Previously, I discussed how to go about setting up pitch meetings with publishers. If you missed it you can check that out here. The short idea is, keep communication to a minimum. That article received a huge response from the community and I received tons of positive comments through Twitter and email (I didn’t have WordPress then, so nothing on the site.) One of the comments that really stuck with me was that my advice is, in the wider view of the world, how to succeed at life.
The same is true with pitches.
You see, no one really wants to listen to you ramble on and on about you and your stuff. We just pretend to listen because we are courteous creatures. Have you ever noticed how few words “cool” people use? They aren’t constantly blabbing away about one thing or another, and that’s socially attractive. You need to apply the same principles to meeting a publisher for the first time. Jump in, make a quick impression, and move on. If you have trouble with being curt, there’s a perfect, free class at your disposal:
Volunteer at conventions!
The best way you can learn how to grab someones attention is to practice actually doing it. Running demos for publishers is a perfect way to hone that skill. Not only are you learning how to grab peoples attention in a short time, you are also practicing appropriate ways to present game ideas in as few words as possible. At a show, very few people have the time to sit through an entire rules explanation before playing a demo. You need to get them going as fast as possible, and explain things along the way, otherwise, they will lose interest and tell you that they “don’t have time right now” or “aren’t interested” just so they can move along without being rude.
Many publishers seek out volunteers for shows and advertise for it on their websites. You are going to need to do that legwork yourself. Often, they will offer free badges to the show or even free accommodations. You get valuable experience and provide a meaningful service to what may be a potential publisher for you!
Teach the Publisher
Once you learn how to grab someones attention and teach them a game as quickly as possible, you’ll soon start realizing that you can do the same with your game. Yes, I know your game is the most amazing thing ever. I know you implemented no less than five unique mechanics and your math professor friend worked out precise distribution algorithms to perfectly tune the game… but that stuff is boring.
Ain’t nobody got time for that! – Sweet Brown
You need to show your game to the publisher exactly the same way you would demo it to a passerby at a show. I’ve broken this process down into 4 simple steps:
1) Say Hi – Seriously, this is nothing more than saying hello. No time for stroking your ego here.
Hello, I’m Designer. Thanks for taking the time to meet with me today.
2) Brief Overview – Brief. Brevity is the key to this whole process. Have your prototype out and be prepared to show bits as you talk. Use your prototype for visual cues. Remember, they don’t have your rulebook in front of them to look at your example layouts.
Designer: This is my game, Awesomeness. In Awesomeness, players take on the role of someone more awesome than us doing a task that is way cooler than my day job. The game supports 2 to infinite players of all ages and takes about 30 minutes to play.
3) Pause – literally just stop talking. This is that part in social interactions where we get nervous and tend to ramble on. One of the best methods for controlling this perfectly natural reaction is to intentionally pause. I’m not talking a half-second either. I mean just stop. You’ll know when to continue, and likely it’ll be because something like this happens:
Publisher: That’s a really interesting concept. Can you go into more detail?
4) BRIEF detail – up to this point, this likely seems obvious. This is just how social interaction works. The reality though, is this is where we all fall apart. Someone just asked you to go into detail. This is your chance to sprinkle in all sorts of side-bits and talk about that math professor buddy… no, it is not.
I cannot emphasize enough how important brevity is here. You are taking up a publishers time, at a show, where their real intention is to make a living. They are there to sell their products and meet their customers. If you start rambling on about your game, the chances of them paying attention beyond the first minute are slim to none. Give them a broad overview of how the game works. Use the physical components to demonstrate how pieces move around, or flow from player to player. Discuss the game in the most basic way possible. This is not the time to read them your rules line for line.
Remember to pause. Pause often and abruptly. Just wait for a response. Involve them in the demonstration and you will hold their attention. I promise you, if they are interested, they will ask you for more, or request a review copy. This is exactly what we set out to achieve. Remember, we aren’t selling games at these meetings (seriously, if you didn’t read that part in the previous article, you should go back and re-read it) we are here to sell ourselves.