Greg
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I'm doing alright for myself as a designer, I've a handful of games out with some nice reviews and my current one just passed the £32k mark on Kickstarter, but I've never actually pitched a game to a publisher. I feel like I've got some designs that have something to offer the right publisher, but have next to no idea how I should go about it.

I see a lot of advice along the lines of "Find a suitable publisher for the game you want to pitch, offer to send them a prototype (never send it unsolicited), expect that it might take a few months for them to get to your thing. All well and good, but I'm left with questions:

What makes a publisher suitable?

The advice here seems to be one that has similar games (because that shows they're interested in your sort of game) but not one that has similar games (because they'd compete with your game)

How do you know what a publisher is looking for?

I keep speaking to people who mysteriously know "This publisher is looking to expand their line" "That one is backed up and not taking submissions" "Those guys want something that fits into this product line". How do they find that out? Do publishers post what they're looking for somewhere? Is it okay to just message one and say "What are you looking for at the moment?"

Where do publisher contact details come from anyway?

Some publishers have a "submissions" page on their website with information about how to contact them and what they expect. Good times! Quite a lot of them don't. Does that mean they're not interested? Or just that they'd rather you contact them some other way?

What do publishers expect to see?

I've seen some fairly mixed reports on this one. Sometimes it sounds like the game and rules would be enough for them to judge if it's adequate, but I hear of publishers wanting to see blind playtest feedback forms. I don't mind - but I've generally not been keeping them in the past and I've certainly not been making an effort to ask questions on there for the publisher's benefit rather than things I needed to know to make the game better. Do I need to change my approach to blind testing before contacting a publisher?

There are, of course, a lot of other things that are important. The state of the game, how much testing has been done, the state of the prototype, the state of the rules, having a pitch that succinctly gets across the main things the publisher is interested in etc. - but I can see plenty of advice for all of those. These are "the questions I don't really have answers to" rather than "the list of all important things".
 
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Craig Stockwell
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Hi Greg,

I lecture on this very topic -- recently at PAX Dev, and ETX.

* Similar/not: Similar weight/duration/age range; dissimilar theme. If I had a splatterpunk zombiefest game, I wouldn't pitch it to Calliope (gateway games with depth, family-friendly). I wouldn't pitch Steve Jackson Games a Day of the Dead game (they're releasing Muertoons soon, which is so themed).

* If they don't have information about how to submit a game on their website, there's a fair chance they're not looking for outside submissions ... or at least, not from someone they don't know (or someone for whom no one they do know will vouch).

* My go-to curated list of which publishers are open to submissions (and of what type) is Cardboard Edison's publisher compendium. It's pay-walled ($1/mo, or $15 one-time -- and WELL worth it); a few other folks occasionally post/update lists as well (here or elsewhere) -- I'd guess James Mathe does, but in my pre-caffeinated state, my search skills didn't turn up an URL.

* There's no "standard" for what a publisher wants to see before/during/after a game pitch. And there are in-person pitches, e-mail pitches, and video call pitches. That said, I suggest designers have as many of the following as feasible:

1. Sell sheet
2. Rules document
3. Print-n-play files
4. Physical prototype
5. Five minute video (game pitch, including basic playflow)
6. Playtest session feedback

Do you need blind playtest feedback forms to sign a game? Not necessarily. Do you need to blind playtest to make a good game? Yes. Does BPT'ing have to occur before you sign? No ... but it'll make your game better for pitching.

Of my past 80-ish pitches, the most common sequence of events has been:

A. Confirm they're accepting outside submissions, then contact the person tasked with receiving them
B. Ask that person if they'd like anything before our meeting; I generally offer sell sheet, rules, PnP files (in many cases, it's nothing, or just the rules document).
C. Meet in-person, hand them a sell sheet, progress from elevator pitch, to table pitch, to gameplay pitch -- unless they stop me with a "no thanks".
D. If they're slightly interested, they'll ask for the rules and PnP files (sometimes, just rules) electronically. If they're more than slightly interested, they'll ask to take a physical prototype with them.
E. Follow up after 0-2 days with a thank you and "do you need any more information?"; after 2-3 months, check-in again; after six months, final check-in (if they don't respond after this, I consider them disinterested).

I hope that's helpful, and wish you good luck finding homes for your designs!
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Gerald Fittz
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Great info Craig. I will check out that Cardboard Edison's website.

Do you have any idea of the typical percentage cut a publisher would want?
 
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Dylan Thurston
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Geroid wrote:
Do you have any idea of the typical percentage cut a publisher would want?
My impression is that you're getting ahead of yourself, but here's an old thread (linked to from a pinned post) about the economics, breaking down some of the pricing: Pricing relative to manufacturing cost
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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dthurston wrote:
Geroid wrote:
Do you have any idea of the typical percentage cut a publisher would want?
My impression is that you're getting ahead of yourself, but here's an old thread (linked to from a pinned post) about the economics, breaking down some of the pricing: Pricing relative to manufacturing cost

I think that Gerald was trying to ask about how money is split between the designer and publisher, whereas that thread discusses the split between the publisher, manufacturer, and distribution chain.

A typical figure I've seen on this forum is that the designer gets about 5%. (But posters usually fail to specify whether this means 5% of MSRP, 5% of revenue, or 5% of the publisher's margin, which would all be very different amounts. The last contract I signed was expressed in terms of revenue.)
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Craig Stockwell
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Geroid wrote:
Great info Craig. I will check out that Cardboard Edison's website.

Do you have any idea of the typical percentage cut a publisher would want?

It varies greatly -- your track record as a designer, atypical expenses (e.g.: licensing a super-popular I.P., more art assets required than normal), and how much work they expect from you post-signing.

Also touched upon above -- the amount may be based on MSRP, wholesale, net revenue; rates can also vary by channel (i.e.: distributor vs. Amazon vs. direct sales vs. discounted sales).

A very, very general guideline I tell first-time designers is 2.5% to 3.0% of the MSRP (or the equivalent, in whatever formula they use). If you're offered more than that your first time out, huzzah! If you're offered less, it's not necessarily bad.
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chad crumbaker
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Anyone have an updated link to various publishers or a list?
 
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toon_ace wrote:
Hi Greg,

I lecture on this very topic -- recently at PAX Dev, and ETX.



I would love to hear this lecture on a audio recording, is one available?

Or a YouTube video?
 
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Craig Stockwell
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TheSpiceOfLife wrote:
toon_ace wrote:
Hi Greg,
I lecture on this very topic -- recently at PAX Dev, and ETX.


I would love to hear this lecture on a audio recording, is one available?

Or a YouTube video?

Not at this time -- but whether I give the talk again this year or not, I hope to carve out some time to record audio, pair it with my PPT presentation, and put it up online. And teach myself rudimentary video & audio editing, so it doesn't sound too horrible. ;) But even if it's me doing a voice-over, I aim to get it up by year's end.
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Mister Joel
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"whether I give the talk again this year or not"

PAX Unplugged? :-)
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Craig Stockwell
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MrJoel wrote:
"whether I give the talk again this year or not"

PAX Unplugged? :-)

I didn't submit it for Unplugged (I was told they don't accept the same panel at multiple PAX in the same year), but I know my name was also passed along to ReedPop for speaking at Unplugged ... so who knows?

(if I am contacted by ReedPop, I'll post it in this thread)
 
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