As I discussed in Pelgrane Biz Part 1, it’s expensive and risky to print books by offset litho, even though the results are gratifying, and the rewards, if the sales are high enough, are excellent. But there is every chance that Trail of Cthulhu is a one-off success, and won’t be repeated.
That said, I really want to print Ashen Stars as a full colour smythe-sewnbook. The setting deserves the full colour treatment, and if you’ve seen the starship schematic and Jérome’s artwork, I hope you’ll agree the art warrants it, too. Also, I have high hopes for the game; both the setting and the system I think will have widespread appeal. I’ve just sent out the first to the 32 GMs who have answered our questionnaire, for what will be our largest playtest ever.
Even so, it’s still just a hope. I don’t know how many copies I’m likely to sell. My solution is to sell as many as possible by pre-order, before the book is printed, supplying the PDF with the pre-order. Now, retailers and distributors don’t like publishers doing pre-orders with PDFs, unless they can join in – but now we have the Retailer PDF Program open to any retailer who wants to join, and that removes my competitive advantage.
To make this work, I need to sell 200 copies by mail order in advance. This is a large barrier, but not insurmountable, and I am doing two stages of pre-order:
Pre-pre-order. After the first round of playtesting, I will open the pre-pre-order – probably late in August. People who opt in at this stage will get a late draft of the game – some extra content, and their name in the credits with special thanks. As the game is updated, we’ll update the PDF. If we are not able to do a full colour hardback version, these people will still get a special version – perhaps a hardback where everyone else is a paperback, or some other special treat. The PDF in any case, when it’s released, will be in full colour. I suspect few retailers will take us up at this stage – this will be our loyal core of users.
Pre-order When the final version is ready and laid out, we’ll start the pre-order proper. There’ll be a brief window where we’ll ask people to respond with any typos (this worked well with the Skulduggery pre-order) and then get printing.
If I can get 200 mail order pre-orders, plus however many retail pre-orders, it will mean I can justify the realtively short and expensive full-colour print run, and be in with a good chance of selling through that run in two years. It will also mean I can produce more, better supplements, with new tech, deckplans, alien races and adventures.
My question to you is, what would be a good name for the pre-pre-order?