I’ve been at this for a number of years now, publishing games. Enough time to have learned that publishing can involve lots of missed steps and bumbling moments. And so when I launched the IndieGoGo preorder campaign for The Quiet Year, I had a simple principle: expect at least one thing to go wrong at every single stage of production.
I definitely feel like I met my problem quota. I want to share a couple of the stories from this project, to capture some of the publishing experience (or, at least, my experience). And then at the end, I’ll share a link to the new Charted Areas (quickstart maps for your Quiet Year games, drawn by the super cool Tony Dowler).
I live in Canada, but the bulk of my audience/market is in the states (and scattered across the globe). The same is true of the manufacturers that I want to work with. Shipping components back and forth across the Canada-US border is pricey and slow, and so I’ve learned through previous projects: ship everything to a US address (like, a friend’s house), travel down to see them, do a big mail-out party, forward the remaining stock to a US warehouser/fulfiller.
The bag sets had a lot of components, and making this a feasible project on my scale meant months of hunting for affordable bits (books, card decks, reference cards, plastic baggies, dice, tokens, burlap bags, bubble mailers). While I’d done all that hunting well in advance of launching the project, I recognized that contingency plans might be necessary, and that problems with the components might arise. Yep! The bead supplier didn’t have 7000 red skull beads, though thankfully they had 7000 if I split between red and cream. (And as a result, your bag set will contain one or the other of those two colours, both of which look totally rad.) The reference card printer failed to deliver and stopped responding to communications of any sort. At the last minute, I asked Pinball Publishing to create the reference cards on rush order. The result was pricey (double the cost of the originals), but looks really good and fits cohesively with the book. Pinball Publishing/ScoutBooks is a great company to work with, if ever you get the chance. Crisis averted! Then, a few days before I showed up in Portland to do my big assembly party, I am chatting with Joel.
Me: The cards finally arrived? That’s such good news. Open up a deck, let me know how they look.
Joel: Tuckboxes look great. Cards look great too, though they were a little tight in their box.
Me: Super tight? That’s unfortunate. But the 54th card is an advert, so at least people can toss that, which will make it easier to slide them back into the box, hey?
Joel: Oh. Well… I don’t actually see an advertisement card here.
Me: [with a sense of niggling dread] Oh? Is it just the 52 cards, or… ?
Joel: Well, 52 cards, plus the jokers.
Me: [sinking into pit of despair] Jokers? Wait: describe the main deck to me quickly.
Joel: …Oh. Shit.
It’s then that I learn that I don’t have 500 decks of Quiet Year cards, but instead 500 decks of standard poker cards. The whole December mail-out plan collapses. I’m really fortunate that the manufacturer was amicable and quick to begin work on a replacement order, but it still meant that my travel plans were thrown.
I plan another trip to Portland. My arrival is delayed by wicked snowstorms. While it turns out pleasant enough (cuddled up with friends watching Cruel Intentions in a sketchy motel room in Umatilla), it delays my production schedule again. Which makes Joel’s house now unavailable for a work party. Which puts me in a bind, needing to find a location but staying at a place that has no internet connectivity. Finally it’s all sorted out, and we’re going to collect the supplies on January 2nd and take them to Meg’s house. It’s all there! Folks in the house are helping me count out and bag tokens! And then I get hit with a wicked stomach flu (or maybe food poisoning), and spend the whole day throwing up and feeling dizzy.
And so now I’ve got more work than time left on my trip. My would-be helpers get back into their car and return to Canada, from whence they came. It’s just me now, endlessly counting dice and trimming loose threads on burlap bags and doing product assembly and stuffing envelopes. I go to print out the several hundred shipping labels, using a fancy postage-buying program, and find out that the credit card linked to my account won’t work for some reason. With this many packages, you can’t just manually address and take them into the post office to buy postage. Postal workers will often turn you away if you’ve got too many packages under arm, and the process takes forever anyway. I really needed access to this program in order to complete this process. So I scurry about Portland, and thank the stars for such helpful and lovely souls as Jake Richmond and Nick Smith, of Atarashi Games. They have such an account, and let me use theirs. Three hours and eight hundred dollars later, I’ve got all my sticky-paper-postage-labels printed out. I bus back to Meg’s house, and return to assembling product.
I work until 2am (making it a 16-hour work day). I lay down on the floor and try to sleep, but fail. At 6:30am my alarm goes off, and I stand back up, immediately launching back into work. I finish assembling the bags literal minutes before my ride to the post office shows up. We drop off a couple hundred packages (which, using pre-paid postage, is thankfully a seemless process that takes but a few minutes). We go out for breakfast. And then I get on a Greyhound bus and return to Canada.
So! What’s done, and what’s ongoing?
- All of the bag sets are assembled.
- All of the bag sets are in the mail. Many have arrived.
- All of the remaining orders have been entrusted to my new fulfillment hero/partner, Nick.
- Nick is resolved to put all “A History, Bound” and “Makeshift Library” orders in the mail tomorrow.
- All of the other games from “Everything We’ve Ever Owned” are in the mail (I believe).
- I’ll be sending out the other “Everything We’ve Ever Owned” PDF library today.
- The Charted Areas stretch goal is complete.
- I’m making the game available for general purchase some time in the next day or two.
In short: it’s nearly finished. Experience tells me I’ve only got a few more problems to deal with. *shakes head in exhausted, bemused half-humour*
And now! I present to you, unlocked through the magnificent success of this campaign, Tony Dowler’s Charted Areas.
(click to download)Posted by mcdaldno | 9 comments