I've been reading a few marketing books on my time off (do I know how to have a good time or what) and came upon the controversial subject on pricing PDFs. I know as a fiction writer the rates for writing are pretty much as they were in the late 60s, early 70s with a lot less avenues of opportunity. These days with electronic self-publishing though writers can make a decent income without the need of a magazine or publishing house. With POD we have a more control of our writing, presentation and pricing.
Knowledge Illuminates at this time has netted me $193.05. After you take out the OGL and stat blocks it is a 5400 word manuscript. That works out at .035 cents word with the ability to increase. This is about what I would make if I wrote for an RPG company and less if I were selling a short story. All of them have different rates, but the few I have seen, none go over 3 cents. Once an editor/owner/whatever the title is that controls the purse strings likes your work and you become more reliable, he will pay more. But many gaming companies are not accepting submission.
So after all the above veering off the path I want to swing this blog back to its original intent, the pricing of PDFs. Your PDFs. And back to the book I was reading. Here are the guidelines I saw for short PDFs (this was written in 2005). These numbers are coming from ePublishing 101.
Pages Base Cost
Appropriate Artwork +$1
Established, Respected Publisher/Writer +$1
The one thing I see now on RPGNow is there is no standard. You will see a 100 page product priced at $1 and a 32 page product sitting at $32. I know when Troll Lord Games released their Castle Keepers Guide on PDF for over $30 I was thinking it would never sell. It's a silver seller. I am Mongoose, and so can you! at $23.96 is a copper seller even though it is only 37 pages. But these guys are well established and well liked.
For me, I try to figure out how much I would like to make with each sale. With Knowledge Illuminates I wanted to make $2 after RPGNow took their cut and costs were factored in. With my upcoming Starter Adventures I would like to make $3 PDF. PDF pricing for me is much easier because all I need to do is subtract what the seller percentage which is set. No matter how big or small, cheap or expensive, RPGNow takes35% for non-exclusive sales. So I make 65 cents per dollar. To make $3 I need to sell my PDF for $5. Will that be too much? Sales will dictate if I was wrong. It will all come down to if people believe they got value for their money. And that does not mean bloat the manuscript with additional material, but to streamline and make the material as assessable to the reader as possible.
EDIT: Forgot to add my last paragraph. With production values increasing so have the prices. With LOFP recent releases and the recent release of Weird Tales the OSR is becoming more professional and proficient at producing products. And of course with that the PDFs have increased. To me you have to ask yourself three questions: How good is your product? How many you would like to sell? And is it a product that people want?
I'm done. Now go outside and play.