$3000, that's how much we are asking for the upcoming Dust Kickstarter. It's a zine.
I want to talk about where that number came from, because I think it's important to be open about these sorts of things. You may have read my Slayers post-mortem, where I laid out pretty openly how the finances shook out for that campaign. That, my Score campaign, and the other non-Kickstarter releases I've done have helped bring me to that number. $3000.
Before we talk about the future campaign, what about my previous releases? Let's lay out the finances, shall we?
My first game released, was Kickstarted earlier this year during Zine Quest 2. I launched with a goal of $400, which was my budget to cover for the printing, logo, and art for the book. I ended up with just over $1000, which was great! Most of that was used to further compensate my artists, and then of course cover the greater number of prints. I walked away with about $200 in my pocket.
Since its release, Score has generated $62 on itch from purchases, and $120 on my website.
My first big game I released without doing Kickstarter. Corvid Court was originally done entirely by me, writing and layout. It is my highest grossing game on itch, at $210.50, and pulled in another $108 on my website. I wanted someone with actual talent to did the layout, and had the incredible Maria Mison restructure the book, and it looks amazing. Doing that, and printing the zine, well, that ate up the $318 from above. But it is a hell of a nice looking zine eh?
Between itch and my site, Seasons has pulled in just about $110, which is enough to cover the first print run I did. Like the first version of Corvid Court, I did all the writing and layout for Seasons myself. So another example of breaking even.
I asked for $1500 for Slayer when I launched it, because that would cover my costs for art, layout, and printing a paperback book. You can read the post mortem to get the breakdown there. Obviously this was my most success release (though it still hasn't surpassed Corvid Court on itch in terms of revenue or ratings/reviews), but you'll notice in the other blog post that I continued to make the mistake of not budgeting paying myself for anything in the book. I just wanted to cover my commissions and costs.
One thing to mention is that I have moved a number of books wholesale to a variety of sites. I am so happy to do that, because it helps support people who are lifting up indie TTRPG designers, but I pretty much always do so at cost, so that's not a money making thing.
Looking at this, what do we see? I'm pretty much sitting at breaking even! Which, like, hey, that's really awesome. I'm extremely happy to not be in the red on any of my projects. But I've also read, and been a part of a lot of conversations out there about valuing our work, our labor, and our time. Soooo, what if I wanted to do that? I gotta ask for more. Which is something I am EXTREMELY uncomfortable doing! I am not good at advocating for myself in general. Self-promo still makes me uneasy, even though I know it's necessary to be seen in this scene. So going out there and saying "HEY! I wrote a really badass thing and want to actually get paid for it!" is uncharted territory for me.
This brings us to Dust, the upcoming supplement to Slayers that is hitting Kickstarter real soon. I'm working side-by-side with my best friend, Mike Rieman, on this one. Which is really awesome. But you know what the problem is? Mike has the same problem about self-advocating as me! What happens when two people like that make a project? They don't think about budgeting in their own pay until they are super deep into the project.
Cut to a couple weeks ago. Dust is essentially written, Mike is working hard on incredible art and doing early layout. All this with no concept of what we are going to do in terms of charging people for this. But we had the conversation, thank god, and got to doing some research.
Mike is doing a lot of work on this! Not only the layout, but there is a lot of original art he's illustrated! Each location has it's own unique header, all the plot hooks too. Not to mention the badass Deadeye art. The book is filled with this stuff.
I want, no, demand, that Mike be compensated fairly for this. So I found some rates for him, and top-tier rates because I think he does top-tier work. And I looked at my own rates, for not just writing (per word rates are...a thing), but the design that went into the book.
What did we find? Turns out when you value your labor, your labor actually costs something! Factor in the usual Kickstarter fees, setting aside stuff for taxes, and you get to $3000.
Printing Dust, estimating 100 zines (just an estimate), 40 pages each, full color, comes out to about $210 printed and shipped to me. Add in costs for shipping materials, let's round it to $250. That's a looooot less than $3000.
Yes, we could cover our "costs" by setting a low goal for Dust. But that's not being honest to the real costs. You've seen some of the incredible art already, and hopefully you've read Slayers and believe in my design. So, we're asking for 3K, and I hope this has helped you understand why.
And hey, thanks for reading this. I'm curious to hear what you all think. Have a look at some of this cool art as reward for getting to this point!