Game POD vs. Book POD

I’m new to game design and that’s what some of these blog posts are – my journey in becoming a “publisher”.

What’s that mean anyway?

Publishing, in my simple terms, is about putting out something in a way that others can use.

Books are easy to understand – a book’s written, printed, and distributed. Today, many books are distributed digitally (with Amazon Kindle Express upload a Word or Open Office document and it’s available to the world within 48 hours).

Publishing also covers songs, software (like our Sim-on-a-Stick), online games, apps, and many non-printed forms of media.

If you blog, heck even if you tweet, you’re publishing your work to share with others.

Print on demand (POD) for paperback books is nearly identical to printing with a “real” publisher like Penguin or Bloomsbury. Lightning Source is the largest book printer in the US and they are the exact same quality as the majority of real books from real publishers (because they print their books too). o_O

And the cost is low – a 106 page book is $2.52.

You can set up a book title for about $79 with Lightning Source (file submission and proof fees) and it’s available to every brick and mortar store in the US plus Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Setting up a book in Amazon is even cheaper – about $35 – and it will be listed at Barnes & Noble too. Brick and mortar stores don’t like writing checks to their biggest competitor, so unless your book is a huge hit, you’ll never see it on a store bookshelf (that’s another post).

Game Publishing – is it as easy as books?


There are very few places that act in a similar way to Lightning Source and Amazon. The Game Crafter is one such example. You can publish your game via them and they can print single copies of it. The cost is reasonable considering their volume (they aren’t an nor do they print 2 million a month like Lightning Source).

However, games don’t have a set format. Books have standard sizes and use ink on paper. Games can be many sizes and have custom components. With The Game Crafter, you’re limited to what they have available. There’s nothing wrong with that but it means that your POD game has to be partially defined by that constraint. I want to publish a game called ZOMBALAMBA but it has hex tiles larger than The Game Crafter carries so that’s not an option (plus custom dice too).

There isn’t a true POD solution for custom games. Not for single copies. And this doesn’t even start to consider shipping a game internationally and meeting consumer safety laws with potentially huge fines . . . =(

There are groups like Panda Game Manufacturing to make your game or Game Salute that can publish your game.

As a little guy, I can’t afford to pay for a minimum print run of 3 or 5 thousand games with Panda.  And Game Salute has to approve your game, they are a gatekeeper much like publishing houses are (don’t you know that the publishers who turned away J. K. Rowling kick themselves daily!).

For now, truly independent game creators are either constrained with what components are available or have to source it all themselves (or have a decent amount of money up front – Kickstarter? that’s yet anther post!).  =D

Fortunately, Maker Culture, or Kitchen Table Industrialism, is starting to support the small independent game designer.

That’ll be another post, the lessons I’m learning from designing Min Tin Pirates as a self-published and US-sourced game. Thanks for reading and please add your insight – all comments are welcomed. =)

received last night – mint tins for the reviewer’s prototypes – looks like these will work! =)