Long time J. Michael Straczynski fans will recognize the title of this article’s quote as from the 3rd season of Babylon 5. A lack of information can cause shadow ships to kill your fleet. And it can also cause an RPG publisher to go under.
For example: failing to recognize that Wizards was not going to release a quality license for D&D 4E sunk many third party companies; several Pathfinder compatible books have received exceptionally low reviews because they did not take into account material released in the Advanced Player’s Guide, Ultimate Magic, and Ultimate Combat (whether or not the publisher was aware that these books are open content); and books do poorly when released far too close to others that cover similar topics in a similar time frame. All of these could have been prevented with more information. The publishers could have unhitched their products from 4E, taken the other books into account and altered the release date.
But a lack of information on someone else’s part can kill a publisher just as well. Game store owners that are unaware of your existence, your products and why they should carry you do not carry your products. For personal and day job reasons I do a decent bit of traveling. When I do, I always stop into a local game store. Then I have a conversation with the owner that typically goes something like this:
Me: Do you carry any Pathfinder here?
Owner: That’s pretty much all we do here.
… Short conversation about Pathfinder …
Me: Are you participating in Free RPG Day this year? [Mind you, I am aware the store is not participating.]
Owner: What’s Free RPG Day? [At this point, I’m surprised. Genuinely.]
Me: It’s a way for smaller companies to get their material into the hands of gamers that wouldn’t otherwise see it. Like mine.
Owner: [Raised eyebrow] You run a game company?
Me: Yes. Jon Brazer Enterprises.
Owner: [Skeptical] What do you produce?
Me: Pathfinder compatible material.
Owner: [Interested] Oh!
… Short conversation about my Pathfinder products …
Until I told those game store owners about my company they were unaware that it existed. In many cases, they are unaware that there were Pathfinder compatible products at all. Like I’ve said above, I’ve visited a decent number of gaming stores, but for every one I have personally visited because I found them on the web, I’ve visited three that do not have a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, or one of countless other ways that I actively search them out and have come across by simply driving by them by accident. So I may have sold a few extra books because I got lucky and saw a game store with no direct connection to the outside world except for distributors and their customers. Since I can’t rely on luck and distributors send the majority of their time on large publishers, that leaves me with…you.
I am asking you to tell your local game store owner to carry your favorite 3rd party material. It doesn’t matter if it is mine. It doesn’t matter if it is Pathfinder compatible or not. But make your game store aware that there is more material out there than just the big boys.
You might think that your local game store is well aware of things like Free RPG Day or of smaller companies that produce exceptional material. The truth is that most are not. Most just sell their D&D (oh and a few customers told them about Pathfinder a year or two ago and they started carrying it and it is now outselling D&D) and are content. If a customer or two told them, “I hear that the Book of the River Nations from Jon Brazer Enterprises is helping people’s Kingmaker games a lot. There’s still that game that meets here that plays Kingmaker, right? Maybe you should carry that. They might be interested.” Or instead try, “The d66 Compendium from Jon Brazer Enterprises is a book for names of planets and ships. It’s perfect for our Warhammer 40k game. Can you order it for me?”
Telling your game store is the most important way that you can help us small press publishers to reach more people and to help your game store discover some great gaming material.
Dale C. McCoy Jr. is President on Jon Brazer Enterprises. Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Shadow Plane adds a new plane of peril to your Pathfinder game. Order it today at your local game store or download it now.