Pelgrane Biz Part 2 – Printing Ashen Stars

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?

11 Responses to “Pelgrane Biz Part 2 – Printing Ashen Stars”

  1. Paul says:

    Patron Pre-Order?

    (Thinking that this sounds a bit like the Ransom/Patronage system that some game publishers are doing these days)

  2. Graham says:

    I think they’re the “Countdown” and “Launch” preorders.

    For the first preorder, why not use some people’s names in the text? They could be human characters, example player names or other stuff. Do that with the first 10 or 20 to preorder.

  3. Simon Rogers says:

    @Paul I’ve often considered doing a ransom/patronage game from scratch, a combination of author and concept. I could call the first customers Patrons, that’s a good idea.

    @Graham Countdown and Launch. I like these, and listing the names as human names to use is a good idea, and will cut down on Robin’s word count.

  4. Chris says:

    Countdown and Launch are great,
    Nebula and Supernova would be my take.

  5. Sune Nødskou says:

    I wonder if it’s possible to sign up for the pre-pre-order. I will certainly pre-pre-pre-pre-order this book!

  6. Sid Wood says:

    How about Prime Patrons for pre-pre-orders (“primers” for short) and just regular Patrons for pre-orders?

  7. Walter says:

    Call it either the “Proto-Order,” or the “Celestial Order.”

  8. Kairam Ahmed Hamdan says:

    My suggestion(s) for the name of the pre-pre version of the book:
    Exploit edition(!!!)
    Vanguard edition, avant-garde, leading edge, cicerone(!), lodestar(!!), spark(!), harbinger, ballyhoo, proemium, foremost
    Companions edition, Maecenate, Evergetic
    D.S(?).P.F. edition [De Sua Pecunia Fecit meaning “Done with His Own Money” (it is not sua, but I do not know the latin term for theirs)] {I love this last one!}.
    you could publish it with a D.S(?).P.F. list of the names of the patrons.

    P.S. I excluded enterprise, pathfinder and kindle names for obvious reasons.

  9. Tim says:

    Have you considered using Kickstarter? Webcomics artists have used it to successfully pre-fund print runs.

  10. Travis says:

    I dont know, a sillier notion came to my mind for a name, something that captures the flavor of the system and in my mind the fans and creators.

    A name to encompass folks that love Gumshoe and have a little edge, since foaming at the mouth barbarian horde filled with gumshoe cultists could work, Why not keep it simple:

    GumPunk. or the Esoteric Order of GumPunks

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