Question for Game Consumers

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Joe
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Question for Game Consumers

Post by Joe »

This was my goal when I set out to publish a frpg:

To provide a game in one quality saddle stiched hardbound book that a kid of a single working mother could afford.
It would then be followed up by a Campaign Guide and support material also with the same price range.

I'm am now meeting the brick wall of reality of printing costs.

I look to you for advise on acceptable alternatives. Cranking the price up is my last option so I am open to creative ideas. I'm aware of pod and pdf sales but remember my orginal goal.

For one thing I know what I paid back in 1979 and 80 for my AD&D books from my paper route and comic book collection sales but what would be an acceptable price for such a customer base today?

I don't want to gouge anyone but I also don't want my wife wondering why she had supported such a foolhardy waste of her husband's retirement.

So...how do I get a quality hardbound copy of the game in the hands of folks that can't afford tons of money so their kid can experience what I did?

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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by GoOrange »

My experience with Lulu (print on demand) is that hardcovers aren't cheap. If you want to sell them basically at cost, they can be reasonable, but definitely not cheap.

If I wanted to make an RPG that was affordable, I would make it digest sized and paperback. If it's print on demand, you can make a hardcover edition available as well. Having multiple formats available helps reach a broader audience. Inexpensive ($10 or less) PDFs are a great way to entice people to try a game. Paperbacks are a good economical option for hard copies and hardcovers are great for collectors and those who like a little something extra. Using a PoD service like Lulu makes it easy to provide all three options.

Also, remember to keep the page count down and avoid unnecessary fluff. Too many companies are producing high page count tomes with way too much fluff in them. Mongoose Traveller is a good example of a concise book that contains all you need to start playing.

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Relaxo
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Relaxo »

I know very little, so there is your grain of salt, but I thought from one of Steve's posts that digest printing is similar in cost to full page b/c they basically have to use a whole sheet and cut it down, so it doesn't actually save any paper.
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Sir Ironside
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Sir Ironside »

Joe wrote:This was my goal when I set out to publish a frpg:

To provide a game in one quality saddle stiched hardbound book that a kid of a single working mother could afford.
It would then be followed up by a Campaign Guide and support material also with the same price range.
This is really hard to do, when not providing a range of costs your looking for, the page count, initial print run and if it is black and white or colour.

Consider your support material only being in pdf format, by-passing traditional printing and distribution. Drivethru and e23 both have decent traffic. I have no idea what they charge for distribution of pdf material.
I'm am now meeting the brick wall of reality of printing costs.
That brick wall is going nowhere. Price of paper, shipping costs etc. are fairly high at this point.
For one thing I know what I paid back in 1979 and 80 for my AD&D books from my paper route and comic book collection sales but what would be an acceptable price for such a customer base today?
This ain't the 1980's anymore. Times have changed. I have no idea how to include inflation, into the equation, but compare yourself to the big boys, who do large print runs for a base cost.
I don't want to gouge anyone but I also don't want my wife wondering why she had supported such a foolhardy waste of her husband's retirement.
Again, not wanting to "gouge" customers just means taking a much lower profit margin. That can only be done if you know your initial costs for printing, shipping etc. Even taking out your own personal time, you'll still see a price point, and I am only guessing because you've provided almost no information, that will always be- probably- much higher than you'd like. A lower profit margin means it'll make the break even point that much more difficult. Unless you have enough money to throw into a money pit your game will go nowhere if you can't support a long term plan.
So...how do I get a quality hardbound copy of the game in the hands of folks that can't afford tons of money so their kid can experience what I did?
I'm afraid you can't without subsidizing your book or are willing to take a loss on the gateway first book. That is the reality of printing. Just remember that the lower cost means a bigger print run. Then there is distribution, that can be a headache in itself. Plus you need a well edited, attractive book (Lay out is important) with good art. We all know just how fickle the rpg buying customer is. Just visit any rpg related forum and it is very hard to run across any thread that only has positive remarks about a new rpg, even if you could get a thread (Good or bad.) that has legs enough for people to care.

You've seen our own Troll Lord Games (I suspect a mid-level company) go through this.
I look to you for advise on acceptable alternatives. Cranking the price up is my last option so I am open to creative ideas. I'm aware of pod and pdf sales but remember my orginal goal.
One of the things you may have to compromise is giving up the idea of a hard-cover and going soft-bound. This reduces printing costs a great deal. Being a small company makes hard-bound unrealistic, for the imaginary price-point, and you making a decent profit when you consider all the above. Rpg's have a very small customer base and is swamped with rpg companies (Most have crashed and burned, which should be an indicator.) and usually a very short shelf-life. Creating "buzz" for your book is very hard to do. Without effective advertisement, a book that hasn't been done before and convincing store owners that they need this product, in their stores is a long up-hill battle. Even just advertising, on the net, creates a whole other set of problems. Even if you create an attractive website, I'd guess the traffic would be low and if there is not enough information on what your book is and what it contains creates a problem that not being a well know name most gamers will be less inclined to even bother. Those that do bother only a small percentage will buy it. Times are tough, budgets are limited so gaming money is usually allocated to a well known product. Even if you have a revolutionary system/game, it'll be a hard, hard sell. Getting into retailers is even more difficult. A trip to your FLGS is all you need to know, in that area. Plus you've just added the cost of creating a website. There is a reason D&D is the 600lbs gorilla in the room.

Books like Diasporia is an exception to the rule. They started out as a Lulu pod publisher, that created quite a buzz, without much advertising, so much so that Evil Hat Games picked them up and included them into their own line of books. This was the perfect storm for rpg publishing that I haven't ever seen before or after.

Catalyst Games Lab put out Eclipse Phase that had a fair amount of buzz with a beautiful website, when first released by Posthuman Studios. They have since been relegated to the "One of many." sci-fi games on the market.

That being said, RPG.net has a thread with some decent ideas for distribution. Bill from Hinterwelt (Who is a friend of mine) is someone that you could listen to. He is a small press, so his distribution and advice should be noted.

Indie Press Revolution is a trusted site for indie distribution.

That being said Guild of Blades has a decent price point, for soft-cover rpg's, if they ever get their printing back-up. Using their Printing Price Calculator will give you an idea as to what it'd cost. They also offer a distribution package, but it might be smarter to search around. My experiences with Guild of Blades are mixed so take that as a warning. So, do some research before committing. The biggest piece of advice is do not use any of their distribution services. Unless they have dramatically changed, their distribution is more like the "sell" of extended warranty that are pushed on you at most "big box" electronics stores.

Mongoose Publishing has their own line called Flaming Cobra that specifically deals with small press games.

Blacksburgh Tactical Research Center and Precise Intermediate Games have been successful at starting out as a small publisher and moving on up to a lower, mid-range gaming company, but you'll note both have embraced pdf's. Both took a long time to get a good customer base to help supply an infusion of money to reinvest into their company.

The other idea is to ask (Get a quote) from our own Trolls right here. On top of C&C they have their own printing company, and probably some advice. They do hard-back and soft-cover so it wouldn't hurt to just ask.

Another small press person you could talk to is Brian St.Claire from Vajra Games. He is a nice guy, pretty open about things and probably let you pick his brain for advice.

Good luck!

P.S. I always hate throwing cold-water on an idea that someone is passionate about. But, it'll serve no purpose if I try to sugar-coat it.
"Paranoia is just another word for ignorance." - Hunter S. Thompson

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Relaxo
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Relaxo »

great post, Ironside!
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by gideon_thorne »

Well, I'll tell you this much. Even with having access to their own printers, TLG is not charging as high as they should, as far as cost vs price point, for a hard back book.

Somewhat relevant, but a side tangent. I was having a conversation with Larry Elmore a few months back and he and I were talking comics. Once upon a time, like myself, he wanted to go into doing comic art. And, like myself, he talked it over with someone in the comic industry.

This comic artist (who I can't remember the name of) asked Larry a simple question, when Larry posed going into comics.

"Do you love it?"

Larry replied "I think it could be fun?

"No, do you love it? Because its a lot of hard, demanding, work for a little return. Most comic artists don't do what we do because it pays well. But because we love it." Larry, like myself, enjoys illustration more.

But the same thing could be said for producing rpgs. The work is demanding, the hours are long, and sometimes the rewards and worse, the flip side, the ofttimes disproportionate and hysterical lambasting critique, isn't worth it. But, like doing art (especially fantasy art, which is a niche, of a niche, of a niche all its own), its not something you do primarily for the hope of a comfortable retirement. You do it because its who you are and what you enjoy. The publishing industry, everywhere, is a pain right now. And its likely going to be a pain for some time to come. The new electronic market (kindle et al) is changing the face of the entire publishing industry. Not just rpgs.

Its not just getting into the stores thats the problem. Its having a store to get into what with the massive book store closures in the face of the electronic markets. That is the reality of the industry these days.

Honestly, one of the few effective ways to make money is to support an already proven product.
"The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, 'Save us!' And I'll look down, and whisper 'No.' " ~Rorschach

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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by alcyone »

I didn't know one could saddle-stitch a hardback. What would that look like, are there any examples?
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by alcyone »

Joe wrote: To provide a game in one quality saddle stiched hardbound book that a kid of a single working mother could afford.
Most of my stuff was acquired in clever trading of Lego, Star Wars, and GI Joe.
My C&C stuff: www.rpggrognard.com

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Joe
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Joe »

Great posts guys.

I'm not asking the question "How do I get into publishing"
I'm already way in it.
I'm not asking how to pull a profit...

I appreciate SI such detailed reply and will follow up on some of your leads.

But folks, I'm not doing the dreamy eyed geez I wonder what its like to design a game? Game is designed and edited.
Art is done
Layout begins next month and yes I have some awesome people helping me. Folks right now are working away on support material and the Campaign Guide. Marketting is about to begin asap as will large scale beta testing.

My question is very specific and assumes I already have a handle on the various pdf options out there.

I am looking for ideas that folks "May not have thought of yet" not what are tried practices. I may be forced to find alternative route but at this moment I am not asking about alternatives to my goal.

I am asking for new ideas on how to get a top notch hardbound into the hands of poor kids like I was.
Don't tell me it's impossible because I can order up the print job today, sign each freaking book myself, and deliver them for free if I wanted to. I could become destitute and build my new home out of shiney hardcovers.

Peter is asking if I love it.

To answer your question Peter, it is a resounding Yes!
i love it and hate it at the same time.
At work I have to keep my personal thoughts to myself as I ride the tightrope of political correctness, career, compromises, and convictions.
Complete creative freedom is the most liberating (though expensive) thing I have ever done.
When I asked the question on this thread if you had one thing you could communicate to the world what would it be, the game was my answer.

So...Hardbound book + Kids of single moms = Happy Joe
It really is as simple as that.

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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Sir Ironside »

Joe wrote:So...Hardbound book + Kids of single moms = Happy Joe
It really is as simple as that.
Since you've thrown your hat over-the-fence. I'll give you something that hopefully will help.

Palladium games has a printer that is very, very reasonable for hardcovers. Problem is I no longer have the link (Lost it in the Sir Ironside's great computer crash.) and for the life of me I can't remember the name of the company.

So, find out who prints Palladium books and see if it is a fit for you.
"Paranoia is just another word for ignorance." - Hunter S. Thompson

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Joe
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Joe »

Your awesome SI...thanks.
Though I thought Palladium was history.

I'll check it out.
Its my favorite hat...just got it worn in.

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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by serleran »

For me, when I was endeavoring to find a means, I opted to purchase my own book binding machine and industrial-grade printer. Of course, I was also not necessarily looking to print thousands and thousands of copies of my work... but hoped to at least recoup the expenses. And then, well... nothing.

I would say there are as many ways to do this as you are willing to explore.

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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Sir Ironside »

Joe wrote:Though I thought Palladium was history.
Nope, still going strong.

I was talking to someone about your problem and they suggested Bang Printing. Just to be clear, I know next to nothing about them, and I am just passing on the link. They do have a minimum purchase order of 500 copies. I'm guessing that is probably too large for what your looking for, but there you are.

Still try to look for my other suggestion. As I remember, their minimum purchase order was much lower than 500.
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by alcyone »

Saddle-stitching is what is used for most modules; it's just staples down the spine. I'm not a book-binder and don't know much about it, but I looked at my AD&D books, and they look like cloth bindings.

I bring it up just because it would be terribly disappointing to order 1000 saddle-stitched books when you meant something else.
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Sir Ironside »

Aergraith wrote:Saddle-stitching is what is used for most modules; it's just staples down the spine. I'm not a book-binder and don't know much about it, but I looked at my AD&D books, and they look like cloth bindings.

I bring it up just because it would be terribly disappointing to order 1000 saddle-stitched books when you meant something else.
I'll field this one Joe.

There are two processes to binding large page count books. The one you are referring to that may or may not have a cloth glue to the end has two steps. Step one is to *saddle stitch a group paper into smaller groups, (Let's say 10 of each) then bind those to the book with glue into the spine. So a book with 10 grouped pages (Groupings use the full page that actually have four numbered pages for each page being saddled stitched. The first group being bound this way would have the first page as number one and the last page number 40 on the same printed page. The second group would start at page forty-one and end at eighty.) that have 20 of these saddle stitched bindings would equal 800 pages (10*20*4 = 800 pages). Books done this way need to always have a even page count and the cloth acts like rebar to better keep the saddle stitch groups bound to the book. This method is usually the best way to bind large books. (Not saying perfect bound isn't an option, but the possibility of things like pages falling out is greater. You just need to look at; GURPS 3e core book to see the pages starting to come out of the book. More recently I had this problem with; Kidworld from Vajra Entertainment Group. Saddle stitched large books can have the problem of loose pages, but they are rare. The first printing of the; GURPS 4e core books had this problem. But that was attributed to a lower grade, poor selection of glue, the actual saddle stitch was fine and the loose pages where the actual saddle stitched groupings.) The side that has not been bound usually gets cut down to create an even page for the over-all look. Some books do not do this and just leave the pages as they are creating an undulating end. (My book; Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das does this. It is a cool look that gives an old-time feel to the book. Though it makes it a little harder to flip through pages.)

Then there is perfect bound. Pages are individually glued together in the spine of the books. These do not need an equal page count.

The first is a far superior and durable way for binding large page count books.

Smaller page counts are perfectly fine, durable and cost effective when using perfect bound binding.

* Saddle stitch is really in reference to the original meaning. When binding books, in this way and usually larger books, the actual binding is thread and not staples. Along the way stapled binding also ended up being called saddle stitching as it is close enough to the process of actually using thread. I guess calling the binding, Staple bound binding, just wasn't cool enough. ;)

There are other methods for binding, but for making a short post I'll just stick to those two as that seems to be the question.

Edit: The Crusader used saddle stitch (staples) for its line up until the most recent magazine they started using perfect bound. I personally like the new binding choice. Though it is harder to lay flat.
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by alcyone »

Sir Ironside wrote:
Aergraith wrote: * Saddle stitch is really in reference to the original meaning. When binding books, in this way and usually larger books, the actual binding is thread and not staples. Along the way stapled binding also ended up being called saddle stitching as it is close enough to the process of actually using thread. I guess calling the binding, Staple bound binding, just wasn't cool enough. ;)
Ah, thanks for the clarification.
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Rikitiki »

Joe, (see above post) just buy Serleran's old machine...

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Joe
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Re: Question for Game Consumers

Post by Joe »

Rikitiki wrote:Joe, (see above post) just buy Serleran's old machine...
Voila! :D
Pictures himself getting off work to work over a print machine until 3 am every night... wait a minute:cry:

Gotta remember my original goal of providing affordable high quality hardbounds.

Trust me folks: If I started dabbling in self printing I would not be able to meet my original goal.

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