Counting the cost, coin by coin

How Much Does an RPG Cost To Make?

Following from yesterday’s post on our Con-Quest sales figures, today I look at what it costs to produce the products.

Doing Things Differently

One important things to notice is that 6d6 is different from other publishers. We have a different philosophy to product development and design. The 6d6 system is radically different from every other RPG out there and our products reflect that. This is both a curse and a blessing.

What Goes Into A 6d6 Product?

For a good look at the creation process, examines the photos in this earlier post – Outbreak! Production Test.

  • Step 1 – Create the hardcovers for the book by cutting down an A1 art board to A5 pieces. Affix the art work and cover in clear plastic. Hole punch and add eyelets to the cover.
  • Step 2 – Print the cards on A4 (ten cards per sheet) and cut to size. Sort the cards in their decks, hole punch and bind.
  • Step 3 – Print the actual book on A5. Hole punch and bind with covers.
  • Step 4 – Package books and cards in cotton bag. Label and seal bag.

The most striking difference between this approach and most RPGs is the that everything is done by hand. This is not a product from a production line in S.E. Asia or out of the printing machines of Lulu.

Breaking Down the Costs

Taking Outbreak! as an example the production costs are:

Part No. Required Unit Cost Cost Notes
Hardcovers One Pair £1.71 per pair £1.71 Costs are split two fifths / three fifths between labour and materials.
A5 Pages 84 ~£0.05 £3.81 The price per page is rounded up to £0.05. The total cost is generated using the true figures. Most of the cost comes from printing, i.e. toner cartridges and drums.
Binder Rings 10 £0.09 £0.90 Two for the book, eight for card decks.
Cards 24 A4 pages, 10 per page = 240 ~£0.03 £6.42 The cost of each card is split 50/50 between time and material costs. As with the A5 pages, the unit costs is rounded to the nearest penny.
Packaging 1 £0.92 £0.92
Total £13.76

At Con-Quest we had a sales price of £15, there is very little margin in the sale but this is not the whole story.

How Much Does The Author Get Paid?

One important part of the equation missing is the cost of writing the adventure. Here again, 6d6’s different approach kicks in.

We do not hire writers to churn out work. Instead they pitch ideas and if it reaches production they will be paid based on the product’s sales. How much they get paid depends on the sales price and we are working on the basis that 1/3 of the product goes to the author. For Outbreak! that means ‘Original’ Ben Jackson gets £5 per physical copy sold.

This means thats the total costs of the product is now £18.76 but there are still costs missing. There is no allowance for marketing costs, the cost of running the sales table, the cost of the wiki used to create the PDF, the cost of proof-reading and editing. If we factor those in, the cost is well above the £20 mark.

Bankruptcy Here We Come

Selling products for less than they cost to make is not a good business strategy so how are we going to stay in business?

Firstly, cut costs. The production costs all reflect the hand made nature of the product. Literally everything is done in my office. This is not viable if we hope to sell 100s of copies of a book and by moving to more traditional mass production we cut costs in line with increased volumes. In the short term costs will be cut as I optimise the process of making and assembling everything.

Secondly, increase prices. These costing figures were only prepared after Con-Quest due to time constraints so prices were guessed. With this information in hand I can more accurately price the products.

Thirdly, cross-subsidise. Where as the physical product costs upwards of £20 to make, the PDF has almost zero production and distribution costs. The physical products are loss leaders at the moment. They are there to pull people into the game system and encourage them to buy more profitable products.

What Now?

The unique nature of the product, with its cards, make it harder to produce than traditional RPG products. This increases the costs as we cannot draw on the same, well proven approaches (Lulu and POD in general) that others do. This is the curse of being different.

The flip side, the blessing, is that our products stand out from the crowd. No one will mistake a 6d6 product for any other publishers. In a world where there are hundreds of near identical, perfect-bound A4 books filling RPG store shelves, it pays be stand out from the crowd.

So our physical products are almost going to be more expensive than most and look different than most. We are not embarrassed by this. In fact, we think it is a strength.


Image Credit – Coins by Jason Rogers – CC-BY-2.0

2 comments

  1. Thank you for your candidness regarding the financial realities of being a small press publisher. Most people seem to feel that revealing this sort of info can lead to chaos, ruination and such, but I feel that opening up like this helps customers to understand what they’re paying for. A £15 book can seem expensive, but once the overhead & production costs are broken down likie this, it’s easy to see that one would be getting a bargin at £25 even!

  2. @SpiralBound – Thanks for the support.

    Before starting the 6d6 RPG I thought a lot about how much commercial information to give out and I came to the conclusion that it should be all of it?

    Why keep something like your overheads and costs secret? Unless you are gouging the customer, there is nothing to hide. Good costs money, people need paying and there has to be a profit otherwise we can’t grow the business.

    We will be publishing more information soon and plan to keep doing it whatever the fate of 6d6.

    Chris

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