Tuesday, May 11, 2010

... and on a down note...

Can us old school type publishers and companies agree on something?

DON'T DO PREORDERS.

Not until there's something in hand.

I've fucked this pre-order thing up before. Adventure Games Publishing had an ill-fated subscription service. Pied Piper had a release a couple years back take waaaaayyy too long to come out with silence until it had. Brave Halfling is just now getting over its "box drama." Now I'm reading over on the S&W boards that the minis box set pre-orderers (who had their pre-order transformed into a minis subscription service because plans changed after people had already paid their money) that people haven't gotten their first mini yet?

A bit of working capital is nice, but have any of us done advance orders without fucking it up? It doesn't matter how good the final product actually ends up being. It doesn't matter if you include "make-do" bonus material for those customers affected. It doesn't matter if the delay is caused by an outside supplier, personal situations, or just plain, "Whoops!" When this stuff happens, we look like incompetent assholes.

And let's include Lulu-sold books being put on sale before the publisher receives a proof copy in the parade of amateur activity. The "Got my proof copy, found a problem and fixed it. So all you folks that have ordered in the past week now have a collector's item!" attitude is pretty ass, but luckily that seems to not really happen much anymore.

So can we all agree to not accepting money for anything until we at least one real and final copy of said thing in our hands first?

12 comments:

  1. I cringe every time I see another old school pre-order offer. I understand the catch 22 situation of needing the funds up front to finance the bigger projects, but given that it always seems to end in tears and given that it leads to negative publicity for not only the individual publisher, but also for the community as a whole, it's plainly not worth the drama. I second the motion for old school publishers to stop taking pre-orders. Have patience, grow your business slow and steady.

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  2. To solicit pre-orders or not is a big deal even for more professional projects.

    I was starting a magazine years back with a small publishing firm, we got pre-orders from folks, ads and a massive number of pre-orders from distributors (mostly from one). We had a magazine ready to go professionally written, designed, edited and illustrated with issue 2 in early production and 3 on the planning board.

    Just as we're ready to go to print when we had to lock in distributor orders the one with the largest number of orders folded... we couldn't possibly sell enough now to keep our loses through the first couple of issues bearable (we were planning on a loss for the first year), we may have been able to get a low quality print run but it wasn't what we had sold folks...so we canceled the print run and returned funds, losing less then we would if we went into print and distribution on too few issues shipped (we couldn't hold onto most of our advertisers in that situation). It was a hard choice but a sane one at the time.

    If we had the modern P.O.D. option (that did processing and shipping direct to customers) back then it would have likely been released.

    I'd recommend folks that are shipping physical product not accept or solicit pre-orders until they are gearing up for the lay-out stage and you have a production schedule locked in.
    Doing pdf or p.o.d. wait until you see what you are really getting before you let folks order the product.

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  3. I'm not a big fan of pre-orders and, having been burned by them more than a couple of times in the past, I generally consider them a good sign that the company involved doesn't have a good business plan and isn't likely to be able to follow-through.

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  4. Check out the Eoris Drama on RPG.net. Developers are two years late and saying next to nothing on what's happening.

    It's like the Duke Nukem Forever of RPGs.

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  5. We've done pre-orders quite a bit, although I haven't done any in over two years, I believe.

    Never been late in a delivery, so there's at least one of us that pulled it off. :)

    However, I stopped doing it for old-school products because of the very industry effects you note.

    On a side note, we're going to have pre-orders for Sorcery & Super Science up shortly. The trick with pre-orders is to give yourself enough time for all the snafu's that invariably happen. And perhaps more importantly, don't start pre-orders on an idea - start with a work at least half complete. Hell, I prefer 3/4ths done.

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  6. Yeah, I'm too much of a pessimist to do pre-orders. A thousand things can go wrong. When I announced CARCOSA for sale back in Oct. 2008, I had a big stack of them just waiting to be put in envelopes and mailed out. Even so, I had trouble keeping up with orders. My biggest hurdle was getting enough cardstock for the covers. I depleted FOUR Hobby Lobbies. You'd think it would be no problem for them to re-order. Wrong. I drove hundreds of miles getting the cardstock I needed. Pink, yellow, or lime green cardstock just wouldn't work for CARCOSA.

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  7. I assume that a pre-order from a publisher will be late these days. Then I don't get worked up, unless it's a publisher I've never dealt with before. And if something is really late, even from someone I've bought stuff from already, then I might make a snide comment or two, but I won't blow up.

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  8. This is the most sensible post you've ever made. Shipping a preorder late is like turning in a paper late at school. Even if the recipient is cool with it, they are going to scrutinize it extra hard.

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  9. I agree that pre-orders are a problem for the OSR and that I have helped make it worse. What can I say? Honestly, I thought I would only sell 50 of them!

    But the bottom line is that some products just cannot be produced by hobby publishers without pre-orders. In today's market, it seems highly unlikely that one could sell enough $10 modules to create enough capital to do a print run of a hard cover or even a large perfect bound product.

    Without pre-orders for at least the big products, they won't happen - not unless one of the major corporate game companies does it, a hobby publisher decides to go into debt to do it or they get a government grant.

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  10. >>or they get a government grant

    For the record, the grant (now finished) covered the artwork and the dice for my upcoming game.

    All printing costs (80% of the project) are coming out of private funds.

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  11. Sure, I didn't mean that as a jab or anything but your putting salt on my open wound (one I hope is finally healed as even the international boxed sets arrive.

    You know just how much publishing costs - especially boxed sets. Even with the best planning, there is going to be problems to work around. When an online retailer doesn't actually buy what they promised to buy or the printer goes out of business on you, a hobby publisher just doesn't have many resources to draw from to work it out or quickly.

    This is one of the reasons I wish we could get some of the OSR publishers to work together. We could do so much more together, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

    I hope things go very well and you sell every single one of your boxed sets.

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