After a little less than one year selling products through the DM’s Guild, I figured this new year would be a good time to analyze some actual numbers. I’m probably on the smaller side in terms of sales on the platform (no bestsellers), but I’ve got consistent sales and well-reviewed products across a range of purchase models and product types, which gives me a lot of ways to slice and dice the limited amount of data I’ve got.
So here’s a few Interesting Things, if you’re into the data crunching. It’s a long post, but I am kind of a nerd about this stuff! Sneak Preview:
- I made about 1/10th of what I’d make per word as an actual writer (or less!)
- Pay What You Want might not be worth it from a creator’s standpoint
- People don’t comment on products
- Products linked to WotC Storylines lead to better sales overall
Want some more details? Okay!
- I’ve made a total of 16 Products, totaling approximately 126 pages and 88,000 words. Prices ranged from Pay What You Want (potentially free!) to $5.
- Assuming I’m working about 10 hours per week on this (about 1/3rd of a part time job), this means I’ve got a rate of about 169 published words per hour, or about 1 published page for every 4 hours spent writing. That ratio feels close to right, just on a gut-check, maybe a bit low (I probably spent more than 10 hours/week on this, and not every page has the full suite of ~700 words, given the images and whatnot).
- These products have had about 340 Total Sales, in all, or a raw average of about 21 sales per product. Which ain’t bad.
- The products have been of the following types:
- Character options (backgrounds, subclasses, etc.): 13 (~80%)
- DM Options (Locations, bestiaries): 3 (~20%)
- I’ve made about $250 profit for myself in royalties, which means WotC and DM’s Guild itself gained $250 from their cut, too. I don’t know what the split is between WotC and DM’s Guild, but this bears out to me bringing spending about $21/month to them. Not bad for free labor!
- That profit works out for me to about $2.06 per page, or, hourly, $0.50/hour. Or, by word, about three-tenths of a cent per word. As an income, those numbers would be too grim by far. As a hobby…I still think it’s pretty grim.
- On a per-product basis, I’m looking at an average of $16.19 profit per product. That breaks down to about $0.70 per unit, or about $3.13 per page.
My most profitable product in 2016 was Books of Blood, a collection of Ravenloft character options. This is pretty interesting since upon release it wasn’t much more than a collection of the nine other products that I had released that were Ravenloft character options (I think there was an additional Warlock option there). It didn’t do as much in total sales as the 9 other products did in total, so there’s still clearly an audience for the a la carte stuff. But, people are willing to pay for a big collection.
This bears out in having my Astral Races and Astral Classes collections all beating the average sales for most of my products, as well. They’re not my most profitable products, but they’ve got a healthy number of sales on ’em.
What might’ve also played into the success of Books of Blood was an experimental model I tried that had some mixed but curious results: I started off with a few pages at a low price, and ramped both of them up, promising that someone who had bought the old version at the low price would get all future upgrades, essentially, “for free.” This seems to have been something of a success, and I’ll be looking into repeating something like it in 2017, but it’ll need some improvements. For one, writing new releases has taken me away from regular updates for Books of Blood, and I don’t want to “abandon” the next one. For two, the DM’s Guild store format doesn’t like the changes (updating the product page is a hassle every time).
Reviews, Feedback, Awareness
These are very hard to get. Of the 16 products I’ve put out, only 3 (~19%) have reviews. They’re all pretty good reviews, which is very encouraging! But, it’s hard to know what people like or want. I’m forced to assume a sort of “no news is good news” perspective. That’s OK. But, I think one of the main limiting factors of my sales is how aware people are of my products – they’re good products, but they don’t cross peoples’ radar well at the moment. It’s weird, because some of my best-selling products are also the ones without any reviews or comments…which is not what I would’ve expected.
Pay What You Want vs. Fixed Cost
Speaking of building awareness…about 1/4 of my products are Pay What You Want, in an effort to increase the raw # of sales I was getting. If there is any effect on raw # of sales by going PWYW, it’s not very pronounced – my PWYW products on average have actually attracted less attention than my products overall (average PWYW sales: 19. Average sales overall: 21), but it’s a little swingy. My compilations had more buyers and actually got reviews. My Location products (the Necropolis of Anubis and the Athar Citadel) are far less appealing, and PWYW doesn’t make anyone more inclined to buy them, I suppose (even when they’re potentially free!).
This comports with the insight that compilations have value – there’s a lot of value for DM’s Guild customers in convenience, and their time is generally more valuable than their pocket change to them.
The products that did the best in terms of both sales and profitability were all fixed-cost products, which indicates to me that the people who are picking up PWYW products just because they’re free is minimal.
In terms of profitability, my PWYW products all did below average on a profit-per-page basis. In the case of my Astral Classes, it’s in the bottom 3 for profitability per page, and the only two things below are…two other PWYW products.
My verdict? I won’t be using PWYW very much in 2017. The awareness gain is slight if it exists at all, and the profitability loss is significant. Significantly more people aren’t downloading a product of mine just because it’s PWYW vs. $1 or somesuch.
DMs vs. Players
My content this year was mostly (81%) focused on player options, with only one non-PWYW DM product, The Untamed Wilds Bestiary. That product is not one of my better-selling (though it’s profitability-per-unit is pretty high, it’s profitability-per-page is pretty underwhelming, leading me to believe I may have under-priced it at $5!). That counters the popular idea that bestiaries always sell like hotcakes. I think I’ll need more data on the DM’s side to see if the trend of DM options selling less than Player options holds out. One thing I have zero data on at the moment is adventures, which I’m hoping to rectify in 2017.
My best-selling and most-profitable products were all Ravenloft products, indicating to me that a lot of people are coming to DM’s Guild to help support their Official WotC Adventures. That’s probably to be expected, and it’s something that’s definitely able to be leveraged, but it does mean keeping up-to-date with the most recent WotC releases to have the best chance of selling the most products. Fortunately, the pace is slow enough that this shouldn’t be a major challenge. Especially notable among those products is the breakout star of my Ravenloft Backgrounds series, the Monster Hunter. The Knight of Shadows also did pretty well there.
- Whatever WotC’s next storyline is, I’m going to dive into it and provide some character options, possibly in one place that grows alongside individual, short releases.
- I want to write some adventures
- Not use much Pay What You Want pricing.