So, lots of people email me about their Indie Games and I write about a pretty small fraction of them here on Indie Haven. The vast majority of games that reach my inbox never get more than a passing glance, which is a real shame as there’s probably some really cool games in among the storm of emails that I’m missing. So, what can you do to make your game stand out positively? How can you stop me ignoring the existence of your game? Well, here’s my top ten pieces of advice, in no particular order.

10) “I Just Launched my Kickstarter”

At least 90% of games we receive here at Indie Haven start with those words, or an incredibly close version of them. This usually proceeds into a paragraph detailing their kickstarter, the amount they want, why they’re using the service and how important it is to their success that we cover them. At no point in this intro paragraph do they actually tell us anything at all about the game. It’s so common I see emails saying “I just launched my Kickstarter” and my first urge is to close that email straight away. It usually means that’s the most interesting thing they have to say about their game. It suggests that they’re unlikely to catch me with a good hook for their game and are using up my time needlessly.

 

9) Generic Copy and Paste Marketing Speak

One of the Benefits to being an Indie is that you can send emails that don’t always have to go through twenty or thirty marketing people trying to dilute it down to marketable material. You’re able to sell your own personality. If you start a conversation with me on Twitter, send me a friendly and conversational email and talk about the game as if you were telling a friend about it, you’re much more likely to have me actually take in what you’re saying. You cease to be a press release machine and become a human being that way.

Here’s an example from an email I recently received from Nicoll Hunt. It’s exactly the kind of email I take the time to read start to finish every time.

Dear Laura,

Are you sitting down? With a strong glass of brandy? Excellent. Then, I’ll begin.

This may come as a shock but the world is about to be overrun with homicidal bears. We need your help, as an eminent respected journalist, to avoid this upcoming grizzly apocalypse.

I Fight Bears is calling on YOU to try the Preview Build of FIST OF AWESOME, the upcoming time-travelling-lumberjack-em-up for iOS, Android, OUYA and GameStick.

Ever wanted to punch a bear IN THE MOUTH? Well, this is your moment! If you want to share your adventure with your classy and sophisticated readership, then even better.

P.S. Thank you for reading all of this mail! Your journalistic thoroughness is a joy to behold!

 

8) Your Game Sounds Boring

You game may be amazing, but unless you convey why in your email then I’m not going to give it the time of day. If your email spouts genres, inspirations, but says nothing about what makes it new and exciting, I’l likely just move right on and cover a game that does sell itself as exciting.

 

7) Your Game IS Boring

It’s a sad truth, but some games are just not good. The number of times I receive super early builds of games with no explanation of what plans there are for the game going forward is shocking. I’ll play the game, find nothing of interest and ignore future emails. Your game might become amazing, but if you show me it before it’s fun or interesting then I’ll not be eager to take time looking at it again.

 

6) Your email is a 1,000+ Word Epic

I don’t need to know every step of your development journey. I don’t need to know about every member of the team. I want to read a quick email and know what makes your game special. Tell me extra details if they’re going to quickly get me interested, but don’t write an email that will take more than 30 seconds of my day to read and assess.

 

5) No Hook

Can you explain why I should pay attention to your game in a single sentence? If not, you may be lacking a hook. You need to have something you can say to quickly get me interested that you can front load in your email so I’ll want to read on.

 

4) “My Game is the next Minecraft”

No it isn’t….

To elaborate, I hate receiving emails from developers who try to pitch their game as the next “insert title of something big”. It says to me that you don’t know what makes your game unique. What’s it’s identity?

It tells me that you’re banking your hopes on riding the success of a game that was mega successful. Trust me, you’re unlikely to become the next big thing full stop, let along by copying something that’s likely already too big to be matched.

It tells me you’re likely to spend any interviews we do talking about how your game is like X, but better.

3) My Game is in Early Access/ Open Beta (For The Foreseeable Future)

Open Betas and Early Access are difficult areas for us to cover. How do we judge the value proposition? Do we review it because you’re charging money? By the time it actually releases will there be any interest for the game in the general gaming community? What can and can’t we criticise? If you’re giving anyone who wants it paid access to the unfinished game, it makes our job so much more difficult.

 

2) You’ve Previously Ignored Me

I can’t count the number of times this has happened. I’ll contact a developer about being involved in coverage on the site or tried to chat to them in person and they’ve been unhelpful to me. A few weeks or months later they email me asking me to cover their game’s latest update. If I want to cover you and let you know that, don’t refuse to be covered then ask for coverage later. It’s not a way to get in my good books.

 

1)You’re Emailing the Wrong Person

If you’re making an Indie game about sports, don’t email me about it. I have less than zero interest in that genre. Take a look at the site, see which of our writers lists an interest in sports coverage in their site bio and send it to them. Follow us on Twitter, learn what kind of games we get excited about, send us those genres. Target the writers who will actually understand the ins and out of what you’re making.

 

There we have it. While it’s far from an exhaustive list, these are ten of the most common off-putting things I see in emails about Indie games. So… Don’t do them anymore, okay?

About The Author

Founding Member

Laura’s gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them. Why does she want to write about indie games? Because indie devs are awesome and she wants to be their new best friend by telling them how terrible their games are. That’s how it works right? Twitter: @LauraKBuzz Email: Laurak@indiehaven.com

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  • Zachary Helm

    Thanks Laura; it’s amazing how many good to great indie games sink under the rest just due to the fact that the developers didn’t take the time to view the press as people instead of machines. It’s even more staggering how many poor games there are coming from people that assume both that, and that their players are objects/numbers (or they just aren’t experienced enough to know what they’re doing, I prefer that reason).

  • Jim

    Starts off with a bang, but collapses before the finish line. The top 2 worst things that an indie developer can do are: “previously ignoring the author”, and “e-mailing the wrong person”, (because you didn’t research the tastes of the journalist). A decent reminder that “indie-game journalism” isn’t “journalism”, and that high-school rules apply.

    • Isaac Federspiel

      Thanks for reading, but if you look closer Laura has noted that the list is in no particular order. Also, I can assure you that journalism is journalism, no matter what the topic.

      • Jim

        I’ll distill my previous comment down to this:

        It’s interesting to see, what happens when a person is given power and discretion.

        That said, I’ve got no stake in this. I’m a AAA developer. I don’t build, market or sell indie games.

        I’m just a fan, looking for good games. And, I want to see titles profiled based on their (standalone) merits, not the amount of grease on the developers palm (proverbial, of course).

  • Patrick

    Some types of games are really hard to sell to bloggers/journalists, even though they’re tactically amazing (and fun!) if given a chance.

    I’ve had a hell of a time getting responses to my roguelike game and I suspect some of the problem is that the term has been so muddied lately and that bloggers don’t really know what IS and ISN’T a roguelike game.

    Pro-tip: Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac are not roguelike games — the former is a platformer and the latter is a Robotron-like. Still, both are fantastic games.

    Laura, do you have any advice for how to get bloggers/journalists interested in my Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer-inspired game?

    • LauraKate

      First thing that jumps to mind, You’ve talked about your game by comparison to another game, but not really pitched it on it’s own merits. Can you explain your game on it’s own merits without naming another game it’s similar to/ tell me what makes it different?

      • Patrick

        Yep, you’re right. I went back and re-read your post — more carefully this time — and noticed I was making mistake #4 in your list.

        I sort of think that since the game I mention (Shiren) is known by so few gamers & even journalists, it might get a pass on rule #4 since saying “my game is the next Minecraft” could be viewed as just copying, while “my game is inspired by Shiren” is introducing western gamers to a roguelike sub-genre they’ve never seen. But that may just be wishful thinking (and a bit lazy).

        I tried my hand at describing “the hook” to a YouTuber the other day with something like this:

        “What’s the hook? Well, you play as a girl (damsel in distress trope be gone!) looking for her sister, fighting mask-wearing severed heads, ill-tempered ladybugs that spin and toss you (ahem, “Viper Beetles”), catapult-riding felines that lob items at you, plus more crazy monsters with crazier powers in a hardcore, permadeath adventure that’s never the same twice.”

        What do you think?

  • Ted

    I’m not really sure we should be worried that this ‘journalist’ is ignoring games when they can’t spell receive. (Among the other countless mistakes I read past)

    • Jose San Mateo

      Thanks for pointing that out it’s been fixed. We’re not perfect, sometimes a mistake slips through the cracks.

  • Jordan Reed

    Excellent material Laura! I really like the idea of indies trying to throw more of their personality into their pitch and, as you say, not dilute it to ineffectual marketing jargon

  • This must be a bias towards reading mail on tiny screens, because my idea of a perfect letter is a link to a prepared page with all of the information already laid out more or less succinctly. It shouldn’t fall on anyone’s shoulders to sort through the deluge of all games new and on the horizon. You really probably want a forum or something where you can crowd source the work of rooting out what is and isn’t newsworthy. It’s either that or people start finding/hiring reputable agents. It seems nuts that anyone would take on the task of accepting submissions in the first place, almost as nuts as that pitch, “Ever wanted to punch a bear IN THE MOUTH?” Really? 0% information content, 100% whimsy, winning formula.

  • Pj Chavez

    Great list, getting ready to start sharing my game with as many people as possible. I don’t want to end up spamming people by any means just need to get it out there. Great list.

  • RenEVIL Studios ❄

    Excellent tips!!! Thank you Laura