12 April 2018 | 42 Comments
Over the last year, we’ve received 207 game submissions. I don’t know the lifetime number of submissions, as the form we now use has only been live for a year, but in total I’d say it’s around 400 submissions. Of those 400, we have published (or will be publishing) 5 of them.
A number of people have asked me, “What’s the best way to submit a game to Stonemaier Games?” So I thought I’d answer that in today’s blog post. Even though this is very game- and Stonemaier-specific, the methods we use may apply to other publishers and industries.
The answer, quite honestly, is simple: Go to our Submission Guidelines page, read it, and fill out the form.
That’s not just the best way to submit a game to us; it’s also the only way to do it.* Don’t e-mail me to ask if I like your idea or if I’ll read your rulebook. To be perfectly blunt, if you try to circumvent our submission process–whether it’s intentional or out of ignorance–it raises a small red flag. The form is there for a reason.
The reason the form is so important is that it acts as a filter for all the games that simply don’t meet our core guidelines. It helps us–and you–weed out the games that aren’t geared towards Stonemaier Games. Some are questions that any designer should consider before submitting a game to a publisher (“Have you playtested your game at least 10 times?”), while others are specific to what we want (“Does your game feature the potential for a special, must-have component?”).
There are probably a number of people who have started to read through the form, realized their game isn’t applicable to Stonemaier Games, and closed the page. That’s great. That means the form is working for everyone involved.
Of course, the form isn’t the only part of the process. Here are the various steps in sequential order:
- Designer fills out the form.
- If Alan (co-founder) likes what he sees, he’ll request a rulebook and/or a video of the game being played.
- If Alan is still intrigued, he will request a prototype and learn it by playing it against himself (or we’ll learn the game from the designer at Gen Con).
- If Alan thinks I’ll like it, he’ll bring it to our weekly meeting to play. Around a dozen games have gotten to this point over the last year.
- If Alan and I both enjoy the game, I will write out detailed feedback to the designer and ask them to consider the feedback, tweak and test the game, and send it back to us for final review. This is intended both to improve the game and to see how the designer responds to constructive criticism.
- If we like how the designer communicates and improves the game, we’ll negotiate a publishing contract and move forward with development.
It’s all fun and games, but we take this process very seriously. It’s a big time commitment for us to develop a game and an even bigger commitment of resources to actually publish it, so we want to make sure it’s a good fit for us before we do that. Also, we want to respect our fans and customers by only selecting and advocating what we believe to be the best games for them.
You’ll also note that I don’t get involved in the process until the 4th step. Part of the reason is that this is Alan’s main responsibility, while I’m busy running the day-to-day operations of Stonemaier Games. But the other reason is that I engage with a lot of different people in the gaming community, yet it’s important that I remain impartial when it comes to design submissions.
*There is one soft exception to the rule about how to submit to us. I’ve made a habit of falling for publicly shared fan expansions–not just expansion ideas, but expansions to our games that fans have designed, playtested, and written the rules for. When people create stuff out of love for the game (and when their ideas are both innovative and true to the spirit of the game), I’m drawn to their creations.
What do you think about the many layers and filters of our submission process? If you’re a publisher (of games or anything), what’s your submission process?
- Submission Guidelines (there’s a lot more here than just a link to the form)
- How to Design a Tabletop Game
- The Hidden Job of Every Kickstarter Creator (this goes into all the things a creator manages, opposed to a game designer)
- Courting a Game Publisher – DO’s and DON’Ts (by James Mathe)