So what was that question all about?
It was about this...
Everybody who has vague dreams of making an RPG thing: it is time to publish your book.
No, not because it's National Game Design Month. (Though it is.)
Because I heard from the people you saw in the comments from yesterday and I heard, via email from a few more RPG professionals (including a couple heavies) and they all gave me basically the same numbers.
And here's the bottom line on those numbers...
Let's say, just hypothetically, my publisher--James Edward Raggi--decided to take all the money he still owes me plus all the projected future profits from the rest of the print run from my book, Vornheim, and go off to Tahiti to sit on the beach and spend his ill-gotten loot sipping mudslides and forcing homeless dwarfs to dance to Formulas Fatal To The Flesh for pennies and none of us ever heard from him again.
Even if he did that and I had only the money I already got for Vornheim, I would still have made more off of it than had I written a thing of equal length for any big publisher you care to mention. When the first printing sells out, Vornheim will have made as much money for me as a top-tier freelancer would've gotten for a gangbusters-selling book of equal length from WOTC or the Wolf at its height--and that's after splitting it with James.
You know how many copies Vornheim sold--in the scheme of things, compared to the regular not-RPG books I've been involved in? Compared to how WOTC books sell? Fuck all is how many. You know how many copies Geoffrey McKinney sold of the original--pictureless--Carcosa? Even less than fuck all. And he still is doing wayyyy better than if he'd freelanced on a wildly popular splatbook.
So the moral of the story is: find a little game company willing to split the profits with you--or just self-publish. Make some insane crayoned-together folk-art niche product that only a handful of people could possibly want--but do it your way and do it without editors and make something totally fucked up.
As of late November 2011 this community will, apparently, support you in your desire to make any dumb thing, so long as it is weird enough.
So let the squareglasses sit around and worry about growing the hobby and meeting the market halfway and having sex with their own grandmothers--you can do better for us and for you by making something really different that won't get made without your own special little snowflake brain than you can helping the machine pump out one more generation of hobbits.
In the long run, are "nobody-bought-one-but-everybody-who-did-started-a-band" albums better for the health of the overall business than spending hours filing rough edges off your thing so it can achieve Crossover Profitability at or equal to the calculated Gaga Maximum? No idea. But I know which one is more fun.
And if you do have dreams of one day working on something big for Games Workshop or the 'Bro: "did this, which is awesome" on your resume is at least as good as "one of the 900 people involved in that".
So, please: you can do whatever else it is you do for eleven other months out of the year, but take one (not necessarily continuous) month's worth off work you would've put into a freelance gig and write your nutjob project. You've probably done the R&D just running your home campaign. It will be more worth it than working for the bigs. The price of publishing is cheap enough, PDFs are popular enough, the audience is still spending money and--at least right now--you have our attention.
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