This is a topic I wanted to touch upon a couple of days ago but I decided to let it 'sit' a bit to try and gain a better perspective on the situation. Recently, I have read various disparaging remarks concerning pre-order situations -- some of which may be leveled at Brave Halfling Publishing but could apply to many other Publishers in the hobby. This saddens be a bit to be honest.
On the one hand, I completely get it from a consumer standpoint. I have (and do continue) to pre-order a variety of things. These are the occasional book, RPG item, or even video games. The most I have ever paid for a pre-order would be the Classic Monsters kickstart effort which works out to $100. Great value there but, judging by original timeframe, I should have had the PDF version of it for a couple of weeks now (it's supposedly at the printer right now). That said, it's TLG and, well, I'm kind of accustomed to waiting a while with them. All one needs to recall is the saga and many revisions of the Castle Keepers Guide. ;)
However, there have been some pre-orders which went from days to weeks, and then months. But this isn't exactly new either. There is a thread that talks about the very problem which is at the heart of the issue over on Dragonsfoot from back at the start of 2008, I encourage you to check it out HERE.
Of particular note, Jim (of LotFP) writes about the state of the 'Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill'. Judging by what he wrote, it had been about 15 months since he started taking pre-orders for the thing which puts it back to 2006. In Fall of 2009, it still wasn't released. In between of all that? Real life issues which included a divorce.
Given that I have also had my share of Real Life issues in the past, I can completely relate to this sort of unfortunate turn of events. Sometime the unexpected will take you for a loop but what gets me is how quickly some people out there quickly forgets that most of these are one-man operations to begin with.
James Mishler has great aspirations for his line of C&C Wilderlands material. He was going to put out the Adventure Games Journal and the first issue, though delayed by a few months, was fantastic. All in all, the model and publishing schedule he had set up never materialized and a few years later, AGP disappeared. During the course of the many challenges James Mishler has had to contend with, he tried to change the model of AGP a couple of times. While most of the subscribers were supportive and understanding, other questions such as why he was developing all this other material instead of focusing on the principal responsibility of putting out the journal for which he collected subscriptions for. As a subscriber myself, I was supportive but also wished some of his efforts were more concentrated on the journal. Personally, I didn't care if the format changed in the journal since ALL of his material was excellent. Bottom line though, is we can't always control what happens but when you are a one-man operation, the impact is compounded many times over.
John from BHP has also had his share of challenges in the past couple of years like many others. Delays with some of his projects such as Delving Deeper has given him pause and he is restructuring how future projects are going to be handled going forward. On the one hand, he does have some people handle different projects in order for him to better concentrate on other ones. My partnership with John is an example of this. Brave Halfling Publishing doesn't work directly on material for C&C -- Arcana Creations does.
Despite some of our difficulties, we tend to do it for the love of the hobby and not the money. If any of us stumbles and 'falls'... hopefully, we'll just be able to pick ourselves up from the ground and keep on going. I know I took a nasty fall and one of my biggest regrets is not being able to bring about the vision I had for 'Victorious'. Consequently, 2011 was not a good year at all for me. I'm working hard to change that for this year with the 'Ballista Companion Rulebook' as well as a few, longstanding C&C titles I've got on the back burner.
Of course, I never did any pre-orders for Victorious or other projects I didn't deliver on either. That alone differentiates my situation somewhat with how others were affected. I can say that we did consider it at some point but only upon reaching one of the final stages in development. This would have funded the initial print run. Other small publishers may do pre-orders to pay for other aspects such as art or even supplemental writing for a particular project. I think this approach is problematic at best.
My advice? Accept pre-orders from small, hobby publishers for what they are: An order for something that is still in development. Consider who you are dealing with. Have they released other material in the past or is this a first time thing? Consider the possibility that you may not get the finished product in your hands for several months. If you can't handle any of those terms, don't pre-order but please show us your support and encouragement at various cons, blogs, forums, and the like.