Price Increases and 2 Month Financial Review

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

Greetings Romanceketeers! (and anyone else interested in the finances of indie RPG facilitation)

It has been over two full months of running Romancing Jan now which gives us the ability to finally test our hypothesis of costs vs actual costs. One of our core values is transparency with our player-base, and so we are presenting our findings and results to everyone.


6/02/2021 UPDATED FAQs below


Short and Sour Version:

  • Actual costs are much higher than anticipated, as a result we will need to raise rates and cap letter send per player each month to keep going. Please know we do not want to curtail anyone’s enthusiasm for writing, this was a difficult decision to come to but is based on labor as well as ability to keep up with the content created which both cost time and money.

  • You will see those new rates on our Pricing Plan Page.

  • Players are free to voluntarily switch to the higher rate now. Simply cancel your current plan and sign up for the new one.

  • As of July 15th, 2021 all the old monthly subscriptions will be canceled and you will need to add on one of the new ones to continue playing.

  • We will need to go back down to one Periodical for now, until we reach past 200 total (Reader and Player) subscriptions and can then re-evaluate. We intend to add pages to the periodical to fit content as needed without raising rates, but will need to analyze the feasibility.

New rates:

  • Digital Reader: $5/ month receive the digital version of the Periodical once per month

  • Paper Reader Membership: $10/ month one periodical delivered physically and digitally

  • Player (No NPC) Membership: $25/ month receive digital and physical periodical, Send up to 10 letters per month to other players

  • Player Membership: $35/ month receive digital and physical periodical, receive 1 letter from a non-player character per month, Send up to 10 letters per month to other players

  • Player Gold Membership: $50/ month All of the Base member benefits, send up to 20 letters per month, be listed as a Game Sponsor on the website if you wish.

One off additions:

  • Bonus 10 letters to be used as over flow for your monthly allotment as needed, $15/ 10 pack. These roll over until they are used and are only used when you have reached your subscription allotment for the month $15

  • Upgrade each packet delivery from RJ HQ to you to include tracking $8/per packet

  • Extra NPC Letters $20/ each. Can't get enough of our NPC's? Have another letter written to your character by one of our professional writer staff.

Detailed Analysis


The Hypothesis:

Our original costs were based off of the estimations that Players would cost: $20/ letter and $5 per periodical, additional postage and management. Readers were expected to cost only $1.50 per print of the paper with the rest going to the labor of the writing of the periodical.


In reality the costs break down as such:





As you can see, the only thing our hypothesis got right was the cost of NPC letters. We pay our NPC letter writers $20 per hour and they tend to write 1.25 letters in that time, making up for the costs in printing, stationary and wax seals.


What We Got Wrong


Printing (actual costs $4.25 per periodical):

The assumption on the cost of printing the periodicals was based on some internet research on printing costs. Unfortunately, those estimates were based on bulk numbers which I thought we could reach at 100 copies, but turns out we need to be at 200 copies per periodical to reach. This requires us to reduce down to a single periodical and increase the pages per periodical so that we can hit bulk rates for both the printing and mailing processes. At 200 copies, our printer can automate the postage using a machine, vs the current hand labeling and stamping of each individual copy, which will bring our costs down by an estimated 50%.


Postage:

I was under the impression that Stamps.com provided an actual discount for companies on standard USPS mail rates. We discovered after purchasing their stamp sheets and labels that there is no cost savings at all versus purchasing stamps normally. As a result, we have not been receiving commercial postage discounts. I am working on getting official status with the USPS as a bulk media mailer so that we can get discounted postage, but for now we are still mailing at the standard rates. In just April we spent $385 on stamps alone, not envelopes or anything else. Just postage.


THE Big One: LABOR!

I knew going in this project would keep me busy, but my labor cost estimates were based that on thinking people would send maybe a couple letters per week? LOL…boy did I underestimate how much y’all love to write (Which is not a bad thing at all)! I have been absolutely delighted both with how many of you wanted to play this game with us as well as how enthusiastic you are about writing letters. Several letters every day for some of you. But with that prolific letter writing comes with a lot of work on the HQ side receiving, scanning, and repackaging that mail to get it back out to all of you.

We also have the Periodical which needs to be written, laid out, and edited every month.


At first I hid those costs by just doing the work myself, and continue to do so for the tasks I perform, but it did become more hours than I was capable of doing while also handling home life and 2 paying jobs 😊. So I started hiring assistants to help. We have one intern who is helping to streamline our database systems, make the website more readable and functional, and a mail sorter who comes over 3 days a week to process the mail and re-package it to go out. Both of them are paid $15/ hour, what we at Incantrix Productions consider the very base of a living wage. In the month of April combined they worked an average of 23 hours per week. 18 of those hours per week are just the Mail Room! In calculating the costs of mail that have come through our doors we found that letters sent to us cost about $1.13 per letter in supplies and labor to process.


We pay our Editor the same rate as we pay our writers $20/hr (a significant discount on the going rate for professional editors). In April they totaled 8 hours to edit both Periodicals.


We also pay a Social Media Manager $20/ hour to make sure our media accounts stay active, but this is really only an hour or two per week.


And last (but, I am told, not least) there is me. I am doing the Customer Support, Account Management, Writing, layout and design of the Periodicals, several NPC letters, printing and sealing NPC letters, marketing, plot design, team management, store management, and continuous business development and planning. If I paid myself, I would pay myself $20/ hour for this game which is what I pay my other writing staff. I have not yet taken a check for my own labor. It is a very hard thing to do because while I do want this game to be a commercial product, it is also an art project and a labor of love for me. It has served as therapy and a much-needed outlet and connection point in a trying time. Clocking my hours on this would feel like clocking my hours as a parent.


However, the work needs to be done, and I do need to support my family, so I am passing off what I can of that labor to other people so that I can maintain my other jobs.


The first big handoff is the writing and design of the Periodical. We have just hired someone for this role and I am very excited to work with her. Like my writers and editor she will be paid $20/ hour. We are estimating that work to be ~10 hours per month.


Additionally, if this game is to be sustainable, I will need to hire others to take on the work I have been doing or start paying me to do it. This means that we have to estimate that work, which we have in the following estimates of Labor cost for the month of April.

Mail Handling: $1,170.00

NPC Letter and World Writing: $2100

Periodical creation: $1565


We know the question will come up so we will address it here. Why not let volunteers do the work or pay less?


At Incantrix Productions we feel very strongly that creators and artists deserve to be paid fairly for their work, just as in any other profession. There is already too much of an expectation in our culture that independent artists give away their labor for free or “exposure” while corporate artists that create movies, Broadway shows, advertisements, video games, etc. are allowed to make living wages (some FAR beyond) and the corporations employing them are also not criticized for charging appropriate costs to pay for such. We cannot change this broken system if we do not stand our ground and insist that work on our projects be paid work. As believers in living wages, we start from a $15/hr minimum and go up. Romancing Jan in particular is founded by, created by, and employs marginalized folks who already are at risk of being underpaid for their labor. We would be failing to uphold our beliefs and message of equality by not also paying equally and fairly. So please if I have turned down your offer of volunteering to help reduce our costs, it is not that I don’t appreciate the offer, but it is because your work has value and I do not wish to diminish that. At the end of the day this is a business and Romancing Jan is an IP that has value to the company. We do not want to use people unfairly to add value to that IP that we might be able to use later as a business that volunteers would not have a share in.


The Plan


What do we do to fix this cost discrepancy? Well first we start with right sizing the subscriptions.


New rates:

  • Digital Reader: $5/ month receive the digital version of the Periodical once per month

  • Paper Reader Membership: $10/ month one periodical delivered physically and digitally

  • Player (No NPC) Membership: $25/ month receive digital and physical periodical, Send up to 10 letters per month to other players

  • Player Membership: $35/ month receive digital and physical periodical, receive 1 letter from a non-player character per month, Send up to 10 letters per month to other players

  • Player Gold Membership: $50/ month All of the Base member benefits, send up to 20 letters per month, be listed as a Game Sponsor on the website if you wish.

One off additions:

  • Bonus 10 letters to be used as over flow for your monthly allotment as needed, $15/ 10 pack. These roll over until they are used and are only used when you have reached your subscription allotment for the month $15

  • Upgrade each packet delivery from RJ HQ to you to include tracking $8/per packet

  • Extra NPC Letters $20/ each. Can't get enough of our NPC's? Have another letter written to your character by one of our professional writer staff.


But Athena, those rates are not as high as the rates in the pie charts!

Correct, these rates still don’t patch the pie chart costs, but there are a couple of factors there.


1) Periodical cost is a fixed cost. That cost does not increase per subscriber, so if we increase our Readership numbers, the cost per reader AND per player actually goes down. Additionally our costs decrease significantly once we hit 200 periodicals printed per month. Help us get some readers in and bring down the costs!


2) We are still working on costs savings with the USPS and increasing efficiencies with our mail process.


3) We are still trying to strike a balance of the right cost to pay for the labor of this unique custom experience, but also keeping it accessible. Thus the two tiers. If your budget is tight, pay the Standard Player Membership, but if you want to pay the true cost of the game that will help us to grow it, upgrade to Gold!


4) Letter caps. About 72% of our players send us 10 or less letters per month. But the other 18% send a LOT more. Our two most prolific writers are averaging 30 letters per month. By putting a cap on the number of sent letters we hope that will prevent us from overcharging people who are not sending a lot of mail for the labor that goes into maintaining the prolific writers. This also will help the prolific writers make a decision to help us cover the costs or be a little more selective in their output.


5) One off Add-ons: To cover the prolific writing or to get mail faster, we are offering the one-time purchases of extra letters and upgraded mail processing to help offset the costs of mailing. We also have been getting more player created content for the papers, and other donations of supplies that help offset costs and we hope those things continue to help us reduce overhead.


In Conclusion


I want to thank all of you for joining us in this grand project! This was not a game that would be easy to test the concept of without just doing it. I have been so pleased with the result. Even if these changes might reduce our player base, I do hope that we can continue to run it for those of you that have been contributing in so many ways. We really do love running this game, so much so that we are working on further expansion ideas for the IP that would allow us to afford to expand the development of the world while also allowing folks to experience it in a media that might be more affordable or more to their style of gameplay. Every one of our readers and players adds to our ability to look to that future when more folks can enjoy this Romantic Escapism with us!


With an abundance of gratitude,

Athena Z Peters

Lead Designer


FAQs/ Clarifications (Updated 6/02/2021)


When does the Letter Cap for subscriptions begin?

The cap on letters sent based on subscription chosen starts 6/1/21 as in any letters that arrived in our mailbox as of 6/1/21 are being counted for the June cap. Counts will reset on the 1st of each month. We apologize that this was not made clear before and was confused with the July 15th date. The July date is when everyone will need to be on a new plan (exception for Yearly and 6 month subs) or removed from the game.


Can we help by sending you pre-scanned letters to reduce labor in the mail room? (Updated Detail 5/19/2021)

You can! We talked it over and created this FORM ! It is even usable on mobile so you can upload pictures of your letters via phone or scanner before you drop them in the mail to us. When the actual letter arrives we will check the sender/ receiver against our records and then send it along without a scan. Please note this means we are extending more trust that you are upholding our Code of Conduct and not sneaking in anything you shouldn't be. It also means that if you send us scans ahead of time you can fully seal your letters before sending them to us. If we find you are, you will be banned. We will not know if this reduces our labor costs and allows us to drop the letter cap, but we will report back in a month and let you know!