2005-04-12 : The Biz

What you're looking at is lumpley games' online Dogs in the Vineyard sales, in two-week chunks. The blue and lavender are print sales and PDF sales, respectively; they go with the scale on the right. The green above them is my very approximate profit; it goes with the scale on the left.

Pretty cool, huh?

Here's a Forge thread: Centralized Sales Data.

1. On 2005-04-12, Vincent said:

I charge $14 for the PDF. I charge $22 or $24 for the physical book, depending whether you're in North America or in the wider world. It costs me $8 or $10 to print it, bind it and mail it to you. Thus, no matter which, I get $14 back.

So that's the green, $14 per game. It's not exactly profit at that point - all of my other expenses have to come out of it first. Cons, art, layout, the $100 I just dropped on Red Sky A.M. research, all that stuff.


2. On 2005-04-12, Ninja Hunter J said:

Hey, this is obviously in the air. Check out this thread:

It starts out choppy and confrontational (hey! It's me!), but get pretty interesting on page 2.

The gist is, how do the visual creators of indie games get paid, too? Many of us work professionally and the game designers can't afford us - visual design and art are really time consuming - so how do we make it work? The answer at the beginning of the thread is "If they can't afford me, they should have thought about that." The end gets more like "Here are some algorithms we can apply so people get money enough to continue doing this."


3. On 2005-04-12, luke said:

so you consistently sell as many pdfs as print versions or more pdfs than print versions?

also, do you factor retailor sales into these numbers? You'd make $11 (or less) per unit on those, right?


4. On 2005-04-12, Callan said:

It's funny. You can sort of see the anticipatory audience grabbing it. Then they go quiet as they play. Once they play it, they talk about it, which sets off the people who were sort of anticpatory but only vaguely heard about it. These guys buy in (and set of a smaller third wave)

On a side note, I think Ron has talked about how some companies simply bank on these two spikes happening (or even just the first spike) for any product, but not the following bit.

The following bit seems to be a slow hill, where you've actually established a community of people who just keep talking and talking, which prompts more community and so on and so forth.

I think it's funny how you can see the social interaction though its concrete effect.

That's how I read such charts anyway. I predict the slow hill will drop slowly over time (like a stretched version of those spikes), and then another hill will rise slowly. Perhaps a little lower, because their are only so many customers out there.


5. On 2005-04-13, Kai said:

Hi Vincent,
Did it cost a lot more than the usual $10 to mail my copy to Malaysia?

Poh Tun Kai


6. On 2005-04-13, Vincent said:

Luke: I sell way more print than pdf, the big blue areas are print copies. This is just my online sales - yeah, I don't make much money at all on retail.

Kai: I don't remember. The $10 wider world fee has, obviously, a lot of play in it, but I don't want to deal with the hassle. If it cost me $14 to print, bind and mail your book, that's okay, because there are a bunch of Europeans who cost me only $9.50.

Callan: Ron says that Sorcerer has been just slowly growing right along. Yes, there are only so many customers out there, but I'm nowhere near reaching them yet. From the point of view of tens of books, my market is unlimited.

The truth is, we don't know yet how long a good game will be profitable.


7. On 2005-04-13, Emily Care said:

Another odd thing about this market, as compared with the usual distribution channels, is that it is international.  There is a much large pool of people available than just the US gaming market. Right there you've got an edge.

Re Luke's question—How should we be reading the chart? It looks like the lavender areas are greater than the blue since their peak values are higher. Should we be looking at the difference between the max blue values and the max lavender values or read the values on the right margin for the number sold as pdf?


8. On 2005-04-13, Vincent said:

Oh - yeah, the top edge of the lavender is the total sales; the lavendar component is pdfs, the blue component is print. So like the point between 3/1/05 and 3/15/05 says that I sold over 20 print, around 5 pdf, for a total under 30.

But imagine the green area going all the way to the floor.


9. On 2005-04-13, Ninja Hunter J said:

... that makes for a pretty confusing graph, V. Vertical space means two different things.


10. On 2005-04-13, Vincent said:


Here's what to do: if you care about how many books I've sold, ignore the green and look to the right. If you care about how much money I've made, ignore the blue and lavender and look to the left. If you care about both, switch back and forth really fast!

If anybody really, really, really cares, I can make two graphs instead... Oh fuck it, here:

Colored area = total sales; blue area = print sales; lavender area = pdf sales.

Green area = total approximate profit.



11. On 2005-04-13, Ninja Hunter J said:

But... in the blue one, I can't tell when your PDFs are selling well relative to your print books. There should be three separate things on the top graph: books, PDFs, and total. Right now, I have to guess at the number of PDFs, particularly from month to month.


12. On 2005-04-13, ethan_greer said:

Hey, while you're at it, could you change the background color? I don't like the grey so well. Something more mauve, maybe...


13. On 2005-04-13, Vincent said:

Oh fer...

Click for a larger version where you can read the numbers.

Man! You better really, really, really care.


14. On 2005-04-13, Vincent said:

The huh?

Let's try that again...

Like I say, click to enbiggen.


15. On 2005-04-13, Vincent said:

God damn it Ethan, don't make me reach back there.


16. On 2005-04-13, Ninja Hunter J said:

Naw, I don't really care.

That was a lie. This graph is much easier to read.Particularly interesting to me are 10/12 to 12/28, when no PDFs were sold at all, but sales were rising; and then the following weeks, it briefly reversed.

I'm also happy to see that most of the sales are in books. I love books.

... and speaking of which, I gotta fix that cover. Did you find out the spine specifics, like, if we can put a PDF on there?


17. On 2005-04-13, Vincent said:

We can't do anything with the spine but specify text, typeface (from their list) and background color. A sucky element in a better overall package; I can live with it.

I ordered a proof, with just the existing cover - so it'll be on white. I should get it any day. Maybe before Saturday! But probably next week.


18. On 2005-04-14, luke said:

2nd graph's much clearer, Vincent. Thanks!

are you reordering using LULU? Don't do it—demand your own spineage!

Lightning Source allows you to do your own covers.


19. On 2005-04-14, Vincent said:

Lightning Source? I'll check it out.


20. On 2005-04-14, Ninja Hunter J said:



Luke, you've saved our marriage.


21. On 2005-04-14, Vincent said:

Ooh, Lightning Source will let us stick with the 5.5" x 8.5". I'm sold. (HA right back!)


22. On 2005-04-14, luke said:

perhaps a phone call is in order?
anyway, i used LS for the latest version of the NPA and they are great.
AND my friend used them for a book—he used eggshell paper and it looks fantastic.



23. On 2005-04-14, Ninja Hunter J said:

Ha! I mean, Crap!

Do you really not want to go slightly bigger, V? It'll be easier to read, have bigger margins, and not have to be more pages to get it.

What are paper options? It looks like there's a "cream" cover option...


24. On 2005-04-14, Vincent said:

I'd much rather have more pages. Oh my god much rather.

I'll show you the Lulu proof when you're here. You might not agree with me, but you'll see what I mean.


25. On 2005-04-14, Ninja Hunter J said:

I love seeing proofs instead of speculating!

Hey, wanna change plans and go play paintball on Saturday? You know, get some outside excercize and come home with bruises?


26. On 2005-04-14, Ninja Hunter J said:

... we can do more pages too if you want.


27. On 2005-04-14, Vincent said:

We'd have to do twice as many pages to make the larger size feel right! I'm comparing it to books I have around, hefting them, and the smaller book is good slim, but the larger book is too skinny.


28. On 2005-04-15, luke said:

is this really the place for this discussion? ;)
go digest size AND pull in your margins.  For the new BW I pulled in the margins to .75 top and bottom and .875 inside/outside. It looks great. It's much more comfortable to read than the first edition of BW.

Do you have a word count for Dogs? BW is about 85K per book. The type is 9 pt over 12 pt leading. Small but very readable.

Also, make sure you get samples of any cover stocks before you agree to print on them. I'd just make the cream color background in photoshop and then have them put a matte gloss on the whole thing to give a "feel."

but that's just me.
hope i'm not intruding (on your very public discussion).


29. On 2005-04-15, Ninja Hunter J said:

What Luke said.


30. On 2005-04-15, Vincent said:

We'll talk.


31. On 2005-04-15, Ninja Hunter J said:

I bet we will.


32. On 2005-04-15, Ben Lehman said:

Terse Reply

(everyone else was doing it.)


33. On 2005-04-17, anon. said:

On the very slight chance that anyone is interested in the topic of long-term success ...

Sorcerer books are all far more successful at this point than I ever would have dreamed. Not only did that "long slow climb of the baseline" begin, it's kept going and going. Retailers are apparently very much in the habit of re-ordering the books, and distributors are now very much in the habit of making sure they're fully stocked. Amazing.

Direct sales are disgustingly high. I'm almost embarassed to amass and publish last year's summary (and partly, it would a huge pain in the ass considering the switch from Tundra to Key 20 and IPR). But Brennan ships out my books almost every damn day, or however long his post office intervals are.

The second printing of Sorcerer is on the verge of disappearance, so I have to schedule a third print run within the next month. The first and second supplements are both on their second printing too.

The model seems to be absolutely viable: actual play, personal feedback, fostering a community = long-term success, and the distribution system finally figures out that they can have a piece of it as long as they pay attention and keep re-ordering.

The *really* important point is that I do not have to keep releasing new product in order to generate attention and interest in my games. I can write and release it whenever I feel like it, and recognize that the spikes are pure gravy.



34. On 2005-04-18, Vincent said:

Very cool, Ron.

I'm surprised how good and how reliable the money is, from just my one game. I'm not quitting my day job, but I'll bet that in a few years someone of us does, and others of us follow. It seems possible to me.


35. On 2005-06-05, Ed said:

I want your books with me.



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