Tell us a bit about yourself, Letiman Games and Groves.
My name is Dan Letzring. I am a husband, father of 2, and owner of Letiman Games. I have a few self-published titles (some co-designs like Gadgeteers and some not like Dino Dude Ranch), one game I have published that is designed completely by another designer (Dirigible Disaster), and one game that I designed that was published by another publisher (Mint Julep by Button Shy Games). The latest game I am publishing, Groves, is a co-design with Steven Aramini. It is a bag-building worker placement game about creating the best realm in this fictional fantasy world Idyllon. Your workers have particular elemental affinities and if paired properly with the lands they are played on, they can earn additional worker placement abilities in addition to the basic abilities earned when any spirit is played on that land.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched the Groves campaign?
This is quite a loaded first question! There isn’t just one thing that I did to build a following, so I will try to hit on a lot of my pre-launch prep. First, I shared a lot of the artwork for the game early on. The art (by Nolan Nasser) is so good that I was sure the more eyes I got on it, the more interest I would draw into the campaign.
I also spread the word by creating the board game geek page early and posting pictures and forum posts for the game and the campaign. I tried to have many active updates relating to the campaign so people were aware that it was going to be great and that it was coming soon.
Another way I built a following beforehand was to run a giveaway with Everything Board Games. I always make sure one of the criteria is to check out the campaign preview page so that it drives a lot of traffic to the campaign page before launch.
Another important thing I have done, that so many people do not realize is so important, is that I just actively participate in the board game community. I am involved in a lot of facebook advice groups and I write my blogs on kickstarter and publishing. I have done a lot to just be a contributing member of the board game community and have shown that I am not just here to market my games. A lot of people try to market their games to people without every contributing or making any personal connections. I have forged a lot of friendships and relationships in this community and have a lot of people willing to support me because I will do the same for them.
Lastly, I have already run 4 successful campaigns that have done well and delivered a quality product on time. So I have built a reasonably sized following through those as well
What is your best marketing tip during the campaign?
Do as much as you can and do not let up (keep the same energy you have in your first week throughout the entire campaign). There are so many things you can do to market during the campaign, you simply have to put in the time and coordinate all of it. We set up interviews and press releases (check out the campaign page, I listed all of our interviews and media coverage there) but we also found other ways to connect with potential backers. One such way was to get the game on tabletopia. This works for so many reasons. Tabletopia put the game on their front page, which got a lot of eyes on it. We have been getting the usage statistics and a lot of people have been trying it out (I have a blog post coming soon about it). We made sure to link the campaign in the description so that anyone who tries it can get right to the campaign. I think the real answer is that you should just find all of the places you can spread the word and do it.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Groves, what would it be?
I knew this would be an issue, but I wish I knew how many campaigns were actually launching right around mine. The list of active campaigns was so long and many backers mentioned having backed multiple high dollar campaigns. We saw a decent number of cancellations, but we are truly happy with the progress we have seen and cannot complain about how well we are doing. Being honest though, I do not think there is a time of year this will not happen anymore, so I am grateful that so many campaigns can fund so well! We have a lot of really great board games coming out every year!
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
I launched on June 6th and we definitely did not choose it lightly. We originally wanted to launch in May but the component images were definitely not ready for a May launch. We were working to construct the prototypes and I knew that we would not get them to reviewers in time for launching in May. When we decided to push back to June, I basically had 2 criteria…1.) I wanted to launch on a Tuesday (I always launch on Tuesdays so my first 48 hours are during Tuesday-Thursday, the statistically busiest days on Kickstarter and 2.) I wanted to launch as early in the month as possible because the later you get into summer, the less people are backing projects on Kickstarter and the more likley you are to conflict with a major con like Gen Con. I was going to launch the second week of June but that completely conflicted with Origins and I did not want that, so I settled on June 6, the first Tuesday of the month.
How do you structure your days during the campaign
I work a full time job not related to the campaign during the day, so my days typically look like this.
1.) Wake up before my kids and answer questions and respond to comments
2.) Play with my kids
3.) Go to work
4.) During breaks at work, check on messages and comments.
5.) Come home and play with kids until bedtime.
6.) After putting the kids to bed spend all night working on the campaign. Answer questions, adjust images, post updates, coordinate interviews, find new places to advertise, do everything and anything I was not able to catch up on during the day. I also try to prepare for a day in advance. If it looks like I am going to hit a stretch goal on the following day, I try to write the update a day early and get all my images in order. This time between around 0730pm and midnight is busy and tiring but totally worth it in the long run!
What’s the best Kickstarter advice you ever received?
People casually browsing Kickstarter will not be enough to fund your game. So many people (including younger me) figure you can just put a game on Kickstarter and it will fund but this simply is not true. You need to pre-market, do a lot of demos, get your game out into the world, and bring an audience on day 1. If you don’t do this, you are pretty much dooming yourself from the get go.
You also have your own blog where you post advice. Did you drive any traffic from that to your campaigns?
I didn’t. I was going to write an article during the campaign but I simply did not have the time to get something I felt was meaningful together and I did not want to post simply to promote the campaign. Luckily, some of my friends at the Indie Game Report (where my blog is hosted) wrote some great articles about the campaign. Mike Wokasch wrote a nice post about the implementation of bag-building we use in Groves and Tom Gurganus did an interview with Steven Aramini about all of his successes this year. Lastly, Cassie Frieman from the site filmed our how to play video. I figured this was plenty of love from the Indie Game Report and am so appreciative of all of the people that contribute to the site who helped me out!
You use a lot of Gifs in the Groves campaign. What is important to think about when you use gifs?
My friend Mike Wokasch (Fairway3 Games) is the one who actually created all of those GIFs. I asked for help on the campaign page and thought he was just going to make gameplay images. He went above and beyond and made those awesome GIFs. There are a few things that I believe make a great GIF. 1,) They should be fairly simple and uncluttered. You do not want a single GIF to convey too much info or be very hard to read. Parts will be missed, the image will be cluttered, and the file will be huge. 2.) Make sure the animation accurately represents the bullet point you are trying to convey. Sometimes the point the words get across feels disconnected from what you are seeing in the visual and the animation doesn’t make sense. 3.) Keep it concise. Do not re-write your rules word for word into GIFs. Make great bullet points that convey a quick message and points out some unique factors of the game. Insanely specific details are not always necessary.
What´s your main tactic to handle the mid-campaign drop in new backers?
Based on the feedback we were receiving early on, I was pretty confident we were going to have a strong start. Since I knew we would do ok in the first week or so, I planned the bulk of our interviews and promotions for further into the campaign. During weeks 2 and 3 of the campaign we had 4 interviews publish, a giveaway with Board Game Revolution go live, and a few articles about the game publish. All of this was coordinated to keep buzz spreading about the campaign during those dead weeks.
What´s your tactic regarding stretch goals?
The bulk of my stretch goals are component upgrades. I typically reveal none at launch and on funding I reveal about 2-4. Once we make decent progress (and either unlock them all or come close to it) I reveal the next 2-4 and so on. I do not like revealing too many as I have found in the past that some backers can get disappointed and rage-quit thinking the game will not hit a stretch goal and will be a lesser game. I also have really enjoyed having exciting things to talk about in my updates, I have found that my backers have really enjoyed the updates where I reveal the new stretch goals.
One of your first campaigns was Dino Dude Ranch. You cancelled it, relaunched and funded it. What happened?
Well, I broke Kickstarter rule #1, bring an audience to the campaign on day 1. I simply did not bring enough of an audience in the first week to build the steam required to get to funded. I overestimated the number of backers that would come back from my really small (88 backer) first campaign and I didn’t pre-market enough. Luckily, that campaign built up enough interest to have a solid foundation to get the ball rolling when I re-launched!
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
The gameplay section. This section should be crafted in such a way that it conveys the amazing artwork of your game, it gives the backer an idea of what the constructed game looks like and what components are included, it immerses potential backers in the game and theme, and it describes how the game plays and what makes it unique. If all of this is done well, backers will have very few questions left to answer.
Do you regret something you did on your previous campaign?
Oh boy do I. Of coarse hindsight is 20/20 and there are always things we can do better. However, I really feel like I made the most mistakes in my first campaign. There are just too many to list but I wrote a whole blog post about it, so I am going to casually slip the link in here…
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
I love worker placements, so lately I have been playing a lot of those (Kingsburg, Tzolk’in). I cannot wait to get my hands on the 2p Caverna Cave vs. Cave. I also love chucking dice, so I have been playing a lot of dice games, Sagrada, Roll Player, and King’s Forge as well (I really enjoy the pool-building aspect of this one).
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
There are so many people I look up to in this industry. First off, I have so many publishers I look up to. Renegade Games is definitely a company to strive to be like, they have put out so many amazing titles and it always seems like the next one is better than the last. Foxtrot games is another one. They have shown that Kickstarter is just the beginning and it is possible to have a successful Kickstarter campaign and still do really really well in the market following the campaign. Another is Tasty Minstrel Games, they were one of the benchmark publishers on Kickstarter when I first started using the platform and I always strived to have campaigns as successful as theirs. As for designers, I would say Scott Almes is tops, he has put out so many great titles in such a small period of time and all of his games do so so well on Kickstarter. There are definitely more, but these are some of my tops!
Anything else you want to add?
I just want to say a giant thank you to you for reaching out to me. I really enjoy your interviews, you have interviewed some really great people in the industry and I am humbled that you reached out to me! Groves is doing well and I also owe a lot of appreciation to so many friends/collaborators/acquaintances in the industry as it definitely would not be nearly as successful without their help!
Dan is currently running a kickstarter for his newest game, Groves. Be sure to check it out.