posthumanstudios

Transhuman Kickstarter!

I’ve been remiss in not posting here about the Transhuman Kickstarter, which is currently running!

Unlike other Kickstarters I’ve talked about here, this one is being run by my company, Posthuman Studios. We quickly funded at the level we needed to print the book ($14,000), and we’ve been working our way through additional stretch goals since then. We’ve added some new projects to our schedule as a result of the campaign, and we’re also paying our Transhuman freelancers a 15% bonus as a result of the Kickstarter’s success!

We have some more sweet things to come that we’ll be announcing early next week, so please check it out! The support so far has been amazing and humbling.

Transhuman kickstarter

Ignite Slides from PepCon

I was at the InDesignSecretsLive Print and ePublishing 2011 conference last week, and did a five minute Ignite speech talking about my publishing philosophy, Posthuman Studios, and Eclipse Phase. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with many of those principles, but I have a sexy slideshow available for download.

I wrote way too much text for a five minute speech, but I had fun and got a lot of nice reactions to it from a crowd of people largely unfamiliar with roleplaying games and their particular publishing niche.

If you were at PepCon and want to chat about the things I said or toss ideas around, there are a ton of ways to get in contact with me!

Pricing for Niche Electronic Titles

A disclaimer: I wrote most of this post before Adamant Entertainment announced they were re-pricing all of their PDFs at $1, or what Gareth dubbed the “app-pricing” model. I think the approach is interesting, but this post is not a “response” to his decision … although I am incredibly curious as to how it turns out, of course!

If you are publishing a niche RPG—material not compatible with Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder—you should maximize your profits by not underpricing your exclusive electronic releases. An “exclusive electronic release” is material not available in print (not including true Print on Demand, but including short run printing) or that don’t have costs subsidized in a substantial way.

So, by way of example:

A PDF or other electronic title sold on OneBookShelf (DriveThruRPG/RPGNow) gives the publisher 70% of sale price (65% if the publisher is not an exclusive vendor). This means a five dollar title leaves the publisher with $3.50; a two dollar title $1.40.

I think that Eclipse Phase has proved that low price points on electronic core rulebooks can lead to a raise in the number of sales—enough to make up for the difference in per-unit profit. Customers are interested in saving 10 bucks (typical RPG electronic core rulebooks are 20-25 or even more, while Eclipse Phase is 15) and much more willing to try a new game if it’s inexpensive—but supplements are most often sold to existing customers, people who already like your game. They already perceive themselves as invested* (time, money, emotion) in your game, and so a difference of a few dollars is less likely to make a negative impact in your sales. However, it can make a big difference in how much money you have to invest in the projects … And the amount of profit you end up making.

An Eclipse Phase PDF project like Continuity has a total budget of $800. It breaks down like this:

Writing: 200 (5000 words at four cents a word)
Editing: 200 (this covers a copy-edit and dev-edit pass from Rob Boyle. He deserves a raise on this.)
Layout: 100 (I do all the layout and maps in-house.)
Art: 300 (2 to 3 pieces, playing the same as we pay for artwork destined for print.)

There is no budget for “other stuff” yet … so for example, in Continuity, the audio files we included came out of the art budget.

This means that we need to sell 229 copies of a $5 exclusive electronic release to break even. Priced at $2, we would have to sell 572 copies just to break even. What if we sold 572 copies at 5 bucks? Profit of $2002—enough to fund two and a half more releases. Now, our exclusive electronic releases aren’t making huge profits yet, but we are breaking even relatively quickly—and we have a formula for, at the least, supplying the fanbase with a steady flow of material!

* I try not to use the words “invest” or “invested” when talking about my hobbies. I feel that it’s too loaded. But that’s a personal thing.

iPad Notes & Eclipse Phase Updates

PlainText is a great little tool for the iPad; a simple text editor that syncs everything to a Dropbox folder. I’ve been using it to scribble notes and start blog posts while away from the computer lately, and very much enjoying the experience. The iOS 4.2 update has really cranked up the iPad in my eyes, making it more of a tool and less of a gadget. I’ve stopped using my Sony Reader entirely; iBooks and the iPad is more convenient.

Eclipse Phase

Our next hardcover book, Gatecrashing, is at the printers now. The introductory fiction from it, An Infinite Horizon, by Steve Mohan, is available for sale in two different ways: PDF/ePub/Mobi bundle from DriveThruRPG and directly from the Amazon Kindle store. It should be $0.99 no matter where you buy it, but the Kindle store jacks up prices if you’re outside of the USA, so I suggest overseas customers get the PDF/ePub/Mobi version.

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More Gatecrashing previews will hit the Eclipse Phase site soon.

We also released Continuity, a funky adventure where … oh, no, I’m not going to spoil it for you. Here’s the tagline:

The characters, researchers on a remote outpost, check in for a backup—and awaken in new bodies to discover two weeks of their lives are missing. They have limited time to find out what happened to their previous selves—and deal with a looming threat.

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It’s a $5 PDF, in both landscape and portrait formats, with original artwork (Including a great piece from new-to-EP artist Anna Christenson, maps, and audio snippets by J.C. Hutchins (read what he has to say about it.) and Mur Lafferty.

Enjoy!

I want an Eclipse Phase fanzine

I want someone to start an Eclipse Phase fanzine. Over the last few years, posts on weblogs and message boards have largely replaced the fan or semipro ‘zine, and as someone who really got into gaming fandom by running a Shadowrun fanzine, I think that running a fanzine is really fun and can provide you with useful experience for future work in publishing.

By a fanzine, I mean: a publication that comes out somewhat regularly and contains a variety of articles and content (adventures, alternate rules, fiction, setting material, etc.) from different authors/artists, with an editor or team of editors that work to make the material consistent in technical quality (editing and presentation, in other words.) I prefer ‘zines that come in a single file— a PDF or maybe, now, an ePub or some other format. But there’s no reason why it couldn’t be purely web-based, which offers advantages and disadvantages that anyone somewhat knowledgable already knows.

(Edit: Blogs are fine—but I tend to think that blogs are more “fragile” than a more tangible/”single-file” publication. Problems with a web host, blogging software, or other technical hiccups can destroy the entire history of a blog. PDFs will stick around forever on people’s hard drives. In 1998 they would have stuck around on mirror sites—now they will stick around on torrents.

However, one important factor in something being a “‘zine”, in my eyes, is multiple contributors (a relatively open submission process), with an editor to tie things together.)

Why Making a Fanzine is Rewarding:

  • You get to build an audience, community, and friendships.
  • You gain experience as an editor/developer/probably jack of all trades.
  • You get to see cool stuff that other people have made, and help them make it better.

Why Making an Eclipse Phase Fanzine is even better:

  • Eclipse Phase is Creative Commons licensed. It’s easy to not step on Posthuman Studio’s toes, legally. Heck, you can even use and expand on our material, using our text and art to supplement yours!
  • The Eclipse Phase universe is wide open. There’s tons of room to build fan material that is easily usable in many people’s campaigns.
  • Doing cool fan stuff is, in hobby gaming, one of the best ways to get noticed as an up-and-coming creator.

Fame, fortune, exposure, hard work—what more could you want?

I’d Rather be Working than Spinning

I wrote this post over on Dumpshock in response to praise on how Posthuman Studios is handling the ceasing of our business dealings with Catalyst Game Labs, and I’m echoing it here:

Y’know what’s work? Spin.

Y’know what I’d rather do than spin something? Other work.

Some crappy stuff happened, so we’ll do what we can do to fix it and continue Eclipse Phase with as little interruption as possible. The important thing isn’t what lousy things happened (and at this point, who knows if anyone’s “scorecard” is accurate…) but that Eclipse Phase will have a bright future.

And now, to repost something from the BattleTech boards, to demonstrate in part why I feel the future is so bright:

One of the things that Posthuman Studios is going to do is be very upfront about sales figures, expenses, etc. So I’ll start with this: we wanted Catalyst to sell EP at $10-15 for the PDF. They argued against it, and basically said “You’ll need to sell twice as many copies in order to make the same amount of money.” We said “Okay. If we don’t sell twice as many copies of the PDF as (ASpecificCatalystCoreBook) did in PDF in 18 months, you can take the difference in dollars out of our royalties.”

Less than six weeks after the PDF was available (and this was after we seeded the PDF to bittorrent ourselves — anyone could have it for free, legally), we broke that mark. This meant that we had made the same amount of money, and we had the PDF in the hands of at least twice as many people!

A few months after that, Catalyst lowered their prices on all core books, and announced that Leviathans would be Creative Commons-licensed as well. And the first print run of Eclipse Phase sold out, also.

So, there will be a quick resleeve for Eclipse Phase, and on with the future!

(Edit: I should offer a hat tip to Fred Hicks at Evil Hat Productions, creators of the available-for-pre-order Dresden Files RPG, who are transparent to a very admirable degree and are a big part of the influence towards Posthuman’s transparency!)

Shadowrun Quick-Start Rules up for ENnie Award

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No press release, just a HELL YEAH for the Shadowrun, Fourth Edition Quick-Start Rules getting nominated for an ENnie Award this year. We really busted ass last year to design and deliver what I think is a tremendous set of Quick-Start Rules and an overall great [and free!] booklet aimed at introducing gamers into Shadowrun or back into Shadowrun.

Voting on the ENnies will be open later this month.

Plus, the 2008 Diana Jones Award nominations were just announced. No nominations for anything I even so much as sneezed nearby, but myself and Posthuman Studios are one of the sponsors of the awards this year. The awards ceremony will be Wednesday the 13th — the day before Gen Con — at that uber-secret location in Indianapolis.