Was listening to this story on NPR today and which got me thinking about the difference between how the book industry promotes and how the tabletop game industry promotes.
To promote Room, the publisher sent out 6000 review copies then hosted parties and events at BookExpo and other trade events. The focus is on getting bookstores to know about and talk up the book to their customers.
To promote most tabletop games, few review copies are sent out. Few parties and events are held to generate retailer interest. the most that happens in terms of a sponsored event is a dinner hosted by a publisher at one of the industry trade shows, such as the Alliance Open House or the GAMA Trade Show. The publisher focuses on demos at conventions and generating online buzz about the game.
The main reasons for this are twofold:
1. there are no publishing houses in the game industry such as there are in the book trade. Book publishers look to individual authors for material and sign contracts with the author to publish books the publisher feels will be successful. The book publisher does not create original content. Whereas, the tabletop game publisher usually exists to publish and sell the output of particular person or group of people or in support of a particular product, such as Steve Jackson Games or Pazio Publishing. Most game designers, rather than selling their product to an existing publisher, create their own company to publish and sell it to one of the existing distributors, such as Alliance or ACD.
There are some game companies, esp. boardgame companies such as Mayfair, Z-Man and rio Grande, that do buy the rights to games from outside developers. However, their usual model is to find successful European games and import them or buy the rights to print them in the US. As far as I know, they do not sign contracts to publish games that have not already proven successful in the European market.
2. Most game companies are undercapitalized. They have the money to print the game and depend on sales of that game to fund the next one. If subsequent game sales are successful, the money is plowed back into capital improvements, with little left over to spend on promotion. Hence, a heavy reliance on free methods of promotion, such as email, Facebook and Twitter, forums and websites, which promote the product to the consumer.