You’ve sold your Indie RPG to a retailer. Great! You got one of the hardest parts wholesale—cold calls—out of the way.
You’re not done, though.
After you’ve connected with a few retailers, selling them your module or project, that doesn’t have to be the last time you talk to them. In fact it shouldn’t be. After selling Primeval to a handful of vendors, I’ve made it a habit to do periodic vendor check-ins. I’ll occasionally send an email to vendors to check in on their stock and see how they’re doing.
Here’s a rough example of one of my follow-up emails:
Hey! Hope you’re doing alright. I just wanted to check in and see if you were in need of any additional stock?
I’m going to be moving forward with doing a check in every so often to see if you wanted to renew your stock, had any issues or questions, and just in an effort to keep you up to date with what I’m working on.
(And then I’ll do a rough breakdown of any new projects I have coming up.)
A couple of the vendors expressed that they loved and/or appreciate me reaching out to them. Publishers being proactive probably takes a fair burden off retailers to try and remember who to track down when stock starts to dwindle.
Do this sparingly.
There is always a fine line between being at the forefront of someone’s mind and becoming a nuisance. For myself, I try to limit it to quarterly or bi-annually1. That is usually a sufficient amount of time time for stock to move enough to be worth restocking or planning out for the next few months (for both you and the retailer).
Any more often might become burdensome but always try to gauge the interest level of your point of contact at the shop. Retailers are busy. Especially in the RPG scene, they’re doing a ton of work to sell your stuff. Respect their time.
First, it begins a business relationship that proves to the retailer that you are worth their time (even if you don’t ‘make a sale’). If it doesn’t work out this time, it might have opened a door or opportunity for something in the future.
Second, In some cases, retailers might place an order that’s significantly higher than their first order. First orders are sometimes a gamble, especially if you aren’t in any other shops and this is your first project. Follow-up orders have the benefit of how well the project moves (hopefully well) already established. Also, if you didn’t make it a habit to reach out, that order may have come later or not at all.
Don’t expect this though. Remember, retailers are operating a business and, even if they like you and your stuff, they can’t order 100 copies of something that’s going to sit on a shelf with no movement2.
Finally, periodic check-ins are great for new games and projects. Treat it like an exclusive newsletter where you share what else you have going on or will be releasing soon. Create anticipation, same as you would for a Kickstarter or that new project you uploaded to Itch you can’t just shut up about.
Most retailers I’ve had the opportunity to work with have been welcome and happy to work something out whenever I follow-up. Because of the mess shipping has been around the world3, there have been a few opportunities that didn’t work out. But that’s ok! If the retailer knows you, maybe you can work something out in the future.
Again, once you’ve reached out and done your cold call, your work isn’t done. Set a reminder for yourself and check in. Even if a sale doesn’t immediately come of it, maybe you can just see how they’re doin’. Everybody appreciates that.
Now go shill your stuff!4