To start the series of articles here reflecting on my experiences with the ZineQuest, I’m going to delve into the question why?
I think the most honest answer to this question is the most obvious: ZineQuest has an audience.
ZineQuest was a promotion I heard about last year at the tail end of the promotion. As February 2019 was coming to a close I started to look at the games that had been released on Kickstarter as part of this odd looking, but interesting promotion, and wished I had heard about it earlier. As someone who had already started drafting and developing various role playing games, the ZineQuest promotion was something I was very keen to explore. Why? Because I hoped that by launching something as a part of a promotion like ZineQuest, I had the best chance of getting funded. People remembered the 2019 ZineQuest, people were planning for, and excited about, the prospect of a 2020 ZineQuest. These were people who might look at Corsairs, who would likely never have looked at Corsairs had it launched as it’s own thing at some other point in the year. To me there seemed to be a clear marketing advantage in being part of such a promotion.
Let’s be honest, while I had worked as a freelance writer for more than 5 years, and had written for a reasonable number of RPGs and miniatures games, while I had previously had a life as a podcaster in the board gaming community, I was not well known. Those that did know me were a mix of board and role playing game people, and my potential audience was extremely limited, especially for a project that lacked professional art, and had no budget for marketing.
A promotion like the ZineQuest offered the potential for me to get more people to look at my project, people on Kickstarter for ZineQuest, looking for Zines. I still had to create a game and a project that I hoped would be good enough or interesting enough to get those people to back it, but more eyes means more potential. So that, in essence, is why ZineQuest.
ZineQuest also seemed to me to be a safer place to experiment with creating a game than outlaying the money up front to do it at some other time (or creating a Kickstarter at some other time). A high percentage of of the projects created for the first ZineQuest reached their funding goals, and I believed that while this percentage would be lower in 2020 (due to there being more zines), the number would still be higher than the average outside the ZineQuest promotion. All of this meant that ZineQuest felt like a safer time to try Kickstarter. To learn about planning a project, putting it together, launching it, running it, and getting a feel for how it all works. It meant it felt like a safer time to experiment with printing something: writing, getting art done, laying it out, and having it printed. Something manageable for a first time creator: something that is not a luxurious hard cover book choc full of glorious full colour art. And of course, it also meant I had a chance to experiment with fulfillment, and to learn about the costs and processes involved with that. Some of these things are lessons I have learned, some of these are still ahead of me.
Putting up a project for the ZineQuest was also a challenge to myself. Everything involved (apart from designing and writing the game) would be new to me. I hoped the project would fund of course, but I didn’t imagine it would explode, and so I would be left with a funding level and number of backers that would give me a chance to learn the processes without being overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to need to print 1000 copies, but I tried to be optimistic, without being unrealistic. I believed I could write a game that people would enjoy, I believed I could put together and run a project people would get behind, and I hoped I would be successful. But I also had a voice in my head whispering that if my project did fund, it would not be so huge that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
So there it is, that’s the why. ZineQuest offered the potential of an audience I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get, and challenged me to learn how to create, print, and fulfill something that was manageable. Lessons, lessons, lessons.