October 3, 2022 Luke Miller

Breaking Down my Experience with DriveThruRPG’s Deal of the Day as a Solo Indie Publisher

in Design and Publishing, Marketing, Publishing
Image showing Journey in the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day slot
A peek at Journey in the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day spotlight!

If you spend much time at all on the DriveThruRPG website, you’re bound to notice the little graphic at the top of the page calling out their Deal of the Day. I certainly did, and as I’ve shepherded my little (platinum bestselling, to toot my own horn a little bit) solo worldbuilding game Journey throughout it’s life, I’ve always thought it would be neat to see my game on the front page once it fell off of the top 100.

Last week I got my chance, as Journey finally made it to the coveted Deal of the Day slot.

NOTE: For those reading this in the future, my game was selected as the Deal of the Day on DriveThruRPG for September 28th, 2022. Who knows how the program might change, and this is by far no guarantee of success for your product either now or in the future. Only you know what is right for your own work!

Is the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day worth it?

As a bit of a TL;DR for the rest of this article, as I’m planning to break down my experience with running a game as a DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day, the short answer is that yes, I think it’s worth it. I got some great exposure, a surprising number of sales (over 250 sales total), and fed a lot of wonderful new Journey fans into the Graycastle Press family (and mailing list).

If you sell on the DriveThruRPG marketplace, and you happen to have accrued the points needed to submit your game, the Deal of the Day is a really great option.

Want to dive a little deeper? Read on, fair reader!

What is the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day?

It’s worth exploring a bit of DriveThruRPG’s publishing system before diving too deeply into specifics around the Deal of the Day. This is especially important, as their own system of promotional points is what even allows you to start the actual process, but it’s worth knowing what’s ahead.

Earning and Spending Publisher Promotion Points (PPP)

As you sell products on the DriveThruRPG marketplace, you’ll notice that you accrue something they call Publisher Promotion Points (PPP). This is an internal ‘currency’ that you can spend through their system to promote your product in a few different ways.

Points are ‘paid’ to your publisher account monthly, and the general formula for points is 1 point for every $10 of sales on the site. You can see how many PPP you currently have under the Promotion heading of your publisher panel.

It’s worth noting that you cannot purchase these points or bypass their use in the system, you simply have to sell your product on their site. While this feels a little restrictive, especially as a smaller indie game design and publishing operation, it’s actually a really helpful way to minimize publishers with more cash from simply steamrolling all of us smaller sellers.

Granted, those folks who sell a lot of books and games on this marketplace will understandably be rather more flush with PPP than others anyway, but at the very least its based on their performance rather than their cash reserves.

You can also use your PPP to promote your game on other spots on the DriveThruRPG website, though I’ve not seen a ton of success on this route. Journey, as a solo worldbuilding and journaling game, is a rather more niche ask than a lot of what’s on DriveThruRPG, so promotion on various category pages hasn’t really moved the needle too much. Your mileage may vary, however.

Joining the Deal of the Day Queue

When you have some PPP in your proverbial wallet, you can head to the Submit a Deal of the Day page to see how many submitting your game to the queue will cost you. That cost will fluctuate over time, depending on the demand from publishers for that sweet, sweet deal. As of the time of this article, the cost in PPP to submit is over 900 PPP, though I’ve seen it as low as in the 600’s before.

Preview of the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day submission page
Womp womp, looks like I need to gather more PPP before getting back in line

Once you have enough points, you can proceed through the process of selecting how much of a discount your Deal of the Day will be off of your digital product from 40% to 90% (the pricing won’t apply to any print products) and then you can join the queue!

It can be a bit of a wait once you’ve added your game to the queue. DriveThruRPG gives some preference to those sellers who are distributing exclusively through their platform, so they will rise above your game in the list if you distribute elsewhere (like I do).

However, with your product in the queue, all you need to do is wait for that happy day they notify you that your Deal of the Day is coming in hot!

How DriveThruRPG Promotes Your Deal of the Day

In addition to slapping your gorgeous artwork on the header of their homepage, DriveThruRPG will send out an email the morning of your Deal of the Day that lets anyone subscribed to their list that your game is available at a nice discount. This is honestly the biggest selling point for me, as getting your game in front of a lot of people is really a killer value.

Image showing the official email from DriveThruRPG showcasing Journey as the Deal of the Day
The official email from DriveThruRPG showcasing Journey as the Deal of the Day

There may be other ways that they push your game out, but the email blast to their list was the only notable one that had an impact for me.

Journey’s Road to the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day

With my game out in the wild and carrying a shiny platinum bestseller badge, and with some other stuff in the works, I thought it would be a fun experiment to finally use some of my stock of PPP to go for a nice big Deal of the Day.

I had considered doing it before, though the minimum 40% discount on my $9.99 digital product seemed like it might cannibalize too much of my sales. However, I decided that it was more likely that the audience I’d reach with a Deal of the Day wouldn’t be one that would see Journey otherwise, so it would end up as a net win.

Gathering My PPP

I had been stocking up my PPP since the release of Journey last year, other than spending some here and there on category page promotions which had all been mostly a bust. As mentioned above, you earn a pint for every $10 of sales through their marketplace, so it can take some time to let the points add up.

At the time of submitting my game for the Deal of the Day queue, I had around 875 PPP in the bank.

Joining the Deal of the Day Queue

I’d like to say that I had a really robust marketing plan behind my decision to finally submit Journey to the Deal of the Day, but I’d be lying. I had checked the price of submission on July 1st, 2022 and saw that it was at a relatively low 757 PPP and knee-jerk decided to submit. It was a simple process of choosing my discount, filling out some info, and handing over my carefully hoarded points.

It’s worth noting that the day of submission was approximately three months before the actual day my product made it to the Deal of the Day, likely because the queue was relatively long and exclusive publishers rose past me, but I wasn’t in much of a rush. Just something to keep in mind as you consider this as a marketing opportunity.

My Sales Estimates and Expectations

Despite not having had much of a plan in mind going into my submission, I did try to set some (low) expectations of how my game might perform.

As a digital product, Journey sells for $9.99 normally, and at a non-exclusive 65% royalty rate through DriveThruRPG, that means each sale earns me about $6.49. At the expected Deal of the Day sale price of $5.99, I’d be taking just over half of my normal profit at $3.89 for the chance at more exposure.

My general breakdown of my expectations are below:

Number SoldGross SalesRoyaltyTotal Profit
50$299.5065%$194.68

The numbers above were total shot in the dark estimates, my expectation of what the Deal of the Day marketing and my own efforts at sharing the deal might bring. They also don’t include any related sales of Journey’s Expanded Aspects offering, which digital sales usually end up accompanied by.

Really, it all came down to not really knowing what I might expect. My game has sold far past my expectations, and so 50 sales in one day seemed like an optimistic figure.

The 24-Hour Warning (While on Vacation)

After waiting for around three months, I had honestly kind of forgotten about the pending Deal of the Day. I figured it would be a while, so I filed it away in the back of my head while I tried to focus on other things.

Turns out, I got the email a few days into a vacation to Southern California with my husband, with no laptop to help me attempt to market the deal as much as I could.

Screenshot of the official Deal of the Day notification I received from DriveThruRPG
Screenshot of the official Deal of the Day notification I received from DriveThruRPG pulled straight from the Trash… I mean, saved especially for this article

Needless to say, I was pretty excited. I was getting to go to Disneyland the next day while attempting to juggle some semblance of skillful marketing, wanting to take full advantage of this opportunity while also spending quality time with my husband at one of our favorite quick vacation spots. No stress or anything, right?

Day of the Deal… of the Day

Once the day arrived, I did my best to hit the ground running. I sent out mailings to my own mailing list (you might well have received it if you’re on the list!) and through DriveThruRPG’s own mailing system, notified folks on the Graycastle Press social networks, and pushed the announcement to my very favorite subreddit, r/Solo_Roleplaying (seriously, if you like solo games, they’re a really wonderful group of people).

Post to the r/Solo_Roleplaying subreddit about the Journey Deal of the Day
Post to the r/Solo_Roleplaying subreddit about the Journey Deal of the Day

My only other real bit of marketing for the day was to post to the Graycastle Press TikTok page, notifying the folks there of the offer. I did spend about $15 to promote that video, which got a little bit of additional visibility. Honestly, I was worried about spending more as I figured my estimate of 50 sales would get its profit eaten up by promo costs.

@graycastlepress

My platinum bestselling solo worldbuilding game Journey is the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day! Head to the link in my bio, hit the Deal of the Day link, and snag a digital copy for $5.99! #ttrpg #ttrpgtok #ttrpgtiktok #dnd #dungeonsanddragons #soloroleplay

♬ Animal Crossing / Atsumori-style cute piano solo(1069497) – sano mika

Turns out, I really didn’t need to worry that much.

My Deal of the Day Performance

I was pretty shocked at the constant flow of emails from DriveThruRPG notifying me of yet another sale of Journey, a good number of which were accompanied by sales of the Expanded Aspects expansion of the game. I had expected a nice little clip of sales, but standing in line for ride after ride at Disneyland and watching my number of emails grow, it was… well, it was a really nice feeling.

Extending the Deal

Before I share the actual numbers, it’s worth noting that I ended up pushing my own extension of the Deal of the Day for another 24 hours. I did this for a few reasons (unabashed validation being only one), though primarily it was because my post to r/Solo_Roleplaying got stuck in moderation. The awesome mod team there helped me out, and I extended the promotion so the folks in the subreddit could also get a crack at it.

I also ran a second promoted TikTok video in the hopes of driving some of that audience to the promotion, though the r/Solo_Roleplaying group was really my primary motivation to extend the sale.

@graycastlepress

Extending the special DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day pricing for Journey for folks who missed it! #dnd #ttrpg #solottrpg #dungeonsanddragons #tabletop #journaling

♬ Animal Crossing / Atsumori-style cute piano solo(1069497) – sano mika

Sales Numbers for Journey in the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day

Okay, it’s finally time to share the big results of the day. It turned out my estimates were… a little bit low. In the best possible way. The figures below account for all of my sales of Journey and the Expanded Aspects for Journey expansion for the official Deal of the Day, as well as my small extension.

ProductNumber SoldGross SalesRoyaltyTotal Profit
Journey245$1,603.5165%$1,032.86
Expanded Aspects36$178.2065%$115.83
TOTALS281$1,781.71$1,148.69

Turns out, I had estimated preeeeeetty low in thinking I’d sell only 50 copies of my book. A happy surprise certainly.

Marketing Performance for the Deal of the Day

In reality, my own marketing efforts were entirely dwarfed and eclipsed by DriveThruRPG’s own email push. Knowing where my sales come from is something I’m always trying to determine (and I really wish DriveThruRPG’s own reporting around this were a lot more robust, but we do what we can with what we have), so looking at the Analyze Marketing Source page on my publisher panel got me the following breakdown for the two days I was running the promotion:

87 sales from DotD
The official DriveThruRPG mailing list notification
81 sales from DotDem
Another official communication from DriveThruRPG, unsure of the exact source but certainly welcome
52 sales from DotDDTRPG
My own official marketing source tag for my own promotion
18 sales from FrontPage
Clicks through the DriveThruRPG front page to the Deal of the Day graphic
17 sales from also_purchased
Clicks from other game sales that show Journey as a related purchase, likely not Deal of the Day related

Overall, my own promotions ended up moving the needle a non-insignificant amount, but DriveThruRPG’s own promotion of the Deal of the Day far and away were my biggest boon.

Is the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day Worth It for Indie Publishers?

In a word, yes. In a few words, yes yes yes (I didn’t say they would be different words).

When all is said and done, as a small one-person indie publisher of niche solo games, the numbers above may not be wildly impressive compared to some other larger publishers. But for me, for a single day, selling 245 copies of my first ever game was a truly wild experience.

With a few games in the works for release before the end of 2022, my eyes are definitely going to be on my current stash of PPP and the price to run a Deal of the Day. This kind of infusion of sales and visibility could possibly be a game changer for a new release, getting it in front of those who might share it further via word of mouth and blogging.

So, DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day, we shall indeed meet again.