A few weeks ago, I got some marvellous news about Raging Swan Press’s sales on Paizo.com: we had a product on the Top Downloads from Other Companies list! Victory!
If you are not interested in 3PP you’ll find this phenomenally boring. I apologise—please move on, there is nothing to see here…
Because Raging Swan/s products are designed for a subset of Pathfinder GMs, we rarely make it onto any best seller lists. (Our success comes from our extensive, some would say capacious, back catalogue, and the support of our amazing patrons over at Patreon.)
This isn’t a post designed to boastfully tell you about Raging Swan’s amazing sales. Rather, I thought this was a great opportunity to highlight a couple of things about 3PP (third party publishing)—namely sales figures and margins.
When you check out the sales figures below, keep in mind:
- Raging Swan Press is one of the most established 3PP Pathfinder publishers. We’ve been around for eight years next month. Thus, we’ve built up a following.
- We publish products designed for GMs not players so this limits our potential customer base (as there are far more players than GMs).
But—still—we made the Top Downloads from Other Companies list! Our GM Screen Inserts entered at #6 on February 3 and bubbled around the middle of the chart for the rest of the month. It topped out at #5 this weekend! (The GM Screen Inserts have been out for almost three years at the time of posting) and has done moderately well to date.)
Now—obviously—as you can imagine I was jolly excited. I think we’ve only cracked the Top Downloads from Other Companies list once before (for Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands, if I recall correctly). However, sadly, as it turns out sales were not at a level I would have expected for being in the Top Downloads from Other Companies list:
I think this highlights the small sales figures most 3PP releases garner. It’s long been a truism in the industry that if a product reaches 200 sales, you’ve got a hit on your hands.
To me, this highlights the need to understand your customers’ wants and desires while keeping in mind each product’s breakeven point (perhaps one of the most important numbers a publisher can understand). Knowing a product’s breakeven point helps you can control costs and anticipate likely revenue and profit for a book. For more about the breakeven point check out this article.
I’m not sharing these figures to dissuade you from publishing your own material. 3PP can be a tremendously rewarding experience. I still get a buzz knowing Raging Swan’s books are used all over the world at thousands of gaming tables. Rather, if you are thinking of going into 3PP I’m keen for you to have realistic expectations about your potential sales (and therefore profit).
An Important Lesson
An important lesson from these sales figures for me is the importance of Raging Swan’s Patreon campaign, which has been our epic, standout success of the last few years. Our (at time of writing) 331 patrons’ ongoing support—remember 200 sales is a hit in our industry—has enabled me to go from paying designers 1 cent a word to 11 cents a word, an excellent rate of pay for excellent work, while not going bankrupt!
I thought you might find this post interesting as it pulls back the veil of 3PP and provides a small snapshot of actual sales. What do you think? Are you surprised it takes such a small number of sales to hit the top ten list? Is it about right? Let me know, in the comments below.
Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.