Confessions of a Kickstarter Cowboy

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At GenCon this year, someone said, “Congratulations on your triumphant return to gaming, Lester!” It was a kind thought, though “triumphant” certainly overstates the case.

Yes, this year Popcorn Press has published six card games so far, with a seventh in playtesting and an eighth on Kickstarter. Also, I’ve signed two contracts with SFR, Inc. for dice games. (Daemon Dice was demoed at GenCon, and we playtested a superheroes game there, too.) Further, I had the pleasure of writing an adventure setting, “The Spirit Is Willing,” for Robin Law’s Hillfolk role-playing game. And in October, I’ll be a guest of honor at Con on the Cob. I’ll have more gaming news before the end of the year, so 2013 is shaping up to be a lot of fun.

But within the context of game publishing in general, these are modest successes. And modest is exactly what I’m shooting for.

Here’s the thing. I work a full-time job in education. Popcorn Press is a part-time hobby—mainly weekends. The company consists of me doing pretty much all the editorial, production, and marketing work; with my second daughter as graphic designer (couldn’t survive without her); and my spouse chipping in for advice and to help with each post-Kickstarter shipping crunch. For a little over six years now, we’ve published poetry and fiction—mainly other peoples’. Last fall we decided to add card games to the line-up, with a couple of board games and role-playing games in the works.

Given the nature of our little family-owned, part-time publishing house, we approach Kickstarter differently from most. Our goal is just to get a product illustrated without going in the red. (And we tread that line pretty closely.) So while other people are setting $10,000 to $12,000 minimums for a poker deck, so they can afford a big press run, we set our current project at a mere $800, and we publish through DriveThruCards. While many of them pay for advertising or “bang the gong” daily for exposure, we try not to be all up in your face.

Will this low-key approach work in the long run? Only the rest of 2013 can answer that question. Our hope is that a slowly but steadily growing catalog of fun, money’s-worth games will build a following. If it does, then next year I can maybe more honestly claim a “triumphant” return to gaming.

—Les

Photo by anyjazz65

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