How to contact a publisher and greatly improve your chances of getting a response
Emailing publishers that you don’t have existing relationships with can seem daunting. I know. I’ve reached out to dozens of publishers myself and have had successes, passes, and more than anything else, a LOT of non-responses.
Publishers are busy. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of people contacting them every year with their latest and greatest game ideas. Some publishers accept outside submissions and others do not, so make sure to do your homework.
Most publishers will clearly state on their website whether or not they are accepting submissions, which will save you some time and effort, as you can focus on only reaching out to those currently looking for games. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs by pitching them a game when they are not accepting submissions.
Also, make sure that the game or games you’re pitching are a good match for the publisher. There should be some similarity to their existing games, but not so comparable that your game would be competing directly with games already in their catalog.
When you do contact a publisher, make sure to follow any process they’ve outlined. They may indicate that you must fill out a form or only provide certain information.
Generally, it’s best to email them, introducing yourself and why you feel your game is a good match for them. Avoid generic emails and make sure to personalize your message to them. Nobody enjoys receiving a standard generic email that is clearly being sent to many others with the exact same message. This will greatly increase your chances of receiving a reply.
Don’t just go and send a publisher a prototype of your game or a print and play file when you first contact them. Simply include a brief description of the game, including the hook and why it would be a good match for the publisher.
Also include your sell sheet, outlining important aspects of your game, as well as your contact information. If they’re interested, they may ask you to send the rules or a short play through video to demonstrate how the game is played. It’s not a bad idea to have both of these ready in advance, to keep the conversation moving forward and keep yourself at the front of the publisher’s mind.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back. Some publishers aren’t looking for games at the moment. Others may just be inundated with emails and can’t reply to each one in a timely manner.
Feel free to send a follow-up email a couple of weeks later. Perhaps the publisher had meant to contact you back or look at your email again, and this will jog their memory. In other cases, you just may not hear back. Sometimes that’s just the way it is. Look to the next publisher on your list, and just keep on trying!
Here is a summary of the tips to increase your chances of getting a response when you send a cold email to a publisher:
- Make sure to check the publisher’s website to first of all determine if they are accepting outside submissions, and if so, what their procedure and requirements are
- Only reach out to publishers who are currently accepting submissions and make sure to follow their procedures. Failure to do so shows the publisher that you can’t follow instructions and will likely result in your submission being ignored.
- Personalize your message. Don’t just send a generic form letter. Mention some of their games that you enjoy and why you feel your game would be a good fit for them.
- Give a very brief intro to your game using your elevator pitch. You will want to include your sell sheet as well.
- In addition to your sell sheets, have your overview videos, rules, and prototypes ready when you contact them, in case they want to know more about your game
- Never send a prototype unless you are asked to do so
- If you don’t hear anything back, follow-up in two weeks. Remember that publishers are busy and receive tons of pitches. They may just not have gotten to yours yet.
Have you had success emailing publishers? What has your approach been and how has it been helpful?
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Thanks for your post I have tried to contact publishers in the past with varying results. I have a question for you about your article, what are sell sheets? Thanks so much for your time.
A sell sheet is a one-pager detailing all the most relevant aspects of your game that you can give to publishers. They can review this on their own time and then contact you if they have any questions or want to try your prototype (so make sure to include your contact info!).
Here are some great examples:
I hope this helps!
Cody Ray James
I’m working on Over Thirty Story’s I have Up to 350 Handwritten pages front and back I’m trying to coinside with a Game adventure game matching the story’s I have titles an board map a few rules
Sounds like a big undertaking, Cody! Good luck with your game and the stories that will become a part of this!