Archive for October 20th, 2008

Ron on Distribution

2008 Oct 20

Ron and I bump heads every so often, but he is 300% correct about the current distribution options not being very good for small publishers (even if, as Fred points out, he might have some of the details about IPR wrong). Honestly, having to deal with that headache — both individual fulfillment and retail fulfillment, which are really two different things and require different approaches — was one of the factors that led to me getting out of commercial publishing.

One of the central issues, and he nails it, is that publishers often have different priorities than the people doing the distribution and fulfillment. My goal is not and was never to sell as many copies as possible or make as much money as I could. It’s more important to me to get my game into the hands of people who will actually enjoy it and then maintain contact with them, get feedback, and help ensure that their experience with my game is as good as it can possibly be. And ultimately I decided that the current options available for commercial publishing were not suited for me to really do that. While IPR and Key20 may strive for those same ideals, the way their websites are set up and the manner in which they process orders makes that less likely.

Now, Meg’s taken another approach and tried to set up a different distribution scheme that aligns it more with the priorities of a small group of participating publishers. That seems very cool and a much better way to handle it. I’m not sure whether that model would work for me, even if I were to team up with publishers who seem to share some of my priorities — like Clinton and Nathan — but it seems more likely than trying to pursue more traditional sales and distribution schemes. For now, free distribution through Bleeding Play (free electronic versions) and Lulu (print products at cost) is what I’m planning on sticking with for the foreseeable future. But I’m also interested in continuing the conversation with like-minded folks and exploring any other possibilities that might develop.

Why I Got Out of Sales

2008 Oct 20

This thread on the Forge (thanks Judd!) is a pretty clear depiction of the kinds of issues one has to deal with in commercial self-publishing, issues that I very quickly grew frustrated dealing with. I felt like I was spending a lot of energy on things that were not fun to me, when what I really wanted to be doing was making games and playing games, not trying to figure out how to run a profitable and self-sustaining small business.

It’s certainly true that, when compared to freelancing for a big company, self-publishers have infinite more freedom to do what they want. However, the downside is having to do almost all of it yourself. Companies like Lulu and IPR have made it easier in many ways, but there’s still an insane amount of work that you need to do, which no one can or will do for you. The people who enjoy that work and do it well are likely to thrive in self-publishing, but there are also many people for whom dealing with business matters is like pulling teeth.

Personally, if I was going to get back into commercial publishing, it would be under the following conditions: I would produce work that I would license commercially to another publisher for a fixed fee or percentage of sales. Said work would be completed (writing, layout, art, etc.) before we even started negotiating or produced under an agreement with no time constraint (it would be finished when it was finished and they could decide at that point to license it or no). I’m not sure I’m ever going to be excited about handling the details of commercial publishing myself again.

That said, non-commercial publishing (the stuff that’s tagged on this blog as “Anti-Publishing”) is a completely different game and one I’m increasingly excited about.