April 30, 2009

We Love PDFS: The Sale Results

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 10:05 pm

So, Clash was interested in the run down on how the sale performed for us. Normally we do about 300-400 dollars a month in e-sales. This was primarily an e-sale with one print product. We saw sales of e-products totalling $944.50 this month. An additional 200 or so from Roma True20 sales but that does not count. Essentially, doubling our sales. About 10% of that comes off OBS and YGN. That is a bit lower that usual but reflects a higher emphasis on building traffic to our store as opposed to other stores. The importance lies in COGS for OBS is 35% and for YGN is 25% where our store clocks in just around 6.5% of MSRP.

The quick answer is that we doubled sales and thus paid for the promotion, got our books into the hands of many new folks, collected new addresses for newsletters and generally expanded brand.

April 26, 2009

Art of Sales

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 9:29 am

ACD just placed their first order. Initially, it was large…too large. I knew this and immediately contacted their buyer and told them. We ended up with about 1/3 the amount that they had ordered. This could have been some big money for HinterWelt but It would have been bad for ACD. I have been told before that I am too much of a boy scout when it comes to sales. This would be an example of that. Still, I stand by my decision as ACD has taken a risk (as they would with any small publisher) in picking us up. I feel, just as I do with customers, that “selling” someone a book(s) is about right placement not just placement. This means you do not sell a person Nebuleon when they really want Roma. Likewise, with ACD (who has treated HinterWelt GREAT int he past) deserves honest advice on what sells and does not sell so they do not overstock on any one title.

In short, to me, integrity is the firmament that sales are built on.

April 10, 2009

ACD picks up HinterWelt

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 8:54 pm

ACD, a distributor to retail stores, has decided to pick up our titles. This is a good thing as ACD is not a fulfillment house and one of the main distributors out there. We have worked well together and I have to say I am jazzed. After getting dropped from the failed Key20 we had to go back and look over if we even wanted to be in main distribution anymore. We more or less decided that if we could not get signed on to one of the main distributors it just was not worth it. We already sell to many retailers and customers directly so it was a close thing. That said, with Blackhawk out of business (they were good guys and always friendly to HinterWelt) it seemed that ACD would be the best route. Alliance is notoriously non-small press friendly and many of the other distributors left are much smaller than ACD. I am hoping that this will help retailers who want to deal with financing terms and ordering larger ranges of products with HinterWelt products. I think it should an dam happy about this news.

April 9, 2009

The Name of the Game: PDFs

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 11:55 pm

With the recent WotC pulling their PDFs (for piracy on the surface of it) a number of brick and mortar game store owners have been, well, less than shocked. One might say they have been indignant. Marcus King, a self-professed Entertainment Store not a Game store owner, recently posted an article on IVC, outlining how he thought that publishers offering discounts on print-pdf titles should extend that to retailers on print titles. This is sort sighted to say the least. Furst, some of the most basic assumptions are questionable. The basis that most retailer who object to PDF sales is that they cut into print book sales. Companies like Baen and Harper-Collins have experiments running that are showing that PDF sales do not affect print sales, except possibly, positively. This concurs with my personal experience over the last 5 years. I have found that PDFs released ahead of print tend to aid my sales. It is important to realize that this is not a universal standard. HinterWelt is a small press company and reaching out to gamers is important. Sometimes it is good to push the boundaries and seed interest ahead of a title. For a company like Wizards, it would be better to time the release at the same release date for print and pdf. This would encourage the maximum number of print sales but also allow touching the electronic market with the same product.

Second, I believe it shows a woeful misunderstanding of the market segment by Marcus. It shows that he believe the market to be mature and merely an alternative channel. It would be a better analysis, in my opinion, to say that pdfs are a competing channel, not a complementary or supplementary one. As we progress with readers like the Kindle and E-Book, we will see this become more and more prevalent. You will always have a market for paper books but you will see people who want that ability to search books, one of the primary benefits of the PDF and having no comparable likeness in print books, leaping to the fore. These distinctions are held back as we are linked to our computers and laptops. It is really a case of what you are reading, a novel or a reference book. RPGs make better reference books in my opinion and thus lend themselves well to e-formats.

Finally, and most importantly, Marcus seems to believe that there is no way for retailers to participate in the pdf market. I can think of three off the top of my head. Guild of Blades has a retail store that prints PDFs for customers who legally obtained them. Another would be to host a small pdf store on your store site, get content specific to your store, that your customers would be interested in. Finally, a manual sale of USB drives with collections that could be customized to the store and their clientele. I imagine if I gave it some research and deeper thought I could come up with even more. The point being, retail stores could be involved today if they wanted to be. Unfortunately, and I have been on the retailer end when I owned two stores back in the 90s, you get into the mentality very easily, that the publisher does everything with a product. Your job is to sell it. These solutions would have more to do with an active role by the retailer.

In the end, I can say with confidence that the HinterWelt and our print sales have been helped a great deal due to PDFs. It has given us exposure and brought customers into stores to buy our products who would never have been there. I know many retailers who understand this. Still, I can wish it were more.

March 16, 2009

Building a game community

Filed under: Business,Games — bilbo @ 9:06 am

I am horrible at this. Part of the problem is purely order of magnitude. It is much easier if you have a group of employees or fans willing to organize and administer things like play leagues or organized play groups but it is both difficult and expensive for a small press company to try and emulate such efforts. Why? Because inevitably, you are compared to WoTC or a mid tier company.

Now, you might think, “Yeah, but that is your job.” I can appreciate that but the role of a small publisher is wide. Often it involves things like managing advertising, managing other writer or your own writing time, attending cons, promotions, managing printing, artists, layout your books and a sundry other tasks that small business owners need to address. People often do not see the administrative time sink that efforts like the RPGA are.

That said, the above are mostly excuses (and a little bit of explanation). It does make small press publishers really appreciate the fans who go above and beyond buying their book.

February 27, 2009

“All Squirrels Must Be Eaten” A Go!

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 8:40 pm

I just got the O.k. from George over at Eden. All Squirrels Must Be Eaten is a go! Just what the world needs, a squirrel game involving Zombies…

Now all I need to decide is what the second title for GenCon will be. First thoughts:

Squirrel Wars : Episode XLI: A Nut Hope – A brave band of squirrels face off against all odds to steal Darth Vader’s Nuts. Between them and the nuts, Vaders lap dog, Darth Fido. On the side of good, Han Solo-Cup, Princess Leia Organicnuts, Omagod Gonutti, Luke Landrunner and many more.


Squirrels In Space : The Nut on the Edge of Whenever – The captain and his crew make time travel their bitch. They desparately try to save Ensign Ted Meete for another episode despite being drugged out of his gourd.

There are more but those are the two that leap to mind.

February 15, 2009

The Nature of the Business

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 11:24 pm

Recently, HinterWelt was dropped from traditional distribution by Key 20. This has caused a few hiccups but in all, it could have been much worse. I am lucky though, in that I have made some contacts and have some folks who actually know me in the industry. Amongst these are the folks over at ACD (one of the big distributors). Now, normally, small press like HinterWelt go through companies called fulfillment companies that collect up all the small press and offer them up to the big distributors like Alliance and ACD. This adds a step and an expense.

Hmm, a quick “How it works” for those who do not know. Publishers sell their books at about a 60% discount to Distributors. Distributors then sell these books at about a 40-45% discount to the retailers. Retailers, if they are lucky, sell the books to the public at the MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price). Now, with small press, there just is not the volume that distributors need to make money considering shipping and such. So, fulfillment houses come in and they take another 6-8%. This generally will get you listed at most of the distributors but the new paradigm is to stock such titles on demand. In the case of some distributors they have created confusing systems and designations that get retailers thinking that some small press are out of business. This is a great pain.

Now, I am not “in” with ACD but at least they will listen as I have run promotions with them in the past and Brad and I have talked at GTS and such. At least they will consider my application. I ahve long since gone to sellign direct and through a number of less traditional outlets. I think we have a pretty good shot at keeping this avenue open but only time will tell.

February 12, 2009

Configurable Char Sheet & Store

Filed under: Business,General — bilbo @ 12:44 am

I had an idea, as I usually do, in the shower about a web based tool for the creation of custom character sheets…and the ability to then fill them out AND store them online. This would not be for any system in particular, it would be for any system. You could do DND, Palladium, Iridium or any system you wanted.

Then, as a social networking aspect, make your custom sheet sharable. So, you make a DND sheet, you can share it.

Then, we make a web service and allow other sites to subscribe to the service. For small publishers, this would give them a means to offer their customers an online resource for saving characters.

Oh, did I mention that it would be rendered as a PDF…yeah, I like this.

I could do it in Java, run it on tomcat, use the Apache SOAP package…its almost too easy.

February 10, 2009

Delays, Excuses and Explanations

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 1:45 pm

So, I am more than guilty on my part of delays. A common excuse is “It’s the printer” but sometimes that is a real explanation. For instance, Roma True20 should be in distribution but the printer I was using went bankrupt…as they printed the book. I got my books but by then (a delay of months) the fulfillment company needed to resolicit Roma True20 and that took three months. Then, about when it was to be released, they had a downturn and dropped HinterWelt along with several others (Hi Brett). In the end, I am beginning Roma True20 is just not meant for trad distribution.

On a different take, I have Britannia. This is a supplement for Roma Imperious and has been in the works for close to 3 years. The biggest problem I have here is that it is seriously time intensive to work on. Massive amounts of research need to go into it on areas not well documented (at least in the sources I can find). That is an excuse. I have the cover. I have artists willing to work on the interior art. I have a beautifully rendered map. So what is the problem? Time? Energy? Interest? A combination of them all plus a 4 year old at home. Still, I should get working on this.

Then we have Tern: Planetary System Guide. This one is even closer to done. It is an incredible source book for Nebuleon if I say so myself. However, sales do not warrant a lot of source books for Nebuleon. A lot of people are interested but the sales numbers for the line just do not warrant working on another supplement when I could be writing a squirrel book. Yes, Squirrel Attack! books now out sell all my other games.

I also have what I call vapor ware. Future Skein is the leader of these. Nothing but a cover and a lot of ideas. I have had the cover for years. I know what the book will be about but a big part of this one was the arrival of Theo. Children change a lot of things.

In the end, I can blame no one but myself. I can make excuses but when it comes down to who is getting the books out or not it stops right here, with me. I suspect it is so with most other publishers big or small. The dynamics might change and I wont negate outside forces but it still comes down to what you do to get your books out.

February 9, 2009

E-Paper and the future

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 11:15 am

I am a great proponent of the use of technology with RPGs. Amazon has announced its new version of the Kindle with wider format support (PDF, yeah now we are talking) and a color screen amoungst other things. Read more about it here.

This is the sort of thing I feel will eventually open the PDF market up. When you get hand held e-paper that can hold all manner of documents then we will see the market go mainstream. Don’t get me wrong, it is growing now, but when this is the default type of device that students use for their books, people read news papers on and we all sit at the table referenceing games on then the future will be here.

Oh, and in fairness the Sony Reader.

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