Office Work is a series of posts where I talk frankly about the work of Purple Duck Games including what goes on behind the scenes.
Lewis asked, “How you decide which products to move forward with. The balance between thing you know people are looking for & putting great ideas that might not be as popular forward.”
It can be really hard to decide what to go ahead with when publishing roleplaying games in support of other people’s systems. It is not uncommon to publish something that is profitable to have the finances to work on riskier projects. I do have a couple of handy rules that I use for greenlighting projects.
- Trust Your Freelancers Pet Projects
There are a number of freelancers that I have worked with multiple times. I rarely have to assign them work. Typically, they show up on my email with a document in hand with an intro that says something like, so I know we have never really talked about this but I’ve been working on this thing for a while and I think its really come together, are you interested. Some of our most consistent sellers have been created this way.
Both David N. Ross’s Random Encounters Remastered line and Carl Cramer’s Prestige Archetypes line started as these sorts of books. Initially, I didn’t have a lot of faith in either of these initial projects but I took a risk on them and they have turned out well.
So when Carl Cramer approaches me about a Duckfolk book for Porphyra. Now, I doubt that it will be as successful as Prestige Archetypes but Carl has earned the right to pitch pet projects for our publication.
2. Trust your Editor
Perry Fehr is the primary editor for Purple Duck Games. He has had his hands into everything Purple Duck for at least the last five years. He is the primary archetict of the Lands of Porphyra Campaign setting and works to keep things reasonably consistent. The Lovecraft Fantasy Gaming Toolkit was rescued from oblivion by Perry. It was an older project that went through many hands and was generally in a pretty disorganized shape. Perry took the document, reworked it, rewrote some, and expanded it a lot more… and then I continued to bury it for almost a year. If Perry hadn’t nagged me about the book on a regular basis it would have never seen the light of day. I was so concerned about this book and how it would be received that I was willing to just take a loss on it an never publish it.
That would have been a mistake. Reviewers and customers both agreed on that. Its sales have dropped off (probably do the influx of other mythos support available) but it was more than worth finishing.
Perry sometimes notices the value in things that I overlook.
3. Trust your Market(s)
Some markets are better than others. There are many Pathfinder supplements that I have not broken even on. There is not a single DCC book that hasn’t broken even for me. So when it comes to DCC, I have published everything I could have for it. I suspect MCC may treat us the same way as well. So we have been actively recruiting more writers for both Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics.
4. Timing is Everything
Particularly with Pathfinder-related content it is important to get your work out there first. When the Occult Adventures book came out there was a lull in Pathfinder Support from 3PPs, traditional companies like Rite Publishing and Rogue Genius Games had backed away from immediately supporting Paizo’s newest thing. I do not know for certain why that gap in support existed but it did exist. I looked at the Occult rules and immediately knew that I did not get the intracies of the classes (probably still don’t), so I recruited an expert.
Checking out the Paizo boards, I saw that Ehn Jolly had wrote a Kineticist class guide. So I approached him to write Kineticists of Porphyra. Kineticists sold very well due to the quality of the work and due to the lack of competition in that arena. Customers were looking for more ideas in this area and we were one of the first products to address that need. (Ehn Jolly is an excellent self-promoter as well).
5. It Is Okay To Build a Line
Some products sell okay. They don’t sell great… just okay. And sometimes you might be tempted to end a series at the first book. The thing is when a second book comes out, there seems to be sense within customers that if a new volume comes out then the early volumes must have strongly warranted it. When Purple Mountain VII: Domain of the Hidden God came out we saw an uptake on previous volumes. There are customers that will by part 7 (having read no others) and then go back and complete their collections. Much like how new customers to Caster Prestige Archetypes has lead to bumps in sales of Prestige Archetypes and Warrior Prestige Archetypes. You do not need to build on indefinitely though, you need to recognize when the market has finished with a concept.
6. No One is Infallible
There are projects that I have greenlight that I thought were going to be failures that were successes, and projects that I was sure were going to be successes that never amounted to anything.
I think at the end of the day, you just need to produce the kind of books you want to create.