[Selling via Booths] Selling Your Game at GenCon

edited August 2010 in Story Games
Hey, we reached the magic [3] in the Stuff to Watch thread. Do we want to discuss it here?
Posted By: J. Walton[Distro 3]
Yeah, I was just talking in detail with Elizabeth about this because I may have a commercial product next year. Neither the IPR or Design Matters model seems to make the most sense for debuting a new game that you expect to sell 50+ copies, just because you lose so much money either on IPR's retailer cut or the DM profit-sharing model (like Gregor last year with 3:16), unless the other profit-sharers are also debuting hot new games. I would be really interested in seeing some threads about the best way, business wise, to debut a new product in a way that will actually make you some money.
Well, I'm hoping to make money with my new release. The Con knows this and can charge appropriately (the numbers show that there is indeed an opportunity to make money), so a 10x10 booth costs about $1600. When you figure in other booth expenses (e.g. furniture, storage, transport, and the ability to take credit card, which is a must) your budget will be about $2000-2500. Let's say $2500.

SCENARIO 1
So, me setting up my own booth and selling 100 copies of a book at $20 each is going to get me $2k, which is $500 short, AND I'm now out 100 books where I paid for the printing. Say each book costs me $4 that's another $400 down, for a total loss of $900. Huh. Seems a stoopid idea. But I do have my personal presence to con goers. My booth has just my stuff.

SCENARIO 2
IPR is a potential solution for me too. They take 56% of the cover price and I get 44% BUT I don't have to pay anything up front for a booth myself. They're the ones taking on that cost (and they get it back out of the 56% they take for every book sold). 100 copies sold like that gets me $880, out of which I need to pay the $400 printing cost. So I could be looking at a profit of $480. It's "only" $4.80 a book but it is profiit. You are in with a large collection of other books on the booth though. Will you sell 100? What about 50? That gets you $240...

SCENARIO 3
A Design Matters model is another potential solution. We all pay an equal share of the booth, which for 7 people, say, would be $360. To make a profit I need to get back my $360 booth fee plus the cost of any books. If I sell fewer books (50, say, like 3:16 did on the DM booth in 2008) at $20 then we have $1k in the pot. If we all do equally well (and that's a big if) then we all get $1k out, which gives me a profit of $440 (i.e. almost the same as IPR) by selling half as many books. In fact, as long as the payout is above $560 (i.e. the booth makes $4k) I'm not losing money. Other effects of a booth like this are that I have a bigger and more personal presence on the con floor. The money back might be more than you personally contributed or it might be lower. I like to think of it as insurance. We're all in a hole for $2.5k and the first aim is to get out of the hole together. It's best served by matching people up with the right books rather than just pushing _my_ book. We've shown that you can make money at GenCon and you can be mutually supportive.

SCENARIO 4
The booth takes a cut of something other than a fixed 44%. What if everyone just got a flat percentage taken out of their sales to cover the booth cost? For Design Matters this year we'd have all paid about 50% of our sales as "booth fee" if we'd done this. Note that this %age is higher than the return from IPR.

SCENARIO 5
We all equally pay for the booth and take what we can make. In my view this model is hurt by the varying numbers of sales. People burned one year with low sales simply won't chip-in the following year to be burned again. It can also be a bitter experience when booth mates make wildly different amounts of money. One booth mate gets $100 on a $300 buy in (and is out of pocket by at least $200), while another gets well over a grand and skips cheerfully away.

SCENARIO 6
Someone kindly lets me put my book on their booth and gives me 100% of my sales. What's in it for them? It might just be that we do this for community effort, personal friendship or to ensure a great book is present for sale on the con floor. This is the awesome scenario but I'd contend that it's not a long-term solution. It also works best for small numbers of books. I doubt anywhere is just going to allow me to sell 100 books and get all $2k year after year. GenCon (rightly, IMHO) wants its cut. Is that cut paid by whoever has the booth (IPR) or by me being part of a booth (Design Matters)? Or some other solution?

Any other ideas?
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Comments

  • A variation on scenario 4: Everyone pays 50% out of sales above and beyond the cost of the booth— for the entire duration of the convention. That money is evenly split Design Matters style. It was fantastic that the sales numbers were so monetarily close this year between the shares, but something like that would provide a cushion on years with a breakaway hit (like 3:16) while still providing a bit of comfort for people unsure how their games will be received.

    You could also do fundraising for the booth, I guess? Like via kickstarter. I'm not sure how that would work, and whether it'd be a good idea, but it's a technical thing that could happen.
  • edited August 2010
    SCENARIO 6
    Someone kindly lets me put my book on their booth and gives me 100% of my sales. What's in it for them? It might just be that we do this for community effort, personal friendship or to ensure a great book is present for sale on the con floor.
    This is close to what I did with Pelgrane Press. (I won't say the exact arrangement, although I'd like to, because I haven't checked whether Simon would like it made public.)

    The "What in it for them?" was: I knew their products very well; I'd written some of them and so was available to talk to fans about them; and I'm quite good at selling stuff. So it's a little more than altruism.

    More generally, I think building a partnership with a bigger company is an interesting possibility. If I write stuff for Company X and am happy to put in booth time selling their products, perhaps they'll give space for my book on their booth.

    (I'm interested in Elizabeth's Kickstarter-for-booths. I can see, for example, Pirate Jenny raising funds that way.)
  • edited August 2010
    Oh, I should have added HYBRID MODEL as an option: In the past I've had books on more than one booth.

    In 2008 3:16 was on IPR and DM (where it got even sales between the two booths), in 2009 it was on three booths (DM, IPR and Cubicle 7) and this year it was on just two (IPR, C7). It seemed to increase sales rather than split a fixed number of achievable sales across two/three vendors. So maybe finding more than one outlet for your game is a good idea? Or maybe having "exclusivity" is worth it in certain cases?

    I strongly think that whatever the booth is, it has to have a reason to exist that is not just < a collection of indie gamers wanting to sell their books > or worse still < flea market >.
  • Can't you get a portion of a booth through the Games Publishers Association? I heard as small as a quarter of a booth so that's like $400 plus furnishings for your corner. Don't know what membership fees run ($75?) but this might be a good option. There may be other collectives that you could work with. Couldn't eveyone go together and buy the booth space to fit there needs each getting and using what they paid for (ei, coop their model for our 'tribe')?
  • Posted By: Gregor HuttonSomeone kindly lets me put my book on their booth and gives me 100% of my sales. What's in it for them? It might just be that we do this for community effort, personal friendship or to ensure a great book is present for sale on the con floor. This is the awesome scenario but I'd contend that it's not a long-term solution. It also works best for small numbers of books. I doubt anywhere is just going to allow me to sell 100 books and get all $2k year after year. GenCon (rightly, IMHO) wants its cut. Is that cut paid by whoever has the booth (IPR) or by me being part of a booth (Design Matters)? Or some other solution?
    For the record, this is basically what we did with Kagematsu this year. Danielle approached us long after the window for buying into the booth was closed, and proposed a deal where it basically wouldn't cost us anything to host her books (she had them delivered, and would have any unsold stock picked up/shipped back on her own tab). Kevin and I figured that having it at the booth would drive some foot traffic, between it's Diana Jones and Indie RPG awards nominations. So it was a mutualism+supporting a worthy title+hope of a halo effect, on our part.

    That said, it's not something we want to make a part of the model! On our end, it's nice and we were happy to do it, but it's hard to tell whether Kagematsu sold other games for us.
  • Thanks for the initial breakdown, Gregor. That's really helpful as a starting point.

    Some semi-practical thoughts:

    -- getting the booth to pay for itself some other way is definitely something I'd be interested in, whether it's through Kickstarter or selling spiffy DM booth t-shirts beforehand, or teaming up with a larger publisher or what have you; maybe the booth contributors team up on a short-run, limited edition product that they sell in the 6 months leading up to the con, as a way of paying for the booth beforehand. Like a Pirate Jenny anthology or something. But maybe using publishing to fund publishing is a dangerous prospect.

    -- with non-GenCon conventions, which are more flexible about rules on selling, I keep wondering if going without a booth is a really legitimate option. Can you sell 50-100 copies of a game out of your backpack, without a booth? At Dreamation? At PAX? At JiffyCon? At GPNW? How would you do that?

    Some more radical thoughts:

    -- could you give 50-100 copies of your game away and then request that folks send you money (after the con) for whatever enjoyment they get out of it or pass it on to someone they thought would enjoy it? I'm thinking this could actually work for short, sweet games in the Lady Blackbird tradition. Could you get your game included in the GenCon giveaway bags, so that everybody has it, without even going to your booth?

    I'm also potentially interested, as some of this indicates, in ideas about launching your game somewhere other than GenCon, but that may be another thread. I'm generally interested in ways to do your initial release so that you get as much exposure as possible while maximizing your resources (including money that you could put into future print runs, etc.)
  • What if you had a product which was only offered in physical form, and only for sale at conventions. The sole purpose of the book could be to cover con costs. I could even see it spilling over into marketing with threads getting thrown up asking for others going to gen con to pick a copy up for them.
  • edited August 2010
    Oh, good things about (2) and (6) (i.e. the deal Graham and Danielle had, and that I had with IPR for 3:16). We couldn't lose money out of any of those deals. The bare minimum was no books sold and we made no money. But we were never going to be out of pocket.

    Anytime you buy into a booth there is the risk you lose money on it. So, having a retailer carry your stuff in return for a cut of the sale is a valid method.

    Jonathan, I have a cool plan to distribute a game for free too. However, part of the cost that I have to factor in is the distribution. Dragonmeet in the UK charged (when I last enquired) to have promo material put into the bags for attendees. I strongly suspect GenCon is the same. For Dragonmeet we sponsored the convention at a low level and we got stuff in the bag that way, but it still cost money.

    At Design Matters we carried Marc Majcher's 24 Game Poems this year, Mecha Quickstart last year, and Geiger Counter in 2008 as freebies. I think it's worked well in getting those into the hands of interested customers. Edit: ..and they were all excellent and fitted the booth!
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: J. WaltonCould you get your game included in the GenCon giveaway bags, so that everybody has it, without even going to your booth?
    At PAX, companies actually pay Penny Arcade to put stuff in the free swag bags that everyone gets at the door. I don't know about GenCon directly, but I suspect that this is the normal practice, meaning that you would basically be paying someone else to give away your game for free.

    Edit: Cross-posted with Gregor, who basically said the same thing.
  • Posted By: J. Walton-- could you give 50-100 copies of your game away and then request that folks send you money (after the con) for whatever enjoyment they get out of it or pass it on to someone they thought would enjoy it? I'm thinking this could actually work for short, sweet games in the Lady Blackbird tradition. Could you get your game included in the GenCon giveaway bags, so that everybody has it, without even going to your booth?
    For Gen Con this year, it cost $800 to put stuff in the goodie bag, and $600 to put it in the coupon book (the other low-cast high-eyeball option). So, if you think your freebie will generate $800 in post-con sales (plus however much to print/manufacture it), that may be a viable option!

    I am unclear on whether you can do that without being a exhibitor in the first place. It may be possible, but I don't know!
  • Posted By: ndpOn our end, it's nice and we were happy to do it, but it's hard to tell whether Kagematsu sold other games for us.
    Danielle was very excited and hopeful Kagematsu would drive folks to the booth. It's a bit of a shame the Diana Jones Award shortlist was such a latecoming announcement this year; with earlier notice and some planning she could have done some promotion and perhaps have arranged some timeslotted Kagematsu games at GoD. So perhaps in the future if someone approaches you for Gregor's Scenario 6, what you're looking for beyond just the game is a small promotion plan.

    Paul
  • edited August 2010
    Yeah, I have the pay-for-giveaway thing factored in. In my mind, you'd try to make up for that by asking folks to donate a few dollars for the free game, if they actually played it an enjoyed it. And you'd just hope for enough volume that you'd break even or make a profit.

    EDIT: But $800 + print costs is a lot of money to make back. A lot more than buying into a booth and giving it away. Originally, I had bought a half-share or quarter-share in DM in 2008 to give away Geiger Beta, but folks were nice enough to give me my money back, so I have no problem spending some funds to promote a free game, just not a ludicrous amount.
  • edited August 2010
    Any organization is going to frown on people hand-selling out of backpacks. I suspect that will get your badge taken away, since you are using their mojo without paying their price. Definitely a bootleg maneuver, for what it's worth.

    Scenario 5 might work with carefully-selected booth partners. You'd want to pair up with folks who were operating and selling at roughly equal scales.
  • If your game used a couple of booklets to play you could give one away free and then point people where to get the rest on the cheap. For example m20# uses small player, gm, and monster booklets giving away the player booklet my drive people post con to pick the rest up.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: ndpFor Gen Con this year, it cost $800 to put stuff in the goodie bag, and $600 to put it in the coupon book (the other low-cast high-eyeball option). So, if you think your freebie will generate $800 in post-con sales (plus however much to print/manufacture it), that may be a viable option!
    The model that works for the collectible annual Gen Con dice sets is to give away one of the dice in the swag bag, and then charge for the collector tin (with foam insert) and the rest of the set. You could do a similar thing with an RPG. Remember how D&D modules used to be staple-bound books with a loose cardstock cover? So maybe the full game is polybagged and included in the swag bag, along with a mail-in form that offers to send you the cover (with the map or play board printed on the inside) for $X. Or maybe the offer is for a set of cards for the game's resolution system so you don't have to make your own.

    Paul
  • What about service trades? You could see if another established company with a booth would allow you to sell out of their booth in exchange for you demoing their games part time. For example, you could be demoing your game in the mornings and their games in the afternoon? You could also offer to "work the drawer" for them in exchange for selling out of their booth, this frees them up to work the crowd and you get to talk to everyone that buys something. This way they get a demo person and/or cashier who doesn't cost them anything but about 2 cubic feet of your merchandise and display space for one product (you've already paid to travel, stay in a hotel, and get in the door).
  • Posted By: J. Walton-- could you give 50-100 copies of your game away and then request that folks send you money (after the con) for whatever enjoyment they get out of it or pass it on to someone they thought would enjoy it?
    Yep, that's very close to what I did with my Twenty Four Game Poems book. The Design Matters folks were kind enough to take a bit more than half of the fifty-odd books that I printed up myself and include them with purchase to people who seemed like they'd enjoy them, and the rest I either sold for five bucks out of my bag, or gave away to interested parties, with the request that they send me their thoughts or play reports later on. I made some drinks money, and received a lot of great feedback from folks, so yeah, that worked out for me, especially since I approached Nathan and Kevin basically at the last minute to put my book on their table.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonEDIT: But $800 + print costs is a lot of money to make back.
    Considering that they must give away 10,000+ swag bags.
  • Posted By: J. Waltonmaybe the booth contributors team up on a short-run, limited edition product that they sell in the 6 months leading up to the con, as a way of paying for the booth beforehand. Like a Pirate Jenny anthology or something. But maybe using publishing to fund publishing is a dangerous prospect.
    If your new game has any buzz or the designer has some previous notoriety, i wonder if you could sell private v.i.p. slots at GenCon in advance as a way to pay for your booth? I guess this treads on getting-paid-to-demo. There might be a market for rando people to get a game on with the game's creator. Four full private games should not only help buffer some booth expenses but also insure your game is getting played and talked about.
    Posted By: J. WaltonCan you sell 50-100 copies of a game out of your backpack, without a booth?
    I bought Montsegur 1244 out of a backpack at Dreamation and nobody was the wiser. However, selling your game w/o giving a cut to the event organizer would generally be looked down on. If they caught you.

    ...

    I hope the following isn't too off topic but it pertains to pricing and exposure. In years gone by, there's been some patter about the indie gaming community lobbying for an alley at GenCon. Has that happened in the last year or two? Is it personalities that keeps this from happening, because it seems nearly forgone that IPR, Burning Wheel, DM and Evil Hat and prolly a few others will 99% be attending next year. I know that's a lot of cats to wrangle but it would seem to give them greater bargaining power.
  • edited August 2010
    Yeah, Free RPG Day might be a better bet. Printing 10,000 is nuts for anything bigger than a one-sheet.

    Cross-posted with Gregor's ideas, which are really cool.
  • A random collection of bullet points:

    • Selling out of your backpack sucks. People don't know where you are, who you are, or if you're even selling. Buying an item shouldn't be a goose chase. At a smaller con (like recess) it might work better, but at a behemoth like Gen Con your never going to do the numbers you would with the same game at a booth. (this is my opinion, but i'm pretty comfortable assuming i'm correct)

    • Design Matters, despite it's commune-ist methods has always been about making money. Nathan and I invite designers to the booth who we think have games that are a good fit, and up front say that you might not make money. The potential exists with a profit share model for the people who aren't selling well to swallow up your share of the earnings. We've had very good designers with very good games not participate with us for this reason (and we hold nothing against them for it, they made the right decision). If someone asked to join up with the booth and had a freemarket on their hands (a big splashy game with a high price point), we would turn them away, because they would get hosed. Profit sharing isn't for everyone, it only works in carefully tuned situations. Nathan and I aren't experts in this. We've done it for a few years now and i think we're just getting the swing of it. The booth has never lost money, but i'm sure at some point some designers have left cash on the table.

    • The reason we (design matters) picked up Kagematsu this year is because we figured that it's a good fit, with some press excitement, it's an honestly great game, and it wouldn't hurt us to have it. The choice was based on the merit of the product, and it's saleability. We figured it would bring some traffic and it may have. When we say that we don't know if it did, we only mean we don't have a way to track that data. Having kagematsu was a net gain for the booth.

    • People can complain about the cut IPR takes from their sales at Gen Con, but there are ENORMOUS intangible benefits to being sold at that booth. The biggest being that it is a destination. people who aren't reading this board, and who have no interest in being a part of our community know about that booth and look forward to shopping at it once a year. Getting your game in front of those eyeballs is hard. Yeah, you might be making less money per sale, but you'll be getting waaaay more potential sales. And your game is getting into the minds of future buyers. Even the folks who went to IPR this year just to pick up dresden (and there were a lot) took a look around. That's the seed of a future sale.
  • edited August 2010
    You know, I'd love to see more Pirate Jenny-type booths spring up. Indie booths don't have to be all the usual suspects! Getting five or six people to split the costs of a booth and sell games is a great way to do it. People who came to Pirate Jenny in 2009 said that they were really happy that our small catalog (12 games) made us able to be really knowledgeable about each and every game on our shelves. Now, granted, what we discovered is that the way we did it wasn't really economically viable for those of us who didn't have new games. But there's no reason why a bunch of people releasing games in a given year couldn't organize a booth as a one-off and do well - especially if the Indie Booth Map becomes a tradition.

    (We're definitely leaving the door open for future Pirate Jennys, btw.)

    EDIT: I should add that the way we did it, people paid for shares of the booth, but we took home the profits from our own games. No profit sharing for us. You'd have to ask Danielle for the overall numbers, though.
  • What about doing a games caravan? Get five or six people that all want to sell out of backpacks and form a "pack". You would be the traveling merchants of gencon. (Twitter could make this work really well) (alternately, you could all trade books and spread out - each person sells all the books)

    What about a gorilla booth? It only takes four people with three pieces of rope to make a booth. Simply pick an area, form a square, tie the pieces of rope to your belts, hawk your wares for five minutes, and disappear. Tweet the time/location every hour. If anyone asks. its geometric cosplay.
  • Kevin, you make some great points and I really wasn't trying to bash IPR or DM as models. Clearly, they are way, way better than the alternatives (getting your own booth) and the product of a lot of learning and development that is still ongoing. I guess I was hoping to spark some conversations about the ongoing learning process of debuting or selling games and seeing where we stand now, especially because I haven't been to GenCon the past few years, so it's harder for me to read the vibe except through numbers.
  • Marshall,
    Posted By: mease19Get five or six people that all want to sell out of backpacks and form a "pack". You would be the traveling merchants of gencon. (Twitter could make this work really well) (alternately, you could all trade books and spread out - each person sells all the books)
    That's thought-provoking. Everyone in the pack has copies of each game. Finding one of six people at Gen Con is easier than finding a single person. Games have price points that are multiples of $5. Cash only. And FourSquare and Twitter would make it work. I'd do it. I'd design a game specifically for it. Smallish trim size, like the Kagematsu ashcan or It's Complicated.

    Paul
  • Paul,

    What might make The Pack work is everyone having recognizable T-shirts. You could also have each person give out individual coupons and if you showed up with one of each you got a discount - that way people are rewarded for meeting all the designers in The Pack before purchasing - thus putting all the games on a level playing field.
  • I like the idea, just don't get caught! It's kind of not allowed at GenCon.
  • Hm, Marshall, Paul, that might work. I'd happily produce games under 5$ (or exactly 5$) for specifically such a service.

    Also, I'm keeping an eye on this thread. Good stuff. Food for thought.
  • Posted By: wundergeekespecially if the Indie Booth Map becomes a tradition.
    I suppose you could say it already is, if an informal one. Fred put together the "indie passport" map in 2008, and Eero did a map last year. I'd love to see it happen again next year. It just takes one person willing to step in and make it happen on the design front, and then a lot of folks willing to share the cost of printing them up. It's a benefit to the community (helping other booths, helping GoD) but it's also a service to our customers.

    I think having many booths with different products and business models can only really help us all in the end. I'd just like to see them located closer together in the hall, possibly even taking over a single island.
  • Hmm. "The Pack" idea bugs me.

    It's one thing to have a couple copies in a backpack for folks that ask, or express interest*, or for a single person to sell a game in the evenings. Against the rules, yes, but it feels more like jaywalking than anything real.

    Organizing a crew of people with a bunch of games, and deliberately working things to make yourselves easy to find, but hard to catch... As someone who plays by the rules, and gets a legit booth, I'm The Man you're sticking it to.


    James

    *Hell, I do that myself.
  • Posted By: wundergeekI like the idea, just don't get caught! It's kind of not allowed at GenCon.
    Yeah, I know it's not. A pack wouldn't have to sell inside the dealer hall if it wanted to make a rule against it.
  • Posted By: Steve SegedyPosted By: wundergeekespecially if the Indie Booth Map becomes a tradition.
    ...and then a lot of folks willing to share the cost of printing them up.

    The ones this year were very pretty but I think a black and white version for next year would be better for general distribution. My wife went and got 500 of the color ones printed on card stock without discussing it with me. Ouch!
  • Posted By: Steve SegedyPosted By: wundergeekespecially if the Indie Booth Map becomes a tradition.
    I suppose you could say it already is, if an informal one. Fred put together the "indie passport" map in 2008, and Eero did a map last year. I'd love to see it happen again next year. It just takes one person willing to step in and make it happen on the design front, and then a lot of folks willing to share the cost of printing them up. It's a benefit to the community (helping other booths, helping GoD) but it's also a service to our customers.

    I think having many booths with different products and business models can only really help us all in the end. I'd just like to see them located closer together in the hall, possibly even taking over a single island.

    This is (mostly) a matter of advanced planning. If/when Indie booths know about each other, they can request to be placed near each other. You may not get 'side by side', but you'll not be scattered randomly.

    James
  • edited August 2010
    There's another option, too -- you write-off the cost of a booth as a marketing expense.

    Essentially, you go into it *expecting* that you'll come out in the red -- but that is the cost of getting your game, your brand, your presence, in front of potentially 30K people. GenCon attendees are usually the "alpha gamer/product evangelist" of their local gaming scenes. Getting those eyeballs on your product is GOLD. Every sale to a customer like that is usually worth another 2 to 3 sales from their local scene (although admittedly, this is only useful if your product is available to that scene through some sort of distribution).

    The money spent on the convention is ad dollars spent in a high-return targeted marketing effort reaching thousands of gamers, and not just those at the show. The sales you make at the show act as a way to ameliorate your costs a bit.


    Eventually it pays off -- you either have a hit product that acts as a windfall, or you grow your audience over time and increase overall sales. It's a long game.


    Most of the "trad" publishers operate on this model -- the convention as a marketing expense, not expected to break even. More than a few I spoke with this year indicated that GenCon 2010 was the first show that was "in the black" for them in years (and in some cases, ever.).

    Just a thought.
  • Posted By: Steve SegedyPosted By: wundergeekespecially if the Indie Booth Map becomes a tradition.
    I think having many booths with different products and business models can only really help us all in the end. I'd just like to see them located closer together in the hall, possibly even taking over a single island.

    I agree. This could happen if everyone talked to each other and told Gencon, right?
  • Posted By: Saint&SinnerThe ones this year were very pretty but I think a black and white version for next year would be better for general distribution. My wife went and got 500 of the color ones printed on card stock without discussing it with me. Ouch!
    I wondered about that- sorry for the expense, but they looked great! I tried to design the maps to work fine in B&W, but I was glad to see some in color.
  • Posted By: Saint&SinnerThe ones this year were very pretty but I think a black and white version for next year would be better for general distribution. My wife went and got 500 of the color ones printed on card stock without discussing it with me. Ouch!
    printplace.com prints 1000 colour postcards for $52 (full colour one side, blank back).
    Might be a good investment for next time, if a few people pitch in $10.
  • The pack thing - that's brilliant.

    If the folks selling all carry iphones they could even process credit cards (also, that'll make the twitter/foursquare/come find us thing easier)

    Every time you buy something from one of the (lets just say) 5 sales people you could get a sticker or a punch on a card. Get all 5 punches and get a free game (or a pdf or something cool like that) so there's more incentive to hunt if you want to play that meta game.

    This is the sort of rule breaking that leads to innovation and new ideas. yeah it means Gen Con doesn't get your booth dollar, but so what. You've figured out a way to move units better and smarter.

    It only works if you've got exclusive content though, and then, only new stuff, no back catalog BS. You can't be burdened with old stock. Everything you sell has to be trés desirable.

    I know, as a designer, i would be super interested in selling to people through this channel. But i don't want to be the dude in the shirt. I would PAY to be represented by these folks; to have my new game in their bag. I bet others would too.
  • I've been able to identify my marketing budget, it's right...

    > . <

    ...there.

    :-)
  • What happens if the guerilla backpack sellers get kicked out of GenCon? I mean, if the audience for your games can find you because you're tweeting, security for the convention can find you too.
  • Posted By: Mcdaldno
    printplace.com prints 1000 colour postcards for $52 (full colour one side, blank back).
    Might be a good investment for next time, if a few people pitch in $10.
    These were full color on both sides. That looks nice and I'll definitely keep it in mind. Thanks.
  • There are probably other ways to cut GenCon costs too, right? Like, can't you get your (non-exhibitor) badge paid for by running X number of games (4, I think?)

    I wonder if guerilla backpackers would be allowed if they were nominally connected to some official booth. Like maybe they all combine to form a single share of some booth and they hand out flyers for that booth with copies of their games, to drive people back to the mothership or whatever. I really like the guerilla approach, but being kicked out of the convention might suck a bit (but be good for publicity).

    I was also wondering about giving away games before/after you run them for folks at GoD or an official event. Like you can say: "Everyone who plays my game with me gets a copy of my game, if you like. If you dig it and expect to play it in the future, I'd appreciate $5-15 to cover costs and keep me in beer." I wonder if that kinda of quazi-selling (giving things away for donations), which a lot of organizations do, would be kosher.
  • So, at A-Kon (a big anime convention in Dallas) I was invited to be a guest of honor this year. This cut down on my expenses to a ridiculous degree, since the convention covered all of my transportation expenses and gave me a free exhibitor's booth (which it should be noted is different from--and dramatically easier to get than--a dealers room booth) and five badges for other cohorts. Between bad planning, bad timing, and bad health I wasn't able to take advantage of the opportunity anywhere near as much as I would've liked. (Nothing to sell, no sales tax permit if we did, and I was exhausted, coughing, and anxious the whole time.)

    Still, there are quite a few people in this community who could fanagle their way into being a guest of honor at any number of conventions (which can happen by networking and just plain asking).
  • My thought for the pack would be to just work a deal out with gencon to pay less since your taking no room up. This way it is totally legit and you would not have to hide. My thought for the pack would be:
    • Have one person on shift running a game in every slot with a backpack so there is a central location people can be directed. Leave out a copy of each book on the table to see whats for sale and the twitter id for people to follow.
    • have the rest of the people follow a single path where they hang out and chit chat with people about games and sell.
    • Be equipped with custom logo shirts and back packs, and smart phones for credit card processing. If people don't have credit card processing smart phones, they should, then direct them to the dedicated play table where some one will have a laptop for card processing.
    Overall I think the pack idea would be awesome if people could organize some really obnoxiously bright outfit to catch attention.
    image
  • Posted By: J. WaltonThere are probably other ways to cut GenCon costs too, right? Like, can't you get your (non-exhibitor) badge paid for by running X number of games (4, I think?)
    You have to run 96 player-hours of games (that's players x length of game) to get reimbursed. You can't get a free badge up front. Unless Games on Demand has found some other path to a badge?

    Also, the materials provided to us this year explicitly state
    No monetary transactions of any kind are allowed outside of your Exhibit Hall booth without prior approval by Gen Con. Violation of this rule may result in the cancellation of your event, removal from the convention, barring from future shows and may impact relations with other Gen Con departments as well.
    Some events and companies are given approval to make monetary transactions. If you witness any transactions and are unsure if they have been given official approval, please inform Gen Con staff immediately so we can look into the situation.
    For more information regarding product sales refer “Monetary Transactions & Product Sales” in the Layout, Event Furnishings & Special Requests section.
    Email events@gencon.com for approval if you would like to sell product.
    All approved sales outside of the exhibit hall require a valid business license for the city and state in which the show is held, and may require a cash register and a Gen Con approved cashier. The cashier must follow the reconciliation process as defined by Gen Con, which may require additional training.
    The EO is responsible for all costs incurred for setting up sales.
    EOs that receive approval to support monetary transactions are required to follow the reconciliation process as defined by Gen Con finance and use an approved cash register (or similar mechanism for collecting money).
    Anyone engaging in monetary transactions (tips, sales, etc.) outside their booth in the exhibit hall must display a certificate of official Gen Con approval. For more information, contact events@gencon.com.
    I mean, I really like the idea too, but we'd have to get our ducks in a row ahead of time.
  • Ok, I have to admit, I've never been to GenCon (though I have been to large conventions; e.g. 45,000 attendees). I was just thinking of flash mobs and street vendors.

    I'm definitely not advocating breaking expressed GenCon regulations. It might be worth suggesting to GenCon planners that indie designers are a key part of the convention, but that booth space is prohibitively expensive. Perhaps suggest a system where you could pay a smaller sum (e.g.$100/day) to get a mobile vendor shirt allowing you to sell up to 100 units and that you must be able to carry all stock on your person.

    Another option might be to pool resources to rent a conference room in a nearby hotel. Then you could hand out fliers directing people to that conference room any night (e.g.6pm-8pm) to purchase copies, get autographs, and meet and greet the designers. Many companies hold these private expos in separate venues at conferences I've been to.

    You could also, probably, make more of an alternate reality game in which people collect clues by meeting people in specific shirts. Those people would then provide clues that lead to an off site purchase location. You could then seed some people to hype the games and then tell people how to get an initial clue. It'd be like a treasure/scavenger hunt!
  • edited August 2010
    I just found out today that the yearly anime convention down the street brings in 15,000-17,000+ people a year (and more each year), and that a dealer's hall booth costs a whopping TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS. I can also get free passes and hotel lodging on behalf of the con staff, even though it's 15 minutes down the road.

    You can guess where I'll be selling my game (hint: Not at GenCon).

    Don't even get me started on PAX.

    The booth prices are as high as ever, electronic gaming split this year, but instead of using that space to create booths and reduce overall cost for all attendees (I would have loved to see more "out of left field" startup gaming companies scoring booths for $1000 or less, like those Outbreak Undead dudes who came out of no where and blew folks away), they created huge idle areas, walk-thru areas, etc.

    I had a great time selling at GenCon in past years, but fucking A.

    I do get was GMS says re marketing, though. Only thing is margins for small press are about as wide as a tick's bite. I have nothing but respect for the full-timers that do it, but for the people with day-jobs, who take vacation days to come to the con to sell the product of their after-work away-from-family hobby production, it can hurt to spend MORE money on the idea that "maybe one day someone will get the word out and I'll get more sales". It simply makes more sense to open up a stand that sells quite un-funny "funny Cthulhu, Zombie and Gaming quotes" T-Shirts instead.

    -Andy
    (ps: These d20s are Natural)
  • Posted By: Saint&SinnerCan't you get a portion of a booth through the Games Publishers Association? I heard as small as a quarter of a booth so that's like $400 plus furnishings for your corner. Don't know what membership fees run ($75?) but this might be a good option. There may be other collectives that you could work with. Couldn't eveyone go together and buy the booth space to fit there needs each getting and using what they paid for (ei, coop their model for our 'tribe')?
    Since I am on the GPA Board of Directors, I can answer this question.

    A full membership for a year is $75. This past Gen Con, a half booth was $375 and a display in the GPA Showcase was $150. The Showcase doesn't even require you to be on site. Most of the participants often just ship the product in and the GPA sells it for them. The participating company gets all the proceeds, minus 10% for each Credit Card transaction. So, even if you can't be at GenCon, you product can be.

    The GPA does this not just with GenCon, but also with Origins and Gama Trade Show. The advantage is that the GPA is able to negotiate as a group to get advantagous postioning on the dealer floor, and usually a bit of a discount to the booth fees. The Showcase isn't conducted at GTS, since it is an industry show, the point is to make contact with sellers, and not actually sell product.
  • Posted By: Andyelectronic gaming split this year, but instead of using that space to create booths and reduce overall cost for all attendees... they created huge idle areas, walk-thru areas, etc.
    My guess is that this was a last-minute thing (the draft exhibit hall map I used to make the indie games map in July included the electronic space) and they didn't have time to make a new plan or get new booth buy-ins. But yeah, I see your point. It certainly seemed like there were some missed opportunities in all that empty space.
  • I wonder if you could set up a system whereby you had fliers with a paypal address. When people saw you giving out games or came to ask about your game, you'd give them the flier. People could then go online with their phones and order your book. Once you got an order, people could show you their driver's license and pick up their copy. You wouldn't be selling games at GenCon, you'd just be letting people pick up their pre-orders; technically...

    (seriously, I'm not trying to figure out how to scam GenCon, I just like brainstorming)
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