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UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

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BeyondCloister
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Joined: 12/31/1969

Hello,

This is my first posting to this site so I apologise in advance if I break any local rules or get the terminology wrong.

I've got a board game design that I've got to the prototype stage and have done some play test sessions. Feedback so far is positive so now it is time to take it to the next level.

Here are my questions. (I'm based in the UK so I would like any information to be UK related if at all possible.)

Do I have to get the game copyrighted and / or patented before showing it to the public?

I have access to some local retail channels. Is there anything I need to do before selling it through them myself?

If I publish it myself will this affect any chances of dealing with a publisher later on for the game?

Should I self publish it or just try to find a publisher first?

s2alexan
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Joined: 10/25/2008
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

The answers to these questions could fill a book...

Actually, they do :)

It's called the Game Inventor's Guidebook - a very handy book that specifically answers all of your questions. The advice there is very good, and mirrors what you'll find online. There's a lot more in there too - check it out here:

http://www.bgdf.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=68

Anonymous
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Anything which you have originated is protected by copyright in all the countries which are signatories of the Berne Convention. It's automatic. However, you have to prove it. As such filing for a registered copyright is not a difficult thing and gives you more proof over what you have created. The cost for a solicitor to do it is about $1000 but you can do it yourself for a few hundred and a few hours study.

Many games are patented but not all. There are several reasons. Most often it is the cost and secondly it may not be novel enough to qualify. In the first part the cost is easily over $10000 for patent in one country. If there is prior art and you can not circumvent it, then your out the cash and no patent.

The reason to go for patent is because other game designers can see your idea, like it, and modify it with some of their own ideas and market it as their own. Patents prevent that but only to a point. There has to be a significant amount of new matter for your claims to be valid enough to be granted patent. Even then, when you narrow your claims to circumvent the prior art you end up with little protection.

One of the down sides of patenting is the cost of enforcing your rights. It is possible to buy infringement insurance but it is costly. If someone decides to copy your work and you do nothing about it, after a short time you loose your rights of enforcement. So you have to be very certain you have something of value before you start investing into it.

With copyright you can show your design to anyone at anytime but with patent you have one year from the date you first made it public to apply for patent in the USA. After that time you can not be granted a patent.

If you want to show your completed design to a potential licensee, then you should get a nondisclosure agreement signed or a noncompetition agreement. Some licensees won't sign them but a few will.

If you publish yourself, and sell copies for cash, then you will need to pay taxes and as such you will need to register yourself as a business. It's not very difficult to set up a sole proprietorship but it costs a few hundred dollars and all your costs can then be tax deducted from your other earnings.

Sometimes offering for license first can be advantageous where the quality of the game is speculative. If you market it wrong then the game has a history of failing in the marketplace and you will have to explain why if you try to interest a publisher.

Marketing the game yourself can be profitable if you know how. I've seen people walk away from hundreds of thousands of up front cash dollars to produce their game themselves and end up washing dishing and wondering why. There is a good profit margin as many board games are priced between 10 and 50 dollars. However, the cost of producing a marketable quality game, will cost you $10000 just to get a few hundred copies. You can reduce these costs by doing most of the work yourself but publicizing is the key to success and it costs money.

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

BeyondCloister wrote:

This is my first posting to this site so I apologise in advance if I break any local rules or get the terminology wrong.

Welcome!

Quote:

I've got a board game design that I've got to the prototype stage and have done some play test sessions. Feedback so far is positive so now it is time to take it to the next level.

Why is it time to take it to the next level?

Note that I'm not trying to pick on you personally. Rather, I'm trying to open up a discussion about this specific point of psychology. Why, when we invent a game, and a couple friends like it, do we so reflexively think "well, now I've gotta sell this!"? Why can't we just be satisfied with having created something that we and our friends enjoy? What's up with us?

Anyway, so as not to completely steal your post, I'll answer one of your questions:

Quote:

Should I self publish it or just try to find a publisher first?

My unprofessional advice: try to find a publisher. If they all say "no" you're no worse off, and if they say yes, you don't incur the costs of publishing your game (lots of time, lots of money), which are substantial. Sure, you'll "make a lower percentage", but (a) if you're doing this for the money, stop right now and do something else, and (b) the chances of a self-published game selling well are probably lower than a game published by a reputable company, so you may actually do better with a publisher pushing your game, and you incur no risk.

Just my thoughts.

And, to one of the follow-ups:

PREnterprises wrote:

Marketing the game yourself can be profitable if you know how. I've seen people walk away from hundreds of thousands of up front cash dollars to produce their game themselves and end up washing dishing and wondering why.

I am very skeptical of the veracity of this claim. Are these board games you're talking about? Could you provide more specifics to back up the story? I would be absolutely shocked if there is such a thing as a board game deal where multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars up front were on the table.

-Jeff

BeyondCloister
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

jwarrend wrote:
Why is it time to take it to the next level?

A valid question that deserves an answer.

The game itself is based on a computer game that I wrote and have been successfully selling as a shareware title for about the last three years. This track record is proof enough to me that concept has potential.

I'm not setting out to make the kind of money that lets me buy that tropical island but I would like to make something from it.

Anonymous
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Hi Beyond Cloister,

Congratulations on your game. To summarise a few answers: copyright on games is tenuous as the mechanics themselves aren't covered, only images or words.

Self-publishing shouldn't damage your chances of getting a publisher at all. The game would still be 'new' to a majority of the publisher's market.

If you decide to go that route, have a look at http://www.fragorgames.com/. The Lamont Brothers just self-published their first game, Leapfrog, and are also based in Scotland.

Best wishes,

Richard.

BeyondCloister
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Joined: 12/31/1969
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Hi Richard,

Thanks for pointing out the The Lamont Brothers to me. They seem to be just the very people I need to speak to at this stage.

Anonymous
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Hello and welcome! Congratulations on your game, I hope it does well for you, whatever route you take. There have been numberous threads regarding the pros and cons of self-publishing. There's a handy search feature that you can use to find them or check out the forums page.

First things first, how many times have you had your game blind playtested? It's great to try your game out on family and friends, but you really aren't ready to take the next step until you have had groups of people pick up the rules and figure out for themselves how to play your game. This is the stage where you will see and can correct many potential problems. The world is filled with potentially great games that just weren't blind playtested enough.

Of course, that's assuming that you haven't yet. Another great way to get some very helpful feedback on your game is to sign up for a slot in the Game Design Workshop here at BGDF. Spend some time looking over others' games and make a few comments, then when you submit your game, we'll do the same for you. It's a give and take system wherby you can look at other designers' games and have them look at and comment on yours. It's a great way to get some idea of how your game is doing in terms of design.

I'm finishing up this week in the GDW with the first board game I designed (not including all the znay ones I made up as a kid). I was in the exact same position as you are now. Family and friends had all playtested it, loved it and wanted to know when they could buy copies (though, mind you, I didnt have a successful computer game behind me). I started looking into the many options of getting my game to the market (just as you are) and found my way here (just as you did). As a result of the great feedback I got, my game has improved beyond anything I every imagined.

Also, getting feedback and either accepting that your game needs changes or justifying why it is the way it is and why it should remain as is will help prepare you for dealing with game publishers. They have people that will look your game over and pick it apart to make sure that it it solid.

Again, welcome and best of luck with your game!

Anonymous
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Quote:
Anything which you have originated is protected by copyright in all the countries which are signatories of the Berne Convention. It's automatic. However, you have to prove it

In the wild world of writing books, you can cover yourself by sending your manuscript to yourself by certified mail. This requires you to sign for it when it arrives. The postal stamp provides you a verifiable date. You will also get the "certified delivery" card that you sign upon manuscript arrival sent back through the mail system back to you. Yet more date proof. Then, you stick it in a draw and never open it unless you need to do so with a lawyer in an infringement lawsuit.

I don't see any reason why this same method would not work for a game. Just package the prototype up and send it certified mail to yourself. Then, never open it unless you have to.

This isn't as good as a registered copyright, but it does offer some proof of your idea with a certified agency (post office) giving you the date of your idea AND it does it at a much cheaper price. Of course, I am not an attorney adn laws may vary from country to country so you may want to check your national laws to ensure this will work (I am in the USA).

Hamumu
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Joined: 12/31/1969
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

As far as I know, even when certified, mailing it to yourself is completely an urban legend. After all, you can mail an empty, unsealed envelope, right?

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Quote:
If you want to show your completed design to a potential licensee, then you should get a nondisclosure agreement signed or a noncompetition agreement. Some licensees won't sign them but a few will.

also you will be hard pressed to find a company willing to do this. Your idea might be great but it's not worth stealing.

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Hamumu wrote:
As far as I know, even when certified, mailing it to yourself is completely an urban legend. After all, you can mail an empty, unsealed envelope, right?

Well this is somewhat of an urban legend...The thinking is that if you seal your idea and mail it to yourself, then it will be postmarked when you sent it, thereby proving that you created it first. Which you will be able to do when you open it in front of representatives of the court. I don't know if it has ever been done successfully, but I don't think it will leverage you that much legal ground. Is this day and age, there should be plenty of other paper trails that will prove when you came up with a idea.

-Darke

Anonymous
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Darkehorse wrote:
...there should be plenty of other paper trails that will prove when you came up with a idea.

Someone here in the forum mentioned that the Games Design Workshop is another "paper trail" proving (in a very public way) that you worked on a specific game at a specific time. It will also give you a good basis for revision history should one be necessary (someday you may have to prove that you created the game and arrived at the version in question through a series of quantifiable revisions, and not through the copying of someone else's work).

Another method for protecting would be to have a Notary Public officer notarize your rules providing you with a legally recognized date stamp. Most large companies have their own Notaries on staff that will notarize just about anything for a small fee.

Of course, if you're paying a fee, why not just fill out the form and send it in for full copyright registration?

Z-Man
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Joined: 01/01/2009
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Darkehorse wrote:
Hamumu wrote:
As far as I know, even when certified, mailing it to yourself is completely an urban legend. After all, you can mail an empty, unsealed envelope, right?

Well this is somewhat of an urban legend...The thinking is that if you seal your idea and mail it to yourself, then it will be postmarked when you sent it, thereby proving that you created it first. Which you will be able to do when you open it in front of representatives of the court. I don't know if it has ever been done successfully, but I don't think it will leverage you that much legal ground. Is this day and age, there should be plenty of other paper trails that will prove when you came up with a idea.

-Darke

********The writer's guild used to suggest the viability of sending a package to yourself to prove when you finished a screenplay. However you were to send it registered mail, not certified. They would stamp the flap of the envelope to stop anyone from breaking the seal and changing the contents.

I believe it is still a valid method of protecting yourself to a point and way back when I believe I do recall someone used it in court as proof.

I would not rely on just that method of protection. However someone asked about using a notary then suggesting if you're spending them oney have it copyrighted. Well, mostnotaries I've used charge anywhere from zero dollars to $2. Copyrighting would be significantly more. There is a special entertianmnet copyrigth form that applies to scripts, plays, etc, but you'd have to check to see if it applied to game rules.

Finally, I don't know if you copyright a ruleset: you might have to copyright a complete game.

Anonymous
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Z-Man,
Yes, I meant registered mail not certified. Its been a while since I looked at it. Thanks.

Anyway, I went over to the USPS site and it says that registered mail must be presented to a retail employee at a post office. I doubt that they would allow you to send a registered package that was not sealed; that would defeat the purpose of registered mail. Of course, this is the US; however, i would suspect that other countries postal systems have some similar services.

I would also think that some of the private carriers (e.g,. UPS, FedEx, etc) would have secured package handling.

As I said in my original note, I am not an attorney and you would have to check local laws on the viability of this standing up in court.

Anonymous
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Z-Man wrote:
The writer's guild used to suggest the viability of sending a package to yourself to prove when you finished a screenplay.

I heard the same thing and in fact the WGA offers a service where they will store a writer's script for up to 10 years to prove it's date of authorship. If you see a script that says "WGA REGISTERED #...", that's what it means. I guess it's taboo to submit screenplays with a copyright notice on it (studio execs think you don't trust them or something goofy).

Luckily game publishers aren't as leery of copyright protection (I hope!) so long as the submitter has the legal right to sign away the copyrights to the intellectual property.

For what it's worth, the screenplay that I wrote in high-school and registered with the WGA expired about 9 years ago.

boardgamegeezer
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Joined: 12/31/1969
UK Publishing / Self Publishing Query

Difficult very difficult.
Usually games are shown at the yearly toy fair in Earls court London to the big boys.
IF they pick your game up and publish you can rub your hands together with the royalties.
I have had two games done and paid a professional games design company to do everything to get to prototype stage. They then show them at the toy fair.
Unfortunately noone has picked up the games -yet.
THe big toy companies only see these professional designers usually to see what they have.
Very hard indeed for a single person to get a game picked up by say Hasbro.
Trivial Pursuit people were so lucky.
I am actually thinking of self publishing as I have a few ideas and I think it is a different situation now from ten years ago. Computer art packages Ebay graphic designers etc. Also if you can show the big boys your game actually sells pretty good you might get lucky and have them take it up.

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