Why We’ll Probably Never Do a Kickstarter

Fyre Festival. Tanacon. Knights of the Dinner Table: Live Action Series. Robotech RPG TacticsChaosium. Hell, throw TSR on the list if you want to reach back through the sanes of time. I could go on and on, because the world is littered with projects that went horribly awry. All things that seemed like good ideas at the time. Maybe the people behind them had good intentions, maybe they were scams from the jump. The only thing we can say for sure is that people bit off more than they could chew. That’s why I’ll probably never do a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign.

Kickstarter is the 800 pound gorilla in the tabletop market these days. I’ve been told time and again that the only way to establish and grow the company is to do a Kickstarter. Of course, I was also told that I’d never be able to sell books that don’t have pictures in them, or that I couldn’t make a living doing this. While I don’t like to brag, and I’m by no means getting rich in this business, I’ve paid the bills for almost 3 years now solely on what I make doing this, and every title we have at DriveThruRPG has a best seller medallion.

There’s more than one way to do things, is the point I’m trying to make.

Dancing Lights Press is run as a for-profit business. This isn’t my side hustle. For some reason, that offends some people. While I do think that roleplaying is an art, I can’t just do this for the creative fulfillment it brings me. The expectation for a Kickstarter is that you’ll produce glorious, beautiful, fully-illustrated hardcover books, present several reward tiers with cool swag, with a good start to a product line as stretch goals. That’s outside of my capabilities at the moment. I could hire people to do it, but that wouldn’t result in a profitable book. Check the internet for award-winning creators talking about the pitiful amount of money they make in this industry.

If we want to circle back to the creative part, though, that’s also an important factor for me. I want to make the things that I want to make, the way that I want to make them. While I recognize that I’m not going to grab a huge audience, I don’t need to. I only need to grab the audience that gets what I’m doing. I don’t want to do all of the things that you allegedly have to do to have a successful Kickstarter campaign. No shade, but if I wanted to do what everyone else was doing, I’d still be writing stuff for Pathfinder and Fate and Savage Worlds, or creating material for the Dungeon Masters Guild. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m happy those options exist. But it’s not for me.

What I would rather do is sell you something that exists. I’m releasing something new on DriveThruRPG every week. Once things get up to speed, I will be releasing a new 96-page book every month. I’m not taking your money and making a promise. If I get sick or something happens and I miss a week, no harm, no foul. I’ll be late by a week. Not months, or years, or until Hell freezes over. That’s my personal sense of ethics talking.

My intention is for this to be the last job I ever have. It’s about more than one product. I would rather grow slowly and organically, even if that takes more time to accomplish. Somehow, working from my kitchen table one day, and having a huge obligation hanging over my head 30 days later, doesn’t seem like a stable business model.

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