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Soapbox: About the Industry

Buying Time

by Sandy Antunes
Jul 04,2002

 

Buying Time

Are you a creator or a businessman? That's today's discussion. Wait, don't start talking, I don't want an answer yet. You need more information and...

What, you're upset I told you to sit down and listen? You must be some sort of 'artiste', then -- great, just read the first half of this and go away. This is about the odd business of self-publishing your creations, and iron hides are required.

I've been seeing a recurrent issue here, a variant of "I want to publish my own game". Usually, they are asking whether it's a good idea to use fulfillment houses, marketing services, or vanity publishers. They've taken the step of saying "I will publish" and are curious about the best path.

So let's back up. That statement -- "I want to publish my own game". Nowhere does it assume "I want to start my own gaming company". I mean, you want to play a game of baseball, does that mean you buy a AAA-league team and start recruiting? No, it means you pick up a ball and get together with some friends and play.

Likewise, we're looking at 2 completely different ballgames here. If you want to publish your own game, you can do that pretty easily.

Now, there's always the chance you'll have an idea that is so strikingly original, it'll sell itself, right? The odds of this are easy to evaluate. WotC's Design Contest got over 10,000 one-page setting submissions. So you can assume any idea you have, you're competing with 10,000 other people who are able to articulate their ideas. Hey, what's the odds your idea is unique?

What matters is how you express it, and whether you have the sticktoitivness to get it to market-- and keep it in the market.

It all boils down to: Time versus Money

Handle a task yourself, and that's less time you have to do things that are more important-- things only you can do. Heck, even handling freelancers or dealing with your fulfillment house is going to eat into your time.

Are you ready to run a business? Does accountancy turn you on? Is the concept of sitting up past midnight putting 150 copies of your book into packages to send to reviewers fill you with bliss? Do you get a thrill catching typos? Have I sufficiently impressed into you that business is work, completely different from that masochistic joy that is the creative process?

There are two routes for this. You could devote your life to it, plunge ahead, do all the work yourself. Or you could pay other people to do the parts you can't do, leaving you more time for the two fundamentals: branding and positioning. No, wait, I mean 'creation' and 'marketing'.

If it's your game product, you're the creative lead. You gotta be. That's also the fun part of the business.

You also have to take the helm for marketing. Consultants and firms are great, but only you know your products well enough to be convincing, so you'll still have to do a lot of the work here.

* Now you can also do the other tasks yourself.

* Or you can use freelancers, subcontract it out.

* Or you can outsource to an established firm.

Here's a handy time budget to get you started. We're assuming you got hit by the clue stick and at least have an accountant, editor and layout person, plus someone (likely a fulfillment house) handling sales.

  • Creating your work: Assume 4 pgs/night raw text, then ship to an editor, so a 72 pg book is 3 weeks.
  • Setting up a corporation through an accountant: 1 day
  • Hassling your freelance editor and layout person and doing revisions: half a week.
  • Designing your website: 2 weeks
  • Updating your website: 30 minutes/day (thus 2/3 day/month)
  • Handling routine company emails: 2 hrs/week (1 day/month)
  • Handling routine website and customer emails: 1 hr/night (1.5 days/month)
  • Postal mail and bills: 1 hr/week (0.25 days/month)
  • Gathering information for your accountant: 2 hrs/month
  • Signing and mailing out tax and business forms (that your accountant prepared for you): 1 hr/month
  • Shipping review/comp copies: half day/month
  • Coming up with that snazzy ad: 2 hrs
  • Redoing that ad when your significant other points out its flaws: 4 hrs

So for your first three months of existence, you'll be working over 42 days just doing the bare minimum to keep a company going and produce a single product. And that's with all the help you can afford! Assuming moderate 6-day work weeks, that means two thirds of your working hours are devoted to just staying alive.

And, of course, at the end of three months, you have to be ready to release product #2. And test your products. And arrange Con and Trade Show stuff. Oops -- I don't think we have much time budgeted for that.

Now, do you really want to handle your own printer brokering, sales, order taking, phoning of distributors, et cetera? You know, the entire set of skills for pushing your product through the sales chain, that you probably haven't ever done before, but that you now have to learn and do well in your non-existent spare time?

So the lesson here is Use Other People. Really. Time isn't just money, it's survival. Spend your money well, but spend your time even more wisely.

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What do you think?

Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
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All Soapboxes

  • See What Sticks by Sandy Antunes, 06jan06
  • Simple Gifts for Pre-Gamers by Sandy Antunes, 09dec05
  • Col vs Blog by Sandy Antunes, 04nov05
  • Running a First RPG for Kids by Sandy Antunes, 07oct05
  • Making It Pay by Sandy Antunes, 02sep05
  • The Hazards of Non-Combat Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 05aug05
  • Just-in-Time Pre-order Hell by Sandy Antunes, 01jul05
  • Cassandra's Industry Report by Sandy Antunes, 03jun05
  • Fiction or Non-Fiction by Sandy Antunes, 05may05
  • I am not a Storyteller by Sandy Antunes, 08apr05
  • A Better Job by Sandy Antunes, 01apr05
  • Advice For Working Writers by Sandy Antunes, 04mar05
  • Startup Fever by Sandy Antunes, 04feb05
  • Why Blogging is Lame by Sandy Antunes, 07jan05
  • Being a Pro Writer by Sandy Antunes, 10dec04
  • Viral Marketing Invitational by Sandy Antunes, 05nov04
  • The 24 Hour RPG Challenge by Sandy Antunes, 08oct04
  • A Decade of Distilled Advice by Sandy Antunes, 03sep04
  • Go Ahead, Hit Me! by Sandy Antunes, 06aug04
  • Promoting Yourself by Sandy Antunes, 09jul04
  • 10 Hurdles to Selling Your Game by Sandy Antunes, 11jun04
  • Let's Team Up! by Sandy Antunes, 07may04
  • Beyond Role and Pla(t)y(pus) by Sandy Antunes, 08apr04
  • Slow Improv and the Post-Kilgallon by Sandy Antunes, 05mar04
  • Paradox Redux by Sandy Antunes, 06feb04
  • Mad Scientists and the Kilgallon Paradox by Sandy Antunes, 09jan04
  • It's Not Your World, It's Mine by Sandy Antunes, 05dec03
  • Murphy's Law for Adventure Writers by Sandy Antunes, 07nov03
  • Eigentesting by Sandy Antunes, 09oct03
  • Atomic by Sandy Antunes, 05sep03
  • Is Writing a Commodity? by Sandy Antunes, 06aug03
  • Designing Amidst the Tides of Gaming History by Sandy Antunes, 08jul03
  • Buy This Book by Sandy Antunes, 05jun03
  • Hobbies by Sandy Antunes, 08may03
  • The Websites That Wouldn't Die by Sandy Antunes, 10apr03
  • The Path to Atrocities by Sandy Antunes, 06mar03
  • Cattle Mutilation: The Game Design by Sandy Antunes, 06feb03
  • Gaming With Children by Sandy Antunes, 09jan03
  • How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1 by Sandy Antunes, 05dec02
  • all i game with, i learned from kids books by Sandy Antunes, 19nov02
  • TCG: The Total Cost of Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 10oct02
  • Game Publishing & The Law by Sandy Antunes, 06sep02
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants by Sandy Antunes, 01aug02
  • Buying Time by Sandy Antunes, 04jul02
  • April 10, 2002 13 New FAQs
  • March 1, 2002 Give Me A Closet
  • January 2, 2002 Let's Go Shopping?!?
  • December 13, 2001 Conflict, Ethics, Winning, and Money
  • November 13, 2001 Secret RPGnet Operations Document Leaked!
  • October 16, 2001 Leadership and D&D
  • September 4, 2001 Leading Industry Site Reports Secret: Sex Sells!
  • August 7, 2001 Any, Anyone Can Be an Internet Success-- Why Aren't You?
  • July 3, 2001 Fine Print, Part U
  • June 5, 2001 Fine Print, Part I
  • May 8, 2001 Pushing Limits
  • May 4, 2001 RPGnet State of the Union special feature
  • April 6, 2001 The Other Magic: Niche Hobbies and Other Markets
  • May 9, 2000 Running a Business as an Old Style D&D Party
  • April 14, 2000 First to Market
  • March 20, 2000 Labor Pains
  • February 15, 2000 One Trick Pony
  • January 6, 2000 Creativity is Bad, Hard to Sell, and Great for Business
  • December 14, 1999 Oranges versus Bananas: Entertainment Costs
  • November 2, 1999 Why Editors Lie
  • October 5, 1999 How to publish a quality game, accept criticism gracefully, and lead a happy life: Pick Any Two
  • September 7, 1999 It Takes a Village (to publish an RPG)
  • August 3, 1999 All Gamer Money Isn't Equal
  • July 6, 1999 Tides of Cash Flow
  • June 1, 1999 Ad-itudes
  • May 4, 1999 Who, What, Give me a Guiness
  • April 6, 1999 The GAMA Trade Show '99
  • March 2, 1999 Roleplaying would have saved Millions
  • February 2, 1999 Games That Won't Suck
  • January 5, 1999 Dangerous Games
  • December 1, 1998 Making Gamers the Old Fashioned Way
  • November 3, 1998 The $1K Company
  • October 1, 1998 So You Want to Start Your Own Company...
  • September 1, 1998 Holy Grails and Marching Morons
  • August 4, 1998 Gamers Must Die!
  • July 7, 1998 Profit versus Prophet
  • June 2, 1998 Acquire! Acquire!
  • May 5, 1998 Power
  • April 21, 1998 The GAMA Trade Show Report, Part 2 (eventually)
  • April 7, 1998 Schroedinger Games, or, the GAMA Report
  • March 3, 1998 Culling the Herd
  • February 3, 1998 Horatio Hornblower's RPG Company
  • January 6, 1998 Double Feature (Us and Them/A Clash of Images)
  • December 2, 1997 "How to Scam Games for Free"
  • November 4, 1997 "Women in Gaming?"
  • October 2, 1997 "Fear of a Gaming Planet" (Welcome to the RPG ghetto?)
  • September 2, 1997 "Rush" (fame and adoration in lieu of pay)
  • August 2, 1997 "For the Money" (convention mating rituals)
  • July 2, 1997 "Good Deeds" (the dearth of evil game companies)
  • 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)
  • March 2, 1997 "It's All in the Timing" (on hype and late deliveries, and on genres)
  • February 2, 1997 "Insiders and Outsiders" (who's who and who uses the web)
  • 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)
  • October 1, 1996 "Post-Con fallout and not that many new games"
  • September 1, 1996 "Our launch, news from GenCon, demos, new LARPS"
  • Our reason for existence

    Other columns at RPGnet

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