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Alternative marketing for self publishers

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MarblesTheGame
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I recently contributed to a "Publication" forum post but the thread failed to remain on topic. It would be helpful to take another stab at it from a different perspective.

Let's presume someone (anyone) has a viable game and decides to self publish. The common industry royalty is 5 percent and to negotiate more, the game must have a proven track record in regards to sales. Personally, this is my foremost reason to self publish prior to pursuing a traditional publisher. I also want to avoid a traditional publisher stealing my concept, branding it with a different name and claiming it as their own. The idea of getting it into circulation quickly, even on limited scale, is very appealing to me. There is also the potential of a traditional publisher offering an agreement with the intent to later abandon it. Much expense is devoted to marketing and their goal is to keep public focus on the products in which they anticipate the greatest return with minimal investment. These types of things do occur. As with any business, profit is the bottom line.

How can self publishers effectively compete? Direct sales usually translates to a website, either waiting for prospects (often having no interest) to be directed by search engines or spending considerable money on pay-per-click advertising with no certainty of visitor interest. Marketing must be just as creative (if not more so) as designing the game. Without a traditional publisher, the task of marketing falls on the self publisher. Social media can attract visitors but rarely are they serious prospects. A direct sales website is only one channel that you may have experiences and ideas to contribute. Please also interject about unique forms of alternative marketing, unrelated to a direct sales website.

Independently owned (local non-chain) stores are often receptive to small orders if the product aligns with their other offerings. Gift shops are great when independently owned. Antique malls and consignment stores have potential as well. Figuratively, selling in your own back yard is a good first step. If this is difficult to do face-to-face locally, nationally will also prove to be a severe obstacle. Press releases submitted to newspapers and magazines, especially local ones, often result free editorials. Whether a full article or only a mention, every small effort is helpful. Game reviews are similar but like movie critics, few agree. A negative review is a realistic possibility.

There are many touring conventions that travel from city to city with a emphasis on gift item wholesaling rather than directly game related. This is an opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond as well as to meet many professional distributors. Their goal is to sell to business owners. Turn it around and promote why you should be of interest to them.

An alternative marketing approach that I have been exploring is creating a distribution alliance with other self publishers. All is profoundly formative so far. The combined resources and geographic network of the participants would generate strength in numbers and cover much territory. Doing so would have to be organized well and fair to every member. In summary, a group of self publishers would unite to expand and share wholesale agreements with a multitude of independent distributors. Any thoughts on how best to structure such an alliance? What other marketing alternatives exist?

stratixgame
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This is a great thread!

It sounds like MarblesTheGame has been around and knows his self publishing and marketing. If anyone out there is new to the game, these are all great pointers and a must if you are to succeed in placing any product. I know these all work from years (15+)of experience. If you have a tried and true product, and keep at it this method will see you on your way to success. :)

A++ to you my friend.

MarblesTheGame
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Thank you stratixgame

I don't anticipate many replies on this topic but hoping a few creative ideas will be posted. Of course, not every game designer has a publishing objective. Many hobbyists design as a creative outlet with the ultimate goal being to share their endeavors with friends, family and peers. This is similar to modeling, like building ships in a bottle. Appealing to the masses and making a profit has little bearing. The sense of accomplishment and peer acclaim are the foremost prizes. There are many talented people in this forum. I'm here to learn all that I can from their experiences.

Thank you for following me on Twitter. I read your kickstarter.com project and saw that you plan to create a PC Game version. I'm curious about your marketing plan and decision to publish both a physical and virtual game. I presume that you plan to do so concurrently? Not at all questioning your experience and abilities, my first impression is a dual launch would be a huge undertaking and dilute focus between the two. This would be a huge task for any company, large or small. It tends to be more common for companies to do one and then, spring board (leverage) the second launch after the peak of the first. From a marketing perspective, the benefit is more "hang time" in the public eye. I am very much interested in hearing more about your marketing strategy but also realize that there may be aspects you prefer not to mention in an open forum. Please do share what you feel comfortable disclosing.

To everyone: Are there any alternative marketing techniques or campaigns that you thought were especially clever and/or unique to promote new games?

-- Wayne

edgd00
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Nightstalker Games

I agree 100% percent with your comments. Being an independent game designer, I know firsthand the uphill battle to be not just be competitive in the market but to just get noticed as well. I don't have a decent budget to dump into marketing my games so I've tried to get to know and create a network of game designers/publishers. What I've been doing is using my website to promote not only my own games but the games of other indie designers as well. I list links to other sites and ask others to do likewise. I'll post news and announcements as they are forwarded to me. Sometimes I'll create an actual game page for a game that I especially like/believe in. Recently, I started doing interviews with indie game designers and posting the articles on my site. It is hard getting recognized and I'm doing everything I can think of to help the indie game design community. I also post articles and fictional stories from other writers. If you want to contribute any material to the site, please let me know. email me at nightstalkergames@gmail.com

Eddie Rodriguez
www.nightstalkergames.com

MarblesTheGame
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Alliances

Eddie, I visited your site a few days before your reply and put your link in my marketing plan. "This website brings you high quality games from unknown designers that are obscured in the shadows of large game corporations." is a very powerful statement. You are a source of expertise spanning beyond one game and author. Visitors immediately have ample reason to explore, bookmark and return. Purchase decisions are also strengthened by objectivity. Customers need to feel comfortable that a product satisfies their sensibilities (personal likes and such). You set a tremendous example for us all. I nominate myself president of your fan club. I'll contact you by email soon and will gladly offer to include your links and content on my website.

As I research the common approaches to self publishing, I see many independent game designers flying solo with claims to have the greatest and best game ever invented. Of course, this is generally perceived to be frivolous hype by those who plan to profit. Gamers of all types are smarter than the average bear, capable of distinguishing substantial qualities from fluff. Having a direct sales ("build it and they will come") website isn't a marketing plan, at least not a comprehensive and effective one. It is important to know with whom you compete. To fly solo, everyone (large and small) is a competitor. Isolation defeats credibility and trust. Visitors are prospective buyers only when you can appeal to their sensibilities. If we do not collectively promote independent games as a serious alternative, large game corporations win by default. As self publishers, we can't gain a significant market share by competing with each other and the biggies benefit from our mistakes. Realistically, promoting other independent games lends more credibility to our own in additional to elevating the public perceptions of self publishers. In retail, multiple products are presented and clerks are usually available to provide assistance. From this perspective, we don't exist and our games are not an option. When my game isn't appealing to a visitor, the greater good is directing them to a different game from another self publisher. If I made a positive impression, the statistical probability of the visitor returning has increased. Eddie does this well. Any sense of threat is purely narcissistic.

Alliances are important for many reasons. Sharing links and cross-referencing content does result better search engine indexing. Google especially, awards higher page rankings when their algorithms derive the content is more valuable, because the topics and links span multiple sites. In turn, increased visibility translates to more traffic. Gaining an audience is a fundamental obstacle but a direct sales website is only one limited channel. The biggies have an overwhelming advantage, games on store shelves. Reluctant buyers often need the face-to-face affirmation of a clerk or another store patron. Traditional publishing has a network of alliances between numerous distributors and stores. Self publishers pale in comparison and lack even a small dot on this marketing map.

There are two types of distributors what I believe perfect for self publishers. The first consists of independent sales reps with various product lines that focus on independently owned stores. Gift shops as well as other stores are emphatically seeking unique items, the underlying principle behind how they compete. Secondly, there are literally millions of people who buy into sales consultant opportunities. I am not a proponent of multi-level marketing and get rich quick schemes. My foremost point is the existence of untapped sales resources that can place games on store shelves and just as noteworthy, sell face-to-face. Give someone in sales a good profit margin, they will spread your name all day and dream about you at night. Not at all an expert, I am moderately familiar with how both types of distribution are implemented. Forming an alliance of self publishers and creating multiple distribution chains has become one dimension of my self publishing quest. Any additional thoughts and/or experiences?

-- Wayne

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