My name is Bill Bodden, and I'm the sales rep for Green Ronin. I'll be revealing part of the secret world behind your favorite game store in this installment of Ronin Roundtable. First, a little about myself: I've worked in the game industry in some form since 1984. I've worked extensively in the retail end, have worked for a major distributor for more than five years--in marketing, purchasing, and as Head Buyer--and have worked for Green Ronin for over six years. I'm also a freelance writer both within and outside of the game industry.
As Green Ronin's sales rep, I have a lot of little jobs. I tell distributors about new products and pass their orders along to be shipped. At open houses or trade shows aimed at retailers, or at GenCon, I'm pretty likely to be there, flying the Green Ronin flag. I also co-ordinate between the company and conventions and other events and charities, making sure product gets to the right people who get word of our products out to the gaming world.
From talking to consumers at shows, it's clear that many people don't understand how distribution works. Distributors serve as clearinghouses for products, allowing your Favorite Local Game Store to get all the games they need in one place. Imagine a department store; they have books, food items, clothing, sporting goods and toys, so basically you can get everything you need in one place instead of running from store to store. More to the point, buying product from individual manufacturers often isn't feasible for stores; most manufacturers have a minimum quantity they require to process orders. If a store only needs one copy of Barking Bloodhounds: The Game, it doesn't make sense to order 12 from the manufacturer--especially if the store only sells a few copies a year. While there are some exceptions, stores can generally get all the product they need from distributors, saving them a great deal of time and trouble. While we do make our products available to retailers directly, it's generally cheaper and more convenient for stores to go through a distributor.
Dealing with distributors is a major part of my job. Like everyone else, distributors have a budget to work with. They can't always order as much of our products as we wish they would, and rarely this means there are brief shortages of product, but usually they are just that; brief.
When conventions contact us to ask for door prizes or other give-away items, I am often the person who handles these requests. We can't honor every request for free stuff, but we do what we can, weighing the number of people the event reaches vs. our expenses in items given away plus shipping to get the stuff there. We like helping out with conventions and charities in this way, and are happy to hear from event organizers, but we can't afford to give away everything that is asked of us - we wouldn't have any product left to sell, and even though we're a small company our bills pile up too, just like everyone else.
Reviewers are a key vector to get the word out about our new products. Part of my job is to make sure we ship products to fill reviewers' requests; I also follow up with them to answer any questions they may have pertaining to their review.
Over the last year I've had another task to fulfill; I am the liaison between retailers and Green Ronin for our Pre-Order Plus program. The way it works is simple: when we release a new book, we offer a special promotion wherein consumers can get a code allowing them to get a $5 PDF of the book when they pre-pay for a print copy. This offer is now available through participating retailers. I handle these stores' requests for codes and keep stores in the loop regarding which books are coming out and when the codes expire. It's been a bit time-consuming, but usually only for a couple of weeks when the book first becomes available.
The Green Ronin Pre-Order Plus program is available to any retailer wishing to participate; any store owners/managers who want more information on this program should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org; I'd be more than happy to email them a brief summary of the program and answer any questions they have.
Anyone reading this probably already knows that Green Ronin is a great company. I'm thrilled to work with such a fantastic bunch of people who are dedicated to publishing quality games and books. We're grateful we have such a tremendously loyal group of fans who support and encourage the work we do.