We’re now about halfway through our series, and I figured it was time to talk about the resource that has allowed me to make a living for the past eight years: The various sites operated by OneBookShelf.
OneBookShelf began operations in 2001 as RPGNow — a site dedicated to the digital delivery of tabletop role-playing game products. Coinciding with the industry expansion brought about by the Open Game License, which allowed publishers to utilize the rules system for the market-leading Dungeons and Dragons in their own products, RPGnow ushered in the viability of digital delivery as a business model. In 2006, a merger occurred between RPGNow and their largest competitor, DriveThruRPG, forming OneBookShelf. The two sites were maintained as individual storefronts (both a result of brand loyalty on the part of customers, and also in product focus — RPGNow was viewed as more “Indie” than the “Mainstream” DriveThru), although both now operate on the same back-end. Since the merger, OneBookShelf has expanded with additional digital marketplaces: Wargame Vault (devoted to products supporting tabletop wargaming), DriveThruComics (the first digital comics shop online) and DriveThru Fiction (concentrating on genre fiction – specifically fantasy, sci-fi and horror).
The back-end process on these sites are the same — a creator signs up, provides payment information, uploads product, and it becomes available on the marketplace. Creators have full control over every aspect — from descriptive texts, to footers on the page, to cover image uploads, even to activation of the product for sale. The following two-part video offers an overview of the process for new creators:
The OneBookShelf sites have, in the past, focused on the PDF format for delivery: Flash-based product previews, for example, require the original to be in PDF. OneBookShelf also offers digital watermarking for those creators who wish to use it, where a file is imprinted with the name of the customer ordering it, and I believe that function also requires the file to be PDF. However, there are no restrictions on file formats — anything that can be delivered digitally is an option: Video, audio, and more. In addition, over the past year, they have also gone live with a Print-On-Demand program (production services provided by Lightning Source) where a customer has the option of ordering a digital file, a print copy via mail, or both.
The marketplace code that runs the sites offers creators dozens of tools: real-time sales and royalty reporting, freelancer royalty management, complete control over product listings, marketing tools to promote your products and more, including instant royalty pay-out (I can’t rave about this one enough — I have this linked to Paypal, and Paypal linked to a debit card. Need some cash while I’m out somewhere? Fire up the phone, browser to RPGNow, dump earnings to Paypal. Use card.). In addition, OneBookShelf can also create self-branded digital download stores dedicated to a creator’s product lines, able to be embedded on your own site. They are a full-service back-end service provider, and their staff is great at offering solutions for anything that comes up.
Perhaps the best part of my business relationship with the OneBookShelf sites since 2003 is that it allowed me to be an early adopter of the digital delivery business model. Now that the model is going mainstream, and as new tools are rolled out every week by services like Amazon and others, they’re often just larger implementations of concepts that I’m already familiar with via OneBookShelf — which means that I’m better placed to exploit these tools; able to jump right into a plan of action rather than having to spend time on a learning curve.
In a very real sense, OneBookShelf allowed me to become what I now refer to as an Insurgent Creative. I’m glad that this blog series has allowed me the opportunity to publicly thank them for that. They gave me the tools and the experience that allow me to storm those gates.