Why Publish?

June 4, 2008

GB Steve asks, “Why Publish?”

I said:

I’m moving towards publishing things for free or as near to free as I can manage, because keeping track of the money and paying taxes was more trouble for me than the money was worth. I’ve got several games that are going to be available as free PDFs and at-cost print versions from Lulu. I’m also distributing free print ashcans of Geiger Counter at GenCon, through a promotion with the Design Matters booth. I don’t want to have to treat my hobby like it’s a small business; that just kills all the fun for me.

But I’m still publishing because, with the tools at our disposal nowadays, there’s literally no reason not to. There are plenty of reasons not to put out a “finished” hundred-page full-color hardcover edition of something, at least not until you’ve spent several years preparing the thing, but with PDFs and cheap print ashcans instantly available (you don’t even have to store them, they can exist as electrons until someone wants one from Lulu), sharing your work is quickly becoming the rule, not the exception.

Publishing doesn’t mean just getting your book into game stores anymore. It means every step along the way. Release a basic outline on a blog or forum. Release a playtest version as a free PDF. Release an ashcan (what other folks call an Alpha or Beta version) in a print format for a few dollars. Playtest the hell out of it. Maybe release multiple playtest versions over a few years. Finally, put together a final version. Time is on our side. There are no corporate folks giving us deadlines. We can afford to take things slow, writing games like some folks write novels, taking 10 years even, not being Stephen King, especially if we want them to stand the test of time and not count on later editions to clean things up. These are games that, supposedly, will keep being played whether they’re still “supported” by further publications or not.

But — and this is something we don’t talk about much — it’s totally okay to release short games or ashcans that you don’t necessarily expect to go all the way with (Ben’s XXXXtreme Street Luge is a great recent example). We shouldn’t expect that everyone wants to be a small-time business person or, at least, that they want to follow that model for every publishing project. Maybe they just want to put together a product solid enough that they can play it with their own play group and a handful of other interested folks can play it too. That’s totally cool. I’m totally down with products that aren’t really commercial in the sense that they’re not aimed at a wider public audience. Publish a game for 10-25 people, or for 5 people, or for 1 person. That’s publishing. Follow your passion.

One Response to “Why Publish?”

  1. Jason Says:

    I agree. You’ve just captured my current attitude toward publishing.


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