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SPS-416: Storytelling on the Tabletop – with Paddy Finn

We all know you can self publish books, but what about supplementary material for games? Paddy Finn writes for DND sourcebooks, a kind of tabletop game where the players are left to drive their own narratives. Listen in for details on how they leveraged kickstarter, youtube sponsorships, and a love of a game to find their own success in the self publishing space!

Show Notes

  • Table top RPGs.
  • Writing for games.
  • Leveraging Kickstarter sales.
  • Paddy’s team and their operations.
  • How DND works.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

SPS LIVE: Get your digital tickets here

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Storytelling on the Tabletop – with Paddy Finn

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to a festive edition of the Self-Publishing Show with me James Blatch

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson. Hello, James Blatch. Happy Christmas.

James Blatch: Happy Christmas. We're recording this. We

Mark Dawson: Are recording this before Christmas.

James Blatch: Yeah, and always quiet. Nothing did stir in the house, but a mouse or something like that. Yes, we're wearing Christmas jumpers. You happen to be watching on video. We're also trialling or trialling, I think I'm going to use it, a new recording system, which I'm liking a lot. It's going to ease our workflow. I also quite like the idea of the two of us being envisioned at the same time. I think that's more of a podcasty thing we used to cut between us. I still could do that, but we're going to experiment. You can let us know what you think. Comment on YouTube. We should go through YouTube comments more often. I did go through quite a lot this week and there's some great comments there. There. Yeah, we should bring them on air. I think obviously we do get the odd, you do realise people only tune in for the content. I had one of those queries recently. Yes.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, there's a bit of that, but I think generally people

James Blatch: Quite like it. People, the

Mark Dawson: Bands like it. So anyone, yes, anyone can is free to leave a comment telling us how much they either enjoy or don't enjoy. I do look at them and I take away the things that I think we improve the podcast and I discard everything else. But no, all feedback is very welcomed and happily received.

James Blatch: Good. Okay. Well look, we have one new course to talk about and it is AI Marketing for Authors. It's just been released, it's a steal at $99. Absolute steal considering how much blood, sweat, and tears went into this course and I did enjoy doing it very much. You've done half of it. I've done half of it. So it's a Black Dawson production and if you want to have a look at what's in the course, whether you think it's going to be worth $99 of your hard earned money, it is at self-publishing formula.com/ai course. It's only going to be at $99 until the end of this year and end of 2023. It'll go up to its full price of 1 49 next year. And it is, I dunno, I know it's controversial, mark, and there will be people throwing things at the screen at the moment, but it's a bit like the advent of the typewriter of Photoshop, of the internet, of digitization, the Kindle and everything else. They're these step changes that happen every now and again. And there's no question that AI is a step change in our industry in every industry.

Mark Dawson: Yes, absolutely. So we've spoken about this at length before and I'm kind of thinking I might do something kind of a solo show on AI perhaps. But yeah, I've had conversations with friends at the retailers, not just Amazon or some of the other platforms as well, just talking about how they, they're approaching it and it is a very interesting subject and the retailers, I think it would be fair to say, are running as hard as they can to keep up with it. Just like everybody, it is adapting quite quickly and I think they're doing their best to deal with it in as fair way as possible. But yeah, you're absolutely right. There's no question about it. It is out there now and it isn't going to go away. And just as was the case when E-readers came along that didn't affect print, print sales is still very robust.

And then it was KU was the next controversial thing is was that going to harm ebook sales? Probably not. In fact, it probably actually increased revenue for authors generally, and this is the next thing to wrestle with and it isn't easy. I'm certainly, I think you are slightly more gung-ho when it comes to AI than I am, and that's fine. I think I'm slightly more, well, I'm more pro at than plenty of others and I'm aware of some conversations going around suggesting that every time that we've sold out. And I've seen the same thing said about Joanna Penn and that's fine. People can say what they like. It isn't that, I think it would be foolish to pretend that there's not a great big AI sized elephant in the room with us at the moment. So it's got to be dealt with and yeah, this is a good course.

It's fun. I've been impressed with the stuff that you've done with images. I found the kind of copywriting ability, pretty good needs, tonnes of work, but it is a very good starting position. And some of the other things, actually, one thing I dunno I told you about, I'm waffling a bit here, but it is AI related. One of the things that Chet GPT has done now, the paid premium version offers customizable gpt and some of them, it prepares some for you and one of them is statistical analysis. So I thought that'd be quite interesting. So because I've been wrestling with this for ages, trying to find a really robust way of calculating readthrough, it's so important. And I've hired a statistician before, we might be hiring one with Fuse to give this another look, but I thought I'd see what chat g PT thought if I put in things like sales through the series, revenue across the books and it could kind of work out the sale of book one was worth. And it did a really, really good job of that. It was very interesting and roughly what I was thinking, what I was kind of operating on anyway. But it was good to get that kind of effectively given a second opinion. So it can do all kinds of things. You've just got to think laterally and if there's anything that is vexing you, then I'd say it's a good idea to see whether you could get some assistance with an AI model.

James Blatch: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it is amazing. You also forget it's there when you're wrestling with some tasks that it's effectively another person to bounce ideas off and get some feedback on and get some help with. And yeah, like I say, it's a step change and we're adjusting to it and it isn't easy. And I do have sympathy with the people who are anxious and concerned, particularly if you're a cover designer or in areas you specifically think might be taken away by AI

Mark Dawson: Copywriting,

James Blatch: Copywriting.

Mark Dawson: Well also and novel writing. Let's be completely honest about this. There is no question that won't be long before AI will write novels, hopefully. Is martial novels surely suspect? Yeah, it is. But I mean hopefully, and I suspect this will be the case for some time, probably quite a long time. They will be pretty shit novels. That would be my hope. But yeah, again, so it affects everybody. And I think people might be saying at this point, well, you don't, by putting out a course encouraging people to use AI in a limited fashion, number one, you're being hypocritical, and number two, you are making it more likely that things will advance. Well, the first point, I suppose that's a fair comment. The second point, it's silly. What we do has no effect at all on anything, and we are not increasing the pace that AI adapts and new opportunities arise. It's just kind of going with the flow. This is the zeitgeist and

James Blatch: I mean when Amazon put their restriction on how many books you could upload a day, and I have no inside info on this, but they didn't restrict that because they think in the future people might be doing it. They did it because people are suddenly uploading dozens of books a day spat out by ai. Probably thousands and thousands and thousands of pages generated by AI are going up there every day. But as you say, I mean you used the eloquent phrase a bit shit. What Joanna points out is there's always going to be this lack of the human condition in there that is unique to us. Well,

Mark Dawson: Not always suffering.

James Blatch: No, I mean they can replicate it.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I think at some point that will happen. But I mean the way around it is fostering a relationship with your readers, building readership and then communicating them with social media or with newsletters, all that kind of stuff, videos. Eventually, of course it'll be able to do that as well. So I reckon we've got about five years.

James Blatch: We'll find something

Mark Dawson: Else. We happy Christmas. Happy Christmas everyone. Yes.

James Blatch: We'll go to cart renovation or something like that. Good. Okay. Look, let's get on our interview today, our Christmas interview today it is with Patty Finn. Some of you will know his name. He is quite prominent in our community. Patty is based in Northern Ireland and he has pivoted a bit from writing novels to producing the scripts or outlines for Dungeons and Dragons style games. And he has done phenomenally well at this. They are still books that are sold, but they're sort of quite big weighty tones and a design for gameplay. He employs a staff, I think he's head of nine now in his operation. He's done so well. I'm so impressed with Paddy and it was a real pleasure to talk to him. And also for me, if you're not into d and d, and I'm not actually, you might think I am, but I'm not, I actually do try to unpick that with him, what exactly it is, how it works. And it's not just about dragons and mediaeval stuff, actually, quite surprisingly could fit a whole range of genres, maybe even the genre that you're writing in. So let's hear from Patty Finn then Mark, and I'll be back for a quick chat at the end of the interview.

Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer

James Blatch: Pad. Finn, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. Just saying you look like a gamer. We're going to be talking a bit about gaming and writing and the conjunction of the two, but you've been fabulously successful in that area.

But for those who have no idea who you are, can you give us the skinny on Patie Finn?

Paddy Finn: Yeah, so long story short, I started out self-publishing with my novels, science fiction and fantasy. Went full time in 2018 and I started writing a few years before that with mixed success. And then in 2021 I pivoted into Kickstarter and the tabletop role-playing game industry. So anyone who doesn't really know what that is, it's Dungeons and Dragons and stuff like that. Yeah, so Kickstarter did a lot better than I expected and that kind of became our focus for the last few years because we went on a crowdfunding roller coaster I guess.

James Blatch: And that's sort of where you are now.

Can you just explain Dungeons and Dragons? It's one of those things if people play it, they know it. If they don't play it, they have no idea.

Paddy Finn: Some people think it's a computer game, some people think it's a board game. It's neither of those things. It literally comes in. This is one of our products. It's a book. It's usually us letter sized. Some of them are a bit smaller, sometimes it's just a book and it's full of rules and it's called pen and paper essentially. Because traditionally you would just build your character on a piece of paper and you would sit down at a table with a bunch of friends like you would if you're playing poker around a table with dice and sometimes little miniatures, sometimes it's all theatre of the mind and there are no props or anything like that. And it's literally an exercise in collaborative storytelling. So you have the dmm, the Dungeon Master, he's arbitrary of the rules. Let's call him the narrator and the controller of the minor characters in the story. And then the rest of the people are the players and they control the main characters in the story. And together you flesh out the world, you go through the plot, you tell the story, you go on an adventure. And some of it's left up to chance because there are dice involved and some of it's left up to role playing, just you describing your character.

James Blatch: Okay. I mean it sounds fun while you're talking about it and Dungeons and Dragons itself evokes the kind of fantasy realm,

but I think you get all sort, you said you come from a sci-fi background, but you do get all sorts of themes now available, don't you?

Paddy Finn: Yeah, I mean, Dungeons and Dragons was certainly what kicked the whole thing off back in, I believe the seventies. But since then, it's spawned science fiction systems, systems that support multiple genres. There're blades in the dark, I don't want to be going in the all them, but there's one in particular. It just fits in with, it's pretty much you can plug it into anything. So someone was asking me recently, Hey Patty, what about turning my thriller novels into some sort of gaming system? And I was like, well yeah, use this product instead because Dungeons and Dragons isn't sort of suited to that. So there are ways and means to plug other genres into these systems.

James Blatch: That's intriguing.

Can you turn almost any genre into this gaming system?

Paddy Finn: Yeah, you can. So there are at these days systems for everything. And it's the same sort of concept. You sit around a table, you play a tabletop role playing game, and it's a very different form of media. And the reason I really, really enjoy this media, and I try to sell this to especially authors because they kind of know where I'm coming from, is everyone I feel needs a creative outlet to some degree. And in today's world, we're so busy, we're probably working all day looking after family, dealing with life's problems that we don't always get time to sit down and do something creative. And creativity is kind of frowned upon in certain parts of society. So we don't place as important or as big an emphasis on it as they think we should. And I think most authors will tell you if they don't write for a certain time, it starts to, it's therapeutic for them and if they stop doing it, they can really tell the difference. So I think that games like Dungeons and Dragons give people that opportunity to have a creative outlet that they don't really get elsewhere these days.

James Blatch: Yeah. So tell us what the books, I mean you held up, most people listen to the podcast, so a few people will listen, a couple of thousand, two to 3000 watch it, but most people still listen. So you held up a couple of hardback glossy books and you said this is the product.

So just tell us what actually is in there, what you would need to do. So if you were taking your idea, your story, the universe you'd created and creating a product for the gaming world, what would it be like?

Paddy Finn: Yeah, so this is one, it's full of, it's called Eisinger Vault, the Tragic Treasure. It's literally just a book full of magic items that we made up. Some of them are really silly and crude, they're just mainly dad jokes. There's an RO in there with a punching glove attached to it, taken from a well-known superhero inspiration from something in the Marvel universe. So yeah, I mean is very much creative. Again, rules. It depends on what you're doing as to how much you need to know about the rules. Sometimes you could just know the very basics because for example, this one, the Tum of Adventure Adventures are what people love because you get the feature, new monsters, new creatures, weird and wonderful and crazy things. And it's literally just, I mean, I'll just open it on a random page, but it's

James Blatch: Okay. So you've opened up a page and I could see an illustration of a pike type weapon on the left, and I'm not sure it's on the right.

Paddy Finn: It's kind of, it's like a mushroom of some

James Blatch: Sort. I was going to say,

Paddy Finn: I think it's like a poisonous mushroom of some variety. Here's an item, two different items people can use. Here's a monster with a bunch of lore and writing and fantasy stuff, but some numbers because you do need some rules. And then most of the rest of the book is just describing locations and people you meet and little scenarios that might unfold. So I think a lot of authors shy away from the idea of game mechanics, but they might be surprised at not how little you need to know. I don't want to underplay anything. You do need to know some stuff, but the barrier to entry maybe isn't as big as you imagine.

James Blatch: Okay, so if I wanted to open an avenue for my Cold War thrillers, because I love the whole Cold War environment, if you could parachute me into East Berlin as an MI six agent in 1968, I'd never come back. I mean, I'd probably be an incompetence by and get shot on my first day so that I wouldn't come back for that reason. But let's say I could respo. So that potentially is something that could work in this environment.

Paddy Finn: You could literally any genre including that. In fact, there is a game sort of along those lines. It's got some other different things going on in it, but it has a bit of that flavour you mentioned. And I went to Games Expo UK in Birmingham earlier this year, which is the biggest games expo in the UK in the course of the year and the biggest tabletop expo. And I just saw this game and I thought, hey, that's really interesting. So yeah, I mean you can literally do things like this. You can even just mash genres up and do that and make them undead or do post apocalyptic stuff in a fantasy setting. Some systems are so versatile, it's anything you can imagine, you could turn it into a game in that system. What

James Blatch: About if it's purely real world, the Call of duties in the days before they went into,

and it's all based on actual weaponry from that era and so on, would that work? Or would you need some element of fantasy and magic?

Paddy Finn: No, you wouldn't need any element of fantasy or magic or science fiction or anything. All the game system, the basic for game design, the basic fundamental rules from me, what guide myself and my team are the people who are playing it, their characters. They need to meet someone, cool, go somewhere cool, find something cool and get a cool reward. So that's very ambiguous and you can literally fit anything into that. So if you can give that experience, no matter what rapper you put, write it to your players, that's a game that can't be created.

James Blatch: And when you start playing, I'm trying to get my head around the idea that you don't have a traditional objective that someone sets.

So you are around this table and you are basically coming up with the narrative. So that works, I guess I would feel to me like I'd be nervous that people are just going to do almost nothing. It won't overlap and it's not going anywhere. But somehow people do end up with this interwoven story, do they?

Paddy Finn: Yeah, well there are two parts of it. Generally speaking, you'll have the rules and whatever in their own sort of books, source material or source mechanics. And then you'll have adventure books, which are just narrative. It's like this is the city you're in, these are the different stores in the city, or here is whatever, 1930s, 1940s, France, and here are some of the goings on during and after the war and stuff like that. So you can literally use any set they're called setting books, and you can set your game in any setting as long as the game mechanics support stuff. For example, I can't take dungeons as Dragons and go, let's throw a Thompson machine gun in there because those rules don't exist. So you would use a different system that does support it.

James Blatch: Okay. Alright. Well let's talk a bit about your business. So you moved into this, I mean, first of all,

I'm guessing you were playing, this was a universe you were aware of and then you realised that somebody somewhere was writing the material for it and that could be you.

Paddy Finn: Yeah, I saw some people run Kickstarters for Dungeons and Dragons, let's call 'em Compendiums or content, third party stuff and other games, not just Dungeons and Dragons. But since I was playing that game anyway, I've been playing it for five years and I really enjoyed it. It's kind of like my, I play it once or twice a month with friends and it's the one time I get away just to switch off for a few hours a month. So I was interested in it from that point of view, had already done the novels and they were doing very well, and I was just looking for other opportunities and I saw people doing silly things on Kickstarter making literally millions of dollars over the course of 30 days because they launched a book for Dungeons and Dragons. And I thought, I'll try that. And I did. And two years later I'd made seven figures. In fact, my second Kickstarter, six figures, and that ran literally a month after my first Kickstarter finished. So it was like a very, I noticed there was an opportunity there, and when it sort of clicked how big of an opportunity it was, I kind of just ran with it.

James Blatch: Amazing.

And Kickstarters, in terms of their longevity, do you make all the money? Is it like 90% of the money is made during that beginning period or is there a way of continuing to sell them after that? It's done.

Paddy Finn: I mean, Kickstarter for me is just the beginning of the journey in any product. And this is something I try to, when I speak at author conferences and whatnot and try to make authors think about Kickstarter as something that plugs into the beginning of your existing business model so it can upfront the costs for things like editing your book, covers audio marketing and other things. And that's really powerful because what you normally do is you invest in these things, especially when you're starting out, you have to find, well, how am I going to fund them? I get some sales, maybe put those straight back into the product, et cetera, et cetera. And that can take a long time to build up momentum and then you can have to scrape that all back from your sales later on before you break even and become profitable. Whereas Kickstarter has the potential to go, Hey, just cover all those right away.

You get the stuff out there, you give it to the people who helped you on Kickstarter, obviously first because thank you people, you're awesome and you help me get this thing off the grind. Then when you put it up on Amazon or wide or wherever it is, it starts bringing in money. That's all I would say profit, but obviously minus whatever it costs for you to make a sale in terms of marketing, so you're not clawing back essentially all those expenses. You've already covered them. And I think that's very powerful, especially if you're starting out and it become a really cool part of your existing business. So there's that. There's aftermarket sales and we can talk about printing and manufacturing later if we get to it, but yeah.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Well I was actually going to ask about the process. I mean, it looked like a physical product by and large, or is it something you can ship via ebook as well?

Paddy Finn: So we've been experimenting with digital only Kickstarter campaigns and on BackerKit crowdfunding, which is another crowdfunding platform, BackerKit, I think they launched about a year and a half ago. They've been around for a long time as a company that sort of plugs in the Kickstarter and helps you do bits and pieces like the shipping and that. But they've since launched their own platform and it's very good. So it's one to look out for, but we've been experimenting with just PDFs and they've been doing really well. We'll do like $10,000 a Kickstarter, we'll do one of those each month. The campaign only runs seven days, and then it takes us maybe another seven to 14 days to fulfil that order, finish creating that product because we kind of create one a month anyway.

Yeah, so that's been doing really well, but that's not the norm. The norm would be, Hey, I've got this great idea. I want to create this new series of books or novels or a computer game. A film recently helped an author turn one of his series into a short film that then went on to win a whole bunch of awards. Novels can be a bit more difficult, but it can be done. I mean, Brandon Sanderson, everyone talks about him and the immense successes he's had on there. Some people have had not quite as much success, but still six figures on their novels and they're doing really well on there. And some people, even if you can do $10,000 or five, it just depends on where you're coming from in terms of your journey. But those can all, it's the potential is there and then it depends on the size of the success, and then you can figure out, well, do I want to do printing as well or do I want to expand into other mediums? We kind of do 50 50, I guess if you broke it all down,

James Blatch: You're driving traffic to or where are you selling into for this? When you started off, did you have an existing audience to work from?

Paddy Finn: No, I mistakenly thought, Hey, all of my science fiction and fantasy people will come over to Kickstarter and none of them did. And it's obviously if they're not going to follow you to a new genre, which we know usually it doesn't happen depending on the genre, but if that's not going to happen, then of course they're not going to follow you over to a completely new medium and form of entertainment. So it was a matter of building it from scratch. What I would do there if you were starting out is just look around, where are your people? Are they hanging out in Facebook groups? Are they hanging out on subreddits? And that's where I started. I just asked a few questions, Hey guys, I'm thinking of doing this thing. Can someone help me? And people just got really involved and wanting to help out. And then when they saw this thing bore fruit, they started to want to be more involved with it. And then eventually we did start using Facebook ads. We relied on those really heavily for a while. We still use them just not to the same degree. And also sponsorships on YouTube were immensely successful.

I would not necessarily recommend that for novels because in my experience, I've tried it for novels and it's kind of just broken even and wasn't really worth the hassle. But for d and d stuff, we can expect four to 500% return on those sponsorships.

James Blatch: Sponsorships on YouTube. You just explain that to me.

Paddy Finn: Yeah, so we we're familiar with YouTube and you often get creators and they're like, Hey, today's sponsor is et cetera, they're selling this mattress or Shark VPN or whatever it is. Only you're going to Dungeons and Dragons influencers and you're saying, Hey, we're releasing this Kickstarter, can we team up? Essentially, we'll give you money, we'll sponsor this video and you give us a shout out and a chunk of your audience will then go and click on our link and well, wow, we got a bunch of backers on Kickstarter.

James Blatch: Okay. I mean, I'm loving the whole sound of this,

Patty, I know you've been so successful, and I'm going to talk about your team in a moment, but I'm just thinking, one question I didn't ask about the genres is, does this work for romance?

Paddy Finn: Oh, I'm not even touching that one, James,

James Blatch: Is that controversial question? It's not a

Paddy Finn: Controversial question. I just don't know anything about,

James Blatch: So

Paddy Finn: Anything I say may be held against me. No, I'm sure it can. And actually, I had one author come to me last year, and she does write in the author genre, I'm not sure which sub genre, but she was like, well, can we do something along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons, et cetera? And I was like, I think I saw someone do something like that. And then I did a bit of research and realised there was this English company and they did something really clever and they turned it into a wedding esque sort of an adventure. So you had to get prepared for the wedding and then you're on your way to the wedding and you get there. But there's this thing goes down at the wedding and it's like a murder mystery type thing. So there are very creative ways that you can take almost anything. And I'm sure if there are authors who are listening to this and wondering about it and they write romance, if they can write a novel, they're creative enough to think of a way to make it fit into a game.

James Blatch: And I guess thinking about, I love the expression on your face when I ask that question, although I'm going to screen grab it later. I love the well thinking about it, of course, the sub genres of romance make it such a broad, there's almost no such thing as romance is there, but contemporary romance might be more difficult, but some of the dark romance, some of the romance suspense, all that stuff probably does well lend itself to. Yeah,

Paddy Finn: There's historical romance you could set that. I've seen one set set in medical Scotland or whatnot with castles and guys in kelts and have at it do it.

James Blatch: A lot of that you must be a ket. You must consider yourself a ke. You could get, I almost have a skirt then, but I'll get in trouble for it.

Paddy Finn: You

James Blatch: Could get yourself in a, have you got a clan colour?

Paddy Finn: Not so much into the whole tartan and the clan sort of colour here, but I do have Scottish roots and I do consider myself a kelp for the record. There you go. We actually have one of our books, the one we launched this year on Kickstarter, did 330 something thousand dollars in a month. And that was actually a Celtic based setting. So it was like, Hey, play Dungeons of Dragons and ancient Celtic Manx or Irish or Scottish Lands or wherever the various places are, we're drawing inspiration from. And I think people just love that idea so very

James Blatch: Well. I think it goes down really well in the states. I mean, I've got a friend who writes Scottish historical romance and she'd like to write English historical romance, but she said it is got to be Scottish to sell the brand is better. We haven't got our brand right in England. You can

Paddy Finn: Work on it.

James Blatch: I think we've been trying for the last a hundred years, but we'll see. Let's not go down that one. Let's talk about your team.

So you've said we quite a lot in this interview and I know that you have built a team around you. And when did you scale up?

Paddy Finn: Well, when I was doing novels, it was just me really. I was kind of like a one month bond, but my wife would help out with perforating and ideas. And even then I would say we, because I just didn't feel like I owed all the credit for the products. But now we've grown to nine full-time employees. We had a bunch of contractors at one point. We have dozens and dozen of freelancers, writers and artists and graphic designers that we work with. And we really only started doing that. It was kind of like after the first year of success, it was still only three or four people. And then this past year, especially earlier in this year, things ballooned and now we're trying to keep a bit of a tight rate on it now. Like this is already too much growth too soon. I'm struggling to keep stay inside this vehicle because it's just going so fast and I need to recenter myself and get through grips of things. And hopefully we'll grow again at some point in, I dunno, the next year or two, but it's, for instance, let's try and keep this thing on the ground.

James Blatch: I mean,

that is an explosion in growth, isn't it? Nine full-time employees. There's not many authors with big turnovers. I talked to have nine employees.

Paddy Finn: I just thought this was the way it happened until I started speaking to a lot of other game development studios and game publishing studios going to different events around the world. And they would often say nine of them, that's a lot of people. That's usually the higher end companies in a given genre within that industry. They would be the ones who would have that kind of workforce or whatever. And I was like, really? Because to me, it's just makes more sense in terms of free. You can get freelancers, it's very common to come in and do a bunch of work for you on your project. But the amount of time that I would waste, because I'm in indie, and I guess one of the benefits that we have as being in is we can pivot really quickly. We're very versatile, we're very flexible, and if you start hiring people for a duration and then they go away and need to find someone else, and that stops the momentum and takes away that flexibility for me. So if I have an employee, they're always there. They can always do the thing and I don't have to go and find them again. So to me, it just made sense. And I guess it's one of those things where I don't know, I'm just figuring it out as I go.

James Blatch: And it's worked.

And presumably they'll work from home. You don't have an office?

Paddy Finn: No. We had an office just before Covid kicked off, and there were really two or three of us at it anyway, and then we decided, you know what? We're not using this thing so we're not renewing the lease on it a few years later. And then that's one of our policies now. It's like, it's a very creative company, obviously we've got writers, editors, artists, graphic designers, et cetera. So I always say the day that our company starts asking for time sheets is the day I no longer work here because we don't do that. It's like you work from wherever you want to work from if you want to travel the world while you're working with us, so be it. In fact, one of our people did that for a while, and then it's like, I don't even care what ours, you work as long as the work gets done. So we're sort of really flexible. I guess we're very corporately progress. I don't even know if there's a word for it, but I hate the whole corporate corporate culture, and I try not to let that inhibit our creativity and our speed. So yeah,

James Blatch: No, it slowly kills your soul. I think we can all agree on that. And so do you feel you go around, so we bumped into each other in Majorca, a mastermind that Craig organised earlier this year, and I saw you again in Vegas.

Is that indie book world as important to you as going to the gaming conferences in that environment?

Paddy Finn: In some ways it's more so because both I would say are actually equally important, but in certain ways, the novel space is still more important to me because that's number one. I'm a storyteller. That's where my bread and butter is in terms of what I want to do, not just in what I am kind of having to do as a business. And I've always wanted to circle back to that and go, okay, yeah, I got away from my MD publishing for a few years, but let's actually marry these two things together and make that happen. And I did launch a Kickstarter for a novel earlier this year. I did okay. I did fairly well because a new audience, I did five figures if memory serves, but it's like, well, I'm still trying tomar myself from everything else I'm doing and get back into the routine of writing. And once I do that and I start incorporating the novels into the Kickstarter side of things, I think it has huge potential as well.

James Blatch: Yeah. Would you say you are in Northern Ireland? I think. Are you in Belfast itself, Patty, or?

Paddy Finn: I'm from Belfast, but I live near the North coast now.

James Blatch: Okay. Oh, lovely. It's a beautiful parts of the uk if you ever get there, very green. I mean, it rains a lot, obviously, but then you don't get all the Green Meadows for nothing. As

Paddy Finn: Long as you don't mind it raining 235 days of a year.

James Blatch: I need to come over because taken up golf in the last few years, and everyone keeps saying to me, have you been to Ireland or Northern Ireland yet? And played golf. And apparently your courses are fabulous there.

Paddy Finn: Yeah, we have some immense courses here. We take our golf very seriously.

James Blatch: But I'm wondering if it's a bit of a, I know there's certain pockets of creativity around certain countries in the uk. Is Northern Ireland a good place for this kind of creativity? Well, you've obviously found staff, but are they all there in Northern Ireland or are they around the world

Paddy Finn: Or? Actually most of them are here. I mean, our freelancers come from everywhere, but just employing people for tax reasons. It kind of has to be in Northern Ireland preferably, but can be the United Kingdom. So we have a few people in England. We have mainly people here in Northern Ireland and are a few people in the Republic of Ireland. But yeah, a lot of the people, for example, they come from very, very different backgrounds. Very few of them come from a Dungeons and Dragons background actually. And that's one of the things that I am big on as well, is I don't hire people for their skills. I hire them for their values and how much they buy into the vision of the company and the kind of people they are and whether I can trust them or not and things like that. So my hiring process is very unconventional, but also it's like skills.

You can learn skills. Our art director, he was a tattoo artist for a long time, and one of the best in Northern Ireland. He's got more awards than I'll ever have for anything. And he became our art director, and he didn't play Dungeons Dragons, never heard of it before he started with the company. And gradually just over the first six months to a year, he learned the industry and now he knows more about maybe nine out of 10 people when it comes to working with artists in the DD space. So same with our graphic designer. He's been graphic designing for over 10 years, maybe 15 years, didn't play Dungeons and Dragons before came along. He learned everything he needed to know about. Now, there have been other people who did know Dungeons and Dragons, but mostly they didn't really, so they just picked that up.

James Blatch: Is D&D generally done in person still or is it mainly online

Paddy Finn: Mainly? Well, no, I would say it's probably evenly split. It used to be mainly in person. Online was kind of taking off in the early teens, and I think Covid just exhilarated that. So one of the difficult things, the most challenging things about playing a game like d and d is you used to have, you traditionally had to coordinate everyone's schedules and what's it, it could be like herding cats, getting a bunch of adults in a room once a week or once a month or whatever it is regularly. So that's a big barrier for a lot of people, whereas if you're doing it online, you've removed a big chunk of that. So it's easy to get on a Zoom call than have they all travel to the same place. And that said, I personally prefer doing it in person because in person is just, you do not get the same experience Online. Online is also awesome, by the way. I'm not knocking it, but I've run loads of d and d actually during Covid, I did it for a bunch of author groups and we just had a lot of fun. And then when the lockdown went away, so did the game. We all got busy again in other areas. So yeah, either.

James Blatch: Yeah, I mean, I noticed you running,

I think you were running a game or someone was in Vegas, weren't they?

Paddy Finn: Yeah. So it's becoming more frequent at Vegas, I think. So Luke Axe runs a game there, so he's son of one of the founders of the creator of D and d really. So people love playing in his games. I've played in a few of them. They're a lot of fun. And then there are other games happening, and I think I might run a few at some point. So yeah, just it's a lot of fun. It's just a lot of fun sitting around and telling stories and having a laugh together.

James Blatch: And do your products work equally for online as in person versions of the game? Sorry, very practical. They're going to sound like stupid questions to you, I'm afraid. But does everybody need to buy a copy of the book or does the DM buy a copy of the book? How does that

Paddy Finn: Work? No, these are great questions. Normally it's the DMM who the person who's running the game would, but it's not uncommon for the players to chip in and help out with any expenses and things like that. But usually it is one person. Now that said, there are books that are geared toward players and those the players would buy and the dms. So those can do a lot better, for example, than just a book for dms.

James Blatch: So if you turn up for a game, the dms got a copy of the book. So at this point, you don't really know what the setting is, what weapons are available to you, what type of character you're going to choose. The DMM sets all this out, and that's part of the process of the evening or afternoon. That's

Paddy Finn: Part of it. If you are going to play in a campaign for a long time, let's call this a novel. If you're going to do a novel together, these games can run for years and years or even decades, some of them have been running forward. Then the first one, you're going to sit down and work out, well, what are we doing here? Let's build a character together. Let's figure out what the rules are. Do we have any house rules? Is there things we need to know about? Are you uncomfortable with anything? Do we need to discuss these things? So we would call out a session zero, and then you progress into the game. If you're doing something like a one shot, which is, I would consider that as a short story. It's one game. You sit down and play it and it's done and dusted. They would just hand you a character sheet and you go, you're that character, you're that character, or did you bring a character? And you just play it, and you have the beginning, the middle of the end, and it's done and it's great.

James Blatch: And how much do people get into it in terms of acting roleplay? I'm tempted to have a go at this, and I've been a video gamer my whole life, but I've never stepped into this realm, but I'm tempted to have a go. I'm also slightly nervous about it.

Paddy Finn: Hey, I love the theatrics of it. I am big into the roleplaying aspect that the group I play with in person, they take the roleplaying bit quite seriously, and it's a very big thing for them. So some will put on accents, some will get into their character and just they'll be really, sometimes they'll get really angry and really mean, and you can kind of take it personally. Are they shouting at me? Are they angry

James Blatch: Me?

Paddy Finn: Yeah. And then the next minute they'll turn around, they'll talk to you and you're like, oh, right. They're just playing two different people, which gets seem a bit weird. So yeah, I mean, some people, at some tables, you'll have one or two people who are very much into that, and the rest, they'd rather just play it. You don't have the role play at all. You can just play it whatever way you want to play it in whatever way makes you comfortable, really. But you do find after a while, you do become more comfortable, especially if people at the table are already doing the thing, and it's just a great way to express your creativity.

James Blatch: Yeah. Sounds great.

And how much do you charge for the books generally? I mean, I guess it's like a tiered options that you'll set up on Kickstarter.

Paddy Finn: So there's no kind of one rule for all these things or one rig to rule them all to use a pun. But I guess the standard rule of thumb is $25 for a PDF and 60 ish dollars for a hard copy. And if they want an alt cover, sometimes that's like 80 to $120 and a Leatherette special edition give you anything above that really.

James Blatch: And there's, right, you could do one of those PDFs, one of those books could be done for one evening, and then the same characters could have a completely different journey doing it the next night. That's the beauty of that, isn't

Paddy Finn: It? Exactly. The reusability of these things is you're never going to have to same adventure twice. They're always going to be completely different.

James Blatch: And going back to your team, you are obviously the creator, the storyteller, the writer, but you are taking people on, not necessarily as writers, then you're taking them on for, as you say, the values that they bring, but they must be creating content for you where you can't be creating all this content yourself. Oh,

Paddy Finn: No. This is like I do the ideas and some of the game mechanics and the team does the rest of it. I'll also do a bunch of writing, and I'm doing a lot more writing than I have been in a while, and I'm loving it. It's great to get back to it because I was so focused on so many businessy administrative things for a while, and I kind of got lost in all that. But yeah, no, the team, I'd be completely lost without them. I mean, we have one line of products where it used to be I started it off and now they just do it, and I don't even have a clue what's going on anymore. It lands on my desk one day and I'm like, oh, this is awesome. I've never seen this before.

James Blatch: I mean, that's interesting to me because of the way you recruited people that we almost think, well, are you a writer? He's not a writer. I'm a writer, so we're going to need a writer. But actually, you don't need a writer. You need a person

Paddy Finn: If you want to put out a serious amount of novels every month, and then you want to lean into, are you putting out enough that it's cheaper for you to hire a cover designer rather than pay them every time for every cover. What about audio? Are you putting out so many books that you could be turning them all into the audio books and making a lot of income? And it'd be easier just to hire the audio person on a producer. And what about someone to run your ads for you full time as a marketer if you have all this huge catalogue of content and potential? So it's one of those things where I can't do all that then. I mean, I can, but I'm going to be so limited. So scaling a business, when you scale a business, you get to a certain point where, Hey, yeah, I could scale this thing. I can grow it out and it's great, but if I want to go any bigger, I need other people to help me, otherwise it's not going to go any further.

James Blatch: So you think you are slightly pausing the relentless expansion for the moment,

and it seems like you've refocused yourself a little bit on what you enjoy doing?

Paddy Finn: Yeah. Yeah. It became, again, I've never run a company where I've hired people before, so this is all hiring people. And in fact, I used to think I'm never hiring people ever, if I ever go into the business for myself, I don't want to deal with that, that complexity. But it just sort of happened that that was the way it had to go, and I'm glad it did because we are so fortunate to work with incredibly talented and amazing people. And what was your question again, James? Sorry. Yeah,

James Blatch: I was asking whether you are going to pause your kind of expansion, and like I say, you've mentioned a couple of times that you were doing a little bit more writing and stepping back a little bit.

Paddy Finn: Yeah, that's it. I want to train and manage people less and expand my creativity more. There are certain things that I've fallen behind on deadlines and whatnot that I need to bring up to date. And then there are all these other ideas that I want to get back to working on. I've got, as you and any other author knows, once you start writing one series, you have all these ideas for different things, and sometimes it could become a bit overwhelming. So there are those things that I want to do at some point, right? I don't want to just want to keep working on the same thing.

James Blatch: Yeah, you don't want to end up just running a company. Yeah, exactly. It's understandable. Well, Patty, you better tell us where we can find you and where we can buy one of these amazing books, which by the way, I'm going to do,

Paddy Finn: Okay, so you can find my Dungeons and Dragon stuff on Penny Dragon games. You can find a bunch of stuff on patty fin.com, generally nonfiction stuff. And I'm actually in the process of putting together a course on running Kickstarter for creatives. It takes you through three Kickstarter, a three Kickstarter plan, essentially. And that course will be soft launching soon. We'll be hard launched in. I don't know when Will, let's be going out, I guess.

James Blatch: Well, it might be going soon. I'm thinking actually, because the sort of topic and the way we've spoken, this could be the Christmas episode, so it might be quite soon. Cool.

Paddy Finn: Yeah. So the course will hard launch in January, 2024, and you can find out more about that in the group Kickstarter University. Just look that up on Facebook. If not, drop me an [email protected], go to that website, fill in the form, and I'll be happy to answer your questions.

James Blatch: Great. Paddy, it's been brilliant talking to you. I knew it would be, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. So what would you recommend for somebody who wants to read into a little bit and try to understand a bit more about the DD world, but I think quite a few people might say this, I'm not really the fantasy Lord of the Rings person. I'm much more Call of Duty Cold War. I mean, science fiction's fine. So is there something you'd recommend for me to dip my toes?

Paddy Finn: What about horror, stuff like that? Is that Yeah,

James Blatch: Yeah. Like horror.

Paddy Finn: So I mean, see if you can get a game of Call of Ulli with someone, which is essentially horror struck mystery where you're trying to solve this thing, and it's a bit darker, a bit creepier, but it's also a bit more real life, though. It's generally, it could be set in any time period, but very often it's set in the thirties, forties, fifties kind of period, early 19 hundreds as well. Or just play any game. Because even if you're not into the genre, it'll just give you a little better idea because it's one thing, me sitting here just describing it to you, but I could never do it justice. It would take you to sit down and play the game. And then, so you'll be like, I can never describe this as someone because it's just indescribable that that's what it feels like.

James Blatch: Call of Kali.

Paddy Finn: Call of Kath

James Blatch: Kali. There you go. I'll have a little look at that. And yeah, I'm intrigued by it all. So brilliant to chat to you, Patty. I'll see you sure at some point somewhere.

Paddy Finn: See you later, James.

Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: There we go. Pad Finn really loved talking to Paddy. I bumped into him a couple of times this year at conferences in Majorca and in Vegas, and yeah. Have you ever played at d and d? Mark? You ever sat down and played it?

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Yes. Very, very long time ago, probably when I was a teenager. But yeah, I mean, absolutely. I used to love game books and things like Choose your own adventure, start with then Fighting Fantasy and actually Lone Wolf. So there's another kind of blast in the past. You might not remember that, but I really love those books. And the author was someone called Joe Diva, and his son is someone called, I think Gary Diva and is in our community and took some of our courses, which is pretty cool. But yes, I have done them before and I think it's great. Anyway, the Stranger Things and everything is making it extremely hip again to play. DD.

James Blatch: Yes. Well, I would like to have a go at some point, so I need to find some fellow nerds around here. Good. Okay, look, that's it for this Christmas edition of the episode. You're probably watching this in July. But anyway, we're wearing our Christmas jumpers. We have to peel them off. We have to record another episode in a minute and on the Christmas tree will be down by the time this next episode goes out. But that's it. Thank you very much indeed for being with us through this year. The next episode is a Mark Dawson solo. He's getting rather good at these, so I think we should probably say thank you to everyone for listening for the year in this episode. It would be pointless, me and Mark just bickering to each other. So to have you laughing at us as well means everything to us. And every time someone comes up to me saying, Hey,

Mark Dawson: With us,

James Blatch: With us, with us,

Mark Dawson: Not at us, with us, if you like,

James Blatch: Actually

Mark Dawson: Maybe at

James Blatch: Us, every time we get an email or a note or someone says to me that they listen to the show, it puts a spring in my step. We love hearing from that, hearing from you. So always contact us and come and say hello. But yeah, it's been a great year and we're looking forward to 2024. Our first interview of the New Year will be with our German friend, our German dynamo, mark Relow, who's going to get you energised and ready for 2024. So that episode coming first week of January, that's it. Happy Christmas. And all that remains for me say, is this a goodbye from him?

Mark Dawson: Well, it's a happy Christmas from him, and it's a happy Christmas from me. Happy Christmas. Happy

James Blatch: Christmas.

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