Yesterday, Dylan over at his Digital Orc blog posted Why Publish?. An excellent post that goes into why he publishes and what he learned along the way. If you haven't read it please do. Mine can wait. I warn you ahead a time, this is a bit of a ramble.
I can blame a lot of it on +Rob Conley for my gaming publishing bug. I'd been tinkering in short fiction for years. Rob and I used to get together on neutral territory and go over the writing we'd done for that week. Fast forward a few years, Rob worked on a few projects with Goodman Games, I helped a bit. It was the first time I saw where our ideas, from our game could come to life in print.
I published Knowledge Illuminates back on February 2011. Hard to believe its only been three years. Seems longer. I hesitated putting it out there. I was still a newb and for some reason I think there was some flame wars going on at the time. No idea what it was about, didn't care either. But after some discussion with friends Rob and Dwayne I released it and cringed.
I was hoping to sell 25 copies. Thought that would be cool. If I reached 25 then I'd do another. Rob kept saying I'd sell 100. I told him to give me whatever he was smoking so we could both enjoy the delusion. I put it out there and a lot of cool people were very generous with their praise. I surpassed my 25 in a short amount of time and before the year was out I'd sold 100 copies. Hell, it hit #1 on RPGNow for a few moments. It gulls me to say Rob was right. What I learned from this was the amount of support I received. To not worry about people liking it or not. Just to trust yourself, make something you like and share it.
Then +Christian Walker...Mr. Walker...I know he'd been putting out zines for a long time. Before I knew him. My first experience was when he did 1 square = 5'. I thought it was very cool, but it didn't trigger a light bulb. Then he released Loviatar. The sky opened and lightning struck. Holy shit, I can do this. I got a long armed stapler, a new printer and a crap load of card stock.
I can't draw a stick unless I photo copy a real one. I needed art. My budget for the zine was next to nothing, but I had a few coins rattling around. +Jason Sholtis was someone I'd met and did the art for Rob's Scourge of the Demon Wolf, I asked him if he would be merciful on me and do the cover. He did and drew me a incredible kickoff cover and then +Johnathan Bingham said he would do a picture. And Mr. Walker himself helped me a great deal with finding my footing. Again the support was fantastic. It got a ton of reviews. This one again showed me that people could get behind and get excited about something I did. I received support from folks I didn't know.
By this time, I'd been out long enough that bad reviews started filtering in. Bad reviews don't bother me, not everyone is going to like your product. I appreciate the time they took to review it and hope they like the next one. I think I only had one negative review where the person obviously hadn't read it and just complained about random things. In those cases I just ignore it. He didn't put much thought or time into his criticism so I just don't respond. No need to. And the great thing is most of the folks that have given me poor reviews I've spoken to and they are all good guys with honest opinions. That is a good thing and some have bought follow up products and liked them.
Most of those who read this blog know I'm very open with sales, costs, numbers. I like sharing that hushed part of the business. Sometimes it gets to be a touchy subject about folks want to make a little money. Ignore the nay sayers and booers. I want to let people know it can be done. Not that I'm the guy that will show them the way, but give them my experience and hope to see them release something.
Lastly, the money itself. I am a lousy accountant/record keeper other than the number I sell. I know I spend more than I make on other gaming products. And that's it, I mainly do this to get something I like out there, get the excitement of making a little cash for something I love doing and getting some extra scratch for all the cool stuff I want to buy. Recently I've been saving a little more of my money off of projects so I can start paying my art dudes and dudettes a little more, pay people who contribute or help out. I call it pizza money. And the thing of it is most of them don't want any money, they just want a comp copy.
The publishing thing doesn't happen in a vacuum. I think nearly everyone needs the talents of others to get them to a good, completed product. The OSR doesn't seem to have a limit of talented individuals. I'm always fascinated by all the backgrounds and job skills people use to improve their gaming experience.
I publish because I love to game. To gather with friends and share something I put so much time and effort into along with the help of others. I publish because it gets me revved up. When I release a product I get adrenaline pumping and stay up late and painstakingly watch my email for orders. I publish because I really need the creative outlet, and while I can do this in the privacy of my home there is a certain satisfaction you get when another person talks about it. And I publish because, for me, the OSR is a community of folks who love sharing their ideas for a hobby they spend significant time (and money) on that invades nearly every part of their life.