2010 Sales & Current Efforts

It seems that it’s becoming the norm for small press publishers in the RPG community to share with their fans how they are faring in terms of sales. Some publishers do it quarterly, and others on a more irregular basis. There’s this fairly widespread view that the industry as a whole is contracting—publishers and fans alike—so it’s interesting to match that sentiment with actual sales numbers. Personally, I have sort of a voyeuristic interest in the whole thing and I’m betting there are some people out there that feel the same way. Actually, there are. So, without further ado, here are our sales numbers for 2010.

Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom: 11 print, 16 PDF

Portrait of a Villain: The Desire: 15 PDF

Open Game Table, Volume 1: 31 print, 16 PDF

Open Game Table, Volume 2: 32 print, 18 PDF

Total: 74 print, 65 PDF

Are these surprising? They are to me—honestly I was expecting things to be a bit better, but there are many issues in play here that need to be considered. The first half of 2010 the company almost collapsed (note the lack of blogging during that period). Also, Brother Ptolemy didn’t get released until late November and did not go into retail distribution until January. In our first month of retail sales for Brother Ptolemy, we sold around 70 books through Studio 2 Publishing.

Even though the numbers are small, we are making progress. December was the best month for Nevermet Press ever, and with January beating the pants off December we’re definitely having an upward trend, which is nice. This year we’re hoping to make some important jumps in our productivity without abandoning our community focus (the blog, our Facebook page, etc). We’re also planning on making it to our first convention, which will be an interesting experiment.

Can we improve sales? Of course! How? Well, that’s the $10 question of the day, but I think that it’s important to keep in mind that the RPG market is very small and gamers are usually fairly picky on how they spend their money. With so many other super excellent publishers out there (EvilHat, Open Design, PinnacleAtomic Overmind, to name a few), it’s a tough market.

Availability? We have retail distribution through Studio 2 Publishing, PDF sales through DriveThruRPG, and online sales through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu. I’m not sure what more we can do as far as availability is concerned. We’re exploring the possibility of offering our books as eBooks (i.e. ePubs, we already carry PDFs), but I’m not sure if there’s a market for it that would warrant the additional effort. RPG books typically require lots of page positioning of elements (statblocks, maps, etc), and that is counter to how ePubs are generally set up. Any suggestions?

Marketing? Our recent launch of the Nevermet Press Insider, an occasional email newsletter to our fans, is proving to be hugely useful. We have a substantially better level of engagement with Insider subscribers, who get special discounts, opportunities for play testing, and free downloads or early previews. Advertising? Well, we’ve tried Facebook advertising, but I’m not sure it’s as effective as it could be (despite other RPG publishers’ apparent success with FB ads). This is in contrast to our Facebook fan page, which is a friggin’ gem. Our fans on Facebook are super kewl! What about Google Adsense? Also tried it, but the ROI was difficult to measure (read: LOW). Targeting advertising? I’ve looked into advertising in Kobold Quarterly and directly on RPG.net, but I’m not sure we have enough behind us to justify the cost. Perhaps we’ll change our minds in the future if things continue to trend up, but for now we’ll pass. I think in the long run, word of mouth, blogging, social networking, our Insider newsletter, and presence at game stores and conventions is going to prove to be our best way to market Nevermet Press and let people know about how the games we make are made of awesome. This organic approach to developing Nevermet Press’s “presence” is much more appealing to me anyway, as it gives us an opportunity to develop relationships with our fans by interacting with them both online and directly. It’s pretty damn hard to interact with a CPM rate or a click through.

Obstacles? The #1 biggest obstacle we have is inexperience. I’m not a professional game designer or publisher. Heck, when I first thought about publishing Open Game Table, I admitted knowing ZERO about the industry. I may know a bit more now, but it still feels like I know zero. Every time I exchange emails with folks in the RPG industry I learn something new. This is a good indicator of “we’re still learning the ropes.” Being in a learning phase is a good thing though. It keeps me motivated when I think of the small successes we’ve already had. To help leverage my lack of experience, Nevermet Press has recruited an excellent team of highly motivated content developers, artists and editors to help with the development of our next projects. The future is looking good…

Future goals? I’d like to double (in terms of units) our PDF and Print sales in 2011. This is ambitious, but given that we are still small, and our reviews are already pretty solid, it seems like an achievable goal.

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “2010 Sales & Current Efforts

  1. Thanks for posting this.

    I think the more that small publishers like ourselves share information the better off we all are.

    Specifically, this gives a useful benchmark to compare with our Mince Pies & Murder experiment sales. I’ll be posting those next week and will be referencing this post.

  2. Thanks for that interesting post. I am glad you did well in December and I am sure that you’ll do fine in the future. One reason for the limited sales might be that aside from the Open Game Table your available products are for D&D 4th Edition only. While there’s still a lot interest in that setting, D&D fans are obviously not that interested in 3rd party products. This is much different when it comes to Pathfinder or other gaming systems. Perhaps it would be wise to release Brother Ptolemy and The Desire for Pathfinder, Savage Worlds and other systems as well. Perhaps as PDFs first. Just my two cents.

    Whatever you decide I wish you luck with all your current and future endeavors!

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  4. Wow. I’m.. doing better than that, which is a huge surprise to me since I do no marketing. But nearly all my sales are in my software. I guess RPG software is a more active market than books? Or at least less saturated.

    Of the books, the Martial Cultures are far better sellers than the more expensive Martial Flavor. Maybe it’s your prices? Only one of your books is below $5. I think it couldn’t hurt to broaden your line with more cheaper titles; once people buy those, they’ll be more willing to risk money on the larger books. (I know the OGT anthologies sold well and are more pricey, but those had a lot of other things going on.)

    By the way, if you’re ever interested in exchanging tips or collaborating on something, send me a message.

  5. @Swordgleam – Will do. We collaborated last year on the Monster Mashup contest – that was fun! As for prices; I’m personally not a big fan of dropping prices just because it will sell more units. I firmly believe that the $15 for Brother Ptolemy is more than a super fair price – same goes for Open Game Table. I think there’s this trend in our tiny industry for people to undercut each other, but overall I think that only hurts everyone. Cheaper products are – CHEAP. People’s expectations are low, etc. I’m not a big fan of “app pricing” for example for books as PDFs. There’s value in these books, blood – sweat – effort of writers and artists and they deserve to get what is due. That’s why I return 70% of whatever revenue we make to our content developers. Sure – if we dropped the prices to $2 for everything, we would sell way more units – but I’m just not ready to devalue our books that way.

    Now, that being said, we ARE planning on coming out with a number of short PDFs that will be priced in the $3 – $5 range this year. These won’t be books in print, so their pricing is reflecting the fact they they will be much shorter products.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of response we get when we go to our first convention this year (SynDCon II) in April.

  6. Oh man, I think I blocked most of that out of my memory due to the stress involved! That was fun, though.

    I completely agree on not undercutting prices. Just because you can sell something for $2 doesn’t mean you should. It’s the “shorter products for cheaper” angle I was suggesting – sorry if that didn’t come through. I just think a top-heavy product line is probably not a good strategy for a small publisher since people are less willing to spend more with someone whose work they don’t already know. Having a blog shows off some content, but it can only do so much to reassure people of production values.

    I really need to make it to more gaming cons. I moved to CA, got a full time job and started doing renfaires and SCA every weekend, and suddenly had no time. But I’m starting to have some money and vacation days saved up, so maybe this year.

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