SELF PUBLISHING 101 : A Tabletop Board Game Self Publishing Guide

– A Self Publishing Guide –

If you are serious about getting your game out into the hands of fellow gamers and officially having it “published”, you’ll need to decide exactly how you want to proceed.

Do you want to go it alone or do you want/need help from the big guys?

There are several approaches to publishing your game and each one has its own unique set of pros and cons to consider;

Traditional Publishing

This is the traditional approach of identifying potential established publishers that are accepting submissions and that might be a good fit for your game, making a pitch, landing a contract, and working with the publisher from there to get the game printed and distributed.

Self-Publish (the focus of this guide)

Essentially, you form your own publishing company, taking on all the issues related to owning a company, accounting, paying taxes, managing artwork and graphic design, finding printers, working with distributors, and marketing – on top of that you need to make sure your game is the best it can be and will sell. It can be a lot of work doing this, and can be risky.

Publishing Partnership

Under this arrangement, a designer works with an established management team that handles most of the logistics, printing and delivering a game, and potentially crowdfunding the game if necessary. Essentially, the publication responsibilities are more evenly shared across the management team and the designer. Examples of these companies include Game Salute and Kickin’ It Games.

Print-on-Demand Publishing / Web Sales

This option is less risky but essentially amounts to finding a print-on-demand service that can produce your game in small batches (or even single unit runs) that are sold direct to end users with you getting a little cut of the revenue. You could choose to provide your game in a paid PnP format. Companies like the Game Crafter, Print-and-Play Productions, Blue Panther, and more provide services like this.

Free PnP / Web Published

This option is simply making Print-and-Play (PnP) files available, free of charge, for interested people to download and assemble their own copies of the game with their own resources. This can be a good way to go when starting out in the design world, but obviously you aren’t going to make any money off of it.  This is an option for those who just love designing games and getting them out there.  The Philanthropist game designer!

Every method of publishing your game will have both up and down sides to them.  This guide will hopefully answer the numerous questions of “how do you do that?” when it comes to self publishing your very own tabletop board game in a step-by-step process.

Some Advantages of Self Production:

  1. Some products have great potential for marketing, but are inappropriate for licensing
  2.  You “run your own ship”
  3.  You can make a lot of money (in comparison to contracting your game to a publisher). An item that you are wholesaling for $7.00 will likely provide you $3.50 per unit– that’s 10 times as much as most licenses
  4.  Niche opportunities can be lucrative and are typically avoided by major manufacturers

Some Disadvantages of Self Production:

  1. You get to pay for everything- or use O.P.M. (other peoples’ money)
  2.  If your using O.P.M.- you’ll have people to report to
  3. There’s a lot of money to risk!
  4. You’ll have a lot of responsibilities including: product development, engineering, manufacturing, importing, graphics, packaging, selling, marketing, warehousing & shipping
  5. It requires a lot of work and coordination
  6. You get to protect your own product
  7. Don’t forget about liability insurance!

So which is better; Licensing or Manufacturing your own product?

The answer might vary. It all depends on your product and you.

Some products lend themselves to both. You might produce and distribute your own product in the United States, for example, and license the rights to your product outside the US.

Another strategy is to first produce and sell your own product in an effort to “raise public awareness” hoping to later license this game at a higher than usual royalty rate to a major manufacturer.

How do you make and publish a board game?

Being the publisher of a board game is simple and straightforward.  But do not let the simplicity confuse you into thinking that it is easy.  Doing it right is a difficult task indeed.  The general workflow for publishing a board game goes something like this;

Disclaimer: This does not attempt to address any of the legal or tax ramifications of publishing board games.  Please consult the appropriate tax and legal professionals for assistance.  This is not tax or legal advice.

You’re not interested in Self Publishing?  Ok ..

Check out the article on How To Approach a Manufacturer (traditional publishing) with your Game instead!