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When / How to Make Contact With Distributors

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Joined: 12/31/1969

Hello All,

I'm in the process of self-publishing my game Portrayal ( My wife and I have been working on it for the last few years and have done lots of playtesting (including a couple Mensa games nights, MBA students - so not just friends), also had a third party agency do a market evaluation. I wrote and secured a patent completely on my own (mainly just because I wanted to go through the process), set up the website myself, and am now in the process of getting bids from several printers/manufacturers. I have the resources to do a print run of 3,000 to 5,000 copies initially.

I'm not afraid of the business aspects of self-publishing and running a business, but I recognize that I have absolutely NO contacts in the industry (particularly with retailers and distributors). In my experience in other areas, "who you know" and forming networks has always been a significant contributor to success.

I'm hoping some folks out there might have some suggestions about how best to approach distributors, and when it is customary to do so. What is the process like?

I'd really like to have some pretty solid contacts and options regarding distribution BEFORE I begin production, so as to minimize the amount of time and effort required to get my game into the market once I have finished units.

Also, I've seen some posts about the firm Impressions as a distributor/consolidator, but none from the last year. Do folks still recommend this firm? Any others that people recommend?

Does anyone have games sold through Spilsbury or How do these companies choose products? Figured I'd see if anyone has any experience before I just contacted them myself and sounded too silly.

Outbound yet Perky,

Joined: 12/31/1969
When / How to Make Contact With Distributors

I recommend the Game Manufacturers Association, GAMA -- -- as an excellent way to get in touch with distributors, other publishers, retailers, and more. The annual GAMA Trade Show (GTS) is in February in Vegas, and is a truly outstanding opportunity to talk with distributors, retailers, and other publishers, all in person. When my friend was setting up a game store we were able to talk with like 4 or 5 different distributors, discuss terms and their product lines, etc. This is great for the hobby game market.

For wider distribution, the New York Toy Fair (officially, the American International Toy Fair) -- Link Here -- is considered to be the place to go, to talk with non-hobby distributors and retail buyers.

Joined: 12/31/1969
When / How to Make Contact With Distributors

Games Quarterly Catalog [ ] is one of the industry standards the retailers use to find out what's in print and place orders from distributors. You can order a single copy for $16.95 or so. Once you are in business and able to sell to distributors, they'll list you for free in the catalog or you can buy an ad page that's speaks to your specific product. In the back is a list of every major distributor and their contact info (though the listed info is slanted towards retailers wanting to buy from distributors, rather than publishers trying to sell to distributors). Still you can visit all their websites one by one and find out who the buyer(s) are, make contact and find out their terms. The GQC also lists manufacturers who can make parts for you.

As a crude rule of thumb, a distributor wants to buy from you at a minimum of 60% off your suggested retail price, no matter how small the order they place ("I'll take 6 copies"), and you pay the shipping. So set your pricing accordingly.

As another crude rule of thumb, be aware that no one actually wants to work to "sell" your product, i.e. have the distributor's sales reps call up 30 stores and chat about your game and sell some copies as a result. Time is money for a distributor and they would much rather buy product that sells itself or there's already a tremendous inherent demand for. For example, a large loading skid can easily contain $50,000 (retail value) of CCG card packs on it. I have observed such skids arrive in a distributor's warehouse and they didn't even bother unpacking and putting it up on a shelf, the skid was picked clean over the course of a day. With that sort of volume, a new game company with one product seldom gets all the attention it should.

I've looked at the Impressions contract and he functions much like a "distributor to the distributors" with his own monthly advertising flyer. So the distributors are getting your product at their preferred 60% off and send the money to Impressions. Impressions then takes 18% of the 40% they collect, plus 25 cents per item shipped and send you the remaining money. Now with Impressions in California, (Zone 9 from me here on the East Coast in UPS terms), shipping them the goods is another hit to the bottom line. Other posters in the other forums here suggest pricing goods at 10x manufacturing costs - this is almost a requirement to make effective use of Impressions.

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