2 March 2018
I was driving from Virginia back to St. Louis after Thanksgiving last year, and I couldn’t stop thinking about content. Specifically, whether or not I should ask people to contribute financially towards the annual creation of the 100 crowdfunding/entrepreneurship articles I post on this blog and the 100 game design videos I post on YouTube.
At that point in time, I had accumulated 500+ blog posts and 200+ videos over the past 4 years, all provided for free without me asking for anything in return (and without ads or sponsored content).
Why? It felt weird to ask for a contribution for something that I’ve provided for free (and plan to continue providing for free). Plus, I figured that if someone wanted to support my content, they could do so by buying a Stonemaier product or a copy of my crowdfunding book.
I was on the phone with fellow game designer, publisher, and content creator Ed Baraf during that drive back to St. Louis, and I mentioned this dilemma. Ed’s wise response has resonated me over the last few months. To paraphrase, he said, “Jamey, when someone buys one of your games, that money doesn’t go towards your blog or channel. The reward they’re getting is the game. Do you think people might also want the opportunity to express their gratitude for the value they gain from your blog and channel?”
It took me a while to come to terms with Ed’s advice. Finally, after much thought, debate, and consultation, I launched Stonemaier Champion yesterday. By contributing $12/year to support the 100 blog posts and 100 YouTube videos I create each year for the benefit of creators, entrepreneurs, and game designers.
However, I couldn’t completely get over the idea that I was asking people to pay money for something that they already get for free (and will continue to get for free). That’s a big mental hurdle for me. At the same time, I didn’t want to add even more to my plate by, say, creating an ebook of the latest content. It already takes me a huge amount of time to create this content and respond to comments. It’s a labor of love, but it’s time-consuming.
I decided to combine it with another idea that addressed something I’ve heard from fans ever since I stopped using Kickstarter. People have expressed that when they hear about a new Stonemaier product, they wish they could just pre-order it directly from us. It’s more about locking it in, knowing they’ll get their copy, and making it easier to get “all the things.”
So I added these perks to enable Stonemaier Champions to feel good, confident, and secure about that decision:
- Subscription to a monthly digest highlighting the key points from the top 5 new blog posts and videos, as well as alerts for all incoming Stonemaier products and reprints.
- Unlimited free US shipping on all orders from our website. Orders are shipped from our St. Louis warehouse to any address, though free shipping is only for US destinations (for international customers, we recommend forwarding services like Shipito and Vyking).
- Advance delivery on all pre-orders through Stonemaier Games (orders will ship soon after they arrive instead of waiting 2-4 weeks for the retail release date). In the next 12 months, we expect to release 3 new games, 3 new expansions, and 2 new accessories.
I’m writing this about 30 hours after the program launched, and here’s how the dashboard currently looks:
This number is significant, which I’ll explain in a second, but first and foremost, THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of our Stonemaier Champions. It means so much to me that you want to support the content we create.
Also, for readers and viewers who aren’t “champions,” I still appreciate you too! You add value to me by subscribing, reading, commenting, and sharing.
I’m honored by and grateful the support, but we need to look at what that number means. Out of 33,000 e-newsletter subscribers, only 128 people said, “100 blog entries and 100 YouTube videos are worth $12/year.” That’s 0.3%.
And yes, perhaps many of those people don’t care about the content. They’re here for Viticulture, Euphoria, Between Two Cities, Scythe, Charterstone, realistic resources, etc. Which I totally understand.
Regardless, I think this is a big reminder to content creators out there that (a) subscribers don’t necessarily translate into financial supporters and (b) it’s very difficult to get people to pay for something that they’ve always gotten for free and will continue to get for free.
Last, let’s get to some burning questions:
- Why Shopify instead of Patreon? I decided to use a Shopify app called Bold because I wanted integration with platform we already use. All of our e-commerce goes through Shopify, so it seemed to make sense. Was it the right decision? Time will tell. Bold Recurring Memberships has been mediocre at best so far, as the free shipping option isn’t something they offer (I have to create and send out a free shipping code to members), and it doesn’t even let me customize the confirmation message sent to new members (I’m not even sure it sends them a confirmation).
- Whatever happened to putting retailers and distributors first? 99.9% of all of our sales are now to distributors, who sell to retailers, who sell to consumers. I truly love the gaming industry, and the content I create for game designers, entrepreneurs, and crowdfunders is intended to help everyone in this industry.
- Couldn’t you get more interest if you sell at less than MSRP? A long time ago when I was young and foolish, I tried selling one of our in-stock products at a discount. I saw retailers selling it at discount, and I thought, “Well, if you do it, so will I!” I was quickly informed by our distribution broker that I was going to be shunned by distributors and retailers if I continued that practice. Even though I sell a $70 game that costs $20 to make/ship to distributors for $28, retailers aren’t happy if I mark it down to $65 on my website. I guess it’s just one of those things. (I sound more jaded than I really am–I haven’t thought about this disconnect in years.)
- What about non-US champions? Well, there are two ways to look at it: One, the focus of Stonemaier Champion is on supporting this blog and my YouTube channel. Those are accessible worldwide to anyone with an internet connection. Two, I struggled with this aspect in regards to the perks. During my Kickstarter years, I strove to create a level playing field with international shipping. But all of our games are housed in one warehouse now, and that warehouse happens to be in St. Louis. So the best I could do for now was to look into forwarding services like Shipito and Vyking.
- Why not offer special promos to champions? We already have a good system with Meeplesource in terms of accessibility, reliability, and logistically.
Do you get $12 worth of value out of this blog and/or my YouTube channel each year? If so, I hope you’ll consider becoming a Stonemaier Champion!
I’ve posted a poll below to learn more. I would not consider offering exclusive products or paygated content. Even though I’ll mention it in the poll, the logistics of offering pre-order content with more international-friendly shipping are far more difficult than I want to delve into.