In part 1, I shared how I tell newer designers when submitting games or requesting convention appointments to expect no response to half your submissions, to expect a polite quick no to the remaining half, no follow up with the half remaining after that, etc., etc. And I offered to share some real numbers.
I started contacting publishers in May 2018 to request appointments to pitch three different prototypes (although my primary focus was on two of the three) at Origins 2018 in June.
Armed with the Cardboard Edison Publisher Compendium, a list of Origins exhibitors, and my own web and BGG research, I sent sell sheets to 29 different publishers requesting pitch appointments. For those with a web submission process, I followed that process, for the rest it was via email.
16 of the 29 never responded or acknowledged the contact.
Of the 13 that responded, 6 gave immediate polite "looks interesting, but not what we are looking for right now".
2 of the 13 responding publishers said they would take a look at the sell sheets, and that was the last I heard from them.
5 of the 13 who responded eventually scheduled appointments with me for Origins I requested appointments from 29 different publishers, and 24 said 'No". More importantly, 5 said "Yes" !
Ah, but wait. 2 of the 5 were interested in a prototype they had already played at Unpub8 earlier that spring, and wanted follow-ups at Origins to see how some requested changes worked out. Those 2 were not cold contacts, they were ringers. So redo the math, and you have 27 unsolicited appointment requests that gave me 24 "No" responses, and 3 "Yes" responses. Just for an appointment to pitch.
So I prepared, I rehearsed, so that I would be ready when pitch time came.
Once Origins came, I used those 5 scheduled appointments and 2 impromptu pitches to pitch 3 different games to 7 different publishers. Some of the pitches were for multiple games. There were some gracious declines on the spot. There were some gracious declines the week following Origins.
For the pitches themselves, I think the final math (accounting for 2 pitches to some publishers) works out to 10 pitches given. 9 gracious "no"'s (often in the form of great game, but not what we are looking for). And 1 "yes" that resulted in a signed contract 12 days later. The "yes" started as a web submission, I had no previous contact or relationship with the publisher who signed my game shortly after Origins.
For other designers with great solid prototypes, I encourage you to persist. Expect to hear "no". I am in awe of any designer who never hears that word. I heard a lot of "no" in the weeks leading to Origins and in the days afterwards. It is often a part of the journey on your way to "yes". Persist.
(Part 1 of what may be a series of 3 or 4 short blogs)
I was fortunate to sign a game prototype with a publisher 12 days after they fell in love with it at Origins.
If I told you nothing more and omitted the rest of the story, I would give other hopeful designers unrealistic expectations. Because that first sentence makes finding a publisher sound easy when it is not.
Because before I found the publisher who said "YES!" - I heard the word no. So many different times, so many different ways, at every possible step of the process.
I have been asked by newer designers what to expect when either submitting to publishers or requesting convention appointments to pitch. Here is how I answer. Not to discourage them, but to prepare them. I have been fortunate to sign three different games with publishers. Two of those began as blind email/web submissions to publishers whom I had never met and had no relationship prior to the submission. I have made it all the way from blind submission to yes. Twice. Here is what I tell others to expect.
(All of this assumes your prototype is thoroughly play-tested and publisher-ready. Don't waste your time if not. This also assumes you have done some research and are submitting to publishers for which your game would seem a good match for their product line.)
When blindly contacting publishers with whom you have no relationship...
Expect half your attempts to never receive an answer or acknowledgement.
Of the responses you do receive, expect half to give an immediate polite friendly “no”.
Of those that express possible interest or say they will take a look at your sell sheet, expect half to never receive any follow-up or further response.
There is a thrill and rush of hope when a publisher does agree to take the time to look at one of your prototypes. Celebrate those moments. Simply making it far enough for a publisher to consider your prototype is an accomplishment. Yet still be prepared that days, weeks, or even months later, when that publisher finally makes a decision, the most common answer publishers give is a sad disappointing "no".
So let me end part one on a positive note. It doesn’t matter how many publishers say “no’ to your design. Because you only need one publisher to say “yes”.
My ambition is three more blogs on this topic -
- My Origins 2018 experience, real numbers with how many publishers said "no" (and at what stage) as I requested pitch appointments for the game that one publisher said "yes" to.
- The years before Origins 2018, and how many publishers evaluated this prototype and passed, before one said yes.
- Encouragement after a publisher says "no". How does a designer not give up and remain enthusiastic and hopeful to find their game a home with the right publisher.
If any one of those three sounds more interesting than the others, let me know in the comments. I'll write that before the others in case I never write all three.