Wordmonkey at One Month and Change

Brief Review, Followed By Walk-Through Explanation:

Well, it’s been almost a month and a half since I started the Wordmonkey storefront on DriveThruRPG (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/8800/Wordmonkey-Studios), and work continues apace.  Product #6 (Abraxas) just went live a few minutes ago.

I’ve decided to take a page out of Evil Hat’s playbook (a company I have deep respect for) and just be up-front and totally transparent with Wordmonkey’s business.  It’s not like I have trade secrets or fierce market share to zealously guard or anything.  Looking back over the last month and taking in the sales numbers, as well as soooooo many talks and deep-dives into Kickstarter numbers has made me face a few harsh realities.  I’ll walk through these with some supporting numbers, Kickstarter first.

In order to be able to produce the Kickstarter-based book I have talked about, i.e., the first volume of the Deluxe Edition ALGERNON Files, I am looking at the following costs:

Art   (Buying all of the character art off of Blackwyrm for the 54 entries, paying for the additional art needed and a cover) — $5600

Layout  (For the estimated page count, and keep in mind this is at a VERY reasonable page rate) — $1300 (approximately)

Total (including the amount needed to pay Kickstarter so the above numbers don’t get undercut) — about $10,000 (technically, a couple of hundred just under that… I rounded up)

This doesn’t include potential expenses related to different tier offers, print options or anything shiny like that.  It’s just getting the pdf made.  That’s all.  You observant readers will also note that it also includes no actual line item for the writer or the company to actually make anything above and beyond expenses. Point of fact, between last year’s KS ran by Blackwyrm and the DTRPG storefront, the writer (that would be moi) still hasn’t made a penny.

Nope, not a one. Seriously.

Blackwyrm covered its expenses for physical production and distribution, but is still sitting on art costs it needs me to take off of their hands. Another point of fact, the little books they made barely hit their KS goal last year.  Barely.

And adding in the cost of my making even just my base word rate on this monster (over 200K words in the end) would in fact double the necessary total cited above, pushing the likelihood of funding even further into wishful thinking territory. A long, hard look at Kickstarter histories also shows me that for projects like this, for this system (or similar comic book games), primarily character (or “fluff”) based and not crunch, and put out by someone who’s name is NOT Green Ronin, that $10,000 might as well be $100,000. These kinds of projects routinely and simply fail to fund at anything past a couple of thousand bucks.  They just do.

I have been blessed to have a couple of dozen fans who buy pretty much anything with my name on it.  God bless ’em, each and every one. But, especially short-term, that number fails to carry the financial day.

So, Plan B. Put out each entry first as a pdf through DTRPG , and then, once they’re done, and money from those sales have helped me take a chunk out of the cost of the art, as well as gotten the layout 90+% done, then I can try a much saner level Kickstarter to cover remaining expense and put out a compiled book.  At one entry a week released, that puts our more reasonable KS at hitting the airwaves no sooner than 4th quarter of 2016.

Is that my ideal way of handling this? No. But it’s the reality of the situation. To reinforce this, let’s look at the aforementioned DTRPG business.

In order to make back expenses (just expenses) on one of the pdf products, which is to say, cover the cost of paying Blackwyrm for the art and paying the layout person for his work, I have to move 81 units (i.e., I have to make 81 sales per entry).  Again, I don’t take home a penny out of those 81 units – they’re just covering the costs.  Given the numbers and time cycles I’m seeing, that means that each entry is going to take 3-6 months to dig out of the red. Seeing as some of these are redone versions of entries that my most stalwart fans already have seen, the sales also understandably suffer on the first 2o of those 54 entries. Carapace (not previously released) noticeably and significantly outsells the other products so far.

Gaming products that are more than stick figure art tossed into Word doc and converted into a pdf cost money to make.  They just do.  And my costs are actually VERY reasonable – in fact, they’re a little on the soft throw side since they don’t include paying the writer. And I’m still left with the situation described above.

Long story shortened slightly – it’s going to take a bit longer to get stuff out that I might have otherwise hoped. Them’s the breaks for a one-man shop unwilling to take substantial financial risks.

Best way of seeing Wordmonkey make it as ongoing concern for M&M support (I hope to branch out to other systems eventually – comic books are a niche genre in gaming and historically sell very poorly in comparison to the rest of the field) is to continue to buy the series as it comes out. If it gets to the point where I can see I do nothing but lose money even over my anticipated recovery period, I will have little choice but to close up shop. Again, that’s the simple reality.  This is a labor of love, but still a business that incurs expenses.