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Soapbox: About the Industry

Fine Print, part U: Imprints

by Sandy Antunes
July 3, 2001  

You shouldn't have to start a company to publish a game book.

Way back when, I wrote The $1K Company, a guide to starting up your own publishing outfit for under one thousand dollars. However, I also have always felt there are too many publishers.

Now, don't read that wrong. I don't think market barriers should be raised or that creative people should close up shop. However, a lot of publishing is completely seperate from the creative end.

Should every novel writer have to set up a major publishing chain? Should screenwriters have to found a movie studio? The answer is no. In most media models, there are companies that handle production, distribution and promotion of creative work. That's the area where you need accountants, sales folks, and other business types. This leaves the creative types free to create.

Enough preamble. Here are writeups for several publishers who are willing to consider publishing outside projects. We asked the following questions: Would you...

  1. publish another person's game if they pay you
  2. publish another person's game if they cover costs
  3. publish another person's game only if it doesn't suck
  4. publish another person's game if it fits your niche

I would loosely break things into following three categories, but in reality the responses I recieved didn't exactly match up.

  1. Vanity Press. This bunch will take your money and handle printing your game. It doesn't matter what it is, you pay and they'll publish.
  2. Imprint House. This bunch will consider publishing your item and list it as if it were coming from them. Usually this means they evaluate the quality of your work. Costs range from "you pay everything" to "they pay and you get a percentage."
  3. Open Call. These folks will look at projects on a case-by-case basis, and consider whether they want to publish it. This was the de facto standard for getting things published in days of old, and really is the toughest route. In practice, you're selling them your game.

It seems that Golden Pillar, Inner City, and possibly Crooked Face are the only true 'vanity press' outfits I've found, i.e. they don't necessarily make a judgement on your game before agreeing to print/rep it. The other candidates (and I'm guessing here) seem to have a decision process on whether to continue. Though again-- by volunteering this info in answer to my call, they are a bit more proactive than just cold-calling a random publisher.

Now, many many publishers are willing to look at outside submissions. What makes this list useful is that these are publishers who were willing to publically state their interest in such works. I'm using the standard that "publishers who read industry email lists and bother to reply to open calls like this, are more likely to be friendly to work with and have better follow-through on such items." So you can (and should) contact other publishers, not on this list, if they handle the appropriate genre or system, or if you have any personal connection with them.

But if you're just breaking into the industry with your first product(s), this list is a good place to start. Note I give web addresses but not email contacts. This is intentional, to provide a simple barrier for the publishers. You should visit the web pages, find the contact information, then initiate contact. This is also a good way for you to get a quick sense of how it will be working with that publishers-- if contacting them is easy and straightforward, your publishing experience will be that much better.

So now I'll list the publishers in rough order of how independent you get to remain in the process. Oh heck, actually I'm listing them in order of which ones I would contact them if I ever got my products ready for market.

RPGs

Golden Pillar Publishing www.goldrushg.com/gpp
Operated by Mark Arsenault, this outfit will take your work and handle production (cover, layout, etc) and basic product listings. Their plans start at $500, and get higher if you want them to handle game industry distribution and marketing.
Opinion: Prior to GPP being established, Mark's Gold Rush Games handled fulfillment of my magazine, Metagame. It sort of proved the axiom "no one can really market your product other than yourself." I'd rate GPP as a good bet to save you the trouble of starting a company, but you'll still want to be involved with your marketing.

Inner City Game Designs. www.fuzzyheroes.com/
Says Chris Clark, quote: We publish another's game if they pay us... and when I say publish, I mean including sales and fullfillment. Although, to date, most just want us to print their item."
Opinion: Having used his printing press for Metagame magazine, I found the quality high, the service excellent, the rates great. I've not yet used their sales and fullfillment, so I can't comment on that. Chris' marketing knowledge is sound and this could be the sleeper deal for start-ups.

Troll Lord Games www.trolllord.com
Mac Golden of Troll Lord Games is interested in outside pitches, though they don't have formal terms yet.
Opinion: They focus on fantasy games and could be a good d20 route.

Crookedface Games www.crookedfacegames.com
Crookedface Games is "working on two such deals" for the 'publish another person's game if they pay you' scheme. Larry D. Hols is the lead on this.
Opinion: I've worked with Larry but not with Crookedface Games. My guess is, as a start-up, there may be a wait before they really can offer pick-up publishing services.

Darcsyde Productions www.darcsyde.org/
Liam Routt of Darcsyde Productions says that their current model is to handle creator-controlled work. They don't have a standard deal and handle proposals as they come, with revenue sharing after costs are met. They are currently looking for projects that fit in their existing lines, but are also open to creators willing to open an entirely new line, that Darcsyde would then support.
Opinion: Looks more like a way to link into their existing line or genre work, so this opinion may be a little closed for most. Since they don't have terms, it's a matter of negotiating/schmoozing to work everything out.

Wingnut Games www.wingnutgames.com/
Aldo Ghiozzi of Wingnut Games reports "I will publish people's stuff, but only if it falls into the "funny game" category. I have no terms, but its everything you listed below.'
Opinion: Aldo now does marketing for other companies, so being published by Wingnut would be seriously cool. Likely you'd have to negotiate/schmooze a bit to set terms, since he's focused on a genre and doesn't yet have generic terms. Worth doing for funny game makers.

Not doing an RPG?

There are publishers that can handle tactical or computer games, too.

Fantasy Flight Games www.fantasyflightgames.com/
Christian Petersen says, "FFG will accept board & card-game submissions and consider them for publication.
Typical compensation is $5,00-$1,000 advance and 2-5% royalty of FFG's proceeds (depending on the final state of the submission, how much work it needs, etc).
We do not accept role-playing submissions, unless the work is 100% complete, and virtually ready to go to press."

Avalanche Press www.avalanchepress.com/
Mike Bennighof of Avalanche Press reports "We'll do most anything that doesn't involve bestiality or voting Republican if they pay us enough." This might be a path for people doing tactical and board games.

A-Sharp www.a-sharp.com/
For computer games, David Dunham of A-Sharp reports that, though they haven't done it yet, they would consider publishing an outside developed complete computer game if it didn't suck.

Finally, I'll close with a link to Chimera magazine's excellent set of General Tso' Ten Wings for game publishing, just to put a little perspective on all of this.

Until next month,
Sandy Antunes, sandy@rpg.net TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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  • June 2, 1997 "Dirty Laundry" (copyright and slander on the net)
  • May 2, 1997 "Communications Breakdown" (company and player schisms)
  • April 2, 1997 "The Quick and the Dead" (dying companies versus new ideas)
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  • January 2, 1997 "Fits and Starts" (web presences, print runs, live roleplaying)
  • December 2, 1996 "Procastination Season is Over" (delays and new products)
  • November 1, 1996 "Best of Times, Worst of Times" (on rumors, survival, and larps)
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