Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Talking About the Business of RPGs

This is something I don't do very often - talk rpg business in public. I normally don't do this because those who are not in the business really don't *know* the business and sadly, I've found that those who know the least tend to be the ones that want to talk the most, certain that they know what's what. Now this may not be the best way to begin a post where I'm effectively asking to speak to people about the business who are not in the business, but I'm interested in your opinions as customers.* And customer opinions are important regardless the knowledge behind the creation and manufacture of a product.

What I've been thinking about is Lulu and how we at Expeditious Retreat Press view the site. We have all the Advanced Adventures PDFs, the two hardbacked Advanced Adventure Compendiums, and Malevolent & Benign: A First Edition Bestiary for sale at Lulu. This means we've been treating Lulu as a source of mainly digital sales and sales of hardbacked material that isn't cost-efficient for us to print in sort runs. I'm certain I could do profitable short runs of the hardbacks, but I would have a lot of sunk cost and would need to spend considerable time before those costs are repaid and turned into profit. I prefer faster turning material - less capital risk, quicker return - because this industry can be *brutal* to those who make a single mistake regarding a sunk cost. Capital, once spent, is gone until recouped and the faster that turnaround the better, IMO.

However, the big sale at Lulu has made me think that perhaps I should be viewing Lulu as a secondary source of *physical* product. There is obviously a demand for our hardbacked-stuff, but I'm now wondering were I put all the Advanced Adventures (as well as a significant part of back catalog) for sale as physical products at Lulu if we would grow physical sales significantly. Sales of physical product is Lulu's purpose, after all, but I have been hesitant to do such because we also sell physical copy direct from the Expeditious Retreat website.

My concern is would we split that revenue stream, and if we did, would it result in increased profitability regardless? I make more per unit selling direct than in any other way, and were I to end up splitting the stream by customers choosing Lulu over our website, I could end up making less even while selling more. Additionally, there will be a considerable time cost in making the material available at Lulu. What I want to happen would be to reach customers who do not shop at our website, but who would gladly shop at Lulu.

So the question to you if you would be so kind to respond is "Would you be more likely, equally likely, or less likely to purchase a product at Lulu rather than at the Expeditious Retreat website?" I've made it a poll, for easy answering.

*We are customers, not consumers. I find the term "consumer" derogatory. We are not senseless gaping maws - we are people first, sources of cash second.

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