As consumers, we have expectations about product quality when we purchase something. It matters not if this is a car, food, toys, or roleplaying gamebooks; it’s the latter that this article is concerned with. Think for a moment about the times you have bought gaming books or products from a retailer, crowdfunding site, or sites like DriveThruRPG, Lulu, or Itch.io. Now think about the quality of the things you purchased from those places. I am confident your experiences have been similar to mine, and the quality has been variable.
The quality of a product goes beyond its physicality and includes all other aspects. This includes the writing, editing, art, layout, tone, etc. You get the picture. We are obviously disappointed when our expectations are not met, but what do we do about it?
From time to time, I ask other gamers who have expressed their displeasure with inferiorly edited and presented books or poorly constructed books from DriveThruRPG or Lulu. What did you do or say about it? Some are vocal about their displeasure and demand replacements or refunds. Others remain quiet and accept an inferior product they paid good money for. I am very much in the vocal camp.
The remainder of what follows is advice on what you can do to speak up when quality situations arise. The guidance does assume the consumer will exert some level of assertiveness.
Digital & Print on Demand Issues:
- If you receive poorly constructed or damaged books in transit, DriveThruRPG and Lulu will replace them. The process is straightforward but does require submitting help tickets, photos, and some additional information to get the process going.
- If the book is poorly edited or generally just a badly conceived product, leave a review on the site where you obtain it. Conversely, if it is deserving of a great review, leave that as well.
- Caveat Emptor – Buyer beware!
- Not all creators using crowdfunding platforms have the same quality objectives and standards. They don’t all use the same printer, fulfiller, etc. If you receive poor quality products, demand replacements through their established process.
- If replacements are not an option or would result in the same poor quality product being resent, request a refund. If they will not honor that, sell the book/product and move on.
- Speak with your wallet! If you have had a poor experience with a creator or publisher in the past, do not back or support their crowdfunding campaigns in the future. If you continue to support their poor physical quality, poor editing, bad products, excessive delays, poor communication, etc., you help to enable them to continue those same things. I am sure you can think of several creators.
Buying from a Retailer:
- If you buy a book from a retailer and the book is defective, you need to be aware of that retailer’s specific return policy. Adhere to whatever that policy is.
- If you bought the book from an online retailer and have the option to leave a review, do so. However, keep the comment only about the defect and not your opinion about the retailer. You may, in fact, need to purchase a replacement from the publisher and not the retailer.
- A physical store’s advantage is you often get to flip through the book before purchasing. By doing so, you can make some basic visual assumptions as to the quality before buying. Thus, potentially avoiding the worst books in terms of ill-conceived pitches, layout, bad or no art, etc.
The bottom line in all of this is to beware but be vocal. It is the money you are earning and spending. Today’s roleplaying game scene is such that everyone, creative or not, can be a creator and publisher. As a result, there are no universally accepted quality standards for editing, art, physical products, etc. Money is always a factor for creators, and they will do what they can with what they have available to them, and we, the consumer, must speak up if unhappy. If consumers remain silent and accept sub-par products or creator behavior, in the case of crowdfunding, the less likely there will be an increase in the overall quality standards across the board.
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