This week, OneBookShelf the company that operates RPG sites like DMsGuild, DriveThruRPG, Storytellers Vault and others like DriveThruFiction and DriveThruComics updated their Publisher Conduct Guidelines.
People freaked out. Rather, some publishers did and even amongst the drama, there were valid questions.
I’ve seen some of the concerns. People questioned the pricing rule, which asks publishers to keep their prices as low on an OBS site as they might elsewhere (i.e., publishers should not be much cheaper on Itch than on DTRPG). There’s a rule about uploading not too many books at once so that DMsGuild, Storytellers Vault, etc., has their front page flooded with one publisher’s content.
The guidelines also had things to say about how publishers conducted themselves on social media, treated staff or got up to mischief-making harm for marketing.
The existence of a Code of Conduct isn’t new, but the document rarely gets amended, and for some publishers, it was new to them.
Steve Wieck, the President at OneBookShelf, has now taken to the eCommerce company’s blog to “perhaps allay some fears“
Firstly, Wieck notes;
A number of people have asserted that these guidelines are entirely new, but that is not true. These conduct guidelines have been in place since shortly after DriveThruRPG launched around 2004; they have been amended a couple of times in the past, but they’ve been around since a little before the formation of OneBookShelf in 2006.
He then outlines what’s changed and what’s entirely new. As such, he points out that the requirement for keeping print proofs up to date with changes isn’t new, it’s a clarification and one that will save publishers money.
The new rules are around social media, staff and marketing. Here’s one;
If you are being abusive or making personal attacks against any employee of OneBookShelf, privately or publicly, we may not wish to continue doing business with you.
Social media, is always a hot topic, Wieck explained;
We are not interested in policing the social media of every publisher. People tend to think of DriveThruRPG as some faceless monolithic corporation, but we are a relatively small company with under 40 employees. Our Publisher Relations team numbers seven, and we’re busy enough already. We couldn’t police everyone’s social media even if we wanted to. And we would rather have a conversation with you about what is making you unhappy with our site or service to see if we can help.
And then added;
Here’s the main thing, though: We have had publishers make libelous statements about our site, services, and staff before, and some of our employees have been doxed.
The explanation around hostile marketing is longer but comes down to this call;
In short, we are not interested in being the scapegoat for any publisher who wishes to repeatedly market titles via attempting to generate outrage towards us.
It’s also worth noting that Community Copies are allowed. If publishers want to turn every X purchase into a freebie for someone who needs it, they can continue doing so.
Steve also takes the chance to point out that publishers have been caught, although only in small numbers, gaming the review system. The rule that prevents game publishers from reviewing their own or other people’s games and accessories has been in place since 2012, and the automatic enforcement of this has been in place since 2018.
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