We’ve picked the best convention, we’ve set up some meetings with publishers beforehand and we’re packed properly – now we’re at the convention!
The first thing to do is to understand the schedule. As Sen alluded to in Step 20, you might want to take in a few seminars (if there are any) or even – heaven forbid – play some games! Sometimes the schedule is available before attending, so you could have this done before attending – but it’s always worth re-checking as schedules often change at the last minute. Try to attend as many seminars or workshops that are about game design or game manufacturing as possible. Even if you never want to self-publish, it’s extremely important for a designer to understand the ins and outs of the entire business.
When you’ve determined it’s time to hit the trade show floor, make sure you have everything you need. What do you need? Come on, haven’t you been reading this blog from the beginning? Just kidding. OK, you should be carrying around your sales sheets (Step 14) in an easily accessible folder. I get my sales sheets printed in colour on nice glossy or thicker matte paper. I then put one sales sheet for each game in a folder. The folder is one of those that open up, but the sales sheets are not bound or attached to the folder in any way. This allows me to easily find the one I want and show somebody.
So rule #1 – always, always, always have your sales sheets on you. Always. If you go to dinner at a convention – bring your sales sheets. If you’re playing someone else’s games – bring your sales sheets. You just never know when you’re going to need to show them.
Case in point: I was at the GAMA trade show a few years ago and saw a couple people setting up a prototype of a game. Seeing that I wasn’t too busy, I asked if they would like another playtester for the game. They agreed and we started playing and chatting. While chatting, the purpose of my visit to this convention came up and I showed them my sales sheets. They expressed interest in a game called Belfort and wanted to play it after. Sure, why not – I thought.
About ¾ of the way through playtesting this game, I realized I wasn’t playing with other game designers – but I was playing with a publisher. Tasty Minstrel, in fact. Astute readers will see where this is going. After playing their prototype – called Homesteaders (now published by Tasty Minstrel Games), they played Belfort and enjoyed it. So much so that they wanted to play it again the following day. After that second playtest they offered to publish the game.
So you really never know when you’ll need your sales sheets – so have them handy at all times!
Second ‘rule’ for conventions – have all your prototypes with you when you are walking the convention floor. I try to have my prototypes with me almost all the time when I’m at a convention – but for sure you need to have them when you’re walking the floor. The best case scenario when approaching a publisher at a convention is that they will want to take a look at your game – right now – so you better have an easily accessible prototype at the ready.
When I first get into a convention floor – where there are dozens of booths, I like to do a walk around before talking to anyone about publishing my games. I like to see what they are showcasing and how they’re doing it. I like to see if I can tell who the person is that I should speak to when I return. I also like seeing all the new games that they have out! Once I get a good lay of the land, I refer to my preparations and see which publishers I wanted to speak with first.
Now timing is key at a convention. You never want to approach a publisher right at the beginning of a convention because they are really focused on the purpose of why they’re there (see Step 19). If you’re not a potential customer, then you could rub them the wrong way right off the bat. Also you want to time your approach to when their booth is empty – or at least one person at the booth is not occupied. If the publisher is there to talk to customers or retailers, then you are preventing them from doing that – so respect their purpose! The best timing is, of course by setting up a meeting in advance (Step 20).
In the next post we’ll get into details about approaching a publisher and what happens next!
Again, my comments are pretty short and sweet on this section as Jay’s the point man for our two-man strike team when it comes to conventions.
When you consider that out of all the prototypes a publisher sees in a given year, only a very small percentage get published, you might attribute some of our success to luck. But if you think of the equation:
Luck = Opportunity + Planning
then you might be more apt to see how Jay and I work. Nothing came to us by luck. Did we go to GAMA 2009 knowing that we’d get signed or that we’d even have a meeting with Tasty Minstrel Games? No. We didn’t have the benefit of a nifty blog like this one telling us to get an appointment first!
But Jay’s willingness to help playtest (Opportunity) plus us having prepared well laid-out and thoughtful sell sheets at the ready (Planning) ended up in Tasty Minstrel Games being interested in our product and reciprocate by playtesting our prototype.
Even more than that, sometimes, is this often overlooked fact – we are not trying to sell the publisher on just a single game. We view the designer/developer/publisher relationship as one that needs to be developed and nurtured. We want to make sure that the publishers are a good fit for us and vice versa. We want to let prospective publishers know that we are a good team to work with – we are selling ourselves as designers as much (if not more) than we are selling our designs.
And this is how you turn one bit of “luck” into even more good fortune.