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Learning the ropes of getting things published

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sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

It occurs to me that I failed to share some potentially interesting or helpful information about the production of Terra Prime and Homesteaders with my friends here at BGDF... you may have read about some of the turbulent manufacturing issues at The Blog of Michael Mindes and at

Those links describe things in more detail, but the part I'd like to highlight here is this:
I've read before that when getting a production run, it's imperative to request a manufacturing sample to ensure that you're getting what you think you're getting. We did that, and I agree - without it I think our problems would have been a lot worse.

That said however, and here's where I turn this into a question, what do you do when you get the sample, indicate what's wrong with it, and then the production run continues to have the same problems? I don't know the answer to that, but I have learned that you should be VERY specific about what you want in the first place, and also VERY specific when indicating what needs to be changed. I do not know what to do when you ARE specific about your concerns, the manufacturer tells you specifically that those concerns will be remedied, and then they are not.

One thing I learned which is probably a really good idea - I don't know if it's standard or not - is to put tolerances and consequences in the contract. State up front that an error rate of more than 5% is unacceptable, and if printing and collation errors exceed that number, enumerate the compensation you'll expect from the manufacturer. Maybe that number isn't exactly right, and maybe you need to negotiate with the manufacturer before the contract is signed, but at least that way if you get a bad print run, you can point back at the contract and say "look, you agreed to this" rather than "gee, this turned out bad, what will you do to make it right?" (where the answer is likely "nothing").

If anyone else has information to share along these lines - I know several members of the community self publish, and others have been published by various publishers. Maybe if we pool enough information, then down the road we can save some designers from having the same problems or issues that we've had.

Joined: 12/16/2009
sedjtroll wrote:If anyone

sedjtroll wrote:
If anyone else has information to share along these lines - I know several members of the community self publish, and others have been published by various publishers. Maybe if we pool enough information, then down the road we can save some designers from having the same problems or issues that we've had.

I agree, and thanks for you volunteering that information.

I am glad to see some small publishers are doing fairly well from the sound of the posts here. I am on the verge of publishing a couple of card games in limited runs, and I hope I meet with the same successes as some of you.

My big concern is establishing distributor based sales or to advertise and sell to stores directly myself. Not sure what experiences or advice you guys have in that regard.

bluepantherllc's picture
Joined: 07/29/2008

If you're looking for a short run of 100-300 then we're not talking about alot of money left over for advertising. Let's face it, we're talking about zero, zilch, nada in terms of buying regular ad space somewhere.

How did hobby games sell before BoardGameGeek? How do they sell now in the time of BoardGameGeek? Same way. Word of mouth, demos that convert tryers to buyers. The one person in the gaming group willing to shell out on a new title. Mention to anyone who'll listen that you've got a game you're publishing.

So you need to get your game out there - go to cons and demo. The GPA (Games Publisher Association) has a "Silver" program where your titles will get put on a table wherever the GPA has a booth and you'll split the sales 50/50. Offer a copy or two of your game as a prize at your local con. You'll get free advertising in their con program. Find gamer groups that run bunches of events at cons (CABS comes to mind) and see if they'll work your game into the rotation. We hooked up with a small group before our first Origins and had 30 events for our games in the program at no expense to us. That first set of events was not full, but it did drive people to the booth. We put a copy of our games in the CABS library - they run the board game room at Origins - and they asked for more copies - that's a good sign. For five days every June/July there are hundreds of people looking at the game library - and dozens could be playing or watching someone else play YOUR GAME there too).

If there's a group organized around your subject, let them know about your game. One of our first titles was a train game - the Train Gamers Association wanted a few copies of that one. We had a game built around RSP on dice. Believe it or not there's a Rock-Scissors-Paper society out there. We sent them a few copies and forgot about it. A year later, we got an order for 5000 custom dice from someone who saw our old game at an RSP meeting and looked us up.

Go to Protospiel. Go to Protospiel South. There are publishers that go to Protospiel. (I got lots of face time and good advice from Mayfair, Steve Jackson Games, and FFG reps at Protospiel). Even though they didn't publish my games, my titles got some very high quality playtesting and analysis for FREE. I also got advice about how to sell them. Thanks again to Dave (Dralius) and Mike P for running that event. In fact, half of our 2010 game lineup is coming from Protospiel alumni. We get some business from Protospiel alumni too.

Go to any group of playtesters that regularly get together - they've also tried promoting their games and they know what works and what doesn't. Got a game idea about your local town? Go to the Chamber of Commerce and pitch it as enhancing local business - get a local printer to do your cards, get the local stores to sell it - put their ads in it to finance the rest of the publishing. Now you have a "free" development cost and an army of locals selling it for you in their store as a "local color" item.

Listen to anyone and everyone who plays games. I know someone (thank you again Clark) who told me that our process would be perfect for something called Piecepack. I didn't know what Piecepack was - I was trying to sell games. He kept telling me to make a few and try it out. I kept thinking "what is a Piecepack?" - how many people out there would buy one? A few months later, I listened to him. We sold more Piecepacks in that first month of carrying the product than all of our games combined since starting the company six months earlier. And several years later, Piecepack sales are still respectable, with NO advertising ever done. It was completely word-of-mouth on that one. And some of the people who bought Piecepacks tried out a few of our other games - we put a catalog in each box we sold - sideways marketing for free. So, I would say our first real successful product came from listening to someone else (something I try to keep in mind when thinking about games and products)

Similar thing happened with dice towers - a suggestion from a few friends and gamers - and now dice towers are what Blue Panther is known for. So our second real successful product also came from listening to other people. Noticing a trend?

In fact, I would say that apart from spending on booths at cons (again with the GPA - they get great discounts) and letting everyone know we send free swag to legitimate con prize tables, that's the only true advertising budget we've used so far.

When we send free prizes to con tables, the sales are traceable. Five orders from Nebraska in one month is not the norm for us. We get those orders within a week or two of their biggest con where our stuff was on the prize table.

2010 is different, as we have more ambitious plans that involve getting the best game sales force in the world excited and pushing our products. Estimates of their numbers vary, but there are still several thousand super game geeks that either own or work in game stores. It's time to get their attention focused on our stuff too. Admit it - how many of us would play Agricola unless someone else taught us the rules first at a game store or a con?

While Blue Panther is not one of the "big names" yet, we have access to the same suppliers and advertising that the big names do, and the same technologies. If you've got an internet connection and a cell phone, SO DO YOU! Our products (and your baby - the one idea you've been working on for years and want to self-publish) can have a quality very close or even on a par with the "big names".

red hare
red hare's picture
Joined: 11/09/2009
taking notes

bluepanther, i recently went to the con in Shanghai and I played a couple of games that had a booth set up. Sure enough, those games are on my list to buy so the marketing strategies you mention really do work.

sedjtroll, I agree, there has to be a good way of keeping the factory accountable for what they produce. I have a friend with alot of experience with manufacturing (she used to have a plastics factory in China). I'll ask her a good strategy for dealing with QC issues and contracts... I'll let you know her suggestions.

this thread is very very informative!

dnjkirk's picture
Joined: 07/22/2008

Where are you in Shanghai? We should have coffee.

truekid games
truekid games's picture
Joined: 10/29/2008
in my limited experience,

in my limited experience, when you have a reasonable production run of something, the manufacturer will have a "quantity variance" of 5 to 10%, meaning that your shipment may actually have 5-10% more or less than what you actually ordered. I'd say use whatever their stated quantity variance is, and stipulate that that includes faulty, unusable, or mis-collated items. any amount exceeding that value to be replaced and shipped to you at their expense.

that way you're just tweaking their guideline, rather than creating your own.

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