I sold my first book on May 5th, 2013. On May 23rd of the same year, Psi-punk went on sale and it truly kicked off my start as a small press RPG publisher.
I had intended to post regular sales updates to help others get an idea of what a small press publisher’s sales figures may look like, but alas that goal had fallen by the wayside. Now that it’s been over one year since my first major release went public, I decided to go back and take a look at how the year has gone.
I started by taking a look at my sales on DriveThruRPG. To date, I’ve only sold one PDF through any other channel (a copy of Diviner’s Dissertation on d20pfsrd.com) so I really only have one source to pull from. These sales don’t include the initial Kickstarter backers, of which there were 111 pledges totaling $4,669 (Gross). Nearly all of that money was gobbled up in production costs, so the sales figures for Psi-punk, below, represent net sales in the black.
I’ll start by posting the grand totals, then give a short analysis of each product line.
Total Yearly Sales
Definitions for the table below:
SKU: the stock number of the product in question. My stock numbers are simple: “AG” for Accessible Games, followed by a 2-3 letter abbreviation for the product’s title, followed by a 2-digit number representing its place in the product line. So AGCOG02 is “Accessible Games, Colors of Grey: Like Stealing Candy.”
Title: The title of the book.
Date of First Sale: the date of the first sale of that product through DTRPG.
Average Selling Price: Gross Sales divided by the number of units sold. The price point of a product varies based on sales and discounts, so it’s helpful to know what a book sells for on average.
Total Sales: The total number of non-free units sold. Free copies are not included in this chart.
Gross Sales: Total gross earnings on sales at DTRPG.
Net Sales: This is simply Gross Sales minus DTRPG’s 35% cut. This doesn’t include production costs.
|SKU||Title||Date of First Sale||Average Selling Price||Total Sold||Gross Sales||Net Sales|
|AGCN02||Conservation of Ninjutsu||2/13/2014||$2.29||12||$27.44||$17.85|
|AGCOG02||Colors of Grey||5/5/2013||$2.88||14||$40.32||$26.19|
|AGCOG03||Colors of Grey: Like Stealing Candy||10/18/2013||$1.88||10||$18.83||$12.24|
|AGGPLL||Game Publishing Lessons||8/7/2013||$4.16||31||$128.84||$83.76|
|AGPPSS02||Psi-punk: Just a Routine Job||12/2/2013||$0.99||4||$3.96||$2.56|
$1,141.70 in net sales for the year from 223 units sold. Not bad for a small publisher like Accessible Games who just entered the market.
Obviously that’s not enough profit to make a living, but it’s allowed me to see a few movies and buy some games of my own. A fair amount of that has gone toward backing other Kickstarter projects, though I haven’t taken the time to find out just how much.
I have 10 different products available for sale on DTRPG so far. As you can see, most of them aren’t big sellers. A few of them haven’t even broken even yet, but I’ll get into that in a minute.
Alliterative Amusements are fun little Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible PDFs which focus on one specific aspect of the game. So far I’ve released three, and each one focuses on a separate school of magic.
None of these books has broken even yet. I spent $15/each just for editing, and another $75 for the trade dress used across all AA products (so divided by the three books I have so far, that’s $25/each).
I’m not sure if the low sales are because I’ve built an audience of Fudge fans and then decided to sell some PF products, or if it’s because the PF market is just so jam-packed with third-party publishers that I’m completely lost in the crowd.
Regardless, they’re a fun side-project and I’ll try to continue publishing a few more of them despite being in the red.
Conservation of Ninjutsu
I wrote Conservation of Ninjutsu for an RPGGeek.com 48-Hour RPG challenge. It cost me exactly $0 to produce and has sold 12 copies, netting me just over $17 for the effort. Not bad for a game I wrote in two days and revised in one.
I wrote Colors of Grey as part of a 48-Hour design contest at RPGGeek as well, and I wrote Like Stealing Candy as part of an adventure design contest. Originally I posted COG for $2.99 and had no takers for the longest time, but when I switched to Pay What You Want sales picked up… a little bit.
I actually sell a fairly large number of free copies (not included in these sales figures) for each book, but relatively few people tip me for it. $38 for two games in one year isn’t bad though, especially for a game that also cost me $0 to produce.
For reference, Colors of Grey has sold 151 total copies. 71 of those were part of the Wayne Foundation Charity Bundle. That leaves 80 non-bundled copies, only 14 of which earned at least $0.01. That’s a 17.5% rate of PWYW sales.
Like Stealing Candy, by comparison, has 10 paid copies out of 59 total sales. That’s about 16.95%.
I designed Fire Starters as part of Johnn Four’s “Gamer Lifestyle” product creation bootcamp. During the bootcamp, we designed an RPG product from the ground up in 30 days and on a shoestring budget. I’m shocked at how relatively well it has performed.
After selling 32 copies and receiving net sales of $45, I’d say the bootcamp was a success. That doesn’t take into account the $10 I spent on stock cover art, so my actual total for the project was $35. I’m super excited about those sales figures, given the short turnaround on the product. It’s also received a respectable 5-star review on DTRPG.
Game Publishing Lessons Learned
If you follow the Accessible Games blog, you may remember a series of articles I posted a while back called Game Publishing Lessons Learned. I talked a lot about my experience with Kickstarter and bringing Psi-punk from concept to completion.
After the series concluded, I wrapped it all up and sold it as an eBook. It’s still available 100% free on this website, but it’s in a tidy little package over on DTRPG.
This book is a bit of an oddity as far as sales go. It debuted at $5 and sold relatively well for a while. After sales dried up, I decided to launch it as a Pay What You Want title. Downloads boomed, but only one single person bothered to tip me for the book. I eventually grew weary of receiving constant e-mails letting me know I sold yet another copy for $0, so I switched it to a $4.99 price. I’ve sold only one copy since then, but if people want the less tidy free version it’s still available here on the blog.
I’ve sold 31 paid copies on 99 total sales. If that were all PWYW I’d say the 31% sale rate was a success, but in reality I had 1 out of 69 PWYW sales actually earn money.
Still, it remains one of my highest-grossing products and all I did was compile a bunch of blog posts and clean it up a bit.
Last, but certainly not least, is Psi-punk. I’ll start with a brief mention of Just a Routine Job, which is the short story included with every Psi-punk purchase. I made it available at DriveThruFiction and on Amazon Kindle for $1. To date, it’s sold 0 copies at Amazon and a whopping 4 copies at DTFiction. It’s not something I often promote, since it is bundled with Psi-punk, but that’s $4 I didn’t have before and — who knows? — maybe it led to a sale of the game.
The Psi-punk core rulebook has done pretty well. Those 88 copies listed in the table above don’t include the 103 or so that sold to Kickstarter backers who pledged enough to get at least a PDF. It doesn’t include copies sold via charity bundles, either. In total, there are around 267 copies of Psi-punk in the wild.
Sales of the game slumped for a while. I then released the character sheet and a pack of pre-gen characters for free as separate downloads with their own product pages, and I got a boost in sales when I did so. These are also bundled with a purchase of the core book, but a DTRPG publisher newsletter suggested we offer free products to promote sales and the experiment actually worked rather well.
Why Does This All matter?
In this industry, there aren’t really any corporations to speak of. Nearly every RPG publisher is either an LLC or a sole proprietor, and that means we’re not required to publish financial statements. It’s hard to get a sense of what the industry looks like because all sales data is voluntary.
I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of Eloy Lasanta (Third Eye Games), Fred Hicks (Evil Hat Productions), Brian Fitzpatrick (Moebius Adventures), and others who volunteer their sales data in an effort to provide transparency for the industry and to help other small press publishers get a sense of what the realities are.
Hopefully you’ve found this data illuminating. If you’re also an RPG publisher, I’d encourage you to offer up some of your data as well. You don’t need to include dollar amounts (few publishers do), but an estimate of units sold is just as helpful. Even if your sales figures appear meager (goodness knows mine do), it’s helpful to see what others are up to.
It’s been a good first year for Accessible Games. We’ve launched 10 products (even if many are small) and come out in the black.
I look forward to what the next year brings. With the release of Monster Kart Mayhem on the horizon, and hopefully these three Psi-punk sourcebooks I’ve had brewing for a while, I hope to make an even bigger splash in the coming year.