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General Forge Forums => Publishing => Topic started by: lumpley on June 16, 2006, 09:11:58 AM



Title: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: lumpley on June 16, 2006, 09:11:58 AM
Matthew Sprange wrote me a little while back, offering to publish Dogs in the Vineyard under a new imprint that Mongoose is launching (or considering launching).

I'd keep intellectual property ownership of the game, Mongoose would publish, promote and sell it. After they'd made back their initial investment, we'd split revenues - he offered me "up to 50%." We were still talking in abstracts at that point, and I figure he wouldn't've mentioned 50% if he hadn't meant it.

Naturally, Mongoose would be selling the game to distributors at distribution terms. 50% of distribution terms would be a substantial cut in my per-book revenue. But maybe they'd sell enough books to make up for it? I asked him how many books sold per year he'd consider successful. He told me 1500-2000 the first year, and 500-1000 per year after.

I already sell books in that range, at 2-3 times better per book than the best cut Mongoose could conceivably offer me. They'd have to guarantee me around 2000 books sold per year for it to be a break-even proposition. THEN I'd have to decide whether I want to shift my target audience from genuine roleplayers to distributors, give up financial control of my game, and redesign my book for a format I dislike (8.5x11 hardback RPG format), all for the same money I'm already making - but as it was, I didn't even have to consider the artistic questions. The money just didn't make sense for me.

Matthew was cool and friendly and answered all my questions. It was an interesting conversation.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Valamir on June 16, 2006, 11:03:29 AM
I've always been very impressed with Mongoose.  I'm not thrilled that they made some of my favorite licensed settings d20...but at least they did d20 about as well as could be done and showed total respect for the property.  As a game company they're one of the few big names that I actually appreciate the quality way they run their business.

If I were to "team up" with a big name publisher, they'd be one I'd actually give consideration to.



Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Vaxalon on June 16, 2006, 11:09:15 AM
They're contacting the wrong people if they're going to you, Vincent.

The people they should be going to are the ones who have good books in PDF, selling in the 100 to 500 range.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Andy Kitkowski on June 16, 2006, 11:14:07 AM
Well, I can understand why the contacted Vincent: They simply didn't know his numbers. They saw a cool game, they like it, they love it even, and want to help it make the big distro circuit. They simply weren't aware of how much there was to be made outside of big distro.

But that's a cool story anyway, and yeah Mongoose are one of my faves of the d20 crowd.

Is there any option whatsoever where you can still sell copies of Dogs from your site as normal, and you craft the requisite 8.5x11 version for Mongoose, which they sell through distro, and split profit 40 (you) 60 (Mongoose) from those sales?  Cause an option where you can still sell your game from your site might still pay off. Though it may stymie Mongoose a bit and all...


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Pelgrane on June 19, 2006, 01:48:22 AM
...but as it was, I didn't even have to consider the artistic questions. The money just didn't make sense for me.
-Vincent

This would be a risk, and probably an unnecessary one for you. One thing is certain though - you would sell a bunch of extra copies to people who otherwise would not have bought, or even heard of your game. If your sales were in decline, it would be worth considering - it would give the game new lease of life. Eventually an indie publisher will guinea pig this model, and I suspect Mongoose would be a very good choice of mainstream publisher. The indie publisher could well benefit substantially from this arrangment as long as IP safeguards were in place. Minimum sales guarantees could also help.

Simon


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Wart on June 19, 2006, 02:05:27 AM
I can definitely see that Mongoose's new imprint wouldn't be useful for Dogs - heck, I've seen it on the shelves of several major UK game stores anyhow - but it would be an absolute boon for PDF publishers (and they do seem to be looking to the PDF crowd as well).

I think Mongoose would probably be the big-name publisher I would trust the most. Anyone who's seen the new edition of Paranoia they put out can see that they are, as has been said, very respectful and loyal to the source material, and at the same time they aren't exactly unaware of the Forge and what we talk about here. (I believe the new Paranoia edition namechecks this place.)


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: lumpley on June 20, 2006, 05:45:17 AM
Yeah, I don't have anything bad to say about Mongoose at all - they made me a business offer that didn't meet my needs, nothing wrong with that.

But damn, I predict the death of the industry. If a successful game to Mongoose is the same as a successful game to me, but I make more money off it than they do, then damn.

Eventually an indie publisher will guinea pig this model... The indie publisher could well benefit substantially from this arrangment...

It seems more likely to me, given the money involved, that the creative people doing mainstream publishing now will increasingly self-publish. I am not, at heart, a predicter of things, and I'm totally comfy being wrong about this or anything. But check it out:

Mitch: I've designed a roleplaying game! What should I do?
Mongoose: We'll publish it under our new imprint. It could sell 500-1000 copies a year and we'll split the money between you, us, and a distributor.
Me: You could publish it yourself, sell 500-1000 copies a year, and split it with nobody, if you wanted. That's what I did.
Mitch: Hmm...

-Vincent


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Thunder_God on June 20, 2006, 06:16:38 AM
But, consider that most publishers seem to sell far less than 500 books a year.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Adam Dray on June 20, 2006, 09:19:23 AM
The question is, would your game that doesn't sell as well as Dogs in the Vineyard sell more if it had Mongoose's oomph behind it?

The next question is, should it? I'd love my game to get picked up by people who've never seen crazy stuff like what I'm doing, but I don't want them to buy it and not enjoy it. If my game ends up sucking, I don't want people to buy it just because it has an MGP product code. I'm not in this for the money.

Now Dogs is a great game. If Mongoose could get more people to play it, that'd be awesome. Maybe Mongoose can put it in the hands of people who wouldn't have played it before. Maybe there's a different 500-1000 people buying it every year, and Vincent doubles up. That'd be sweet.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: lumpley on June 20, 2006, 11:08:53 AM
If they'd offered me a non-exclusive deal, where they get to sell AND I get to sell, I'd've probably signed up. I can't imagine why they'd offer me that kid of deal, though.

Also I really doubt that Mongoose has access to 500-1000 customers a year that I don't. Some customers I don't, but not a whole separate audience. Here's what I base that on: Matthew asked me to revise the text, to maximize sales of the Mongoose book to existing Dogs fans. His estimates included those sales.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Luke on June 20, 2006, 01:36:37 PM
I disagree, Vincent. I think Mongoose does have access to a fan base that you do not. Most roleplayers don't visit the Forge or your website. Most go to their local shops to pick up books or hit well-known websites like Mongoose's looking for stuff. And I can see the logic behind Matt's request to revise and retool the book. You have an existing enthusiastic fanbase. It protects Mongoose's invest (in time and resources) and kicks the partnership off with a bang if your fans come out to support you. (Which does kind of suck that your fans would then be supporting someone aside from you, but that's another ball of yarn.)

Contrary to popular Belief, this is not the center of the world. Direct sales is an excellent method to get your game out, but distro/retailer sales are a separate venue and another set of opportunities, risks and people.

-Luke


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: lumpley on June 20, 2006, 03:14:08 PM
Fair enough!

-Vincent


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on June 20, 2006, 08:17:07 PM
Luke, that makes sense if it's a non-exclusive deal. Mongoose would have to be selling so many more books than Vincent already does that it would have to make up the money in dollars, because there's not going to be another market to approach if Mongoose coverse V's market, plus more.

So, let's say Dogs sells for, like, $30 (which is I think what the hardcovers are going for these days). Half of that is $15, of which V would get half, $7.50.

If memory serves, that's about half as much as he gets now. So if Mongoose sells twice as many books (about 2000 a year) it makes sense.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: lumpley on June 21, 2006, 05:30:43 AM
I'm totally happy to defer to Luke about whether they'd probably be mostly the same 500-1000 sales, or completely different 500-1000 sales.

If I have to choose 500-1000 sales, I'll choose the ones where I don't split the cash with a distributor and a game company.

We could speculate that through Mongoose I'd really sell 5000-10,000 per year, if we wanted, but on THAT I'll defer to Matthew Sprange.

-Vincent


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on June 21, 2006, 05:50:05 AM
Oh, I agree, totally. The numbers are all that makes a difference here. I mean, if they wanted to sell their Letter-size, hardback edition, and you could still sell your Digest-size one, then the experiment would be completely worth it, even. You'd be making ~$1.25x, your exposure would increase, you'd sell more books, it would be great. The offer they made just doesn't work. It's not that *no* offer could work.

I'd also want to ensure that the book is a Vincent Baker game, published by Mongoose, and not a Mongoose game, written by Vincent Baker.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Paul Czege on June 21, 2006, 06:43:18 AM
The deal would make good sense at the point when DitV's no-middleman sales are tailing off and Vincent is readying for no-middleman sales of a new game, as a way of creating mindshare for crossover interest in Vincent's direction.

Paul


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: komradebob on June 21, 2006, 08:10:33 AM
May I ask a quick question?

What would Mongoose be getting out of the deal beyond the sales?

Vincent, you seem to feel these guys were being staright forward with you, so did this part come up in conversation?

It strikes me that this offer is about Mongoose taking a shot with a non-traditional rpg and seeing how it flies, with that part being as important or more important than the dollar value of sales for this specific book.

Any thoughts?


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Pelgrane on June 21, 2006, 09:25:13 AM
May I ask a quick question?

What would Mongoose be getting out of the deal beyond the sales?

Vincent, you seem to feel these guys were being staright forward with you, so did this part come up in conversation?

It strikes me that this offer is about Mongoose taking a shot with a non-traditional rpg and seeing how it flies, with that part being as important or more important than the dollar value of sales for this specific book.

Any thoughts?

1. Mongoose would publish the game and be happy with it purely on the basis that they like it and it gives them kudos. It's a boutique product for them. I suspect they'd be happy if it was cost-neutral. They are serious gaming geeks as well as business people. I doubt they have any ulterior motive.

2. Mongoose would almost certainly sell the book into an as-yet-untapped market. They do have some clout. Whether the margin on this increased number of sales would be more than the margin if you continue to sell as you do, I'm not sure. Probably not in this case. For games on the slipperly slope down it would seem a very sensible thing to try.

3. An arrangement where you can sell your books through your channels (online though your webstore, at conventions) and the mainstream publisher through distribution and their webstore would seem a reasonable arrangement. If the manufacturer truely believes they can sell more - that would make sense for them, too. Personally, I see no need why the creator should have to compromise at all on text, layout, art or anything else, or even having their imprint on the book, too.

Simon



Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on June 21, 2006, 11:14:29 AM
Paul, what I'm saying is that that makes sense if It's:

Quote
Dogs in the Vineyard
by Vincent Baker



published by Mongoose Games.

If it's instead,

Quote
Mongoose Games presents
Dogs in the Vineyard



designed by Vincent Baker
written by Arnold Veldtstrap, Pickles McFipple, Elvis Aron Presley, and Tiny Tim
illustrated by Bulb Hussenfoss, Quelb Nhurnt, and Wendy Umple

... then it gains V. nothing.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: komradebob on June 21, 2006, 11:23:33 AM
Pardon, but wouldn't Vincent gain:
1) Wider name recognition, and
2) Another possible outlet for future games hat don't closely mimic traditiona/mainstream rpg designs?


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on June 21, 2006, 11:34:42 AM
Quote from: komradebob
Pardon, but wouldn't Vincent gain:
1) Wider name recognition,

Who wrote Exalted (http://www.white-wolf.com/exalted/index.php?line=intro)?

His name is Andrew Watt. He wrote a good chunk of the latest ed. He's a middle school teacher down the street from me.

How's that name recognition thing working out there?

Quote
and
2) Another possible outlet for future games hat don't closely mimic traditiona/mainstream rpg designs?

What's the benefit of selling more if it costs you to do it? Fame is of surprisingly little value. You can't eat it, for sure.

Vincent's in a very good bargaining position. What he gets from someone like Mongoose sets precendent for any other offers that come in the future to other indie publishers. If the best they can offer is "A little worse than you're doing now!" then that doesn't bode well.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Thunder_God on June 21, 2006, 11:53:21 AM
Well, some names do have recognition, even if it's only online, mainly Rebecca Borgstrom and Michael Goodwin.

But I agree, it is a Vincent Baker game, but then again, we don't know the dirty details since this is aborted anyway, it seems to me like we're kneading water now.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on June 21, 2006, 12:13:09 PM
No, this is, and will continue to be, an issue. Jared, Clinton, and Vincent have all been approached, to my knowledge, over the last two years. It's a recurring phenomenon. Somehow, people who aren't publishing their own work are always surprised when actual indie publishers turn down pie in the sky promises from mainstream publishers.

Here's my impression:

You give up:
Your IP.
Your right to control the sales and marketing of your product.
Your cred.
A percentage of your income.


You gain:
Books lost in distribution.
Access to store owners who don't understand your product.


The equation that makes sense is this one:

I keep:
My IP.
My income.

I gain:
A greater fan base.
A greater income.

The publisher gains:
A new product
A modest cut from that new product, which, after all they didn't pay to develop, but are producing, publicizing, etc.

That looks kinda like a company I already know about.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Jake Richmond on June 22, 2006, 04:11:53 AM
Luke has a good point. There's a shit lot of game store that carry Mongoose books that don't carry any (or many) of our books. Big chain stores for one. But really, based on the numbers you mentioned, it really dosent sound like this is worth your time. I can also understand wanting to keep selling your game on your own terms. Several people have suggested that Matt and I bring Panty Explosion to various publishers, but really I'd much rather sell the game on my own terms and keep the money for myself. I already have to split profits with my partner, splitting them with a publisher would just suck.

I'll go ahead and say as well that Mongoose seems to be a pretty okay company. I just did a job for them and they didn't rip me off at all. Which is pretty novel really.



Jake


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on June 22, 2006, 05:41:56 AM
It should be noted that my crabbiness on this topic has nothing to do with Mongoose itself. They seem like decent people, and the fact that you were paid and not dicked around puts them, as far as I know, at the top of the publisher food chain.

That doesn't change the fact that the terms here being discussed are unacceptable.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Jake Richmond on June 22, 2006, 03:52:59 PM
I agree. The terms just don't work. I wonder if Mongoose realizes that?


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Pelgrane on June 23, 2006, 03:05:29 AM
To summarize - deals with publishers selling through distribution are only worth considering if:
1. You retain whatever control you find desireable over your IP (a matter of your taste). This can include a complete creator veto at any stage.
2. You make more money than you otherwise would (a matter of plugging projections into a spreadsheet, and accounting for risk)
3. You have an air-tight close-ended agreement with a mutual termination clause.
4. You reach a wider audience (again, a matter of taste - would you rather make the same money and have twice as many people playing your game?)
5. You retain exclusivity whatever channels to market you want (eg you keep your webstore and get exclusives at conventions)

Until a mid-sized name tries this out, we won't know what will happen. A game currently in slow decline, sales-wise, would be seem like a good candidate. Mr Newman's sample agreement might well be acceptable to some publishers. Incidentally, I am not angling to publish anyone's game, in case I'm giving that impression!

The purest and safest agreement I can think of from a creator point of view is:
1. The game is printed unchanged in whatever format the creator desires. The mainstream publisher gets their imprint on the back. If the publisher wants to change the format and the creator agrees, the creator gets an absolute veto. The only reason I can think to change the format is to leverage the publisher's brand and make it appeal to their customers.
2. The publisher sells through distribution and their website, plus conventions where the creator allows it.
3. Net margin after agreed costs is split 50/50. Possibly the creator is paid in books which would be worth more per unit due to economies of scale. An exceptionally brave publisher could agree to a minimum payment, which takes the risks of a sales hit from the creator ie "I''m so confident we'll do well for you that I will guarantee you get X, which is what you think you would have got anyway"
4. The agreement lasts for a year, with an optional mutual termination clause after that. Publisher gets a few months to shift residual stock.

--
Simon Rogers
Pelgrane Press Ltd
http://www.dyingearth.com


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: David Chunn on June 23, 2006, 08:36:20 AM
Who are Rebecca Borgstrom and Michael Goodwin? I don't want an answer. I'm just making a point. I've heard the first name before, but it doesn't mean anything to me. I know Forge designers because they're independents, because they run the whole show. Otherwise, I'm familiar with Tweet, Laws, and a bunch of guys who did designs back in the day (Perrin, St Andre, etc.).

Dogs wouldn't be the only indie they're looking at. They want to do other indie games with their Flaming Cobra (http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/home/series.php?qsSeries=43)  imprint.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Jake Richmond on June 23, 2006, 03:48:01 PM
Flaming Cobra is a good name.


Title: Re: Mongoose contacted me
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 23, 2006, 04:23:46 PM
Guys, this discussion is wandering. Let's close it down now.

Best, Ron