Sunday, July 07, 2013

How not to start a print game magazine

Of course, given the trends in publishing it would be very wise not to start a print magazine.  Game Developer Magazine, a venerable print magazine for videogame professionals published by the same company that owns the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and, recently closed down.  It was always profitable but not sufficiently so to keep it alive in the current climate.  The World Wide Web is effectively a competitor with magazines, and I’ve seen in the video game fan magazines how competition from websites has changed the nature of Gameinformer and PC Gamer.  The reviews always appear much later than the reviews on the web, so both magazines now devote a large fraction of their now-thin printed form to extensive previews of unpublished games.  Print magazines are not sufficiently immediate for the Age of Instant Gratification.

But if you’re going to start one, and you want the largest possible pool of contributors, then your writers’ guidelines should not omit some of the things I’ve just seen omitted from a recently started print game magazine’s guidelines.

First, you need to say what rights are involved.  Dragon Magazine for example, about 30 years ago decided to start buying all rights to any article, and that’s when I stopped writing for Dragon because I won’t sell all rights to anything.  (I typically sell first world serial rights.)  That policy continued when the magazine was farmed out to Piezo Publishing, required by Wizards of the Coast.  But electronic rights are also important.  Not so many years ago the New York Times had a dispute with authors when it began to post electronic versions of print stories online, and ultimately lost any right to do so if I recall correctly.  So if the magazine publishes an article in its print version does it also have rights to publish it online if it so chooses?

Secondly, it would be a good idea to say whether you’re actually going to pay the contributor, or even give them a free issue.  In these writers’ guidelines there’s not a word about any of that.

Third, if you want to cultivate a group of contributors then this policy is a really bad idea: “If we decide to use your article you will hear from us within three months. If we have not responded within three months then we will not be using your article at this time."  Sending a "rejection slip" by email make us a few seconds but doesn't cost a dime.  And if the editors don't like what you've contributed, but tell you why, you might be able to revise it to their satisfaction and it would help you with any further contributions.  Furthermore, email communication can be haphazard - try writing to any tabletop game publisher. 

Of course, many magazines require a letter of inquiry first; this one just says send the article.  To me that shows little respect for the entire process.

I've not had much chance to write blog posts this summer.  I have been heavily occupied creating a game design course, among other things.

Convention seminars: 
I'll be doing my usual talk at WBC ("Lew Pulsipher's Annual Game Design 'Seminar'").   As much as I can say (and hear) about game design in the time people want to listen (two hours plus, usually).  Since my book that's strictly about game design has been published, I'll focus more this year on the business of game licensing and marketing, including protection of intellectual property.  And a bit about self-publishing.   Thursday, 1600 (4 PM), Hopewell.

At GenCon:  all in ICC 242, scheduled for 1 hour (though I'll stay longer if the room is available)
Game Design Business: Getting the Attention of Publishers 8/15/2013 7:00:00 PM
Game Design Business: Protecting your Intellectual Property 8/16/2013 3:00:00 PM
Game Design Business: Publishing (and Funding) 8/17/2013 1:00:00 PM
Of Course You Can Design a Game, But Can You Design a Good One? 8/18/2013 10:00:00 AM

I'll also be on five panels as an "Industry Insider Guest of Honor":
SEM1350865 Designing Analog Games with Digital Futures Thursday 11:00 AM 1 hr $0
SEM1350876 Intelligent Design: Evolution of Rules Thursday 1:00 PM 1 hr $0
SEM1350891 Putting More History in Your Story Thursday 4:00 PM 1 hr $0
SEM1351061 How We Began Saturday 2:00 PM 1 hr $0
SEM1350872 How to Maximize Effective Playtesting Saturday 4:00 PM 1 hr $0

My book “Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish" is available from or Amazon (paper or Kindle). (Books-a-Million has an eBook version at
I am @lewpuls on Twitter.  (I average much less than one post a day, almost always about games, not about other topics.)  Web: