Publishing Advice - The Hot War Transmission 1 - First Month Downloads/Sales and a Few Thoughts

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Aug 11th 2010 edited

Today (the 11th of August) represents the first full month of availability for the Hot War Transmission. I thought that I'd share how it has been doing, offer a few observations, and invite comment.

In terms of downloads, the Transmission has done well. We achieved the following:

DTRPG/RPGnow: 305
CGS Website: 309
Total: 614

As you know, we have offered this first issue free, as something of a 'try before you buy'. Future issues will be $4 in PDF form. We also made the supplement available in print form, at £5 a copy. Due to the usual last minute stuff, the print version was available about two weeks after the PDF. For future issue, they will be both be available at the same time, allowing us to do the 'buy hardcopy, get PDF free' deal.

Sales of the print version have, in all honesty, been extremely disappointing. Since release we have sold eight copies of what is a rather nice, lavish, full colour supplement full of quality material. Many segments of the RPG community are vocal in their requests for print as well as PDF material. Sadly, this has not translated into sales of the Transmission.

I suspect that this is largely to do with the first issue being free: if given a choice between a paid for PDF and a print item, people who prefer print will buy the hardcopy. If given the choice between a free PDF item and a print item, it appears people will take the free PDF. This isn't really a hugely surprising conclusion.

Another stumbling block is that the Transmission will not be available from IPR. The huge shipping costs for sending even a small quantity over are prohibitive, given the very tight margins that a full colour item operates on. However, we've tried to compensate for this by offering very reasonable post and packing rates (as we try to do with all of our stuff).

Now, it's not all doom and gloom. I'm hoping that an upcoming run of conventions will see some sales through that avenue: Andy is kindly taking some copies to ConCrete Cow and Furnace and, I'm fairly certain, people will pick it up when they see the production quality.

All of this has led to a slight change of strategy for the second issue. As we had always planned, the print and PDF versions will be available at the same time. During September we will be running a pre-order for the print version. Or commitment to pre-order customers will be this:

They will receive the PDF the day the final version is sent to print.
They will have their print copy posted out the day before it goes on sale through our website.

I'd like to think that this would provide encouragement and given tangible benefits to pre-order customers. From our side, it also allows us to gauge demand and revise our print quantities accordingly.


Posted by: Claus On: Aug 12th 2010

I think anyone who owns Hot War will already be fairly reassured about the high production values and those who are not should be convinced by a peek at the free pdf.

I will admit that after realising that you were giving the pdf away for free the perceived value of the product dropped somewhat. I think a lot of people are conditioned to think that anything free is of a lower quality. As a supporter of the open source community it is a prejudice I face often when convincing people of great free products like open office. After browsing through the pdf I still bought it because I wanted a print copy. It was clear to me that it was well worth the £5 being charged and besides I want to support the Hot War line to make sure it continues.

Only those who already own Hot War are likely to buy the supplement and many of them will not even be aware of its existence. The number of downloads is not an accurate way to gauge the number of potential customers as many "collectors" will download anything that is free regardless whether they are actually interested in the product.

I think the price is very good, but marketing is as always a big problem. If I remember correctly I was only aware of it being available last week even though I receive the DriveThruRPGs newsletter and keep an eye on and various other rpg blogs. You could have sent an email out to those who previously purchased Hot War. Unsolicited emails are usually considered spam, but I think when it is directly related to a previous sale like this it is acceptable. I receive plenty of much less relevant product notifications from other roleplaying publishers without ever having opted-in and amazon keeps trying to recommend books, films, etc. all the time.

I think the pre-order benefits are a good idea and getting the pdf for free with the print copy is also good. Do sell the pdf separately though at a lower price for those who prefer only electronic copies. You could offer a newsletter opt-in on your website where you could notify subscribers about new products.

I hope that is not too rambling as I'm a bit tired at the end of a nine hour work day.

Posted by: Neil Gow On: Aug 12th 2010

I think Claus is right here - the number of 'free' downloads does not necessarily equal actually interested and active HW punters. That said, its not the worst thing as a promotional tool.

I think that this sort of thing is a learning curve. The Transmission will sell at cons - its a given - its 'easy purchase' priced, very pretty indeed and fodder to the growing number of HW devotees out there. I think the pdf+print model is strong but there is a definite perceptive difference between the value of a free pdf and a paid print of the same, regardless of the quality of the print.

May be a slow burn success rather than an explosive one?


Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Aug 12th 2010

Thanks for the thoughts.

Oh, absolutely (re: the relationship between free downloads and actual sales). I wasn't intending to imply that "Well, 600 people have downloaded the free thing, why have we not sold more?" It's just interesting that, because of all our publicity surrounding it, we haven't sold more. Or, is it (as Claus points out) a perceived diminution in value because the electronic version is free? Not something I have an answer to.

Our main marketing efforts break down kind of like this:

Posts on RPG fora (RPGnet, etc)
Announcements on RPG news sites (Living Dice, Ikosa, etc)
Emailing prior customers via DTRPG
And, of course, the inevitable spread that happens with these things.

Unfortunately, because of the way we operate our online shop, we don't have easy access to a list of customer email addresses. And, I'm somewhat reticent about using such a thing (unless, for example, it is through DTRPG which allows customers to op in or out to emails. But, in this case, we can't use that to direct people towards the hardcopy).

All in all, I think that the consensus that it will be a strong con seller is pretty much on the money. Although, I could be hanging myself out to dry with that little prediction!


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