Freeport Kickstarter: Why $50,000, Why a Deluxe Book?

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We’ve got five days left in the Freeport Kickstarter and we are still over $16,000 short of our goal. Throughout these last weeks, I’ve been reading your feedback and adding to or changing the campaign in response. People said they wanted more new content, so I added the Return to Freeport adventure series. I’ve also done things like offer a book-only reward level, and a way for Canadian backers to get more affordable shipping. The most common reason given for not backing the Kickstarter, however, is that the physical book is too expensive. I’d like to take some time to explain why I chose this format for the project and why our initial goal was $50,000.

Freeport is important to me because Death in Freeport is what put Green Ronin on the RPG map back in 2000. It sold like crazy and won an Origins Award and the very first ENnie Award (given to me by Gary Gygax, no less). I had originally conceived of GR as a fun side project and I didn’t expect it to be my full time job, but due to the success of Freeport and other d20 lines it became just that in March of 2002. Freeport was also the first commercial setting I created that was always fully under my control. No business wonk or brand manager could tell me what to do with it. You can understand, I hope, why Freeport means a lot to me.

During Freeport’s fallow period, it was always my intention to go back to it. The questions were when and how? Once Kickstarter began to change the face of RPG publishing, I of course thought of the City of Adventure. The way we used to publish, I would not have tried to do a 512-page full color hardback. It would be too risky and if it failed, could really hurt Green Ronin. That sort of calculus went into how we did the original Freeport hardback and its successor, The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport. The former was 160 pages with a black and white interior. The latter was nearly 100 pages longer but only 16 of its 256 pages were in color. Kickstarter thus seemed like a way to do the Freeport book I always wanted to do: big, sexy, and full color throughout.

I considered doing the new book without any game specific info, as we did with The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport, but sales data suggested that wasn’t the best approach. From what we could tell, the biggest segment of our d20 fanbase was now playing Pathfinder so using those rules seemed to make the most sense. We had previously published a Pathfinder Freeport Companion of 160 pages. Combine that with The Pirate’s Guide and our starting point was 416 pages. We certainly did not want to just slap them together and call it a day though; there had to be new material. That’s how the book ended up at 512 pages in our pitch. We wanted at least 100 pages of new material (and at this point it’s looking like at least 150 pages). We also wanted to revise and expand the material in the Pathfinder Companion to make sure the rules material was as up-to-date as possible.

When picking the goal for the Kickstarter then, I had to bear in mind the following costs:

  • Art Budget: a conservative estimate for quality interior art and a new cover is $15,000.
  • Print Budget: we are looking at least $25,000 here, since full color hardbacks are expensive to print.
  • Content Budget: writing, revising, developing, and editing a book of this size—even starting with previously written material—is going to cost us upwards of $10,000.

So that’s $50,000 right there and that leaves us no profit at all. That just makes the book. Our plan is to do larger print run than the Kickstarter requires and then sell the rest of it through distributors, retailers, and our online store. That’s where our profit would actually come from if we only reach $50,000 with the Kickstarter.

I’ve been asked how much the book will cost at stores after the Kickstarter. Our estimate right now is $75. That makes the Scurvytown Special, in which you get the finished PDF and the book shipped to you, a pretty good deal at $80. At $100, of course, you get a whole lot more (like the Return to Freeport adventure series and the serpentman promo miniature).

Some people have suggested that we should have started smaller and built it up with stretch goals. Maybe so. Frankly though, I didn’t want to play that game. I wanted to clearly lay out my dream Freeport book and try to make a reality, and Kickstarter makes that possible. It tells you how much interest there really is in your project before you spend a lot of money on it. If this campaign fails, it will still have served a purpose. I will know this was not the right project at the right time. I will also have tried to give the Freeport fans something new, which they’ve been patiently waiting for these past few years.

But we aren’t done yet. We have five days to get Freeport: The City of Adventure funded and I think we can do it. We’ve already gotten some great promotion from our friends at Paizo and Steve Jackson Games, as well as game sites, podcasts, and fans the world over. Thanks to each and every one of you. We just need a final push to get the word out, to find old Freeport fans and make new ones. So tell your friends, tell the internet, and tell your old gaming pals that Freeport is looking for a new generation of buccaneers! Let’s hoist the skull and bones, spread the word, and find this booty for Freeport!

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