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Approaching a Publisher Via E-mail

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Draklorx
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Joined: 08/30/2012

Hi guys, I've been working hard on a game for the past four months. I've got two fully printed high quality prototypes ready to go. I'm ready to start approaching a publisher.

I can't go to a con, as much as I'd love to it's just not in my budget. So I'm limited to approaching publishers via e-mail. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to do that? I was thinking about setting up a webpage for my game with high res photos, and maybe even a youtube video demoing how the game works.

Also, does it help or hurt you to get some publicity out for your game ahead of time? For example, even before I have a publisher, is it ok to go to Board Game Geek, or reddit.com/r/boardgames and start throwing up some info about the game and seeing if I can drum up interest? On the one hand I could see how a publisher would be more likely to want to publish something that already has a fan base, on the other hand I could see how a publisher would want to have control over what information is released to the general public about the game.

-Kier

Markus Hagenauer
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Joined: 12/04/2009
it depends

This is different from publisher to publisher.
Some have instructions on thier website telling you how to submit a game.
Some just want a short discription, others the complete rules and maybe some pictures of the prototype.
Some want you to sign an agreement (maybe including a paragraph not allowing you to show the game to others while they look at it).
And others will never look at submissons form designers they don´t know.

Some will not accept a submission of a game already on BGG, others (I´d say more likely smaller publishers) might become attracted by your game if it gets quite popular maybe as a PnP game first.

Markus

Draklorx
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Joined: 08/30/2012
Approaching One vs Many

Is it better to approach publishers one at a time, or can I blanket e-mail all of them at once and wait to see who responds? I understand that once you reach a certain point there's forms to sign saying that you're not going to pitch to others while they consider it, but is it considered taboo to go ahead and blanket all publishers with the initial pitch?

Dralius
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Draklorx wrote:Is it better

Draklorx wrote:
Is it better to approach publishers one at a time, or can I blanket e-mail all of them at once and wait to see who responds? I understand that once you reach a certain point there's forms to sign saying that you're not going to pitch to others while they consider it, but is it considered taboo to go ahead and blanket all publishers with the initial pitch?

One at a time.

Look at it like this; if they think someone else might get to it first why waste the time with it. There is liberality hundreds of other designers with games they could publish.

This is not a guess on my part. This is what the publishers I know have told me.

Mads321
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Joined: 08/12/2012
I don't have experience with

I don't have experience with this, though I am in she same shoes as you are, (just about ready to approach publishers) so I've been doing research on the subject.

Here is how I would (and eventually will) go about with it:

Thoroughly research publishers and skim through all their available games. Then ask yourself:

- Does my game "belong" with these games?
- Would my game fit a somewhat similar layout/graphic design of those games?
- Does the publisher seem to have (many) other games in the same sub-category, as my game belongs to (family, abstract, party, stategy etc.)

These are quite open questions - so how do you get answers from them? It's actually not that hard.

Think of it like this: You need to find the Publisher, who is (based on the information you have access to online) most likely to find enough interest in your game to actually publish it.

There is no sure way of knowing what your chances are, but you want to have the best odds based on the information that you have.

When you have done this research, you should be able to make a list of the publishers, where you put the one on top with the best odds, and the one with the worst on the bottom etc.

Except for looking at a direct link between your game, and the majority of the publishers lineup you can also, if you are thorough and patient enough, research publishers with only a very small lineup of games similar to yours, as they could also have interest in your game - maybe even way more than the most obvious number 1 on your list.

Let's say for example, that you are researching publisher X. You see that this publisher is mostly publishing fantasy-style games, and your family-style game would from the looks of it, not be very interesting for this publisher. However, while browsing their catalog, you spot a few family-style games. This could be exactly what you are looking for, or maybe not!

In the above case, you could further research each of publisher X's family-games. Check when they were released. Try to get information about how successfull these games were. This should give you an indication if the publisher is still venturing down the family-style game path, or, if they tried it some time ago, and are back to using their time on their main product-line of fantasy-style games.

Also, mechanics-wise, you can sometimes spot publishers who would have obvious interest. Let's say you have a deck-building game, and you come across a rather "big" and well renowned publisher while researching, who does not have a deck-building game in their lineup. It should be quite obvious that they would be keen to at leat have a look at your game, since the deck-building-genre is selling big now adays (since the release of Dominion obviously).

This "tactic" would apply to all other styles of games.

Idealy, you should be looking for a publisher, who does not have a game with the same kind of mechanics as your game, but with the same kind of style as yours.

After you've done this research, I would highly recommend you to only send out ONE E-MAIL AT A TIME! Start from the top of your list, and if that publisher is not interested, send an e-mail to the next one etc.

You do NOT want to find yourself in a situation, where you get a reply from 2 or more publishers saying yes to your game, asking for a prototype, having to turn down one or more publishers - because you dont want (or rather the publisher dont want) to look at a game, that another publisher is also looking at, since they obviously dont want to spend time and money looking at something, that they might not will be able to publish. Also, you will miscredit yourself with any publisher you turn down, so if you "have a game for them" in the future, they will take you less serious.

The short version:

- Research publishers.
- Make a list.
- Send out one email at a time.
- Wait for a reply.
- Repeat with the next on your list if needed.

sedjtroll
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Draklorx wrote:Is it better

Draklorx wrote:
Is it better to approach publishers one at a time, or can I blanket e-mail all of them at once and wait to see who responds? I understand that once you reach a certain point there's forms to sign saying that you're not going to pitch to others while they consider it, but is it considered taboo to go ahead and blanket all publishers with the initial pitch?

As someone who receives submissions, I would prefer if the designer took the time and effort to personalize the submission to me. Also, you should probably target publishers you legitimately think are interested (which you may already be doing) rather than send your submission to ALL publishers - you don't want to waste anybody's time.

Traz
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mad props for MADS

An excellent piece, complete with distilled bullet points. You didn't lie, brother.

He and Brother Sedj are absolutely correct on the last point - ONE AT A TIME!

That's not hard to figure out. Imagine yourself as the head of FANTASY FLIGHT and DAYS OF WONDER. You both get an email for a game you think is perfect for your lineup, you reply only to find....

Which one will you tell 'sorry' to? That's a place you REALLY don't want to be in.

That being said, give yourself a timeline. Whether it be 3 months, 6 months or longer, whatever cut-off you decide on, mark your calendar and send a follow up. Thank them profusely and let them know you'd appreciate a word of some sort as you'd like to show it to someone else if they can't fit it into their pipeline. This lets them know they currently have exclusive looking rights but that you'd like to give someone else that opportunity.

Am I good on that one, Sedj?

Draklorx
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Joined: 08/30/2012
The pitch

Ok, one at a time seems to be very well agreed upon. I can do the research and find out what publishers will be the best fit for my game. I've even got email correspondence going with a guy or two who has been through this and know the market better than I do for suggestions on which publishers to pitch in what order.

So my next question. What do I include in the pitch? Are there any good guidelines? It was already suggested to personalize the pitch. Personalize it how? Is there anything that I shouldn't include?

I was considering setting up a private webpage with a brief description of the game, the complete rules, some high res photos of my prototypes and a video demoing the game. I wouldn't rely on this as a pitch in and of itself, but I might include a link to that page in the e-mail pitch I send the publisher that way if they're interested they can click the link to get more info immediately. Would it be worth while to take the time to do this?

drktron
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Joined: 07/18/2010
My advice for the pitch is to

My advice for the pitch is to just send them an email BRIEFLY telling them about your game, what makes it stand out (its hook), and why you think it would be a good fit for their company (thus personalizing it). Attach (or link) to your rules and maybe a few pics to show that its real. Mention that its been blind tested to show some credibility (of course make sure it has been thoroughly blind tested first).

Don't be long-winded, keep it short and to the point.
Don't say its the greatest game ever and will make them millions
Be patient. It will likely take a long time for them to respond.

I'm not an expert but this approach worked for me.

Mads321
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Draklorx wrote: I was

Draklorx wrote:

I was considering setting up a private webpage with a brief description of the game, the complete rules, some high res photos of my prototypes and a video demoing the game. I wouldn't rely on this as a pitch in and of itself, but I might include a link to that page in the e-mail pitch I send the publisher that way if they're interested they can click the link to get more info immediately. Would it be worth while to take the time to do this?

I personally think it's a good idea to use a webpage (or something similar), that the publisher can directly have a look at, right after reading your pitch. However, I think there are a few things to consider if you do this:

I would for example not make the page AT ALL like if it was a page for selling the game retail. Normally when you sell a game, you put most emphasis on the theme, or should we call it the "outer" presentation of the game. If I where the publisher, I wouldn't be juding a game on the outer presentation very much, so most of the effort you put into the outer presentation of your game, would just be something hidering the publisher from seeing the actual "inner" part of your game - the part they are mostly interested in (or at least this is what my guts are telling me).

Again, if I were the publisher, I would be looking at how the game works, the mechanics first, and through this also see how this fits with the theme.

If this holds true, you should emphasize on the mechanics, then theme, and overall let them be the judge of the game overall.

But I'm not a publisher, so this is just what my gut is telling me.

Maybe a webpage is a little overkill, for something that should be a short and precice description. I would propably just try to fit everyting onto a couple of pages in a PDF, and attach it to the email myself (or link to the PDF to conserve the overall load of the e-amil). Specifically, I would propably send a copy (or just cliff-notes) of the rules, and maybe a page or two describing what a player can to in his/her turn with illustrated examples. Think of it like a very boiled down essence of your game.

And before I forget (I did in my first reply) - I wish you the best of luck with your games! ;o)

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