What’s Stopping You?

pt 1 of how to publish a small card game

I was at a Van Gogh exhibition today, and the quote “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”, admittedly this was followed up by “The sadness will last forever”, but that initial quote still sums up the importance of taking a risk. And self-publishing your own card game is a big risk. So what’s stopping you?

Costs? The biggest cost will be artwork, followed by production of prototype copies for reviewers. Assuming a Kickstarter route, provided you have costed everything else up accurately you won’t pay out for anything else until you’ve got the money. As for the artwork, clever design is required- a card game requiring unique art on every card will be prohibitively expensive, but rarely is such a thing needed.

Contacts? It’s a myth that games publishing is some exclusive club you need to break into. All you really need is a facebook account and a willingness to approach people at conventions. Most people want to discuss there projects with each other, and there are always reviewers, podcasters and bloggers looking for games to review and designers to chat with. You just need to reach out to them.

Lack of confidence in your game? If you’ve designed a small card game, playtested it to a point where your happy with it and people enjoy it, you’ve nothing to be concerned about. You’ve already done so much more than other people in terms of games design, and if people enjoy it it’s by definition an enjoyable game. Some people won’t like it, but you can’t let that hold you back- even your favourite game is hated by someone, just don’t take negative comments personally.

The legal stuff? I’ll be writing primarily for UK designers, and am not a lawyer, but this was my main concern, and one which needed a bit of research, but the legal side of self-publishing is actually navigable. Labels required to be on the package, CE marking, starting a company- I’ll try and explain what I’ve done for these to ease other people through them.

Time? This one I can’t help with. Publishing Forks took all of my spare time over a period of months, and a good proportion of spare time outside of that. If you have lots of time commitments and can’t dedicate your time to self publishing, then it’s probably not for you. Especially as soon as you become customer facing on Kickstarter (although, I did manage to go on holiday in Japan for two weeks between Kickstarter and fulfillment, so you can have some time to yourself).

Inclination? If your not inclined to self-publish then don’t. You’d end up spending all of your time doing stuff you don’t like and it would drag.

So whilst there are some reasons for not self-publishing, there are more which can easily be overcome. Clearly if you want to go the publisher route there are loads of benefits to that- I’m not suggesting that self-publishing is objectively better, just wanting to help those people who want to (I loved the ability to keep control). I’m definitely no expert, just talking from experience. If you can think of any other reasons people might be reluctant to self-publish, or any other comments, please let me know!

Forks- Post KS thoughts

Now that Forks has been Kickstarted, manufactured and sent to all backers, it’s time for a look back at how the entire process went. Not the design- I’ve already written about that (and as with most games it’s just about playtesting, playtesting, playtesting), but about launching the Kickstarter, promoting it, making it (oof!), delivering it, and everything that went with it. Whilst there were a whole bunch of things I could have done better, or at least more efficiently, overall it was a great success, and one which was suprisingly do-able. A number of people have approached me since, and asked questions about how the whole thing works, always because they’ve got an idea for a game in their head. Now, I had a lot of people to thank for helping me, but there was still so much I had to work out myself. From the best way to make boxes, and where things could be sourced from, to legalise such as CE marking and shipping invoices. I intend to write a guide to help anybody to produce a small box card game for cheap, and hopefully Kickstart it successfully. Or at least let people learn from what I did, whether the mistakes or successes.

However, before all that, here’s a quick overview of some of the basic successes and regrets which happened before the Kickstarter:

Success! Despite not getting a proper gaming table at Airecon, I was able to demo it a few times there, give away demo copies to reviewers, and hang around with great people who’ve gone on to have major successes on KS. It’s a fantastic convention and I simply couldn’t have made Forks without it.

Regret 🙁 Not getting a demo table at Airecon. This is my own fault, and one that comes from prevaricating too much, rather than cracking on and booking everything. I’m too worried about what would happen if I didn’t need it, that I miss out when it actually comes to needing it. Be confident and book things in time.

Success! Had a decent internet presence in a certain corner of the internet world called rllmuk. However, this is more because that’s my online home rather than any concerted effort to drive support. A better success would be getting advice from Nick Welford on how to drive Facebook traffic, and went from literally nothing to pretty much nothing, but still made progress and got a good number of sales through FB.

Regret 🙁 Despite reading the BGG designer forums all the time, I neglected to post in there about Forks, which was a missed opportunity. I had a blog, but did little to engage with the people on the forums, even though I have done for umpteen other games I never published. Not really sure shy, probably the fear of finally producing something to be judged upon, but definitely a missed opportunity.

Success! Getting prototypes out in time for reviewers.

Regret 🙁 Leaving it so late and paying a hefty fee to get their production expedited.

Success! The artwork. George was fantastic, and despite being on holiday in Australia during the time art was being discussed, I still enjoyed this work. No regrets on this one. Seriously couldn’t be happier with it.

So those are a few things about the campaign. Finance wise it made a tiny profit, not bad considering I’m including fees for my card making machine and webpage etc. It does give me a loooow amount per hour I worked for if broken down as a wage, but I successfully released a game, which is more than money. I mean, my goal at the start was just to not accidentally go bankrupt, so I’m happy with profit. Especially as it gives an excellent foundation for the next game!