As a retailer, Kickstarter projects generate a lot of buzz and allow for something different in the store. The same product sold through one of our distributors might not get a second glance, or if it did, I might order one copy. However, the sexiness and exclusivity of a Kickstarter program makes it not only likely I'll sign up for an interesting project, but likely I'll pledge to buy multiple copies. I think this halo around Kickstarter is temporary, especially as mainstream publishers begin to use it, but that halo exists for now.
So what do I need as a retailer? I need margin. In other words, your $20 print on demand vanity project that you sell for $22, is not likely to be something that will work for either of us. However, your $20 project you plan to print 5,000 copies of and sell through the hobby store channels at the usual margins, is a likely candidate. A minimum retailer margin is 40-50% plus free shipping. So that $20 book should cost me no more than $12 and you pay the shipping. In exchange, I'll likely order 4-6 copies, WAY more than I would from distribution and way more than the average Kickstarter backer.
How many retailers are likely to do this? Probably not many. There are roughly 3,000 game stores and the "alphas," the top 10%, look outside the box. That's a potential 300 stores. In the case of most projects, it's the top 1%, making it just a handful, but that's for now. I think your market is those 300 stores. I don't ask that every publisher create a retailer tier, but I do request that every publisher consider how a retailer tier could work for them.
This assumes you want to work with retailers, that you want your game in front of people, that you have a business model that doesn't involve Kinko's or Lulu. Heck, it assumes a business model exists. In any case, consider a retailer tier. Make it at a level your comfortable with when it comes to margin, shipping and quantities ordered. What I don't need are free PDFs (unless you want to offer them to my customers), input in your project, or constant updates. I'm low maintenance. Like most stores, I've got a game purchasing budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please take my money, maker of games.
Projects with retailer support Black Diamond Games has already pledged to support:
- Journeys to the West: A Pathfinder RPG Voyage
- Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map
- Gaming Dice in Chocolate and Sugar
- Monsterhearts (at IndieGoGo)
Examples of what this looks like: