I spent forty years in the board and card game industry.  For much of that time I printed/published games for other companies such as University Games, Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, Mattel, Pressman and close to 300 startup companies, most of which folded within 24 months of launching their products.  In other eras of my career I designed, marketed, developed and was in charge of operations for making games.  The point is, I watched this industry change from a front row seat.

 

First came the Atari type games, then came games for PCs and Macs.  Board games are a sub category of toys, toys is a category of Leisure Time Purchases.  These electronic invaders are a category of Leisure Time Purchases.  What this means is that you and I and everyone else have so much leisure time and a finite amount of money for Leisure Time Purchases.  If you buy a PC game, you have less time and money to invest in a board game.  The early computer games weren’t that good and were not interactive, meaning you played against the computer.  The destruction of the board game industry was slow but steady.  The board game industry still has a pulse but every year the big box stores reduce the number of games they carry.  Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley, the dominant forces in board gaming in the seventies, were bought by Hasbro which has recently decided to de-emphasize board games.

 

Then came the internet.  BAM.  The world changed again, this time at the speed of light.  Now games became interactive, everything about computer games was better.  People sank most of their leisure time in electronic games like WOW and Halo.

 

Then came Amazon.  Suddenly, or so it seemed to the moguls of the large publishing houses, board games weren’t the only ink on paper placed on the endangered species list.  At first the moguls said, “People will not read on computer screens.”  After the advent of e-readers the moguls said, “People like the touch and feel of good paper and the crisp sound of pages turning.”

 

Now that the large publishers have been forced to downsize from battleship to lifeboat, they don’t have much to say about the e-reading fad.  They scramble, doing damage control, knowing that even if they somehow stay afloat, their world will never be the same.

 

The final sieges are being fought.  Bookstores started suffering quickly when Amazon reached full strength in ink on paper books.  This suffering expanded to regional chains and, soon enough, to the big book stores of Borders and Barnes & Noble.  Amazon and the Kindle reader are the final assaults.  Borders filed bankruptcy.  Barns & Noble, too late, launched their own e-reader, Nook.  Nook is successful to a degree but the delta between Nook and Kindle is huge and Apple’s ibooks have surpassed Barnes and Noble Nook sales.  Regardless of who wins, the fight for books has traditional publishers scrambling to keep what ground they still hold.

Many editors were laid-off in the traditional publishing business.  Quite a few of them, unable to find other work in a bad economy, have turned to being agents representing authors.  Some of these authors, a few, were people the editors worked with at the big houses.  Most are new authors that come recommended to these editors turned agents from the publishers they left.

 

If it was difficult to find a publisher or an agent to represent your work twenty years ago, the task today is more daunting by a factor of five.  Yes, new authors are discovered every year, but they don’t sell the copies they use to.

 

I have a number of close friends who are professional career writers.  They tell me that the number of books they can sell and the amount of advance royalties are both half of what they were even seven or eight years ago.

 

After years of manuscript rejections I chose to self-publish for e-readers.  The main reason was that I realized many of the agents and publishers who turned me down so many times really did not see this change coming.  The thought of putting my struggling books in the hands of those who are bailing out their lifeboat was too much.