The Gathering of Friends – Pitching to Publishers

gof_logo1My first full day at the Gathering started later than I wanted, due to a 6 hour plane delay…boo. But once I got there, it felt very familiar and instantly comfortable! I found Alan Moon and showed him my World of Games map.What’s that, you ask? Well, at the end of each Gathering, there is a prize ceremony. It’s the only time everyone is together and focused. Everyone who won any contest or tournament during the week gets to pick from the prize table.Then everyone else is who didn’t win a tournament – but did bring a prize to contribute to the table – gets to pick from the prize table.

Pretty much everyone participates and you can see the prize table growing throughout the week as more and more people arrive. 95% of all the prizes are games (with 10%-20% being hard to find and out of print games), but some people create something artistic for the prize table.This year there was game- themed jewellery, ties, coasters and my map!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI created a map of the world and populated it with images of board games.The neat idea I had was to use games that had the name of a place in the title of the game – and place a somewhat recognizable image from that game on the map where that place was. I was pretty happy with it! I got it printed onto cloth that was about 6 yards wide as I thought it would be interesting to use it as a table cloth.We got permission from the hotel to hang it directly on the wall so that everyone could see it throughout the entire event. Super cool! Peter Eggert of Eggertspiele ended up winning the map – which is also cool!

Anyway – enough about the prizes and the map – let’s get into talking about the pitches to publishers! This year was very different than last year for a couple reasons:

1) My house was broken into a couple months ago, and I lost all my computers and back-up hard drives with all my files. I had another back-up but it was over a year old so I didn’t have very current files. Since I spent the greater part of the last two months packing the rest of my stuff, moving and re-acquiring things through insurance, I didn’t have enough time to properly make sales sheets! What?! I know, it’s insane. I feel like we really pioneered the sales sheets for game designers (I have no idea if we did, but it was our own original idea to do sales sheets before we ever saw anyone else doing it). It definitely felt awkward pitching without sales sheets this year. For sure we’re going back to sales sheets after this!

2) I felt like the Gathering was so much more informal of an event that a designer can easily walk up to any publisher (who are easily identifiable due to their blue name badges!) and ask them if they’re looking at designs while they’re here. 100% of them said they were. So I didn’t set up any meetings in advance with any publisher. I wouldn’t recommend this if this was your first year attending the Gathering though. I knew almost all the publishers I was pitching to, so that made it a lot easier for me.

So no sales sheets and no set-up interviews.Yikes. Fortunately, everything went awesome-rific! On day 1 I pitched to Filosofia/Z-Man, Asmodee and Repos. I’ll review the details in the next post!

-Jay Cormier

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 5: Tips and Best Practices

Now that I’m not an Essen noob, I have some tips and best practices for those that want to visit Essen in the future. I’ll be sure to re-visit this post as next year draws near.

  1. Book your hotel well in advance. Stay close or at least on the metro/subway line. We spent too much money on taxis though there were 4 of us so we could split the fares. Next year we’re thinking of staying at the Atlantic hotel as it’s within walking distance.
  2. Pack a luggage within your luggage. If you’re planning on buying a bajillion games, then make sure you’re prepared to get them home! Most flights out of Duseldorf (closest airport to Essen) will charge you 50 Euros for an extra luggage, so factor that in you decisions about which games you should pick up. My rule was that if I could get it in Canada, I wouldn’t buy it at Essen, no matter how cheap it was.
  3. Bring an empty rolling luggage with you to the Fair. Carrying games around all day can get tiring. One of the Game Artisans of Canada was smart and brought a rolly suitcase and made it super easy to carry games around. There were many other ‘smart’ people who did the same. I used the bags provided by the vendors and had 2 paper bags rip on me in the middle of an aisle. Boo!
  4. Create a list beforehand of the games you want AND add the publisher name and booth number to the list. It’s not easy finding games if you don’t know the publisher – but it’s super easy if you know the booth number.
  5. Bring a healthy snack if you can. The food options at the Fair are the usual hot dogs, pizza slices and Nutella-filled crepes. And they’re not cheap either – so brings some edibles and come well-fed already.
  6. If you’re going to split up with your friends, make sure the meet up point is very clear. Some publishers have multiple booths so that can get confusing! We had a meeting with a publisher who said to meet him at the Snack Point in Hall 6. After 2 very crowded loops of Hall 6, we couldn’t find any Snack Points. Apparently there was one there last year and he was basing the location from last year’s layout!
  7. No one can tell you which games you should or shouldn’t get, but pay attention to forums and buzz to find out which might sell out before others and plan to get those sooner than later. I really wanted a game called Die Burgen von Burgund and since it was a game that debuted last year, I figured that there would be plenty – however it still has not been published in America so it sold out right away and I never got a copy.
  8. Travelling to Essen from the Dusseldorf Airport will cost you 50 Euros in a taxi or you could take a train for about 4 Euros if you know how to get where you’re going. I actually went a few days early and went to Paris – so I took a train from Paris to Essen and then a cab from the train station, which was only about 12 Euros. On the way out I decided to incur the cost of a taxi because I wasn’t sure of where I was going (poor planning) if I had to take the train, and my foot was sore with some sort of heel spur.

Following some of these tips will definitely ensure a more pleasant Essen-going experience! If you’re a designer then you’ll want to follow these tips as well:

  1. Contact publishers 1-2 months in advance of Essen to book appointments. Basically, the bigger the publisher, the earlier you should be setting up meetings. Email contact should suffice.
  2. Carry all your prototypes around with you – at all times. You never know when you’re going to need them.
  3. Always carry around a Sales Sheet for each of your games. If for some reason, you can’t or don’t want to carry around your prototypes – then at least always have a Sales Sheet on hand. I’ve definitely had to pull out a Sales Sheet at unexpected times at conventions.
  4. Make sure each game is individually packaged. I used a large baggie for each game. When we send a game to a publisher, we’ll always put it in a nice box, but at Essen I was carrying 7 prototypes with me at all times and there wasn’t room for each of them to have boxes. They all fit in my backpack once I put them each into their own baggie. Of course ensure each baggie is labeled with all the pertinent information: Name of game, your name and contact info and even the basic playtime, age range and how many players your game can support.
  5. Know the publisher before meeting with them. Actually you should know the publisher before you even email them. But when you’re in a meeting with a publisher and they reference one of their games, you should be familiar with it.

That should ensure you’re prepared for a solid Essen adventure of your own. Next up I’ll regale you with a post about all the games I got at Essen!

-Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 3: Pitching to a Publisher

Going to Essen as a game designer can be very beneficial if you plan properly and have a modicum of sales or personal skills. In this post I’ll walk you through how I pitched to all the publishers I met with while in Essen. To catch up to where we are in the series, here are the previous posts:

Adventures in Essen, Part 1: The Fair

Adventures in Essen, Part 2: Attending as a Designer

Because we’ve been published already, I started each conversation by bringing out a copy of Train of Thought and Belfort. I did this for a couple reasons.

  1. To let the publisher know that I’m a published designer of two great looking games and,
  2. To let them know that we’re looking for international partners. If the publisher was a European publisher and showed some interest in either one, then I’d quickly review the game and then gauge their interest levels. The more interest they show then the more details I provide, going so far as to open the box and give them an example of game play.

Sales Sheet for our game, Akrotiri

Once we were finished talking about International rights (which Sen and I do not have, but I was there to gauge interest and connect them with our publisher for negotiating), I’d bring out my folder full of Sales Sheets. Prior to the meeting I’d review the emails with the publisher to see if they expressed interest in specific games of ours or not, and if they did then I’d only show them the Sales Sheets for those games. If I didn’t have any guidance from previous emails as to which games they prefer to see, then I’d start with the games that I felt fit that publisher the most.

I’d bring out the Sales Sheet and face it towards them and give them the 30-second elevator pitch, just like in Step 16. Based on how interested they were, I’d continue by explaining how the game plays while pointing to each picture on the Sales Sheet. I’d ask them if they’d like to see a sample round played out and if so, I’d grab the baggie with the prototype and quickly set up enough components to play a round. Depending on the game I would explain a certain percentage of the rules since not all rules would be needed to play a round or two. Basically I’d follow what we detailed in Step 25. Whenever it made sense I’d point out key strategy aspects but I always let the publisher make up their own mind as to how to play.

A small room where I just finished pitching Swashbucklers to a publisher (the publisher left for a moment so I snapped this image with my iPad!)

During a pitch session the time for humility is at the end of the session if the publisher has feedback, but at the beginning and during your pitch, throw humility out. I mean, don’t be an egotistical ass, but this is the time that you really have to highlight what’s unique and special about your game. As we play I’d point out how unique a movement mechanic was or how clever or novel a specific aspect of the game was. I’d say things like, “What I like most about this game is that everyone is playing at all times” or “The hook to this game is that you’re giving many tiny clues which, by themselves mean little, but when put together they make more sense.” You have to remember that this publisher is possibly spending their entire time at Essen seeing new designs every 30 minutes from different designers. How are you going to stand out and be remembered?

After playing a round or two I am usually pretty forward and like to ask their opinion about the game from what little they know of it. This is key if you have many games you’d like to present. Each of the meetings I had were specific slots of time – usually 30 minutes (though one was an hour), so I wouldn’t want to ‘waste’ my entire time on pitching just the one game. When the publisher gives you feedback, remember to follow what we reviewed in Step 26. Now IS the time for humility. Don’t be defensive and just accept whatever they say. There’s no argument that you can provide that would convince the publisher that their opinion should be different.

Whatever their opinion is, start packing up the prototype if it’s out, while the publisher is contemplating or sharing their thoughts. Keep eye contact with the publisher and don’t appear rushed, but I knew I had a few more games I had to get out and I was just trying to be as efficient as possible. None of the publishers seemed to mind this at all.

At the end of the session I’d always review the key take-aways. I’d summarize which games they were interested in and then, as detailed in Step 27, I’d ask them if it was ok to come back with the prototype at the end of the Fair, and all the publishers were cool with that. I’d shake their hand and thank them for their time and ensure I got a business card and be on my way.

It’s key during these pitches to really try and be yourself. You can’t be super salesman-y the entire time as that comes across as cheesy and forced. Show them that you’re a good person and that you’d be fun and professional to work with if they chose your game to be published. I never found it necessary to comment or flatter them with praise about any of their existing games as I felt like that would come across as pandering and fake. I think they appreciated that I was good humoured but also got right down to business.

I need to underline the importance of Sales Sheets again. I’ve talked about them in previous posts for sure, but I actually asked a few publishers their thoughts about Sales Sheets and every one of them said it was a great idea. One specifically liked that it helped him remember which game was which since they had pictures, while another preferred them during the pitch sessions as it was quicker to explain games instead of hauling out tons of bits and pieces. In the future I think we’ll be tweaking our Sales Sheets a bit to make them even a better aid when explaining how the game is played.

Up Next: A review of the publishers I pitched

– 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 23: Getting your game in front of a publisher at a convention: Approaching the publisher

For any publisher that you don’t already have a meeting set up in advance (see Step 20), it’s time to approach the publisher – or at least someone who’s working in the publisher’s booth!  My approach is always with a smile and sounds something like this:

“Hi, I’m a game designer and was wondering if you’re looking at submissions while you’re here?”

If you’re not speaking to the right person then you’ll be told who to speak to, but otherwise this approach has served me well.

At this point I usually get a vibe of disappointment from some publishers as I’m not a potential customer to them.  Imagine how many designs a publisher sees in a year/month/week.  How many of those are awesome?  So you can see why a publisher doesn’t always have high hopes when a designer approaches them at a convention.  That said, a lot of publishers have told me that they only look at new designs at conventions, so it’s not all doom and gloom!

The response you get from a publisher at this point will be one of the following:

a)     Sure, tell me/show me what you got

b)     Sure, why don’t you come back a X:XX time

c)     The person who looks at submissions isn’t here but here’s our submission guidelines/email this person

d)     We’re not accepting any outside submissions at this time

If you get ‘d’ then make a note and move on. If the convention lasts a few days and there are a ton of publishers at the convention then it’s quite possible you’ll forget which ones you’ve talked to by the end.

If you get ‘c’ then you’ve got a contact and it will give you an in when you do email them the week after the convention.  Make sure you get the name of the person you spoke to in person at the convention so you can say that you were talking to Susan at the convention and she referred me to you.  Makes it sound less like a cold call.

If you get ‘a’ or’b’ then you’re in luck.  The first thing I do is I let them know that I have many games but I have selected a couple that would really fit well with their company.  I said this to Atlas Games at a convention once and the rep at the booth was so thankful that I wasn’t about to show her 10 different games.  This made me think that a lot of designers had been showing her tons of games throughout this convention – and that some of them weren’t a good fit for her company.  Atlas Games had games like Beer Money and Gloom and we thought our game about collecting geeky things like comics, figures and movies would appeal to them. She appreciated that we knew her business.

As I’m saying this I bring out my sales sheets (see Step 14) and begin showing the ones that fit this publisher.  I have often noticed that the attitude of the publisher changes immediately once they see my sales sheets for my games.  It’s as if they realized they were speaking to a professional designer instead of some jimmy-jo-jo designer who’s invented a really cool monopoly clone.

Now it’s time for the elevator pitch (Step 16)!  This is it – this is what we’ve been leading up to.  Hopefully you’ve practiced saying this out loud quite a few times already so it will come naturally when you say it to a publisher.  While you’re saying your pitch you can use your sales sheet as a visual aid.  Point out the specific components and highlight what makes the game unique. The end of every pitch at a convention should be an invitation to try out the prototype – because you have it with you.

Check out the next blog post which will be about showcasing your prototype to a publisher – the Do’s and Do Not’s!

-Jay Cormier

See how it all comes together? As I alluded to in our last post, there’s not a whole lot of luck about how we got published. It’s about setting a course of action and executing your plan.

You know how there’s that saying about first impressions? Well, it’s true. You need to make a good one with each and every publisher you meet, especially if you hope to be in this business for a long time – it’s a small community and you’ll end up seeing the same people over and over if you go to multiple conventions. So make sure that you present yourself well – professional, considerate, and well-groomed. A little bit of effort in this department can go a long way. Publishers need to have confidence in not only your game, but in you as a designer.

This means knowing your target audience so that you only pitch appropriate games to specific publisher. It means knowing how to take “no” or “not interested” for an answer. It also means having your act together – quite literally!

Jay and I will often role play pitching our games to a publisher to help Jay get his “patter” down. As a sales person, an actor and a street magician, Jay’s patter is strong, but even a vet like him gets nervous from time to time. He needs to prepare his responses to questions like “Why aren’t there more dice in this game?” or comments like “This looks like the same game as Knizia’s last one.” It sounds silly, but rehearsing helps immensely. It helps with flow, timing, and hitting all the key points. In fact, some of the times, we come up with things that we end up including on our sales sheets because they are excellent points to highlight!

Speaking of the sales sheets, what you’re actually aiming for is to be able to use a combination of everything we’ve talked about before – your pitches and your sale sheets – to interest a publisher so much in the idea that they want to see the prototype. You need to be able to tell a prospective publisher nearly everything about a game without even bringing the game out on the table. Why? Because in a crowded convention hall there may not be the opportunity to play the game right there and then. So use words and pictures to get the idea across strongly enough that a publisher will want to playtest the game. This can mean setting an appointment for a later date, giving the prototype to the publisher for them to take back with them, or mailing it to their head office in Germany.

Designing an awesome game is all well and good but if you can’t sell it to a publisher it’ll just sit on the shelf. You need to sell yourself as well as your product. So polish up that silver tongue and make some snappy sales sheets because no one wants to be a Jimmy-Jo-Jo (Not even Jimmy-Jo-Jo!)

-Sen-Foong Lim

 

Step 22: Getting your Game in front of a Publisher at a Convention: Now you’re at the convention

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!

-Jay Cormier

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.

-Sen-Foong Lim