How Settlers of Catan Improved My Promotion Skills Part I

I’ve been thinking about this article for a long time. I already wrote about how Dungeons and Dragons made me a better writer. I’ve also written about how war game strategies transfer to life. It’s natural to explore the effects of gaming. And you know, there’s something here.

I’m a gamer. I love German-style board games like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Puerto Rico, to name a few. Oh, how I love gaming, and I think that some aspects of the games can be applied to real life.

I’m by no means an expert at promoting. When it comes to writing, yeah, I have tons of practical advice. I’ve been writing professionally for 15 years (can you believe that we used to snail mail copies of short stories to magazines?) and I teach creative writing. But with promotion, I just pass on the things I’m learning, with my own psychotic twist.

bear in big blue dancing

I’ve been reading a ton of stuff on marketing for my novel and serial (and upcoming novels), along with advice from my publisher. There’s a flood of books out there right now (including tons for free), and it’s near impossible to make it without a solid strategy. I’m nowhere near the “made it” level. I hardly sell at all (though I blame this on my book being too pricey…no I can’t lower the price. That’s up to the publisher.)

Anyway, the more I learn the more I see similarities to gaming strategies. I couldn’t get this idea out of my head. I’ll get more specific below, but the key is: Be good, be focused, and don’t be a dick about it.

1)It’s a long game (from the right pov). build a reputation

Settlers of Catan is not a long game, and yet it is. No one plays just one game of it, and the people you play with are probably the people you’ll play with next time and the time after. In a sense, Settlers of Catan (and all games) is a game that goes on forever. People have long memories, and your actions in one game will influence all the games afterwards.

This means that you don’t want to get into internet fights (even if someone deserves it). Enemies are forever (think about Risk: Legacy…I’m looking at you, Osvaldo). Instead, make honest friendships. I’ve met some wonderful people in the writing business, going all the way back to my years as a journalist. Don’t try to befriend people just to use them. That’s a dick move. However, when you do find that kindred spirit, hold on to them and rise up together.

It’s so true.

I get tons of twitter “follows” from other writers. I only follow the writers that I have things in common with. I engage them in conversation, I enjoy their company. Even if I fail as a promoter and no one ever reads my books, I made some good friends.

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the-watchmage-is-coming1

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2) Trade Honestly
In all games, I try to trade for mutual benefit. I realize that it might help someone else win, but it helps me in the long run. Again, don’t think of it as one game, but one short section of a longer game. With a reputation as a fair trader, I get more people willing to trade with me.

On the other hand, if I try to cheat people, people won’t want to trade, and I’m stuck without the resources I need.

Naughty Mr. Bean

This is doubly true with promotion. It’s something that goes on forever, so if you build that reputation (see above), it will come back to you. Of course, people will try to cheat me. I’ve had a few situations where I’ve promoted another person and they haven’t reciprocated. I don’t let that sway me. I just don’t deal with them anymore.

Firepole Marketing says that if you want people to follow/be interested in you, you have to give them something first. Offer a free story if they join your mailing list, etc. But be honest about it. Firepole is great when it comes to engaging audience, and I highly recommend their website (look at me, I’m giving them free promotion! I learned something, Firepole!).

3) Build a Strong Base of Resources

In Settlers of Catan, it’s important to gather resources through settlements. This gives you the ability to expand. No strategy works without the resources to implement it. If you go for longest road, development cards, or armies too early, you’ll find yourself without a sheep to stand on (or brick, wheat…you get the idea).

Just the same in promotion, you have to build a fanbase, and the way you do that is by giving (and hoping they give back). Without that initial fanbase, all your fancy facebook boosts and events won’t mean a thing. Engage your audience. Don’t be aloof. George RR Martin blogs almost every day, even though he has millions of fans and a ton of other stuff to do. He also has a circle of fellow writers that he plugs all the time. Neil Gaiman is always tweeting and retweeting other peoples’ tweets. Will Wheaton and George Takei both revitalized their careers through social media. If these writers and actors with a huge fan base do it, maybe you should too.

This is getting to be a long article, so I will continue in Part II.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.8/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. 

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