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"Pay us twice" say Chaosium


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Rather pay a vendor twice for one product I can save anyone interested some money.

Pay me just once and I will give you nothing. :D

For the record, Dustin can say what he wants and I will continue buying what I want. If Chaosium stops printing new stuff I will stop buying new stuff from them (that'll teach them). What ran through my mind when I read that line was: "Wow, that is going to rub some people the wrong way." If only I were that prescient in all areas of life

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What ran through my mind when I read that line was: "Wow, that is going to rub some people the wrong way."

What annoys me about it (though I'm not really angry, just peeved) is it shows the way the Chaosium guys are thinking: "There's a problem - we don't make enough money on BRP books - the solution is people need to spend more on them or we don't print them!". Because while they're thinking like that, they won't think: "There's a problem - we don't make enough money on BRP books - we need to find a different way of working...". Maybe like Alephtar do it - presumably that way does make money?

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Maybe like Alephtar do it - presumably that way does make money?

It does. But only because we have very few expenses. I have run a company with several employees, and I can assure you that it is not easy. You simply cannot compare an indie publisher with a small but established company like Chaosium.

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What annoys me about it (though I'm not really angry, just peeved) is it shows the way the Chaosium guys are thinking: "There's a problem - we don't make enough money on BRP books - the solution is people need to spend more on them or we don't print them!". Because while they're thinking like that, they won't think: "There's a problem - we don't make enough money on BRP books - we need to find a different way of working...". Maybe like Alephtar do it - presumably that way does make money?

I think that is a bit of an assumption there about Chaosium's currnet working. As other posters have suggested I imagine Dustin was talking honestly about how the decision to go to print for products initially available as PDF - that sales drive the decision. I don't think (my own assumption here, of course ;) ) that they have developed a retail strategy based on selling two copies of a given product to any or all customers.

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I don't think (my own assumption here, of course ;) ) that they have developed a retail strategy based on selling two copies of a given product to any or all customers.

You don't? That is the thrust of what he said. For myself, I don't think he was joking - or at least not entirely joking...

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You don't? That is the thrust of what he said. For myself, I don't think he was joking - or at least not entirely joking...

I don't because it has no intrinsic guarantee of success and places emphasis on good will rather than simple market forces. Hence I'll give Dustin the benefit of the doubt in this case.

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"If you want to see additional BRP releases buy a PDF now and a physical copy later. It's the best way to ensure BRP releases are profitable enough for us to print." - Dustin "O'Chaosium" Wright (here)

That's Dustin fumbling his Communications (Online marketing) roll!

The rest of that post is such a mess I'm inclined to ignore it all!

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"If you want to see additional BRP releases buy a PDF now and a physical copy later. It's the best way to ensure BRP releases are profitable enough for us to print." - Dustin "O'Chaosium" Wright (here)
That's Dustin fumbling his Communications (Online marketing) roll!

The rest of that post is such a mess I'm inclined to ignore it all!

Yes, if that last sentence had instead read, "It's the best way to ensure BRP releases are popular enough for us to print," I think a lot of the concern would go away. PDFs in my version sound more like a market barometer (Chaosium is using them to listen to us) than a gouge-the-customer tactic.

But I'm equally sure that to Chaosium, "Popular" and "Profit" basically mean the same thing--popular books are profitable. But they certainly have different emotional charges to us customers.

Steve

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Hi,

His remark seemed to me to be reasonable, if tactless.

Print is more costly to produce, though it is easier to read from cover to cover.

I assume they are using the PDF sales to determine whether it would be profitable to produce a print run. If you buy a PDF when you would rather have a printed version, then don't buy the printed version, you reduce the number of printed copies that will be sold for a given number of PDF's produced. If you wait for the print version, it may never arrive.

Buying the PDF and then having it printed at a local printshop doesn't get you out of paying twice, you just pay two different people. Also, the best fonts for pdfs and books are different. In my new game, Fire and Sword, I ended up providing links to Wikipedia for Monster descriptions. This is a less effective tactic in a printed book.

Let's face it, in some ways business is harder than writing a role playing game:)

I'm not much of a businessman, so I just put my new game, Fire and Sword up in PDF form at BRP Central and let anyone who wants to download it download it. There is a modest assortment of other stuff as well, available here.

It should be noted that this is not an ideal strategy, since it doesn't help to keep me alive. As a result, the game gets only a limited amount of my energy. Also, the game gets only a limited amount of advertising and exposure. It is likely that if Fire and Sword has useful ideas that they will find their way into the design mainstream, but I won't get much from it.

Anyway, 2700 copies of various editions of Fire and Sword have been downloaded, which suggests that there may be enough interest to create a printed version. At this point, I'm wondering about the best strategy for doing that, etc.

One approach is to just a version that uses fonts appropriate for printing, and does not rely on outside links, make that available on the web, etc.

A second possible strategy is to make another version of the game to sell as a PDF, and find a way to sell before the latest edition PDF {maye at $4 to $8} and a print version.

RosenMcStern, do you have any advice to offer me on my next move?

Ray,

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Pay me just once and I will give you nothing. :D

I'm not much of a businessman, so I just put my new game, Fire and Sword up in PDF form at BRP Central and let anyone who wants to download it download it.

Hmm. My offer kind of pales against Mr. Turneys. Pay me for nothing or download a complete system by the established designer of one of the best systems in all history for free.

I may need to rethink my business model. :ohwell:

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I may need to rethink my business model. :ohwell:

Nah. To a business person, yours is much the better model. ;)

Buying the PDF and then having it printed at a local printshop doesn't get you out of paying twice, you just pay two different people.

I know. That's what I did with BRP Adventures. The quality (of binding) was poor, but at least it avoided the shipping cost and I got it fast. (And is it available non-PDF even now?)

... to Chaosium, "Popular" and "Profit" basically mean the same thing...

Well then you can tell Chaosium that their attitude makes them not-at-all 'profitable' with me...

The rest of that post is such a mess I'm inclined to ignore it all!

On the contrary, I don't think we should ignore it. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to just whine and complain. There's a real problem here - a danger that we might miss out on the printed BRP books we want (well, I do, at least!). So we should solve that problem.

How about this: Anything Chaosium think is not "profitable enough to print", they could make available via print-on-demand. Since they'd have the PDF anyway, what'd they lose? And it might even make them a bit more profit/popular...

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Let me play devil's advocate for a second... >:->

I know. That's what I did with BRP Adventures. The quality (of binding) was poor, but at least it avoided the shipping cost and I got it fast. (And is it available non-PDF even now?)

It is available as a printed product. I have a copy. It might be out of print right now, but it does exist. The monographs are printed in very small print runs (50 iirc) via a POD printer.

On the contrary, I don't think we should ignore it. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to just whine and complain. There's a real problem here - a danger that we might miss out on the printed BRP books we want (well, I do, at least!). So we should solve that problem.

Question. Are you peeved because Chaosium has this practice (the practice of only printing books they can afford to print -- a policy held by most publishers ;)) or that they stated it in a public forum?

How about this: Anything Chaosium think is not "profitable enough to print", they could make available via print-on-demand. Since they'd have the PDF anyway, what'd they lose? And it might even make them a bit more profit/popular...

Would you be willing to pay more for that book via a POD publisher than you would if Chaosium had the wherewithal to have that same book professionally printed at one of their normal printers? By printing in bulk, Chaosium is most likely able to offer a lower price per unit than if they had to deal with lulu's or CreateSpace's initial price per unit before the author can put their price tag on it. I imagine the return on each book printed via a direct-to-customer POD printer is lower than on the books Chaosium has printed professionally.

Like I said, I'm playing devil's advocate. I have no insight into Chaosium's finances. I'm just going off of things I've looked into when comparing POD vs. actual print runs for some of my own stuff.

BTW, have you asked Chaosium why they don't use a POD service to get some of their books out there?

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It is available as a printed product. I have a copy. It might be out of print right now, but it does exist. The monographs are printed in very small print runs (50 iirc) via a POD printer.

Um, that means it's not available, printed. And it's a worse situation, because I did buy the PDF - but now it's out-of-print anyway!

(I'm not actually worried about this one [bRP Adventures]. I had it printed at my "FLPS" as an experiment - which failed, on quality. Ah well. I've got the PDF which, for adventures now I think about it, is fine. Sourcebooks would be a different matter, though...)

Question. Are you peeved because Chaosium has this practice (the practice of only printing books they can afford to print -- a policy held by most publishers ;)) or that they stated it in a public forum?

I'm peeved because it shows they don't understand the frustration of a potential customer who wants to get hold of decently printed copies. The possibility of letting some other company print the books (that they decide they can't afford to) is just not on their agenda.

Actually, I'm glad Dustin stated it - because resulting discussion might lead to the situation improving...

Would you be willing to pay more for that book via a POD publisher than you would if Chaosium had the wherewithal to have that same book professionally printed at one of their normal printers?

Would it be more? Are POD publishers not professional? I've just bought BRP Rome off Lulu, so yes I am willing to pay their price and hopefully the quality won't prove too disappointing (and hopefully I'll find out soon!).

For me, being over here in England (or Yorkshire, at least ;)), there's also the issue of shipping costs. From Chaosium, that'd likely double the price - which is prohibitive. From Lulu, it only adds a fiver or so, which is fine.

BTW, have you asked Chaosium why they don't use a POD service to get some of their books out there?

No I haven't. Firstly, I'm canvassing opinions here to see if it's even a sensible/feasible option. Then, if so, hopefully someone with a more direct line to the Chaosium guys would put it to them...

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As a consumer, given current technology, I like having both a physical product and a .pdf. I like .pdfs because I can load them onto my laptop or a thumb drive, and take 'em with me to peruse at my leisure wherever I go, without having to lug pounds of bulky books everywhere.

I like a physical book because if and when I actually use the product, I find books easier to use and more pleasing in a tactile sense than employing a laptop or desktop computer.

I have used, but not to my satisfaction, services for printing out .pdfs. There's a Fedex/Kinko's not too far away from where I live. But, there are some issues with getting .pdfs printed there. The 'normal user' facilities are ridiculously expensive to employ. In order to get a printed B&W set of pages, let alone drilled and spiral bound, I have to request the service from the personnel there, and then they are going to spend a long time scrutinizing the .pdf for permission to print a copy, and I have to deal with their questions and comments about the subject material. It still winds up costing more than just buying the book to begin with.

So, currently, I would prefer to buy the book and .pdf from the publisher.

However, if I buy the physical book, I would like the .pdf to come free or at minimal additional cost. Currently, .pdfs can cost as much as one half to two thirds as much as the physical product, which is understandable if that's all you are getting, but ridiculous if you are getting the physical product as well.

I am hopeful that electronic paper formats will become cheaper, more widespread and usable in the future. That could eliminate the problem.

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So, currently, I would prefer to buy the book and .pdf from the publisher.

However, if I buy the physical book, I would like the .pdf to come free or at minimal additional cost.

That's a rather different proposal, and would cut Chaosium's margins further - which they obviously wouldn't like.

What I'm suggesting is, when they're not printing a book themselves, they make it available via a 3rd-party print-on-demand service.

That'd cost them nothing as far as I'm aware, and might even get them a little bit more money...

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That's a rather different proposal, and would cut Chaosium's margins further - which they obviously wouldn't like.

What I'm suggesting is, when they're not printing a book themselves, they make it available via a 3rd-party print-on-demand service.

That'd cost them nothing as far as I'm aware, and might even get them a little bit more money...

That is the question... would it be more money? The margins with print-on-demand are slim and you would only make more money if people who aren't buying the pdfs are buying the pod-version (or there really are a lot of people who would buy both). On the other hand, you would probably make less money if people are buying the pod-version instead of the pdf. Without knowing sales-numbers, you can't really predict any financial impacts.

I follow the Fred Hicks-blog (Fate, Spirit of the Century, Don't Lose Your Head, Dresden Files), he basically uses every sales-platform and publishes his sales-numbers. It's quite interesting to see a smaller publisher giving you this much inside information. He had a post a while back where he compared the costs of traditional print-runs and pod - it was quite enlightening.

Honestly, I can understand their monograph-policy. They have a system with regular support without having to invest a lot of money or time. Most of the books are more for the niche markets, but that doesn't matter since they can't really lose much. I am sure they look over their business model periodically and think about the best way to sell their products, but changing the policy always has potential risks and rewards.

For example, there is a German rpg called Midgard. They only produce 2-4 products a year and they were quite opposed to pdfs. The pdf market in Germany is not as established as in the English-speaking world and the higher risk of piracy made it more of a risk. On the other hand, they had problems selling the more exotic settings and adventures and often couldn't sell the numbers to make it work. Now they changed their model and develop some adventures as pdf-only and sell out-of-print-products as pdf. The rule-books and in-print-products are still not available as pdf. What I want to say with that example is that you have to look at your market, see what works and what doesn't and make a decision based on your own situation. You can't make everyone happy, TSR produced themselves to death trying to produce lots of stuff for every market.

If monographs are mainly pdf's in the present and future, then that's ok with me. I would prefer that they take their financial risks in developing (or buying a license to) a detailed fantasy or sf-setting with continued support.

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That is the question... would it be more money? The margins with print-on-demand are slim and you would only make more money if people who aren't buying the pdfs are buying the pod-version (or there really are a lot of people who would buy both). On the other hand, you would probably make less money if people are buying the pod-version instead of the pdf.

So... the reason against Chaosium making their PDF-only items available via POD is to encourage/force customers who actually want printed versions into making-do with PDFs? I can't say I'm terribly sympathetic to that attitude.

If monographs are mainly pdf's in the present and future, then that's ok with me.

It seems odd to me they call these promised upcoming BRP supplements "monographs". Aren't they commissioned by Chaosium itself? They seem more like core products. I guess I'll just have to hope Chaosium have sufficient commitment that printed copies will be available, and for long enough so I can get 'em all in one go - and thus afford the postage!

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So... the reason against Chaosium making their PDF-only items available via POD is to encourage/force customers who actually want printed versions into making-do with PDFs? I can't say I'm terribly sympathetic to that attitude.

It's just a speculation about the business-side of things - the variable costs for selling a pdf in your own store are somewhere near zero. POD-printing is very expensive - if you want to get the same margin, the products will have a hard time competing with other books that are produced in a traditional print-run.

I can't think of a reason not to make print-runs of core products. It's cheaper than POD, they have enough experience to make educated guesses of the numbers they can sell, and you have to be able to finance your important products or you are dead anyway. I was thinking of the typical niche market monograph when I mentioned the pdf-only policy.

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That's a rather different proposal, and would cut Chaosium's margins further - which they obviously wouldn't like.

What I'm suggesting is, when they're not printing a book themselves, they make it available via a 3rd-party print-on-demand service.

But in general these circumstances have not yet arisen, nor are they likely to. Chaosium will commission a project on the basis that they already have a plan for it (likely budget, printing and distribution method): so they will either have committed to doing it one way, or another. Rome ended up with Alephtar as I understand it because Chaosium couldn't make the numbers work.

That'd cost them nothing as far as I'm aware, and might even get them a little bit more money...

On the contrary - producing a book to the point of being print ready incurs exactly the same costs, irrespective of how you are going to print it. So at that point, ones is out of pocket and must select a print & distribution method that will guarantee to cover those already incurred costs. And, as Rome's "in my hand" price of £34 vs. say £22 for Malleus Monstrorum§ demonstrates, to maintain something like comparable margins on a PoD book vs. normal print, the price to the end consumer has to be much higher, which reduces unit sales and thus makes recouping those costs (and an adequate profit to sustain the business going forward) harder, and more variable. What works for one company (e.g. Alephtar) may well NOT work for another (e.g. Chaosium).

Could Chaosium make more use of PoD for out of print books? Probably, albeit a lot of the older stuff they just don't have good enough master files for from what I've heard. They already use PoD to make the monographs available in print. What they want to do is make BRP support material that can be sold via the conventional retail channel as this is the most profitable for them and the best way to sustain their business, and thus core support for BRP. I see no harm in them making this plain, and I'm afraid that PoD is currently being bandied around, as PDF was a few years ago, as some sort of magic wand that will just magically solve all problems. It isn't, and it won't.

Cheers,

Nick

§ a physically similar book by Chaosium done the conventional printing and distribution route.

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Rome ended up with Alephtar as I understand it because Chaosium couldn't make the numbers work.

Not exactly the numbers. We managed to get it out for the Tentacles event. Our concern was that Chaosium wouldn't have been able to do it that fast. Rome is selling well enough to justify a real print run, but unfortunately we do not have the ability to stock books now.

BTW, has anyone noticed that Firebird started with classic print runs for Mythic Russia and then went lulu for the Birchbark Chronicles? What really pisses me off is that I cannot offer discounts on lulu. Not even a dumb coupon.

And, as Rome's "in my hand" price of £34 vs. say £22 for Malleus Monstrorum§ demonstrates, to maintain something like comparable margins on a PoD book vs. normal print, the price to the end consumer has to be much higher, which reduces unit sales and thus makes recouping those costs (and an adequate profit to sustain the business going forward) harder, and more variable. What works for one company (e.g. Alephtar) may well NOT work for another (e.g. Chaosium).

Nick, you are perferctly right about the different business models. But I did what I could to keep prices under 30 EUR. The smart people who preordered got their copy for 29 EUR all-inclusive, so with a price comparable to Malleus. The Chaos Society has copies, so it is possible they can offer discounts or free postage for massive orders. Unfortunately there were many who did not believe we would actually deliver the book, or that it would end up looking like crap, which was not the case. Bottom line: preorder next time and save big!

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But in general these circumstances have not yet arisen, nor are they likely to.

Er, these circumstances exist now. Frex, BRP Adventures is currently PDF-only, as are others I believe.

On the contrary - producing a book to the point of being print ready incurs exactly the same costs, irrespective of how you are going to print it. So at that point, ones is out of pocket and must select a print & distribution method that will guarantee to cover those already incurred costs.

I'm talking about books they've already produced - so that's a point in favour of selling it any and every way available!

And, as Rome's "in my hand" price of £34 vs. say £22 for Malleus Monstrorum...

I just calculated this and the "in my hand" price for Malleus Monstrorum would be £34.44. Because for me, there's a large shipping cost to consider - with POD, that would be dramatically reduced.

What works for one company (e.g. Alephtar) may well NOT work for another (e.g. Chaosium).

So what are Chaosium doing wrong, that means - even though they're such 'experienced/established' publishers - they don't offer such good service to their customers? :confused:

Could Chaosium make more use of PoD for out of print books? Probably, albeit a lot of the older stuff they just don't have good enough master files for from what I've heard.

That's not really relevant, since I'm talking about new and upcoming stuff. "Out of Print" only in the sense that Chaosium is unwilling to print the hard-copies to go with the PDFs.

They already use PoD to make the monographs available in print.

Since Chaosium use POD already (when it benefits themselves), there should be no issue over print quality.

I see no harm in them making this plain, and I'm afraid that PoD is currently being bandied around, as PDF was a few years ago, as some sort of magic wand that will just magically solve all problems. It isn't, and it won't.

No need to be defeatist. Just because one idea didn't live up to expectations once, doesn't mean a new idea won't! :)

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