What I learned taking apart a DCC module…

Many different things are going through my head this week as far as book production goes, so I decided I’d take a look at a Gold Best Seller. I’m not sure what it takes to become “Gold,” but I’m guessing based on some Googling that it’s somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 sales of the product to get that badge.

Sailors on the Production Sea

102448The product I purchased was Dungeon Crawl Classics #67: Sailors on the Starless Sea which is currently sitting at #6 on the Goodman Games Hottest Titles list. Here are some stats:

  • It’s listed at 16 pages, but the PDF shows up as 20 pages.
  • It weighs in at more than 10,000 words in an 8.5×11, two column format.
  • Art-wise, it starts with a color full page cover, plus contains 3 other full pages of art, 5 half pages, three 1/4 pages, and one 1/10 page piece.

Not even looking at the actual content, which I’ll do in another post, production-wise I ran some quick numbers based on my own assumptions.

  • Art costs: I’m paying about $30 for a half page, black and white piece. For the 6 1/2 pages of black and white art in the book, that comes in about $390. And I’m guessing here, but a full color piece would probably run $200-300. So let’s guess at an art total around $600.
  • Writing costs: I’ve seen per-word rates from $0.01 to $0.05 of late. Harley Stroh can probably command at least $0.05, so if we go with that – 10,000 words gets about $500.
  • Editing costs: It depends on who’s editing, but let’s guess somewhere between $50 and $100 for a good editor. We’ll call it $100 because editing is such a key element to a good product.
  • Layout and production: Total speculation here, but let’s say $200 for now. I’m guessing it’s higher than that.
  • Total: $1400

Look at how long it might take to recoup costs, at $6.99 on DriveThruRPG they’re making $4.54 (65%) or $4.90 (70%) a copy. So at the higher rate it would be less than 300 copies to break even. If they’ve sold 1,000 copies, that’s 700 copies of pure profit from their online sales of the module. It’s Goodman Games, so I fully expect they’re doing awesome. 🙂

Slow Snakes

the-snakes-heart-coverNow let’s look at a Moebius Product – The Snake’s Heart – A Lost Age Adventure.

  • It’s listed at 19 pages. A cover and inner cover page, plus 14 pages of actual content for the adventure.
  • It weighs in at about 4,000 words in a digest (8.5 x 5.5), one column format.
  • Art-wise we had three custom pieces, plus my own hand-drawn maps, for a total of 7 pieces of art. Two 1/2 page pieces and the other five were 1/4 page.

And I can tell you exactly what I paid for these bits:

  • Art costs – $27 (two small commissioned pieces, a piece of stock art purchased at DriveThruRPG, and I didn’t charge for my own maps – which probably would go for $5-10 each)
  • Writing costs -$0. 4,000 words at $0.01 is $40, but I didn’t charge myself for it.
  • Editing costs – $0. It did go through an editor, but she didn’t charge me for it. For the low page count, it would have been minimal even at $1 a page for this editor (my mother). Other folks might have charged $30-50 an hour for 5 or so pages an hour for around $120-$200. Editorial freelance rates
  • Layout and production – $0. I did it all, so it’s just time and I didn’t charge for it. Let’s guess at 4 hours at $15 an hour it might be around $60 (median hourly rate for a Junior Graphic Designer based on data at Payscale).

So that leaves my outlay at $27 plus my time and Vince’s pretty much. But if I actually add in all the little costs for writing ($40), maps ($40), editing ($20), and layout ($60), it would add another $160 for a round total of $187.

Recouping our costs… We’ve sold 55 copies so far at $1.99 (with some sales and complimentary copies), for a gross of over $100 between d20pfsrd and DriveThruRPG/RPGNow. And I’m splitting the proceeds with Vince, so I’ve brought in more than $30.

If I go with my minimal view of the world, I’ve broken even on my costs. Huzzah!

If I go with the more expensive view of the world, I’m never going to break even. Obviously at this price point, the return is minimal after splitting it with Vince. We will have to sell another 230 copies to break even eventually…

Boiling it Down and Asking a Question…

You’re probably suffering from number fatigue by now!!

I’m not in this to make money. But if Moebius is going to continue, these efforts need to pay for themselves. And if we’re going to get better, we have to ramp up production costs, which will bump up our prices…

So here’s my question… Obviously The Snake’s Heart and Sailors on the Starless Sea are not equivalent products. But $1.99 is a far cry from $6.99.

If the next adventure weighs in around 5-6,000 words with a bigger art budget, based on your experience with the first two in the series, would you pay $2.99 or $3.99 for such a product?

We need to figure out how to make this work. We’re nowhere near the levels of Goodman Games! But we’d like to be able to continue producing short, OSR-friendly adventures for your enjoyment.

Can you leave a comment below or send me a note via our Facebook or Google+ pages, or ping me via Twitter with your vote? (Links are in the sidebar on the right)

Next time I want to bring up another question… the whole debate about how much “story” should go into an OSR product… so I’ll let you ponder that while you’re answering my first question!!

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This article has 1 comments

  1. Steve Russell Reply

    This is from seven years of experience doing what you are doing.

    Color Cover: Stock Art, Public Domain, Creative Commons, or Original $0-$50.00
    Writing: You do it yourself.
    Editing: royalty or have your mom do it for free.
    Pages 8 (750 per page)
    Interior Art: 1 (your map), all other art should be stock art, public domain, creative commons. You reuse the cover image in the interior turned gray scale, that is one piece of art every 4 pages (and the map is art),if you are not an awesome cartography look at hiring one for $25.00 for a black and white full page map of you dungeon.

    Production cost if you use Stock Art, Public Domain, Creative Commons art. $0.00

    Sell the PDF only $2.99.

    Then do 12 of these, (minimum 1 a month), then when you have those done compile them into a 96+ page softcover b&W print on demand book that you sell for $24.99, and a compiled PDF for $12.49

    Brian you have done a lot of reviews for Rite Publishing so I am happy to help you find good stock art, public domain, or creative commons pieces out of. Chat with you later.

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