*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
September 17, 2019, 03:50:34 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 59 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: NEW PUBLISHER BUSINESS PLAN  (Read 8018 times)
Seamus
Member

Posts: 116


WWW
« on: April 02, 2009, 12:18:43 PM »

I am creating a business plan for a small publishing business. We have one project in the works we want to focus on, and hope it will be successful enough to warrant follow-up material. Our goal is slow, steady growth. Right now we are leaning toward printing 1000-1,500 copies, and placing a few ads in some gaming magazines. This is by no means final. We have been getting a lot of different advice from different people (some say only use distributors, others say only do direct sales, some say print a run of 100 and build customers face-to-face). I want to hear what others have to say on this. I won't take it personally, so don't worry.
Logged

Bedrock Games
President
BEDROCK GAMES
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2009, 02:26:55 PM »

First, I really have to say something about the other thread: I can't imagine why or how a chamber of commerce business advisor would know anything about the rpg market. It's strictly a specialty market, very global and heavily fragmented. Of course they can tell you about good business practices in general, but I'd take stranger off the Internet more seriously when it comes to practicalities like distribution options, advertisement venues and printing.

So here are some thoughts that come to my mind about this:
  • What sort of gaming product is this? Is it traditional (directed at long-term players of D&D and its kin) or experimental? "Mature" or intended for all ages? System-based or fiction-based? For beginners or experienced gamers? This sort of target audience information interests me, as that influences the marketing plan quite a bit. The rpg scene nowadays is relatively fractured, the people interested in everything are a small minority. This can be seen in the Internet, where we have many rpg communities with pretty different favourite games and concerns.
  • What magazines? There aren't that many rpg magazines around anymore that I know of, unless you mean the retailer magazines. In general, I'd be rather helpless if I had to build serious brand recognition among the gamer populace with hard advertising; perhaps I'd go for a sizable Internet campaign and snazzy webpages or something, magazines seem pretty passe to me.
  • Who's going to buy those 1000 games, and over what sort of timeframe? The best publishers using indie techniques can sell a 1000 copy print run of an established hit game in a reasonable time, but there are something like three of those over the entire field. The typical well-prepared small publisher may expect to sell 300 copies of a good game during the first year - that's more or less where I'm at. I understand that the traditional distribution-based model isn't doing much better on average.
  • I understand that Americans have some weird taxation problems with long-standing stocks of books. I'm not really familiar with it, but apparently there are tax penalties for holding stock over the fiscal year - you get taxed for the stock as profit or something weird, I don't know. So might be a factor, because you're going to be sitting on those books quite a while.
  • Is this a product with long-term standing power? Some roleplaying games are evergreens and may be printed up with pretty good confidence in them selling with time; they're not going to grow old. This is mostly an indie phenomenon, though, as the mainstream is trained to expect a new edition of the game every five years. But in principle this is something to think about honestly: is your game really going to be culturally relevant for the timeframe it's going to take you to shift that stock, or are you in danger of being stuck with a bunch of books that nobody wants? In effect, I'm wondering whether your product is one for the ages.
But that's just first impressions. The fundamental reason for why I don't view a a large print run and a hard marketing campaign as winner propositions is that the market simply isn't there insofar as I can see. Building name among gamers takes time, and no game will become a hit just because of its quality in the short term. The only way to get an immediately well-selling game is to already have a market presence as a company and leverage that into publicity, like WW did with Exalted. It's like... sex: putting everything into a flashy start isn't going to get you anywhere, you need to start slow and build up into the climax. Hard (money-bought) advertising, store presence and other grandesse only works for you after you've developed an audience that cares and will thus nab at your publicity.

So that's the basis of why I advice that going slow and being conservative is the way to go at first. The very worst thing that can happen is that you'll lose some percentage of your potential profits because you underestimated your print run and had to print more. Even then you're saving in worries and storage space, so it's not all a loss - not to speak of the fact that printing in smaller runs allows you to fix typos and in general stay flexible in your publishing strategy. Don't underestimate the power of disappointment, it weights pretty heavily on you to see those 30 boxes of books nobody wants; better to start with realistic numbers and go from there.

So what's realistic? Depends on how good your marketing resources are. These are the things you want:
  • Connections and internet status. It helps if active roleplayers know you and your work, as those are likely then to check it out and help with the early grassroots marketing. If you're essentially unknown, you'll have to work much harder to get people interested. Even a couple of friends can help a lot if they're also active in the scene and willing to put in a good word for your product.
  • Time to go to conventions and stores. Personal meeting is practically the only reliable marketing for an unknown product, designer and company. You can sell almost everything in modest quantities if you have the patience, which allows you to seed your game: go to three conventions, sell a hundred copies, let those people build your reputation. Ideally you'll encourage them somehow to write about your game in the Internet - and of course, at this point your game actually has to deliver or it'll all be for nothing.
  • Time to hang out in the Internet. Diligent participation in web communities and pushing your game by writing a blog, press releases, free material, etc. can be the difference between anonymity and becoming a fixture for a web community.
  • A good game. There are degrees to this, but basically your game has to be at least the best in the narrowly special thing it does, and it's even better if it's actually a powerful tool for doing many different things. Alternatively, the game has to be so pretty that it inspires fans, but that's difficult to do from an unestablished position. This is absolutely key to soft (free or near-free) marketing, simply because the second-best game will never get mentioned in the highly jaded Internet communities.
If you're starting from zero on all of the above, then I recommend printing up a 100 copies of your game and starting a webstore courageously while also hitting the convention circuit. You can sell a hundred copies of anything (up to you to decide whether this particular product is good enough for it to be moral), so that'll be valuable experience with negligible risk. After this you can do some real evaluation of what the gamers think of your game - it's an all-around good deal, as you get experience, feedback, a chance to correct the product and information for how large a print run you should do next.

If you're already confident in your connections and skills and the game above all, then print out 500 copies and cross your fingers. If you're really successful, you'll have sold those 500 within 1,5 years and can then plan for a new printing. This is the level to which a competent indie publisher can shoot for as a one-man operation and hope to fulfill consistently.

Print a 1000 copy run only if you've already done this thing for a while and know what you're doing. And this includes having a completely realistic image of how good your game is. And when I say "knowing how good your game is" I don't mean how well you like it yourself, I mean what the audience will think about it. Also, don't do a 1000 copy run if you don't have a firm idea of how you're going to get to distribution with it - these numbers are simply too much for direct sales, you're going to need efficient distribution. Be aware that the American games distribution is a mess and all the more so with the current market climate; don't commit to printing anything before you have the distribution locked down - remember that the smaller print runs from above can help you with this, as you can demonstrate a real and growing audience for your product.

Ultimately your marketing connections limit your capabilities in selling a game dramatically, it's not at all about taking risks and hoping for the best. Stores won't order your game magically even if you get a distribution contract. There is a limited amount of interest from the Internet-connected gamers. You can get a pretty good handle for how all of these factors can be leveraged into a realistic business plan if you research the experiences others have had: if 20 designers have found out that they can sell 200 copies of a good game to an Internet audience centered on websites A, B and C, then that's real data. If an established mid-range mainstream company can push 300 copies of a new sourcebook into distribution, that is real data as well - why would you do better? Find out these things and be realistic about how well you can do compared to these people who are right now doing the work.

Still, if you want to hit it big right off the bat, at least do it right: in this day and age there is no reason at all not to print up a dozen POD copies of your product and hit the distributors and retailers well in advance of your shipping date. With 1500 copies to move you'll want to get firm commitments from as many partners as possible; in traditional retail you'll move over 50% of the product's lifetime sales during the release, so there is no reason at all to work on hopes and vague imagination in these things: go ask those people whether they're willing to order your stuff, and how much of it. Most products never see a reorder, so the first order already tells you the scale you'll be operating at. The current atmosphere among the retailers will be the main determinant of how much of your game you'll move; will they be interested in a new company with an unproven product this year?

Anyway, that's roughly my view on these things. What's yours? Tell us more about the strategy and what sort of marketing you're planning.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Seamus
Member

Posts: 116


WWW
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2009, 04:06:53 PM »

First, I really have to say something about the other thread: I can't imagine why or how a chamber of commerce business advisor would know anything about the rpg market. It's strictly a specialty market, very global and heavily fragmented. Of course they can tell you about good business practices in general, but I'd take stranger off the Internet more seriously when it comes to practicalities like distribution options, advertisement venues and printing.

So here are some thoughts that come to my mind about this:
  • What sort of gaming product is this? Is it traditional (directed at long-term players of D&D and its kin) or experimental? "Mature" or intended for all ages? System-based or fiction-based? For beginners or experienced gamers? This sort of target audience information interests me, as that influences the marketing plan quite a bit. The rpg scene nowadays is relatively fractured, the people interested in everything are a small minority. This can be seen in the Internet, where we have many rpg communities with pretty different favourite games and concerns.
  • What magazines? There aren't that many rpg magazines around anymore that I know of, unless you mean the retailer magazines. In general, I'd be rather helpless if I had to build serious brand recognition among the gamer populace with hard advertising; perhaps I'd go for a sizable Internet campaign and snazzy webpages or something, magazines seem pretty passe to me.
  • Who's going to buy those 1000 games, and over what sort of timeframe? The best publishers using indie techniques can sell a 1000 copy print run of an established hit game in a reasonable time, but there are something like three of those over the entire field. The typical well-prepared small publisher may expect to sell 300 copies of a good game during the first year - that's more or less where I'm at. I understand that the traditional distribution-based model isn't doing much better on average.
  • I understand that Americans have some weird taxation problems with long-standing stocks of books. I'm not really familiar with it, but apparently there are tax penalties for holding stock over the fiscal year - you get taxed for the stock as profit or something weird, I don't know. So might be a factor, because you're going to be sitting on those books quite a while.
  • Is this a product with long-term standing power? Some roleplaying games are evergreens and may be printed up with pretty good confidence in them selling with time; they're not going to grow old. This is mostly an indie phenomenon, though, as the mainstream is trained to expect a new edition of the game every five years. But in principle this is something to think about honestly: is your game really going to be culturally relevant for the timeframe it's going to take you to shift that stock, or are you in danger of being stuck with a bunch of books that nobody wants? In effect, I'm wondering whether your product is one for the ages.
But that's just first impressions. The fundamental reason for why I don't view a a large print run and a hard marketing campaign as winner propositions is that the market simply isn't there insofar as I can see. Building name among gamers takes time, and no game will become a hit just because of its quality in the short term. The only way to get an immediately well-selling game is to already have a market presence as a company and leverage that into publicity, like WW did with Exalted. It's like... sex: putting everything into a flashy start isn't going to get you anywhere, you need to start slow and build up into the climax. Hard (money-bought) advertising, store presence and other grandesse only works for you after you've developed an audience that cares and will thus nab at your publicity.

So that's the basis of why I advice that going slow and being conservative is the way to go at first. The very worst thing that can happen is that you'll lose some percentage of your potential profits because you underestimated your print run and had to print more. Even then you're saving in worries and storage space, so it's not all a loss - not to speak of the fact that printing in smaller runs allows you to fix typos and in general stay flexible in your publishing strategy. Don't underestimate the power of disappointment, it weights pretty heavily on you to see those 30 boxes of books nobody wants; better to start with realistic numbers and go from there.

So what's realistic? Depends on how good your marketing resources are. These are the things you want:
  • Connections and internet status. It helps if active roleplayers know you and your work, as those are likely then to check it out and help with the early grassroots marketing. If you're essentially unknown, you'll have to work much harder to get people interested. Even a couple of friends can help a lot if they're also active in the scene and willing to put in a good word for your product.
  • Time to go to conventions and stores. Personal meeting is practically the only reliable marketing for an unknown product, designer and company. You can sell almost everything in modest quantities if you have the patience, which allows you to seed your game: go to three conventions, sell a hundred copies, let those people build your reputation. Ideally you'll encourage them somehow to write about your game in the Internet - and of course, at this point your game actually has to deliver or it'll all be for nothing.
  • Time to hang out in the Internet. Diligent participation in web communities and pushing your game by writing a blog, press releases, free material, etc. can be the difference between anonymity and becoming a fixture for a web community.
  • A good game. There are degrees to this, but basically your game has to be at least the best in the narrowly special thing it does, and it's even better if it's actually a powerful tool for doing many different things. Alternatively, the game has to be so pretty that it inspires fans, but that's difficult to do from an unestablished position. This is absolutely key to soft (free or near-free) marketing, simply because the second-best game will never get mentioned in the highly jaded Internet communities.
If you're starting from zero on all of the above, then I recommend printing up a 100 copies of your game and starting a webstore courageously while also hitting the convention circuit. You can sell a hundred copies of anything (up to you to decide whether this particular product is good enough for it to be moral), so that'll be valuable experience with negligible risk. After this you can do some real evaluation of what the gamers think of your game - it's an all-around good deal, as you get experience, feedback, a chance to correct the product and information for how large a print run you should do next.

If you're already confident in your connections and skills and the game above all, then print out 500 copies and cross your fingers. If you're really successful, you'll have sold those 500 within 1,5 years and can then plan for a new printing. This is the level to which a competent indie publisher can shoot for as a one-man operation and hope to fulfill consistently.

Print a 1000 copy run only if you've already done this thing for a while and know what you're doing. And this includes having a completely realistic image of how good your game is. And when I say "knowing how good your game is" I don't mean how well you like it yourself, I mean what the audience will think about it. Also, don't do a 1000 copy run if you don't have a firm idea of how you're going to get to distribution with it - these numbers are simply too much for direct sales, you're going to need efficient distribution. Be aware that the American games distribution is a mess and all the more so with the current market climate; don't commit to printing anything before you have the distribution locked down - remember that the smaller print runs from above can help you with this, as you can demonstrate a real and growing audience for your product.

Ultimately your marketing connections limit your capabilities in selling a game dramatically, it's not at all about taking risks and hoping for the best. Stores won't order your game magically even if you get a distribution contract. There is a limited amount of interest from the Internet-connected gamers. You can get a pretty good handle for how all of these factors can be leveraged into a realistic business plan if you research the experiences others have had: if 20 designers have found out that they can sell 200 copies of a good game to an Internet audience centered on websites A, B and C, then that's real data. If an established mid-range mainstream company can push 300 copies of a new sourcebook into distribution, that is real data as well - why would you do better? Find out these things and be realistic about how well you can do compared to these people who are right now doing the work.

Still, if you want to hit it big right off the bat, at least do it right: in this day and age there is no reason at all not to print up a dozen POD copies of your product and hit the distributors and retailers well in advance of your shipping date. With 1500 copies to move you'll want to get firm commitments from as many partners as possible; in traditional retail you'll move over 50% of the product's lifetime sales during the release, so there is no reason at all to work on hopes and vague imagination in these things: go ask those people whether they're willing to order your stuff, and how much of it. Most products never see a reorder, so the first order already tells you the scale you'll be operating at. The current atmosphere among the retailers will be the main determinant of how much of your game you'll move; will they be interested in a new company with an unproven product this year?

Anyway, that's roughly my view on these things. What's yours? Tell us more about the strategy and what sort of marketing you're planning.

Our plan was to go to distributors before printing, with a PDF or prototype. How that goes will largely determine where we head from there. For advertising we were going to take spots out in magazines like Kobold Quarterly, and do some internet campaigns.. Its about 75 dollars for a small ad. I haven't fully investigated our marketing strategy yet, since right now I am focusing on learning the more boring aspects of running my own business. As I said,we are in the early stages. If we need to lower the numbers we print, we will do so. But our goal isn't to be a indie publisher. It is to achieve steady growth and become a name in the industry. We understand that is a lofty goal, and are fine falling down in the process.
Logged

Bedrock Games
President
BEDROCK GAMES
Seth M. Drebitko
Member

Posts: 318


WWW
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2009, 06:27:46 PM »

I would say a couple things to note.

1.   The print run is huge I would scale that back to around 100 max "at first" really get the feelers out their in the indie communities like the forge and stuff to fine tune the game as it will almost need revision. Nothing could be worse than dropping your starting capital in a shaky print run.
2.   Once you feel you are truly prepared to go mainstream try one avenue to attack at a time. For example try just running an ad in one magazine see how that works for you, if it does keep it up and move on. No sense in burning all your money at once until you have again tested the waters.

By slowly scaling into the marketing you don’t run the risk of blitzing through your stock either if your product is a hit. Say first week of the mag out you sell 65 copies that is pretty hot dump the profit into bulking up your print run and expanding your marketing reach.
Just my 2 cents
Regards, Seth
Logged

MicroLite20 at www.KoboldEnterprise.com
The adventure's just begun!
Seamus
Member

Posts: 116


WWW
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2009, 07:13:32 PM »

I would say a couple things to note.

1.   The print run is huge I would scale that back to around 100 max "at first" really get the feelers out their in the indie communities like the forge and stuff to fine tune the game as it will almost need revision. Nothing could be worse than dropping your starting capital in a shaky print run.
2.   Once you feel you are truly prepared to go mainstream try one avenue to attack at a time. For example try just running an ad in one magazine see how that works for you, if it does keep it up and move on. No sense in burning all your money at once until you have again tested the waters.

By slowly scaling into the marketing you donít run the risk of blitzing through your stock either if your product is a hit. Say first week of the mag out you sell 65 copies that is pretty hot dump the profit into bulking up your print run and expanding your marketing reach.
Just my 2 cents
Regards, Seth

Thanks for the feedback. How does doing a print run that small effect profit? Wouldn't I need to charge a lot more for each book? I keep hearing 500 is the most economical run for a small publisher starting out. Where can I get good information on Printing so I don't get taken advantage of?
Logged

Bedrock Games
President
BEDROCK GAMES
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2447


WWW
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2009, 07:22:03 PM »

Hey Seamus,

This interview with Luke Crane (the publisher of Burning Wheel, Burning Empires, and other games)  about finances and the sizes of print runs and profitibility is worth listening to.

Paul
Logged

"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2009, 07:42:26 PM »

Thanks for the feedback. How does doing a print run that small effect profit? Wouldn't I need to charge a lot more for each book? I keep hearing 500 is the most economical run for a small publisher starting out. Where can I get good information on Printing so I don't get taken advantage of?

Ah hah, for this I have a nice little essay somewhere around here... this one. It should explain the different printing options and their general advantages pretty well.

Printing a 100 copies will definitely cause the per-copy cost of the book to be higher than it'd be if you printed a 1000. How much higher depends on the particulars of the book's dimensions, page count, color, binding, etc. As it turns out, however, this is not as much of a problem as one might think: a small print run means that you're going to be selling the book direct, which in turn means that you're making twice the money you'd be making in retail, which turns into at least four times the profit (after printing costs) - the outcome is that even if the per-copy cost is double or triple what you'd have with a large run, as long as you can sell it all directly to the customer thanks to not having to unload a large number of books, you're still making the same or even better profit per copy on those 100 books that you'd be making on the 1000.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2293

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2009, 07:54:07 PM »

Seamus,

This is my perception of some of your responses, so please correct me if you meant something different. It feels to me as though you view some of the advice you're hearing conflicting with what you think you want to do or where you want to go, but keep in mind: 1) We've been doing this, you haven't. We're good sources of information from the actual trenches. 2) No one here wants to see you fail or hold you back. Anything we say is meant to help you do the best you can, and is time-tested advice that has worked in the real world.

So, that in mind, I'm not sure what you mean in your response to Eero. It seems as though your objection to the advice he provided was that you weren't trying to be "indie" but trying to be a "name" in the hobby. But that is a meaningless dichotomy; "indie" does not equate to "small" or "unknown" or "not really a business", or whatever, and I am confused as to why you seem to think "slow and steady growth" can not be achieved by the practices and advice provided. I don't understand why you seem to believe these are somehow incompatible or opposed. Can you explain (assuming I haven't mistaken your meaning)?

Because you are an indie publisher right now, regardless of what you want to be five years down the road. It means you are a small start-up business; and as such, you should not be using big name business strategies to obtain the steady growth necessary to reach your stated goal of becoming a name-brand, because right now you need to work the market as what you are.

But before I write out any other advice, I did have one question: I don't recall if you stated this before or not, so I am curious as to where you get the 1000-1500 number from as your desired initial print run? Who recommended that to you and why?
Logged

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Seamus
Member

Posts: 116


WWW
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2009, 06:50:45 AM »

Seamus,

This is my perception of some of your responses, so please correct me if you meant something different. It feels to me as though you view some of the advice you're hearing conflicting with what you think you want to do or where you want to go, but keep in mind: 1) We've been doing this, you haven't. We're good sources of information from the actual trenches. 2) No one here wants to see you fail or hold you back. Anything we say is meant to help you do the best you can, and is time-tested advice that has worked in the real world.

So, that in mind, I'm not sure what you mean in your response to Eero. It seems as though your objection to the advice he provided was that you weren't trying to be "indie" but trying to be a "name" in the hobby. But that is a meaningless dichotomy; "indie" does not equate to "small" or "unknown" or "not really a business", or whatever, and I am confused as to why you seem to think "slow and steady growth" can not be achieved by the practices and advice provided. I don't understand why you seem to believe these are somehow incompatible or opposed. Can you explain (assuming I haven't mistaken your meaning)?

Because you are an indie publisher right now, regardless of what you want to be five years down the road. It means you are a small start-up business; and as such, you should not be using big name business strategies to obtain the steady growth necessary to reach your stated goal of becoming a name-brand, because right now you need to work the market as what you are.

But before I write out any other advice, I did have one question: I don't recall if you stated this before or not, so I am curious as to where you get the 1000-1500 number from as your desired initial print run? Who recommended that to you and why?

First let me apologize. I wasn't trying to come of as anti-indie in my post and I realize that is how it came accros. My basic point was we want to hit the ground with just the right speed to grow in the future; not too big or too small. I just wanted my goals to be clear, so I could get the best advice.

I am happy to hear advice that conflicts with my expectations. I know very little about publishing. Like I said, I have mostly seen the freelance side. I do know what I want. Which is to grow and be successful. But if my assumptions are wrong, I want them challenged (and though I may appear resistant-- what I have heard hear has seriously made me rethink my strategy---I am just one of those people who likes to question everything until I know its the right way to go, so I needed to throw out the other advice I heard. Basically I am looking for specific reasons.

The 1000-1500 number comes from other forums with publishing pages I have visited, my days working as an editor where my bosses always said that was a good number for a small publisher, from books on small publishing, and the I am Mongoose Book. Granted the first three may have no application to the role playing industry, and the last needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For what it is worth, I am definitely leaning toward starting smaller.
Logged

Bedrock Games
President
BEDROCK GAMES
Seamus
Member

Posts: 116


WWW
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2009, 07:21:21 AM »

Thanks for the feedback. How does doing a print run that small effect profit? Wouldn't I need to charge a lot more for each book? I keep hearing 500 is the most economical run for a small publisher starting out. Where can I get good information on Printing so I don't get taken advantage of?

Ah hah, for this I have a nice little essay somewhere around here... this one. It should explain the different printing options and their general advantages pretty well.

Printing a 100 copies will definitely cause the per-copy cost of the book to be higher than it'd be if you printed a 1000. How much higher depends on the particulars of the book's dimensions, page count, color, binding, etc. As it turns out, however, this is not as much of a problem as one might think: a small print run means that you're going to be selling the book direct, which in turn means that you're making twice the money you'd be making in retail, which turns into at least four times the profit (after printing costs) - the outcome is that even if the per-copy cost is double or triple what you'd have with a large run, as long as you can sell it all directly to the customer thanks to not having to unload a large number of books, you're still making the same or even better profit per copy on those 100 books that you'd be making on the 1000.

Thanks for the break down. The small print run and the direct sales is definitely something we are considering. But I do have some concerns. Does this limit my long term growth? Though they buy at a discount, doesn't having the distributor put you on shelves where people browse, help get the product and your name out there? (I have been told this by some people, and it matches my own experience-- I usually learn about publishers and products while looking for my other role playing games at the hobby shop or book store). If I am doing direct sales, how do I get people to know about my product?

By the way, you have been one of the most active and helpful people here Eero, so please don't take my questioning the wrong way. I am listening; I just want to make sure I am clear on these things and understand all my options' pros and cons.
Logged

Bedrock Games
President
BEDROCK GAMES
guildofblades
Member

Posts: 309


WWW
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2009, 09:38:12 AM »

>>Our plan was to go to distributors before printing, with a PDF or prototype. How that goes will largely determine where we head from there. For advertising we were going to take spots out in magazines like Kobold Quarterly, and do some internet campaigns.. Its about 75 dollars for a small ad. I haven't fully investigated our marketing strategy yet, since right now I am focusing on learning the more boring aspects of running my own business. As I said,we are in the early stages. If we need to lower the numbers we print, we will do so. But our goal isn't to be a indie publisher. It is to achieve steady growth and become a name in the industry. We understand that is a lofty goal, and are fine falling down in the process.<<

Hi Seamus,

Looks like you have recieved some good advice so far, so I have just a bit more to add.

1) Print Run Size:

You can't possibly make a realistic decision with regards to how much to print until you have established a reasonably detailed business plan in how you will sell them. I understand your desire to utilize the 3 tier distribution system and to sell through the distributors. I can see how judging your print run size around some assumptions of how that business relationship might work might make sense, but you have a few bridges to cross before you can assume much at all. The first thing you need to realize is just because you wish to do business with the distributors is that many of them (or all of them) might not want to do business with you as a start up.

If you want a realistic chance of being picked up by the key distributors you will need to wow them. Get some quality POD copies of your book printed in advance to use in making presentations to them. Get a face to face presentation to pitch your company and product to them. And don't rely on how "cool" the product is to win those accounts. Come prepared with a very detailed marketing plan that you plan to impement if they pick up your book. They are going to want to see how you will be helping to push sales through to retailers and how you will generate grass root interest among consumers.

If you do get picked up by various distributors, work with them to get your product through the pre order process. Speak with their buyers about that process and its timeline. Base your print run size around their pre orders. If they hand in pre orders, collectively, of say 600 to 700 units, then sure, a 1000 to 1500 print run makes perfect sense. If, however, they turn in pre orders of 150 units (a much more common number of RPG start ups and small press) then obviously 1500 books is going to be a bit too much inventory to carry at the start. You'll want more like 300 to 500 books.

If you fail to get the distributors on board, unless you get some other major sales channel open, then yeah, maybe 100 to 200 books is the right number to start. Product to fill mail orders and to do convention sales.

2) Hitting the Ground Running.

Unless you have just released the next Pokemon or you are entering the frey with 5-10 products designs already to print and are backed by several hundred grand, this just NEVER happens. Expect to enter the game at a very slow crawl. That being said, you CAN start small and build that into something larger. How well prepared and how well you work at it may decide if it takes you a couple years to grow into a self supporting company or if it takes a bit longer (about7-8 years for us). But if you stay determined and keep pursuing growth opportunities you can start small and grow into a mid sized company (you'll never be a "large" company without some kind of massively successful break out hit).

Starting small is a perfectly valid strategy and fairly prudent if you don't have a really darn good plan for starting "big" and the resources to actually implement it.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com
Logged

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2009, 09:57:06 AM »

It's all good, Seamus. Who knows, I might just have the wrong sort of experience to advice you - my own goals lie more in honing my skills as an artist than growing my business, so I naturally approach the issue of reaching the audience more from a skills-based point of view than a money-spending one.

My own take on the growth thing is that an inexperienced publisher with an untested game will benefit immeasurably from a modest starting point: by printing up a 100 or 200 books and selling them directly to customer you'll make good money, have plenty of new and necessary work introduced to you, get to vet your website for reals, get to make final changes to your product if the first 100 copies prove somehow deficient, get to encounter the customers and the reviews/reactions to your product, familiarize yourself with the convention scene, learn about soft advertising techniques, build contacts towards other publishers, fans, retailers and distributors and do a dozen other things that you haven't done before. On the other hand, you will lose nothing by doing this, except perhaps a little time: if your game really is of a caliber where it'd be realistic to print up a thousand books for distribution, then you should be able to sell 100 directly to customers during one month around the convention season.

But generally speaking, the approach I discuss here is in many ways what I see as an ideal growth plan, exactly because of the warm-up issue I mentioned upthread: it takes time more than anything else to make a place for yourself in the collective minds of the hobbyists - time and good or at least relevant product. Hard advertising like magazine adverts or web campaigns produce much better results on a softened audience that has some reason to be interested in your product already: WotC gets good return on advertising new Magic expansions not because everybody would, but because the brand is extremely well known and the product is directed at people already committed to it; thus the advertisement acts to transmit information and activate an existing fan-base. A similar advertising campaign will be much less efficient for an unknown name simply because people are trained in ignoring the advertisement flow in their everyday lives. It's just bad return on investment to pay for eyeballs if you're unknown to the audience; you could be paying the same money for appropriate start-up publicity, such as review copies for reviewers and industry people. Or heck, pay yourself to sit at a computer and connect with people, start a blog or write an introductory mini-supplement to pust in the Internet. You've already made name for yourself among potential customers by hanging out here.

As to how this reflects on retailers... I don't deny that being on the shelves of the retailer is an attractive proposition and even useful for the most unknown publisher, but the product needs to fit very well for that sort of thing to be worthwhile: it needs to look right and be priced right to catch the eye and make for that impulse buy, or at least present itself in a positive and intriguing light when the potential customer browses it at the store. My personal impression is that game store presence has lost importance steadily for the last ten years: today you're at the store next to hundreds of not thousands of other products, while the majority of the shelf-space and retailer attention is committed to large brand products. In that environment your game needs to be something truly special to get more than the passing glance from a customer; to get significant shelf-space and retailer attention you need to publish not a product, but a product line. It's inherently rigged to favour the big, established publisher. For these reasons I am not opposed to retailer presence, but I don't consider it integral to a growth strategy in its early days, either. I'd be much more interested in it after I'd saturated the consciousness of the Internet-going hobby populace.

Also, listen to Ryan: not only is he in the exact place you're looking to grow into, with the experience to match, but he's also saying what I tried to say much more concisely. There is no reason to make any sort of decisions on large print runs before talking it through with the distributors you plan to attract.

(And Ryan, do write somewhere about how your business is doing. I enjoy reading your saga.)
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Seamus
Member

Posts: 116


WWW
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2009, 12:23:45 PM »

>>Our plan was to go to distributors before printing, with a PDF or prototype. How that goes will largely determine where we head from there. For advertising we were going to take spots out in magazines like Kobold Quarterly, and do some internet campaigns.. Its about 75 dollars for a small ad. I haven't fully investigated our marketing strategy yet, since right now I am focusing on learning the more boring aspects of running my own business. As I said,we are in the early stages. If we need to lower the numbers we print, we will do so. But our goal isn't to be a indie publisher. It is to achieve steady growth and become a name in the industry. We understand that is a lofty goal, and are fine falling down in the process.<<

Hi Seamus,

Looks like you have recieved some good advice so far, so I have just a bit more to add.

1) Print Run Size:

You can't possibly make a realistic decision with regards to how much to print until you have established a reasonably detailed business plan in how you will sell them. I understand your desire to utilize the 3 tier distribution system and to sell through the distributors. I can see how judging your print run size around some assumptions of how that business relationship might work might make sense, but you have a few bridges to cross before you can assume much at all. The first thing you need to realize is just because you wish to do business with the distributors is that many of them (or all of them) might not want to do business with you as a start up.

If you want a realistic chance of being picked up by the key distributors you will need to wow them. Get some quality POD copies of your book printed in advance to use in making presentations to them. Get a face to face presentation to pitch your company and product to them. And don't rely on how "cool" the product is to win those accounts. Come prepared with a very detailed marketing plan that you plan to impement if they pick up your book. They are going to want to see how you will be helping to push sales through to retailers and how you will generate grass root interest among consumers.

If you do get picked up by various distributors, work with them to get your product through the pre order process. Speak with their buyers about that process and its timeline. Base your print run size around their pre orders. If they hand in pre orders, collectively, of say 600 to 700 units, then sure, a 1000 to 1500 print run makes perfect sense. If, however, they turn in pre orders of 150 units (a much more common number of RPG start ups and small press) then obviously 1500 books is going to be a bit too much inventory to carry at the start. You'll want more like 300 to 500 books.

If you fail to get the distributors on board, unless you get some other major sales channel open, then yeah, maybe 100 to 200 books is the right number to start. Product to fill mail orders and to do convention sales.

2) Hitting the Ground Running.

Unless you have just released the next Pokemon or you are entering the frey with 5-10 products designs already to print and are backed by several hundred grand, this just NEVER happens. Expect to enter the game at a very slow crawl. That being said, you CAN start small and build that into something larger. How well prepared and how well you work at it may decide if it takes you a couple years to grow into a self supporting company or if it takes a bit longer (about7-8 years for us). But if you stay determined and keep pursuing growth opportunities you can start small and grow into a mid sized company (you'll never be a "large" company without some kind of massively successful break out hit).

Starting small is a perfectly valid strategy and fairly prudent if you don't have a really darn good plan for starting "big" and the resources to actually implement it.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com


Ryan, thanks for the great advice. The more I talk with distributors and the more I do research, the more it seems how things pan out on that end, is what will ultimately determine our first print run. I have also been hearing about consolidators like Impressions...what should I look out for on this front?
Logged

Bedrock Games
President
BEDROCK GAMES
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2293

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2009, 11:45:10 PM »

But if my assumptions are wrong, I want them challenged (and though I may appear resistant-- what I have heard hear has seriously made me rethink my strategy---I am just one of those people who likes to question everything until I know its the right way to go, so I needed to throw out the other advice I heard. Basically I am looking for specific reasons.

Awesome. This is a great and commendable attitude.

Quote
The 1000-1500 number comes from other forums with publishing pages I have visited, my days working as an editor where my bosses always said that was a good number for a small publisher, from books on small publishing, and the I am Mongoose Book. Granted the first three may have no application to the role playing industry, and the last needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For what it is worth, I am definitely leaning toward starting smaller.

Ok, good to know. And I think you're right about starting smaller, but Ryan and Eero have, at this point, said everything I was going to say, and said it better than I would have (listen to those guys, they're both very smart and know what they're talking about). I will, though, add one note to Eero's statement: yep, in the US, printed books have been considered a taxable asset since the mid-70's, making unsold books a liability for your business until you have them pulped (ie: yes, in the US you pay money to the government for any books you print and can't sell).

Yes, it's also a terrible law that has had very negative effects on the robustness and diversity of the market over the last thirty years, but it is what it is until we can convince the necessary persons to repeal it. Regardless, just another factor to consider in your initial print runs until you discover what the market will support for your product.
Logged

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Seamus
Member

Posts: 116


WWW
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2009, 05:39:02 AM »

But if my assumptions are wrong, I want them challenged (and though I may appear resistant-- what I have heard hear has seriously made me rethink my strategy---I am just one of those people who likes to question everything until I know its the right way to go, so I needed to throw out the other advice I heard. Basically I am looking for specific reasons.

Awesome. This is a great and commendable attitude.

Quote
The 1000-1500 number comes from other forums with publishing pages I have visited, my days working as an editor where my bosses always said that was a good number for a small publisher, from books on small publishing, and the I am Mongoose Book. Granted the first three may have no application to the role playing industry, and the last needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For what it is worth, I am definitely leaning toward starting smaller.

Ok, good to know. And I think you're right about starting smaller, but Ryan and Eero have, at this point, said everything I was going to say, and said it better than I would have (listen to those guys, they're both very smart and know what they're talking about). I will, though, add one note to Eero's statement: yep, in the US, printed books have been considered a taxable asset since the mid-70's, making unsold books a liability for your business until you have them pulped (ie: yes, in the US you pay money to the government for any books you print and can't sell).

Yes, it's also a terrible law that has had very negative effects on the robustness and diversity of the market over the last thirty years, but it is what it is until we can convince the necessary persons to repeal it. Regardless, just another factor to consider in your initial print runs until you discover what the market will support for your product.

After researching it and hearing what people hear have to say; I think starting out smaller is a good idea. Primarily so I can learn the trade, and know how to handle large volume if that ever happens. Its pretty clear to me, we have a lot to learn on the business end, so both sitting on thousands of books or having to move them are equally daunting. That said, I still wouldn't mind trying to work with smaller distributors if that will help get our name out there.

Lets say I do a smaller printing and rely mainly on direct sales: how do I market my book to a wider audience? Is it possible to get good sales numbers selling directly? Would hooking up with a couple of smaller distributors be of any use? Also, any recommendations for digital or POD?
Logged

Bedrock Games
President
BEDROCK GAMES
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!