My very first product, Locales, Volume One, is perhaps the one that is closest to my heart. At the time (with 3.X still alive and well), I didn’t want to learn a new (to me) game. I had not become aware of any online communities devoted to the older editions. As I already discussed here, I felt that a systems neutral product was the way to enter the marketplace. LV1 didn’t sell that well. As a newbie publisher with no prior experience in the pdf market and new to RPGNow.com, I had no idea why. I have several ideas now, but they will be a topic for another post. In any event, frustrated with LV1’s sales and eager to make a go of it, I put out a few small products over the next several months that were little better received.
Again, I believe that I understand some of the causes for the poor sales, but one that I want to discuss here is price. I have consistently assigned too high a price point for my products. (This is my belief based only upon sales numbers, and it is a lesson that I will remember as I move forward.) I have tried to compare my products to others out there and assign comparable prices. In most cases, I think that I succeeded in offering comparable products at comparable prices. What I have failed to take into account is the sales numbers of those other products. Now, no one has access to sales data for companies unless those companies choose to publish their numbers. It was perhaps foolish to assign prices and assume a certain number of sales based upon other products without knowing their sales numbers, and yet it was what I did time and again.
I have come to the conclusion that most others are suffering the same sales that I am. One option, then, is to lower my price point.
The other option, however, is to improve the quality of my products. I think that if one were to compare, for instance Caverns, Tunnels, and Caves: Volume 1 with Fantasy Class: Martialist, they would agree that I have definitely done that. The prescription for success seems to be, in the pdf market at least, a lower price point and higher quality. That prescription is simplistic at best, and there has been much discussion in various forums and across the blogosphere about the effects of such a decision both on the mindset of the purchasing public and on the ability of 3rd party publishers to exist in that reality, but for my purposes here, I will assume that to be true.
When I look back at those earliest releases from The Fantasy Cartographic, I am a little embarrassed. Not at the quality per se as I still believe those products are useful and have a place in the market, but at the quality versus what I believed I could charge for them. (I must state that I am not including LV1 in this category of product.) I started this post talking about LV1. I come back to it now, because following its release, a few of the others who had collaborated on it with me warned me against putting out those subsequent releases saying that they would weaken the brand—that I was just putting out product for products sake, and that I should instead immediately begin work on Locales, Volume 2. For various reasons, I was not up for an LV2 at that time. Perhaps I will write about that in another post…
So that leaves me now in a position where I have on the market (at RPGNow) several products whose price vs. quality ratio is probably (still) not where it should be. What is a small publisher to do? One might suggest that I do nothing and let the anemic few sales a year continue. But I think that there are other options. Things to ponder, and write about later.