Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Boring the Hell Out-O-People (More 5AK)

SO...got to the printer yesterday. Figured out how to do everything. Got the call into the Chessex people for the large order of custom dice...should be here in three weeks. The printer figures they'll be able to have books ready in a week or less once I send them the images. The extra pages I needed to add to Book 1 have all been written...I only wish I had enough room for one more illustration I wanted to include. Tim's shrink-wrap machine is fired up and ready to go. The money has been stockpiled for the run.

Jeez, this is one crazy-ass vanity project.

5AK is my (current) version of D&D. It's weird...not weird like Lamentations of the Flame Princess but weird in that people will read it and say, "This isn't D&D...this is something weird." It's not twisted. It's definitely not generic. It can be used to created games that are twisted and/or somewhat "generic high fantasy," but that's not the default, built-in setting of the game.

I have no idea what people will think of it. I have no idea if people will like it.

Well, okay, that's not entirely true. My play-testing over the last few months has garnered me a lot of feedback, pretty much all of which has been positive. In fact, I really haven't heard much negative criticism at all (then again, most of the people I hang out with tend to be on the uber-nice side...it's a Seattle-thang...rather than being the hard-assed critics I probably need hammering me). I guess when I say "I don't know if people will like it," what I'm really trying to say is, "I don't know if it will sell like hot-cakes...and regardless of sales, I don't know if anyone will really be fired up enough to play the damn thing."

*sigh* This is not pointless second-guessing, just by the way. At this point, I've come too far to back down from publishing the thing. However, right now I am at the stage where I am:

A) Considering how many copies to print, and
B) Considering what my price point should be.

These are fairly important considerations for the independent game designer/publisher. The B/X Companion sold out through three (small) print runs. The PDF version (only created long after the last print run was gone) has sold nearly as many electronic copies, though at a considerably reduced price. On the other hand, The Complete B/X Adventurer, has failed to sell out even its first print run as of this date, and while the printing was larger than any single print run of the Companion (about twice as large), it's still only a single printing. And I know a lot of people have complained bitterly about its pricing.

I am not a business man. I did not study business, I've never been mistaken for an entrepreneur of any stripe (good or bad), and my last private sector job was in 1999 (a long, long ass time ago). I'm not self-employed, I'm a civil servant (no, I don't work for the post office...if I did I probably wouldn't have to charge people the shipping and handling that I do). I don't have a business model. Hell, I don't even have a mission statement (though perhaps I should come up with one).

Even so, I'm publishing these things to make money. Not big money; not get rich money. But money...enough to recoup my costs and enough to finance the next book. Much of my profit from the first book went into the second book, and the little "profit" remaining from the 2nd book (have to buy dog food, too!) combined with the PDF sales of the B/X Companion is the "seed money" I'm using to publish 5AK.

I have no idea if it will sell or not.

Which means this could be a one-way trip into business oblivion. There was plenty of "buzz" about the B/X Companion, not to mention a renewed interest in old school B/X gaming (fostered at least in part by my fairly extensive blogging in "the time before toddler"), both of which helped to drive sales. Neither of these things apply to 5AK. Oh, there's some "interest"...but most folks don't seem to be looking for a new way to play the world's "favorite adult fantasy role-playing game." And for a price-point that meets my costs and allows me to finance the next book (hopefully, Cry Dark Future)...well, it may well drive some folks away.

After all, people are saving up their shekels to buy the recent re-release of 2nd Edition AD&D ($50 per book for the three core books). Ah, WotC...milking the ca$h cow one more time.

SO...because this IS a vanity project (a fantasy heart-breaker, remember?), I'm trying to figure out ways to limit the damage. My first thought is I should do a tiny print-run (like 50 copies) to see just how much interest there is. My second thought is to do some sort of "pre-order" thing...but then why not simply use Kick-Starter?

[because I'm deathly afraid of on-line bidding processes and I don't want to give them 5% of the money raised, that's why not]

Like I said, I'm still thinking about it. Right now, I need to get the all the proof-reading edits back AND get them added AND THEN get the order placed with the printer. It's exciting times (so exciting I've dozed off two or three times while blogging this post...really need to get some sleep), and I'm probably just doing the stress-and-anxiety dance, over-thinking the whole thing. Need to get it together, JB!

Maybe I'll start with 100 copies...


  1. I have never posted to your blog before but I've been reading it for awhile. I have not purchased any of your previous print books because they are too expensive compared to similar products.

    But... I do plan to purchase (no matter the price) 5AK because I really love reading new/variant D&D rules.


  2. @ Unknown:

    Thanks for reading (and commenting!). I understand the reluctance to purchase my books, and don't fault you at all. Hopefully, you will find 5AK to be money well-spent!

    1. Well I figured I should probably try reading some of your stuff instead of just reading your blog. So despite the price, I headed down to Garys to pick up the BX Adventurer. It's pretty good. I probably should have purchased it earlier but now I'm really excited to check out 5AK.

  3. I have purchased both of your previous books, and I will say that I have gotten use out of both of them, even though I play D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder, and not B/X. And I'll agree that the Complete B/X Adventurer was a bit pricey, but that is one of the drawbacks of the small press market.

    So I say that - barring an insane price schedule - I'm strongly inclined to purchase 5AK at this point.

    If you don't want to Kickstart, why not put up a prebuy on your website and see how many folks bite?

    1. @ Steven:

      I was considering something like a pre- or advance order, but A) I'd like to have a photo of what they're buying (i.e. I need to print it first) and B) I need to know the price point for pre-orders...which means knowing how many copies I'm printing, which is dependent on interest, etc. See the problem?

      This is one reason kickstart is cool...you only actually do the print run IF you generate enough interest/funds to do the order size you want for the print size you want to reach the price point you want. If my book seems to garner a lot of interest, I may do that for subsequent print-runs, but I don't like the idea of giving up 5% of funds raised to KS (I guess one can think of it in terms of leveraging your 5% but I still want to get it published regardless of the popular sentiment about the project).

  4. Given that there are custom dice involved, and multiple booklets, does that mean that this is going to be a boxed set?

  5. The first B/X book I've only seen secondhand for jacked up prices, while the second I only saw for sale I think on Amazon Marketplace again for a higher price than I can afford. Don't know what the price was supposed to be originally or MSRP. Same issues with Labyrinth Lord and some others.

    What does 5AK stand for? What is the price point and for how many pages?

    1. @ Matt:

      5AK should retail for under $30, including dice. It consists of three volumes, a little larger (in page count) than the original LBBs.