Monday, February 18, 2019

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sources of orders

I've been selling Doctor Esker's Notebook for a couple of weeks now. I've paid for a little advertising on Facebook and Google, but most of my customer traffic has been via Facebook, where I've posted general announcements on my feed and also posted to my very active college class page (Harvard-Radcliffe 1991). So far, the HR91 folks have come through in a very big way and represent nearly half of my sales. Here's the distribution, classified by segments of my life:

Those folks who have no connection to me, the purple wedge representing ten orders, are the group that needs to grow if I'm going to expand sales very much. I only have so many affinity groups that I can go to personally. The question is how best to reach outside those groups to people who would just take a chance on the game without a personal connection to me.

I would imagine this is what most boardgame Kickstarter campaigns look like, at least in the early stages, so even though I've already printed, this is probably parallel in terms of audience.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Woohoo!

This is cool...


On the efficacy of Facebook ads

Here are the results from my ad campaign. It ran for about ten days.


So, did it work? Well, assuming Facebook isn't just making up numbers, they showed my ads 129,118 times to 31,662 people. Some people must have seen them a lot more than once, so I guess I'm kind of the MeUndies of puzzle card games. That's a lot of potential views. However, there were only 37 clicks on the ad, which is a fraction of a percent of the people who saw it.

Was it worth it? Well, I spent a little over $50, which means that I need to sell six games to cover the costs. I likely didn't. At this point, I have sold about eight games to people to whom I don't have a known personal connection. All but one of those were on Amazon, which wasn't where Facebook pointed. So, I can't possibly have made back my investment, unless all eight of these sales came from Facebook click-throughs that somehow ended up on Amazon, which is really unlikely. It's far more likely that I have zero sales from Facebook. My Google Analytics aren't really robust enough to track sales yet, because I handle the transactions on my site through PayPal, and I lose the thread of connectivity once they go shopping. I'm working on that, but it isn't really an issue with only one PayPal sale so far that I don't know the source for.

Caveats:
  • People may have seen the ad, become interested, but intend to buy later.
  • People may have seen the ad, stored a scrap of brand awareness in their subconscious memories, and have a vague positive association if they encounter it later.
Conclusion: 
For me, Facebook ads seem to have a return on investment value near zero.

Jury's still out on Google ads (the numbers are a lot lower), but I suspect it's similar. My guess at this point is that most of the sales for which I don't know the origin come from Amazon searches.

Fixing errors

Here's what fixing a printing error looks like. This is four cases of 11 games each laid out with the eleven cards I needed to replace in each box next to them. This set took me about an hour and fifteen minutes. I did 12 cases total today (132 games) for a total of about four hours work. The hardest task is cutting the shrinkwrap carefully on each box, although opening each box and finding and replacing the badly printed cards takes some time too. I elected not to invest the time or money in re-shrinkwrapping. No complaints so far, but I imagine if I sold in game stores I might need to rewrap them.




I really wish I didn't face this problem, but it's not insurmountable. In about four hours work today, I fixed about 12% of my print run. I have 79% of the print run (860 games) left to fix, so another 27 or so hours of boring labor to get them all done.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Esker net revenue so far

I'm going to add a graph here for folks interested in the business of self-publishing a game. I'll update this over the next year or so as the project continues.

The graph here shows all my expenses to date (all the stuff below zero) and all my net revenue from sales (the stuff above zero). The sales income already has the fees deducted (for sales on my site, that's credit card processing and shipping; for sales on Amazon, that's their fees). I'll break even when the stuff above the line matches the stuff below the line.


Note that the dates here aren't evenly spaced, so while time advances to the right, its speed isn't even. The net revenue (income minus expenses) figure now is -$3,109, so I have a lot of ground to cover to break even. Here's a representation of that.

At my current price of $14.99, which is the same on my site and on Amazon, I net the following:

PlanktonGames.com: about $10.99
Amazon.com: $9.54

In both places, the shipping is free to customers, meaning that I pay for it. Initially, I was going to charge shipping on my site, but I changed it once I learned that even non-Prime Amazon sales had shipping included when you do fulfillment by Amazon. I thought (a) people might resent the extra shipping charge, since folks are getting used to free shipping, and (b) it was nice to have the same price on my site and Amazon.

At those prices, I'll need to sell a bit more than 300 more games to break even, although I'll obviously incur more expenses as I go if I continue to do advertising, send out review copies, and run into other stuff such as NC sales tax.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Board Game Geek Listing for Dr. Esker's Notebook

I got approved and listed on Boardgamegeek.com:

Doctor Esker's Notebook on BGG

Still waiting on approval for the game images, although they've approved one of my videos. Getting there.

I also listed the game on the Geek Market within BGG - we'll see if that goes anywhere.


Videos for Doctor Esker's Notebook

I've created two short videos showing the game. That was fun - lots of filming and editing and learning new software.

The first video here is a sample puzzle (not one from the game, just one that's similar to the game's puzzles to show how it works).


I did that one straight and to the point. I worry that it might be a little dull, but it definitely shows what the game is like.

The other one I did more creatively. I imagined two game podcasters, both aliens, doing an unboxing video for my game. I really don't know if this is a good idea, but I had a lot of fun with it.




Doctor Esker's Notebook: One week in

OK, I've had a published game out there for one week. Yay! Here are some numbers:
  • I started with 1080 copies; I've sold 24. 
  • After shipping (which I'm offering free and covering from sales revenue) and payment processing fees, I've cleared about $220 in net revenue. I'll owe a little bit of North Carolina sales tax on in-state sales.
  • Of the 24 sales, at least 22 are to people who have a personal connection to me. One of them I don't have a name for yet, and one of them (purchased on Amazon) seems to have found me in another way, but I don't know how. 
  • I really need to expand my sales beyond just people who know me, because I don't have 1080 friends.
  • I've spent about $3300 on this so far, as broken down in the chart here:
  • That comes to about $3 per game in costs. After the selling and fulfillment fees on Amazon (I'm having them ship the product), I clear about $7.50 per game. For the ones I've sold on my site via PayPal and shipped myself, I clear a little under $10 per game. So, I have to sell somewhere between 500-700 of my print run to make back what I've spent so far. 
  • I've done small ad campaigns with Facebook affinity ads and Google search ads directed to my site. They've both produced about the same (small) number of clicks, but Facebook has about 400 times the impressions (showings) as Google. That suggests that Google search results are much more efficient (i.e. clickable) than  Facebook ads. Neither of them have (as far as I can tell) resulted in any sales. Not sure I'll continue with those.
  • Board Game Geek's minimum ad package is $500, which would mean it would have to produce at least 50 sales to pay for itself. If reports from Kickstarter campaigns (which don't even have real games yet) who've advertised on BGG can be believed, that might be possible.
  • I do have a bit of a secret weapon, although I have no idea how strong it is. Although I no longer have an ownership stake in the Snood corporation, my partner there has said he would be amenable to advertising Doctor Esker's Notebook to their mailing list. The audience between Snood and a puzzle card game probably doesn't have a strong overlap, but it might have some, and there may be some residual Snood customer goodwill there.
  • I've sent the game out to several reviewers. I'm hoping to get some reviews up, either from those review sites, or from Amazon customers, or Board Game Geek users, before I do too much more marketing, because right now, there is no way for a potential buyer to know if the game is any good or not.
I'll update more later, but it's been a really exciting week.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Amazon product titles

I visited Board Game Geek to see if they'd approved my listing request for Doctor Esker's Notebook, and I was excited to see an Amazon ad for it. I hope that other folks are seeing the ad, as I don't need to buy a copy myself, but it was still cool to see it.



I noticed that the other products have long names that include descriptive text, and I thought that might be a good thing to try. In an ad like this, people wouldn't really know what the game was. So, I changed the name on Amazon to "Doctor Esker's Notebook, a Puzzle Card Game in The Style of Escape Rooms." I hope that will give people a better idea of what they're looking at, and it might make the game's discovery via search a little better too.

Doctor Esker's Notebook - released now!

I've got my new puzzle card game, Doctor Esker's Notebook, printed and ready to sell (well, I already sold the first copy). It's up on my website above and also on Amazon, which is really neat to see. I shipped them 44 copies, and they went live on Sunday night. Come have a look!