In my last post I showed you just how scary the figures could be for trying to make games for a living. They weren't actual figures for one of my games, but they were indicative. In the comments Daniel asked what about hobby publishing - how does that compare (I paraphrase!). So here's the answer.
Just over three years ago I decided to make and sell some copies of Border Reivers, a board game I had designed over the preceding five years. With little money to throw at the effort and little faith in my ability to sell a lot of copies I chose to go down the hobby publishing route: I would make a small number of copies, largely by hand to keep costs down.
I worked out that I could make 100 copies for £1,255 plus £376 on overheads (I wasn't paying warehousing costs, or myself any salary, but there were a bunch of tools I needed to make the games. To keep costs down I ordered the wooden and plastic pieces all at once (the more you get the cheaper they are), and did the same with the printing. I got a digital printer to do all the printing for me, just onto SRA3 sheets of paper and thin card. I got them to laminate it all to to make it more durable, but I was going to do all the assembly myself. The total price was £1,631 or £16.31 per copy. To cover my costs (plus the cost of attending various conventions and setting up a website I chose to price the game at £30, less than twice the manufacturing cost. I doubted very much whether anyone would pay more than that for it, especially as the cost of shipping would be on top of that. Obviously I couldn't afford to sell to distributors or shops, so I had to hope that I could win enough people over at conventions and via the internet to cover my costs.
With no fixed overheads (no warehousing, no salary) the time it took me to sell the copies didn't really matter - it just came down to whether or not I could. I needed to sell 55 copies to break even, which considering I had no market presence and no reputation seemed like a lot. If I did sell all 100 copies I would stand to make £3,000, or a £1,369 profit.
In the end I damaged some pieces so I only ended up making 96 out of the 100, and some of those I gave away (or kept), I made £2,600, so just under £1,000 profit. Since all those sales were within the first year I gained 60% on top of my original investment, a far better rate of interest than any other savings investment would have offered!