Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, Part 1

If there was ever proof that building relationships is as important as great game design in the board game industry, then this is it. I had the fortune of attending Alan Moon’s Gathering last April, where I got to meet a lot of publishers in a more relaxed and intimate setting (check out this series of posts about it). I pitched a lot of games to a lot of publishers and made a lot of contacts. Fast forward 6 months and I find myself having to go to Montreal for my real job.

“Hmmm…who do I know in Montreal?” I thought. Of course – Filosofia and Asmodee! I had made friends with JF at Filosofia as well as Stefan at Asmodee while at the Gathering, so I emailed them both letting them know about by upcoming visit. They both agreed to meet up while I was there! Since I knew them fairly well, I didn’t have to follow our own Step 20 – which I normally would if I didn’t have an established relationship with them.

Preparation

Now that we knew I would be meeting with them, Sen and I had some work to do. I had just spent a week with Sen while I was in his neck of the woods for another work thing (remember – I live in Vancouver, Sen lives in London, ON – so it’s not that often that we get to be in the same room!), so we had a couple new games that we wanted to show.

This is a very simple tile laying game that has players building their own cities while trying to satisfy one of three face-up goal cards before the other players.

This is a word making game in which you have cards with starts of words and cards with ends of words – and you’re trying to match them up.

But, in pure Sen and Jay form we still had all the rules to write up. This is our least favourite part of game design!

Sen took a crack at the first draft, then I would tweak it and add all the graphic examples to make them easier to understand (as we described in Step 15, try to always include as many graphic examples as possible). We were working feverishly during the last two weeks before I had to leave to Montreal. On top of this I also had to re-print some of our prototypes based on some feedback we had in our latest playtests. Nothing that changes the gameplay, but things like making tiles smaller or improving the graphic design aspect.

We got everything done, but we didn’t have enough time to make any sales sheets for any of our new games. I accepted that this would be fine – only because I already had a relationship with both Filosofia and Asmodee, and because I had a meeting setup with just me and them…during a time when they’re not busy and rushing to another meeting with another designer (like at Essen, for example) – so I knew we’d have a bit more time. In the end, it worked out fine, but we’re still devoted to making sales sheets when we meet with publishers that we don’t have a good rapport with yet.

I packed everything up in accordance to Step 21 – everything had its own box that was labeled with the name of the game and our contact info. I opted for small boxes instead of baggies this time as all of our games fit nicely into these small white boxes. I usually hate boxes because they take up so much space, but check out the Solutions store (or the Container Store) as they have some great boxes that suits our purpose perfectly!

I was on my way and ready for some pitching! I had no idea if the games we had would fit with these publishers – but was ecstatic with how it all turned out. Stay tuned for the next post in which I detail how the Filosofia pitch went down!

-Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 2: Attending as a Designer

If you’re a Designer and you’re at Essen, it’s for one of two reasons: You’re there to promote a game that’s launching or you’re there to pitch new games to publishers.

Matt Tolman (a fellow Game Artisan of Canada) had his game Undermining, published by Z-Man Games, launch at Essen. He had a few obligations throughout the fair, like demoing the game at the Z-Man booth multiple times and filming a video interview for BGG explaining the game. Even though Belfort just launched as well, our publisher, Tasty Minstrel Games, was not attending the Fair, so my goal at Essen was to pitch new games to publishers and make as many contacts as possible!

Planning for my trip to Essen started a few weeks before going to the actual Fair.  Sen, following our own advice as indicated in Step 17, used the Spiel ’11 GeekList on Boardgamegeek to create a database of all the publishers that might be interested in one or more of our new games.  He found out the contact information for each of them (sometimes much harder than it would seem, especially in foreign languages), prioritized which ones to contact and determined which of our prototypes should be shown to each based on their current product line or their submission guideline.

I then followed Step 18 and proceeded to email each of them explaining who I was and that I’d like to set up a meeting with them at Essen. Since this blog is all about being transparent and letting you see the entire process, here’s an example of an email I sent off to a prospective publisher:

Dear <Publisher>,

I’m going to be attending Essen this year and would like to arrange a time  to show you some of our new prototypes as noted below. Please respond with your preference.

Sen-Foong Lim and I are members of the Game Artisans of Canada and have designed Train of Thought and Belfort which have both been released this year from Tasty Minstrel Games.

We have a few games that we think would fit well with <Publisher>, and a sales sheet for each one is attached:

Bermuda Triangle: A time-travelling, pick-up and deliver, medium weight, strategy game for 2-4 players. Players program their boat’s movement using a unique mechanic in an effort to rescue more trapped explorers than the other players.


Swashbucklers
: A dice allocation game for 2-5 players. Players play pirates, rolling and assigning their dice to one of the 5 actions. Once all dice are rolled, players resolve the actions in an effort to get more boats or crew or attack each other with cannons in the sea, or with swords on land. We classify this as a medium-weight filler game.


Clunatics
: A party game for 3 or more people. Players must get any other player to guess a common phrase by providing the smallest of clues. On their own, the clues do not offer enough information, but add a couple more clues and it becomes more clear! A new twist on party games that keeps everyone involved at all times.


Lost for Words
: A word creation game that keeps everyone involved at all times with its unique 3×3 tile of letters. As one tile is flipped face up, players race to find the longest word possible in a straight line. Score is determined by subtracting the value of your word with that of the lowest valued word – so players are motivated to find any word to reduce other players’ scores! Fast and fun word finding game that can be played with 2-8 players in under 25 minutes.

We are also looking for international partners that are interested in publishing Train of Thought or Belfort outside of America. I’ll be bringing Train of Thought with me and if I receive my copy of Belfort in time then I’ll be bringing that along as well.

Thanks for your time.

I sent out about 15 emails or so to the publishers that we thought would be a good fit for the prototypes that we had to show. I got responses from most of them and we scheduled our meetings. I’d get a specific contact name, time slot and location (usually the publisher’s booth) and, after juggling a few conflicting, I had a pretty decent schedule with 4 meetings on Thursday, 4 on the Friday and 4 with publishers who said I should just stop by during the Fair at any time.

As indicated in Step 21, I packed my prototypes in individual Ziploc baggies and ensured they were clearly labeled with the game name and our contact information. I carried them in a backpack along with a folder full of 10 sales sheets for each game, as per Step 14, and an extra copy of rules for each game.  The amount of preparation we put into our pitches definitely helps make us look even more professional in the eyes of the publishers.  Many of them commented on how much they appreciated things like the Sales Sheets or how clearly everything was labeled.

I made sure to arrive before each meeting with time to spare because some publishers have multiple booths – if you go to the wrong one a few minutes before your meeting only to find that the meeting is supposed to be in another Hall, you might be out of breath for your meeting from all the running! I went up to the counter and asked a staff member if my contact was available as I had an appointment scheduled. I never had to wait more than 5 minutes and was soon escorted to a small room at the back of the booth – private and away from all of the hustle and bustle.

The publishers (or at least my contacts at the publisher – usually editors) were very nice and considerate – all of them! They all offered me something to drink and made sure I was comfortable. This was really nice as it made me feel more like an equal partner rather than someone who is begging them to publish my games. After a few pleasantries we got down to business.

Up Next: How I pitched games to publishers!

-Jay Cormier

Step 21: Getting your game in front of a publisher at a convention: Packing!

Now packing your luggage might seem like such a trivial step to getting your game published, but there are a few important considerations to keep in mind.

1)     If you’re flying to the convention then you need to do whatever you can to ensure your prototypes are in your carry-on!  The first convention I went to – guess what happened?  They lost my luggage.  Fortunately I had most of my prototypes in my carry-on.  The luggage came the next day but it could have been a lot worse!

2)     Since you’re going to want to have your prototypes with you as you walk the floor, you’ll have to think about how you want to carry them around.  A wheeled carry-on works well, while a backpack makes you look unprofessional.  It’s also possible that you  could just carry a box around – but you’ll find that to be too cumbersome when trying to show your sales sheets and not drop your box.

3)     Give some thought to how you want to package each game.  The best case scenario would be to have a separate container/box for each game you have.  That way when you sit down with a publisher to showcase your game you will have everything you need in one box.  Alternatively, if you have too many games and they won’t fit in your carry-on luggage, then you’ll have to opt for a larger box.  Take all of your games out of their boxes and squeeze them into one larger box (that still has to fit in your carry-on!).

I always have to pack my games into a larger box since I’m always taking 6-10 games with me to each convention.  This does cause some frustration though as you open your large box and have to dig around to find all the baggies/cards/pieces to the game you want to show.  If you can separate the games in the large box somehow, then that will make it easier to get everything ready.

When you are pitching your game to a publisher, every second counts – quite literally.  You don’t want to waste time fiddling around with your baggies and pieces looking for the right components.  This looks very unprofessional.

4)     If you opt for the larger box scenario, then you need to consider how you would give your game to a publisher if they do want to take a closer look at it back in their offices.  The best solution for this is to pack many smaller boxes that will fit each game separately into your main luggage.  At the last convention I was at, I showed Z-Man games our Akrotiri game and when he said he’d like to take it back with him to play after the convention, I had to fumble around for a box that fit everything.  I found one – but the rules didn’t fit neatly in the box, so I gave that to him separately – which was not a good idea in hindsight as they could easily be separated and lost from each other.  I tried to rectify this by emailing him a new set of rules when I got home.

5)     If you are crossing a border to get to a convention, make sure you indicate that you are truthful about your reasons for your visit, but beware of complications if you’re ‘too’ truthful.  I decided to check off that the reason for my travel was Business and Personal.  When they asked what the business was, I told them that I was a game designer and was going down to pitch my games to publishers.  They said that I couldn’t take my prototypes into the country with me.  What?!  They said that since I’m planning on selling products in the states I would have had to go through the proper channels to get them into the country.  I had to explain to him that I wasn’t selling anything at all and that I would retain the prototypes and that I wasn’t ‘taking orders’ for products at all.  It took a while, but he eventually let me through.  Needless to say, on future trips I say that I’m going for Personal reasons only!

With your bags packed and ready to go, now it really is time to hit the convention!  In the next post we’ll talk about what to do when you’re at a convention!

-Jay Cormier