Interesting article about an independent game designer/publisher here (via Boardgame News). That sounds like a good model - pre-sell to raise capital, then ship once you've got the games printed and ready. But even here, you still end up with the pile of unsold games in the attic, waiting for a distributor to pick it up, and you have to have enough customers willing to pay you for a product that doesn't exist yet to make it work. The P500 model I've seen in a couple places (e.g. here, at Lock 'n Load Publishing), where you wait to print until you've got enough orders lined up, seems like another similar idea. I imagine there's a significant loss converting people who say they'll buy a game to actual sales, too - there's probably a good deal of melt involved.
I have a few people ready to buy my game, but nowhere near enough to fund the manufacturing (like two orders of magnitude too few). I don't think that would be a viable route for me - I don't know enough people, and given that my game isn't a party/parlor game, it's not as conducive to big group events. The P500 model or something like it might be viable for a second release, once I'm established and have a customer base.
My plan is to make the initial investment to print the games, then pull out the full advertising blitz once I have products to sell - Facebook, web ads, e-mail, hitting nearby stores, and whatever else I can think of. That model requires a serious investment up front, though, and I may still end up with a pile of games sitting in my basement.
Now, that sounds completely pie-in-the-sky, "if you build it they will come" thinking, which would be dangerous for any business. Normally, I wouldn't make the investment. The saving grace here is that I'm planning to advertise the game to the audience of existing Snood customers I've got available. If they've had a good experience with the computer game, there is a chance they'd be willing to try my card game, Diggity.
More on the economics of publishing in an upcoming post.