Find a Home
By Aaron T. Huss
Tabletop role-playing game publishing is one part development, one part publishing, and one part marketing. The problem is that many independent publishers neglect that last part and focus all their efforts on development and publishing (regardless of how well they actually do). So what makes up marketing? All the steps you take to promote your product, supplemental material, and support.
It’s not enough to just publish a product without marketing it. Who’s going to find out about it if you don’t talk about it? You have to get out into the world (real or virtual) and let people know your product exists, what it’s about, how it’s different, and where people can purchase it. With today’s Internet, there is a plethora of avenues to do this, although sometimes it’s hard to find just the right one. I’m going to touch base on different ways you can market your products and create a home for that product within the tabletop role-playing game industry. Because if you don’t talk about your own product, it will never find its way into the market and into the hands of fans.
First and foremost, you really should have a place customers and potential customers can go to either learn more about the product, read about upcoming supplements, or at least have a place to contact you. Nowadays websites come in many shapes, sizes, and costs. There are numerous web hosts out there ready to host your website for a fairly good price. You will probably pay around $7/month at the cheapest, but you will at least get to carve out your own home on the Internet, start producing a brand name, and secure your website that is easy for customers to find. While this model is great for those publishing regularly, it’s not as beneficial to those doing it irregularly or just for fun. Once you have your website, you can add a template-driven program to make it visually appealing (such as WordPress or Joomla) or tray your hand at website development.
For those who wish not to spend additional money to carve out their product’s home on the Internet, there are a number of free avenues you can explore for websites. To start, you can look into the major blog sites. WordPress, Blogspot, and Live Journal all have free hosting options that provide a fair amount of flexibility as long as you conform to their web address name and use the tools they have to offer. These are simple WYSIWYG set ups designed for the user that isn’t exactly tech-saavy from an Internet perspective.
A new option for today is Facebook pages (which I see many companies turning to nowadays instead of a traditional website). Because Facebook pages are tied in with the social networking giant, acquiring fans becomes that much easier. In addition, it’s completely free and requires little to no user interaction other than posting information and pictures. Admit it, although many people choose not to use Facebook, a landslide of others do.
Forums are a great place for people to come together and chat about the things they love the most without the hassle of download and running third party programs. Many of these forums are focused on tabletop RPGs or specific systems and allow publishers to promote their products within a given directory. Here is your opportunity to reach out to potential customers and interact with the feedback they provide. Just remember, if you have a website, link to your website (when allowed) or to where the potential customers can make a purchase.
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Depending on what you publish, there may be websites that support news postings or allow you to submit your own news posting (Roleplayers Chronicle is such a website and supports EVERYONE’S news postings). These same websites often offer reviewers who will take a look at your product, give it a thorough perusal, and post their thoughts all for the exchange of a free PDF. They may even link back to your Website or give you the opportunity to offer their readers a discount with a direct link for purchase. This helps get the word out and gets people other than yourself talking about the products you publish.
INTERVIEWS AND PREVIEWS
There are lots of bloggers and podcasts who love to do interviews concerning products they have an interest in or may have an interest in. This could be audio, video, chat, or an e-mail-based interview that, just like reviews, gets other people talking about you and your products, further expanding your potential customer base. In addition, some of the bloggers will allow you to provide sneak peek previews at the product to go along with the interview. This is a good way to generate hype and give an actual visual reference for your potential customers.
TALK ABOUT IT
There are other venues ready to be utilized to further talk about your products and yourself such as conventions, local playtests, supporting a large playtest, or by putting together journal entries that can be published abroad (Roleplayers Chronicle offers the Designer’s Diary series to give publishers a place to talk about their products in anyway they see fit). Find more avenues for promotion and explore as many as possible. It is not proper to think that you will always be contacted to promote your products, you have to track these people down and ask them for the opportunity to talk about your products. Be proactive!
Whenever you promote your products on the Internet, or have someone else talk about them, it is important to link back to your website or a place to purchase. Talking about your products is not enough as people will be left wondering “Where do we buy this?” and that’s bad for business. Don’t spam the Internet but whenever someone mentions you or your products, ask to have a link added that leads potential customers to whatever home you’ve carved out.
This one requires a bit more dedication as it costs additional money. However, there are various places to advertise yourself and your products (Roleplayers Chronicle has very affordable advertising options for $3.50/week) including websites and magazines. Some magazines may require you to provide content in exchange for an advertisement, but think of the additional exposure. At Savage Insider, we reach almost 1500 customers in the first 4 weeks of publication of a new issue meaning you’ll have an excellent exposure to potential customers that may not have known about you before. Feel free to ride the coattails of someone that offers it.
It’s not enough to simply develop and publish a product. You need to concentrate on marketing just as much as publishing to establish a fanbase that will hopefully purchase additional products in the future. If you don’t tell anyone about what you have to offer, how are they going to know about it and how would they possibly find it? Find yourself a home within this industry and you’ll be much happier with your sales. While they may start slow, have patience and confidence in your marketing plan and know that reaching out to customers now can pay off well in the future.