Should I invest in commissioning original art for content I publish on the DM's Guild?

I mean, I'm coming up on a year of publications using the art made available by WotC, and I've earned a grand total of about $25. Would original art improve perception and earn more? Or would I just end up in the hole?

Thoughts, anyone?

Related question:

Should I switch from publishing DM's Guild content under my name to publishing it under my company name (Purple Aether Games)?

I don't have contact info for customers. I do know that if I update a product, the system will notify everyone who's purchased it; but doing that to ask them questions seems like an abuse.

Have any ideas for how to implement your suggestion?

As far as I know, there's not way to tell who's bought my stuff. I just get a blind accumulation of earnings.

@jskellogg @Csalzman I just bought your stuff so I could give you feedback ;)

I think the Wizards art is fine. It's a familiar style, so it fits with existing materials and is familiar to users. Different art wouldn't make me more or less likely to buy future products unless it was REALLY GOOD.

I had actually forgotten about the DM's Guild and some of the content I bought there, so the reminder is appreciated.

@jskellogg @Csalzman I would avoid trying to do too much user tracking - unless you get a pretty high volume, I doubt it's going to be worth the effort. There's a ton of edge cases.

You might be better served by a focus group. You could also use a crowd-sourcing tool to get feedback on specific parts of your product if you want.

@jskellogg Also, I loved the stuff and left 5-star reviews. Especially excited to use the backgrounds and Mage Knight in my game. Plus my players are all Stranger Things fans and will get a kick out of the Zoomer.

@jskellogg They are! Reviews only come with a critical mass of engaged buyers, which only come with enough reviews, and so the circle turns :(

I'm not a marketing pro, but I think you're probably going about things the right way: engaging with people on platforms like this, to build a consistent audience. It's why I bought your stuff, and reviewed it.

@Csalzman @jskellogg Yeah, unfortunately DMs guild only lets you sent links to pages on DMsGuild to your customers. Other than plastering your PDF with links to your site and trying to build a community that will give feedback there you are SOL. Same for all RPGNow sites.

@jskellogg Yes!
If you need to, you can do both.

I'd say gumroad is prety easy to use if you don't want to spend a lot of time (they also have a pay way you want option).

That way you can also have a way to contact people back, for kickstarter etc.

(I'd avoid paying for art unless someone as giving you ton of money for it already or you just won the lottery.)

Note that WotC has very strict rules about publishing content, most of which is lifted if you sell the title ONLY through the DM's Guild. The stuff I make isn't really feasible through other sales platforms.

My publishing question was more about whether I should bring my DM's Guild stuff under the Purple Aether Games umbrella, or keep it personal and only use Purple Aether for my non-D&D stuff.

@jskellogg I'd say move it to your company if you want to build your brand there.

Make sure you link everything so your work cross polinate.

@jskellogg Yes, publish under a name cross sites. Hopefully customers will seek out your other stuff in DMsGuild if they like your stuff elsewhere and vice versa. Be careful about branding. You can't put your logo on the front cover, but if you come up with a consistent style it can work as a logo. It is one of the reasons I payed for the custom book cover background. I plan on using it on all my 5e stuff, in and out of DMs Guild.

@jskellogg My experience is that you'll never make much on a PWYW product. Gamers are stingy.

Also, I don't have anything to base this on, but my instinct is that it's not going to be worth it to pay for a full-color art piece to sell a little 5-10 page piece on the DM's Guild. There must be a million alternate classes/backgrounds/etc out there, and unless you have name recognition, you'll only capture a fraction of that demand.

@dbisdorf @jskellogg same experience: check my pinned tweet for an example. I commissioned the art on this, and it’s PWYW, and exactly no one paid for it. I don’t mind tho, since I plan for accessibility and affordability with my game anyway. (for my premium revised edition I won’t go PWYW)

@jskellogg Good original art is important, especially for projects like bestiaries or anything high-end - but it's expensive.
You can invest elbow grease to find better low-cost art, and that will improve your product.
But I bet few people are even seeing your product exists - that right now, perception is driven more by factors like whether the title sounds like something they're looking for, thumbnail art, the beginning of the blurb and where the price is set (e.g. PWYW).

If I were publishing an individual product as big as a bestiary, there wouldn't even be a question. :)

No, this is for products more in the bracket of individual classes.

@jskellogg I know, I peeked at your stuff on DM's Guild.
The nuance I'm trying to get across is that art is really important but if you're making $25/yr then there are probably other things to look at first.

Yeah, after thinking out loud here and elsewhere, I think step one is transitioning out of PWYW, followed by pushing my DM's Guild work a little harder on social media.

Also maybe bigger time investments in finding CC/public domain art and putting them together carefully.

@jskellogg How important is the D&D ecosystem to your game designs? Would you be served with marketing outside of the Guild-guidelines?

I find the Guild stuff a bit of a trap, personally, but it's something to consider as a business-person.

I do produce things other than content; for example, is releasing later this year.

Within the context of D&D, though, publishing outside of the DM's Guild carries a lot of extra restrictions and would make it much easier to accidentally get myself into trouble.

@jskellogg Does a lot of your income come from D&D or is there the perception that you need to be there because that's where everyone is?

It's a combination of fun and portfolio-building, plus something to give my Patreon patrons, but upping the ante to at least be able to make *some* cash would be nice.

@jskellogg somehow I think the net result will be some nice art and $30 in sales.

@jskellogg Artwork can be a big eye-catcher to sell a product. Depends on the product though. A small supplement with big detailed art I myself resent for wasting printer ink and pages. It's very good on a (optional to print) big cover or title page though.

Check out other art options too. There's a lot of premade royalty-free stock art out there, some even sold on the DM's Guild itself and on drivethru. Some cc art out there might be usable too, esp just decorative flourishes or silhouettes

@jskellogg Looking at your DNsGuild, f you are going to stay with Homebrewery for your layout (at least that is what it looks like) take a look at to add some "razzle-dazzle" to the art with a little added effort.

@jskellogg Second I would look at the content. As a player how much is this content worth to me? If it is one potential character that might fit a concept I have with dubious balance and may be vetoed by my DM, unless it really speaks to me I am going to pass it by. But if it is a few options that could all tie into that concept, say a Barbarian, Ranger, Rogue, and Sorcerer archetype that does fun stuff with movement & fits the "Zoomer" theme I would be far more interested.

@jskellogg As a DM how does the supplement help? Does it make my life easier by providing something I can bring to the table and hook into my game seamlessly. Can it do it without introducing a new system or mechanic I have to learn? Does it give me things I can use to hook my players into the story?

@jskellogg These are the 3 things I have been constantly asking myself these last 3 weeks as I prepare to publish my first supplement.

I published a grand total of 1 item in my ”career“ so far (shameless plug: and while obviously commissioning original art didn't help sales at all, it felt amazing to work with a young, fresh artist just as eager to get their stuff out into the open as I was. I was able to afford the relative luxury at the time, so I did and I'm still glad for it.

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