Skip to Content

What do game designers want from a small-press publisher?

8 replies [Last post]
Sir William
Offline
Joined: 02/19/2011

I work for a creative services company that branched into publishing Comics/RPGs in 2014. We've recently merged with a small-press Genre Fiction Publisher, which has presented us with some opportunities for expansion into non-RPG games.

There is a ton of discussions on what publishers want, but I thought it might be useful to ask what designers want from publishers (specifically small press publishers).

ssm
ssm's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/06/2017
Some will want to know- Do

Some will want to know-

Do you fund publishing yourself?
Do you have a presence at cons/shows?
How many hands can you get my project into? 30? 300? 3,000?
Do you have retail presence?

Ultimately, the first question a designer should be asking is 'what are you looking for as a publisher?'. Do you primarily publish a certain type of game? Or a certain price point game?

The Odd Fox
The Odd Fox's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/19/2017
My thoughts

ssm wrote:
Some will want to know-

Do you fund publishing yourself?
Do you have a presence at cons/shows?
How many hands can you get my project into? 30? 300? 3,000?
Do you have retail presence?

Ultimately, the first question a designer should be asking is 'what are you looking for as a publisher?'. Do you primarily publish a certain type of game? Or a certain price point game?

Very well said. You hit the main things I would be looking for. I'll add to "Do you primarily publish a certain type of game?" I really like that Jamey Stegmaier states exactly what he's looking for and not looking to publish with Stonemaier. I know for certain that several of my games don't fit his expectations so I won't waste his or my time with those projects. Other publishers are harder to read and I'm left investigating them and considering what games they've published before, and sometimes that means they like to publish those kinds of games and others state, "why would I publish a similar game when I already have one like it?" I like to know what you are looking for so I can give you the pitch you are looking for instead of taking a shot in the dark with whatever information I can pick up on my own.

Thanks for your question! I look forward to hearing more about the direction you want to go!

BHFuturist
BHFuturist's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/01/2008
Good topic!

For me, I think what I would want most from any publisher is for them to do all the business side of things but not cut me out of finalizing the design and theming. The designer should be involved in the marketing of the game.

Many times designers hear stories of publishers taking on a game and doing one or more of the following things. (I am sure these things are not common but do happen)

  1. Change the theme and game mechanics to fit their line of games.
  2. Work on the game to refine the design but not keep the designer in the loop.
  3. Put the game in a publication queue that might be longer than a year.

For me, the biggest thing is communication and involvement. I can't stand the idea of a publisher not keeping the original designer involved in the game. I understand that a publisher should have a say in how the game turns out. I just don't feel it should be an all or nothing type thing for the designer.

When talking about a novel, a publisher takes on a novel and might get it edited by an editor but they would not normally rewrite large parts of the story without talking with the author or just asking the author to make the changes. The same should be true of game design.

If you like a game enough to want to publish it, then you should want to have the person who got it to that point involved in finishing it.

The only other things I would expect from a publisher is to be smart about keeping costs low without skimping on the quality of the game. And be able get the game into game stores!!! If a publisher has no way to get games into a store, then I might as well just run the Kickstarter myself.

@BHFuturist

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Hmm...

About "designer criteria", that goes out the door the minute you TRY to "self-Publish" a game.

What I mean by this is take your game "X" and try to either sell it via "The Game Crafter" (TGC) or your own Kickstarter, etc. And it doesn't work out - for whatever reason...

You'll notice if a Publisher is offering your money - to take your unsuccessful design and re-brand it/re-theme it/etc. and the Publish the game... You won't be worried about how your game will be changed.

Probably your biggest concern would be "Y"% of sales as a royalty to yourself. And probably HOW LONG you have to wait until being "published".

See the point is IF you FAIL ... then you know the Publisher will do whatever is possible to succeed. And THAT is more important than any type of change.

Communication is VERY important. I agree with @BHFuturist on that point.

ssm
ssm's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/06/2017
BHFuturist wrote:For me, I

BHFuturist wrote:
For me, I think what I would want most from any publisher is for them to do all the business side of things but not cut me out of finalizing the design and theming. The designer should be involved in the marketing of the game.

Many times designers hear stories of publishers taking on a game and doing one or more of the following things. (I am sure these things are not common but do happen)

1. Change the theme and game mechanics to fit their line of games.
2. Work on the game to refine the design but not keep the designer in the loop.
3. Put the game in a publication queue that might be longer than a year.

For me, the biggest thing is communication and involvement. I can't stand the idea of a publisher not keeping the original designer involved in the game. I understand that a publisher should have a say in how the game turns out. I just don't feel it should be an all or nothing type thing for the designer.

When talking about a novel, a publisher takes on a novel and might get it edited by an editor but they would not normally rewrite large parts of the story without talking with the author or just asking the author to make the changes. The same should be true of game design.

If you like a game enough to want to publish it, then you should want to have the person who got it to that point involved in finishing it.

The only other things I would expect from a publisher is to be smart about keeping costs low without skimping on the quality of the game. And be able get the game into game stores!!! If a publisher has no way to get games into a store, then I might as well just run the Kickstarter myself.

@BHFuturist

People will ask about this, but it is in the contract ultimately.
A lot of people are so shocked that someone wants to publish their baby that they sign and never read, then get upset that things aren't setup their way. This is in every industry. Read & change any contract you are presented.

Going off that- Do you have your standard contract on your site for all to read?

A small publisher is much more open to changes in contract than a gigantic publisher.
A gigantic publisher will have a lengthy queue, but if a small publisher has a lengthy queue you better be asking a lot of questions...primarily- 'Do you have enough money to publish these games, not sell any, and still be able to afford to publish mine?'.

Getting money up front is usually not a good idea.
It can signal to a predator that you are desperate and end up getting taken advantage of.
Whatever money you get up front you end up paying back instead of royalties. If you forego the up front cash, you can get a much better read on how your product sells; otherwise it could take years to get the numbers from publishers (so many layers of money and shipping, etc).

Mosker
Offline
Joined: 03/30/2014
Commitment level

If game making is a new product line from an existing publisher, my concern is the level of precedence everything else will get in terms of time: be it the art director's queue, printing expenditures, etc.

Are there personnel drawing a salary (or at least part-timers) who have games as their primary responsibility?

I'd be wary of situations analogous to what I encountered in the earlier days of the web: content providers looking to add micro games tied to the main products, but unwilling to provide the necessary attention.

Sir William
Offline
Joined: 02/19/2011
Thanks for the responses.

Thanks for the responses. It's been helpful to see where we are on track, as well as to see places where we can tailor our communication (we have a two-page sheet that outlines our services/advantages for authors, we are working on a sheet that provides that information for games).

In terms of where we are now, I expect that the answers to look like this (we are still new to the merger and working on our plan for games, so this isn't final/official at all). I didn't jump in with answers/expected answers to all of the question since a lot of this is still in the early stages.

Do you fund publishing yourself? Yes. This includes edits, artwork, graphic design, and printing costs. While it's possible that we would use Kickstarter for a boardgame, it isn't our primary approach in terms of funding publishing (we've done one Kickstarter, pre-merger).

-Do you have a presence at cons/shows? Yes. Most of that presence is at comic/book shows, but we plan to expand into more RPG?Games conventions starting with Gencon. Most of our presence is in the US, but we also have a presense at the London Book Fair.
-How many hands can you get my project into? 30? 300? 3,000? I can't provide an estimate on this yet with much confidence (though more than 300 seems safe).
-Do you have retail presence? I'm not sure about the details of our retail distribution for games at this point (we have to meet with our distributor). We have print distribution for our fiction that includes shelf placement in Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
-Are there personnel drawing a salary (or at least part-timers) who have games as their primary responsibility? There is one (for RPGs & Games) who is part-time. He's has support from other in-house people, so he isn't handling everything (Editor, Art Director, Graphic Designer, Marketing Director).

Steve Broadfoot
Offline
Joined: 04/25/2017
As someone new to the

As someone new to the industry, my personal interest is simply in what would make partnering with a smaller publisher a better option than trying to get picked up by a larger one?

For me, loyalty is a big deal so I would be interested in working exclusively with a single publisher if we were compatible.

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut