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General Forge Forums => Independent Publishing => Topic started by: hoefer on July 17, 2009, 01:03:49 PM

Title: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: hoefer on July 17, 2009, 01:03:49 PM
Well, I'm going to press getting ready for GenCon and all the sudden (especially with the economy in the US) I'm having second thoughts on my price structure.  I've got a perfectbound, B&W with color cover, 436 page RPG rule book with a substantial amount of extras in it (a lot of setting, "monster manual" material, some full-on starting adventures).  I've put $37.00 on it, but am now thinking it might be a bit much.  Originally, I priced it on the 1 purchase = 250% of cost structure (which from what I understand is somewhat common in the industry).  Now, I'm looking at it, and though I think it's both gorgeous and well-done (yes, as its "father" I'm bias) I'm wondering will people take a $37 chance on a indie product? 

Any and all advice/experiences on pricing and selling products at GenCon would be very useful! I'm selling through a GPA slot in case it matters (at the time it was the most affordable way for me to go). 

Thanks guys,

Louis Hoefer (

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: Seth M. Drebitko on July 18, 2009, 04:19:06 AM
For that size of book I would say that is a pretty standard price, on the other hand at GenCon you will be competing to get people to make those impulse buys so possibly a GenCon only sale might be a good idea.

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: greyorm on July 18, 2009, 12:41:05 PM
I second what Seth said.

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: hoefer on July 18, 2009, 03:57:26 PM
Obviously I can't ask you to run my company for me, but at what price point would you think something becomes an "impulse buy?"

If I knocked them down to $30 is that enough... I hate going much lower -I have no idea what sales are going to be like and as you're aware the lower you go the more you have to sell to break even, etc.  Is there anyone out there who was in my shoes last year; just starting out with a product and not knowing what would sell and for how much?  What has this community learned about pricing that it could pass on to me?  Thanks all!

Louis Hoefer

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: Selene Tan on July 19, 2009, 12:23:01 AM
I did some searching here and on Story Games for "pricing" and turned up some useful threads. I've included the years because the indie RPG scene has changed/matured some, and also because people have gotten more experience with selling and pricing in that time.

On RPG's and Pricing ( (2002)
The Price was Right (Come ( (2004) - Luke Crane gets berated for pricing his game too low
The Very, Very Basics of Pricing Your Game ( (2005) - Basic supply and demand discussion
Pricing Print Works ( (2006)
Where is the money? ( (2006)
ORX, Sales Numbers, and Retail ( (2008) - the thread focuses on pricing and production costs for retail but the discussion is good

Some people in one of the threads I linked to found the Wikipedia entry on pricing ( useful.

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: hoefer on July 19, 2009, 04:00:14 AM
Thanks for the links, I've already read through many of the Forge ones, but thought it might be appropriate to rehash this as (as you've pointed out by dating them) I think the last two years or so have presented a different climate for RPGs (especially Indie RPGs). 

Also, I am really wanting some anecdotal situations to help confirm or disillusion my own thoughts.  You know, the sort of thing where people say- this is what I was thinking before pricing my book, this is what I did when pricing my book, this was the result in sales at that price of my book, and this is my analysis of the whole experience.  I wanted to get peoples gut reactions to my price as well ($37 for a perfectbound -are you f'n' nutz? -etc.)  So far, very useful stuff every which way. 

Louis Hoefer (

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on July 19, 2009, 06:58:57 AM
I have not priced a book. Hopefully my input has value, regardless.

$37 for a $436-page perfect-bound (hard-cover?) book seems about fair, assuming the pages are full of content, rather than fluff.

It seems fair. That doesn't mean anything close to me being willing to buy it.

As was tossed around in some of those threads, you've pushed your book well out of impulse buy territory. There's no way I'm going to pick this book up, thumb through it, shrug and say "why not?" That it about equally true at $30. So there needs to be something, whether it be a rockin' demo or full games, to make me decide I want it.

I bought Fae Noir at GenCon '08 based on a single session in Games on Demand (about 3.5 hours with basic rules explanation and some character customization). I think the price point was similar. Doing so meant I did NOT pick up several other games I would have liked to have.

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: Seth M. Drebitko on July 19, 2009, 10:11:55 AM
$30 seems good I mean it is more than 18% off (even if only buy a bit) you could even add some extra flair to it get a gold, silver and bronze, and black inked pen and hand sign/ number peoples purchases with the pens. Switch to a "downgraded" ink after every certain number of books . While the later idea might not sell any books for you it might leave your customers walking away going "hey neat!".

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: MatrixGamer on July 20, 2009, 05:43:41 AM
Let me be the one to jump in and urge you to resist dropping your price. $37 sounds like a fair price for the amount of material you're selling. I think you will find that the difference in price between 30 and 37 won't influence people's buying behavior much and it puts you out 7 dollars a book for no more sales. While there are some discount hunters at Gen Con I think most people buy at Gen Con what they know they will never be able to buy in their local store (or even on line in some cases).

We have a tendency to under value ourselves and go for discounting. This is our low self esteem talking rather than good business sense. Discounting neither helps us nor the consumer (who presumably wants new product). If we can't pay for our hotel room it reduces the likelyhood of our making more games. So a fair price is reasonable to them to pay so we keep on working.

BTW when it comes to impulse buys it all depends on the market. I was talking with one Central Indiana retailer who said in his store below $20 was the impulse purchase price. In other places it's more - but when you get a deep discount on some items (like the closing out price deals at Titan Games) the low price can actually hurt sales. It makes people think that the game isn't worth full price. When we discount we say the same thing.

My own experience (and battles with low self esteem) with game pricing is that discounting has never worked. The number of games sold had more to do with my presence explaining and selling the game than the price. When I wasn't there there were far fewer sales.

If you want to talk more about this face to face please come by my Gen Con booth (Hamster Press). I'm always interested in figuring more out about this retail thing.

Chris Engle

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on July 20, 2009, 10:28:29 AM
brief thing: Consider $35. Round numbers are a goodness. When you're trying to remember what games you want to buy and adding up totals in your head to see how many you can afford on the budget you've set yourself, a nice, round number is more convenient. $40 is equally convenient, but then suddenly people are seeing that 4 in the tens place, so...

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: Paul Czege on July 20, 2009, 11:17:24 AM
I spent $40 on Old Frontiers at Gen Con last year:

It's 290 pages, softcover, perfect bound. It was not an impulse buy. I looked at it a bit while the designer was running a demo for someone, and then came back the next day and had him run the demo for me. And then I didn't buy it on the basis of the mechanics he demoed, but based on some of the off-hand comments he made about the game universe while running the demo.

I don't know anyone else who bought it.

Chris is right. Whether it's $30 or $37, you're going to sell it on the basis of your conversations with folks.


Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: hoefer on July 20, 2009, 06:25:35 PM
Well, the more I'm looking at things, the more I'm thinking of dropping the price to $30 for GenCon.  Here's my reasoning -please point out errant logic as you see fit.

1).  The book is available on my site at $37.00 (I've decided to -for the time- pay all shipping costs.  My goal right now is to get this product out into the masses and aside from demoing it at every con I can get to, I feel making it "ship for free" might help) so really I'm taking nearly the same hit selling it directly from my site as I would selling it discounted at GenCon.

2).  I originally choose 37.00 out of a "range-pricing" idea I had, along with the fact that at $37.00 each book covered the printing of an additional book and a half almost exactly.  At 30.00 I still get an extra print out of each sale and the sales I get at the con might illicit additional sales afterward through my site (God willing, some of the purchasers will play it with friends and they will then purchase it, etc.).

3).  My own "gaming buddies" and test players have suggested that they expect a book to be hardback once it breaks the $30.00 range.  I guess I (subconsciously) feel the same.  There is some latent expectation that after $30.00 everything will be all glossy and hardbound (similarly I kinda feel past $50 it either has to be larger than 8.5 x 11 or be leather bound).  I've already read teh threads that declare this thinking as crap -but I've talked to a lot of people and crap or not it seems to hold true...   I originally thought that because it was so meaty (with the 436 page count) it would compensate, but I'm just not getting that feel from the people I've talked to.  (apparently, an extra 100 pages of good content don't add up to the luxury of having a hard outer cover...hmm???)

4).  Right now, selling 1 more copy seems more important to me than earning X more profit -not to the point I want to lose money, but just that I hope my product will speak for itself once its out there -meanwhile I can speak for it at the conventions and such.

5).  Unfortunately, I won't be there as much to directly promote my game.  I'll be running a lot of events with it (as I have for many years), but not be there with the GPA booth pushing copies into the hands of every passerby :-)  Therefore, I think what has been said about price being overcome through "presence" may not be a luxury I have this year (to boot, I'm a pretty shy guy -maybe dealing with the esteem issues Chris mentioned).

6).  Last, I think if I was even sort of interested in a new product and saw a sticker on it saying something like, "GenCon Release Price $30.00 -save $7.00" I might be more apt to get it while at the convention.  I know personally I have never bought something at the convention that I could have got off-site cheaper (and my local shop gives me 15% off everything I buy).  The only exception here is when I've bought directly from the creator/owner of the company (so I guess this defeats my own logic...).

Well, there you go...

-Oh, and Chris, I will definitely hunt you down at the con.  I've talked to you (briefly) for the last few years.  When I started out a few years back, you were the first person (who had their own booth/company) that actually talked to me about the industry and didn't seem condescending when I explained that I was working on my own game -kudos to you friend.

Louis Hoefer (

Title: Re: Any thoughts on pricing a book?
Post by: MatrixGamer on July 21, 2009, 05:19:09 AM
You've made a firm decision so run with it. Your reasons are sound.

You're actually at the fun stage of game making. Getting to run your own games is the best and if you walk people down to the GPA booth after your run then you'll make sales - probably more sales than you'd get being at the booth.

You've come a long way - getting a game designed, written and published in an economical POD way is a lot of work. The next step is to have fun at the show! I'm hoping to drop by the events my demo guys are doing and saying hi to the players. That way I can get more feedback from them over what I need to improve and maybe enjoy some friendly banter. It's all about engaging my own shyness to continue to get more used to the feelings it brings up. Now that I need to start making sales calls I need to get better and better at regulating those emotions.

Chris Engle