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Jonstown Compendium - imminent price rise for printed books


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DriveThruRPG’s outsourced print partner Lightning Source has announced that a price hike is coming on 1 July. The prices of premium colour print-on-demand books will increase on that date to reflect the new costs. Creators are looking into cheaper alternatives (inc. standard colour rather than premium), and DriveThruRPG is helping us with this.

Ultimately, if you want one of our Jonstown Compendium books, buy it now for premium print quality at reasonable prices. There may be new cheap editions in future, but they will look cheaper; the current premium editions will still be available (unless creators take them down), but will be significantly more expensive.

Every print title on the Jonstown Compendium is “premium colour,” other than Secrets of Dorastor which is “standard colour.”

NB: this also applies to Miskatonic Repository, other community content and indeed any professional books that are available in print-on-demand premium colour format from  DriveThruRPG. I’m telling you about its impact on the Jonstown Compendium because that’s my main interest, but we’re not being singled out.

Edited by Nick Brooke
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3 hours ago, Shiningbrow said:

What's the value attached to "significantly more expensive"?

45% was the figure mentioned in another thread. That's the Lightning Source price hike, whether DTRPG passes the full cost along to customers remains to be seen...

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5 hours ago, Shiningbrow said:

What's the value attached to "significantly more expensive"?

The figures I’ve seen suggest the cost of printing will be somewhere between a third and half again as expensive. The cost per printed premium colour page is going up a lot; the binding cost (flat price per format) is slightly down.

NB: I’m focusing on stuff that affects our own books (large-format premium colour hardbacks), people printing in small formats or softback will have a slightly different range in their sights.

1 hour ago, Agentorange said:

whether DTRPG passes the full cost along to customers remains to be seen..

By default, DriveThruRPG is going to bump up all premium colour books’ selling prices by the increased printing cost, maintaining creators’ current margins. It’s then up to us creators to finesse the results, if we want to. The changes will be made on 1 July 2021.

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A worked example.

Let’s take a book like the Rough Guide to Glamour that you can currently buy for $15 in PDF or $30 (plus shipping costs) in print. Let’s say the current print cost is $15.* The marginal income from print and PDF sales is the same (split between creators (50%), platform (30%) and publisher (20%)): the whole cost of printing and shipping the book goes to the printer, of course.

Now the cost of printing a 100-page book rises by 33%, from $15 to $20.* The selling price will automatically be increased on 1 July to $35, preserving the current margin. As creators, we could just reduce the selling price back to $30, and accept that we’re making 33% less on every book sold, but we’re frankly more likely to stick at or near the new level.

So our likely next move is to work out the price of a cheaper format, let’s say a “standard colour” hardback rather than “premium colour.” For the sake of argument, that costs just $11 to print.* We can sell the book in the new cheap format for $26 not $30 and maintain our margin, but we know it’ll look cheaper.

If you want to buy our book in the best quality available, you can get it now for $30, or next month for $35. If you don’t mind so much about the quality of the printing, you may be able to pick up a cheaper edition for $26 after we get that set up, if we ever get that set up.

And here’s the annoying bit. If it turns out to be expensive for us to set up those new, cheaper editions (e.g. if we have to buy and ship proof-printed copies to ourselves), we might not do it quickly, or at all, or we might adjust our margins to cover those extra costs (e.g. if it costs me $25 to create a new format, and I expect to sell maybe 25 copies, it might make sense for me to put another dollar on the selling price, no?). For books with multiple authors and artists sharing the royalties, it may be a headache to agree what we do next, and who pays how much to get the new formats set up, and so forth.**

And some nutter on the intertubes will be along in a minute to tell us we are evil to make any money selling our books, and we should be giving them away, but I’ll just ignore them and so will you if you have any sense.

* all figures are in the right ballpark, otherwise this would be a terrible example.

** it may be a doddle. I’m on holiday and haven’t yet started working on this in earnest.

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1 hour ago, Nick Brooke said:

 

So our likely next move is to work out the price of a cheaper format, let’s say a “standard colour” hardback rather than “premium colour.” For the sake of argument, that costs just $11 to print.* We can sell the book in the new cheap format for $26 not $30 and maintain our margin, but we know it’ll look cheaper.

 

Would paperback be viable ? Although hardback is nice it's not essential - a lot of my RPG books are that 'glossy' paperback style  ( is there a technical term for this ? ) and they've stood the test of time pretty well. In some cases much better than some of my hardback books.

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1 hour ago, Nick Brooke said:

And some nutter on the intertubes will be along in a minute to tell us we are evil to make any money selling our books, and we should be giving them away

This is an issue in all creative arts. People often are not willing to pay living wages for quality products and have no concept about how much time effort, thinking and creativity it takes to produce something.

My daughter is an artist who often is commissioned to do portraits. People baulk at the price not realising that if an artist spends 20 hours on something they have to expect to earn over €10 an hour, particularly if you are a master of your craft. We might grumble about paying a Tiler or Plasterer €50 an hour .. but we pay it nevertheless.

1 hour ago, Nick Brooke said:

split between creators (50%), platform (30%) and publisher (20%)

People really need to accept that creative arts needs to be paid for or else start writing themselves. We all want quality products but don't want to pay for them.

'Stop whinging and give them the fecking money' (with apologies to Bob Geldof at LiveAid)

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2 minutes ago, Nozbat said:

People really need to accept that creative arts needs to be paid for or else start writing themselves. We all want quality products but don't want to pay for them.

'Stop whinging and give them the fecking money' (with apologies to Bob Geldof at LiveAid)

I'd agree , but in this case it's not the creative people that are getting the extra money - it's the print company. I get that they need to pay for new machinery but as i said to Nick elsewhere if the price hike is 45% and the inflation rate is 1.5 % ( in the UK at least ) and peoples wages haven't gone up by 45% then you find yourself going " that seems kind of steep "

Now ,the machinery costs what it does and the printers have to make their money back...but  the other factor is for me are we going to see a 45% improvement in print quality ? If the improvement in print quality, vividness of colour, stunningness of artwork,clarity of layout etc is 45% better then happy days...but if I'm paying 45% extra for a 5% improvment  on the quality of the work it's not unreasonable to ask " what exactly am I paying for here ? "

I like artwork in books, some of the new RQG artwork is lovely...but ultimately I buy books for crunch not fluff, and ultimately artwork is fluff. So if prices go up by 45% for a premium colour hardback and there's a standard colour or black and white option softback that's cheaper, that's probably  what I'll end up buying

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13 minutes ago, Agentorange said:

Would paperback be viable ? Although hardback is nice it's not essential - a lot of my RPG books are that 'glossy' paperback style  ( is there a technical term for this ? ) and they've stood the test of time pretty well. In some cases much better than some of my hardback books.

We could try printing in perfect-bound softcover format. I think it’s second-best, and it probably wouldn’t work well for larger books (Citizens is 172 pages,  the Moonson tomes are c.250 pages each); the cost of that binding is about 1/4 the cost of hardcover (say $1.50 not $6.00ish), but the printed pages inside cost exactly the same (of course: they are exactly the same). We’d also need to rework the covers and order new proof-prints, and that takes time and costs money.

5 minutes ago, Agentorange said:

Now, the machinery costs what it does and the printers have to make their money back...but  the other factor is for me are we going to see a 45% improvement in print quality ?

Of course not: premium colour print quality will stay exactly the same (if we bring out a new “standard colour” edition, that will look cheaper).

Lightning Source may be retiring or replacing their older presses, there may be changes in their input or maintenance prices, we stand outside that part of the story and only know what DriveThruRPG shares with us. This price hike does them no favours either: as you can see, they get a cut of our royalties, so whatever hurts our sales or margins hurts them too.

Speaking as a creator, I like my books to look their best. It used to be that premium colour was a trivial cost increase over standard colour, making that an easy choice: in future, it won’t be, and I regret that.

And I don’t share your views about art, at all, but that’s another conversation. (Art sells books, inspires gamers, keeps this hobby alive: it’s not just “fluff,” and I love it when I’m able to get more artwork into our books)

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4 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

We could try printing in perfect-bound softcover format. I think it’s second-best, and it probably wouldn’t work well for larger books (Citizens is 172 pages,  the Moonson tomes are c.250 pages each); the cost of that binding is about 1/4 the cost of hardcover (say $1.50 not $6.00ish), but the printed pages inside cost exactly the same (of course: they are exactly the same). We’d also need to rework the covers and order new proof-prints, and that takes time and costs money.

Of course not: premium colour print quality will stay exactly the same (if we bring out a new “standard colour” edition, that will look cheaper).

Lightning Source may be retiring or replacing their older presses, there may be changes in their input or maintenance prices, we stand outside that part of the story and only know what DriveThruRPG shares with us. This price hike does them no favours either: as you can see, they get a cut of our royalties, so whatever hurts our sales or margins hurts them too.

Speaking as a creator, I like my books to look their best. It used to be that premium colour was a trivial cost increase over standard colour, making that an easy choice: in future, it won’t be, and I regret that.

And I don’t share your views about art, at all, but that’s another conversation. (Art sells books, inspires gamers, keeps this hobby alive: it’s not just “fluff,” and I love it when I’m able to get more artwork into our books)

I certainly don't think it's "just" fluff ( perhaps I was being a little harsh there  😁 ). as I said the new RQG artwork is generally a thing of beauty and very evocative ( leaving aside the ongoing tendency to show female figures with their baps out - indeed a whole other conversation ! )

But if push comes to shove you buy a rpg for the rules and the game, the artwork is nice, but you don't play the artwork you play the game, i suppose that's what I meant by saying that ultimately art is fluff

I suspect like most folks I'll give a big sigh and accept that I'll be paying extra for what I want to buy. I've been very  impressed by the quality of the JC stuff that I've bought both POD and PDF and I love the whole idea of the JC. It just means I won't be buying as much or as often

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13 minutes ago, Agentorange said:

I suspect like most folks I'll give a big sigh and accept that I'll be paying extra for what I want to buy. I've been very  impressed by the quality of the JC stuff that I've bought both POD and PDF and I love the whole idea of the JC. It just means I won't be buying as much or as often

Thank you for saying so! My imp of mischief requires me to mention that if you ever want to know what titles are the all-time highest-rated best-sellers on the Jonstown Compendium, so you get the most bang for your remaining buck, my JC Index is yours for just $1.00, after which all updates (30+ so far this year) are free.

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51 minutes ago, AndreJarosch said:

Just raise the asking price for whatever it has to be to keep the quality (hardcover, premium colour) what we are used to from the POD JC titles so far. 
Everything is fine, the books are worth it. 

Mmmm...not sure I agree. I'd say give people a variety of options from opulant to budget friendly and let them choose the option that suits the state of their finances

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35 minutes ago, Agentorange said:

Mmmm...not sure I agree. I'd say give people a variety of options from opulant to budget friendly and let them choose the option that suits the state of their finances

That all costs creators more. What if we’d rather you just bought an attractively-printed, nicely-bound copy of our book?

I mean, we could increase all our books’ prices to fund all the extra proof-printed copies this plethora of formats would need...

But I’m not sure that’s the best answer.

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7 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

That all costs creators more. What if we’d rather you just bought an attractively-printed, nicely-bound copy of our book?

I'm tempted to quote the old adage " the customer is always right" Now I don't actually believe that to be totally true, but there's an element of truth there, I don't think it's unreasonable to give people the choice if the top end version is outside peoples price range. I'm sure creators would like me to buy an attractively printed nicely bound copy, but that doesn't have to be the most expensive option going does it ? Something can be attractive without being stunning, nice without being luxurious. I've bought standard colour or black and white , softback copies of supplements from DTRPG and been perfectly happy with them. Good robust working copies - nothing wrong with that

 

20 minutes ago, Nick Brooke said:

I mean, we could increase all our books’ prices to fund all the extra proof-printed copies this plethora of formats would need...

Or you could ensure that each copy sold allowed for a profit on each individual book taking initial outlay expenses into account , or set the proof copies against tax as a business expense ( if you're allowed to ), take the long view and hope you got that initial outlay back in long term sales.......

I'm not trying to be awkward here just pointing out that there are other print formats available, after all you yourself said you were looking at the possibility of other print options and Soltakss has gone down the standard colour route with Secrets of Dorastor - and that's not going to stop me buying that for a second as it sounds like a great book.

All I'm saying is this: suppose i have a Standard  Colour softback book on DTRPG for $35 or a premium colour hardback for $60. I sell no copies of the $60 book but the $35 sells steadily - which is better, some sales or no sales ?

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Thanks for the heads up Nick.  I will be one of the folk who sneaks in an order in the next few days to access the current prices.

Speaking (writing) as someone who lives outside the UK, my experience is that the postage cost from the UK to Melbourne Australia is significant.  Also, it seems to take 50-60 days from when the item is printed and shipped for it to arrive and so I expect that it comes via sea freight, rather than air freight. 

That is perplexing as Lightning Source have a printing location here in Melbourne which would be far quicker in terms of delivery which they don't seem to use for DriveThru product.  I would have bought more physical items if the supply chain wasn't so fragile and long, and the postage cost was lower.  I guess that the UK outlet is the only one with a relationship with DriveThru

All of this is outside the control of anyone on this forum.  All in all I much prefer the option to purchase hard copies than not having the option.  I accept that prices change and appreciate having a chance to be ahead of it for my next order.

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It is indeed a tough one.

There is a cohort of customers that will stump up the money regardless. People who have been in the tribe for decades, have decent jobs, and want to support the creators. We want gorgeous products to thumb through and store on our shelves. And some of the creators just want to please those people, because they are those people. We have all met up in castles and got drunk and sung songs together.

There is another customer base that isn't as epicurean, and the creators also want to get content into grubby hands and played at tables.

I guess we will see, I hope Secrets of Dorastor is a nice looking product, and it's even possible that Lightning Source will see a big drop in income and recalculate their economics.

As to the economics...

5 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

(e.g. if it costs me $25 to create a new format, and I expect to sell maybe 25 copies, it might make sense for me to put another dollar on the selling price, no?).

That depends on whether that $1 price increase will reduce the expected sales by, err, 3?

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9 minutes ago, PhilHibbs said:

I guess we will see, I hope Secrets of Dorastor is a nice looking product,

 

I'm sure it will be, as long as it's not ghastly to look at I reckon it'll be ok, more than ok . I'll be buying it for the information about places, the horrible diseases, the ghastly chaos monsters. As long as when i show a picture of a creature to the players they go " arghh ! , the tentacles, the teeth...run AWAY " then the artwork is good 😆

if they want to hang around long enough and get close enough to the tentacles to go " hang on , those aren't in premium colour....." that's their own lookout and i take no responsibility for their welfare........😉

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38 minutes ago, Agentorange said:

Soltakss has gone down the standard colour route with Secrets of Dorastor

... a book with no colour artwork, just slabs of solid colour in its headers and text boxes, let’s remember.

26 minutes ago, Graeme P said:

the postage cost from the UK to Melbourne Australia is significant

I am amazed that our books are printed in the UK and shipped to the Antipodes. It seems crazy to me, when your printers advertise their global network. I was similarly amazed they didn’t just swap to print in one of their EU partner sites when all the Brexit border bollocks started up. But that’s between DriveThruRPG and Lightning Source, it’s not something we can control. Our books seem to be printed in the US or the UK, and that’s yer lot. I’m glad the UK is an option.

And I wish all the economists and accountants out there well with their optimally-priced, multiple-choice-formatted books, and thank you for your kind advice. As Phil says, if we bring out a new format nobody wants and lose money doing it, we’ll look pretty silly, won’t we? It’s stressful enough getting one book out once, to be honest.

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6 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

.

 

And I wish all the economists and accountants out there well with their optimally-priced, multiple-choice-formatted books, and thank you for your kind advice.

Well it wasn't advice, it was simply a suggestion as a possible alternative way of making products and ideas available if the price hike means that people can't go the full hardcover, premium colour route. I 'm not saying people should do it another way, I'm asking could it be done another way if the numbers could be made to add up and the creators were happy to do so.

Edited by Agentorange
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3 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

I hope Secrets of Dorastor is a nice looking product

I think it is ...

3 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:
3 hours ago, Agentorange said:

Soltakss has gone down the standard colour route with Secrets of Dorastor

... a book with no colour artwork, just slabs of solid colour in its headers and text boxes, let’s remember.

Exactly. I don't like lots of colour in my supplements for several reasons and this helped me decide which print quality level to choose.

Other people could have full colour internal illustrations , colour maps, complex colour diagrams and so on, which might need better colour quality.

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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7 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

We want gorgeous products to thumb through and store on our shelves.

I'd like the above, but I want a working game supplement....if I can have both then  happy days 👍 But see below.....

7 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

There is another customer base that isn't as epicurean, and the creators also want to get content into grubby hands and played at tables.

I suspect I fall into this category . I'm more of a function over form kind of a guy.

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Speaking only for myself, I buy things that I want to run or play.  We don't expect Chaosium to offer anyting other than one type of electronic book and one type of phsyical book; I am certainly not expecting the individuals sharing their wonderful creations via the Jonstown Compendium to provide more choices.

Moving on...

This might be a question that is a bit too self-interested, but I'll be as shy as a Storm Khan and just ask.

Is there anything which might become available POD in say the next three weeks which can be shared with us?  🙂

A physical copy of Armies and Enemies of Dragon Pass, or Secrets of HeroQuesting would really be something to behold. And so many others, of course.

 

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Posted (edited)

Nothing imminent from me. I’ll likely be working to set up “standard colour” print editions of my older books to dodge the price hike, then I need to finish reworking parts of my epic mini-campaign Argrath thing, Black Spear. (A few bits need work, and I haven’t written the Epilogue yet). It’s gloriously, luridly colourful, and packed with art by Mike O’Connor, who is brilliant. If you liked The Duel at Dangerford, you’ll love this: proper Hero Wars stuff. But it won’t be out in print this month. Maybe out in PDF this summer, if the stars are right.

We also have Sandheart 4 in the works, but I doubt that will be out in PDF before August. The first scenario is done and dusted (and it looks ace), but this is another two-fer. @MOB recently shared some info on Facebook: Jon Webb’s scenario is The God Skin Incident, and MOB’s will be a Sandheart spin on Mad Prax: Beyond Sun Dome. Artwork mostly by Mark Baldwin & Dario Corallo, maps by Dario and Ludovic Chabant, and the rest of the crew much the same as before. Oh! and I have a song in this one, lucky you.

I hear @soltakss is using my PDF-into-layout techniques to prepare Secrets of HeroQuesting for print (and I wish him luck!); I understand from @M Helsdon that work on a B&W print edition of Armies & Enemies is ongoing (and I wish him luck!). And that’s all the stuff I know about.

Edited by Nick Brooke
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5 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

 

 Mad Prax: Beyond Sun Dome.
 

 

I'd be tempted to buy on the strength of that alone 😆

I've decided to re arrange my buying order because of the price hike. Secrets of Dorastor has now moved down a bit and Sandheart 2 and 3 have moved up - this takes me over my gaming budget so next month will be zero purchases - but hey, I'll have the Sandheart books to relax with and read.......

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