2011-03-17 : My First-time Publishing Advice
I wrote this (slightly edited) for somebody who hadn't made it to our panel at PAX East but asked if we could give him some advice anyway. He said that he's thinking about printing with Lulu so that's where I start:
Lulu or the like is a good first option. It's not very profitable, but it's zero risk. What I'd recommend sight unseen is two-pronged: sell a PDF direct from your website, and sell in print from Lulu or wherever. Save the money you make from this toward a small print run. Find a printer who'll charge less than Lulu - my friends all like 360 Digital, I believe - and print as many as you can afford to, but no more. At no point spend any money you'll miss. Invest your game's profits back into your game (skimming lunch money off the top, of course, when you can; that's why you're doing this in the first place) but after your small initial investment, don't give your game a penny of your own money. If it's not profitable out the door, sinking more money into it won't turn it around.
Once your game's selling well, you might think about a marketing/fulfillment/distribution service like IPR. I'd strongly warn you away from IPR or the like while you're still establishing your game in the public eye, though. You might or might not find them useful once you have a dedicated fan base and growing demand - I don't, personally - but either way, before that, they're worse than useless. You'll work just as hard to promote your game and they'll make money off of it before you do. You can probably afford to go with a PDF marketing/fulfillment outfit like RPGNow a little sooner, since the stakes are lower, but I'd recommend doing your own marketing and fulfillment just as long as you can, until demand swamps you.
Before you invest even your time into publication, though, you'll want to start talking about your game in public online. This'll do two things: it'll get you some name recognition and buzz, and it'll give you a sense of public interest in your game. Wherever you do this, participate, don't just pitch your game all the time. People love to support their friends' work and hate to give money to shills.
Once you've done some thorough internal playtesting and gotten together a good, complete prototype, open it up to external playtesting. What I like to say is that getting external playtesters is like a test run for publication - if people aren't lining up to try your game out in late-stage playtesting, people won't line up to buy it when it's finished. It's troublesome, because when people don't line up, they don't give feedback, so you have to figure out for yourself what's not grabbing them. If people are going blank during your pitch, change your pitch; if people are excited by your pitch but go blank when they look at your game, there's nothing to do but go back to design. If you publish it as-is you'll just get the same response.
I know people who've spent money on illustrations for games that didn't survive to publication. Wait until your game's ready to go to market before you get excited about hiring illustrators, editors, and book designers. For your first game, you might not have the budget for them at all; do the very best you can.
Good luck! Let me know if there's anything I can do to help.
1. On 2011-03-17, Vincent said:
2. On 2011-03-17, Tim Ralphs said:
3. On 2011-03-17, Vincent said:
4. On 2011-03-17, Gregor Hutton said:
5. On 2011-03-17, Tim Ralphs said:
6. On 2011-03-17, Andy K said:
7. On 2011-03-17, jenskot said:
8. On 2011-03-17, Vincent said:
9. On 2011-03-17, Vincent said:
10. On 2011-03-18, ndp said:
11. On 2011-03-18, Bret said:
12. On 2011-04-08, Simon R said:
13. On 2011-04-08, Vincent said:
14. On 2011-04-08, Simon R said:
15. On 2011-04-08, Vincent said: