Traveler’s Guide to the Elemental Chaos Post-Mortem

The Kickstarter for the Traveler’s Guide to the Elemental Chaos ran from July 1st to July 16th. It had 326 backers and raised $5,900 on the dot.

Of course, I’m not out of the woods yet. For starters, I’m setting myself up for the third beat in a panik-kalm-panik meme, which I probably should’ve realized ahead of time when I used the panik face in the last one. Oh, well, too late now.

It’s possible that my guess from last time was correct: Darkwood benefitted from being the first book in the new series and getting pitched in updates directly to the entire Chamomile’s Guide to Everything audience. Drachzee picked up some momentum, but updates for it were only pushed to Darkwood backers rather than all thirteen Chamomile’s Guide books, resulting in a massive contraction. Now Elemental Chaos is picking up momentum again, with a 20% increase in backer count comparable to the 30% increase I saw fairly regularly during the ramp-up period of the early books of the first series. Comparing Elemental Chaos (the third book of the new series) to Bianca’s Guide to Golems (the third book of the old), Elemental Chaos is doing a lot better. It’s possible that the new series got a stronger start due to the success of the old, and is now rising up towards the old 400-450 plateau, with the rate of the rise being slightly slower only because the starting point was higher.

However, it’s also possbile that Elemental Chaos was a much stronger topic (the name, to begin with, is immediately familiar, as opposed to “the Darkwood” or “the rogue city of Drachzee,” which are designed to be evocative but which are not existing generic D&D locations). The old series stabilized at 400-450 for most topics, and it’s possible that the new series is going to stabilize at 275-325. That’s an average of 300 which is exactly sustainable (assuming other variables also stay consistent), which is probably not actually sustainable in practice. It’s much more likely that an unexpected event costs money than saves money, and without any extra profits to tuck away each month to absorb those expenses, my savings will dwindle away with each unexpected obstacle until there’s none left and the whole house comes down.

The good news is that it looks like I’ve found a replacement for the $25 tier that’s actually going to work. The first series used signed copies, which worked well until I hit the cap of 100 copies for the first book in the series, which I’d established to make sure I never had a project bottlenecked on a massive signing and shipping process. This proved to be wise, because addressing the signed copies proved to be extremely time consuming, but also popularity of the signed copies noticeably declined (and completely collapsed for back copies) after the complete set was no longer available. I tried to replace it with low-tier vanity content, a mention of a character in a vignette, but these have been very unpopular.

But serendipity struck when I realized that if I reprinted everything from Caspar’s Guide to Elementals that’s relevant to the Traveler’s Guide to the Elemental Chaos – what I usually do to make sure new backers get a complete experience – I would be reprinting nearly the entire book. So instead, I offered both books for $10 in .pdf and $25 in print. It was a very popular option, and the average pledge increased from about $14.50 in the first two books to $18.10, slightly higher than the $17.50 that the first series usually got. So I’m definitely using future books to spotlight a specific earlier book from Chamomile’s Guide to Everything in the future, to hopefully keep that average back high.

Ongoing advertising adventures are pretty inconclusive this time. I reached out to several people on Twitter in hopes of commissioning work from them, which they could then drop a tweet or two about. One of them was too busy, three of them never responded at all, and one of them was too busy to have anything ready in July, although they will be contributing to a stretch goal in August, so we’ll be hearing more about them in the next post-mortem (hopefully in a good way). I guess this month the advertising takeaway is that if you do not spend $200 on advertising, you will have an extra $200 at the end of your campaign. Also, possibly people were seeing the ad campaigns I was paying for in the first two books and actively deciding not to support me, but that seems unlikely.

It remains unclear whether this series can sustain itself, but I have a roadmap out to book six and should be able to get at least that far, and cap things off on a reasonably satisfying note if I do have to shut down there. Plus, the latest campaign is only weak evidence in favor of a sustainable series, but it is evidence in favor of a sustainable series.

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