After deciding which convention you’d like to go to, then it’s time to prepare. The first step is to book tickets, flight and hotel. While this might seem obvious, if you wait too long then the convention might sell out or the nearest hotels might not have rooms. You don’t want to have to take a cab or bus to get to the convention every day. Believe me – even heading up to your room that’s in the same building as the convention is a lot of work!
Once the tickets are booked then it’s time to research which publishers will be attending. You probably have already done this (as that was Step 17!) and was probably one of the reasons why you chose the convention you did. If you have more than one prototype that you’re bringing with you, then it’s a good idea to come up with a battle plan. Which publishers should you show your games to first?
Don’t waste time pitching your games to publishers that don’t publish the kind of games you’ve made (unless you have heard that they’re looking to expand into different markets). For example – you wouldn’t pitch a party game to a company that only makes RPG (role playing games).
Next step is to email each of the publishers. The goal of this email is to set up a specific time during the convention for which you’d like to pitch your products to them. This email should consist of the following:
1) First sentence: State your goal in the first sentence. Don’t start an email by praising the publisher or talking about how awesome you are. Instead, start off with something like:
I am a game designer who will also be attending the _____ convention and I am inquiring about setting up a meeting at the convention so that I can showcase a few designs that would be perfect for your company.
2) Next you should explain why your game would be perfect for their company. This is where your research comes in handy. If they said on their website what they are looking for, then mention how your game(s) fulfill those needs. Don’t get into specifics about your games, but be a bit more general. Something like:
I understand that you are looking for games that are quick to learn and have a lot of social interaction and I have a couple games that meet those requirements that I’d like to show you.
3) The next paragraph should be about your game(s). This is where your 30 second elevator pitch comes in handy. Write out a 1-2 sentence description of your game – and keep in mind the requirements of each publisher. You might have to tailor this part to each publisher since each publisher is looking for different things. If your game has something that a publisher is looking for – just make sure it’s highlighted here.
4) Finish up the email by reinforcing the purpose – setting up a meeting at convention. Ask for a specific date and time that would work best for you. If you have other arrangements or meetings (or seminars that you don’t want to miss) then you should list times that you are not available – because no one wants to be part of a huge back-and-forth email chain.
You should send this email out around 2-3 weeks before a convention. If you don’t hear back in one week, then follow up with either a phone call or another email. Obviously everyone is always busy, so remember to keep the tone of your email friendly!
If these steps are followed then you should be in a great position once the convention starts! Next up: What to do at a Convention!
As Jay is usually the one that is going to the convention as our “point man”, I do a lot of the intel in advance of the convention to try to plan out Jay’s trip and ensure that he is in the right place at the right time more often than not.
Here are just a few things that you may wish to take a look at pre-conference:
1) Go through any of the seminars / speeches that are given to earmark the ones we feel are worth-our-while, Not only are some of the subject vital if you wish to make a game that publishers will want to publish more than others (e.g. specific consideration on components, electronics in boardgaming, translation issues, etc.), but some are given by the “superstars” of the biz – i.e. people you want to know that you know about them and what they believe in – if you get my meaning. Going up to Max Osterhaus of Out of the Box (of Apples to Apples fame) cold may be difficult. But if you have just listened to him talk about “Manufacturing Costs in the US”, you may be able to speak on a common subject – you’ve got an in.
2) Virtually “scout out” the venue if possible. A lot of conventions will provide floor plan online detailing which booths are where. This can help you make the most efficient use of your time and space. You can plan a route that takes you quickly from publisher to publisher. You can stack your prototypes in the order of your appointments so that you are ready quickly.
3) Check the schedule of events to know when and where to present your games in a favourable light. For example, if you have a dexterity game, there is a special time for that genre of games to be played at BGG.con. You will generate more interest in players that love that kind of game in that specific room and most of the publisher reps for that kind of game will be there if they are available.
4) Make a list of priorities before you book your ticket. What are you goals for the conference? What games do you want to get in front of a publisher? Which publisher, specifically? Make a list and check it twice because, as they say “Christmas only comes once a year” and unless you own your own Learjet, you may only get to one convention a year. So make your one trip count!
Remember: Luck is nothing more than hard work coinciding with opportunity.
Jay and I work hard (as can be attested to by my wife and my accountant) on creating games. But without getting them in front of a publisher, all that hard work will amount to nothing. Pre-planning the convention can make all the difference because you will have an efficient plan to execute.