08: Building Thematic Worlds with Gavriel Quiroga

08: Building Thematic Worlds with Gavriel Quiroga

Posted by Nicholas Ribera on

Gavriel and I discuss the transition from writer to art director, distribution, marketing, and the treacherous world of international finance.

You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:


Chain Assembly: Today we're going to hear from Gabriel Quiroga, who has put together some really amazing worlds and universes in the games and books that he's produced. Listening to what it's like having to do all this from Argentina, finding the Chinese manufacturers and having them connect with American distributors and using American fulfillment companies seems like a lot of stress, but the projects he's put together are definitely worth the effort. So I highly recommend you take a look at his worlds, his games, his art direction. It's all very beautiful. I wanted to spend a few minutes in the beginning of this episode just talking about kind of my approach to creating projects. Because I always try to make it seem like there's a whole team of people working under Chain Assembly and not just me, I always try to make each project I do kind of like it's wholly organized as one single entity and very different from the other things that I've created in the past. What does this begin with? Similar to Gavriel, I like to think about music that will tie in the thematic elements of whatever that project is. But most importantly, I come up with color palettes. I highly recommend Color Palette Cinema on Instagram. That's usually the first place I go. It's a wonderful Instagram account that just takes scenes from movies and boils them down into 8 to 10 colors. So I'll look through those trying to figure out which color palette makes sense for the emotional response I want to create with my project. And I will then figure out the hex codes of those colors and try almost exclusively to do art within those color schemes. And the general rule of thumb for graphic design, I believe it's like any project should be 60% one color, 30% your secondary color, and 10% your accent color. I guess I kind of more or less do that. Yeah, I like to come up with those color palettes and I'll actually save that as an Adobe Illustrator color palette file that I'll import into all of the Adobe software that I'm using so that I always have those exact same colors readily available. On top of that, I find it helps to come up with my gammas. What that means is what shade of white is gonna be the absolute brightest white on any illustration, and what shade of black is gonna be the darkest black. Having those kind of parameters that all your art sits between really helps to kind of define exactly how you want all of your illustrations to match thematically. I guess that's basically... oh and then on top of that you also got to pick fonts. You don't ever want to use too many different fonts or maybe just have a font with a large font family. Stick to one, maybe two fonts if needed. Find your color palette, define your gammas. Alright, so let's go ahead and move into my conversation with Gabriel Quiroga.

A Conversation with Gavriel Quiroga

Chain Assembly: Today I'm joined by a wonderful creator named Gabriel Quiroga. Gabriel has put together some really cool role-playing games with some exciting universes that I've backed on Kickstarter. That's how he first arrived in my radar with the Neuro City Colorblind Edition. And for me with Kickstarter, I'm just a sucker for a great banner image. This thing had the coolest banner image I've seen on any Kickstarter project. So I backed it without even reading what it was about. And then after I backed it and pledged, I'm like, okay, this is actually pretty fun. So Gabriel, Buendías, thank you very much for joining me. So why don't you go ahead and tell us a bit about yourself? 

Gavriel Quiroga: Buenas Días, Nicolas. Thank you for having me. I'm very honored to be here. And as you said, I'm a writer and game creator. I have three books published and four games. Pretty much a newcomer to the international RPG community, but I have been playing RPGs since I was a very small kid. I'm a very young guy. 

CA: Yeah, I'm also a kind of like I I played role-playing games. I played Dungeons & Dragons in college in high school but I didn't actually start creating them until recently because I started with the tarot and divination space first then board games and then I just recently got into role-playing games and I just I've really enjoyed the freedom to kind of come up with something. Like you don't need to. This is kind of a weird thing to say. I guess maybe it's a bit of an admission, but when designing a role playing game scenario or anything, you don't have to worry about having a great ending to a story because you really just need the ingredients and the players will be able to provide all of that. So that takes some of the pressure off of me as a creator. I don't know if you feel similarly.

GQ: You're speaking as a creator or as a game master? 

CA: As a creator. 

Oh yeah, of course. As a creator, your only job is to provide quality ingredients and a world that has its own elements, its own dynamic to me. I think it's important that it has a few conflicts going on and that it will sort of advance itself by its own. For example, you play Mork borg and you know that eventually the world will get destroyed by the Apocalypse. So speaking about the world building, you are really good at that. Comparing specifically Neuro City and Hell Knight, they're incredibly different. 

CA: Visually, you instantly recognize the universe that is being portrayed in those games. Hell Knight, for example, being the like grungy metal 80s VHS tape kind of universe. Can you tell me a bit about like what movies and other settings inspired you to kind of turn that into a game? 

GQ: Yes, well, for each setting that I make, I usually have a lot of time trying to figure out what will be my influences for the work. I'm trying to nail the concept from an aesthetic point of view and also for its elements, no? And that's a big part of the job, because once you nail exactly the visual concept and also the musical concept, I think that everything else comes much more easily. And I can use that, the visual and audio cues, to create something that automatically connects with that. So that's what I usually do. For example, for Hell Knight, when I wrote, I made a huge playlist that's almost eight hours long, that's on Spotify, and I used that to write the book. So the whole atmosphere, it brings you exactly to that point. And it's something that is very easy to connect with as a reader. I don't like to write so much. I mean, I like writing and I think that it's a very important part of my books and my writing, I am very careful when writing, but I usually concentrate on causing an impact on what I write. And so I think that the whole visual element and all the complementary stuff you can bring into the game make the whole world a bit more coherent and it gives it some new dimensionality that's very important. 

CA: So when we talk about your games as a product, a physical product, what are the elements that you're controlling other than the writing? I know that you, I guess, you hire some illustrators to work for you. Do you do any of the illustration yourself? You do the layout yourself? Kind of like, what is your involvement in these overall projects? 

GQ: Well, I do the concept design and the art direction and the writing. I am not very good with graphic design, but I do some stuff, some of the collages and some stuff I do, but I usually I usually just make together a folder with the whole inspirations I would like. And when I set up a team, I show them what I want it to look like, exactly what I want it to look like. And I like that every game or every book I do, it's its own distinctive thing. I don't want them to be pretty much alike. So sometimes for one job, I bring a person that's very specialized on something. For example, for Hell Knight, I brought Thomas Spicoli, that's a very traditional do-it-yourself graphic artist. And he also does a lot of graffiti. And he likes a lot of, he's very famous in the hardcore scene in Buenos Aires. So I knew that bringing him to the project will add all his style, which I very much wanted it to be featured in Hell Knight. So I try to take the decisions, but when I bring an artist, I give him space to be what I know that he does best. 

CA: I know these projects are also funded through Kickstarter. I know this differs from project to project and from creator to creator, but let's take a look at NeuroCity Colorblind Edition, for example. Maybe that's probably a bad example, but the question I'm getting at is, how much do you want to have created before the Kickstarter project launches? Now, I know the Neuro City Colorblind edition is really just kind of a reprint of the original, but with updated graphics. So maybe let's apply that question then to Hell Knight. 

GQ: But it's a very good question. I think that that position changes for each creator. I know that I have many colleagues that want their project pretty much done and all the specifics pretty much finished before launching their campaign, their Kickstarter campaign. And I think that that's a very reasonable approach. I don't do that approach actually because what I usually do is just make a pile of notes, a really big pile of notes, that's usually three or four times more than what I would use for the setting. It's quite a lot. And with that pile of notes and the whole aesthetic and the whole visual and music aspect pretty much finished, I will run some play testing, do some brainstorming, and after that I will launch the Kickstarter campaign. And depending on what is going to be my funding, I will tailor-made the book for my funding. So the whole project will change according to how popular the crowdfunding campaign is. For Hell Knight, the book was going to be 66 pages and it ended up being 140. So everything changes a lot and I really enjoy the pressure aspect and I really like to work on a rampage, you know, like a thunderstorm. Because if it stretches too much, I think that you lose some of the momentum with the creative process. So it's very good to like, okay, I will do this in one month and get it done. That works for me a lot. 

CA: That's interesting. So do you typically only focus on one project at a time? Or do you have like multiple projects going on at different stages at the same time? I have multiple projects at different stages at the same time. But when I begin writing, all I do is write. I work the other way. With writing, I'm sure you probably feel the same way, but with me, when I am writing, you do build up that momentum. When I'm in writing mode, I can just write constantly for days and days. When I'm in illustration mode, I can illustrate for days and days, but I cannot switch between the two. Because every time I move from illustration to writing, I have to regather my thoughts, reread everything I've done recently to try and get back into that flow. But when it comes to designing a project, I always have multiple things going on at different stages because I'm always terrified that I'm gonna get bored of what I'm working on. So by taking my eyes off of it for a week and coming back later, I always find that gets me excited again about the things that I had left off on. Do you ever find yourself starting projects, getting bored? And I don't know if that's anything you struggle with.

GQ: It's almost like a big aspect of being an artist, trying to find something that you think that is important enough to embark yourself on such a quest, such a difficult quest, because you know that it's going to be a pain in the ass to get it done. So before I start something, I really need to be sure that it's something that I can... It will keep on hyping me for a good amount of time. It usually doesn't not happen, but it does happen that projects tend to some have too many issues and you get frustrated and it's very difficult. I always, with my editor, we always say that it's like giving birth to an urchin, to a poisonous urchin. It's like a very painful process. Because there are so many things that always go wrong. And not only from the creative aspect, but also from the logistics aspect. You know, you know, I'm sure what working with printers is always a nightmare. And the whole market constantly fluctuates. So you need to have your numbers right. The paper does not rise. Maybe the shipping rates will rise and trying to make some money out of this is very is quite a challenge. 

CA: I am very curious about what it's like operating a Kickstarter based printing business like you have from Argentina. Because I only have it from my own perspective in the United States. So specifically with NeuroCity, I see you're getting that printed by Mixam, which I've ordered flyers, posters, and zines from them. And I believe those are all printed in the United States. But anything book-like, I've gotten that printed in China. So I'm curious to know what the books look like from Mixam, if you've gotten any samples yet. Because I've I would like to order from them. 

GQ: I will not be printing in Mixam Neurosity. 

CA: Oh, okay. 

GQ: I was going to print in the printer I use for Hell Knight, but that printer actually changed. So I contacted Alan Barr, who is the director of Galant Knights, and he suggested me another printer, so I'm going to use this printer that seems to have a very good relationship now. They're going to send some samples next week. But yeah, mixam. I think that the quality wise is decent, but it's a bit more expensive than what usually is on the market. 

CA: Absolutely. 

GQ: Yeah. Maybe 20% more expensive. 

CA: So for zines, it's really cheap. But looking at hardcover books. So the the last my most recent Kickstarter project, Pilgrimage of the Penitent, is a Mark Borg zine, or it started as a zine, it ends up becoming a hardcover book that's about 88 pages. And so that I'm getting printed with the manufacturer in China I've worked with for my tarot decks and my board games. I asked, do you do hardcover books? They sent me a couple of photos and samples and I liked how it looked. So I have them printing that for me. And it is really hard to look at Mixam's prices when I know I can get this hardcover book for $2.50 a unit from China. 

GQ: And do they do the import for you, or do you have to do the import to USA? They do it for me. So what I do for my logistics is I have, when I decided I reached a place in my business where I wanted to offload the logistics and shipping to another company, I just looked on Google Maps in my area for fulfillment centers. I found a few nearby, talked to them all, I ended up deciding on a company called the Fulfillment Lab, which is about a 25 minute drive from my house. So I have their items shipped to the fulfillment lab. And because I do a lot of local markets and I also sell on my website, when I run out of stock from stuff in my house, I just drive over there, pick up some more things and sell it from that. So it's definitely been very helpful to have someone close by. So when you get your orders from your printer, are they going to you in Argentina or are you doing that distribution from somewhere else?

GQ: All the distribution will be handled by Exalted Funeral

CA: Yeah, I did want to ask you about working with them, too. So I guess the order is going to Exalted Funeral. They're going to be doing all that shipping for you. Do you plan on having any with you in Argentina? 

GQ: I always sent to me about 30, 40 books, but I handle them to friends or to people from the community. I do not sell much of my books in my own country because they are too expensive. Yeah, for the rates, you know, the peso here is like, it's crazy. Sure. So nobody will be able to afford them. And we are also in a sort of economic crisis right now. So, yeah, most of my most of my customers are you from Europe and United States. 

CA: With Exalted Funeral doing the distribution of the Kickstarter pledges for you, I assume they're also going to be selling leftover stock through their website. Do you get your cut like monthly, quarterly at the end of the year? How does that work for you? 

GQ: What they actually do with me is that they actually buy a good amount of stock for themselves. So, yeah, so that's pretty handy because... 

CA: So it's just like a wholesale order then? 

GQ: Yes, yes. They buy about 300 books. 

CA: Wow, that's great. 

GQ: Yes. So I don't get monthly payments from them at all. 

CA: I saw on the Neurocity project you're printing 1500. Is that still the number? Because I know Kickstarter doesn't let you edit the page after the project has ended. 

GQ: No, no, I'm printing a thousand. A thousand for Neurocity. 

CA: How many were collected by the Kickstarter? 

GQ: About 900, Yeah, pretty much all of them, about 90 percent. Yeah, we stopped taking... 

CA: Oh, wow, that's great. 

GQ: Oh, we stopped taking pre-orders like this week or the week before, but I can still take some. But yeah, mostly everything I sell is through crowdfunding. At least that is my case. I received some orders from DriveThruRPG, but I don't like the quality of the physical books that much. 

CA: Yeah, DriveThruRPG, it is a shame that it has become so ubiquitous with role playing games, because it is bad quality. It is one of the worst websites I've ever had to browse. I've tried to put some of my things up there and it's just not worth the effort. It makes I feel like it makes my product look worse by being in that interface. 

GQ: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think the only advantage it has is that it is practical. But I don't know why they don't update everything and polish it a bit more. It wouldn't be that much of an effort. I just for PDFs, it is still very practical for people or for three PDFs. People always go to ThreatRouteG and maybe surf a bit for something. And I get at least 50 or 100 downloads per day from the network registered. So it kind of works, but I agree that it's far from the product that I want. I always try to aim for the best I can for the looks book. That's my assume, hardcover, polished effect. For example, Neurosity will have a pink ribbon colored and paper, something nice. You cannot do that with print on demand and direct RPG. 

CA: This is something I regularly do with the podcast and that is get totally bogged down in the details and forget to explain to the audience what it is we're talking about. Exalted Funeral is an online store that specializes in selling role playing games and role playing related products. Mixam is an American, I believe they're based in America, printing company that prints flyers, booklets, door hangers, lots of marketing materials, as well as small zines and hardcover and paperback books. DriveThruRPG is an online role-playing game store that specializes in selling PDFs that people have created, but you can also use them for print on demand. They're part of a network that includes DriveThru cards, which is also for card games. And I think there's DriveThru novels or something like that. I want to say there's a third one. I don't know. But yeah, their print on demand quality is not great. A lot of Kickstarter projects will be fulfilled through the print on demand feature of drive through RPG. And that's always a turnoff for me because I know it's not going to look great. Plus, if someone is not taking the extra step to source an actual printer, that means I know they're not going to get the best rates. They're not going to have someone dedicated to focusing on that line of products looking good. So it just, it doesn't look good in my opinion, as far as trying to make the product to be the best product. 

GQ: Well, it looks like a decent eight, seven. But it is practical and for some people, it does not involve that much of an investment to use because it only prints on a case to case basis.

CA: And their quality is very similar to Amazon KDP, the Kindle Direct Publishing, which is also a print-on-demand service. But with that, I believe it has to be tied to an Amazon listed item. You can't just use them just for printing. Exactly. If you're not looking for a collector item, it's good enough. 

GQ: Yeah. 

CA: And Mixam recently released a print-on-demand section of their site. I have not tested it or looked into it, but I am kind of curious to see how that would work, but it would really only be feasible for small booklets, not anything too big. How did your relationship with Exalted Funeral start? Did they reach out to you? Did you reach out to them? 

GQ: I reached out to them because I really enjoy their catalog. I think that there was a place for me in their catalog. They have this whole heavy metal vibe that I really like. And I think when I look at the catalog, I want to buy everything. So I really wanted to be working with them. 

CA: Did they help promote your Kickstarter project at all? Did the relationship begin before the Kickstarter? Or like at what stage did you connect with them? 

GQ: Not as much as I would like, but it's okay. They handle a lot of people. They're actually a very small team.

CA: I have seen that they are the creators of a few Kickstarter projects, so I wasn't sure if they're actually creating them themselves or they're just helping with marketing on that. I'm just curious about their involvement with yours specifically, but good to know that they have different levels that you can use. 

GQ: As I said, I think that the biggest advantage is that they, for me, is that when I work with them and I use their fulfillment center. Not only I have the opportunity to show my stuff in their website, I think that gives you more exposure. I think that the biggest advantage is that they buy a good amount of stock from you. So it sort of balances out what I pay for fulfillment against what they buy from stock. And that's a big plus.

CA: I was looking at your website and noticed you don't sell online on your site specifically. Have you entertained the idea of having a wholesaler or a fulfillment partner somewhere that could easily ship in and out products that are connected to your site? Have you been looking into that? 

GQ: I have not been looking into that. That will probably be my next step. As you can imagine, doing all the logistics from here is very, very, very difficult. Yeah, it's a problem because I need to set up an account in USA. I am setting up an account in USA. I'm currently using one of my relative's account in USA. It's like a problem. And even more a problem is that you can't actually bring the funds from USA to Argentina because there is a whole logistics aspect to that; problems from the third world that I wouldn't be able to explain to anyone, but even in Argentina. It's a nightmare to work so far away from where my customers are. That is partly the reason why there are so few Latin American creators, actually. I think Diego Noguera is one. There are a few Mexicans also. But there are not many international creators that are from Latin America. It's really difficult. 

CA: I mean, Latin America has such a great history of writers. So it's... 

GQ: Yeah, for writers, yeah, for sure. But all of them work with publishers, right? Right. Not independent. 

CA: So you did mention an editor earlier. As an independent publisher, does the editor help with that or do they just edit your writing?

GQ: They can help with their contacts and their advice, of course. Wato Wood has been my editor for my last three books. He worked also with Mork Borg, helping with the translations. He's my wingman. I love him very much. He's also a friend and a confidant. So, yeah, absolutely. He helps. The whole community helps a lot. I think that the RPG community is great in that aspect. Very helpful, very solidary the people I've met through the industry to be involved in the ground floor, the creation of these projects. So you get very eager people wanting to assist in making it real. So that's definitely very helpful. Yes, absolutely. 

CA: For most of the artists you've been working with, do you try to find ones that are local to Buenos Aires or Argentina? Or do you look everywhere for that? 

GQ: No, no, I think that that depends on the project on a case to case basis. But No, I work with the whole world, actually. I work with people from Indonesia, from people from Poland, from the States, from UK, from Argentina. Well, Helnet was the whole graphic. Graphically, it was 90% from Argentina with Tomás Spicoli. But there is a gallery that has about 15 artists and it's from all over the world.

CA: So considering the money that you have been raising from Kickstarter, do you designate a specific percentage as your income? Do you save all that extra money for the next project? I was just wondering how you structure that, for the whatever's left over after production. 

GQ: What's left over after production is my income. Yeah. I'm leaving a hundred percent from, from creating RPGs. So that is why I'm I try to be as careful as possible within my capabilities, capacity. And going back to commissioning artwork, I think that's very... I don't know, on today's world, I think that there's a whole big dilemma between hiring somebody and or using AI. So I wanted to bring up that. I do not use AI. I think that it will be a bit like shooting my own foot. 

CA: Yeah, I totally agree. I have a project that I've been working on. I think from here on out, I wanna add badges to any projects that I put on Kickstarter saying that it's made completely 100% AI free. Aside from crowdfunding through Kickstarter, have you looked into any of the other platforms out there for crowdfunding like itch.io or Indiegogo or Baccarcat? 

GQ: I have not, but because I don't really have the time yet. I'm going a bit crazy between the whole logistics aspect of the work, writing, creating, play testing. There are a lot of things that I know that I will have to eventually do, but I am not doing. It always ends up being a question about handling what is urgent against what is important. I have to be as efficient as I can. But I know that those platforms will eventually become popular or at least a good alternative, for sure. 

CA: When you are building out those, say, a Kickstarter project, are you utilizing graphics that are going to be in the book, graphics you've already received so far? Do you create new graphics specifically for the page? What's your approach to kind of filling that with content? 

GQ: Oh, yeah. I use all the graphical content will be used in the book. They were made as part of the creative process to nail what the setting is about. So it makes sense that I use it for the campaign and show everyone what it is about. So it's always like a small investment in artwork or maybe even a small teaser, if you can afford it, to show what the game will be. Absolutely. I think that you have to do that because if not, why would you create something that will not be featured in your campaign, in your Kickstarter campaign, that will not be featured in your book? 

CA: Right. So what's funny is when I am designing my Kickstarter projects, that's kind of the catalyst that helps me decide which graphics I need to prioritize. For example, if I know the main pledge level is going to be the core set, which is a box with three or four items in it, I need to design a placeholder graphic for what that box is going to be, what the items will be, so I can have a 3D render modeled and then have that as a graphic. So I need to make sure that everything that I'm referencing on the Kickstarter has an example of what it will look like. 

GQ: Ah, yeah, of course. 

CA: So that kind of becomes my checklist of items I need to design. How much would you say your projects change from the launch of the Kickstarter to the final approval on the graphics being sent to the printer? 

GQ: Well, it changed like 90 percent because, as I said, I write and I end up the whole project during the during the Kickstarter campaign. I only launched the campaign with the concept and the game playtesting and the setting with a pile of notes and I know exactly what it's going to be. I think that it's like catching a wave, you know, it's like you're surfing the wave and you, okay, I know I can do this. So I commissioned some artwork. As I said, I play test the game, I gather some feedback from my players. I know I can do it. The book is far from finished when I started the campaign. But in the case of Neurosity Colorblind, it was finished because it was my first book. But for Hell Knight, it was like, I think that it's part of the surprise and the exhilarating experience, not knowing what it will end up being. It's like a risk and a whole expectation of achieving it. But that danger and that sense of that something wrong can happen is, I think that's part of also the creative process. Well, I like also to GM or to Game Master with a lot of improvisation. So to me, improvisation and winging it is a big aspect of creativity or even of art. I'm also a musician and I used to do live gigs also with like jams and improvise a lot. So I enjoy a lot of not knowing exactly what I'm going to do, but just delivering it and have that feedback from the public. I think that you end up creating something that's far more honest and sincere in that way, because it's like you do not have time to filter it or to think it so much. it comes instinctively from your unconsciousness. It sounds a bit weird, but I think that you can feel it. When you read something, it's like, okay, it just sticks up. When you see an artwork or, I don't know, for example, you see Frank Fracetta, you know, we are all fans of Fracetta, right? The artist. I think that Fasita has that. I think he also even talks about working on a rampage, you know, working on a state of feverish explosion, because it ends up being true, truthful, and you feel it, you feel that intensity. 

CA: I don't know if I would agree with that. I feel like when I am in those feverish moments and I write just to get things on the page, at least that's the way I do it. When I do have that moment of manic energy, I do try to write as much as possible without going back and editing and cleaning up what I've done. And then when I do go back, when I've calmed down and I need to go back and reread everything I've done, I ended up deleting half of what I put on the page because I get too involved with using big words, making too many anecdotes. And I think the real quality product comes out when the editing is being done. At least that's how I... 

GQ: Yeah, of course. Right, that's also the job of the editor, of course. 

CA: Yeah. So how do you transition from one project to another marketing-wise? I know you have the Facebook group specifically for your projects. Do you also have an email list? Do you have other ways that you reach out to people? 

GQ: I work mainly with… as you said, my Facebook group, I also do some advertising Reddit. I also use Twitter, Instagram. Of course, I try to make some posts and talk about it to my Kickstarter backers from my previous projects. I mentioned that is going to be happening. Also DriveThruRBG, well, that's another plus. DriveThruRBG allows you to send a message to all your customers so you can send a message to all of them. Maybe I have 2,000 people that will receive that message. So I use that. 

CA: You don't collect anyone's email addresses for a mailing list? 

GQ: No, no, no, I do not do that. No, I could do that with it because I have all the backers emails. I find it a bit obtrusive, no? Yeah, I don't know, I could do that. And I also make sure to talk with many podcasters like yourself and discuss my works with channels and YouTubers. I think that there are a lot of people doing this work that you do that's very important for the community. And it helps a lot for us independent creators to help grow some awareness about our work.

CA: So you mentioned that you do advertising on Reddit. I've never even thought about that. How does that work? I don't know if you've done a Facebook ad, but I've done a couple of those. Would you be able to compare it to that? 

GQ: I have never used Facebook. I have only used Reddit because I have only used Reddit. Yeah, you go to Reddit app, and you make a banner. And I think you make a bid for the amount of clicks you will pay. Yeah, it works fine. You can see that when you use it, your amount of backers spike a lot. It works. It's good. I think that Reddit is a platform that can be a bit underestimated. There are many people that only use Reddit. 

CA: Wow. About how much money would you say you've put into ads? Like for example, Neurocity Colorblind Edition. Did you do any advertising on Reddit for that one?

GQ: Very small, only $100. OK. 

CA: Do you know about what kind of return that was? Was it like two times, three times? 

GQ: No, I did not do that number. I am not that strict with my numbers. I should be more. I know. 

CA: So on Kickstarter, when you go to the dashboard, you can create those special links, so you can track the amount of pledges that came from any individual source. Sometimes I forget to make those, but those can be quite useful. I just met with someone from BackerKit yesterday about the possibility of moving my next project to their platform. And this will be the first time that I'm actually going to work with a marketing person. So I'm very excited about that. A little nervous, because they'll be spending money on ads that I'll have to pay for. They'll be spending more than I've ever spent on ads.

GQ: But how much will you be spending? 

CA: So that's the thing. The way it works with them is they actually, you pay it after the project ends. You don't have to pay anything upfront, which is very helpful. So you'll just bake in your marketing percentages into whatever you're trying to raise. And when we spoke to them, me and the other creator who are working on this project together, he said that at worst case scenario, we spend $2,000 and nobody pledges it. You still owe us $2,000 So that's the worst-case scenario and I'm fine with losing a thousand dollars for this project Because I've got that saved from my previous project. So that's kind of in my mind That's my war chest going into my next project, but that is the worst-case scenario. That'll probably never happen That's if the project doesn't fund and you still spent that money on advertising. But that being said, what they say is a healthy return rate is three times the amount of pledges, three to three and a half times of the amount pledge money from the money you spent. Because they'll have a dedicated marketing person, they will be able to keep an eye on that every day and increase or decrease it as necessary to make sure it's an efficient use of funds. So I am looking forward to have someone monitoring that who is also able to do all the A and B testing. I'm just gonna send them all my graphics. They'll create ads and they'll figure out which tagline works best with which image. So I'm very excited to do that. Also just for the learning process to watch someone else do it and see the results of those things. 

GQ: Of course, yay, we need to experiment and see what works. 

CA: Yeah. 

GQ: As part of the business. 

CA: Yeah, and so I see that it looks like your most, I guess, financially successful project that you have ran was about... 

GQ: I think it was Hell Knight. 

CA: Yeah, yeah, 1,251 backers. Oh, $50,000, awesome. So how does, what does it look like with Kickstarter sending you that money in Argentina? Because again, everyone I've spoken to is in the United States. Do you have like special tax forms they send you and everything? 

GQ: It does not, it is not sent to Argentina, it's sent to an account in the USA. 

CA: OK, so you pay for everything out of that? 

Yeah, I pay my taxes in USA, yes. 

CA: OK, gotcha. So does it then become hard to pay yourself from that money in the USA? I guess you probably have to pay an exchange rate. 

GQ: It's very hard. Yeah, it takes a lot of work, physical work. People sometimes bring it when I know a friend is going to USA. Can you bring me some of my money? Yeah, it's unbelievable the things, the difficulties we have to face of doing something that is like strictly normal and even legal, but it's very difficult to work in this country of mind. 

CA: So I want to ask about how you design and organize stretch goals for your Kickstarter project. So for listeners, If your crowdfunding campaign funds and earns extra money that you didn't, I don't want to say didn't need, but was not part of your main goal, it's tradition that we would have like if we hit this amount of money, we add this special thing. We had this amount of money. We had this special thing. I can say for me, I try to envision the absolute perfect version of the project. That's what I get my price quotes based on. And then I start chipping away to figure out what the minimum viable product is and that's what I'm pledging for That's what my funding goal is based on the crappiest version that I would still feel proud to produce And then all of the stretch goals are based on regaining those features like UV spot coating gold foil Painted edges things like that. Do you have a similar process when designing what the stretch goals are?

GQ: It changes from project to project. I need to be careful that I think it needs to be appealing enough. It needs to be cool enough to teach backers to back the project. But you need to be careful when doing your numbers because some stuff you think it's not going to be that expensive to do and that ends up backfiring. For example, for Hell Knight, I made a poster for a stretch goal. I made a poster and a brochure. And okay, so I asked the printer for a quote about the poster and the brochure and the quote, okay, I said, okay, this work, I can do that, I can deliver this. But I ended up finding out that if you add either a poster or a brochure in your mail, in your shipping, it stops being media matter. So you do not have that big discount. And I did not counted that. So it's like, fuck. So, okay, I won't do that in my next project at all because it's like, it would even be cheaper for me to make a small book that, yeah, that news that that discount. 

CA: One thing I saw recently, which is pretty funny is someone went out and bought a whole bunch of old DVDs and they just use the cases to ship the bookmarks that they sell online, because you can ship a DVD as media mail. So, even though there's no DVD in it, it's just the bookmark because it's so much cheaper, which I thought was pretty ingenious. 

GQ: Yeah, yeah. 

CA: So, and then another thing you always have to think about that this I learned after my first really big successful Kickstarter project is you really need to consider the ultimate size of the boxes you're sending everyone. So if your core product fits in this small box, make sure your larger version fits in a box that's not much bigger. Because like you said, a poster, are you going to fold it? Are you going to roll it up and ship it in a tube? You really need to have that whole thing organized. 

GQ: Yeah, I did not want to ship it in a tube at all because shipping a tube was going to be really expensive. So I had to fold it with a book. 

CA: Yeah. 

GQ: Yeah, sometimes you have to take that those kind of decisions because otherwise you end up losing too much money. 

CA: Yeah, so I know I'm doing a poster on my upcoming project as part of the All In pledge, and I think folded it's gonna be fine. Rolling it up into a tube is just gonna become such an awkward box with the other items in it. So with my tarot decks, I had a bundle that is a tarot deck and a neoprene mat that you can do the readings on. So we end up with people who did get that version and with a very odd box because it's a long cardboard box with the tube in it. And then the tarot deck just kind of flying around in that box if it's not packed well. So a couple of packages got a little damage because they didn't put enough packing stuff in there. But again, those are just things you don't think about until you actually get to that stage of the project. So it helps to make sure everything is going to fit nice and tightly. 

GQ: Yes, absolutely. 

CA: With Exalted Funeral, are you able to add any like pack ins like flyers promoting your next projects and things like that? Or is that Exalted Funeral just kind of promoting their own stuff with those shipments? 

GQ: Yes, you can ask them to include some other items. Yeah, no problem with that. 

CA: What about when it comes to coming up with the value of your stretch goals? Do you have numbers predefined based on your pledge number? Or do you only type in those values after like day one of the project? 

GQ: No, no, I need to watch. I need to, at least watch some to the, I need to have an idea of how the campaign will end up. It's a little anticipated at least what, what will be my final funds because it's impossible to anticipate how much will you gather with your Kickstarter campaign. Some projects, as you said, Hellenite funded at 50K, Neurosity was 26, but it was impossible to meet you anticipate what will happen with that. So I usually make my stretch goals halfway through the campaign. 

CA: Okay. I think I tend to give it like 48 hours before I assign numbers to those. But the first few projects, yeah, I'd have just the random stretch goals in there. And then it feels really shameful when you have to go back and like lower the numbers on those or delete some things. So it's better to just wait until you have a good sense of how it's being received by the community.

GQ: Yeah, also it's cool to gather some feedback. Some people ask for some stuff or some sections for the book. Okay, I want to, I would love to see a weapons section, a firearms section. I would love to have a map. Okay, let's include a map as a stretch goal. And that's what I think is cool. It's always cool to include commission artwork as a stretch goal. I think it's easy to do, it's good.

CA: And it doesn't add any physical items to the box. 

GQ: Yeah, exactly. And maybe if the artist is well known, for example, for Hell Knight, I use Mork Borg's artist. I think, I don't remember his name, I think he was called Nord. I don't remember the name. But if you add an artist that is well known, he will help you also grow some awareness about your project.

CA: Johan Noor. 

GQ: Yes. Yeah. Yes. So that's also a very cool idea. So what does Backerkit handle your fulfillment also? Yes, right? 

CA: That's a good question. So on my current project that I'm working on production right now, the pilgrimage of the penitent Mork Borg thing, I have the... I don't know exactly if you would call it fulfillment, like I'm not shipping them the items and they're shipping them out, but they are doing or their platform is managing the the the shipping collection phase. What is the the term I'm thinking of? So traditionally, the way I would do this is the Kickstarter raises the cost of the item when it comes to actually charge someone for shipping. I don't do that through Kickstarter. I think most people don't do that through Kickstarter anymore. If you do that through Kickstarter, you're kind of setting yourself up for failure because it's such a volatile rate of what shipping is going to actually cost. There's no way to predict it accurately for five, six months before you're actually ready to ship it out. Plus, with Kickstarter, I hate to that that shipping you're collecting is counted towards your funding goal, which that money is not being used to produce the project. It's being used to ship it to people. So yeah. So what I had done historically up until this project is On my online store, once I have the item, I put it as an item on my store, and I give each backer a coupon code that is worth the value that they pledged for. So they just add the item or items that they pledge for to their cart, type in that coupon code, it reduces it to zero dollars, and all they have to do is pay for shipping. But while they're on my store, they can also add other items to their cart too. It gives me the chance to sell more items, and then I also have them entering the address themselves rather than having them fill out a survey, and then I have to copy and paste it. And because I have my website connected to the fulfillment center, the order automatically goes to them, they package ship it out for me. And that's worked great. But I am trying BackerKit's fulfillment process on this current project, where I basically had to recreate all of the add-ons and pledge levels on the Kickstarter page into the BackerKit interface. So now these users get an email from BackerKit saying, we're ready for you to check out. They hit that link. They see the items that they pledge for. Those are automatically in their cart. They can add additional items. And because this is being organized in conjunction with World of Game Design, who's helping me with the marketing and the fulfillment for this project, they're able to put some of their products, similar Mork Borg related World of Game Design products. So people can add those to their cart and then they check out once again, paying for shipping. So BackerKit's been helping with that phase. As far as them actually shipping out the items to everybody, I don't believe BackerKit has that as a service, but they do have the platform that allows you to, you know, allow everyone to finalize their pledge after the second phase, after the Kickstarter has ended. And I'm enjoying it so far, primarily because, well, first off, it's a very Complex platform and I had to talk to someone at backer kit to give me a tour of everything I was looking at but one thing I really like is that it does predict How many those additional items people are gonna purchase based on the trends up to the moment you look at it so for example One of the add-on items was a printed version of a zine which was a stretch goal I've one got the zine as a PDF, but I figured why not I did all this layout and made it look cool I'm gonna get this printed got it printed at mixam and I printed 150 copies. And a lot of people were adding that to their cart when they were checking out on the BackerKit page. And it was predicting to me how many of them I'm going to need to fulfill that once everybody finishes completing their pledges. So based on that, I saw that I was going to need to order a couple more. So it's nice having that kind of algorithmic prediction there. And also, I like that they're able to sell additional copies of my items and the other items from other creators at World of Game Design. But moving on to the next project, if it is just me being involved, I'm probably going to go back to doing it on my website, just because I like to have full control over the interface of people checking out and selecting their items. So why don't you tell me a bit about the next projects you have coming up? I know you've got a card game that you're working on that looks really cool.

GQ: Yes, my next project will be called SIGIL. It's a card game set in Hell Knight's universe. It's a very cool card game, you can play it with 2 to 4 players. It has a very cool element in which, besides the casting cost of the card, like Magic the Gathering, it also includes a cost that compels you to do something as a player. For example...If the spell is a song of mischief or a song of sadness, maybe the player has to get up and sing a song to be able to cast that spell, besides paying the casting cost. So it creates a whole very weird atmosphere in which all the players are doing very strange stuff to be able to cast their spells. Maybe confess a secret, describe your last dream, state your worst fear. That sort of very psychological stuff that allows you to reveal yourself for what you are. It's a very psychological game and it has been very popular with my playtesting team. 

CA: Oh, that's exciting. I'm excited to see that. That's also going to be on Kickstarter? 

GQ: Yes. Okay. 

CA: Do you have a target launch date for that yet? 

GQ: I will probably launch the Kickstarter next week. 

CA: Oh, that's quick. 

GQ: Yes. Yes. Yes. I need to move. I need to... need to move on with my project because I have so many projects piling up that I need to start going a bit faster than what I did last year. If not, I will end up... Because for example, this project is pretty much finished. All the cards are finished. I've done about 112 cards. It's like one standard deck and one expansion that you can have as an add-on. And it's going to be great. I'm really excited about it. It's going to be great. 

CA: How long do you usually keep the Kickstarter pre-launch page up collecting leads before you launch the project? Do you have kind of a standard time frame? 

GQ: No, I don't. No, I just I just wing it, depending on what I what I feel. But at least I think that if you have 150 followers, it's OK for me to make sure it will work.

CA: That's definitely a healthy number to launch with too. I've noticed that. That I think I launched, it was like three or four projects ago, I actually started tracking how many numbers I had before I launched, which is a shame Kickstarter doesn't give you that information like after the project's live, because that seems very helpful if you're trying to track your own trends. I would love to know how many people clicked to notify me on launch. Have you used a backer kit launch? 

GQ: No, I have never used a backer kit launch. Do you recommend it?

CA: Absolutely. So it's for listeners, the Kickstarter pre-launch page you only get after Kickstarter approves your project. You can build a project on Kickstarter, add nothing to it, just give it a name and not even send it or anything, but then you can go to BackerKit launch, create a launch page and connect it to it. What the BackerKit launch page is, is similar to the Kickstarter pre-launch page, except you can put lots of text and graphics in there and then the user types in their email address to say that they're interested. And then after they do that, you can have it linked to any website you want. So the user types in their email address after seeing your description of the project, they go to whatever website you want them to go to. But the most important part is you're collecting their email addresses that when you are ready to launch, you can send emails to those people. And BackerKit also has a bunch of pre-written email templates you can work off of such as launching in 30 days, thank you so much for backing this, blah, blah, blah, blah, launching in two weeks, blah, blah, blah. Our project has launched, blah, blah, blah. And then like 24 hours later, you might say, hey, it's been one day, we've raised this much money. And I notice you have not yet backed the project. So it lets you target specific people through it. And it's free to use. So I highly recommend BackerKit Launch, just because it gives you so many more opportunities to interact with people before your project is live. 

GQ: Awesome, yeah. I will take a look into it.

CA: Plus also, you can have that pre-launch page visible on the BackerKit site. So you'll just organically get leads from people browsing projects on BackerKit that are gonna be launching soon. 

GQ: Awesome. 

CA: So if people wanted to follow you, what are some of the best places to do that? I think that the best place to follow me is either, well, you have the Facebook group, Worlds of Quiroga, you have, we are a cool bunch, about a thousand people, and we can share everything related to the fantasy genre, cyberpunk, or RPGs. And you can also add me to Instagram, or Kickstarter, or Twitter, as Gavriel Quiroga. And your website is gavrielquiroga.com. That's G-A-V-R-I-E-L-Q-U-I-R-O-G-A. And I guess Exalted Funeral, do they sell all of your previous books? 

GQ: Yes, they have Hell Knight and Warplan currently, and they will have Neurosity as well. 

CA: Awesome. I also just wanted to throw out that I appreciate that you had that Herman Hess quote at the beginning of Warplan. I also like putting authors' quotes on the products I make too. Just kind of a nice way to get people into the setting.

GQ: Yes, absolutely. Yes, I love Herman Hesse. I studied literature, so I like a lot of strange authors. Thank you very much, Nicolas. Thank you for having me. I hope we get to do this again. 

CA: Yeah, thank you very much, Gavriel. I'll be sharing these links on the show notes, and I'll make sure to share your project once it launches too. So thank you very much. Good luck, and have a great day. 

GQ: Muchas gracias, You too.


Chain Assembly: Art for profit sake is recorded through Riverside FM, distributed through Spotify for podcasters, and edited on Adobe Audition. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you learned anything useful or found this podcast helpful, please rate and review us five stars. If you want to learn more about me or my art, head over to ChainAssembly.com.

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Art for Profit's Sake Podcast

46: Summer Magick Fest

46: Summer Magick Fest

Nick share’s his experience vending at the Summer Magic Fest in Orlando, a pagan and metaphysical event. He discusses his motivation for attending and the...

Read more
45: Art Advice with Publish and Author John Baltisberger

45: Art Advice with Publish and Author John Baltisberger

In this conversation, Nick and John discuss the difference between a press and a publisher, as well as John's recent Kickstarter failures and his upcoming...

Read more