Financing Sword Noir

I mentioned on Twitter that I’d do a post about how Sword Noir was financed, and this is that post. If the business end of the RPG industry doesn’t interest you, move along. Nothing to see here. If you want to see how the sausage gets made, read on.

Sword Noir has net us $300 as of Saturday night. It’s been out for two weeks. I’m very happy about this.

Usually, when SEP puts something out, we do it on a royalties basis. The work everyone does gets divided up and we all get a percentage of the profit. That’s worked fine in the past, but this time I tried something different. I paid the people for their work up front. Now, I only paid a thin percentage of what our already cheap industry pays for talent.

Let’s take my work for example. The last time I worked for someone else for an RPG product I got 3¢ per word. So, for my work in the book, I “paid” myself 1.5¢ per word, half of an already low rate. That’s what I did for everyone working on the project, give them a fraction of the already low rates paid in the industry.

Now, the budget, before I paid for advertisement (I’m hoping those banners and such are being seen) was $965. The writing accounted for $490 of that. That means I was getting 50% of the profit, if the books is profitable. That’s dropped to 45% as I’ve cut another individual in for 5% in order to get the map of Everthorn for $50 and done in a month.

Right now, the total costs for Sword Noir sit at $1165. That may increase depending on a few factors, but mostly advertisement and marketing. Working with the figure of $1165, we’re more than a quarter of the way to profitability. That’s pretty awesome. If we continue to sell 10 PDFs per month—and I’m worried that may be an overly generous expectation, considering the sales of our other products—we should reach profitability in just over two years. Woo-hoo!

The Print on Demand version of Sword Noir will actually be more profitable. Doing Print on Demand means one never pays for stock, never has to pay in advance for printing. The offset of that is a dip in quality, though sometimes the dip is barely noticeable. If we sell 5 PoDs along with 10 PDFs each month, that’ll pretty much half the time to profitability. I—unfortunately—feel that’s a tad over-optimistic. Two years sounds about right

Of course, everyone involved did it realizing they wouldn’t be seeing any big cheques. Everyone who worked on the book is a friend of mine. Most of them were involved in the Kitchener gaming group that became the Accidental Survivors. Ed and Rob are professionals—illustrator and graphic designer respectively. They accepted the pittance advance as a favour. Thankfully, I have a collection of individuals willing to do that for me.

The same model has been used for Kiss My Axe.

So that’s how I financed Sword Noir. Compared to the finances some projects require, this one was nothing. It’s miniscule. For SEP, it was a huge step. This is the first time I’ve paid money out of pocket for anything. So far, that investment seems to have paid off. Let’s see what happens in the long run.

If anyone has any questions, I’d be happy to answer them, Send me an email or leave a comment.

You can find me on Twitter here.

The Accidental Survivors podcast community is here.

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