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The Road to Becoming a Publisher

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Anonymous

In response to what Darkehorse said a little earlier which was something like "I don't always want to talk about design, but rather sometimes about getting published or self publishing." I am going to share my experiences so far in trying to become a game publisher.

There are a number of things that you need as a publisher. I will list the four most basic ones right now:

1. Money
2. A Game
3. A Printing Company
4. A Business Plan

now to address each issue seperately.

1. Money - It may seem like you either have it or you don't. If you have it and are willing to risk it then this obstacle may be a smaller one for you. While this may be the biggest obstactle for the most people, or at least seem like it is, this obstacle is also one of the easiest to bypass by just having money. However there are other ways to get money besides out of your own pocket, and most of them are a difficult proposition. Find investors, get a second job to get the money to publish, etc.

2. A Game - This is easily the most or second most important thing you need. How can you start a publishing company if you don't have a game? Make sure that the game is very good, prefferably easy to learn and hard to master. I would also suggest looking for a game that can be sold in the more affordable end of hobby games, like Carcassonne. The fact of the matter is that if your game from a tiny unknown publisher has to compete with a game company like Days of Wonder, I think that you will be able to get nowhere with your game. I have and buy quite a few games every year, I buy/get as gifts maybe 3-7 board games a year which makes me a pretty large consumer of board games. I don't buy games from publishers that I don't know about, I just don't know if the game will be good, whereas I can be certain that an addition like Memoir, Ticket To Ride, Priate's Cove, I will not be comepletely dissapointed with. In addition to this, I don't like spending 40$ on a game. if there is a game that is just as good, and it only costs $20 I am probably about 500% more likely to buy the cheaper game.

Besides needing a good game, and a game that can be produced to enable a retail price of around 20-25 dollars. The game has to look good, it at least needs interesting cover art to get people to even pick up the game from a shelf (and help get distributors/retailers to carry it). To get a high quality cover art, I started at the top. I looked for established CCG and RPG artists that might be able to provide the work. A few problems with getting these people, they are usually busy with other contracts which will be paying more. They do better work, and as a result they want more money and more time to do the work. A way around this is finding a piece that is already comepleted that would work well on your game, and trying to get a contract to allow you to print that. This is good, because it is work the artist has already comepleted, and as a result you know what you will be getting, and will be able to get it for less than if you had to commission a whole new work.

Still about the game, there are characteristics which will make any game better from the consumer standpoint, and better from the pbulishers standpoint. Consumers like more streamlined easy to learn and easy to teach rules. People don't like reading about how to play a game, they like playing the game. As a future Publisher, I like a game that needs as few components as possible to keep printing prices down and allow for a high quality game to be produced. I would never imagine publishing a game like reef encounter as a first item, probably ever, the game has a price tag of about $100. I would just be so sure that I would never be able to sell the game. Another thing consumers like, a game that looks good and adds to the play experience, personally a game like Russian Rails could have the best gameplay ever and I would probably never buy it, just because it looks like crap.

3. A printing company. At first when trying to find a printing company for the game that I am thinking about publishing, I started with the internet. I blanketed a bunch of printing companies asking for quotes. I have gotten one quote back, and it is about 25% higher than I need it to be to go ahead and publish. This is something that I think you just need to keep plugging away at, kind of like finding an artist or graphic designer. Somethings that might be helpful. COntact other publishers, especially the smaller ones where you can talk to the founder and possibly sole employee directly about printing companies, and other pitfalls to avoid. Publishers were once in your shoes, and in most cases they are very nice, and see the success of any game in the industry as helping their sale in the end. Most publishers as a side goal want to see Gaming become a large entertainment industry, expecially in the US. I found a couple of other print companies that I probably would have never found without contacting publishers. You can be more sure of the quality of printing that will be done, and it is likely a recommendation from a puclisher is the result of more research than you have done so far. It is a time and money saver. be Brave, talk to those other publishers, and listen.

4. The other most important item. A Business plan. This includes target retail prices for the game, and why. Pricing will make or break any company. Know the markets you are targetting, and know the big names in those markets and price ranges. In the 20-25 dollar range for board games the following exist Carcassonne, San Juan, Siege Stones, Clans, Modern Art, Mutiny, Jambo, Blue Moon, LOTR expansions and 2 player games, and probably many more. Know your value compared to the other products in your price range, and also know your percieved value. Figure out how you are going to get your game on the shelf (it isn't going to sell unless people can buy it), how are you going to store the games? how much will shipping cost on the games? How much will a lwayer cost to draw up contracts for the designer, artists, and Graphic Designers that you will use. How much time are you willing to invest in the project. How many games will you have to sell to break even? At what point in time would you order another print run? You don't want to have a point in time where people want the game and cannot get it, like is happening with El Grande. That is funds you could be putting into your pocket or towards printing another game. At what point in time will you look into printing another game, expanded product lines will make it easier to get a distributor to buy from you, and will also make for larger profits. What kind of game will you be looking for to be your second product? A business plan and the numbers involved there are the most important thing you will need if you are looking to get investors. How much can you afford to pay in royalties, marketing, up front costs, etc. How much does it cost to go to conventions, get booths, etc.

All in all there is a lot to think about and figure out, and this is before you even think about publishing a game. Or at least before I even think about publishing a game. Basically I need to know that it will do well, and be worth my time/effort. If you can cut the unknown factors of a games sucess down to a couple of factors that you can not directly control I think you are in good shape. I mean Ravensburger, Uberplay, or Days of Wonder could have a similar game being printed as we speak, in which case their game is likely to succede and the game you are thinking of publishing will likely fall flat on its face.

Anonymous
The Road to Becoming a Publisher

oh, and how much will it cost you to get proof-readers for your rules (like I probably need a proofreader for what I just typed up.

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