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Contacting the press as an indie developer.

The first post in a short series on how to aproach the press. This post focuses on how to make first contact.

George Portman, Blogger

January 22, 2016

4 Min Read

Hello everyone! Today I will be talking about contacting the press to gain more exposure for your game.

This post was originally written by George Portman for Marketing Theory.

The (gaming) press is one of the most powerful marketing tools that an indie developer has at their disposal. They can have a lot of influence and can make or break the success of your game. Of course, this isn't always the case. A well-known example is the game Beyond Good and Evil. The PC version I linked to gained an average score of 83 on Metacritic and the Gamecube, Xbox and PS2 versions scored even better. Sales were low however and what seemed like a guaranteed best-seller turned out to be commercially unsuccessful.

So while good press doesn't necessarily equal good sales, people will be exposed to your game regardless. The adage "there is no such thing as bad press" comes to mind. As long as your game gets covered, you'll get at least some form of exposure. The press' words are not absolute and you might still get sales. But you do need to get your game covered first. That all starts with establishing contact and that's what I'll talk about today.

First things first. You need something the press can talk about. Ideally you will have some sort of playable product, and especially if your game is in early access you can provide this.  There is a whole lot that goes into creating a good presskit, but that is an article for another time. For now, a good rule of thumb here is to send the press what you want them to write about. This at least includes an elevator pitch and some screenshots and a trailer.

So you have your press kit nicely attached to your email. Now you have to write the body of your e-mail and, most importantly, the subject header. The key here is to be as orignial as possible. From my experience working at a national TV station, most e-mails are not even opened, simply because the subject header isn't interesting enough.

You can go wild here, but try to match the subject line to the person or website you're writing to. If you know a journalist is fond of Legend of Zelda, and your game is similar, try something like "Zelda's still months away. Try out this game until then!" For a AAA company this may come across as unprofessional, but an indie studio is expected to have some personality.

The next step is your e-mail body. Again, the key here is to be yourself. You don't have to be witty or funny if you're usually a very serious person. Just be yourself and be personal. When writing the Zelda-loving journalist, try something along the lines of this:

"Dear Journalist,

You're probably still waiting for the new Zelda for Wii U. I know that feeling, but luckily I made Mutant Fiddle Players Deluxe! It plays a lot like Zelda but adds some interesting gameplay elements. Check out the demo in the attachment, you'll probably like it enough to write an article on. Pinky promise.

Enjoy Mutant Fiddle Players Deluxe, and I look forward to your response!

Kind Regards,

GameCompany Inc."

Don't copy what I wrote above, write your own e-mail. That's not me being mean, but if you don't write it yourself, it's not very personal which is the advantage of being indie!

Your e-mail is done but there's still an empty field. The recipient. Chances are you haven't been able to network with journalists a lot because, well, you're making your game! So who do you send your game to? Here is a good place to start. That website has some google spreadsheets which document the website name, URL, which platforms they cover and links to their contact page and social media pages. In total there are at least 200 websites you can contact there. There's also a list of Youtubers on that website, but that's something for another article.

Finally, don't send the same e-mail to everyone. It's going to be noticed eventually and it's not very personal at all, which defeats the entire purpose. Instead craft an individual e-mail for each website or journalist. This will probably take a lot of time, but remember the press kit will probably be the same for each one. You only need to write a small email body and subject line for each website you contact!

Hopefully you now have some sort of idea on how to contact the press and what to write them. I will cover Youtubers and presskits in the future as well, but for now I hope this article has been helpful to you. Good luck with your marketing and as always, comments, tweets and e-mails are encouraged!

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