Over the past eight or so years I must have received tens of thousands of press emails from hundreds of indie and not-so-indie developers and, as one would expect, many were more than able to do their job. Sadly, many more simply failed in helping me cover the suggested games; or, well, mostly games.
Now, despite having helped a bit with the brilliant How To Contact Press ebook by the PixelProspector and having shared a few thoughts on the matter over at IndieGames.com, I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that not everyone has followed our wise advice! Tsk, tsk and tsk is all I can say.
Seriously though, as I still get a lot of not particularly good press emails, I feel I have to share a few tips that will make your indie game promoting campaign slightly more successful.
First of all, you have to understand that the people who write about games do so mostly because they love them and the vibrancy of the indie community. The money just isn't there and the hours required are long (hint: that's why some of us decide to ask for help on sites like Patreon). We also tend to get dozens if not hundreds of emails per day and simply skimming through them all is more than time-consuming. Covering everything, regardless of how well presented or intriguing it sounds is simply impossible.
So, here are a few pointers disguised as a brief selection of bullets...
- Make sure you address the receiver of your email correctly. Starting an email to IndieGames with a "Dear Rock Paper Shotgun" isn't winning you any friends.
- Spelling is important and shows you've put enough care into your email; enough to earn the interest of an underpaid, overburdened person. Just spell-check the bloody thing and make sure to use proper paragraphs.
- An easy to read email that's neither a sentence-long nor a huge wall of text has a better chance of getting read. Formatting, punctuation and a modest length (of say 3-4 paragraphs) are important.
- Try to address your email to journalists who care about the kind of game you've crafted. Don't try contacting somebody specializing in sport-sims about your latest retro-esque adventure.
- If you have the time do personalize the emails or at least those directed to the publications you are most interested in. I always appreciate a "Hello Konstantinos" or "gnome".
- Always have a nice picture of your game embedded in the body of the email. It helps in giving an idea of what it's all about.
- Speaking of help, make sure to help the journo you are contacting cover your game. Don't make the poor soul search for trailers, pictures, website links, available formats, platforms, prices (or whether a game is freeware), official press releases (if any) and other crucial information. Provide with links to the important stuff.
- Most people prefer a web-based presskit instead of downloading .zip files. Presskit() comes highly recommended.
- Humour works. As does being nice.
- Get quickly to the point. Make sure I (for example, that is) immediately learn why your game is interesting and what's so special about it. Why will I love it?
- Avoid sounding like a corporate PR machine. It's grating and doesn't help.
- Briefly introducing yourself or your team is also a good idea, provided the email doesn't get too long.
- Always, ALWAYS, make sure whoever gets your email can email you back. Always, ALWAYS, answer such emails and be nice. Oh, and do mention that you 'd love to answer questions.
- If possible, provide a download, Steam/iOS/whatever key of your game. Don't ask if we want one; we need one -- writing about a game means that we must be able to play it without paying.
And, that's it really. The rest is up to you. Just keep in mind that the advice above will not guarantee coverage. It'll just help you improve your chances. Oh, and great games really do help.
[UPDATE - extra bits:] As more than a few people have kindly offered more tips I believe I should let you know of the ones I deeply agree with: 1) having someone proof-read your email can do wonders, 2) as iOS codes are indeed a limited resource they should be handed out only to the more crucial outlets - Testflight is a good alternative, and 3) downloadable presskits with logos and high-res art and everything can be a handy supplement to your web-based presskit.
Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in surviving long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming) words and things. Thanks!
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