One of the critical questions a publisher must answer is: who will buy their products? Publishers need to know—as specifically as possible—who they hope to lure into their ebon clutches. Otherwise, how can they meet their customers’ needs?
For example, Raging Swan Press does not produce books for “people who play Pathfinder (or 5e or OSR)”. We don’t even publish books for “Pathfinder (or 5e or OSR) GMs”. Neither target group is specific enough. GMs—even GMs running a specific game—are not a homogenous bunch. We all have our own style, preferences and dislikes. Two GMs may run the same module in completely different ways. What GM #1 may loves, GM #2 may hate.
Raging Swan Press’s target customer is (essentially) me (and—obviously GMs like me as there is a limit how many of my own products I can buy!) What does that mean?
I’m a busy, time-poor, middle-aged GM who likes detail and verisimilitude in my games. I like settings to have depth. I grew up playing Basic D&D and 1st Edition AD&D. I like “gritty” and “realistic” fantasy games. Generally speaking, I don’t run super-heroic, cinematic games as they are not my bag (baby). I love the old-school style of play, and the d20 mechanic.
Knowing Raging Swan Press’s perfect target customer—and crucially both the kind of products they want and the kind of game related problems they need fixing—gives me tremendous insight and advantage. Knowing my perfect customer allows me to get inside their head and to work out what they want, crave and need in a gaming product. It enables us to publish products to help them run a better game and to have more fun (which should be the point of any gaming product).
(It’s important to remember here I define “better” as they define it, not how someone else defines it.)
Remember: if a product won’t make your customer’s game better you are wasting your time publishing it.
I’ve blogged about my publishing philosophy before, but essentially Raging Swan Press does not publish any product I wouldn’t use in my campaign. That simple test keeps me “on target” and publishing products to best serve our customers.
It also—cunningly—helps me reduce the prep time for my own campaign. (As an aside, luckily, my group of players seem to have roughly the same gaming proclivities so I have a ready test bed for my creations).
You Can’t Sell to Everyone
With the possible exception of dice, no gaming product is perfect for every tabletop gamer. You can’t satisfy everyone—some customers will hate your stuff or have different tastes. Have no fear—that doesn’t mean your products are crap; it’s just life. (As an example, go to Amazon and check out your favourite book; I bet it’s got some one-star reviews!)
With that in mind, I don’t waste my time seeking out GMs who don’t share—broadly speaking—my interests. It’s pointless to try convincing people with different gaming wants and needs our stuff is for them, when it clearly isn’t. That’s too much hassle and a complete waste of everyone’s time (and my sinister marketing efforts such as they are).
Rather I focus on the people who would like (or love) our stuff if they knew it existed. That’s a much better use of my time.
The Last Word
If you are thinking of publishing your own products, you must first decide who you are making them for. If you know your target customer, you can work out what they want. Knowing that—and then producing what they want, not what you think they should want—empowers you to make their game better, which in turn should lead to greater publishing success.
What Do You Think?
What do you think? Let me know, in the comments below.