CoG/HG business model

Alrighty then. I guess it’s time I made my first thread on the forum…

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There are some helpful insights here and here, though I didn’t find anything from the last couple of years. I was overcome with delight when Smart Podcast Trashy Books had a discussion with Rebecca Slitt about IF and Creme de la Creme. I suspect approaching bloggers or podcasters is a good way of doing things, because you’re appealing to people who are more likely to have some interest already rather than the more scattershot ad-buying (my understanding of which is that it’s never been worth the cost) and I know @NMCannon has been active in doing this.

Participating in comps like Spring Thing or IF Comp puts author names out there and has its own rewards of general community participation and getting an idea of what’s being made outside of the CoG/HG/HC environment (it’s interesting to me how creative norms become established and how a lot of things are tolerated or enjoyed in other IF that wouldn’t be enjoyed by a bit section of the CoG/HG/HC audience, and vice versa; that’s a whole other essay though, haha!).

With Twitter in its throes of… something, I don’t know how far tweets really go these days, and I had the impression it was never much use for IF marketing-wise. I finally broke free and deleted my account a couple of months ago, and don’t really want to go back as it always made me anxious anyway. Bluesky is less anxiety-making, but far smaller. Some authors use Facebook groups/pages or Instagram; more, I think, create Discord servers but that’s less useful for discoverability.

I know @Barb has done videos on YouTube and TikTok, but I’m not sure about many others. Like you, I am not a video-maker other than a couple of recorded chats on webcam, and do not want to go down that rabbit hole :sweat_smile:

This forum, and Tumblr, are the places where I have the most interaction about my games. There is a pocket of IF authors and players on Tumblr which has its own quirks and strong likes/dislikes the same as anywhere else, but almost all my experiences with it have been positive. I do not know how much my activity there has expanded my audience for my games because I haven’t analysed anything, but it absolutely brought attention to my Patreon, especially when I first set it up. I would suggest if authors are considering which social media to focus on, if any, that is a good place to start.

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These are great suggestions, thank you!

I’ve made a new thread but focused more towards readers and what they love about Interactive Fiction. I feel like those answers might be more helpful overall than another general marketing thread. I also noticed when I did a google search on Interactive Fiction that having IF in the heading of a post helped it come up, and the first CoG post that showed up on the search was actually one about other IF games, rather than CoG projects. :rofl:

I’ve never posted on Tumblr, but perhaps I’ll have a look. Twitter seems to be broken, for the most part. As far as engagement is concerned, I get lots if I’m posting some random gif train, but hardly anything if I post about my work. I’ve done a few podcasts, but nothing with a large audience. I’m scheduled to do a reading for the British Fantasy Society in April, so that should be fun. I edited an excerpt from TMP for that one and am curious how people will respond.

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I do make little videos occasionally but I really don’t think they make much of (if any) difference when it comes to marketing. It’s just something I do for fun. This forum and tumblr are the best places I’ve found to interact with IF readers. Hope that helps. :blue_heart:

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WHO SUMMONS ME oh, it’s Hannah hi hi hiiii

Marketing Moonrise has fallen by the wayside (oops) while I’m creating The Witch’s Necklace, but I believe that art never stops finding its people. @HannahPS is right. The most consistently effective tactic I’ve used is approaching bloggers and seeing if they’ll review or promo one’s game. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work for podcasters as well. Tumblr Blaze produced an uptick in sales too, but not nearly enough to recoup the $20. But that’s okay since I like tumblr, haha. Bloggers, meanwhile, either don’t charge for reviews/promos, or the fee is minimal and I can recoup it with more sales.

I think my biggest sales bump happened after I posted about starting The Witch’s Necklace. I linked to Moonrise on the introduction post, and people must have wanted to take my writing for a spin. Hannah’s idea of participating in IF Comp, Spring Thing, or maybe an itch/CoG game jam is worth exploring.

The majority of my marketing ideas can be traced to the indie book and self-publishing spheres. I think there’s lots of unexplored potential for crossover. A reviewer may not know what interactive fiction is, but the concept is easy to explain and gameplay is very simple. When I was last paying attention, the most general marketing advice was to start a newsletter. I used TinyLetter, but they’re closing, so now I’m back on Wordpress like’s its 2012 again. :laughing: With the instability of social media platforms, emailing fans directly is becoming more attractive.

@leiatalon Asking players where they found interactive fiction is a great idea! I haven’t finished reading all the answers, but so far: wow, I had no idea cold-searching Google or Google Play for games was a popular thing to do. Fascinating! Thank you for creating the topic.

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Well hi there! Thanks for chiming in!

Yes, the instability of social media makes having a newsletter a good thing…if you’re willing to write a newsletter. I know from many marketing trainings that this is the best way to connect with fans but wow do I ever not like writing them. As for indie/self-pub marketing approaches, they’re solid ideas that should work for IF, though they seem to be hard enough to implement for self-pub (or maybe I just burn out every time I do a marketing push and give up). I actually sent an email to Smart Bitches Trashy Books today to see if they’d like to have me on their podcast, and did some research into blogs that take guest posts. I’d post to my own blog but I don’t think anyone reads it. :woman_shrugging: :rofl:

I suppose it falls to the authors and fans of IF to spread the word that it exists, though it would be wonderful if CoG/HC had the funds and staff to get someone on that so we writers could stick to the writing. This is not me complaining, because I think this company does more to market authors’ games than most trad publishing houses do for debut authors. I just think IF as a whole needs a PR campaign, and an organized one would be better than whatever random things we as individuals are able to do.

I’m glad you’re enjoying the topic I created for people to share why we love IF. There are so many great answers there, and a lot of good comments that can be woven into talking points for podcasts and blog posts. :sparkling_heart:

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^^^ Exactly. Unfortunately, self-marketing is the nature of the creative industry right now. Us artists, who would prefer to just focus on our art, have to become our own publicists. Like you said, even large and mid-sized traditional publishing houses are dropping the ball on marketing their authors. I could hire a publicist to do it for me, but that’s money I don’t want to spend. Right now, when WN is off with editors, I try to do at least one thing to promote Moonrise. It’s not a lot, but it feels like forward momentum.

Also! I followed your blog! It’s so pretty, wow!

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All of this. I like your “do one thing” comment. Forward momentum is better than none at all, and every little bit helps. Also, thank you for following my blog! So glad you like the design! :smiling_face:

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Could you elaborate on this? I would love to hear your insight.

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So, an example would be “set” protagonists. In this part of the IF community there is a norm to include character customisation - appearance, backstory elements, stat building, and so on. There’s some tolerance for a certain amount of author-determined backstory, and sometimes personality elements, but a blank slate or a partially-drawn slate (a blurred slate?) is generally more popular in ChoiceScript games. Some other sections of the IF community (or visual novels, but I’ve got less experience there) are a lot more enthusiastic about protagonists with set names and/or personalities - many very celebrated games include them.

Another example would be bad endings. There isn’t much enthusiasm here generally for bad endings, and certainly not fail states where PCs can die early and have to restart, whereas in other areas of IF that’s less of a norm.

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I’m curious about these other areas of the IF community. Outside of CoG/HG/HC, I’m mostly familiar with a few sites that compile random assortments of mostly free games, usually unfinished, with like 60 votes establishing the rating unless that particular game has been around since like '98 where you can get up around 400. IFDB/itch.io, for example.

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There was a rather animated discussion over on reddit about Falrika which in short amounted to quite a few people saying it shouldn’t have been IF (and been a novel instead) because you couldn’t choose the MC’s name. This is a really weird concept for me, probably because I’ve come from a wider area of IF into CSGs rather than the other way around. It’s really common outside of CSGs to have preset protags. I linked the IFComp winners and it is enlightening to see how many winning entries were preset. But in CSGs it’s required that they not be unless you want your game to tank as there’s close to zero tolerance for it IFComp - History

https://intfiction.org/ is probably a good place to start.
There are many games on places including the IFComp archives, Spring Thing archives and itch. I’ve seen a thread on these boards that regularly updates IF games they’ve liked outside of HG/HC/COG as well.

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TENS of people voted! Seems really popular.

I hadn’t seen this one before, thanks!

IFComp is probably the biggest and best known amateur comp for interactive fiction out there. What can I say, it’s a niche area. There area lot of games to players to the votes get spread around. It does get linked here every year but seems like few people try the games which is a shame. (And yes there is the odd CSG entry in there many years, and games in twine and ink in particular that can mimic the general feel of them.)

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I wonder if the idea of more predetermined, preset protagonist, kinetic novel-y games would do better here if such works had their own brand, the same way HC is off in its own corner. That way it would be easier to identify and be less likely to bring out the torches and pitchforks from people who are worried it’s going to be the direction authors take in the choice format.

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I noticed this. But I think some objections were also over the lack of choices, which made it feel more like a novel than a game.

I didn’t buy the game, but I had played the demo to completion.

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There was that too (which is a fairer critique. The style to me feels like a VN without the images. Not really my cup of tea personally (also played the demo), but I can see why it exists and potentially has an audience that isn’t the typical HG player), but there were definitely people saying that they wouldn’t even download the game/it shouldn’t be IF only because of the preset protag and that they didn’t understand why games with preset MCs were even being made given they wouldn’t be popular here. It’s a thing that if you make a game with a preset protag on HG it will automatically under perform no matter how good the game itself it. (Looking at Donor in particular here (anywhere else I think it would have done well) although admittedly it’s a double strike due to lack of romance (another “must have” in HG games), not only preset MC. There are number of preset protag games on HG, Donor is the only one I can think of that is even slightly popular.

I think this is a common misconception around here. Having a preset protag, does not make it a kinetic novel. In some ways you can have a better story driven experience because the author doesn’t have to account for every possible option with a blank slate protag which can water down the impact some choices could otherwise have had. It depends more on the story type as to which type of protag will fit it best. As for having their own label, as much as I’d like that, I can’t see it being a wise decision on COGs part. The inbuilt reaction against such games is just too strong with their current majority audience so I don’t think there’s really enough of an incentive to split it off into its own thing unlike HC due to the large demand for romance.

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I keep hearing from people who like Neapolitan Ice Cream that strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla are all the same thing and perfectly good in their own ways and it’s perfectly sensible to serve them all from the same spoon.

Sorry, but a lot of people just want chocolate. Or vanilla. Or strawberry.

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I don’t think there’s a need for a separate label, because I don’t think anyone interprets a few poorly-selling outliers as a trend, and a few entitled folks who take it personally when a game isn’t their particular cup of tea shouldn’t dictate major decisions. Personally, I say the more variety, the better!

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I think the argument that character creation is a chore is one I’ve seen pretty often too, so it’s not just one side that would enjoy a divide. I’m certainly not saying games I don’t like shouldn’t exist, just that their differences should be acknowledged honestly.

It’s almost as though there are different demographics that could be marketed to who want different things.

It’s just strange to see people talk about this. “Strawberry is very popular, look at these other places where it is winning contests and doing very well. But also it doesn’t sell well and people complain whenever they see it. Stop asking for vanilla or chocolate, you’re getting Neapolitan. There is a loud minority of people who like vanilla but we understand there is a silent majority of strawberry fans out there so if you don’t like it, just eat around it. Yes, we gave mint its own tub, but that’s a special case.”