Archive for May, 2011

Digital Copy Experiment Video Update #3

| May 29th, 2011 | No Comments »

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Digital Copy experiment update #2

| May 27th, 2011 | No Comments »

I got the peg hook hole punch in the mail yesterday and tried it out on a giveaway postcard B&N had for the Nook. Perfect. I like the size of the card and the hole punch is heavy duty and will work great. Of course, I also found some other printers that will do the hole for you and even round off the corners if I so desire. I agree with Louis about the thickness of the card making the item “feel” more substantial; but that is what the test is for. If the VistaPrint cards do well enough, it will be hard to find a cheaper alternative.

The tracking numbers indicate that the cards will be here either tomorrow or Tuesday (with Monday being a holiday and all).

I’ve had a little bit of feedback indicating that the retailer community is reluctant to embrace the digital content idea. While I can’t disagree with that, I can say that the store owner I know has been hit very hard by the down turn in the economy and the two stores he’s owned for near 20 years are desperately trying to increase sales. Two of his employees, myself and Lee Garvin of Reality Cheque publishing, publish digital content that we could put in his store next week and it would cost him zero dollars. If I get Louis to send me some of his we have the start of a “Digital Content Section” in his stores to test the waters. Lets say Louis gets his local store on board and we send some of our products down there; that would be three test stores with three prolific PDF publishers able to fill a small section. I can also say that since the Kindle, Nook and iPad have been released, as well as all the new smart phones, XBox DLC add-ons etc. that the “idea” of buying digital content is not as weird as it once was. I mean *everyone* has gotten a gift card from Amazon or iTunes in the last few years, right?

Does that mean I expect a thousand retailers to start ordering in our Digital Copy cards? Nope. But every single one that does is one more chance I have to sell my stuff to the people that want it. I’d be happy if it was only three to five stores that did it. But honestly I think that number can be larger. What if it’s ten stores that embrace the idea? Would I be happy with ten stores carrying my stuff? You bet! (Remember, if I sell ten lousy copies of Fantasy Firearms I break even.) More importantly, I’d get even more excited when the distributors start carrying them. After all, to most store owners all items are just “things that go on the shelf” that then get turned around and sold to customers. Do you think a savvy retailer *cares* if it’s a card instead of a book? I think they will look at the smaller price point and realize it’s an easier sell to get someone to part with two or five or even ten bucks than the latest Fantasy Flight full color hardcover at $59.95. Plus you can fit four different titles via hook in the same space that a standard book takes up. Maybe most retailers won’t “see” that, but I *know* some will.

For those retailers that simply refuse to do anything different so be it. I’m not trying to change the industry so much trying to give the ones who want a “piece” of the digital market a chance to get it.

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Digital Copy Experiment Update

| May 25th, 2011 | No Comments »

OK, first of all I found some awesome stickers that already include the scratch-off coating! I ordered 500 of them for about a nickle each. They are sized near perfectly for the postcard I already ordered, but in the future I can easily adjust the cards to match the stickers. Like the postcards I can save money by ordering in bulk but 500 should last me a good while. The site I found them at sells a bunch of different styles and sizes of stickers at very reasonable prices. I was even more shocked at how cheap the shipping was for my order! In total I spent $24.99 (including shipping) for 500 stickers which comes out to .05 cents each.

The full color front-and-back postcards I ordered from Vistaprint cost me $26.91. (Again, shipping included and I went with one week shipping instead of the cheaper 21 day option.) Adding these two totals together and dividing to get the cost per card makes it .32 cents per card for my out of pocket cost. (Now I will admit here that I also invested in a one-time capital expenditure of $37.49 for a hole punch that is shaped to fit retail wall hangers. I did not include that in my per-unit average since it is good for an unlimited number of products and the more of these I make the cost will come down over time. But in the interest of full disclosure I figured I would share.)

If I sell the cards to retailers for $5.50, less my .32 cent cost I stand to make $5.18 per Digital Copy sold. That means I need to sell ten total copies to recoup my investment. (Minus the hole punch; that would take another seven copies.)

Now, what if I can reduce the cost of the postcards even more? I did color printing on the front and back of my initial order since I knew I would need a glossy surface for the scratch off ink. With the discovery of the stickers, that is no longer the case! The stickers include the glossy surface with permanent adhesive so once it is stuck on the product then you can’t get it off without ruining it. What that also means is I could just as easily stick it on a regular paper background and it will work just as well! Vistaprint sells packs of 100 postcards for “Free” where all you pay is the shipping. I re-ran my cards from yesterday through their online ordering system to see what it would cost me with the B&W back of the cards and the slow shipping option; it came to just $6.42. That’s about .07 cents per card. Add the .05 cents for the scratch-off sticker and your looking at about .12 cents per card! Can you make some money selling short two or three dollar PDF’s when you cost is .12 cents? I think so!

You can also use them as give-aways at cons or shows. Also, I’ve seen several publishers who want to include a free copy of the PDF with the purchase of a print copy; I can see this as an easy way to do that if you have retailers give a card away when someone buys the print version.

Now the trick is to figure out how to get them widely accepted in the regular distribution channel, as well as how OBS/DriveThru/RPGNow gets paid for their services. They way the test works now is a discount coupon code that gives the customer 100% off since they paid for the product at retail. In the long run that isn’t going to work, but it’s fine for the test run. As it stands now, OBS will not be getting a “cut” since the sale is for zero dollars. No, I’m not trying to juke them out of some money; as I said I could easily set the download up from my own website but I see real value in building a single “Place” to go for digital RPG’s and OBS is that place. So the question now becomes how would they make money under this arrangement? I’m not sure they would deserve the full 35% cut they get from standard digital sales since I “drove” the sale through the retail market *to* the online one. In this case they would simply be fulfilling the order; and possibly gaining a new customer that might not otherwise be on their site. But having said that, the hosting and digital fulfillment does deserve some form of remuneration. Maybe OBS starts selling these cards into the retail distribution channel on behalf of publishers? Maybe they “charge” my publisher account for each download by tracking the code I used on the cards? Still not sure, but we’ll figure something out!

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The Digital Copy Retail Experiment

| May 24th, 2011 | No Comments »

So I was on Twitter today when Louis put out a link to a very interesting article. The gist of it was selling copies of your digital content in the form of a plastic Gift Card like you see at checkout counters and those sections at grocery stores. I know Louis has always been trying to figure out a great way to let retail stores sell digital products but to date nothing has really caught on.

Well, that article got me thinking; why does it have to be a plastic gift card? It could be something as simple as a full color business card-sized product or even a postcard since that would give you more room for your sales pitch. So after work I busted out Photoshop and whipped up a quick template for selling Campaign Overlay: Fantasy Firearms at retail. Check it out:

I have the print MSRP listed as well as the digital price. I included a bar code so that a retailer could add it to their retail POS system if they have one. I was also quick to prominently display the “Digital Copy” text so there would be no confusion by the customer. I went to VistaPrint and ordered a batch of 100 glossy front and back cards with some expedited shipping. Once I get them I will use a peg-hook hole punch on them so that they can be easily hung on a peg. My final price for a hundred postcards with expedited shipping is about .27 cents per card. I could get that much lower if I didn’t do color on both sides of the card, used slower shipping or ordered in larger quantities.

I used the RPGNow feature that lets me create a special discount code; which in this case is 100% off so using the card will get you a fee download. (Since they will pay for it at the time of purchase, naturally.) I threw on the DriveThru and RPGNow logos since that is where the download will come from. Though I could just as easily set up a download link from my own personal website. But as this is a test-run with possible implications for other products and publishers I figured I’d use the OBS guys and push brick-and-mortar customers to their digital storefront!

Where the code is on the back I have the promo code and download URL. I’ll be covering that up with the same stuff they use for scratch off lottery tickets. I found a couple of good DIY articles on the web on how to do it. Once the code is covered up and the scratch off ink is dry, I’ll post some at the local store I work at as a test. If it works out, then I can easily see a small “Digital Download Section” sporting a bunch of cards for various downloadable products. Heck, I could fill up a small section with just my PDF’s!

Selling a PDF for $10.99 is one thing, but could you make any money on smaller PDF’s? That is the question! Lets say I want to sell some of my $1.99 PDF’s at retail; would the numbers “work”? I figure the retailer gets the card for 50% off so a $1.99 PDF Digital Copy card will sell to him for a nice round buck. ($1.00) That leaves me with a buck to absorb my costs as well as to generate a little profit. If I can get the cards done for a generous .30 cents that would leave me .70 cents profit; not counting some time invested in applying the scratch off ink to the cards. My wife is really into rubber stamps and scrap booking; and I anticipate using a stamp to complete the cards so the time investment should not prove too much. (Famous last words, I know!)

What if you sold a bundle of short PDF’s to a retailer instead of just one? I could see selling a pack of ten or twenty mixed titles as a retail bundle to get your short products on the shelves. Heck, if you sold a whole mess of cards to a retailer to display it would be easy to include a ton of Digital Copies in the Retail Bundle at an even greater discount. Remember, there is a really “long tail” on PDF’s so if I put ones up that have already paid for them selves selling as PDF’s online, then even a smaller fraction of profits from the retail pipeline is still pure profit!

I’ll post an update in a week or so when the cards come in.

 

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Mid-May Update

| May 19th, 2011 | No Comments »

Yeah, yeah, I know. I *really* need to get on top of this blog posting thing. Lots going on. Lets get to it…

Chris Field is cranking out material at a furious pace. His last PDF just dropped off the front page so look for another title later today. He’s got a slew of them on deck and at least two major projects in the pipeline. (Have you seen the new cover for his Otherverse America setting? It friggin’ rocks!)

The wife still hasn’t found full-time employment but she is interviewing like crazy. she had a phone interview last week with a company that will be flying her in this Monday for an in-person interview. She’s crazy excited about that one and hopes she gets it. If she does it would probobly mean a move from VA to where the company is located. If the money is right, I told her we would go. She also has another interview with another big-name company on Wednesday, as a follow up to her phone interview a few days ago. That would be more local, though I *know* she would prefer to other job. (I’m not naming names or anything until its official; cuz right now it’s just a phone call and a trip to interview and not a solid time-to-pack-our-stuff job offer.

We’ve been playing the Savage Worlds fantasy RPG online using Fantasy Grounds II and Skype and it’s going pretty well. My brother is having connection issues with FGII as he was unable to connect the last two times we played so we just rolled for him in the software and did everything else via Skype. We played last night and it was a blast!

I broke down and bought the Infinity rule book as well as a starting kit. (Line Cossacks.) I have started painting them already so my painting table is getting pretty crowded!

In publishing news I am itching to start back in to a regular production schedule. I dusted off the Augments & Upgrades ideas for Traveller and am aiming to put them out on at least a weekly basis. I have a few larger projects on deck as well.

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