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Book Publisher Looking for Info about the Industry

3 replies [Last post]
Joined: 03/09/2012

Hi there.

I recently started a small game publisher along with some friends of mine. I've got an MA in Book Publishing, and the Board Game industry seems to be fairly similar to the book industry. I was hoping I could ask some specific questions to some of the people here who have been in the industry for a while. This is to help me in creating a good business plan with reasonalble projections on sales figures.

First: How many copies would you consider to be a reasonable first print run for an indie game if you are doing an offset print order? As a corolary, is POD a viable and economical method of printing games?

Second: What is the average Net Profit Margin % for board games? With books I would aim for somewhere between 15 and 19% as an ideal goal (Though I have in the past been forced to go lower by reality.)

Third: How hard is it to make your break even point on average in this industry? Do you tend to have to subsidize a lot of losses with a few big sellers? Or do you find that as long as you give each game enough attention, you can get each one to at make back its initial investment?

Finally: For those of you who have successfully launched game publishing companies, how long did it take you to break even on your initial investment? Is two or three years too hopeful?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to help out! PM me if you want to ask any specific questions.

GiggleboxGames's picture
Joined: 03/04/2012
New Era

The board game market is much different from book publishing. At the moment, there are two extremes. Of course, large publishers dominate popular games in major retail chains. Indie games generally default to the highly competitive hobby market. Hobby enthusiasts enjoy the novelty of unique themes and not-so-common mechanics. A significant problem is the extensive volume of games. The market is supersaturated. Only established names can effectively compete. Gaining the necessary reputation and name/brand recognition is a very long process, often spanning several years. Success stories are rare.

Now is actually a difficult time to enter the hobby market. Large publishers have been lurking in the shadows and preparing to pounce. They have large dollars to devote to the best marketing resources money can buy. So far, the signs have been subtle. Hasbro acquired Wizards of the Coast. Also, Risk Legacy was developed by Hasbro but is exclusively distributed by Alliance. These are merely the more visible examples of a long list. Indie designers baked the pie. Several large publishers will soon come marching in to take as many slices as they can. With the hobby industry having reached the current level of size and maturity, expert analysis and marketing will make it easy pickings.

Most hobby games are indie games but the upcoming shift will decrease the percentage. I don’t think of all indie games as being hobby games. Those that aren’t appealing to hobby enthusiasts are often great games rejected by large publishers. These are ones that would appeal to the general public if afforded the opportunity. Because options are limited, attempting to compete in the hobby market proves unsuccessful. Hobby enthusiasts have refined interests. The types of games appealing to the average non-enthusiast are never even a remote consideration. There is more potential in this third market. Acquiring distribution is also much easier. Distributors outside of the hobby market do not subscribe to the same trappings and have few reservations promoting a good product line. Diversity is necessary so retail and direct sales prospects can migrate to at least one game of interest. Offering too many games can convey a negative message. Quality is key. Anything and everything demonstrates a lack of expertise and focus. Prospects can easily become confused when too many selections are posed. The objectives are quality to attract the best distributors and concise information to arm them with key selling points. As large publishers forge into the hobby market, independent games should take a slice of their well-guarded pie. If you plan to publish hobby games, you would need to be in the outlets that your enthusiasts patronize. Online sales are ineffective until you become a known quantity.

POD is convenient and has many benefits but at a premium cost. Offset printing does reduce cost, making a higher profit margin possible. You pose great questions. There are many variables. It is doubtful that typical standards and accurate projections exist in this industry. Locating a publishing company that closely aligns with your business plan may be helpful. All would be dependent on their willingness to share experiences and sales figures. Keep in mind; game industry statistics as a whole include large publishers and very likely, do not directly correlate with the hobby market. Hopefully others here in the forum will share their experiences and success stories.

Joined: 03/09/2012

Actually that sounds a lot like the book industry, where self publishing or creating your own publishing house is seen as not viable because giants like Random House or Penguin control the market so completely. The market is also super saturated there, with thousands of books on the same subjects being released annually, it is difficult for a small publisher to match the major marketing dollars being spent by the corporate publishers. Hasbro may be a big toy company, but their financials are no where near Viacom's (which owns Random House) so I can see how competing in the market is difficult.

Recently there has been a flourishing of small publishing as a result of the advent of POD and eBooks. POD allows small volume printing to be possible, and though the cost per unit is higher with POD the initial investment is usually much lower and allows for acceptable long tail growth. Rather than having to warehouse thousands of units in order to handle the trickle of backlist orders, you can place small print orders with a POD printer to fulfill those orders abet at a smaller profit margin. eBooks are a whole different beast that is starting to make everyone believe they can self publish, but that's a fad I see fading when people start to realize that just because your book is out there doesn't mean anyone can find and read it. The sheer volume of eBooks being published means that most self published authors will not make any money on their titles.

I hope to eventually use electronic media to find a new way of publishing my products. I believe that every serious board game should consider developing an app if they have either the money or access to a developer.

I am also aiming for international sales. Two of my business partners fill out day jobs as translators in French and German. There is potential that the more serious hobby board game communities of France and Germany will influence American buying habits. We also see the potential for a flourishing of American board game culture as more games are imported from Europe and as playing games in general becomes more of a socially accepted norm. Video Games have gone a long way towards dispelling the notion that games are for children only, and I think more video gamers will be interested in the social interactions held by serious board games as they become older.

Thanks for responding to the post. I hope this turns into a lively discussion on the industry :)

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009

Read Brian Tinsman's Game Inventor's Guidebook if you haven't already. Also Keith Meyers' Paid to Play (, don't confuse with the video game book of same title.

These books have a considerable focus on marketing.

An enormous difference between books and board games, for the future, is that books can easily be reduced to electrons for digital distribution, and board games cannot.

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