Showing posts with label Marketing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marketing. Show all posts

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Weird Ebay reseller

This is weird. Somebody is selling two "new" copies of my game on Ebay, for $6 over new list price. They can't really be new, because the only new copies are in my basement and in the Amazon warehouse. Only two people have bought more than one copy at a time, and they're not ebay marketers - I know them personally. I also know where all the single copies that exist got sent to. So, a puzzle.

I'm not sure if they have used or promotional copies somehow, or if they're planning on fulfilling through Amazon or through me (although neither Amazon nor me offers two day shipping, which the Ebay seller promises). I guess it's possible they bought from Amazon and are repackaging, trying to make an extra $6 from markup. Or maybe it's that they're some kind of game store upselling trade-ins. Their other items for sale are all board games. If so, it would be hard for them to have gotten two copies already, and they wouldn't be new.

Obviously this doesn't really compete with me, because they are selling above my price, but it's weird. If people want to sell the game in game stores, I'm totally happy offering a discount for distribution.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Sponsored contest at TGC

I had the idea that I might be able to run a giveaway on The Game Crafter for Dr. Esker's Notebook. I have used TGC for nearly all of my game prototype production and boardgame publishing since I first heard of them in 2009, and I'm a huge fan of the site. I contacted them, and it turned out Tavis (one of the founders, and their marketing guy) was about to do a contest celebrating their adding their 2000th game piece type to their inventory.

I came up with ten clues to ten of their many, many parts, and Tavis and I developed the contest from there. I also sponsored up to ten copies of Dr. Esker's Notebook as prizes. If you want to give it a try, the link is here:

TGC Esker Contest Link

Tavis' video intro is here:

I had fun doing this, and I think it will potentially end up generating some exposure for me. I'm not sure how much I'll end up spending on the sponsorship - high-end case, it would probably be around $170 if all the winners win games and all of them are overseas, but I think it will probably be more like $40-$60 in games and postage. If I sell 5-7 games from the publicity, I make that back, but it will be hard (or impossible) to know if anybody buys for that reason. 

The contest has been live for 14 hours, and there are already 338 participants, so that's pretty good. I'll keep following it to see how it goes.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Dr. Esker's Notebook sales and revenue update

I'm nearing the end of my fourth week of Dr. Esker sales. After an initial bunch of sales to friends and acquaintances, I'm starting to see a shift to a slower but steady set of sales to people I don't know, with 78 total sales in 26 days, averaging a couple a day now. My sales have shifted almost entirely to Amazon and away from my site, so I think most folks are discovering the game either via Amazon or on other sites and then buying from Amazon. It's hard to tell exactly how that happens.

My ad campaigns have not borne much (or any) fruit, which I mostly expected. I have no apparent sales from either Facebook ads (suspended now after hitting $50) or from Google search ads (nearing $50 and suspension). I can track sales from Google via their analytics, and I also know nothing much is happening from those because I haven't sold a game through my website in two weeks. It is possible the ads led people to an Amazon purchase, but that's about the only way it could have been worth it, and even then I'd have had to sell 11 or more that way to cover the cost of the two ad campaigns. I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

I have had a positive review from, and a positive tweet and email feedback from The Opinionated Gamers, with a review hopefully coming soon. There are three positive reviews on Amazon, two from purchasers and one from a person who got a free copy in advance, none solicited. So, I've got a small but growing number of uniformly positive reviews, which is good. I still have seven or so copies out for review to various reviewers and influencers.

Here are the finances thus far. I'm still in the hole by a lot, but I'm gradually making headway. Here's revenues vs. expenses over time (note the dates aren't evenly spaced - just whenever I do an update):

And here is the bottom line (expense minus revenue), with a regular time axis this time. Starting to cut the corner off that block of losses, but still a ways to go until profitability.

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

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.

  • 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.
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.

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: about $10.99 $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

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.

Friday, March 2, 2012 is a game design website run by John Moller. I heard of it through coverage of a convention of sorts they run for unpublished game designers called Unpub, which just had its second iteration in January (unfortunately, I only heard of it in February, or I might have tried to go).  The two main Unpub events have been in Dover, Delaware, but they're starting to spawn Mini-Unpubs at various locations around the country; there's a schedule of events (and a slick way to add them to your Google Calendar) on the site.

John has just announced a new site for unpublished games called Unpub.Net, which is a place to list unpublished games.  It seems to be sort of a hybrid between a designer community site and a consolidator for unpublished designs, where you can list your games, and then publishers could come browse designs and see if any are to their liking.

It's a neat idea; I'm not sure that publishers (who I understand get hundreds of submissions and pitches directly already) will go here to search through the site, but it could still a good way to get some exposure, and the community aspect could be really useful - a way to get commentary, reviews, and playtesters, and to hear about the in-person Unpub events, which I think would be a great way to test out a design.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Social media presences of questionable value

I set up a Google+ page for Plankton Games.  Not sure what that's worth.  My Facebook Plankton Games page has never been visited by anybody but me, as far as I can tell.  But maybe Google+ will be different - it's tied to the search engine better, presumably.  We'll see.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tasty Minstrel Games Refer-a-Friend

Tasty Minstrel Games has a new refer-a-friend program, where you post customized links to their pages, and if your friends go to the site and buy stuff, you get some free stuff.  Seems like a reasonable way to get some free viral marketing, and might be something I'd try with Plankton Games once I've got products to sell.  It's tricky, though - you can't promise too much in the way of free gifts, or you lose the value of the sale.

A quick example - suppose sending a free game out costs you at least $6 for postage and handling, plus your cost for the game.  Figure your cost per game (not just the printing, but including royalties for art and design, warehousing, website, etc.) is something like $5.  So, to send a free game out you need to make $11 to break even (and that's conservative).

Suppose your direct sales price for your game is $18.  But you have to deduct your costs for the game, which are $5.  So, your top margin there is $13.  Seems like you could almost do a buy one, send one free thing for that, right, and clear $2 on selling two games.

But there's overhead for running the affiliate program, and some of the people who buy in the program might have bought anyway, and you actually want to make more than $1 per game or you're in the wrong business.

Michael at Tasty Minstrel has gone for a buy three, get one future game free ratio.  That's a healthier margin.  Plus, if some of your affiliates get you 1-2 sales but not the three that would trigger their free product, your costs are nearly nothing for free advertising and sales.

The question is, are people willing to sort of spam their friends and blogs and Facebook on the hope of maybe getting a free game in the future?  We'll see; it should be possible to search for the affiliate links in a month or so and see how many of them have been posted.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Flash Duel

Yesterday, I mentioned Flash Duel from Sirlin Games.  It sells for $13-$16 in the normal version (cards and rules only) and $30+ for the deluxe version (includes cards, tokens, board, etc.).

Sirlin has moved from video games to boardgames, which is what I've done here, too.  He worked on the Street Fighter series, so the fighting card game angle is probably related to what he was doing for the other games.  I loved Street Fighter (E. Honda can head butt you back to the stone age, by the way).  It looks like Sirlin has some really high quality production values here - good art, nice components, etc. - and a consistent line of games that include the same characters, which could lead to the growth of a brand centered around his fighters.

The prices he's selling for are on the high side of what I'm trying to do - e.g., I could get a tuckbox version of my game made with more cards for probably $2-3 per copy, and then sell it for $9-10, while the nicer setup-box version (more like his Deluxe version, although without a board and tokens) would be more like $4-5 per copy and sell for $16-20.

Anyway, neat stuff, and another example of a guy having a go at this business on his own.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amazonian regulations

An interesting post from Sirlin.Net - he's making small cardgames as I hope to do, around the same price point, and is selling them online himself and through whatever distribution he can find, which includes Amazon.  Apparently, you can't just put stuff online and always sell there; he mentions a lower limit to be listed during the busy Christmas season.

I was hoping to get onto Amazon myself, although the fact that they're feuding with North Carolina, where I live, is making some of that painful or impossible.  For example, I can't create an Amazon Associates account because of this issue - Amazon has (apparently only to apply pressure to the state) banned NC residents from linking to them and trying to earn commissions by driving buyers to Amazon.

I haven't looked into it for a bit, but I'm hoping I'll still be able to sell there.  If I have to sell multiple copies there just to be listed over Christmas, then that might be hard to figure out the rules.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Awards != Sales

As I consider entering all these competitions, it's good also to heed what Tao over at Starlit Citadel writes - that award-winning game designs don't necessarily sell well.  I think that's true in a whole bunch of settings; commercial success and quality are correlated on a first-order basis, but one person's "quality" is another person's crap, and there are some pretty big second-order effects.  And what you play (and what would be fun) is very situational - I've probably played much more Barbie Uno than I have played better games that I like far more.

So, what's the key to marketplace success?  A great game, sure, and hopefully one that could win awards, but maybe more importantly, one that is eminently playable - not too long, accessible to newbies, easy to set up, visually attractive, cheap and available, and fun to play over and over again.

Hey, I just described Barbie Uno, didn't I?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Boardgame Exchange

Via Purple Pawn, I learned there's an interesting new service for game enthusiasts.  It's the Boardgame Exchange - essentially, a Netflix style service for games.  You get to have one game mailed to you at a time, in custom shipping boxes with prepaid postage.  When you're done, you send the game back, and they send you the next one on your list.  They allow you to swap up to two times per month (presumably because the postage on these things will run them something like $8-$10 a shot, I'd guess).  

You pay about $30 a month for the service depending on how long a term you sign up for.  If you rapid-fire the games, sending them back quickly, I bet they end up barely breaking even at that price, since they'd have to cover four shipping costs and employees to send them out, not to mention inventory.  But they probably count on people having to keep the games for a while in order to get a group together, and then you'll probably also have the Netflix thing where you keep a loser game for a while thinking you'll play it but never doing so.  For some users, they'll probably get paid every month for not having to do anything other than having a game out on loan.

I'd be surprised if this is around in a year, unless they have a ton of venture capital behind them.  Netflix works because DVDs are cheap, easy to handle, reaonably durable, and very cheap to mail.  Games aren't these things.  But maybe they'll make a go of it - since getting into this publishing thing, I've certainly realized there's a huge and enthusiastic community of game players out there, many of whom would love to play something new every week.

I'm not sure if they're good for publishers or bad - on the one hand, you could get some exposure, and they'll have to buy at least one copy of your game to send it to people.  On the other, if your game isn't that great, people might try it here and never buy it.  But my guess is, it won't hurt sales and might help them, particularly if you've got a good game and not much marketing budget, as I think I will.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Possible source for marketing/distribution help?

On the most recent edition of Paper Money, Ben and Rett talked with Rob Boyle, a guy who has done a lot of work on the Shadowrun RPG but is now working with a new company called Posthuman Studios.  The show was interesting - he's been in the game industry for years and years, but he's founding a new company now after leaving Catalyst Games, a company which I gather suffered a setback from some accounting irregularities.

One of the things Rob mentions in the show is working with Sandstorm LLC, a company that purports to handle the business end of the games industry, allowing the designers to spend their time designing.  That might be something worthwhile for me.  Their website is pretty barebones, and some of the links don't work, and others are pretty cutesy for a supposedly professional company, but they seem to have some clients, and their services would be right up my alley. I think I'll try to get in touch with them and at least see what their terms are.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Games People Play

I recently visited a game store I've been going to since my college days back in the late 1980's - The Games People Play in Cambridge, MA.  Great store - a huge selection of really neat stuff.  I bought my copies of Wiz War and Swashbuckler there back in college, along with some other games. This time around my father-in-law picked us up Pandemic, which I'm eager to try.

I spoke with the guy there (I think his name was Hank?) about how they acquire their games.  He said they get most of them through distributors, from Alliance and ACD, about whom I hadn't yet heard but probably should have.  But he said they also make some purchases for their big wall of single-copy games (i.e. games where they have only one copy in stock) directly from designers at trade shows, and that they'd sometimes buy games directly from producers.  So, there's a chance there to avoid paying the distributor's mark-up and get into stores directly, but it's going to be in very small numbers and require a lot of effort.  But it did sound like the trade shows were maybe worth doing.

Interesting stuff!  It was great to see the store again (they've moved across the street from where I remember them, but little else has changed) and to get good information from a knowledgeable source.