This thread gives some interesting insight into the workings of publishing a line of books. It’s a summary, from Paizo’s Eric Mona, of the status of that company’s Planet Stories line. Planet Stories mostly consists of books by classic SF and fantasy writers such as Leigh Brackett and Michael Moorcock. I think the line is going for classic as in fun more than classic as in Great Books of the Western World.
Of particular interest to me:
I would breathe a lot easier if we had about twice the number of subscribers than we have at the moment (though there have been a lot of new additions in the last three weeks–thanks!). Right now we have fewer than 300 subscribers. With double that, the future of the line would be assured forever, because we would be more than halfway to profitability on each book before it even left the warehouse. This is the paradigm under which we operate for a lot (most) of our gaming lines, so the fact that Planet Stories lags behind its gaming cousins is something of a cause for concern.
Ultimately a book looks like it will do better if Barnes & Noble orders it, and we tend to frown a lot when they don’t, because it means the long journey to profitability will take longer. On the other hand, with distribution to B&N comes MUCH higher returns than to other channels, so sometimes a book that posts impressive preorders will turn out to not do so hot a year or so down the road, when a lot of those copies have come back.
It’s definitely worth checking out this thread if you have an interest in publishing.