Tuesday, March 11

First Steps On My Own

So, I've handed in my notice, I've four weeks (minus a few days holiday) left at work - then what?

First up, I need to get my company off to a good start. To help this I've a few meetings to line up over the next few weeks.

  • Bank Manager - I need to keep my manager on side. My eighteen months free banking has just ended, but they apparently have a 'electronic' tariff which could save me some money. I also need to tell him my plans and see what advice he has.
  • Small Business Advisor - I need to talk to someone about VAT-registering (which I know other publishers have done), and advice about how best to market my games.
  • Manufacturer - I want to move into professionally manufactured games, but I know almost nothing about it. How do I reduce the cost? What little things make a big difference to the cost? What software should I use to prepare the artwork? Hopefully a meeting with a manufacturer will answer some of these qustions.

I'm now fairly convinced my next game will be Codename: Network, but it's still changing fairly rapidly as the designer and I try out new ideas. I need to spend a decent amount of time improving it, stabilise the rules, get a signed contract with the designer and then start on the artwork and publicity. I'm thinking of a pre-order drive, offering fans a chance to get the game early (and cheap) and by cutting out the middle-man making more money myself than I would if I sold to a shop. I also need to get shops interested in ordering the game in bulk. How to do that? I'm not really sure yet. One way is to contact the shops directly, another is to get gamers who want the game to contact their local shop (this already happened for It's Alive!), a third method is to get a distributor to stock the game and then run a solicitation advert in their trade magazine. I've no idea yet which one will work best.

It's an exciting time, but even with eighteen months experience in the industry, the change of situation, and hence business model will incur a steep learning curve.


Custancia said...

Good luck!
I'm guessing you know all about the Business Link free advice service (and courses). Apart from picking friends' brains about business plans it's where I've found the most advice and support (and I'm not even really eligible!)

Rob Bartel said...

My understanding of it is that, once you start operating at a volume of thousands rather than hundreds, distribution becomes key. The last thing you want is to be chasing down individual retailers one at a time. Likewise, the last thing they want is to be chasing down inventory one title at a time. My advice (to be taken with a grain of salt as I've never taken the jump into publishing) would be to spend your time finding reliable distributors within each of your target markets and securing arrangements with them. Many publishers (see Zman for a good example) post lists of their distributors on their websites so that should give you a good, sound place to start.

Also, from what I've heard, distributors prefer to work with companies that have multiple titles in print, just to weed out the fly-by-nighters and risky ventures. For this reason (among others), I'd encourage you to give It's Alive a professional print run as well - It's a proven design that appears to have pent-up demand well beyond its initial release, particularly once you take the international market into account.

Definitely still encourage gamers to make their local retailers aware of your games and make it easy for retailers to get in touch with you and your distributors. But the distributors themselves are key to 'going pro' as it were.

Congrats on the bold transition and I look forward to seeing your games on store shelves here in Canada.

Jackson Pope said...

Thanks! My small business advisor is through the Business Link service, so I've been dealing with them for about a year or so.

I'm already talking to distributors in the US and Germany, I need to get some contacts in Australasia. The rest of Europe it would be easier to get another publisher (who is more capable in the appropriate language) to pick up the game. I'm dealing with shops directly in the UK at the moment - it allows both me and them to get a better deal by cutting out the middle man. Thanks for the ZMan hint.



Dan said...

Congratulations! Exciting times are ahead. I hope you still find the time to blog about your experiences. :)

Rob is right about the distributors. I have a friend who has a game company and his #1 problem was getting and (more importantly) keeping the distributors. With the way you've handled the production and promotion of your existing games, I'm sure you'll ace this too.

Good Luck!

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Dan,

Thanks for the optimism, we'll have to see how well I cope - definitely exciting though, or terrifying, or both!



Steve said...

Can't help with most of your questions, but I'll pre-order a copy if you want :-)

Jackson Pope said...

All pre-orders gladly accepted :-)



Anonymous said...

Jack, welcome to the world of entrepreneurship, officially. I have similarly recently begun my business, creating game events and developing a model to help people develop professional skills using games.

Another option for you to drive sales is affiliate marketing. A lot of the board game sites will represent your products and advertise them in exchange for a precentage of sales. I know that Commission Junction and Linkshare are two of the most popular affiliate program supporters, but you could also implement your own program, having your web designer track referrals and credit sales using query strings or referral codes.

I would be happy to help you market games on this side of the pond. I have been helping a couple other publishers and distributors raise awareness of their games through game nights and blog conversations. Essentially, I'm all about getting people playing more, so if we can do that together, I'm for it.

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Jason,

Thanks for the good wishes and the offer to help market my games. Please email me with what you had in mind.