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Keeping the Story Team

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RPG books have already gone into a price range I can rarely bring myself to pay... I guess I'm old-school, but $50 for an RPG book is, to me, scandalous.

Yeah, scandalously low, given how bad the pay rates are for good, professional work across all the disciplines involved.

But about as much as the market will bear, as MaxKilljoy's post illustrates. (And an edit for the crosspost: MaxKilljoy, in a lot of cases, I simply don't think that's true. I wish it was, but there aren't a lot of economies of scale in a niche business.)

I want to live in that shining world where we've figured out how to better support art and artists outside or in addition to the calculus of supply/demand/overhead/sales, and RPG design really belongs to the arts in a lot of ways. It's not great that most RPG designers (and the story team!) have to take poet-level compensation to do what they do, any more than it's great for poets... and yeah, I think that really might be the operative analogy here.

Edited by locust shell

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If they're charging me that much, they can afford to pay real rates for those services. 

 

 

This depends enormously on economies of scale, and has little to do with how much they charge an individual consumer. It has a lot more to do with how many copies they can move (though that's obviously influenced by price point), and break one time costs like freelance contracts out across many thousands of sales rather than many hundreds (for example).

 

Not to mention that the per unit cost of printing and shipping 10,000 copies of a book (for example) is much, much lower than say, printing and shipping 1,000 units.

 

RPG books are a luxury item because they're niche. The fact that so many are willing to work at rates that are laughable in other industries, even for free, is the only thing that makes them practical for some companies.

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But about as much as the market will bear, as MaxKilljoy's post illustrates.

 

 

What the market will bear is directly influenced by the way people talk about the market. It's driven in part by perception.

 

In other words, the argument that RPG books are overpriced (particularly with loaded language like "scandalous") suggests that someone, somewhere is making a killing on every such book, or that consumers are being taken advantage of. That's just not the reality in the vast majority of cases.

 

What's really happening is that small companies are scraping by because they can take advantage of cheap labor and volunteerism in order to push out a product at an artificially deflated price point. Even FFG, which has a significant employee work force, can support that work force because its employees love the product (along with a lower local cost of living).

 

People who can't pay a higher price simply can't pay a higher price, it's true. But people who believe that RPG producers "should" be able to pay creators better rates at $50 a book are misinformed, which was much more my point. If you want to make sure creators get reasonable rates, buy deluxe editions, and otherwise signal a willingness to participate in what is essentially a luxury market.

 

In the meantime, it strikes me as a bit crass, or misinformed at best, to portray gaming market price points (in particular RPGs) as "scandalous" (implying that prices are too high) when creators are being paid rates that are less than half of what can be had in even online publications in other markets. Much less the people that are being paid in product.

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But about as much as the market will bear, as MaxKilljoy's post illustrates.

 

 

What the market will bear is directly influenced by the way people talk about the market. It's driven in part by perception.

 

In other words, the argument that RPG books are overpriced (particularly with loaded language like "scandalous") suggests that someone, somewhere is making a killing on every such book, or that consumers are being taken advantage of. That's just not the reality in the vast majority of cases.

 

What's really happening is that small companies are scraping by because they can take advantage of cheap labor and volunteerism in order to push out a product at an artificially deflated price point. Even FFG, which has a significant employee work force, can support that work force because its employees love the product (along with a lower local cost of living).

 

People who can't pay a higher price simply can't pay a higher price, it's true. But people who believe that RPG producers "should" be able to pay creators better rates at $50 a book are misinformed, which was much more my point. If you want to make sure creators get reasonable rates, buy deluxe editions, and otherwise signal a willingness to participate in what is essentially a luxury market.

 

In the meantime, it strikes me as a bit crass, or misinformed at best, to portray gaming market price points (in particular RPGs) as "scandalous" (implying that prices are too high) when creators are being paid rates that are less than half of what can be had in even online publications in other markets. Much less the people that are being paid in product.

 

 

When I first got into gaming, the most expensive RPG books on the shelves were about $25 a piece...

 

During my "gaming heyday" in the 1990s, the prices were about the same, maybe $30 for the nicest books...

 

 

Now I'm running into books for $70 some places. 

 

 

And if this is a topic better off elsewhere, I'll stop, I'll even "void" the last few posts I made.  

Edited by MaxKilljoy

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They are not misleading you with their statements about game economics. I will glady pay the 50 to 70 dollars a book for a game I enjoy. Knowing full well that barely covers the costs it took to get that book to my hands. When I first started gaming the books ranged from 8 to 12 dollars a book. Yet at the same time cheap paper back novels were 1 to 3 dollars a book, those same paper backs are now 12 to 18 dollars or more. The costs of printing books is just going up too as more books are going e-book, or pdf with modern technology. I am old school, and I still like holding a book in my hands. I am also glad I still have those old 8 to 12 dollar game books sitting on my shelf a little worse for wear these days, but I can still pull them down, read them, and let memory, and imagination flow. You see to me that is priceless.

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But about as much as the market will bear, as MaxKilljoy's post illustrates.

 

 

What the market will bear is directly influenced by the way people talk about the market. It's driven in part by perception.

 

In other words, the argument that RPG books are overpriced (particularly with loaded language like "scandalous") suggests that someone, somewhere is making a killing on every such book, or that consumers are being taken advantage of. That's just not the reality in the vast majority of cases.

 

What's really happening is that small companies are scraping by because they can take advantage of cheap labor and volunteerism in order to push out a product at an artificially deflated price point. Even FFG, which has a significant employee work force, can support that work force because its employees love the product (along with a lower local cost of living).

 

People who can't pay a higher price simply can't pay a higher price, it's true. But people who believe that RPG producers "should" be able to pay creators better rates at $50 a book are misinformed, which was much more my point. If you want to make sure creators get reasonable rates, buy deluxe editions, and otherwise signal a willingness to participate in what is essentially a luxury market.

 

In the meantime, it strikes me as a bit crass, or misinformed at best, to portray gaming market price points (in particular RPGs) as "scandalous" (implying that prices are too high) when creators are being paid rates that are less than half of what can be had in even online publications in other markets. Much less the people that are being paid in product.

 

 

When I first got into gaming, the most expensive RPG books on the shelves were about $25 a piece...

 

During my "gaming heyday" in the 1990s, the prices were about the same, maybe $30 for the nicest books...

 

 

Now I'm running into books for $70 some places. 

 

 

I don't want to go deep into specific books and publishers and all that stuff, but the numbers are vastly different today vs in the 90s in terms of units sold, which again, speaks to economies of scale.

 

Production value has also gone up significantly, and in some cases, like the Star Wars core books, sheer page count. That adds to the price tag. But at the same time, is now expected.

 

This is all saying nothing of inflation. Pretty much everything costs quite a bit more than it used to. A quick google shows a 1990 dollar goes almost twice as far as a 2015 dollar. ( http://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=1&year=1990 )

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BD Flory, I don't disagree with you on the fundamental problem, but I think it's more important than you're implying that the fact there's a point of diminishing returns in the dance of market price/sales volume that really does militiate against charging much more than the current standard. Games are a hobby business but really not, I would argue, a luxury one in the normal sense of that phrase. (Nobody's taking their Deluxe Edition of Exalted to show off at the country club, alas.) And hooking 'em young has always been an essential component of growth and survival for the field. If it were as easy as "convince people to pay more," with the amount of money coming into the business being relatively elastic, that'd be awesome, but, well. One could argue that only the strong--the ones who have the scale to compensate labor well while charging competitive prices--should survive and thrive; I do tend to agree with that for some kinds of industries, but I'm not sure I'd like the world where it was an absolute reality for the arts.

Heh. When I am a billionaire (instead of a graduate student who does have to think hard before springing for a $60 game book), perhaps I'll set up an arts foundation that gives grants to game designers. The option to give really big contributions on Kickstarter is already a step in that direction, in a sense, so who knows, things may go that way eventually.

When I first got into gaming, the most expensive RPG books on the shelves were about $25 a piece...

 

During my "gaming heyday" in the 1990s, the prices were about the same, maybe $30 for the nicest books...

 

 

Now I'm running into books for $70 some places.

Yeah, but that was 20 years ago. $30 in 1990 dollars is about $55 in 2015 ones, and a $70 book now would be less than $40 in 1990 dollars. And standards for game books' art, playtesting and editing, production quality, and post-sale support have all come up since then, by and large. Not to mention that most game contributors in the 80s and 90s weren't making much of a living at it either.

Brick and mortar game stores are in a much tougher place now, too--I'd be surprised if that doesn't effect per-unit prices.

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BD Flory, I don't disagree with you on the fundamental problem, but I think it's more important than you're implying that the fact there's a point of diminishing returns in the dance of market price/sales volume that really does militiate against charging much more than the current standard.

 

To some extent that's certainly true. But I don't think it's a case of, "convincing people to pay more," so much as, "convincing people it's appropriate that they pay more."

 

People pay a premium for fair trade coffee, and even food items, on the premise that labor is being more fairly compensated.

 

If it can be done for food, a necessity, it's achievable for things like RPGs, which are a luxury (in the sense of not being a necessity, not in the sense of being a Modigliani, or whatever).

 

Is everyone going to pay that premium? Of course not. Some won't be able, some won't be willing. There are always pdfs for those who want to save money, or simply patronize companies that put out low cost black and white books with lower page counts at a lower price point.

 

The problem is that people want the full color, glossy, 500 page book in 2015 at black and white, matte, 256 page book prices from the 90s. Pointing out why that doesn't work is a big step in pushing the market to a more reasonable place.

 

Of course, I'm under no illusion that doing so on a forum for an LCG/RPG that's on hiatus for 2 years is going to achieve much, so I, too, will drop it now. :) 

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1)  I don't mind a largely black-and-white book, it doesn't have to be full-color and glossy.  Also, for that 500 pages, I want 500 pages worth of content, not the 256 pages worth of content spread out with fancier formatting and poor organization. 

 

2)  I'd be more willing to spend $50 or even more on a book if I could look at it first, but the shelf space in most "gaming" stores for actual RPGs that aren't Pathfinder or whatever edition of D&D is out at the moment is minuscule now.  It's all plastic miniatures, card games, and board games... 

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Of course, I'm under no illusion that doing so on a forum for an LCG/RPG that's on hiatus for 2 years is going to achieve much, so I, too, will drop it now. :)

 

 

Indeed. :D

 

I had other random thoughts about a couple of things in your post which I was going to PM you about, just because it's an interesting topic, but... can't figure out how, so never mind. XD Certainly doesn't belong in this thread, which is about the Story Team. I think we've pretty well covered how the financial side of the issue might be a part of FFG's decision making, in any case. 

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RPG books have already gone into a price range I can rarely bring myself to pay... I guess I'm old-school, but $50 for an RPG book is, to me, scandalous. 

 

Seriously? Scandalous? As has been said in-thread, scandalously low, if anything. Unless I guess you expect your game writers to eat pasteboard and guzzle dust.

 

Speaking from someone who has been in publishing for a long time...

 

Look, ten years ago, as a round ballpark figure, the print cost of a full-color, hard back 300 page book (which is, basically, any modern RPG main rules book release) was about $35. That didn't cover the cost of distribution, marketing, layout, talent, production, rent for your company's properties, salaries, or anything else that goes into the cost a consumer pays when they buy a book. That was just the cost at the printer, to physically print the pages and bind them...and then leave them in a stack at the press, where you are expected to pay someone to come and get them. And printers demand their money up-front, before a single galley goes to print, in one big lump sum. And that was ten years ago, before the biggest economic slump since the Great Depression and before a significant paper shortage drove up paper prices worldwide.

 

At the economies of scale most RPGs are published at (which means for all RPGs out there unless you've got Dungeons & Dragons or World of Darkness on your cover), you're not getting a discount based on large print run sizes. Oh, sure, you could try to print more if you have enough liquidity to manage the cover charge at the printers, and assume that your line will have a long tail, but even the mighty TSR back in the days was nearly killed by this. In fact, it was a combination of not charging enough for their books and investing too much in a shoe store line that managed to kill TSR to the point that Wizards of the Coast had to use Magic: the Gathering money to keep D&D as a thing in our hobby (and it was about an equal amount of both, really -- the not charging enough for their books weakened the company to the point that their investment in the shoe chain, which was a marginal bet that wasn't too smart, ended up being a killing blow).

 

So let that sink in. Not charging enough for RPG books killed TSR, the home of D&D, the undisputed 900-ton gorilla of RPG sales and marketplace share. There's not a single game on the market in all of RPGs history (except, oh so briefly in the early 90s, in the heyday of White Wolf's early Vampire runs, when Vampire could briefly claim to rule the roost) that sold as many copies as D&D. If any gameline can actually get a production discount based on pure economy of scale, D&D would be it, and they still flunked the test.

 

Most RPGs are happy if they move a few hundred titles in a year -- again, the really Big Names in the industry can expect to sell more, and while there's no way AEG's L5R line ever got close to D&D or White Wolf sales, I'd be willing to bet they sold more than a lot of RPG lines...but still not enough to move into a place where you start talking about deep discounts to production based on print run scale (I'm talking about the discounts you can get if you print hundreds of thousands of copies, like the print run of a projected best-seller fiction hardcover). As a rule of thumb for harried gamer writers and designers, a good assumption is that on the price sticker for an RPG book, about 5% of that is going to the publisher as profits. So that $70 book you're balking at paying for is only sending $3 of profit back to the company. Most RPGs are selling only a few hundred copies a year, if that, so that $70 price tag is making the publisher the outrageous profit margin of maybe $1,000 a year. Scandalous! Outrage! Perhaps you manage to have a breakout hit, or are in an established game line with a lot of fans (D&D, White Wolf, and I'd assume L5R are here as well). Then you can probably safely expect to sell a few thousand books (much more if you can legally put D&D on your cover), which might get you, Professional Evil RPG Publisher, enough money to buy protein for every other meal this year. Save up and you can take the spouse to a movie next holiday!

 

Hell, distributors (the people you pay to actually move that stack of books you want to sell to the markets where hopefully the people who want to buy it will be able to get it) charge a percentage on the net sales of the book (which, again, you will have to pay up front). If you can find a distributor willing to ship your books for less than 20% of your net sales profit, you celebrate with bloody sacrifices to the gods of your choice, and happily arrange for the marriage of your first born to keep that alliance going for as long as possible.

 

Now, obviously, individual prices and profit points vary from company to company. But all of those numbers above (which is the last time I have reasonable data to back them up) happened *before* the paper crunch and economy crash further made things worse. Can you still make a living doing this? Sure, if you've got an established line and a good player base -- Paizo Printing has been doing fine living off the bloody carcass of 3.x D&D, although it took the runaway success of their Pathfinder card game to turn their situation from "fine" to "doing well, thank you". Monte Cook, among others, has made a living writing RPGs that other people are happy to buy. Other examples can be found, and bless all those producers out there not only making good stuff but managing to make a living at it. But RPG printing is not something you do to make bank, and even knowing that, the prices for modern RPG books are still not only far too low to allow their creators to enjoy a standard of living where they don't have to eat shower curtains, they're loss-leaders to try to get you to buy into their gameline as a gamer lifestyle choice.

 

You've gone on in earlier posts about how things like FFG's publishing of three themed cocurrent lines for their Star Wars RPGs was a stupid decision and something that would be a deal-breaker to you for their involvement in whatever happens in the upcoming L5R RPG releases. Which is like, whatever -- your money, your choices. But that sort of line development is how you make money in the modern RPG market. Do you think designer dice and talent cards and character sheets (all of which all major game lines go for, not just FFG's Star Wars) are just attempts to get your money? Of course they are. Profit margins on those are *much* more comfortable than with actual books. But don't blame the publishers for trying to find tie-in merchandise to cover some costs so you can keep getting those books whose costs you complain about.

 

RPGs are one of the silliest things ever to try to make a living in, because it's one of the few products -- especially one marketed to a generally creative, ambitious crowd -- that once you have the book...you don't need anything else. There's nothing stopping anyone with the old pre-D&D Chainmail rules from playing Chainmail in 2015 any more than they could back in the early 1970s. Game still runs as fine as it ever did. Same for any other RPG you have ever bought. Once you've bought the rules for the game, you have a lifetime of playing with no additional up-front fees. Your 4th Edition (or any edition) L5R rules will work just as well in 2100 as they do now (or work just as poorly, in the case of Second Edition L5R, I guess). The idea of trying to make money in a market where the customers don't have to buy your product is terrifying for any MBA. If they don't have to buy your product to use the thing you're offering, how do you make money? In this respect, they're even worse than movies, because while you might watch a Star Wars film in a theatre, buying the Star Wars RPG (or any RPG) means you technically don't have to go to a "movie"-equivalent RPG experience again, because you can just make them yourself.

 

EVERY RPG ever written comes with the unwritten additional rules text of: "Here is all the information you need to never have to buy anything from us again." Which is the most bullheadedly wrong thing to try to make a profit off of perhaps in the history of ever, but that's passion for gaming for you. So you accessorize, you put out Guidebooks to Feral Kobold Courtiers, you make comics, you invest in shoe stores, you do all sorts of things so you can continue to feed and shelter your family while working on something you love.

 

You say you would be happy paying for black and white books, not "256 pages worth of content spread out with fancier formatting and poor organization". Again, fine, you decide how you prioritize your money, nothing wrong with that. But books with color and pretty pictures sell better than books without in the RPG market -- decades of market experience have shown that. (That you're complaining about "poor organization", without being willing to pay the upfront costs for more personnel to fix what you consider "poor organization", is pretty silly as well, but that's a discussion for another post.) Making full-color books with glossy art does mean the publishers lose people who aren't interested in that. They know this, they accept it. They end up making more in the long run by not targeting people like you in their production decisions in general. Which sucks for you, but you are not the RPG market in totality.

 

So let's get this straight, at the end. To you, $70 for a hardback, full-color book which includes all the rules you need to have unlimited gaming for the rest of your life -- assuming you're willing to use your own creativity to keep on expanding the game's concept -- is outrageous and scandalous. An AAA computer game now comes out at around $70 price, and that's, what, a few dozen hours of gaming? A couple hundred? I know I've sunk over 1000 hours into Borderlands, but that's me, and I love me some Pandora, but that's not normal playtime, I'm quite aware. What's the size of your gaming group? Three people? Five? More? If you and your gamer buddies go to a movie, or out to eat just to shoot the breeze and hang out, or go to a gaming convention -- total cost of that has to be at least $70. And those are one-time activities. You can pay to see the same movie again (and we've all done that), but it's still the same movie, no matter how many times you see it (thankfully, the really good movies, or songs, or books, are worth the revisiting). But investing $70 in an RPG rules book, which will allow you to constantly recreate it an infinite amount of times for the rest of your life, a price point at which 99% of all RPG publishers are barely breaking even on, that's considered scandalous and we should be shuddering in sympathy.

 

OK then. Good to know where you stand.

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I always look at how many hours I get out of the book as a guideline as to whether it is a worthy investment.

 

I've gotten thousands of hours playing l5r RPG's. If I could work out how much it cost me per hour after investing in a book it would work out at a couple of cent per hour. I am not sure what other hobby would work out as that cost effective.

 

Also, 50 Dollars! Have to pay 60 Euro for 4th ed core book here! :(

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*Even the hands-off moderation of this here forum rather suggests "not as much as AEG"...

 

 

Not to mention that FFG's new Flight Crew program, which will events at stores and cons and such remotely as independent contractors, seem as if they're paid, professional positions. The work is probably not frequent, or particularly *well* paid, but it's not product. I would expect that any story position FFG creates for L5R will likewise be paid, and further require relocation to FFG HQ.

 

FFG's Flight Crew is being heavily influenced (or at least are studying carefully) by the design choices and experience of Magic: the Gathering's professional judge program.

 

Magic makes approximately an infinite amount more money per year than any FFG game without "Star Wars" on its title (games with "Star Wars" in the title, Magic only makes half an infinity more per year). And even in Magic, even for judges in Pro Tour level events -- those judges are basically working for free. They're volunteers paid with judge-only special art alternate Magic cards and a pittance for travel and food.

 

So if Magic isn't paying their judges a living wage, and that's to judge in a game where there's a professional scene worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes per year, there's no way FFG will be able to do the same for their Flight Crew. Although if they manage to square the circle and find a way to do so, good for them!

Edited by Gaffa

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I can't add much to what Gaffa said except for a data point: the rate for L5R RPG freelancers as of fourth edition was two cents a word.

 

For comparison, the baseline "pro" rate for short fiction in science fiction and fantasy (as defined by SFWA, the professional org of sf/f writers) is six cents a word.

 

And that's considered laughably poor by freelancers in most other fields.

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RPG books have already gone into a price range I can rarely bring myself to pay... I guess I'm old-school, but $50 for an RPG book is, to me, scandalous. 

 

 

Yeah, scandalously low, given how bad the pay rates are for good, professional work across all the disciplines involved.

 

 

 

If they're charging me that much, they can afford to pay real rates for those services.

 

Are you involved in retail at all? Do you have any experience in the costs involved in actually getting a print run of a publication out to the public?

 

Let's go back to our $70 book which scandalously allows our Platonic game writer to eke out a living eating the bugs they manage to squish with the rocks that make up their bed.

 

On a $70 MSRP, your Friendly Local Game Store might be charged $55, say. Obviously it varies from title to title, but that's not too outrageous. The retailer has to make money as well, because despite the best efforts of centuries of social pressure and genetic selection, merchants still foolishly believe they have to eat and sleep under a roof as well.

 

$55 is our price point the merchant who buys the item to sell to you. Of that, $40 is easily the cost of production of the book -- probably higher. $15-20 is the cut the distributor takes (distribution, the cost to physically drag the dead tree carcasses from the printer to the groaning shelves of your local game store, in RPG markets is easily 25% of sticker prices). That leaves, what, almost no money for the publisher!

 

Well, that sucks! You can't cut the distributor fees, because otherwise your books sit at the printing press, and nobody's buying them (and then you piss off your printer, because they don't want to shovel your junk off their loading docks on their dime). You can't do much about the MSRP, because the local market will set what they think they need in their foolish quest to put food on their table. So the one thing you can do is cut corners on production.

 

But one production cost you can't cut is printing, and while it might be hard to believe, actually printing the books you want people to read is a rather important part of the printing process. And you can't cut printing costs because no gaming company to this day actually owns their own printing presses, which are hugely complicated and expensive things which would bankrupt even Wizards of the Coast to operate at their current profit margins. So when the printers tell you that your book is going to cost $35 per copy, suck it up or else, that means for you to make money, you have to find ways to shave off something in the $5 of production fees you actually have control over -- your own talent, time management, and property.

 

So where, exactly, is that fat in the $5 of the $70 sticker price you're supposed to cut? Despite the fact that they are naturally one of Earth's most beautiful and precious of creatures, freelancers are usually the first to feel the sting, because, well, they're not the owner of the company, or their immediate friends whom they work with every day and see in the same office.

 

Now, with the advent of good POD (print on demand) technology, as well as PDF release sites such as RPG.Now and others, a distribution model can be made which allows core RPG rule books to get to an audience at a much lower price point. The fact that FFG is a very large gaming company (for American board games, only Hasbro is larger at this point) means they can also shuffle off a little bit of price manipulations onto their other lines. X-Wing and Netrunner make big money, so they can afford to pay their people working on their RPGs more than a smaller company can, because the profits from Netrunner absorb any slack sales in their RPG division.

 

But thinking that a $70 price tag on a RPG book in your local gaming market means that the talent involved in making it get any more than a sliver of the price you pay in profits shows a pretty shallow understanding of the modern distribution process.

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I can't add much to what Gaffa said except for a data point: the rate for L5R RPG freelancers as of fourth edition was two cents a word.

 

Merciful Dragon, I had no idea!

 

I've just poured out a fifth in solidarity.

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  Thanks for all the information, Gaffa. It's always interesting to hear from people who have been in or around the industry, and have some numbers to put out. Unfortunately, I still find myself more on MaxKilljoy's side in this one. All the numbers you give (and I have no reason at all to doubt them) are approaching the problem from the supply side. However, I sit on the demand side of the equation, so I compare RPG books, not to computer games, but to books. And yes, $70 is more than I'm generally willing to pay for them.

 

  Again, I don't doubt your numbers, but what that tells me is that there probably isn't a good living to be made in RPG's - and it even sounds like you either agree or are at least resigned to that as well. Maybe PDF's are the way to go, to avoid the whole printing problem. Maybe it stays a hobby line, rather than a large professional industry, except for the existing big lines you referenced. Or maybe there's another solution I haven't seen - wouldn't be the first time...

 

  However, speaking for myself, I am generally unwilling to pay even $50, let alone $70, for an RPG rule book. Keep it around $40 or less, you can get me to take a chance as a customer. Again, I can understand and sympathize with all the costs that go into it, but in the end, you have to sell to willing customers, which means meeting the price they're willing to pay. Maybe I'm cheap (actually, I know I am ;) in which case best of luck to those selling higher, I truly hope they do well. Or find some way to lower your prices and still make money, and I'll be happy to take a chance again.

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Still needs to be make moolas though! If people are not willing to make it profitable, then the product will just disappear rather than the price coming down to suit those who can't/won't meet a profitable price! :D

 

I find with a lot of things in gaming, because they are sometimes so hard to make profitable, I personally go the extra mile for it. For example, I will ask my local store to get something in even though I have to wait around for him longer and pay more for it than I would on the internet. I only do this because I want a local gaming shop. If everyone got their product online instead of in the shop they'd go out of business.

 

I'm the same with things like rpg's and card games. Because they are so niche, I think they need extra support from their customers. It is in my interest that they stick around as a product. :)

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Well, I for one question his core assumption that nothing can be done about the inequities of the market, and I have worked in all levels of the publishing industry--game, comic, fiction, and scholarly. (And much prefer the security of my teaching position because of the security and consistency of the whole thing.)

 

The truth is that the publishing industry has changed DRAMATICALLY in the last two decades.  Yes, printing costs remain a problem, but you know what?  People don't have to go to printers any longer, and they don't have to go to publishing houses either.  Go to e-publishing, and you know what?  ALL those printing problems go away and the only costs for the book are the actual costs of creating a quality product.

 

I'm currently working with a young man on his first book.  (Truthfully, I only agreed to the job because a colleague higher up the pecking order asked me to speak with the guy; I don't do a lot of freelance any longer because it is such a nerve-wracking way of trying to keep the bills paid.)  He and I had several chats, then agreed on a contract.  I cut him some slack because I was asked to help him, and I think he has some promise--we're using the lower end of my editing range.  He intends to self-publish and already has a marketing plan in place.  He didn't blink an eye at the contract costs of editing; he's already lined up a real graphic designer (not just FIVERR) to create his cover and package; and he's setting up the marketing aspects personally (though given his professional way of handling things, I expect he'll probably at least consult with a real marketing person before implementing it).

 

All totaled, it might cost him $1500-$3000 to get his book packaged and ready to sell.  If he markets well, he can, conservatively, make that back in one month through Amazon or for one speaking engagement (it's the sort of project that lends itself to such things). And, other than the 35% Amazon will get off each purchase, he gets ever single penny.  THAT is the reality of printing today. AND don't forget, when it's finally in the shape he wants, he can upload that book overnight--there's no great waiting period for it to be printed, shipped, and marketed--or he can go to a combination e-book/POD bit and have access to both markets.

 

You can produce that "high quality" book for the book shelf for $70 and limit the number of people you access--through cost or just access location--or you can access a much larger audience much faster by just making a quality piece and making sure folks get access to it. 

Edited by Azamiko

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  Thanks for all the information, Gaffa. It's always interesting to hear from people who have been in or around the industry, and have some numbers to put out. Unfortunately, I still find myself more on MaxKilljoy's side in this one. All the numbers you give (and I have no reason at all to doubt them) are approaching the problem from the supply side. However, I sit on the demand side of the equation, so I compare RPG books, not to computer games, but to books. And yes, $70 is more than I'm generally willing to pay for them.

 

Hey, the thing is, that's fine! It is your money, and you decide what stuff you want to spend it on.

 

My problem came with MaxKilljoy's assumption that a $70 price tag on the shelf for a book meant the publisher was deliberately overcharging the public to make big bucks. It's really not; it's a pretty reasonable price in 2015 for a book with the producction values that most modern RPG rules tomes come with. If that prices it out of your range, that's a choice you make, but it's not a choice being made to gouge you for the moneys.

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But thinking that a $70 price tag on a RPG book in your local gaming market means that the talent involved in making it get any more than a sliver of the price you pay in profits shows a pretty shallow understanding of the modern distribution process.

I find it odd that people took my comment on books costing as much as three times what they cost me in my "gaming heyday" as an attack on what the artists involved make for their work.

 

It was even clarified by a comment that seeing the books on shelves for that much while finding out that some people doing work for the company are getting paid in "free cards, wow" is like finding out that the staff makes nothing but tips in a restaurant charging $40 for burger and fries. 

 

Every other industry I've been involved in doesn't have the issues you detail (the two long-term examples being computer hardware and sales, and then frozen/processed fruit), so seeing people talk about how AEG was paying in leftovers and tips, while seeing the pricetags on the books, was actually pretty galling to me.  From the flip side, there are things like college education and health care where the prices have gone up FAR faster than inflation.  So when I see the end-customer price of something as much as triple, maybe I make a bad assumption that there's money being wasted, or money being "grabbed".   It also doesn't help that the first $70 mega-book I ran into was a Monte Cook thing, and when I balked at the price, I was looked at in shock by the clerk, who said "It's a Monte Cook, of course it cost that much", even if not in so many words. 

 

My lifetime has been one of watching prices rise while average American income stagnates.  My reaction was at least partly caused by sympathy for the writers and artists, not dismissal. 

 

E:   Be as mad as you like at me for my ignorance of how "monetarily inefficient" the publishing process is, I deserve that part.  But we could do without the scathing condescension, and the presumptions about someone's other economic decisions. 

Edited by MaxKilljoy

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Well, I for one question his core assumption that nothing can be done about the inequities of the market, and I have worked in all levels of the publishing industry--game, comic, fiction, and scholarly. (And much prefer the security of my teaching position because of the security and consistency of the whole thing.)

 

The truth is that the publishing industry has changed DRAMATICALLY in the last two decades.  Yes, printing costs remain a problem, but you know what?  People don't have to go to printers any longer, and they don't have to go to publishing houses either.  Go to e-publishing, and you know what?  ALL those printing problems go away and the only costs for the book are the actual costs of creating a quality product.

 

Oh, I quite agree with you. And my core assumptions are those of a boring old-school anarchist :), so you won't be finding me defending markets' natural rights to exist (or even that they have any). But that doesn't excuse not taking a look at the market that exists instead of the market that MaxKilljoy believes in, in which a $70 price tag for a book is scandalous.

 

I quite agree that the e-publishing has been a huge change to the old stomping grounds, and it's really fascinating to watch and hobnob about (which really isn't a topic for this forum, let alone this thread, so we'll probably have to take it elsewhere for a longer discourse if you want). What I feel safe in predicting is that FFG will *not* be going a new media route with whatever the heck they do with L5R RPG, mainly because so far they've not been set up to operate that way, and haven't made any changes to their operational structure that shows that's where they're heading...which only applies insofar as we know right now. Something might be cooking in their inner offices and they're going to change things up in the upcoming years, and I'll be quite happy with that too. I tried to briefly mention this -- what with my airy handwaving motions saying POD and RPG.Now -- but it's good to get some additional info.

 

Quite frankly, I'd prefer if something ends up pushing the industry towards e-publishing, because so much of that $70 price tag is pure cruft. Even the $10-15 that the merchant gets in their MSRP markup, do you know what most of that goes to? Paying rent/leases, because property owners want their share of the money as well. $70 in which $60+ of it is money paid to the system which just moves the books around between the makers and you...that's an ugly markup for just wanting a nice book to kill orcs with. Hell, even if the book had to be $70 because RPG Makers Are Evil, I'd almost prefer that, because then at least the RPG company is getting the big slice of my money, to go spending on all those evil things they do.

 

Things are as they are, but that doesn't mean they can't be changed, and I'm all for that.

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I do like the idea of E-books myself. One big change I've seen on the gaming market with this is GamesWorkshop, who now provided the codex for the fantasy setting (age of sigmar now) for free online, instead of charging 30 or so dollars for it in the shops.

 

While I don't suggest l5r rpg be given for free, I think it does show that with the E-book thing it could be pretty cheap. There is also the issue of Piracy. What services like Netflix and Spotify have shown is that if you provide users with a platform to pay for music online, you can make a business out of that. If the legitimate business does not have an online presence, then the pirated copies become the dominant online norm.

 

This also harks to the general Ebooks debate. Personally I like to have a physical RPG book rather than on my tablet or laptop. If Ebooks became the dominant thing, and pushed the viability of physical RPG books out of the market, I would most definitely miss them.

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I do like the idea of E-books myself. One big change I've seen on the gaming market with this is GamesWorkshop, who now provided the codex for the fantasy setting (age of sigmar now) for free online, instead of charging 30 or so dollars for it in the shops.

 

They are also charging 80$ for a single medium-sized character model, and it is something FFG can't exactly pull off with the L5R RPG. 

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To be fair the codex to the Games Workshop game includes 4 pages of Rules. Thats all 45 Pages. Also these rules are not very well writen and are open to a bunch of heavy gamebreaking exploits you can pull of. So yeah not all things that come for free are something that is worth picking up.
 

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