A Penny for Your Thoughts
On 2008-10-03, Ben Lehman wrote:
1. What's your name?
2. What's your publishing company?
These are our games, AKA TAO Games. Originally was going to be two people involved, but I'm the only one who ever finished anything.
3. What game or games have you published?
Polaris, Bliss Stage, and XXXXtreme Street Luge.
4. When you first started publishing, what success did you hope for?
To sell 105 copies of my game so I wouldn't have excess inventory on hand and could walk away cleanly with a profit.
To get some recognition and love for my game design work.
To practice game design in a real and serious way.
To impress a girl I liked.
To maybe be able to get a professional game design job.
5. Did you achieve it?
Yes. To all five.
6. What success do you hope for now?
To cleanly wrap things up so I can publish my back catalog with minimal hassle and move on with my life.
7. Have you achieved it?
8. If a hopeful new RPG publisher came to you and asked you for your wisdom, to help her set reasonable expectations for her own success, what would you tell her?
Game publishing is great, wonderful, personally rewarding, and usually profitable.
It is not a career. Do not pay money you aren't afraid to lose.
There are assholes and nice people in the indie publishing world. Learn to tell them apart. Don't waste your time on assholes.
Assholes: Anyone who wants to be your friend but never talks about anything other than themselves is an asshole. Anyone who won't hear you out, or who dismisses your input completely is an asshole. Anyone who blames their poor communication and dickish behavior on "the internet" is an asshole.
Nice Guys: People who support you and your game. People who will help you step by step through the publishing process. People who own up their responsibility.
People who are "friendly" aren't necessarily nice guys. People who are "mean" aren't necessarily assholes.
In my experience, the reverse is more likely true.
Writing role-playing games is a great way to convince yourself that you're doing something meaningful. Don't get lost, don't lose sight of your other goals in life.
Don't join IPR right away, unless you have a pressing need to. Do your own work.
Don't be afraid to cut out, cut ties, and cut your losses to save your honor, your heart, your pocketbook, or any other part of yourself. Basically, when all else fails, fuck the bastards.
Don't let other people saying "it's not about the money" convince you to spend money you can't afford.
Don't listen to any kerfluffles about "honesty," "popularity," "status," "money," "the Forge" as some sort of monolithic institution, or "sales." None of them matter.
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