Update: Devil’s Advocate is currently a MITHRAL (over 2,500 copies sold) best seller!
When I released my first Norse-themed subclass, the Oath of the Aesir, I put a post here on my website. Somehow, I forgot to do the same for Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contracts. It could have been all the excitement (and anxiety) I was feeling at the time of its release. Perhaps it was because the release was the week before Gen Con 2019 – more on that in a future post. Seeing as NorseDM.com functions functions as my digital portfolio… better late than never, right?
When I began writing Devil’s Advocate, I had a few goals.
1. Have a great first product for my portfolio. In my eyes, my previous two DMs Guild offerings don’t really count. Heart Hunt was a small adventure that I put on the Guild mainly because I had so much of it already typed up in OneNote; it was really just my digital notes for our annual spooky one shot. I had no idea anyone would enjoy my writing, let alone pay me for it.
Oath of the Aesir was a lot of fun to write, but it’s just a few pages. Is anyone really going to look at my portfolio and say, “Hey, this guy wrote a Norse subclass. That’s never been done before. Hire him!” Probably not. So, with my first “real” product, I wanted to come out of the gate swinging.
2. Pay livable wages. Devil’s Advocate was not cheap. It cost me $666 to produce. That’s not a joke, by the way. The total came out to $664 all-told, but I’m counting the .5mm pen I used to draw that Mephistopheles spot art. This bumps the total to a truly hellish figure.
Good art isn’t cheap. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have to adjust my budget during the project timeline. But I wasn’t about to haggle with artists or offer to pay them in “exposure” like we’ve all seen online by now. Wonderful artists like Gwen Bassett (who did the cover art) have spent countless hours honing their skills. I chose these artists because of their style and ability, and I paid them fair rates.
It’s unusual for a project of this size to have a budget above $100, let alone $600, on the DMs Guild. I’m sure some people will look at the product and think, This cost $666? I could’ve made this for half that. And honestly? I don’t blame them. I simply don’t have the skillset to do something like this alone. My art is in this book, though it’s not particularly good.
Also, I straight can’t do layout. Anna Urbanek did a wonderful job. In the future, I’d like to move away from traditional WOTC-style layouts. I’m sure that there are many talented designers just waiting to do some fantastic, original layouts, rather than simply reusing their standard template.
3. Get that electrum medal, dammit! At the time of release, I had one product with a silver medal (Heart Hunt). My philosophy with fitness is that the only person that you should compare yourself to is you. So I wanted to do a little bit better than last time.
Pick of the Week!
The day I released Devil’s Advocate, I was very anxious. Whether it was by luck or the infernal bargain I had signed with Asmodeus, there wasn’t some amazing, 200+ page POD product from an esteemed DMs Guild author releasing on the same day. Somehow, I ended up Pick of the Week on the DMs Guild Newsletter! It gave me a fantastic bump in sales.
Many friends graciously shared my work on social media. DM Dango did a review of Devil’s Advocate on his Youtube. And the Saturday after release, I got an article on ComicBook.com written by Christian Hoffer! Again, these helped bump my sales significantly.
Devil’s Advocate hit copper on its first day and silver on its second – something that took Heart Hunt over six months to do! I had a bit of impostor syndrome there for a bit. Do I deserve this? I thought. By the end of the first week, I had reached my goal of the illustrious electrum that I so craved. Then, while walking the Exhibit Hall at Gen Con 2019…
I surpassed my goal!
Look at me Mom! Gold medal! Not only did I break even, I doubled my original investment. This means that I can put these earnings towards future projects with beautiful art, original layouts, and livable wages.
What Did You Learn?
This product taught me a few things. First, I learned about managing expectations. While I started to sweat as sales were coming in, my #1 goal was to build something great for my portfolio. I felt like I did that before Devil’s Advocate ever hit the DMs Guild.
Secondly, I learned not to shy away from a bigger budget. Though I recognize that not everyone has the funds to invest into their products. I don’t have any kids, and I have a very, very supportive spouse. The original art and layout I included in Devil’s Advocate was worth every single penny, even if it had never recouped its costs.
Marketing for the DMs Guild is tough. I think my growing follower base on D&D Twitter – which has been quite the wholesome and supportive place, thankfully – helped a lot. I think the infernal contract giveaway gave the product a good boost with people who would not have otherwise stopped to examine it. Similarly, managing social media requires constant diligence. I’ve started using Hootesuite to schedule posts when I’m either asleep or busy (even though my Facebook game is trash).
Finally, this entire process was fun. Creating something from nothing is extremely rewarding. I enjoyed watching my little devilish baby go from taking its first steps to earning a gold star. I look forward to the many DMs Guild babies I will birth. May they go on to do great things.
Progressive Products on the DMs Guild
I’d like to increase representation in future products. I love the cover of Devil’s Advocate not only because of the dynamic lighting from the contract, but because it features a female devil that isn’t a succubus. She’s clothed. She has character to her. And look at that big 80’s hair! Wonderful.
I’m going to make a conscious effort to include artwork featuring diverse characters. As I discover more artists and designers, I’d like to do the same with my teams. If you are a minority creator or know one, please reach out to me via my Contact page.
What Are You Writing?
Right now, I’m finishing up a huge collaboration of Nine Hell-themed adventures lead by Bryan Holmes called Hellbound Heists. My adventure is a Tier 4 train robbery set in the 8th layer of Hell, Cania. It’s been a blast. Not only am I writing on this project, but I’ve also done a fair bit of editing. In addition, it features a few of my illustrations and a bit of B&W cartography. It’s going to be one hell of a product.
What else, what else… Oh! This month, I’ll be releasing a sorcerous origin tied to the Norns. Get those knitting needles ready. It’s time to entwine the fates!
I’m also working on one super-secret project and starting a couple of other collaborations towards the end of this month that are currently mummified (under wraps).
Like this article? Consider supporting me by buying one of my products on the DMs Guild, such as Darkhold: Secrets of the Zhentarim or Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion. If you’re running Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, consider picking up an alternative introductory adventure to the campaign, Devil’s Advocate: A Guide to Infernal Contracts, or Baldur’s Gate: City Encounters.