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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 129 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: First Questions - Should I self publish?  (Read 2005 times)
Sebastian K. Hickey
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Posts: 176


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« on: July 26, 2009, 06:10:59 AM »

Hello,

I'm new to this industry.  I don't plan to make it big, but I love designing games.  I think I've come up with something tasty and, like all the dreamers, I want to publish online.

Maybe I'm jumping in without following forum etiquette.  Is there a resource on this forum I should peruse before asking for help?

If not, here is my dilemma.  I'd like to publish using the Open Gaming Licence, but I'm not sure I'm allowed.  Let's say I put my game together as a PDF, stick the OGL inside the front page and send it off to Indie Press Revolution.  Would they even take it?  Would they be allowed to take it?  Let's say they are allowed to take it, and then a hundred people like the idea and make a purchase from the website.  What would happen to the money?  Would I need to register a limited liability corporation in order to keep things straight, or could I just take my alms to my personal bank account and spend it on snacks at the weekly game session?  Essentially, do I need to have a registered company behind me to publish my own work?

Or... Do I try to get a Real publisher to back me?  Are there any pitfalls?

As I say, I love designing, I love playing, and mainly, I love writing.  It's the thing I do after work until the wee hours.  So even if it's just a vanity dream, I'd like to give it a shot.  You guys seem to understand it all.  Any advice would be appreciated.

Kind regards,

Sebastian.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2009, 07:11:45 AM »

I hope you understand, no one is going to answer this question yes or no. What I'm going to do is ask you some questions that, once you know the answer, should help you decide for yourself.

I know, nor care, nothing about the OGL. Others will likely be more helpful in that department. The IPR dudes show up around here occasionally, but if you can't get IPR specific answers there, I'm sure they'd be open to your inquiries in a more direct manner. I do not believe a registered company or LLC is required, but they'd be better able to answer that.

If IPR isn't your only option, then things open up a bit. You can sell direct from your own site, or the Unstore. You can sell out of your backpack, even.

No one here will tell you to get a "real" publisher back to you. Check the articles section at the top of the Forge, specifically looking for War Story and the Nuked Apple Cart essays on that topic.

So, what are your goals?

Do you want to publish hardcopy, or just PDF? If PDF, do you intend to charge for it, or make it free? Possibly a volunteer/tip jar scheme? If hardcopy, are you thinking of hand-making the copies, like Darcy Burgess' amazing Black Cadillacs ashcan, or Chris Engle's Matrix Games? Do you want to whip up a PDF and slot it to a Print on Demand printer? How much are you willing to spend on art, editing and layout? (See Clinton Nixon's somewhat dated but still relevant article in the article's section on making a book for cheap) Do you have friends you can tap for artistic, editing or graphic design skills?

Why do you want to publish?

Vanity publishing (just to have a book on your shelf with your name on it)? Do you think you're going to revolutionize the RPG industry (Hint: You're not gonna)? Do you just think your ideas are pretty awesome, and you suspect other people would, too? Do you want to make enough money to pay for your weekly Cheetos and Mountain Dew? Are you looking to make money, or just break even?


All of these are completely valid. Aside from selling your ideas to a "real" publisher, there's very little about game design and publishing that you can't find information about. It just helps for us, and more importantly it helps you to know how much, how far and how big you're looking to go.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Seth M. Drebitko
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« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2009, 02:04:20 AM »

1.Well I would say your first step would probably want to be lulu if you truly just want to get "out there".
2.It is not needed to file an LLC a DBA should be sufficient as I don't think I have seen LLC after any of the publishers names at indie press revolution.
3.I have seen d20 products sold at IPR so again you should be fine.

  Unless you are developing your own system based on the OGL I would probably say you should look to develop something compatible with say pathfinder, mutants and masterminds, or true20. These are all actively supported and published systems and you wont get say an Alternity effect where you have an increasing fan base and a dwindling base of core books.
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MicroLite20 at www.KoboldEnterprise.com
The adventure's just begun!
Ben Lehman
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Blissed


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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2009, 02:11:45 AM »

The reasons to externally publish:

1) You have a publisher who deeply, truly, and hard-core believes in your book and promoting it.
2) They're paying you a good amount, including a royalty.
3) You trust them.
4) They can provide services (promotion, etc.) that you can't.
5) You would rather not have the hassle of handling promotion, printing, and distribution all by yourself.

I would say that all of these have to be true before it's worth it to externally publish. 3) is particularly important.

The reasons to self-publish:
1) You love your game.
2) You're willing to put a small amount of cash on it, that you're willing to lose.
3) You know the basic process (go read the publishing forum for more of this) of publishing and marketing your own game.
4) Your game is good enough to charge other people their hard-earned money for it.

Again, I'd say that all of these are important. I wouldn't move forward on a project without all of them, at least. 2) is the least important, as PDF sales or Lulu sales are basically zero-cost (except for time). 4) Is the most important.

yrs--
--Ben
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2009, 04:43:03 AM »

Should you publish?

Yes!

It is a great learning experience and no matter how much money you make (which we all know won't be much) you'll meet a lot of cool people, learn a ton about how things work and have your name in a nice pretty book. POD makes it possible to anyone to publish.

Chris Engle
hamsterpress.net
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
HeTeleports
Member

Posts: 66

The name's Youssef.


« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2009, 02:41:10 PM »

Took me a little bit to go through IPR's site for publishers.

"Let's say they are allowed to take it, and then a hundred people like the idea and make a purchase from the website.  What would happen to the money?  Would I need to register a limited liability corporation in order to keep things straight, or could I just take my alms to my personal bank account and spend it on snacks at the weekly game session?  Essentially, do I need to have a registered company behind me to publish my own work?"

As a relatively new guy to role-playing as an industry, I can't say much for the OGL and other issues. However, my business experience can help you out with company registration.

For the rest of my post, I'm assuming IPR will accept it under the Open Gaming License.
What happens to the money...
If a customer buys your game, IPR will send you a cut of the proceeds from the sale price. Meaning, if you want to see $20 per unit sold, you want to bump up the price IPR lists it to something like $30. (an arbitrary jump: to be nicer, factor in their cut for 20% of Pdfs sold and raise your price to $24.)

While a registered company looks very professional, it's worth noting that Klaus Teuber sells a lot of games on name recognition alone.

The only reason you should think about registering your company is for tax purposes.
No matter what, you should keep track of how much money you earn from the endeavor. I don’t care if you use Quicken, MS Paint, or a D&D equipment list: Write down how much you earn each month. (Maybe IPR will send you statements, but I doubt it. Your stuff is on sale there by consignment – meaning, your bookkeeping is your responsibility.) Once you know that weekly or monthly figure, you can start making some decisions.
Depending on the state, you may need to register your business (and get a little tax identification number.) Even then, though, you may not make enough to pay taxes – in which case, all the stress you might have over receipts and filing would be futile.
With a family of four and a regular annual income of $23,000 (don’t laugh, that’s what we made last year..), I can afford to bring in about $2,500 a month in hobby proceeds before I have to deal with the Tax Man. If you’re single or filing separately than your spouse, the amount you can take from your sales before worrying about the Tax Man is probably less. If you make more than I do annually (which is likely), it’s probably less.
Conversely, if you spent a lot more on production than you earned back, it’s probably more.

In any case, whatever money IPR would send to you may be safely spent on snacks if it just barely pays for snacks. If you’ve got a decent amount of money left over ($500 - $1,000) after buying Mountain Dew and Pizza Hut, visit a tax accountant. 
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He's supposed to be finishing the art and text for his new game "Secret Identities."

"Oh... be careful. He teleports."
Sebastian K. Hickey
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2009, 03:06:53 PM »

Thanks for the advice so far.  Lance, in case your questions weren't rhetorical, here is a brief response.  My goal is to produce a crisp, tidy little game.  I'd like someone to play it and tell me they think it has innovative features.  After that, I don't care.  I'd like to publish so I can showcase my RPG writing.

Luckily, I still have a few contacts I used to work with in the games industry who are looking for an incentive to expand their layout and character portfolios, so I'm pretty well backed on graphics.  I don't have an editor.

Reflecting, I think I want to publish, to sell that is, because I'm looking for validation.  Deep down, I believe that if I release a game for free, a self published game that is, then it won't be worth anything for my own portfolio.  Do you think that idea has any merit or does it taste of ego?

Seth, after reading your post I inferred something important.  If I'm right, then this next question is going to make me look stupid.  The OGL is only necessary when using someone else's rules, right?  My game isn't based directly on any other system (if that can be said for any new RPG).  What I'm trying to say is that if I released my game, no one could sue me for ripping off their rules.  So, in fact, maybe I don't need to use the OGL after all?

Ben, I see what you're getting at.  Nicely put.  Self publishing looks like the answer.

Chris, thanks for your support.

HeTeleports, thanks also.  So as long as I keep records of the money I make, pass that info on to Mr. Tax at the end of the year and pay the right amount to him, I'm allowed to sell my work online?  Should I try to offset some liability in case I get sued, you know, to cover my ass?

In summary (maybe someone could confirm), 1) I don't need to use the OGL at all, 2) I don't need an LLC to create a publishing company, I can just register a business name as a sole trader and release the game under that business name, 3) even if I don't set up a publishing company, I can still sell my stuff on lulu, or in fact, anywhere if I put my mind to it. And no one's going to lock me up.

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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2009, 07:22:09 PM »

...I believe that if I release a game for free, a self published game that is...

It seems like you are saying you believe "self-published" means "free"? That is incorrect. For example, I have self-published three different products. None of them are free. I have also "self-published" a bunch of other things by virtue of putting them up on the internet as a web page, and all of those are free. "Self-published" is not a statement about price, quality, or value, only who happens to have control over the product. This forum is for self-publishing, and you'll see most of the designers here charge money for their work, and a number of them do quite well.

You may wish to review the Articles section of the Forge, especially "War Story", "The Nuked Apple Cart", and "How to Make Your Own Role-Playing Game (Cheap)" to get an idea of what the Forge is about and how the publishing game works (or doesn't), as well as the threads in the Publishing category in the Infamous Five.

Quote
1) I don't need to use the OGL at all

To just publish a game? No. The OGL is a choice you can make if you want to make your game freely extensible by other parties, or if it is based on the D20 rules but not tied to the D&D rules specifically. If you are not creating a D20 game or D20 material, then there's really no reason for you to need to use the OGL.

Quote
2) I don't need an LLC to create a publishing company, I can just register a business name as a sole trader and release the game under that business name

No, you do not need to make the company an LLC. You CAN, but that's your business. You do not even need to publish as a company. My first product was not released under any sort of publishing company imprint or business name.

Quote
3) even if I don't set up a publishing company, I can still sell my stuff on lulu, or in fact, anywhere if I put my mind to it. And no one's going to lock me up.

Yes, of course you can, and no, no one is going to lock you up. Sue you, maybe, if you're blatantly stealing their copyrights, but you'll know if you're doing that and should know better.

Quote
(Maybe IPR will send you statements, but I doubt it. Your stuff is on sale there by consignment meaning, your bookkeeping is your responsibility.)

HeTeleports, thank you for the help, but it is preferable if one doesn't provide new publishers guesses, but facts, in order to help prevent the flow of misinformation (been enough of that in this hobby as is). Just say "I don't know" if you don't have the information, avoid "I guess" or "I bet". Case-in-point: IPR does indeed send publishers who sell through their store monthly and quarterly sales statements (in fact, I'm not aware of any on-line sales venue that does not do so).
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Selene Tan
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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2009, 07:24:15 PM »

The OGL is a license that lets whoever holds the rights to a work specify some parts of it (including the mechanics) as Open Game Content and other parts as Product Identity. Anyone can make a work based on Open Game Content (but not Product Identity), but they have to attach the OGL to the result.

So, if you're using D&D 3.x/d20 system stuff, you do have to use the OGL. You can also use the OGL on an original product if you want to allow others to make mods and expansions and things based on your game -- Fate did this. There are some other licenses available if you want to allow mods, etc. but disagree with how the OGL works.
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Sebastian K. Hickey
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« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2009, 01:49:48 AM »



Hi Greyorm, my wording was ambiguous when I said:

Quote
"I believe that if I release a game for free, a self published game that is..."

What I meant was that if I self publish a game and it is free, that the resulting product is harder to qualify.  In other words, if I release the game for free on my website, it's harder for me to refer to this in my portfolio (unless I keep it in the 'hobbies' section of the resume). Whereas a) if someone else publishes it there is kudos in having it distributed by another party and b) if I self publish and charge money, the product can be qualified by sales.

Thank you for pointing me to the Articles section of the website.  I'm sorry if I've asked for information that is already contained there.  Your answers so far have given me great confidence.  I feel like I'm being lead out of the fog.  Cheers guys.
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2009, 10:05:36 AM »

OK, trying this again (I keep trying to post this, the forum keeps saying I've already posted it, but it isn't there -- so apologies if this shows up twice):

Thanks for the clarification, and glad to be of service!
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Sebastian K. Hickey
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Posts: 176


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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2009, 01:38:34 PM »

In conclusion, I've decided to self publish.

I'm very excited.  I still have much to do, but at least I know where I'm going with it.  Thanks again.

Sebastian.

[We can now consider this topic closed]
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