Sunday, May 31


I've spent the last four days painting rooms in my new house with my parents who came up for a few days to help out (thanks Mum and Dad!). I've also been sorting out the Sumeria pre-orders briefly in the mornings and evenings.

Friday morning I posted the new version of the website as planned and sent the emails to all my pre-order customers. I don't feel comfortable taking their money up front, months in advance of the product arriving, so instead all I do is take a note of their name and email address and add them to the list. When the games are delivered I send an email to all the pre-order customers telling them how to pay or offering them the chance to pull out if they've changed their minds. Doing it this way makes it easier for people to pull out, which might be considered a bad thing, but I'd much rather that, than customers felt like I'd been sat on their money for ages, or they had to fight to get a refund if they'd decided to buy it through another channel or no longer wanted it. As it happens only one person has dropped out at this point, since they figure they can get it cheaper locally when it becomes available.

This time, with the imminent launch event at the UK Games Expo, a lot of my UK pre-order customers are electing to collect their copies at the Expo. This is better for everyone, since they don't have to pay postage and I don't have to go to the Post Office and paying cash means PayPal don't take a chunk out of my earnings :-)

I'm still waiting to hear from twelve of my pre-order customers who I'm expecting to post copies to. These will hopefully pay over the next few days (if they do it before 9am tomorrow I'll be able to ship their copies from York tomorrow afternoon). When I don't hear anything I'm never sure whether they've silently changed their minds and want to back out, haven't got around to it yet or my email hasn't got through. I usually send a chaser email after a week or so, just in case the first one didn't make it.

Tonight I'll be addressing all the packaging for those customers who've already paid. That way all I have to do in York tomorrow is slip a copy in the packaging and take it to the Post Office.

Tomorrow I'm setting off early and heading up to the warehouse (I'll phone them before I leave as I haven't had any confirmation that the games have arrived). In York I'll pick up enough copies for the pre-orders and then hand-deliver a few to friends before posting the rest. I'm staying the night at Paul's and going to his Monday night games night that I used to attend when I lived in York. Tuesday I'll fill the car to the gills and drive home. I should be home in time to check my email to see if any more pre-orders have paid while I've been away and get to the local Post Office.

Wednesday will be a slightly quieter day, I've got to wait in for a removals company survey and I'll also send off the first couple of stocking orders (US and Germany).

Busy, busy, busy :-)

Wednesday, May 27

Planning Ahead

Quite a lot of my website refers to Sumeria as a forthcoming game. In addition, there is no way to buy Sumeria yet from my website, there's a bunch of information about signing up for the pre-order and the pre-order page that I create to allow pre-order customers to quickly and simply pay for for their pre-orders via PayPal doesn't exist yet.

The pre-order window, as always will close when the games arrive at my warehouse. This is to avoid undercutting the shops and online stores that I rely on for most of my business (either directly or through a distributor). On Friday, when the games arrive I've got to make all those changes to the website.

The only problem is that my parents arrive for a few days this afternoon, and I'm going to be decorating our new house with their help on Friday - so I can't take a few hours to overhaul my website.

I keep a copy of my website on my computer, in case a failure at my ISP leads to a loss of data. I can make the changes I need to my website on that copy, and then all I need to do on Friday is upload the new version, a matter of a few minutes work.

As part of these changes I need to create PayPal 'Pay now buttons' for Sumeria (pre-order price and full price with the three shipping prices). There's probably a better way to do this than creating six different buttons, but that works and I don't have a huge amount of time today.

Tuesday, May 26

Mental Couple of Weeks

The next two weeks are going to be very busy. Fortunately, the last couple of weeks haven't been too taxing and we've just had a long weekend (yesterday was a public holiday in the UK).

We bought a house down here on Friday, so now we've got to get it ready and move in. It needs decorating throughout, and there are a couple of more major jobs we'd like to get done before we move in.

This week my parents are coming up from Bristol to help us decorate, so I'm taking Thursday and Friday off work to go over to the new house and decorate with them, and we'll be working on it on the weekend too. Friday is also the day that Sumeria arrives in York. On Saturday The Wife is off to Sweden for a week for work, so next week I'm home alone.

Having my games in York has saved me a lot of money. In York I'm paying £1 per pallet per week, with a minimum order of £10 a week. I'm down to 4 pallets now, so I'm paying £10 a week. Down here in the South I was quoted £2.75 per pallet per week. For those four pallets that's only £11 a week, but I used to have more, and on Friday another 6 pallets are arriving from Germany, in York that has no effect on the amount I pay (still within the minimum invoice charge, just!), but down here that would add £16.50 a week to my costs. The downside is when a new game arrives I need to get my hands on a lot of stock, that means several trips to York to load up a car-full of games and bring them down here. So next week I will be mostly on the road and fulfilling pre-orders and stocking orders. In addition, I've the UK Games Expo that weekend, so I'll need some more stock for that.

In addition to everything else, I need to get ready for the Expo: preparing my stand, working out how much stock I'm taking, getting new business cards made and getting some Point-of-Sale signs done.

Thursday, May 21

Cashflow Crisis Averted

When running a business one of the things you've got to keep a close eye in is cashflow - how much money you have on hand at any one time, and how you expect it to vary over time. This is especially true of a publishing business where you have to pay for the product up front, and don't get a return on your investment until you have sold at least half of your print run.

Things are better this time round. For It's Alive! and Carpe Astra it was the first time I had dealt with those manufacturers so they wanted half the money up front (before manufacture) and the other half upon delivery. Now, since I'm an established customer of Ludo Fact's they are willing to let me pay on delivery. Still, I have to pay before I get any return other than the pre-orders (which are done through PayPal, so I get the money within a week). My first sales to shops and distributors will be on NET30 (they have 30 days to pay) so I will have to pay the manufacturer before they pay me.

The last few months have been a bit quieter than I had hoped, so I've not got enough cash on hand to pay for Sumeria - there will be a small shortfall for a month or so. Where does this leave me?

Yesterday I dressed up smart and popped over to my bank to discuss the options. My business specialist, Helen, is very supportive and also quite excited by Reiver Games as a client, so it's not hard to get my hands on some ready cash if I need it, even in these credit-poor times. Helen's advice was to get an overdraft on my business account, that way I only pay interest on the debt while I need it - they sooner it's paid off the sooner I stop paying them interest (unlike a loan, which always generates interest). There's an arrangement fee, but that's the same with a loan too.

Cashflow is what sinks most businesses. Even a successful business that's in a good position and doing well will go into administration if it can afford to pay it's creditors - i.e. if it runs out of money. It doesn't matter how short this lack of funds is, if you can't pay your debts it's game over. Being on good terms will your bank really helps - a short term overdraft is enough to get Sumeria paid for, and cover the couple of weeks until I start getting paid by my distributors.

In other news, Sumeria has been assembled in Germany and will be shipping on Monday, it should arrive at my warehouse next Friday (29th) - last chance to get 40% off for a pre-order.

Tuesday, May 19

Postal Theft

Yesterday was a very busy day. In addition to a bunch of business stuff I needed to do, I also needed to sort out a few things regarding the new house we're buying, which took much longer than necessary.

I did manage to get to the Post Office just in time to send the Sumeria prototype to the UK Games Expo guys to allow them to judge it for Game of the Year. I also had a few prototypes to send back to designers at the same time.

I've just heard from the UK Games Expo guys that the packaging for the Sumeria prototype arrived today as expected, sadly the contents are absent without leave. This was my only prototype, so now I have to quickly knock up another prototype to send off to them. Hopefully, this one won't go missing again.

In other news, the people who played Sumeria at the weekend have started to rate it on BoardGameGeek, so it's climbing nearer towards the 30 ratings it needs to get ranked, and I've been sent a Russian translation of the rules to Sumeria which I need to layout and post on my website. Things are moving on...

Monday, May 18

Beer and Pretzels

I had a great weekend in Burton at the 20th Beer and Pretzels games convention. I delivered a box of Carpe Astra and a box of It's Alive! to Spirit Games the shop that runs the convention, as they had sold out of both in the weeks leading up to the convention. After that I set up on a table and proceeded to demo my games and do some playtesting. I did my usual thing 'working' during the days until about 5-6pm and then 'playing' during the evening. The only difference being that while I'm 'working' I only play my own games (and prototypes), in the evenings I have a beer and play whatever anyone else wants to play.

Sumeria was well-received, with a gratifying percentage of players pre-ordering after their game. It would have been higher, but several people didn't pre-order a copy as all their gaming buddies were already on the pre-order list :-). It's Alive! sold a few copies over the weekend, and Carpe Astra was popular too. In addition, I got several playtesting games of one of my prototypes in too.

I also spent some time gaming with Paul, who runs Games Lore one of the biggest UK online games stores. He's running low on stock of my games and says they was a large spike in the number of Carpe Astra sales after my competition on BoardGameGeek. Nice to get some confirmation that the competition worked!

All in all, a great weekend, and I returned to lots of emails including a few more email pre-orders of Sumeria. I've now more than doubled the number of pre-orders I've got for Sumeria since reducing the pre-order price. Everyone is getting the price reduction, including those who pre-ordered before I reduced the price, so I lost some money from those early pre-orders (£17.50 down to £15, so £2.50 per customer). Thankfully, the number of new pre-orders more than makes up for that!

Just before I left for Beer and Pretzels I heard from the German manufacturer that Sumeria is being assembled on Wednesday. All being well it will arrive at my warehouse before the end of next week.

Thursday, May 14

Beer and Pretzels

This weekend I'll be heading to the 20th Beer and Pretzels convention in Burton-on-Trent. It's my third time attending, and somehow this year feels very different.

Beer and Pretzels is run by Sally and Phil of Spirit Games, and is held in the Burton-on-Trent Town Hall. It's a fairly big convention (I'm guessing over 200 attendees) and has a really nice atmosphere, with a bar, food, lots of different types of games and a prize ceremony at the end for reviewers on the Spirit Games website.

I first went in 2007, getting the train down from York and staying in a local pub. I had a carrier bag full of hand-made copies of Border Reivers, and a prototype copy of It's Alive! The convention went well - despite the convention being run by a shop, Phil let me sell hand-made copies of Border Reivers, and I sold quite a few. I went for the second time last year, and although by then I was technically a pro game publisher, it felt very similar. I got the train down from York, stayed in the same pub round the corner and again I had a carrier bag full of hand-made games, this time the last few copies of the hand-made edition of It's Alive!, which I duly sold out of. Phil had even reserved me the same table in the corner by the bar :-).

This year everything feels very different. I'm driving up from Bedford, and instead of a carrier bag full of hand-made games to sell myself, I'm taking a couple of boxes of professionally manufactured games and an invoice for restocking the shop. I'll be demoing my games this time, but if anyone wants a copy I'm going to direct them to the shop instead, where Phil will have some available. I'll also have the Sumeria prototype which I'll be demoing and I'll be taking pre-orders for Sumeria at the new, reduced price. I'm going to leave the Sumeria prototype with the UK Games Expo guys (who will be attending to hand out flyers at some point), so that they can start playtesting it as a contender for the UK Game of the Year competition which I helped to judge last year. Since Sumeria is now only a couple of weeks away it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

If you're going along too, stop by and say hi. If you're not: change your plans - it's their 20th birthday!*

* "I live on another continent" is no excuse!

Monday, May 11

Good News / Bad News

Which do you want first?

The increased discount has lead to a lot of extra pre-orders for Sumeria, which is great, I could do with some more, but every little helps :-). I've mentioned it here, on BoardGameGeek and in my newsletter, plus W. Eric Martin has tweeted about it on Boardgame News. Not sure where else I should mention it really. Maybe Facebook?

The bad news is that I've been blacklisted by Microsoft. Since my last email newsletter went out, all Microsoft email addresses are bouncing my emails. So that's:, and This is really annoying. I've sent out the newsletter and they've received it, they then reply asking above the Sumeria deal and when I reply to them it bounces. At that point I have to resort to re-sending the email from my personal GMail account.

This is especially annoying since the wording of the bounce email seems to imply that the blacklisting is in response to a Microsoft customer complaint. Everyone on my list is on my list because they have asked to be there. At the bottom of each email there are 'unsubscribe' instructions. Now I've got to find out how to go about un-blacklisting myself.

Tomorrow I'll be doing some more sales visits to local-ish shops, so most of today will be spent preparing for that. I popped into a couple in Bristol (we were down there for the weekend visiting family) - one seemed quite interested in It's Alive! and Sumeria, the other had a very small stock of board games, including Carpe Astra :-)

Thursday, May 7


Pre-orders are a great way to cut out the middle man and help both the publisher and the customer. Publishers usually offer the pre-ordering customer a discount in return for either cash up front (helping to pay for the production) or a commitment to buy the game direct from the publisher.

Pre-ordering helps the publisher by providing them with more income that they would get selling the games through shops and distributors and also providing early return on investment. Normally, selling to distributors it's at least a month after delivery that the publisher will see any money, since the usual invoice terms are NET30 (payable 30 days after invoicing). In the case of cash up front (which I don't do!) it also allows the publisher to part-finance the production of the game using customers money - which reduces the risk. It also gets some copies of the games out in the hands of the playing public very quickly - which will hopefully lead to quicker referral sales where someone who has played someone else's copy wants one of their own.

Pre-ordering also helps the customer - it allows them to get the game cheaper than retail price, and sooner than they would be able to through the shops.

Sounds great so far - who doesn't it help? The shops and distributors that have been cut out as middlemen! Although, if the early copies that went to pre-orderers get played and lead to more sales then it will indirectly help them. Obviously, once the game has widespread distribution continuing to sell it at a crazy discount from the publishers website will really hurt the shops, since the publisher can definitely sell it cheaper than shops. For that reason, once the game is available most publishers close their pre-order offers, so as not to undercut the shops who are also their customers.

My pre-ordering process has always been: I offer a 30% discount to anyone who signs up before the game arrives at my warehouse. Once it has arrived, I email everyone who has signed up offering them the chance to pay (and get the cheap copy), or ignore it - no obligation to buy. It's all done using PayPal buttons and a hidden webpage (a page on my website with no links to it, other than the one in the emails I send out). I also offer free delivery to anyone who wants to collect the game at a forthcoming convention.

Seeing as there's a credit crunch on and everyone is feeling the pinch - I've decided to increase the pre-order discount on Sumeria to 40%! Yup, if you pre-order you get it for £15 instead of the usual £25 (plus postage and packing). I had hoped the exchange rate between the GBP and the Euro would enable me to reduce the retail price of Sumeria from £25 to £22 (same as Carpe Astra) but unfortunately nothing is doing on that front so I'm doing this offer instead to help out my most loyal customers. If you're interested just send me an email. If you've already pre-ordered, don't worry, you'll get the extra discount too.

Wednesday, May 6

Seeing Some Benefit

Well, I've got both the consignment returns I was waiting for. It's hard to make a judgement on the US returns, since they haven't had Carpe Astra long, and they've just switched from biweekly to monthly billing. But there certainly isn't a large jump as a result of the BoardGameGeek competition and sales calls. In the UK though it's a different story. The UK returns show a large improvement over the previous month, though whether that's down to the sales visits I've been making or the BGG competition it's hard to tell.

I'm going to do some more sales visits next week (ahead of my attendance at the Beers and Pretzels convention next weekend. I also need to concentrate on picking a game for my Essen release. I've a couple of potentials, but nothing certain yet. Playtesting over the next couple of weeks should help to confirm things, if you're going to Beer and Pretzels, stop by my table and ask to play a prototype with me (and while you're at it, why not try Sumeria!).

I'm even considering a few sales trips a bit further afield. There are several shops up North that I could visit, but to do so would probably mean staying the night somewhere, so it's a bit more of a commitment than the local trips I've been doing so far.

Friday, May 1

Moment of Truth

Today and again Tuesday I'll get some information about whether or not the BoardGameGeek competition lead to a boost in sales.

Most of my distributors place a stocking order of 30-90 games and then I don't hear from them again until they've run out and need some more. Since I competition I've had one of those re-orders but to be honest I've no idea whether that was related to the competition or not.

A couple of my distributors have my game on consignment. They place a large order, and then each month they tell me how many games they've sold. I invoice them for those games only, and then they pay me. This allows me to better track how sales are progressing as I have a monthly history with these distributors and I can see any peaks and troughs in their sales. I can charge more for games on consignment too - since by only paying for a game when they've sold it the distributor is getting an improvement to their cash flow and reduce their risk at the expense of my cash flow.

Will the competition have helped sales? I hope so, and judging by BGG ownership stats I think so, but the consignment returns over the next few days should either confirm or deny it.