Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Things TO SAY when pitching to a publisher

My recent post, “Things NOT to say when pitching to a publisher,” has been very popular that past couple of weeks, having been linked to design forums from Boardgamegeek and even an Italien game design website (I couldn’t resist registering there to comment, even though I had to run everything through Googletranslate in order to understand the conversation).

At the prodding of several commenters, including those on Board Game Design Forum, I have now added a list of things you COULD and probably SHOULD say to publishers, when pitching your game to them.

In addition, I would like to add that, although hobby game publishers are often fairly casual, you would do well to present yourself as professional as possible.  This does not mean you have to wear a suite and tie, but it should go without saying that showering and wearing nice clothes leaves a much better impression than greasy hair, a T-Shirt and ratty jeans.

Now, on with the list, which is written in no particular order:

1. This game has been tested multiple times with every number of players and by players who fit in the game’s target group.  It was also blind tested by groups that had to learn the game on their own from my rules sheets.  I have the results of each playtest recorded here in my notebook.

2. This game seems like a good fit for your company.  I think your Game X is a great game for its target group, and this game has a similar target group.

3. This game has very accessible and intuitive rules, but it also has some mechanisms that set it apart from other games (examples...) in its genre and target group.

4. This takes an average of X minutes to play per player, according to my playtest sessions.

5. Allow me to explain the game idea and rules in 5 minutes to you...

6. I have used clipart and different types of components to give you an idea of what the game could look like, but I am, of course, open to any changes in theme and art direction you may have.

7. I enjoy working with developers to make my games the best that they can be.  I am a team player and, though I appreciate being included in the process, am open to changes that improve the game or make it fit better with your company’s line and business plan.

8. I have done my research on your company and am presenting you this game because I feel it fits in with your previous releases.  If, however, you are interested in branching out, I also have some other prototypes you might be interested in looking at.

9. You can look at the rules sheet while I explain it to you—I don’t need to refer to them, as I know the game inside and out.

10. If you are interested, please take the prototype with you to test with your groups.  I look forward to receiving your feedback soon.

EDIT:  After some good discussion on this at BGDF, I'd like to clarify this list a little more.  First of all, these items are meant to be a kind of checklist to help you prepare for a pitch--not just something you have to say, word-for word--and CERTAINLY not something you say about your game or playtesting if it is untrue!  The point is, if any of these are untrue, MAKE them true before you pitch your game.  For example, if there is nothing original in your game (whether it be a mechanic, or the way the mechanics work to together, the theme or the treatment of the theme), then it is unlikely your game won't stand out from an increasingly crowded marketplace.  And if you haven't playtested it extensively, the publisher will probably be able to tell fairly early on--they are very good at discerning these things, as they look at hundreds of prototypes every year and hear even more pitches for games. 

Perhaps this sounds too "salesman-like," but that's really what you are doing and you can't get around it.  I used to hate selling things for school fundraisers, but with my games, at least I believe in the product I am selling.  The more you do to make your game the best it can be, and the more you prepare for the pitch, the more confident you can be in selling it.


Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for this man, nice list to use in the future - perhaps are their other things you should DO to prepare?

For example one of the tips is to say "I have done a lot of research in your company and ... (xyz)" - one would assume then that "Research everything about the company before pitching to them!" would be of high importance. Obvisouly this kind of thing can be seen to be obvious, but I bet it would be handy to have a list somewhere and other such points that would not be so obvious?

Thanks very much for your time on this Jeff :)

jeffinberlin said...

Yes, I tried to make the list imply what you should be doing to prepare for the interview (research the company, for example, playtest your game with multiple groups and keep a record of the playtesting sessions and feedback, etc.).

Thanks for your thoughts!

OcularGimp said...

This seems like a really solid list. I'll definetly refer to this when I pitch my game. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Nice list. I don't have a lot of experience pitching games (just Protospiel last summer), but I suspect that far and away the most important part of the pitch is the first 20 seconds. I try to boil the game down (a cross between Ticket to Ride and Acquire), say what's unique about it (a modular board), and put it in context (a good introduction to 18xx games for more casual gamers), all in the first sentence or two.

It's interesting that you're originally from Iowa, as that's where I live.

My blog, "playing and designing board games," is at Feel free to add me to your blogroll if you find it interesting. :-)


dan_bigs said...

I have a game that I am able to manufacture myself. What I need is to get it on shelves. How does one do this?

jeffinberlin said...

Self-publishing is not something I'm interested in, mainly because I would rather use my time in design and development--not production and marketing.

There are many resources and forums where you can get advice in this area, however. Check out the designer's forum on and also the Board Game Designers' Forum at

Good luck!