Quo Vadis, SEP?

In my last post I was looking at costing League of Extraordinary Misfits, and came out with production cost for doing the book right at $5,680 USD, without printing and shipping. I could probably get away with $2,650, and shipping and printing would probably run at least $1,500 though it could easily hit $2,000.

Let’s just look at production costs. I’m going to look at the lower cost, $2,650. The upper cost is right out of my ballpark right now.

Okay, so $2,650. The last book I financed out of pocket was Kiss My Axe. That was published in Dec 2011. It’s still in the red. Sword Noir, which was published in Apr 2011, took two years to recover its funding. Sword Noir‘s budget was half of the budget I’m looking at for League of Extraordinary Misfits.

One of my principles in running SEP was that my personal money would never go to financing the company. That has happened twice. Once turned out okay, the other did not. That’s not a lot of data to go on, but I’m averse to pumping money into this enterprise. If you have been following me for any length of time, you will know that I am mercenary. Yes, I love doing this stuff, but I could get the same sense of fulfillment writing this stuff for my local group and maybe sharing it with the small group of people who support SEP. Cost to me? Nothing.

Let’s say that personally financing League of Extraordinary Misfits is off the table.

So crowd-funding? I said I would never do another Kickstarter. Nefertiti Overdrive finally did fund, yes, but it took a lot of work and investment to finally make it happen. Do I want to go through that again? I would spend a lot of time marketing and I would probably need to do something like the Quickstart again to build some interest and awareness. I’d be looking at an investment of about $450 to $500 for a Quickstart or preview. Since I’d be giving it away for free, the recovery of those costs would be based on the Kickstarter funding. And while the art and map for the Quickstart could be recycled in the main product, the editing and layout costs would simply be added to the cost of funding the product.

Let’s look at the numbers for Kickstarting it. My production costs would be $2,650. I’m going to round that up to $2,800 for unrecoverable Quickstart costs. Can I do a PDF only campaign? I could probably try, but that’s a real risk. If we do add book rewards, we need to add at least $750 for production and shipping. We’ll say $3,500 – the target for the Centurion campaign. However, that doesn’t cover the Kickstarter costs. I generally ballpark this to 10% based on my experience with the system. $3,850 USD would be the target, but because I’m in Canada, my Kickstarters are in CAD. That means I need to set the target 25% higher. Right now, the difference is 20%, but it fluctuates, and if I don’t want to screw myself, I need to account for that. That leaves the target at $4,820.

Almost $5,000. When I tried that with the first Nefertiti Overdrive Kickstarter, I got all of $2,3600.

So even the low-rent version of League of Extraordinary Misfits looks out of reach.

What about piece meal? I could get the rules out for about $575 (or $470 if I go the less expensive route). That means a Kickstarter for a 20 page PDF of $800 or $650 respectively.

Going the basic route, I think I would need to ask for $3 for a PDF copy (I’d later sell it at $3.99 or maybe $4.99, haven’t done a lot of price research yet). That would mean I would need about 220 backers at that level.

Trying to create rewards would be an issue. Let’s say I do a character-based reward. If there’s a $50 reward for being the model for a pre-gen you design, that increases the cost by $35, only netting $15 in actual funding – limit it to 5 and that increases the cost to about $900. If all 5 are supported, that means I still need to fund $650. This doesn’t help. Maybe make it $75? Then if all are supported, the funding target reduces to $525 or 175 backers, but if none are supported, I might still get $650 and not be funded.

Confusing, eh?

$470 USD (which would be about $580 CAD) is something that I might be able to pay for on my own. And, really I could do this for just the art budget if I ignore editing and layout. That would be suboptimal, but it makes it more affordable, and I would worry less about investing my personal money.

One way of subsidizing the cost would be through Patreon. I’m considering using Patreon to release games and adventures. It would basically be $1 for backers per product with a minimum of 10 pages and a maximum of 20 pages. How many people could I get in Patreon? It’s hard to say. I’ve seen Patreons that I support only get $3 in total funding, while some other campaigns make more than $1,000.

To be honest, it makes a lot more sense to me to go the Patreon route to subsidize investments. To do a Kickstarter right, there’s a ton of time and investment. Patreon still requires work, but it is ongoing. I might be a $3 campaign at first, but there’s the chance to get to $100 per product in a year or two, and that could help support art and maps for systems and campaigns.

Here’s the numbers for that:

Games ready to release now: Direct Action (special forces modern action); Starship Commandos (Aliens meets Heinlein’s Starship Troopers); and a League of Extraordinary Misfits.

Direct Action has a campaign that could easily span three or four 15-page products, Starship Commandos has an intro adventure, and LoEM has a campaign of about six products.

That’s a one release per month for about a year. By that time Fancy Pants (needs new name) and Riggers will likely both be ready to go. Fancy Pants will have two adventures for it: one inspired by Borderlands 2 and one set in the default Sword Noir setting. Riggers will have Dream Riggers, which will likely be a campaign that spans about six products.

Patreon seems to make a lot of sense.

But maybe I’m deluding myself.

In any case, nothing will happen until after Gen Con, and after Nefertiti Overdrive is released. That gives me some planning time.

What do you think? Feel free to comment, but there is an SEP G+ community to facilitate discussion.

You can find Kickstarter here.

You can find Patreon here.

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