Distribution Questions

Started by Mathew E. Reuther, October 06, 2010, 12:53:40 AM

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Mathew E. Reuther

Hi, I'm Mathew, and this is my first post here on The Forge.

I've got a question regarding the distribution of games which was actually spawned by reading over at Vincent's site regarding some issues with IPR and how they tend to focus on certain products.

A number of times it was noted that there were difficulties with retailers being able to get products once people pulled their stock from IPR. What I am curious about is why that might be.

For example, using Lightning Source (LSI) your product is available POD via the following:

Baker & Taylor
Barnes & Noble
Espresso Book Machine

They even show as guaranteed "In Stock" through Ingram, which I have long (mis?)understood to be a primary distributor for a huge number of small/independant retailers.

So my question is, really, what is the issue if you've got coverage of those outlets via POD from LSI?

I'd really like to know because I'm in the process of starting up and can use any seasoned advice from those who have far more wisdom than myself. :)
Knee deep in the Change System's guts . . .

Ron Edwards

Hi Mathew,

I think those discussion points concerned game store retailers specifically.

However, that doesn't mean I agree with those points. My own jaundiced view is that those arguments, "be with IPR or lose out on retail," were more scare than substance.

Now, it is true, when I stopped working with IPR, the retailers lost my books ... but that is not because they wouldn't carry them, it's because I didn't have time to pick up the promotional slack myself. As it happens, the retailer interest remained, and now that I have a bit more time, my books are back in the stores.

One may argue that I have name-recognition among the retailers and perhaps a historical advantage as well, since my books were in a lot of the stores before IPR existed anyway. But to date, I have seen no evidence that first-time publishers without IPR support are rejected by retailers - and again, I specify those retailers who already have an "indie shelf" and are alert to innovations in design. As a word of advice, they respond well to recommendations from independent authors they know, which is a good way to promote yourself to the stores, positing that your game is itself good.

The retailers who understand and value independent RPG publishing - who are lot more common than they used to be - are happy to work with individual publishers. Granted, they like the ease of a single place to order from and paying a single check to them, but they know it's not always possible. I know lots of game store retailers and not one of them considers "being with IPR" to be a make-or-break status for ordering a game.

All that said, using a service like IPR or any other distributor-style way of getting games to stores is definitely easier than doing it yourself, and a first-time publisher may well be uneasy entering the waters of store promotion alone. But that's not the same as the scare-status of saying it won't work from their end.

Best, Ron

P.S. Make sure to understand the profit margins issue when considering how important store sales are to you. This is definitely every publisher's individual choice, and many independent publishers are quite financially logical in deciding not to devote any effort to being in game stores at all.

Mathew E. Reuther

Thanks for taking the time to reply, Ron.

Yeah, the points made were directly related to the non-chain stores that potentially carry indie titles.

I was simply wondering why stores would not have access to titles if they were not in stock at IPR. It would seem to me that anyone with any kind of distribution network at all would have access to Ingram or Baker & Taylor. But again, that is my limited view of the world of distribution never having been a retailer, and just now stepping into the publishing arena.

It sounds as if the lack of stocking with IPR leads to a) the loss of a single outlet (IPR itself) and b) the loss of a distributor who might be doing some kind of marketing work with retail outlets.

The disadvantages of going with IPR would seem to include the need to ship them stock, as opposed to keeping it POD or in-house. (Not that I relish doing shipping . . . that's not why I'm starting up!)

I'm just busy weighing various options to try and see where the path of least resistance might lie . . . after all, us humans are lazy. :)

The point regarding margins is well-taken, and I've been looking carefully at where the most money stands to be made.  Which is, arguably, the stuff you sell yourself . . . argh, the horror of shipping! :)
Knee deep in the Change System's guts . . .


The larger majority of publishers in our business do not have games regularly available to the book chains or mass market distributors. Some number of years ago I examined and had the option to open relationships with Ingrams for entry into the book trade and Meijers for the mass market. After carefully examining both options, we opted not to use either as the business terms involved would have put our publishing company in a precarious position. Realistically speaking, distribution through such venues is only for larger companies with fairly abundant capital reserves.

That leaves game and to a lesser extent, hobby distributors for publishers to consider working with, and of course, the assortment of collaberative websites and direct sales via their own websites and conventions.

Each distribution venue is different, but when engaging to use wholesalers, it comes at a substantial discount off the suggested SRP (55-62%). That can work, but it comes with a fair amount of politics and requires a certain amount of marketing effort to sustain and make useful. It also requires a production method that would allow you to sell your products at such discounts and still make an acceptible profit. That can be difficult sometimes with short run and POD productions.

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

Mathew E. Reuther

So if there were easy access to all the outlets I've listed it would not then be overly necessary to have IPR as another source for your books. It could potentially offer you more sales if you were to have them of course as they have a certain established base of retailers and consumers. But retailers would generally have access to the outlets already listed, and consumers would have access to ordering through retailers since you're available through channels they already use.

At least that's the message I'm getting out of what you've said.
Knee deep in the Change System's guts . . .