or compare notes to help fill in a few more gaps in the indie market.

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