*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 25, 2014, 11:42:33 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 26 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: About Publishing: Can I get an idea what it's like?  (Read 2617 times)
David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« on: January 14, 2009, 12:31:16 AM »

After pouring many hours into my game and seeing it become something closer to "complete", I've wanted to consider some of my options about things.  So, if you can give me any input on some of these options, I'd greatly appreciate it. I'm not expecting accurate numbers, just more of an idea, so I can decide what path I'll pursue and where I want to do further research. 

Printing Books with traditional methods
1. I've heard there's certain "price breaks" for printing books. (ie. printing 500 is cheaper, per book, than printing 5) Typically, where are the major price breaks?  When people have a print run done, how many do they normally have printed?
2. How much, per book, does it cost?  How much more do color books cost?  How much more do hardcover books cost?
3. What's the process of, finding a printer, negotiating a print run and arranging delivery, like?
4. How much space does 1,000 books take up? 
5. Those of you who did do a major print run, did you have a distributor who handled receiving and storing the books, or has anyone self distributed?
6. Is there a lot of specialized experience I'd need to not be totally in over my head?

Print on Demand
I've done my research on POD (which is more accessible.) My main question would be, did anything unexpected come up? Was the experience positive, or did you have any regrets?

PDF Distribution
How expensive is it to run a server where people can download and redownload a PDF they've purchased, yourself?  How much does a site like DriveThruRPG.com charge to sell your PDFs?

From the stage where your game is in printer-ready PDF format and beyond, is there anything you think I should know?

Right now, I don't have any specific plans of what I'll do with my RPG after I finish it... I might even choose to just give it away for free. However, in some ways, I see printing books a way of "legitimizing" the whole experience.  (Also, I do realize that if I choose the commercial route, I'll want to put a lot more effort into things like marketing...)
Logged

...but enjoying the scenery.
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2009, 04:28:21 AM »

Good questions.

Traditional

1.
As a rule of thumb there really aren't actual price breaks in the technology itself. It's just that setting up the print run costs X dollars, paper costs Y dollars and printing that one page costs Z dollars. In a traditional set-up (off-set or the sort) X is high, Y is the same it is for everybody else and Z is minuscule. In a digital printing set-up X is low, Y is the same and Z is high. This means that if you plot the costs of printing a project into a graph with run length on the x-axis and cost on the y-axis, you'll find that the traditional method starts higher (that set-up cost X is the same even if you print just one copy) but goes up slower (Z is very low, mostly it's Y that increases the cost as your paper consumption increases), while the digital printer starts lower (X is smaller, and can be brought down further by smart preparation; some printers go so far as to include the set-up costs in the page costs, such as Lulu, which results in almost no price breaks with longer runs) and goes up faster (because Z is considerable, unlike in the traditional set-up).

"Price breaks" in this technical context are an artificial phenomenon that comes about with individual printers who simplify their costs structure for the customer. Lulu, for example, gives you a very slight discount for printing what, 25 copies of your book? It's not that 25 is somehow cheaper to make than 24, they just decided to set up their pricing like this. Other printers have different systems, different work flow, different practices, different profit margins, different customers and different pricing.

The natural follow-up question is when a traditional print run should be chosen instead of a digital printer. The answer changes with time as both basic types of printing equipment is developed, and the state of the economy changes to favour different companies. But a very, very rough rule of thumb might be that the break-point between the two technologies might reside somewhere around 500 copies of whatever you're printing. At those numbers you should definitely start including chosen traditional printers into your quote requests, while considerably under that it's unlikely that they could match the prices of digital printers.

When putting that to practice the indie designer will find that he will do well to be very critical of the purported advantages of large print runs. The question of how much to print depends on your personal goals so much that we can't go into it here, though.

2.
If you're printing just one copy of your book (POD) and it's a typical roleplaying book, expect it to cost something like 5-10 dollars depending on its size. Quadruple or quintuple that for full color, roughly. Add something like 5 dollars for hard covers or otherwise special binding. When printing in quantity, these prices go down considerably. When printing a couple of hundred copies of your book with a digital printer, expect to pay considerably under five dollars per copy if it's one-color and perfect bound. When printing the same book in the thousands, expect the cost to be even lower.

The costs savings you get for a larger print run have diminishing returns because the "savings" we see in per-copy cost are really that set-up factor X distributed to more copies of the book, and you can't really spread it out forever - at some point you're just looking at the real variable costs of producing the book when you're doing such a large print run that the X factor fades into irrelevancy in the cost structure. If setting up the printer costs $500 and printing one book costs $1, then we're going to say that printing that one book costs $501 even when in reality you just paid for setting up the printer for the most part. If you printed a hundred copies at once from that printer, you'd get a per-copy cost of $6, out of which $5 is set-up cost. If you printed a thousand copies, your cost per copy would be $1.5, out of which $.5 would be set-up cost and the majority would in fact come as variable costs. This is why the cost of one book goes down when you print larger runs - but you can never get below those variable costs.

3.
The normal method for finding a printer for your work is to go comb the internet for the sort of printer you want - POD, digital, traditional - write down their contact information and then send a bunch of email with the heading "Quote Request" or similar. In this email message you then describe your project in terms of printing practice - ideally you'll already know what information to give, but presumably the printer will help you by asking clarifying questions if they want your business. You send many of these messages, at least a dozen, and then compare the responses, perhaps by setting up a table out of them. This allows you to cross out the companies that are asking highly inflated prices compared to the competition, as well as those that gave suspiciously low quotes. Out of the rest you then pick the printer that gave a reasonably low quote and seems professional, responsive and trustworthy.

You can make the above process a bit easier by using a printer mailing list to send you quote. The Internet is full of mailing list services where printers list themselves and where you can go and give your project details - they'll automatically mail the data to hundreds of printers, out of which the ones who think they can service your needs will send you their quotes. I personally prefer to choose the printers I ask quotes from by hand, but that's probably unnecessarily old-fashioned.

Another thing that might help you are the quote request forms many printers have on their web pages. These are useful if you don't know much about printing and therefore don't know what your request should include. I don't use forms myself because they limit the sort of information I can give, and it's slow to type out the same information in the slightly different forms of many different printers when I could just be mass-sending one email message to many different printers. But if you know that you won't be asking for quotes from many places, then using the form might be a time-saver.

To do this printer-finding correctly you'll need to know the sort of printers you're interested in technology-wise and otherwise as well: you know how many copies of the book you want, so based on that you'll choose either POD, digital print or traditional printers in your search, or perhaps two of the categories if your project might work with either. (The difference between the first two is that a POD printer is specialized in printing just one copy of the book at a time and also provides a fulfillment service, while a digital printer just does small print runs in the dozens or low hundreds using digital printing equipment - the equipment is often very similar in these companies, their business models just differ.) You might also have recommendations or warnings from other publishers with similar needs, which might help you specifically target some printers with your quote requests. Most of the time the printer websites won't give you any solid data about whether they can or can't print or bind the work you want, so in general you'll have to just send them your quote request (a form letter, essentially - no need to personalize it) and see what they think themselves. The printer is the foremost authority on what they can or can't do for you.

When you get responses, you'll get to see why the general opinion of any publisher is that printers are half-wits or even subhumans. Many printers won't answer you at all because they lost your mail or are not interested in the project - those are fine, you won't be missing them. Some printers will send you quotes that are very high; this might be because their set-up is simply inefficient for the sort of project you're proposing, or it might be because their "expertise" lies in doing over-priced print jobs for amateurs who don't realize that they should ask around before committing to a printer. Some printers will ask you stupid questions, some will act like you made a binding contract with them just by asking for their prices, some will contact you a half year after you sent the request, some will be obviously incompetent, and so on - it's a jungle out there and your job is to find a printer that actually can do the work for you. I recommend that you favour printers with intelligible, prompt customer service highly, even over a slightly cheaper alternative. It'll be invaluable during the printing process if you have chosen a printer that actually reads emails and answers questions. A traditional warning sign is if you write a message with several questions and they only answer the first one - what does that tell about their attention to your concerns?

My experience with printers is primarily from Finland. I can say that especially digital printers have very widely varying conceptions of quality and professionalism. I might even say that something like half of all digital printers seem to be run by mid-schoolers on summer break, mid-schoolers who haven't read the instructions to their machines, either. These mid-schoolers will ruin you if you let them. You will often find that after you've chosen a printer, you will return to the quotes in a couple of weeks after it's become obvious that the printer you chose either can't stick to the schedule they promised or can't print the quality of work you require. Always demand a proof on paper from a printer you're working with for the first time! It's literally possible that a printer can't print your work because they don't know how to change the raster setting of their machine to print acceptable greyscale images, for example. Never pay for anything in digital printing before the work is done and in your hands. (In traditional printing you'll often pay half in advance or some such, as the projects are large enough to run a real risk for the printer if you bail out.)

As for delivery, the normal procedure is for you to include the rough target area of the delivery in your initial quote request. For example, when I was printing Solar System last year, I included something like "Delivery to Indianapolis around the middle of August" as one of the points in my request. Then the printers (or at least the marginally competent fraction therein) know to include the costs of their chosen courier into their quote.

4.
This depends on the dimensions of your book, but thinking of something like the D&D PHB, a thousand copies takes a considerable amount of space. It'd be... a stack of boxes the height of a man would hold something like 50 copies, so it'd be 20 stacks like that. I recommend taking the end-point logistics seriously.

5.
A distributor wouldn't be what you'd want for the purpose of initially storing your books, most likely. Rather, you'd want a storage and fulfillment service such as IPR.

We've done our share of handling books, and I'd say that the reasonable limits of a garage operation start to overflow when you're talking of a thousand-copy print run. A couple hundred copies of a book you'll still store comfortably at your home, but more than that will practically require some sort of semi-professional arrangement.

6.
The part you'll need knowledge about is the layout and printing process, because you'll need to be able to make the correct choices for your project when it comes to printer services. You can get somewhere by getting a responsive printer that cares enough to explain things to you, but probably your best bet is to work closely with somebody who's done it before and ask them to help you with drafting your quote request and other such technical details.


PDF Distribution

The cost of having a basic web site is pretty small - tens of dollars annually. Having a specific domain increases the costs somewhat. Setting up PDF delivery is technically intensive, but not expensive. So you could pay somebody to set it up for you, or you could learn the technology yourself, or you could use an existing service to manage your pdf downloads for you - using an external service can be very cheap, a minor expense. So overall I'd say that expense is not something you should worry about when it comes to selling pdf files. Heck, if your sales are low-intensity, you could just email the pdf files yourself to your customers.

I haven't used any of the pdf webstores, so I can't offhand tell you what their cut is. But the basic set-up is that they take a percentage off the top from whatever they sell, so it's not that they charge you to sell the product.

Hmm... that's for starters. Ask more questions if you can think of any.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
guildofblades
Member

Posts: 309


WWW
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2009, 10:07:55 AM »

>>Never pay for anything in digital printing before the work is done and in your hands. (In traditional printing you'll often pay half in advance or some such, as the projects are large enough to run a real risk for the printer if you bail out.<<

You will find very, very few POD operations still around that will do the work on credit. The ones that did before have all gone out of business. Its one reason we don't do it ourselves.

With a traditional printer, working on a half down, half net 30, which is what we used to demand out of all of our printers, the half down largely covers a printers up front investment. If they never saw the other net 30, they would be close to break even on the project, less their profit margin and maybe taking a hit on some of the labor. And if an account goes past due, you are usually talking about an amount large enough to go after, legally, in some fashion.

With print on demand, the amounts we talking about are typically in the hundreds and for many smaller orders, under $100. When an account as such goes unpaid, its such a small amount it doesn't make any sense to chase after it legally, as the cost to get that recovery outstrips the amount to be recovered. And if the POD took nothing up front, they are out not just the labor, but the cost of the paper, printing and shipping too. This is the quick road to business failure for a POD. I would personally question the experience of any POD who offered full credit terms (POD by its nature is smaller jobs entailing less capital in the first place).

One thing a POD (or any digital printer) should be able to offer is a proof or a small enough order that it can serve as a proof. If you are unsure about the quality of a POD, leave yourself time to do a small test order first, so you can see what you are getting before committing to a somewhat larger order.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com
Logged

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2009, 10:38:09 AM »

Ah, well. My experience on this is from Finland, largely, and here it seems typical procedure for digital printers to only bill after the work's been done and inspected. Probably much less grift here in general due to a smaller, more regulated market environment, so there's more room for trust.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Graham W
Member

Posts: 449


WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2009, 02:29:31 PM »

Hey, David, my experience is from printing one book, Play Unsafe, which has sold moderately well (450 copies in just over a year). Others here have more experience than me.

These are great questions, by the way.

1. I've heard there's certain "price breaks" for printing books. (ie. printing 500 is cheaper, per book, than printing 5) Typically, where are the major price breaks?

It just gets cheaper as you print more. The breaks depend on the particular printer, really.

When people have a print run done, how many do they normally have printed?

I hear people doing print runs of 100 and 200.

Don't take that as gospel, but it gives you an idea. If you're promoting your game at conventions and making an effort to push it, you'll sell more than 20. Unless it's great, you won't sell 1000. So that's the order of magnitude you're looking at.

2. How much, per book, does it cost?  How much more do color books cost?  How much more do hardcover books cost?

That really depends on the printer. Don't be afraid, though. Go to a printer and ask them for a quote. You're under no obligation and you'll get a better answer than we'll give you here.

3. What's the process of, finding a printer, negotiating a print run and arranging delivery, like?

Finding a reliable printer isn't a trivial process. Ask around and find who has good experiences with which printers. Be aware that things change rapidly: if you find a thread from two years ago, recommending printers, then it may be that things have moved on by now.

4. How much space does 1,000 books take up?

A few big boxes. 1000 is a big print run! Can you really sell that many? I'd do a short print run first and see how it goes, personally.

5. Those of you who did do a major print run, did you have a distributor who handled receiving and storing the books, or has anyone self distributed?

They're all options. Self-distributing is perfectly possible: Paul Czege, who publishes with My Life With Master, does this. You can might be able to use The Unstore. Various people here use Indie Press Revolution.

6. Is there a lot of specialized experience I'd need to not be totally in over my head?

There's nothing you can't handle (which is, more or less, the whole idea behind indie games). You'll need to do a bit of reading and ask questions.

I've done my research on POD (which is more accessible.) My main question would be, did anything unexpected come up? Was the experience positive, or did you have any regrets?

It's a good option, especially if you're nervous or want to test the market for your game. I used Lulu for my book. My only regret is that I could have done a print run and made a bit more money. But I didn't know that at the time.

How expensive is it to run a server where people can download and redownload a PDF they've purchased, yourself?  How much does a site like DriveThruRPG.com charge to sell your PDFs?

I don't really know this one.

Putting a PayPal button on a webpage, then emailing the PDF when people pay you money, costs the cost of the webpage.

I don't know about DriveThruRPG, but Lulu charges 20% of the price of the PDF.

From the stage where your game is in printer-ready PDF format and beyond, is there anything you think I should know?

Marketing is the biggest obstacle. Go to conventions and get people playing your game. Don't rely on the Internet.

Good luck!

Graham
Logged
David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2009, 10:13:28 PM »

A few comments

Quote
We've done our share of handling books, and I'd say that the reasonable limits of a garage operation start to overflow when you're talking of a thousand-copy print run. A couple hundred copies of a book you'll still store comfortably at your home, but more than that will practically require some sort of semi-professional arrangement.

Hmm, Eero, by any chance do you have a more specific measurements?  I know you've done actual print runs before...  Would 500 books be too many to fit into 1 car stall of a garage, or would it take 2? 

Quote
working on a half down, half net 30, which is what we used to demand out of all of our printers

I get the half down part, what's the half net 30 mean?   Does that mean +30% on delivery and the rest when sold?

Quote
1000 is a big print run! Can you really sell that many? I'd do a short print run first and see how it goes, personally.

I picked 1000 because somewhere (I thought) I heard that if you did do a print run, that's the minimum you'd want to print. 

Quote
The cost of having a basic web site is pretty small - tens of dollars annually. Having a specific domain increases the costs somewhat. Setting up PDF delivery is technically intensive, but not expensive.

This is within my realm of knowledge.  I was kind of wondering more about bandwidth, but you know, if I'm getting the kinds of bandwidth drain that'd be considerable, I probably wouldn't care, because I'd be selling that many copies...




Logged

...but enjoying the scenery.
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2009, 03:11:51 AM »

Exact measurements depend on the dimensions of the book you'd be storing, obviously. You can calculate this stuff yourself by figuring out the dimensions of your book and multiplying the volume by the number of books. I'd say that you probably could fit 500 books into your garage, unless they were particularly large books or you had to have room for something else in there, too (like a car). The sort of small softcover books indie designers tend to favour won't take much space at all compared to big hardcover tomes.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
guildofblades
Member

Posts: 309


WWW
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2009, 09:16:21 AM »

>>Hmm, Eero, by any chance do you have a more specific measurements?  I know you've done actual print runs before...  Would 500 books be too many to fit into 1 car stall of a garage, or would it take 2?  <<

Space requirements will very much depend on the size of the book. Back in 97 when we order 2,000 copies of the Dark Realms RPG (a 100 page digest book), the whole print run came in about 16 boxes, each about the size of a 5,000 sheet case of copy paper. Space wise, that could all be stored packing boxes under and on top of a decent sized office desk, though they were stacked 3-4 boxes high (ala, over my head in height).

Now, by comparison, a similarl sized "case" of a few of the larger D20 hard covers we recieved in on liquidation have about 20-25 books in them. These would be 200-300 page 8.5" x 11" soft or hard cover books. So a print run of 1000 of those, at 25 per case, would take up about 40-50 cases. This is still very much able to be fit into 1 stall of a two care garage.

Honestly, if you were to invest in some heavy duty, multi shelf wooden shelving that would let you partition your 1 car stall into multiple storage slots (recommended that the lowest shelf be at least 6" off the cement floor to avoid small floods or even just moisture from the cement transfering to the boxes and books), my bet is that you would have storage room for up to 6 to 8 such print runs, especially assuming a sell down in on hand inventory on the previous ones printed over time.

Now, that said, a 1,000 print run in todays environment is some hard work to sell. Doable, but not easy. You might be better served starting a bit smaller. Its always tempting to print larger to get a better per book price, however, an important accounting principle that MANY new publishers fail to grasp is that you ony get the write off the cost of a product once it is sold and you only get to write off its "cost of goods sold". The important part there is cost of goods "SOLD". Example.

You print 500 books at $4.00 per book. Cost $2,000 to print. You sell all 500 books, so your cost per book "sold" works out to be the same $4.00 per book you paid to have printed.

Or you print 1,000 books at $3.00 a book. Cost you $3,000 to print. You sell 650 of them. In this case, your cost of goods sold is NOT $3.00, its that $3,000 you spent on printing divided by the 650 units you sold. Basically $4.62 per book sold.

So, printing "more" to chase after the better price per book is not necessarily actually cheaper. Depends on how many you can ultimately sell. The difference between those two scenarios also has tax implications and the second scenario will end up costing you more still.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com


Logged

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
Willow
Member

Posts: 224


« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2009, 09:34:24 PM »

I just want to chime in to respond to this:

"I picked 1000 because somewhere (I thought) I heard that if you did do a print run, that's the minimum you'd want to print."

I strongly disagree with that.  My first print run for Awesome Adventures was 25 books.  It took me six months to sell all those books, selling it to friends and people at cons.  I'm considering doing a larger print run and being an exhibitor at a con; I'll be looking at about 100 copies for that.
Logged
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2293

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2009, 12:56:28 AM »

I ran with 30-copy print runs of ORX, which mostly sold out each quarter I did a print run (but the last batch took two quarters to sell out). Had I known the sales numbers going in, I might have done a print run of 100 and saved myself a little money on printing. But I didn't.

If I were to re-release a new version now, I would do a print run of 100 and would expect to sell out of that in around a year-and-a-half. If it sold out faster than that, I might decide to go with a larger print-run afterwards, but that would really depend on just how fast it sold out. A big number of sales early can simply be (usually is) a bump that slowly trails off.

I would never expect to sell 1000 books, not unless there was already a huge, proven market demand for my game. So do a small test first and see how quickly those go. You may be spending more per book, but you won't end up basically sitting on a pile of spent money afterwards when sales slow down or stop altogether.
Logged

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!