LAST UPDATED DEC 3rd
So you you've made an RPG, wargame or board game related ‘thing’ and now you want some press.
First things first, if you’re reading this before Dec 11 then just maybe go check out the Kickstarter for the first issue of our magazine. If you want press for your project then that press needs to exist in the first place, so…
Ah you’re back, that was suspiciously quick, but we won’t ask any questions…
Right, so this is a pretty informal and pretty rough guide to making it just slightly more likely that someone you’re not mates with might write about your project. I will update and edit this on an occasional basis because both my thoughts on the matter & the, for want of a better word, press ecosystem are always evolving. If you’re for some reason relying on literally just this then (a) please don’t, but also (b) be aware it may have changed since you last read it.
Now understandably you might be asking who the hell am I anyway. Well, right now I am the editor of that magazine that you just backed on Kickstarter but for most of my life before that I have worked in music PR, working at a major label, at 2 of the leading independent music PR agencies for their areas and for 8 years up until COVID reduced clubland to ash and ruin I ran my own company. I’ve also written for several music/culture/arts magazines and websites over the years including Time Out, DJ Mag, The Quietus, Le Cool and Dummy and there’s even been at least two books you can go into a proper bookshop and buy that I’ve contributed to.
So yes, my experience is mainly in music, arts & culture and as I’m discovering there are a lot of cultural differences in how the gaming and music industries work but there are some PR fundamentals that, at least should, remain the same.
Now if you’re also wondering if I ever get to the point then yes I do, eventually, but as no one is paying me to write this I’ll just quote one of Mark Twain's many truisms... “I apologize for such a long letter - I didn't have time to write a short one.”
Two final points before we get into this. Firstly this is all laid out with print and online press in mind. Obviously in gaming these days podcasts, actual play shows etc etc are all a huge deal, maybe more important but that's not really my field of expertise right now. Still a lot of the info below should still be relevant (especially on the importance of a good bio) and if someone in charge of a podcast or AP show wants to chip in about the best way of being featured then please drop me a line.
Secondly whilst you may be friends with individual writers and that will certainly help THE PRESS, collective noun, is not your friend. This doesn't mean it needs to be your enemy, ideally it should be a symbiotic relationship. At the end of the day, no matter what fancy mission statements we put out about celebrating and championing tabletop gaming, a website or magazine's number one priority has to be to make enough money &/or generate enough interest that they can still exist tomorrow.
And this is good, because if the press doesn't exist then no one is writing about you, and if you don't care about people writing about you why are you reading this. But this is why the big sites news feeds are clogged up with boring puff pieces about D&D jigsaws or Critical Role tea towels or whatever. Those stories are quick to put together and generate traffic, traffic generates ad revenue and ad revenue pays for the writers wages and for the site to remain open.
It's very simple. But that doesn't mean you can't get featured, it just means you have to be a bit smarter and most importantly make life as easy as possible for any writer who does want to cover you.
So again I apologise that this is very long and some of it may seem stupidly obvious but after the last couple of months of working on this magazine I've concluded there's enough people out there that this is all new to. So it's just easier to be painfully thorough (and as Twain intimated it's actually quicker for me).
PART 1 - CONTACTS ARE KING
If you’re looking to send your game or a news announcement out to the press, then you need a press list. This is your number one most important asset and like all things my best advice here is start work on this right away if not yesterday.
Be warned, whilst relatively easy it can be a long and tedious job, especially if you’re rushing to find people’s details on a deadline so start now. Get into the habit of trying to add a few name contacts to it every day. It soon all builds up.
Build A Database
So first things first sign up for a mass mail service, I recommend Mailchimp, others are available. They are normally free to use up to a certain amount of contacts, often a couple of thousand so there’s a good chance you might never need to pay for it.
By the way as a creative in some way I would just recommend you have non-press/public mailing lists anyway. Social media sites come and go and that huge following you built up could disappear at any time, but emails are the gold bars you bury in the back of the garden.
Now you can have just one big database of names, that’s certainly how a lot of people do it but my advice is spend a day getting to know the service of choice. Mailchimp, for example, allows you to create multiple tags, or place people in different, or even better multiple, groups.
This allows you to better target your mailouts, the better targeted they are the more response you’ll get from them. So take the time and put people into relevant groups - RPGs, Wargames, Boardgames, DnD, Indie RPGs, Warhammer etc.
As I said you can assign multiple tags to the same person but this way if you know that someone is 100% only interested in DnD you’re not bothering them with other stuff. Small note, whilst someone might only write about, for example, DnD chances are they are into other stuff, check with them.
This is the easy but tedious part, just trawl blogs and websites that cover the kind of things you do, find their contact detail and drop them a line. Smaller sites will generally have one pit of contact, a larger site like Dicebreaker will have dozens, find the people that are covering stuff similar to you and make an introduction.
Generally speaking it’s much better to make contact first before you just add someone to a list (for legal reasons not just manners) but use that as an opportunity to get a feel what that person is into and would like to receive.
Are they staff writers or freelance, and if so what other sites or media do type write for, all useful info, how long do they generally need in advance to be able to work on a story, all important info.
PR is all about communication and building relationships so without being pushy just chat to these people, you want them to essentially do you a favour at some point so this is your chance to become more than just a name attached to an email.
Do Your Research
If you want to be featured in the press it’s a good idea to read it. At my PR firms we’d often devote at least a half day a week just going through all the papers, magazines and websites pointing out interesting articles, making a note of who is covering what.
Nearly all magazines, and a lot of websites, will also have specific regular features that are often always done by the same people to the same formula. Get to them, these are golden.
People always want the big main features and interviews, obviously, but, equally obviously, they’re the hardest to get.
At the end of the day though coverage is coverage. A ‘Games Designers & Their Pets’ column that plugs your new game at the end of it is still coverage, and as a small indie publisher you might realistically have a much better shot at that.
It may also be the case that your game is about pets anyway so then you have an even better shot. Again get to know the press you want to be in, and then make very specific pitches that explain why YOU are the best person for those features.
One of the great things about print magazines is that unlike the internet the kind of magazines you buy in a newsagents generally sell themselves on the basis of their big cover features, which means they have more freedom to feature more niche games in other, smaller sections.
Also note that many sites or magazines have these shorter sections that might be just a quick Q&A or little intro piece. Think of these like stepping stones, once you’ve been featured anywhere on a site/magaine you are much more likely to be featured again, just get that foot in the door.
PART 2 - TIMING
So when do you start talking to the press. Normally the answer is always about a month ago. The very nature of these things inevitably means a lot of last minute nonsense but the more time you can give the press the more chance you have of getting coverage, good coverage.
It also depends on what it is. A news story can go out on the day and you might get loads of quick write ups, but if you want a review of your game or you're hoping to set up interviews then you need to give the press more time. Lots more time.
For online reviews or to set up interviews I'd be looking to get whatever it is out there into people's hand 2 weeks to a month before you want/need it published, but for print it could be 2/3 months or more.
For example with Wyrd Science, our next issue is currently penciled in for release mid-March. That means it will go to the printers at the end of February. That means that most of the articles for it will have been submitted to me by the early/mid February. That means I will have commissioned most of those articles around the start of January. Which means I will have start thinking about what I want to cover in the magazine around the middle of December.
Generally speaking the press likes to cover new & unreleased stuff too. So going back to our little magazine,our March issue would ideally feature games released March/April/May.
You may start to get an idea just how far in advance you need to be working here.
Now obviously that’s well beyond most indie publishers to have finished product sat around that long or be working that far in advance but remember uniquely now with platforms like Kickstarter you may have two shots - your initial crowdfunding campaign and then when you actually release the game several months later.
Use the buzz from that first campaign, and the time between campaign and game release, to work on bigger features.
Saying that we all know that unless you’re someone like Games Workshop most of you won't have finished products to hand 3-4 months ahead of schedule so we will try to be flexible but again it's all about maximising your chances as a small indie going up against the likes of GW & Hasbro.
For online press even a couple of weeks notice on your new Itch game might make all the difference to getting press coverage it almost certainly won't negatively affect it anyway.
Embargoes & The Like
A lot of people worry that if they send stuff out weeks or even months in advance it might leak, get pirated or just get published when you’re not ready to take advantage of it. So this where embargoes come in.
If you have no idea what this is then it's simple, essentially you tell people that they can't talk publicly about something until x date. And magically people tend to comply with this. Generally speaking unless you’re a massive company with some huge announcement you don't have to be weird about this and start waving around NDAs, just say this is embargoed until a specific date and time and any writer worth their salt should respect this.
Obviously in a world where people are desperate for social media clout there's always the risk someone may jump the gun but professionals, or just decent human beings, won't. And if they do they don't get more toys in future.
Now embargoes are not just good for sending games out well in advance but also a valuable tool for news announcements. We’ll cover that in a bit but if you want a larger site to write about your news story, one of your key tools you have is to offer them the story as an exclusive.
It's essentially meaningless but you talk to the writer or editor you've built up a rapport with and say, 'hey we're looking to announce this new thing next Thursday, do you want to have first dibs on the story.'
The idea being they have time to write it up properly and not in a rush, they then publish their story at an agreed set time and you use that news story as the launch, with everyone on your team tweeting, facebooking etc the link to their story. That way you get guaranteed coverage and they get the traffic from you sending your fans to them to find out what's going on.
Once it’s gone live on their site you’re then free to send it to the rest of your press contacts. Obviously this is easier to pitch when you have a fanbase you can entice the press with but it's also a way to often persuade a site to cover a smaller story as it just makes them feel like they’re getting something more out of it. Make sense?
PART 3 - SENDING STUFF OUT
Generally speaking there are two things you will be contacting the press about, a news story or an actual product you want them to feature.
A news announcement could cover any number of topics from the launch of a Kickstarter, the new dates for your convention, the formation of an exciting new collective.
This is the kind of thing that, generally speaking, can be sent out on the day to multiple sites and if it’s of interest and it’s not going to take them forever to write up so you might hope to get on a few sites. What you have to remember is that these big sites are content machines that hoover up a constant stream of news, because it’s quick and easy to cover and generate hits, and as we know hits generate revenue.
Still as I said you may want to reach out to a specific site a week ahead and try to arrange something with them in advance. Not only does that mean you definitely have something to show off but smaller sites often just trawl bigger sites and copy what they’ve done.
In my old job if I could arrange a news story to be launched on a site like Pitchfork, I’d often feel like giving myself the afternoon off as I knew that dozens of smaller sites would just copy their story and I could kick back and relax.
Time of Day For News Announcements
Unless your story is hyper-specific to press in your location the best time of day to arrange for a story to go live is normally around 2/3pm UK time. That way you catch most of Europe as they’re sat at their desks after lunch pretending to work, you’ll get some people in Asia up browsing after work but you also hit the inboxes of East Coast US journalists around 9/10 in the morning just after they’ve had a coffee and are ready to check their emails.
This might sound a little fussy and maybe with RPGs and boardgames it is, but this is all about giving you the best chance you have as a small indie to compete against bigger companies.
News must be new. Announce your story when it’s the middle of the night in there US and by the time the biggest market wakes up it might be, well, old.
Sending Out Games
If you’re sending something out for review in 2 weeks to 3 months time obviously none of that matters. Just make sure it’s in people’s hand long enough for them to get round to it and give it a fair shot. If the person you’re sending it to isn’t an editor, then they’ll have to in turn pitch their idea for covering it to someone else. This can drag on so, as ever the earlier the better.
Normally with a digital product I would say if you’re in contact with someone already there’s no need to do some kind of 5 step dance here where you ask if it’s ok to send them x, y, & z. Just include a direct download link (dropbox/google drive best) where they can read it and DOWNLOAD IT with minimal fuss.
Some people might prefer a link to be able to add it to their Itch or DriveThru libraries, others just want a direct link, if you can then please give them the option but make it as easy as possible.
You will send out a lot more maybe 10, 50 a 100 more than you’ll get responses that’s to be expected, don’t worry about it. If you don't trust that person and think that they might do something bad with it then you shouldn't be contacting them in the first place and honestly if they want to pirate your game then they'll be able to within minutes of it being digitised and available somewhere anyway.
Physical copies, with something bulky like a game normally I’d check in with people if they want them. Most will and *spoiler* no matter how odd it might seem in 2020 physical things still hold some weird value above their digital counterparts. Plus most of us into games are hoarders, we just like stuff, much to the chagrin of our partners.
But please if you can’t afford to send something out, just don’t. Don't force strange conditions on people, people have enough on their plates without having to wrap up and send your game on to someone else whilst being barked at for not writing an advert for your game.
Press coverage might be part of your marketing plan but the press is not part of your marketing machine. No self-respecting writer will write a puff piece on your game just because you sent them a copy. Though saying that they still might excitedly take a photo and post it online when it turns up.
PART 4 - PRESS ASSETS
So what are you actually sending people and what should you have ready when you want press coverage. If you thought I’ve waffled on before be aware that this is a long one, maybe go make a cup of tea or something.
Your press folder should, at the bare minimum, include:
A press release
Biographies of the key people involved
A selection of print & web ready images
Let's assume all these words mean absolutely nothing to you.
YOUR PRESS RELEASE
This is basically what you want the world to know about written down in an easy to understand way (that last point is bizarrely often overlooked but there you go). This is one of the few stages of this that you have full control over so please take advantage of this moment.
Unless you're announcing some massive scientific breakthrough you should be able to do this in one page, 4 or 5 paragraphs MAX.
Press releases aren’t just for news announcements, though that’s their most obvious function, you should also include one with your game. Sometimes this has a different funky name, a one-sheet, something like that. At the end of the day it’s pretty much the same thing.
But let’s cover a news announcement first, if this is all new to you here's how I go about it.
HEADLINE (IN ALL CAPS, YES YOU'RE SHOUTING)
Very simple, what are you announcing? Make it simple, make it snappy.
- Breakdown the key parts of your announcement
- Into easy to read sentences
- I Like To Write This In Title Case And Italicise It, Because I'm Fancy
This is where you reveal all that you have to reveal. Keep in mind your audience, I know a worrying amount of people in the US games industry look like they slip on a suit & tie first thing in the morning to go design wizard games all day but it doesn't need to be corporate & formal, it just needs to be clear.
So the first paragraph or 2 (max), this is your lede, if they only read one part then this is it and they need to get the gist of what you're punting here. What the hell is it, what are the key dates, key facts, key people involved etc etc.
Personal tip, it is tempting to write it like "this is the greatest thing ever, gaming will for ever be changed by my groundbreaking idea” but don't. Yes be positive, but hyperbole sucks.
The other key point is, and this is how I approached all my music press releases - especially for news announcements, most places, if they cover you at all, will just cut & paste your press release.
Sometimes it's because that's all they time for, sometimes because you're a better writer than they are, it doesn't really matter. So you write it in the 3rd person, a positive tone obviously but with at least some degree of detachment.
That way it's easier for the writer to use your text, either wholesale or with just some small edits. Seems obvious to me really.
Next up you want a quote, so get in there with a juicy few lines directly attributed to the lead person on your team. The press love to include quotes because it makes it look like they've gone out and actually done a journalism and interviewed someone.
Include a quote, make it snappy and you've increased your chance of coverage by at least 1%. If there are multiple people involved vying for attention then include another quote, just make sure it's saying something different.
From then on just explain in more detail what you're doing but please keep it in plain English, really nerdy technical details can be saved for the Notes (see below).
Final paragraph, if it makes sense to I generally like to include a little summary of why the people involved or the game is important and newsworthy, just tying a bow on it all basically. Sometimes it fits, sometimes it doesn't, most people haven't read that far anyway so do what makes you happy.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
This is a section after the main body of the press release where you include all the key details laid out in just the most plain fashion possible. That way it's all in one place (even if you've mentioned all this in the main PR) and easy to quickly check.
So for instance with an album, you'd have just the really obvious stuff, album name, track listing, formats, release date etc, I’m sure you can think of the gaming equivalent.
You also should include things like social media details for all involved, a link here to where people can find relevant press assets and the contact details of whomever is handling press requests.
Ok, that's not too difficult, let's give you an example then...
NEW TABLETOP GAMING MAGAZINE, WYRD SCIENCE,
LAUNCHES CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN FOR DEBUT ISSUE
New Print Magazine Celebrating The New Golden Age of Tabletop Gaming
Kickstarter Campaign Running Through Till December 11, Debut Issue Out January
Magazine Published and Edited by Fast Fading Music Industry Star John Power Jr.
Wyrd Science - a new, quarterly print magazine celebrating roleplaying games, war-games and board games - has just launched a new crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. The campaign, which successfully funded in under 3 hours, runs through December 11 and will help cover the costs of the magazine's initial print run and see the first issue in backers' hands in January 2021.
Founded by veteran music PR and writer John Power, the magazine will focus on telling the stories of the people who both make and play games and the celebrate the diverse art, music, books, film and culture that surrounds them.
“35 years ago I cracked open the bright green spine of Fighting Fantasy 6 - Deathtrap Dungeon and never looked back,” explains Power. “Over the past few years we’ve seen an incredible growth in the world of tabletop gaming, with a greater diversity of games, made and played by a greater diversity of people than ever before and I wanted to document this exciting time and give space wizards, gelatinous cubes and tentacled gods just some of the respect they deserve.”
"Some may question the wisdom of trying to launch a print magazine in the middle of a pandemic, whilst a contentious US election drags on and Brexit looms on the horizon and they'd probably be right," Power quacks on at tiresome length. "But for all its awfulness 2020 has also shown just how good for us gaming is. Whether in our social bubbles, or online, getting together to roll some dice has been an invaluable release valve and this year has seen some incredible new games released that we wanted to celebrate."
The magazine features interviews with the likes of Kieron Gillen (Marvel/Image Comics), Simon Stälenhag (Tales from the Loop), Banana Chan (Jiangshi), Chris Spivey (Harlem Unbound) and Cole Wehrle (Root), a look back at 2020, original fiction from Black Library/Aconyte author Josh Reynolds and much more.
For the magazine's debut issue Wyrd Science has assembled a team of writers, artists and photographers whose work has previously been featured in places such as The Guardian, Senet Magazine, The Board Game Book, Dicebreaker, Tabletop Gaming, Kotaku, Forbes, DJ Mag, The Quietus and Time Out.
Find more details about the magazine & the crowdfunding campaign at:
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Wyrd Science - Celebrating The New Golden Age of Tabletop Gaming
Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/johnpowerjr/wyrd-science-magazine
Kickstarter launches Thursday Nov 29 - 3pm CET
Kickstarter finishes Friday Dec 11 - 9pm CET
Kickstarter goal £1000
Magazine Release Date: January 2021
PDF Magazine - £4
Print + PDF Magazine - £8
Print + PDF Magazine + ltd editor (0f 30) Art Print - £25
Plus postage & packing
Find Wyrd Science online at:
Download press assets from www.dropbox.com/somefancyurlhere
For all press enquiries please contact John Power - email@example.com
- END -
There that was not too difficult. It's not the greatest press release ever written but for approx 5 mins work it kind of does the job intended.
Now other people may have different opinions on this but personally I prefer to receive all that in the body of an email not as an attachment, no matter how lovely you've made it look as a PDF that can fuck up the formatting when I go to copy & paste from it.
If your boss, if you have one, insists on a fancy PDF press release with logos and all that shit then fine. Nod, show them it, then bury it in the press assets folder.
Product Press Release / Onesheet
So when you send out an actual game you should always include at least something to explain what it is, who you are and why it’s of interest.
Often this might be very close to the same release you sent out to announce it but with more details. Again going back to music if I was working on a big album, I would normally write the full album one sheet first, here I’d go into track by track details, production/writing credits etc.
I’d then cannibalise that for the news announcement to make it more snappy. The one sheet is the reference the writer will go back to when they’re both pitching to their editor and/or writing up a feature or preparing for an interview. Get in all the good stuff, what inspired you, what interesting mechanics you use, what people have said about your previous work.
ADDITIONAL PRESS ASSETS
Now this is where you can really step up and separate yourself from the chaff. If a good press release gets your foot in the door then a good set of assets hoofs it down.
At the bare minimum this is what I want to see in a press folder.
- The Press Release/onesheet, again
- Biographies of key people involved
We've covered the press release so...
Include at the very least 1 but ideally 2 decent quality colour photos of whoever is the 'face' of this project, 1 in portrait format & 1 in landscape, if you’re also announcing a product then at least include a decent sized jpeg of the cover art too.
For your press shot please for the love of god make it look good, literally everyone is walking around with cameras better than 99% of all the cameras that have ever existed in their pockets, there is no excuse to just have some weirdly lit photo taken in a mirror at an odd angle that is the size of a thumbnail.
Now you may be one of the few people out there who hasn't documented ever single moment of your existence with selfies over the past few years and hate how you look. Honestly I sympathise and empathise deeply, there is a roughly 20 year period of my life where I managed to avoid being photographed at all. 99 out of 100 pictures of me look like I'm some kind of twisted mutant who has crawled out of a sewer, but because of my job I take 100 photos and get one that I don't hate, you can do it, I believe in you.
But seriously you just need 1 good photo, taken by someone else against a relatively un-busy background where it looks like you've not just crawled out of a hedge (Unless your personal brand is DIY HEDGEPUNK WIZARD of course, as that's pretty much mine). Journalism is a visual medium and most people care about how their sites or magazines look, just do us a huge favour and provide us with at least one photo that we can use.
If you can go the extra mile here then do it, cool fun interesting photos that are in focus will obviously get used more, plus we’re working in a fun, artistic creative industry, and most of you look great so just have a think. With Wyrd Science I wanted to buy a wizard's robe and hat to take some pics before we launched the mag but the costume shop here in Bruxelles was closed, I will be doing that for the next issue, so instead I posed with a sword, as you do.
So a portrait and a landscape photo of at least of one person and some artwork, get the basics done first then have fun.
Apart from portraits we will need images of what you're trying to promote, and the more the better.
I’m talking product shots, shots of the game being played (this especially), individual component shots, cover/box art, interior art, characters or things from your game against a transparent background (and this last one is really important, I don't want to be chopping up your artwork to do a fancy layout but I will if I need to and no one will be happy).
Put them all in 2 folders marked HI-RES IMAGES (300dpi - big files) and WEB IMAGES (72dpi - big is still better). Yes it’s a little bit of extra work making sure you have two sets, but it’s 5 minutes extra for you but if a writer has to start resizing photos so they don’t obliterate bandwidth (not that that’s as huge an issue any more but still…) every minute they have to do that makes it less likely they’ll cover your story.
Plus the more striking art and images you provide the more likely someone is to give you more space for a bigger story in their magazine.
And the less they have to chase you for these things when they’re on deadline (and we’re always on deadline) the more likely they are to feature you again next time.
Seriously though if you're producing a physical object get good quality photos of it taken, lots of them. If you've gone to all the trouble of designing and producing an amazing game don't fuck this up by being cheap at this stage, hire someone like Ross at More Games Please and get good images, they won’t cost you a fortune but that will do more than anything to help you get better press. Seriously.
Ok, even if you're not releasing something, if you're a games designer, an artist, a podcaster, you do anything where at some point you would like people to write about you or pay attention to what you have to say, please write a biography.
I’ll be honest it's normally not great fun writing about yourself, I've been writing band bios for 20 years I still hate writing my own, so get someone else to do it if necessary but do it. If I'm interviewing you and I have nothing to go on but the game you've produced or your artwork then my ability to write interesting questions is severely curtailed.
At best I have to spend time looking up other interviews (which I’d try to do anyway but still not everyone has time), or hunting online for info about you to make this piece sing. At worst you have to answer dull questions, not get to say interesting things or I just pass you over for someone who has made my life a little bit easier.
This doesn't have to be an epic but it should include useful info about you and WHAT MAKES YOU INTERESTING. Think of it like a series of adventure hooks in a scenario that the journalist can then lean into.
This is also where you can clear up anything that is important for you, pronouns, things like that. If something matters to you, then be upfront about it here rather than it becoming an issue later. We want to respect you and treat you right, and importantly at bigger sites or with magazines the person who writes the piece will almost certainly hand it off to be edited by someone else who hasn’t had that personal contact and under a deadline make a change they shouldn't.
But really just give us something to go on and some hint of things we can ask you that will prompt you to say something wild and funny and interesting. You might think your art or game speaks for itself, well guess what it doesn't. People like stories about people, it could just be a bit about how you got into all this, your career to date, notable achievements, it could be deep & serious stuff that has shaped your thinking and led to your art style or you writing a game about a specific theme.
But also give us something outside of just your game or games in general, a really great interview is about you as a person with all your many contradictions, a puff piece where we discuss why you used a D6 rather than a D10 does not make for compelling reading.
While we're at it, you know how magazines have those pull quotes, the line or two that gets pulled out of the text and blown up to 50pt type. When you're answering questions, especially if you’re doing it be email, please think and say a few things that stand out like that.
I used to say to bands I worked with there are no boring questions just boring answers. Now obviously most questions you'll face will be deathly dull but it's in your power to answer in ways that are interesting or prompt an interesting response.
You can go a very, very long way with minimal talent by providing good copy for journalists, just look at Oasis.
PART 5 - WHAT HAPPENS NEXT...
You sent out your press release or game, did everything right and nothing. I’m really sorry but that just happens, chances are it’s not personal or some judgement on you, there’s just limited space and time to cover everything, even online, and it took a lot less effort and got the press a lot more hits to just copy & paste something about Dungeons & Dragons jigsaws.
It’s shit but it is what it is. It’s hard but if you’re putting yourself out there, no one is under an obligation to help, my god I wish they were but they’re not so you just need to try and develop a thick skin.
Vent in private all you like but don’t burn bridges. You don’t know what pressures people at those sites are under to deliver hits, hits which as we know equal the ad revenue that pays their wages. They almost certainly would rather be writing about your cool, small thing than some nonsense clickbait but they have to pay rent too.
Instituting a dog pile in public on someone earning a few cents per word is not a strong look, it gets noticed and taken note of.
At the end of the day people writing and editing these things are people too, just keep that in mind no matter how frustrating it is. Maybe it will take 10-15 pitches but if it will happen it will happen.
BUT... great news it turns out you have been featured in some way, then please for the love of all things holy share the ever-living shit out of that link, at least a couple of times on different days, tag the website or writer, give them some shine. It doesn’t matter if you only have 100 followers yourself it gets noticed, just as not sharing stories does too.
And if the site is much smaller than you, well still share the news. If you want eyes on your game you can just keep linking to your itch page for diminishing returns or you can link to people talking about you. Two things, one you never know where that writer might go next, maybe they just have a blog now but next month they might have a staff job at Polygon or Dicebreaker, it’s a very fluid industry. Secondly buzz generates buzz, if people see others writing about you that will do more to pique their interest than any PR.
Sharing is caring.
And beyond that share stories about your mates, shares features you think are interesting. If all you do is day in, day out is plug your own brand that’s a not a good look. SHow you’re part of the community, lift up others, and they’ll lift you up.
Which brings me to…
PART 6 - THINK BIG NOT SMOL
The other thing to consider is pooling your resources. You on your own might not be a big enough sell for a big feature, but let's say you and a few of your mates are all working on games with similar themes, or similar mechanics or you just have a similar outlook on life. Pitch that.
Journalists love 'trend' pieces, give us three vaguely similar things, let's say games about small animals baking pies & doing wholesome shit, and before you know it we've created a humblecore scene. We can bundle several things together for greater effect.
For example right now I'm really interested in #RPGSEA & #RPGLATAM as movements. Now none of the individual people involved may be big enough for a big 4 page feature on their own but together that’s a different thing. Like most writers I do want to help smaller creatives so think clever, give us the tools to help you.
Journalists get a kick out of thinking they've invented or at least coined a movement, look at any music journalist whose come up with some ridiculous genre name and they’ll still be milking it a decade later. Anyway collectives are fun and will help you succeed in many ways other than just press, many heads are better than one.
None of the above will guarantee you coverage, but it’s all about given yourself the best shot you can. Once you’ve started doing all this it won’t take a huge amount of extra time either and even if people don’t write about your games, if you’re sending, at least semi-professional, packs out to people you’ll just build a buzz anyway as people talk about them or take photos of your games on social media.
Now as I said this is all pretty basic stuff but there may be something here that is new to you and the rest you just pick up the more you do. There are many people that work in PR that won't do half these things, so worst case scenario you end up not just promoting your game but charging others to promote theirs.
PART 7 - THINK outside the box
A quick addendum here. There is a wider world than the gaming press.
When I started getting into RPGs and Warhammer and all that as a tiny mop of blond hair in the 80s it was all orcs and goblins and elves and looked upon general with a mixture of disdain and humour by the mainstream press (and the world in general).
Well guess what, we weirdos took over. Look at the 50 films that made the most money over the past 20 years, notice something, total nerdvana. What are the TV shows we're talking about? In the main, all sci-fi, fantasy etc.
Nerd culture is everywhere, it is mainstream now whether we like it or not. Metro, read by dazed London commuters covers D&D, The Guardian writes about MÖRK BORG for god's sake.
Especially so if your game is interesting and quirky. Thirsty Sword Lesbians? Well hello there come right in, you sound fun and exciting and not like you smell like you haven't washed this month. Pitch that game to the right press and you'll be laughing (not to mention you have all the magazines that specifically cater to a LGBT+ audience that would normally never cover RPGs you could try).
There are opportunities beyond the game press that will open you up to an audience 1000 times larger, don't discount them. It requires a bit more work but the results are worth it.
But we're not just talking the mainstream press. A key thing I'd do with most acts I used to work with would be to sit down and get them to tell me all the weird things they were into that had nothing to do with music. Because here's the thing, every music mag gets at least a few hundred pitches a day from bands desperate for coverage, I've barely written for a music mag the past couple of years, I still get 50+ a day.
But lets say you're a techno producer and you're also into riding horses (this is an actual example btw), now Mimxag may get 100 pitches a day about DJs, do you know who gets the square root of fuck all? Horse Rider's Monthly. Suddenly you're not just the same old, same old, you're weird and fresh and fun and newsworthy.
I've done it with countless bands who were into comics, or graffiti, or skateboarding, or you name it. What weird thing are you into, and lean into that. You never know what may happen.
Now good luck & did I mention our Kickstarter.