SEEKING OUT A GAME PUBLISHER

DO’S AND DON’TS

Believe it or not, there is an certain etiquette that you really should keep in mind when submitting your game to Publishers. Publishers receive many submissions and just like submitting a resume for a job, the simplest things can turn Publishers off.

DO

  • Only contact publishers who are likely to be interested in your types of games.
  • Check for submission guidelines.
  • Read the Publisher’s submission rules and clauses.
  • It’s usually ok to contact multiple Publishers, but let them know you are doing so.
  • Make sure you put a single paragraph description of your game near the top of your letter.
  • Try to include the “hook” for your game that makes it unique.
  • List the game’s vitals: play time, age, # of players, primary mechanics, expected retail price.
  • List the game’s components – just totals of each item (like cards) not details
  • List the game’s target audience: Euro-gamers, Ameritrash, Casual gamers, Party gamers, etc
  • Send 1 small picture of your game with the initial inquiry or be prepared to send several pictures of your prototype on request
  • Include a link to the PDF rules or provide them on request
  • If you can, make a game sales pitch / short play video or at least a sales flyer (sell-sheet)
  • When creating a prototype, consider layout and use clip art graphics.
    • Try to approximate what you think the final version should look like.
    • When you send your prototype to the Publisher make sure it’s a fully functional prototype with all the bits (including dice) in it.
    • Don’t make the Publisher hunt for bits.
    • When submitting a prototype, include multiple copies of the rulebook.
  • Write no more than once a month at the most for an update but once a quarter would be best.
  • It is perfectly acceptable to ask for a final answer or the game back if it’s been a year or longer.
  • Keep improving and testing your game while you are waiting
  • Take your game to conventions and local meet-ups and game store game nights. Get people to play your game and listen to as much feedback from as many types of people as you can.
  • Be flexible on theme, component, or rules changes / development proposed by the Publisher.
  • Offer to work with the Publisher’s developer to test their proposed design changes and to continue to develop the game.
  • Offer to help with promotion of your game, including Kickstarter if applicable, as well as upon release.
    • Most Publishers are small 1 or 2 people companies and your personal help promoting the game will go a long way.
    • Make sure you get permission before releasing any artwork or details on final products.
  • Write a rule book that can be blind-tested.
    • This means that you don’t have to explain the game and someone can learn it without your help.
    • The better you do the more likely the Publish is to have a good time learning your game.
    • Of course their editor will probably hack it apart later, but you need a good start.
  • Make sure your rule book has an accurate parts/contents list.

DO NOT

  • Don’t write a long email on first contact.
  • Don’t go into a long story about your development of the game.
  • Don’t go into a lengthy description about the game’s theme.
  • Don’t submit a game similar to a game a Publisher already produces.
  • Don’t send a game that requires a IP license
  • Don’t ask for an NDA or imply you’re worried about your IP.
  • Don’t bother to patent your game idea as it’s not useful and very expensive.
  • Don’t worry about a Publisher stealing your game idea.
    • They don’t have the time to redo all your work.
    • They have plenty of ideas of their own they’d like to work on.
  • Don’t submit more then one or two games to a Publisher at a time.
    • Pitch the game you think that Publisher is most likely to print. You can always return later.
  • Don’t set any hard deadlines or time frames for getting you an answer about your game unless you’re prepared to take it back right then
  • Don’t hire an artist / friend to work on your game unless it’s for free or willing to be thrown out.
  • Don’t be unwilling to make changes.
    • Designers should be flexible to changes in design, components, and theme.
    • The more established you become the more authority you’ll gain over these decisions but ultimately it is the Publisher who is taking the biggest risk publishing the game so they will do what they feel provides the best chance for success.
  • Don’t send copies of the same prototype to multiple Publishers (or even ask them).
    • Once you’re at the prototype stage with a Publisher it is usually understood that they will be exclusively working with you till they make their decision.
  • Don’t nag weekly about the status of your game.
    • A Publisher has to get your game in front of several people and play it a few times.
    • They have other games to look at too.
    • Reviewing a prototype usually takes months.
    • If you nag the Publisher they’ll just mail the prototype back or throw it out.
  • Don’t send unsolicited prototypes to Publishers.
  • Don’t submit game ideas to Publishers. They only want fully developed games.
    • If you don’t think it’s playable out of the box, don’t submit it to a Publisher.
    • This does not mean there won’t be more development suggestions from the Publisher.
  • Don’t bother send a publisher a Collectible Card Game (CCG/TCG/TMG).
    • Make it a non-collectible game in a box or LCG
  • Don’t make excuses.
  • Don’t run a Kickstarter campaign and THEN look for a publisher.
    • Most publishers won’t touch your game after you have run a crowd funding campaign for it already.
    • Contact them before and leverage their marketing to make the best of crowd funding.

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