Gumroad Picks: Films

Emmiliese von Clemm on September 11th, 2014

gumroad for films

This month, we’re back with another round of Gumroad Picks, aimed at showcasing a few of the many wonderful creators and projects on Gumroad. This time, we’re highlighting five awesome films worth a watch.

Film-specific features like subtitle support and streaming on any device make Gumroad a powerful tool for filmmakers. In addition to filmmakers using these features, here are some of the trends we’ve noticed:

  • Pre-orders: Filmmakers Muris Media and Emily Diana Ruth offered their audience the opportunity to pre-order their films. Pre-orders of The Water’s Fine helped Emily Diana Ruth finish the production of her film and fund entry into film festivals. Muris Media is currently using a discount to incentivize pre-orders of their new film, Maker.
  • Screeners: Viewers who want to host a screening of Design and Thinking or The Hooping Life can purchase the right to do so. Design and Thinking offers both educational and corporate screening products. The public screening version of The Hooping Life gives buyers the right to charge admission when screening the film.
  • Bonus Content Bundles: Along with their film, the team behind The Hooping Life offers viewers merchandise and bonus content. Bundling items together can be a great way of reaching super-fans. For example, in the case of The Hooping Life, aspiring hula-hoopers can choose The Hooping Life Bundle Special, which includes a “How To Hoop” DVD and a collapsible hula hoop.

Now grab some popcorn, make yourself comfortable, and enjoy these five awesome films, all available on Gumroad.

Design and Thinking

Design and Thinking, produced by Muris Media, is a documentary that explores how people are changing the world with their own creative minds. The film explores the meaning and power of design thinking, as told by social change makers, businessmen, designers, and other influencers. Featured individuals include David Kelley, founder of Stanford d.school and IDEO, Zachary Rosen and Matthew Cheney, founders of Mission Bicycle Company, and Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America.

The folks at Muris Media are about the release a second film, Maker, which looks at the new wave of “Do-It-Yourself” and “Do-It-Together” culture. Viewers who loved Design and Thinking can pre-order Maker on Gumroad today.

The Big Picture: Reframing Dyslexia 

The Big Picture, directed by James Redford, is a documentary about the dyslexic experience. Through interviews with dyslexic children and their parents, iconic leaders with dyslexia, and medical experts, the film clears up common misconceptions about dyslexia, painting the condition as an obstacle that can be overcome.

Digital downloads of The Big Picture are sold through Gumroad. Viewers inspired by the The Big Picture can visit the film’s website to learn more about taking action and helping to reframe dyslexia.

The Water’s Fine

Written and directed by Emily Diana Ruth, The Water’s Fine is a short film about a young woman’s return to the family cottage where she spent her childhood. After years of family estrangement, Josie expects a big family reunion at the cottage but instead gets a series of disappointments.

Production of The Water’s Fine was initially funded through an Indiegogo campaign, with pre-orders of the film sold on Gumroad after crowdfunding ended. While making the film, Emily built and engaged with her audience through a video blog series. All 14 episodes of The Making of the Water’s Fine can now be watched on YouTube.

The Hooping Life

Hula-hooping is back, according to The Hooping Life, a documentary about the rise of modern hula hooping subculture. Filmed over six years and introduced by Shaquille O’Neill, the film documents the early days of the hula hooping movement and how individuals are transformed through commitment to the hoop.

In addition to selling a DVD of the film on their website, The Hooping Life team offers premium content and merchandise for super-fans.

The Boy Who Flies

The Boy Who Flies, a documentary by Canadian paraglider Benjamin Jordan, tells the story of Benjamin’s trip to Malawi, where he meets Godfrey, a young man who has always dreamt of flying. Together, the two set off for Malawi’s highest peak to attempt a flight that will make Godfrey Malawi’s first paragliding pilot.

The Boy Who Flies was featured at numerous mountain and adventure film festivals, including the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Digital downloads of the film (in both English and French) are now sold via Gumroad. Today, Benjamin and Godfrey are channeling the success of The Boy Who Flies into raising funds to build The School of Dreams, Malawi’s first paragliding school.


Want help selling your film directly to your viewers? Email us and tell us more about what you’re working on. You can also check out Gumroad for Films to learn more about the features we’ve added specifically for filmmakers like you. 

When compiling the Gumroad Picks lists, we look for creators who have had recent launches, lots of sales, or success using Gumroad in an exciting way. From there, we hand-pick creators whose work is especially innovative or creative. We hope to see you on this list in the future!

Gumroad Picks: Health and Fitness

Emmiliese von Clemm on August 7th, 2014

gumroad for health and fitnessHere at Gumroad, we’re always happy to see creators from different industries joining the platform. Lately, we’ve been really excited about the ways in which Health and Fitness professionals are using Gumroad.

Selling content online allows coaches and trainers, inherently limited by the number of clients they can see in a given day, to extend their reach and multiply their influence. At the same time, customers benefit from high-quality health and fitness content, accessible at all times, for a fraction of the price of personal training.

As the number of health and fitness products on Gumroad has grown, we’ve noticed some interesting trends:

  • Video Content: Do Yoga With Me and Black Belt at Home use video content to teach yoga and martial arts. Videos are great for teaching skill-heavy material and for guiding beginners. Multiple videos and a study manual can even be bundled together into complete courses.
  • Training Programs: Training programs are popular among customers who want to take their training to the next level. Krissy Mae Cagney, Brandan Schieppati, and Simeon Panda sell a variety of training programs detailing week’s worth of exercises (including sets, reps, and intensity) and nutrition guidelines.
  • Selling to Instagram Followers: Instagram is home to a large and growing health and fitness community. Krissy Mae Cagney, Brandan Schieppati, and Simeon Panda have built their Instagram audiences by motivating and inspiring followers. They now promote their products to these audiences through strategies like offering followers discounts on training programs.

What follows are five inspiring examples of health and fitness professionals using Gumroad in awesome ways:

sell training programs

Krissy Mae Cagney

Krissy Mae Cagney, an athletic performance specialist, registered dietitian, and Westside Barbell strength and conditioning coach, does it all. She’s passionate about changing the fitness industry, spreading her motivation and expertise through fitness and nutrition pop-ups across the country, online programs, and her lifestyle brand (Doughnuts and Deadlifts). She’s even opening her own gym at the end of the year.

Krissy’s website offers numerous training programs and nutrition guides, including Flex-i-ble Dieting, a guide to macros and eating for life, and She Hulk, a ten week strength and aesthetics program.

Want to offer subscription fitness content? For inspiration, check out Krissy’s Black Iron Training, subscription strength and conditioning programming released every Sunday night.

sell training programs

Do Yoga With Me

Do Yoga With Me is a collection of over 100 high-quality yoga videos, featuring a group of experienced yoga teachers. Do Yoga With Me’s creators are passionate about increasing access to yoga content, and all of the site’s resources can be streamed for free. Users who want to own yoga content and support Do Yoga With Me can purchase and download individual videos via Gumroad.

Do Yoga With Me also offers yoga programs to guide students through a series of selected videos. These programs, including Yoga for Runners and Yoga for Office Workers, are available as Pay What You Want downloads.

Interested in learning more about Pay What You Want pricing? We’ve written about it extensively on the Gumroad blog.

sell training programs

Brandan Schieppati

Brandan Schieppati, founder of Rise Above Fitness, is known for training that incorporates high intensity strength and conditioning. He created a series of online training programs to reach people who can’t train with him personally but still want to train the Rise Above way.

Brandan offers a range of programs and ebooks on his personal website, including 30 in 30, a different workout every day for a month, and The Rise Above Fitness Cookbook, which features 40 recipes submitted by Rise Above Fitness trainers.

Thinking about selling directly to your Instagram followers? See the strategies Brandan uses to spread the word to his Instagram audience.

sell training programs

Simeon Panda

Simeon Panda is a natural body builder with an impressive social media presence, boasting nearly 2 million followers on Facebook. He aims to motivate and inspire others through his hard work and dedication. Simeon Panda worked for years as a personal trainer and now hosts exclusive training camps as a Musclemania Pro.

Fans who want to train like Simeon Panda can buy one of his four training programs, including Mass Gain and Abs Solution. Each program details exercises, intensity, number of reps, number of sets, and rest time.

sell training programs

Black Belt at Home

Black Belt at Home makes it possible for students without access to martial arts instructors to earn rank and certification with an accredited organization. They offer home study courses in Shotokan Karate, Ultimate Bo, Krav Maga, and Tai Chi. Each course includes a comprehensive study manual and hours worth of video training content.

A digital version of each Black Belt at Home program is available through Gumroad, allowing students to download course content and start training immediately after purchase.

Thinking about selling a home study course of your own? Check out Black Belt at Home’s encouraging 10 Ridiculous Myths about Home Study Courses.


Want tips and tricks for selling health and fitness content directly to your audience? Email support@gumroad.com and let us know what you’re working on!

When compiling the Gumroad Picks lists, we look for creators who have had recent launches, lots of sales, or success using Gumroad in an exciting way. From there, we hand-pick creators whose work is especially innovative or creative. We hope to see you on this list in the future!

Kiwi Juice: The Power of Community

Travis Nichols on July 17th, 2014

When Gumroad was founded, there was a conscious decision to not be a marketplace. We believe that direct-to-audience sales is superior to setting up in a packed bazaar and hoping for the best. Ten years ago, one could chuck something at the internet and it’d be found. Each page was like a much-desired service station in the middle of the southwest. Now the internet is an endless Times Square (shudder) and everyone is screaming to be heard.

It’s more important than ever to build an engaged audience and make it as easy as possible to get your work in front of them. Additionally, it’s easier than ever to put oneself in a position to generate income selling creative work; a double-edged sword since it’s not just easier than ever for you, but for everyone. That’s why we’re so interested in helping creators take advantage of and maximize the leverage they now have.

That doesn’t mean we’re all in it alone. There’s power in communities. A group of like-minded creators can band together and, in a unified front, help each other promote to a much larger audience and accomplish much more than any of the individuals on their own. That’s exactly what the founders of Kiwi Juice are doing for professional tutorials in the the concept, illustration, and 3D fields.

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We talked to Anthony Jones, who got things rolling on the commerce and gospel-spreading side of Kiwi Juice. Anthony has done work for Activision, Blizzard, Hasbro, Disney, and many more. He personally has almost 30 tutorials on Gumroad ranging from design to painting to Photoshop techniques, and Anthony is just one of dozens of professionals on Kiwi Juice. These videos, brushes, tool presets, and hi-res graphics are packaged and offered affordably to amateurs and pros alike. Their roster and numbers continue to grow, and for good reason. Check out a tutorial and see for yourself.

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Who built Kiwi Juice and why?

Gavriil Afanasyev Klimov built the site. He was working with other artists on the structure in which it should be run, but he put it all together himself.

What I did to contribute was start using Gumroad and convince others to use it too. So with our powers combined, we were able to let Kiwijuice.net become what it is now. A place where artists can build their own custom store and create affordable content for their fans and supporters.

Do you consider Kiwi Juice to be a community, a hub, a collective, a marketplace, something else, a combination?

It is all of the above. It is something that is run by the community of artists who put together their own individual stores, and it’s a collective for supporters to browse through and learn from the artists that they care about at an affordable price.

What is your curation process?

Kiwi Juice doesn’t take a commission, but we do review and take into account the quality of the work/instructor and try to ensure that those who we showcase on Kiwi Juice have good information to spread. And all of this is free.

Tell me about one or two of your favorite tutorials.

My personal favorites are definitely the ones done by John Park and Maciej Kuciara. These guys are good friends of mine, but also great instructors. I’d highly recommend both, especially since they created a great place on facebook for people to work together on improving one’s art. It’s called Brainstorm.

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-from Mech Rendering by John Park

Is there a lot of overlap between professionals and consumers for the types of work that you are curating tutorials for? Are things already happening fast enough that you have seen new artists become professional artists and teach others? 

Like most things, to become a professional takes time and effort. But what I have personally seen is an increase of ability and confidence amongst amateur artists. Also, the fact that there is a sense of light competition amongst the instructors gives us more fuel to create higher-quality content. The better the content, the better the response. I love this model of business, because it keeps everyone honest and hard working and accountable for great products for our fans and supporters.

What has surprised you most in this endeavor? 

The amount of positive feedback from the masses. So many people approve of this because of how artists who were radio silent have now become way more engaged and involved with their fanbases. It’s a win-win. But more importantly, it’s allowing some people to actually leave their day jobs and pursue this, making their own content and helping the community get better as a whole, full-time. It’s fantastic and inspiring for everyone.

What’s next?

I have always been an advocate for people to pursue their dreams and aspirations. I think the next step is to create a more fluid experience for users of Kiwi Juice.

Also, we have plans on putting together a miniature convention for people who have something to show and something to prove. It will be a place where people can meet their favorite artists and learn from them on the pros and cons on building your own content and things you should do to achieve this. I want people to start realizing that you can make money off your own hard work, and I want to help create strategies towards doing so.

I think it’s time to give more power to the content creators of your favorite movies/games/entertainment and really build a better economy for them. Artists tend to get unfair reimbursement and percentages by going through some third-party distributors. Gumroad/Kiwi Juice provides an opportunity for artists to sell their own content and keep practically all of the profit. And because of this we can sell it for much cheaper. Like I mentioned before, it’s a win-win. 


There’s strength in numbers, especially when a team is overflowing with amazing talent. Look around. You might be able to find what can become your community. Join up and work for the common good. We look forward to hearing about it.

 

Introducing Gumroad Picks: June 2014

Jessica Jalsevac on July 9th, 2014

Here at Gumroad, we’re continually awed by the creators we see joining the platform each day. As part of an ongoing effort to showcase their work to the world, we’ve put together the first ever Best of Gumroad list. 

We looked for creators who had either a strong launch, a high number of purchases, or high gross revenue in the past month. From there, we hand-picked 10 whose products are especially innovative or exciting.

As the list came together, we noticed some interesting trends emerging: 

  • Niche Films: Two documentaries (Motonomad and I Am Road Comic) appear in the top 10, both aimed at very niche audiences (motorbike enthusiasts and comedy nerds). The filmmakers took very different approaches to distributing their films - Motonomad relied heavily on YouTube promotion of extended trailers, while I Am Road Comic used Twitter, comedy podcasts, and a few art house screenings. These different strategies reflect a clear understanding of their target audience, where they hang out online and offline, and what type of content is important to them.  
  • Art Tutorials: Artists Anthony Jones and Eytan Zana experienced a lot of success with the launch of Kiwi Juice, a new site devoted to the collection and listing of independent art tutorials (most of which are from Gumroad creators!). We love the concept of this community and hope to see a few more popping up organically in different verticals in the near future. Watch out for an in-depth piece on Kiwi Juice next week. 
  • Software/Tools: We’re seeing more software being sold on Gumroad recently, such as Pat Flynn’s Smart Podcast Player and ThinkDev’s Quickres 4.0. This is in part due to our new license key feature, but also seems to be part of an exciting trend where content creators are expanding their product offerings into the software realm (think Laura Roeder with the recent release of her app, Edgar). 

Without further ado, here are our 10 Best of Gumroad Creators for June 2014, in no particular order:

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Motonomad by motology Films (Film) 

Two motorcycle racers, Adam Riemann and Mark Portbury, endure a 7000km mission across Europe, in hope of reaching the Pyramids of Egypt.

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Color and Light by Eytan Zana (Tutorial)

A three hour long video takes you through Eytan’s thought process on applying color, light, and mood to a painting. Also includes a PSD file, brush set, and perspective tool plugin for Photoshop.

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Skift Trends Report: The Rise of the Silent Traveler by Skift (Report)

Skift is proposing a new model to look at the mobile-first travel consumer. The silent traveler is the travel consumer who turns to their mobile devices first, seeking a solution to in-trip challenges that used to be the primary domain of customer service staff.

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flex-i-ble dieting by Krissy Mae Cagney (Book)

Krissy Mae has compiled every iota of guidance she has on becoming a healthier and happier person into this book. 

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“Country Club Rejects” Polo by Shady Records (Tshirt)

Wreak havoc on your local golf course with the “Country Club Rejects” pack from Shady Records.

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I Am Road Comic by Jordan Brady (Film)

A first-hand look at working the road as a comedian. This funny documentary includes interviews with more than two dozen fantastic comics discussing the nuts and bolts of working the road in bars and clubs. 

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Smart Podcast Player by Pat Flynn (Software)

The best media player solution for podcasters who are tired of clunky, confusing players that are ugly and hard to install. Note: The beta launch of the Smart Podcast Player is sold out, but you can sign up to be notified of the public release here

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Paint with Color by Anthony Jones (Tutorials)

Anthony Jones started painting in 2007 when he was 23 years old. As someone who wasn’t initially a painter/artist he had to start from the beginning. He tries to spread as much good information to as many artists as possible, always trying to inspire people and let them know that even if you are a total newbie, you can still become a great artist. 

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Kyle’s Ultimate Dry Media for Photoshop by Kyle T Webster (Design Tools)

This great new set from illustrator Kyle T Webster contains 25 tools: 20 brand new Dry Media brushes with great effects, as well as the Bone Dry Brush and the Deliciously Dry Brush from the Drawing Set / Megapack, a new ‘rough’ eraser, and two new blenders for great smudging and edging effects.

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ng-book: The Complete Book on Angular JS and Complete Source by Ari Lerner (Book)

The most comprehensive guide to AngularJS available anywhere. Includes the book, all source code for every example in the book, 3 hour long Angular screencast for beginners, the sample app mini-ebook, and complete source code for the sample app.


When compiling the Gumroad Picks lists, we look for creators who have had recent launches, lots of sales, or success using Gumroad in an exciting way. From there, we hand-pick creators whose work is especially innovative or creative. We hope to see you on this list in the future!

What Does Authenticity Mean to You?

Travis Nichols on June 26th, 2014

The reality of our businesses is that we’re not dealing with numbers. We’re dealing with human beings.

- Leo Babauta

A few weeks ago, for our third Gumroad Creators Studio event, Leo Babauta gave a talk on building authentic businesses in an age of online noise. Leo is the author of Zen to Done and The Power of Less, and he writes to over one million subscribers at ZenHabits.net. One of the most refreshing things about Leo is that he writes as a person on a journey, not as a flawless sage on a mountaintop. The result is a body of work that is approachable and sincere.

You can also read a blogged version of the talk at zenhabits.net/trust.


What does authenticity mean to you? 

The days of being sleazy and ripping people off on the Internet are over. The only way you should be building an online business is the honest way: being yourself, charging what things are actually worth, and not being greedy or selfish.

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 - Caleb Wojcik, co-founder of Fizzle and author of DIY Video Guide.

If you want to build trust, take the first step and give someone something. Offer help to someone without expecting anything. If they can tell that you expect something, then it’s not a gift, but a deal.

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 - Ben Johnson, composer and pianist

The essence of underground publishing is to risk everything for the few. Selling publications that have virtually no audience and being satisfied with the results, no matter how meager, is the driven goal. I believe in publishing the strongest ideas, the greatest art, in the truest reproduction of the author/artist intention, and selling it to the public that needs it the most.

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- Ron Turner, Last Gasp Publishing


We’d love to hear from you. Let us know if you write a post on trust and authenticity on your blog. Here are some questions get you thinking.

  • What does authenticity mean to you?
  • Have you ever taken a great risk or passed on something that would have made you a quick buck to instead have more authentic business relationships? What happened?
  • What is something you do that is trust-building / what advice would you give on building up the trust of one’s audience?
  • What are the long-term effects of a business built on trust and authenticity?
  • Is there something you did when you started that you are now embarrassed about?

ExperimentalPsychology.pdf - Games by Ben Lehman

Travis Nichols on June 24th, 2014

Ben Lehman makes role-playing games that are at times tragic, romantic, introspective, scary, action-packed, and hilarious. At their core, they are all about creating and telling stories. You and your friends might be a group at war with alien invaders, super-bro street lugers, space explorers, or even characters experiencing a picture-perfect, idyllic childhood.

These aren’t your typical enter-dungeon-fight-monsters-gather-jewels types of games. When you (and/or more people) play Amidst Endless Quiet, the first thing you are told is that, “You are Elios, a deep space transport en route from Gliese to Zhou’s World. You’re never going to arrive at Zhou’s World. You’re going to die.” It might not take much longer to say the title of Being a role-playing game on the topic of the High-Flying adventures of Beatrice Henrietta Bristol-Smythe, DBE, daring Aviatrix and accomplished Exploratrix, and her Gentleman Companion, who for a Modest Fee, accompanies Beatrice Henrietta Bristol-Smythe, DBE, when the Occasion warrants her an Escort than to play the game itself.

I first met Ben at Big Bad Con, a yearly RPG convention in Oakland, California, where game-makers and players meet, play, and share tabletop games of all kinds. I found Ben somewhat randomly on Gumroad, but at the convention I found that most people there knew his work. My experience and knowledge of RPGs is extremely limited, but I was quickly drawn to Ben’s quirky, deeply-thoughtful games. In his words:

“I write games that, when you play them, make you a better person. I write games that you can play by yourself when no one is watching, games that you can play with friends in the cracks of your time, games you can play with the flowers in your yard, games that take only a moment of your time, games that you never stop playing for the rest of your life.”

Ben sells PDF-versions of his smaller, more experimental games through Gumroad (which otherwise often exist in physical book form). He prices them all at $0+ because he wants them to be accessible to anyone who wants them. I talked to Ben about becoming a game designer, his work, and the intrinsically psychological aspect of RPGs.

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Your games don’t involve dice, fold-out maps, tokens or little figurines (although at least one of your games uses standard playing cards). You play with books and in your mind. Sometimes in an incredibly social way with a group (more so than traditional role-playing games), and sometimes alone while you’re on a bus or walking to work. Where does this interest in the sociological side of games/life come from?

Some of them do have dice!

I think that the interest involves out of more standard-issue tabletop role-playing. I grew up with D&D (I think I started playing when I was around 5 or 6) but since my access to new RPGs was only available at the used bookstore, I played a lot of the weirdo less common RPGs of the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. The thing that these games had in common was: a lot of good ideas that didn’t fit totally well together. So in order to play we ended up making up a lot of our own rules and so on and so forth. My older brother started out doing a lot of design, but he would get bored and abandon projects and then I’d finish them. Eventually I started doing my own stuff.

If you’re interested in games, you end up being interested in psychology, by which I don’t necessarily mean the academic body of research, but in how humans think, behave, relate and make decisions. If you’re interested in tabletop games, you end up interested in group psychology as well, which is even more fascinating and weird. I’ve always been an edge-pusher and kind of experimental, wanting to take a what happens when I do this? approach to art (when I was in school I studied physics, which only encouraged me). Of course, edge-pushing for its own sake is fairly pointless. What we want are games that are fun, satisfying, or rewarding. So I end up trying out a lot of things which seem weird or non-game-like because I want to see how they work. The ones that do work, I publish.

Ultimately a game is just a set of instructions, rewards, goals and capacities. This can be complete or incomplete, tightly-wound or muddled. But basically you are either telling people what they must do, or what they can do, or what they want to do. That’s an extremely intimate thing to tell someone! It’s pretty hard to stop once you’ve realized you can do it, and people will listen.

To expand on that, some of your games come with interesting warnings. In Polaris (which won the Indie RPG Game of the Year Award in 2005), you say, “Your knight will betray his people and die forgotten and alone. If you don’t like losing, you won’t like Polaris.” In Clover, you warn would-be players that, “There is no way to win. You just play because the experience is fun. So don’t play with anyone mean.” Ben! Games require a victor and a victory! What are you thinking, man?

Tabletop role-playing has a long tradition of not allowing any sort of “win”. You lose (traditionally: you die) or you keep playing. That’s it. When role-playing games started introducing win conditions, or even just “a way for the game to end” people got extremely upset and started denouncing them as “not a role-playing game!” (I’m thinking particularly of Paul Czege’s My Life With Master.) It seems very strange in hindsight.

Like I said before, games can be complete or incomplete in their instructions. Clover tells you what you must do (one player is Clover, another player is Dad, there’s no mention Clover’s mom, etc.), what you can do (explore, ask questions, learn), but not why you want to do it. Or, rather, the reason to do it is just “to have fun” with no further instruction. You have to find your own reason to want to play. With something as intimate and, frankly, personal as “a happy childhood”, that is just not something I’m willing to dictate by giving out “happiness points” or whatever. It has to come from the players.

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How did you get into publishing?

This story cuts out some important bits, like that I was already sort-of published in Luke Crane’s No Press Anthology, but it’s funnier this way.

I had gone to GenCon in 2004 to help sell Driftwood Publishing’s Riddle of Steel, which I was (and still am) a huge fan of. There I had met Vincent Baker, who published Dogs in the Vineyard that year, and after I overcame my fan paralysis, we became friends. I was homeless and jobless, but still had some money from college, and was staying on friends’ couches on the East Coast and he invited me up to stay for a week at their place in Western Mass. I met Meg Baker, his wife and also a game designer, and their friend Emily Care Boss. Both Meg and Emily were at around the same stage of RPG publishing I was: they had drafts of games that they liked but were still revising and testing and so on.

Anyway, Meg and I went to the local game store to drop off copies of Dogs for sale, and she introduced me to the owner as “another game designer.” I went, “Well, not really,” and she looked me square in the face and said, “Own it, dude!” That was the point when I became a Real Professional RPG Designer, I think.

(Also, later that trip, the three of them cornered me around their dining room table and made me promise to revise and publish Polaris for Gencon 2005).

Are you still into traditional tabletop games and RPGs, and have you ever made any?

Yes! I really like Basic D&D, Riddle of Steel, early Vampire from back when it was weird, Tunnels and Trolls, Star Frontiers, Streetfighter: The Storytelling Game, Cyberpunk 2020, and a lot more that I’m going to be embarrassed I forgot. I’ve designed a number of fairly traditional systems (most recently High Quality Role-Playing) but for one reason or another I’ve never published any (not any hard rule against it just I never thought I could sell them). I suppose you could count Deeds and Doers, my business card-sized version of D&D, as a traditional game, so now I have.

Digital versions of your games (in PDF form) are sold as Pay What You Want. How has that been working for you?

For a while I was making money hand over fist with it. It’s trailed off a bit, as “pay what you want” has become less of a novelty and more of a normal way to pay. However, it’s really important to me that my games be accessible to people who can’t necessarily afford a $10 PDF or $20 hardcopy book. And from time to time I get very nice letters from folks saying exactly that (some of them even send me money later, when they have gotten out of their tight spot). So, in that sense, it’s working very well for me.

When I met you at Big Bad Con, you had a system where people could still pay for games when you were away (playing a game or otherwise): two sheets of paper. One specified that buyers could place money under the sheet to pay you, and the other specified that buyers could pay for games with a donation to Doctors Without Borders, again by putting cash under the sheet. That’s incredibly trustworthy. Are you concerned about someone taking advantage of that? 

At small cons like Big Bad Con, people are super good about honor system payments. When I do go to a con (which is rare these days) I don’t want to spend the whole time behind a table watching a cash box. I find that if you trust people they’ll genuinely surprise you. I also feel like, if someone steals the money, I’ll just hope that they needed it more than me.

Big Bad Con is a charity con that supports DWB so I decided to direct donations to them. They’re a good organization: one of the few big name charities that actually spends most of its money helping people who need help. Left to my own devices I usually donate to RAINN, which is also a good group that has given a lot of needed support to me and my family in the past.

What’s the best feedback you’ve received about one of your games? What’s the strangest?

Someone who really didn’t like Polaris once wrote, “The entire concept of Polaris utterly repels me.” I was very happy about that. I think that we should endeavor to repel people who won’t like our stuff.

Someone posted a story about playing Beloved as a way to deal with their choice to break up with their terminally ill girlfriend. I… don’t know how I feel about that, both what he did and how he used my game to help recover from it. It was a scary thing to read. But Beloved is a scary-as-hell game, so.

Which of your games is your favorite?

Nope nope nope nope nope. That’s like asking a parent what kid is their favorite.

(Pssst. it’s Hot Guys Making Out).

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Above illustrations from Polaris. By Boris Atzybasheff from the book The Wondersmith and his Son by Ella Young.

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Travis Nichols on June 19th, 2014

At our Gumroad Creators Studio events, we display boards from a variety of creators. Each board displays a bio, one or two products, and a quote. Each participant was asked a few questions, and all of the quotes ended up being taken from the same one:

Why do you do what you do?

If you’ve attended a Creators Studio event, you’ve likely seen the boards. Otherwise, aside from the Gumroad team and the folks at the print shop, they’ve gone unseen. So we thought we’d share some of what we heard.


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"I love writing and I love making myself laugh.  If others laugh at the jokes too, that’s EVEN BETTER."

— Ryan North, author of To Be or Not To Be: That is the Adventure and creator of Dinosaur Comics.

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"There is beauty in the simplicity and nuance of well-written code. When we take time to hone the craft of software engineering, we become capable of elevating assembly instructions to something more—something between philosophical treatise, legislature, and poetry. So I write and speak and share my code and experiences as best I can to do my part to make the world a little simpler, a little more beautiful."

— Mattt Thompson, author of NSHipster

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"We are a team of writers and designers who love magazines and wanted to launch our own publication. Booze seemed like a great topic. There are loads of really good food magazines out there but very little about drinks – and those that exist are often quite dull and pretentious. How exciting to launch something of our own from scratch and see it take off all over the world!"

— Fraser Allen of Hot Rum Cow

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"We love video games for what they have done, what they are doing, and also what they are capable of. We are all visionaries in this respect, and we do what we’re doing for that reason. We want to create new and unique games that capture the imaginations of many, and inspire others to do the same."

— Karl Inglott of Space Budgie


So what about you? Why do you do what you do? 

Gumroad Trip: Jacob Eiting’s View / The Roundup

Travis Nichols on April 24th, 2014

Jacob Eiting wants you to start flying planes.

He’s one of the youngest airplane owners he knows and is likely the youngest owner at Gnoss Field, where he keeps his 1965 Piper Cherokee. “Something a lot of people don’t realize is that airplanes are expensive but not unattainable. I’m 27 years old and I bought an airplane two years ago. I didn’t win the lottery or anything. This airplane cost $29,500 to buy. That’s about the same price as some of my friends’ cars.”

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He went on to explain that the US is one of the best countries to own and fly planes in, but we’re at risk of losing that. “The infrastructure relies on having a lot of people. As the number goes down, it’s more expensive to maintain. More airports shut down, which then degrades the infrastructure, which then makes people not want to fly as much. If we don’t maintain what we have, we’re going to lose it, and it’s never going to come back.”

Jacob is a developer who makes software for pilots and flying enthusiasts. After making iOS and Android apps, he’s found the most success with a Windows application. FSXFlight allows iPad aviation apps like ForeFlight and WingX to be used with Microsoft Flight Simulator. This creates a virtual cockpit and works as a home training tool with added realism to the simulation.

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Jacob also sells a cable that allows pilots to record cockpit audio into a smartphone. The best use is when it accompanies his iOS app, Black Box. The audio from the in-flight portion of the following video was recorded via the cable and the voice memo app on my iPhone.

"The thing I love most about flying is the absolute control-slash-freedom you get from flying in the air. If you have the inclination to be I want to go over here today, for the most part you just jump in and go, or I want to fly over this thing, or wouldn’t this be cool from the air? You just can go up there, and once you’re in the air, it’s just total freedom. As long as you end up on a runway at the end of it, it’s usually a good day.”

The explorative soundtrack to this video comes courtesy of Megan D. Harrigan.

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And with that, the Gumroad Trip ends. Brooklyn, NY to San Francisco, CA. What can we take from all of it? First, we’ve got an amazing group of creators using Gumroad. Second, I’m ready to hit the road again and meet more of you. Let’s take a look back from the beginning.

Lisa Yen showed us that where there’s a need, it can be filled. In a small, urban environment, she craved a touch of nature. Influenced by her green-thumbed father, she creates tiny forests and jungles that can live in most cramped city apartments.

Brad Guigar plays the long game. He built his comics career from the ground up, and has literally written the book - two, even - on the art and business of webcomics. What can you teach others?

NTHSynth's John Staskevich and Kevin Holland show us the power of collaboration and challenging each other. Sure, we could make a synth with all of the buttons in the world, but what can we do with ONE? They also provide a lesson on teaming up with people whose skills can complement your own. I still have lots of fun with our office’s Luminth.

The Sun Bros. are all about hustling. Hard. They’ve turned a lifelong love of comics, games, and movies into a business. They hit the convention circuit with ferocity and actively seek out speaking and panel opportunities.

Yale Stewart's story is all about getting a toe in the door, then kicking it open. He was able to pivot from something widely appealing that he couldn't sell (a fan comic about the Justice League as 3rd graders) into something personal that he could sell (a creator-owned graphic novel). He’s now working on books for major publishers. He’s also used his powers for good to raise money for disaster relief.

Ben Johnson is all about going for it. As college came to a close, he realized that he needed to give it his all. Now. Album, album, project, book, album. His devotion is inspiring.

Mario DiGiorgio went from highwayman stand-up comedian to t-shirt mogul and writer. After close to nine years on the road, he changed direction slightly and is making audiences laugh in even bigger ways.

Jacob Eiting decided to see the world from a different point of view. He, and all of the creators in this series, refuse to accept assumed barriers.

You can fly a plane. You can run a thriving business out of a corner of a room. You can make weird instruments with your friends. You can write and draw your own books. You can go to Alaska and write songs. You can make a movie. You can create, share, and inspire. How can we help?

See you on the road.

Breaking the Mold: Your Career, Your Way

Travis Nichols on April 17th, 2014

The group of coworkers huddled around a laptop. The laughing, salad-eating woman. The suited man yelling into a megaphone. The eager post-grad with an outstretched, fill-in-the-blank business card.

These are exactly the kinds of stock photos that Death to the Stock Photo pushes back against. Instead, Allison Lehman and David Sherry release sets of themed photos without the flat, white backgrounds and plastic expressions that the go-to stock photo companies pump out like combo meals.

Most photographers work on an hourly rate for events and contract gigs, and there’s not much of a way to break through that paywall without hiking rates or trying to sell prints. But… prints?

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(altered photo from the ‘Lake” series)

We talked to David of DttSP about their new model of photography and an upcoming 5-city trip that will fulfill a longtime dream.

How did the idea for Death to the Stock Photo come about? What were you and Allie doing before this?

Allie and I were both freelancing full time, and it started out as us just sending our designer/blogger/creative friends photos to use in their projects. I was just out of school (last May) and Allie was running The Wonder Jam, which she still does today.

We had a common pain where you work really hard creating something beautiful for a client, only for them to send you a pixelated, generic photo to use alongside your design or website. It just felt inauthentic. We’d actually preferred they hire someone for it but sometimes it’s too costly for newer businesses. Being that we both were photographers on the side, we decided to just open up our library to our friends to use however they wanted. After getting a great response on that we started shooting once a month for the email package we’d send out. We shoot in themes like coffee shop, city, park—anything we thought would really serve and inspire our communities’ projects.

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(altered photo from the ‘Brick & Mortar Pack”)

One interesting piece of my story is that right out of school I had this dream that I could get a brand to sponsor me to go on a road trip. I pitched multiple companies on a campaign to drive around the country creating photo and video content for them in exchange for funding the adventure. In the end I got all NOs, so it’s kind of cool/ironic that I’m doing a similar trip a year later with an audience of my own. Something I believe in now is that you can’t wait for anyone to “pick” you. You’ve got to pick yourself.

What’s your favorite cringe-worthy trope of traditional stock photography?

For me it’s all about the lighting and the staging, I guess. Lighting is such an important piece of photography, and many of the common cringe-worthy stock photos just have this weird superficial flat lighting that I honestly don’t even know how they create. I think they might have a filter that they put on it. Someone should create a “stock lighting filter” for Instagram.

Your upcoming project is an invitation. “Let’s adventure, together.” Tell me about the 5-city trip you’re taking.

With the support of our community we’re heading across the U.S. to take the most authentic imagery we can and tell the stories behind them. We’ll be hitting Big Sur, Seattle, Nashville, Chicago, and NYC. While some of it will be structured, we’re trying to make the content as authentic as possible, so we’re hoping for as much serendipity and real adventure as we can. Our brand is really about death to “stock” with stock meaning the average and generic. So we really want people to push beyond the “stock” lifestyle to pursue their dreams and push to create their own path versus one that’s standardized.

What place are you most excited about?

I’m most excited about checking out Big Sur. I’ve heard so many good things about it and I think I’m camping around there for part of it. Plus there’s a marathon going on there which will be awesome to see. Marathon people are usually awesome, so I’m hoping to meet some fellow travelers and hear their stories. Other than that, I’m in love with the energy NYC has so that will be special for me as well.

Do you have any specific notions of the sorts of things you’re looking to shoot?

We have some general outlines of what we want to shoot, but it’s funny because there’s this tough paradox. The more you plan, the more that planning comes through in the photo, which isn’t always bad, but the type of photography that I love is real and in the moment. There’s a delicate balance here, so we plan on having a loose structure on themes (similar to our monthly emails) alongside giving ourselves time to really get to know the city through our lens. 

What will buyers receive?

Our buyers (any amount they can afford) will receive a pack of 20+ photos every few days from each location. With that pack comes stories from the road; photos they can use in their own projects as they’d like, and hopefully a view of the city that they could apply to their own travels. We’d love for people to visit a city after and feel like they know some of the cool locations and cafes from this, kind of like a city guide.

What sorts of cool uses have you seen for your stock photos so far?

The best thing we see on a monthly basis is this dynamic between ourselves and our community. We create a pack, send it out, and then see all of these people just make something beautiful with it, be it a blog post, design, or website. Something in particular that was pretty cool was that we put out a local band-themed photo pack, and this guy emailed us after saying, “I finally mocked up this music app I’ve been thinking about because of this photo pack.” I loved hearing that.

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There are still a few days to sign up to receive photos from the Death to the Stock Photo cross-country trip. Go to https://gumroad.com/l/roadtrip. The cutoff is April 20th! And to receive monthly stock photos, go to join.deathtothestockphoto.com.

If you’re a photographer, designer, writer, musician, developer, filmmaker, or any other type of creator, what can you do that would break the established mold of your craft?  We’d love to hear about what you’re working on.

Making Great Videos with Caleb Wojcik

Travis Nichols on March 28th, 2014

Caleb Wojcik, co-founder of Fizzle.co, The Fizzle Show, and The Sparkline Blog, created a definitive crash course guide to making better videos. The DIY Video Guide takes you from gear (and the gear you don’t need) to audio to shooting to editing (with a trove of tricks to save on editing time), and everything on the software side. In addition to the book, higher packages include video tutorials, interviews, case studies and more. I talked to Caleb about the guide and video-making in general, and how I could have saved countless hours of my life if his book had come along just a little bit sooner.

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Starting from absolute scratch, what’s it going to cost someone to make good-looking, good-sounding, engaging videos?

Assuming you have a smart phone made in the last few years, you can start making good-looking and good-sounding videos for about $100. The three pieces of gear I recommend for making great-looking iPhone or Android videos are a RodeSmartLav ($60), the Glif Phone Tripod Mount ($30), and a small Gorillapod ($18).

Engaging videos, on the other hand, don’t cost anything but time. Time spent planning and scripting a compelling video, time recording take after take until you land that joke correctly, and time during editing making sure the video is as concise and clear as possible.

What are some of the biggest DON’Ts you see in videos out there in the cultural milieu?

One of the biggest mistakes I see is publishing videos that are way too long. The French mathematician Blaise Pascal once said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” A video that is too long is one that didn’t have enough time spent making it. The creator didn’t plan it out well enough or edit out enough fluff. 

Think of a director’s cut of a movie. Even in Hollywood, at some point you can’t just leave everything in. Videos that take too long to accomplish what they set out to do are a waste of time for the viewers and ultimately show a lack of polish by the creator.

What are the least-used and most-used pieces of video equipment that you own?

My least-used piece of video equipment has to be an LED light that just sits on top of my DSLR. I always bring it just in case I need it but I always default to natural light or setting up a three point lighting kit.

The piece of gear I use the most would have to be my tripod or monopod. I can’t stand shaky camera footage. I don’t mind it in a movie or show that is using it stylistically (see: Bourne movies), but if a video is shaky when I go to edit it I almost always throw it out.

We’ve got some more content coming out soon on improving conversion rates. One of the things we looked at was conversion rates for products with different types of covers (product previews) - image vs. video vs. audio. However, the vast majority of creators on Gumroad who use videos for covers are filmmakers. What sagely thoughts do you have about using video previews for other types of projects?

Don’t be afraid to show your face. In my experience, people buy from people easier than they do from mysterious brands. Hop on camera and explain to the viewer what it is you’re selling, in your own voice, with your own quirks and mannerisms.

Also, show the inside of your product, service, or company. Buyers want to see behind the scenes. Show them the inside of the book, the membership site, the factory where you make the shirts, or kitchen where the sausage is made. Think of it like special features on a DVD.

Caleb, the three-snaps-to-signal-a-mistake technique (see the book, readers) is fantastic. I’m currently digging through stacks of raw footage for some upcoming videos, and that would have saved hours of work if I had known about it before. I’m absolutely going to start snapping my mess-ups. Do you have another other quick video hack that you didn’t mention in the book or accompanying materials?

Always do two takes when possible. Even when I think I nailed the line the first time I always say it again. More often than not I will have made a funny face, said a word incorrectly, or had some other audio hiccup that I didn’t expect. Hard drive space is cheap. Taking the time to set up all your equipment again just to say one line is not.

It’s been around a month since the release of the DIY Video Guide. You talk about hitting the record button every day. That’s a month of work for you. Have you leveled up in that time (streamlined a process or two, picked up some new skills, etc.)? Or, Caleb, have you peaked? Oh no. Did you peak?

I actually worry about this. After you do something for a while, in my case making videos, it is easy to stop learning new things all the time. So what I’ve been spending some time learning lately is color correction. I always make sure that the image of the footage I shoot into the camera is publish-ready, but being able to stylize and adjust the colors of a shot just a little bit can go a long way towards upping the production value of your videos.

What part of video-making do you still find the most challenging?

Being myself on camera is something I still have an issue with when I’m working off a script. When I am just ad libbing or doing more of a tutorial where I can talk naturally it isn’t really a problem, but when I have to deliver a specific line or joke that I’ve written, it still takes me too many tries to not sound like a robot.

You offer the DIY Video Guide in three packages. What are some of the benefits of the packages that include more than the book alone?

What you get in the other packages are threefold. First, there are video tutorials from me on all of the more technical parts of making videos like the software you’ll use to edit and syncing audio with video recordings. Second, I have case studies of different kinds of videos I’ve made including book trailers and sales videos. Lastly, I have video interviews with online entrepreneurs that heavily use video day-to-day in their business, but do the majority of it themselves. These all add a more detailed and step-by-step look at how DIY videos are made.

The Gumroad team are big fans of Fizzle. (Readers, Fizzle creates products and content for indie entrepreneurs.) Anything exciting in the pipeline you can share?

We have some great “guest” courses that either just launched or are coming soon to Fizzle. One of which is an official course from Michael Port’s team called Book Yourself Solid. We’re also putting the finishing touches on an Advanced Podcasting course with John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur On Fire. And that’s not even to mention the great things our Fizzle members are accomplishing and sharing in the forum. I love all the Fizzlers. They rock.

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Find Caleb Wojcik’s blog, podcast, and book at calebwojcik.com.

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