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Neil Carr
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I've stepped onto the path of being an amateur RPG publisher via Kickstarter. I want to see how far I can travel from zero-to-hero and I'm looking for help along the way. These series of posts are in part just me thinking aloud, but also asking specific questions as I put the pieces together to achieve rpg publishing victory.

I'm wrapping up a survey I did of 150 RPG related crowdfunding projects that has occurred over the last 12 months. There is a lot of interesting patterns that emerged when you lump all of that activity together. One pattern that came through very clearly is the desire of backers to have printed material for rewards, not just PDFs. There was plenty of PDF backing, but backings for print beat out PDF by a decent margin.

I've been tinkering with game design for over a decade, however I've always held back from taking the plunge because I never felt I was in the right position to take on the financial risks. Now Kickstarter has come along and solved that part of the issue, however there is still the need to get books printed which casts an intimidating shadow. I've read countless articles about the game industry and all of the complicated issues, financial risks, even acts of God, that involve getting books printed. You have CMYK issues, economy of scale, proofs, cargo containers, fulfillment services, garages filled with boxes, and that baffling tax issue with holding inventory (why are you being taxed for having a bunch of stuff you paid for sit around in a building?). In the end it all just seems so... logistical, in a tedious way.

Anyway, over the years I longed for print-on-demand to finally solve all of this. Now evidently the time has arrived. You can go to Lulu.com and get all the books you want printed out, and for prices (like $6 per book) that from a layman's perspective seem pretty cheap. BUT, why bother with Lulu when you could just go to RPGNow and print out books for even less, and have your product integrated cozily into an RPG exclusive marketplace?

I set up my publisher account with RPGNow and was rather surprised at how cheap it is to just print out your book. Say you want to print out a 64 page book with black and white interior. It's just $3.76 per copy. If you're rewarding it for $25, then your margin is going to be something around $18 after you take out shipping and the Kickstarter fees.

Wow! That's a lot better than the $10 your getting for the typical PDF reward level. From the survey I did it's clear people are more than happy to pay for the print product and so the natural desire for print, matched with the large margin, can really help get all the development and artwork with the project. Going with a hardback option and you're almost doubling your margin again.

I feel like Sir Robin in the Holy Grail at the Bridge of Death as he exclaims, “That's easy!” and then marches to his doom. What's the catch? Is it really that easy?

Besides my surprised incredulity, the one thing that seems to be missing from this print route is a fancy leather bound option. Where do you go to get RPG books printed out in a fancy “deluxe” fashion?
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Is the idea that RPGNow ships straight to the backer? If so, that sounds pretty good and international shipping, customs, returns etc are the only pitfalls I can foresee.

I'd also want to check out a sample of RPGnow's print on demand work. Order someone else's 64-page PoD book and see what the paper stock is like, etc. PoD tends towards the pulpy toilet papery end of the spectrum in my experience.

Edit: PoD also has an issue with timetables. Because you haven't booked a print run, backers may have to wait weeks or months for their books to get a slot. Lulu's PoD delay adds around a month to international shipping time, for example.
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William Hostman
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Don't forget your shipping costs...

Keeping in mind that First Class to Europe can be double digit dollars, and priority is about $17 to Europe or Astralia & NZ; First CLass to Canada is about $10, and priority $13... Even in the US, first class is up to $3 for a single book mailing, and $5.15 for priority flat rate.

And a flat rate envelope can comfortably hold about 400-500 pages of softcover, or a single 300-350 page hardcover, or about 200 pages in 2 hardcovers... Or two 500-600 page novels.

Another Issue is the 4 pound international limit on flat-rate - a hardcover mailing can exceed that with high-gloss high-clay.

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Neil Carr
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sbszine wrote:
Is the idea that RPGNow ships straight to the backer? If so, that sounds pretty good and international shipping, customs, returns etc are the only pitfalls I can foresee.


Well, for regular service through RPGNow the customer would have it shipped directly from the printer, but for Kickstarter you'd need to have all of your books shipped to yourself and then you'd ship them out individually.

Within the US the shipping wouldn't be a problem, the media mail option only costs a few dollars, even if it's going to Hawaii or Alaska, for international shipping things ramp up very quickly.

In terms of international shipping, the international backer would be paying more for shipping. It seems routine on Kickstarters for international backers to pay extra for shipping when they select their reward.

For Europe at least there is an option on RPGNow for everything to be printed out in the UK. If you had some kind of fullfillment service set up over there then it could be shipped to them and dispersed to customers, though I haven't a clue how the money would shake out and who would end up with the most savings.
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Andy Leighton
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aramis wrote:
Don't forget your shipping costs...

Keeping in mind that First Class to Europe can be double digit dollars, and priority is about $17 to Europe or Astralia & NZ; First CLass to Canada is about $10, and priority $13... Even in the US, first class is up to $3 for a single book mailing, and $5.15 for priority flat rate.


Not so bad for the UK.

I think OneBookshelf (RPGNow / DriveThruRPG) use a UK POD printer as well as a US one. Similarly I think lulu use British printers for orders within the UK.

I paid £3.71 for delivery for the print edition of Other Worlds (through OBS) which was the proper postage (for first class).
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echoota wrote:


Well, for regular service through RPGNow the customer would have it shipped directly from the printer, but for Kickstarter you'd need to have all of your books shipped to yourself and then you'd ship them out individually.


In this scenario, you're paying for shipping twice. Once to you and then again to the backer. I recently backed Crypts & Things and The Company: Field Operations Manual on indiegogo. About a month later (within the promised delivery date) a box from lulu showed up. It was both of the books I backed. I was initially a little surprised, but quickly got over it.

There's no reason you have to have the book printed, mailed to you, and then mailed out separately.
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cjbowser wrote:
echoota wrote:


Well, for regular service through RPGNow the customer would have it shipped directly from the printer, but for Kickstarter you'd need to have all of your books shipped to yourself and then you'd ship them out individually.


In this scenario, you're paying for shipping twice. Once to you and then again to the backer. I recently backed Crypts & Things and The Company: Field Operations Manual on indiegogo. About a month later (within the promised delivery date) a box from lulu showed up. It was both of the books I backed. I was initially a little surprised, but quickly got over it.

There's no reason you have to have the book printed, mailed to you, and then mailed out separately.


It looks as if RPGNow has a maximum of 15 addresses that you can put in for shipping your books that were printed at cost. I'm not sure how much those addresses could be cycled though when it comes to shipping.

I guess that might be one of the nuances between RPGNow and Lulu. Perhaps Lulu makes it easier to have a large number of books get shipping out to a long list of individual addresses.
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Andy Leighton
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echoota wrote:
cjbowser wrote:
echoota wrote:


Well, for regular service through RPGNow the customer would have it shipped directly from the printer, but for Kickstarter you'd need to have all of your books shipped to yourself and then you'd ship them out individually.


In this scenario, you're paying for shipping twice. Once to you and then again to the backer. I recently backed Crypts & Things and The Company: Field Operations Manual on indiegogo. About a month later (within the promised delivery date) a box from lulu showed up. It was both of the books I backed. I was initially a little surprised, but quickly got over it.

There's no reason you have to have the book printed, mailed to you, and then mailed out separately.


It looks as if RPGNow has a maximum of 15 addresses that you can put in for shipping your books that were printed at cost. I'm not sure how much those addresses could be cycled though when it comes to shipping.

I guess that might be one of the nuances between RPGNow and Lulu. Perhaps Lulu makes it easier to have a large number of books get shipping out to a long list of individual addresses.


Couldn't you just issue a discount code for your supporters and let them handle the ordering?

For example in some of the Print+PDF deals, I get sent a discount code to apply to OBS (the email says RPGNow but the codes work on DrivethruRPG too) when I choose to download.

That way you could give your $25 supporters a PDF plus a discount code to enable them to get a free paperback edition from OBS.

I'm not sure if the code could cancel out the delivery.
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Neil Carr
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andyl wrote:
Couldn't you just issue a discount code for your supporters and let them handle the ordering?

For example in some of the Print+PDF deals, I get sent a discount code to apply to OBS (the email says RPGNow but the codes work on DrivethruRPG too) when I choose to download.

That way you could give your $25 supporters a PDF plus a discount code to enable them to get a free paperback edition from OBS.

I'm not sure if the code could cancel out the delivery.


That might be doable, however I'd suspect that the 35% royalty that RPGNow sets up would kick in through that process.

If you order print versions of your own products on RPGNow you get to buy them at cost+shipping to your address, and perhaps up to 14 others. The 35% cut doesn't seem to kick in with this approach.

I guess you'd need to pull out a spreadsheet and work out if the 35% is more or less than individual shipping.
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William Hostman
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andyl wrote:


Couldn't you just issue a discount code for your supporters and let them handle the ordering?


It's doable - but remember - you'll still have to pay for those codes, in the amount of DTRPG's normal cut.
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Jacob Wood
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RPGNow sounds like it's pretty good compared to Lulu, which I recently took a look at and was somewhat disappointed with in regards to their cost.

I've read from another game designer in this "15 Steps for a Successful Kickstarter Project" article (http://www.gmsarligames.com/2011/05/18/15-steps-for-a-succes...) that CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) is another good option. After doing some estimates with Create Space they did seem to be cheaper than Lulu for a 190-page softcover B&W book, but I don't have my notes with me at the moment so I couldn't say by how much (but I think it was around $3/book cheaper).

Does anyone here have any experience with Create Space?
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Hal Greenberg
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Munkwunk wrote:
RPGNow sounds like it's pretty good compared to Lulu, which I recently took a look at and was somewhat disappointed with in regards to their cost.

I've read from another game designer in this "15 Steps for a Successful Kickstarter Project" article (http://www.gmsarligames.com/2011/05/18/15-steps-for-a-succes...) that CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) is another good option. After doing some estimates with Create Space they did seem to be cheaper than Lulu for a 190-page softcover B&W book, but I don't have my notes with me at the moment so I couldn't say by how much (but I think it was around $3/book cheaper).

Does anyone here have any experience with Create Space?


Great read thanks for the link!
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