hand-tools1By Paco Garcia Jaen

Recently I published the first of a series of articles dedicated to highlight how, despite our best efforts, we are not doing enough to make the hobby a healthy hobby, and we are not doing enough to get the most out of the existing market.

This article was inspired when, after giving some thought at the way some publishers, games companies and game shops are promoting their businesses and products.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got (IYADWYADYWAGWYAG).

That is a slogan that one of my former colleagues in the counselling charity where I have volunteered for 7 years used to tell me. It was a very succinct way to highlight that, unless you change your ways, you will always be stuck in the same situation.

Although there is no doubt that the way to conduct business has changed considerably in the last few years, I don’t think companies are changing as quickly as it is required to keep up with the times and, dare I say, with the readership and gamers.

I don’t think it is outrageous to say that the games market has been limited. Not everyone in the word can, or will want to be, into games, and thus, the existing games have to compete for the attention and funds of the hobbyist. If we add to this that it is a lot easier today to publish an RPG or fund a boardgame (thanks to Kickstarter and other similar sites), the number of fish in the pond has increased considerably, while the number gamers, although in the increase, it’s not grown proportionally. I don’t have precise statistics, but I am sure if we look at how many people were selling and publishing games 10 years ago, and how many are being published today, and then we look at the size of the global sales, the sales will be higher, but the percentage will not match the number of games. If you have any numbers on this one, I’d really love to hear.

Anyway, the point is that there are a lot of games and a smaller lot of players and you have to sell to those players.

But are you doing all you can and should do to reach those players? Probably not. I am sure you’re doing a lot, but I bet you’re not doing as much as you could or should.

I can already see some people looking askance at the screen, thinking I am going on a rant again, but let me reassure you, I am not.

In the time since I started the website I have seen a lot of people do a lot of stupid things. I have also seen a lot of people not doing things that are, simply put, basic. To give you but to examples (and I shan’t mention any names), someone once questioned why I had so few visitors to my website. However many visitors a website has, if someone offers you to publish your press releases, that is something you never say  no to. That person didn’t even get a reply from me. It is stupid to do that. The other left me waiting when we were meant to meet on Skype for a podcast interview. I was awake until 1am on a Wednesday waiting for that person. When there are a few hours difference between countries, you have to be careful not to let people down because you’re wasting a lot of time at uncomfortable hours. That person won’t be invited to the podcast. One will miss on 50000 people visiting my site, the other from 7000 listeners.

It would sound like common sense, doesn’t it? Still, this sort of things happen. And no. I am not bitter.

Really. I am not.

The intention of this article is to start the ball of a conversation rolling, not to get into any sort of debate or, heavens forbid, discussion! However, I would really love to hear if you think I have got something wrong, or if you do something different, or something else.

So, things that as publisher you should do:

  • Don’t wait! Get talking about your book or about your game, or about your anything, as soon as you have an idea well formulated. Rallying the troupes to be ready for you is something you have to start before the final decisions on the game have been made. As soon as you feel comfortable and confident with your idea, get it out there. We’re waiting for you!
  • Get your blog, Facebook page and Twitter accounts ready! As I mentioned in my previous article, interacting with people, even if you can’t see the point, is really paramount. Keeping your potential customers informed and showing them you know your trade will get you the right sort of attention. That is something you can’t have enough of!
  • Let people playtest your game! Whether it is by releasing print-and-play sets or having a few groups with access to a prototype or draft of the game, playtesting is paramount. To make it to the point, the less you playtest, the more chances you will have of ending up with a mediocre game in your hands. THAT you don’t want, trust me!
  • Get out there in the forums! Find the best ones for your game, and I don’t mean just game forums. If your game is a science fiction, find well populated Sci-Fi forums and get talking. If your game is about city building, get in there. Fantasy, history, geography… just find where people are talking and get talking yourself.
  • Two magic words: Press Release. Even though press has been traditionally associated with printed magazines, your main medium for promotion will be blogs, online magazines and podcasts. Emails costs nothing. A few lines telling people about your product will get you some readers. With a link to the site where your game can be bought, you’re a step closer to making sale. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone will publish your press release (goodness knows I don’t have time to publish them all), but some will get through. And this is a numbers matter. The more people see the name of your product, the more people will buy it. It’s a small percentage that will, but you still need to get there!
  • Send some review copies. I know it costs money. I know it is a risk, but it pays off. Select a few blogs, websites and podcasts you respect. Actually no, scrap that. Select a few blogs, websites and podcasts that are well listened to by a lot of people and are likely to give you good reviews. Also, and this might sound weird, they don’t need to be games related sites. If in doubt, send an email (free!) and ask if they’ll be interested in writing a review. If they can put the game in front of a few tens of thousands of people, those are quite a few chances of making a sale!
  • Use the media! When a review is written, link it to your website. Tell your Facebook and Twitter followers. If a review video is shot, ask if you can add it to your website. It will likely be hosted in YouTube or Vimeo and you can embed that video in your website at no cost.
  • Engage the community. Make sure you acknowledge your fans when they do something to support your game. If they write alternative rules, if they write adventures, characters, find errata… Nothing creates more loyalty than showing your fans you respect and appreciate their efforts.
  • Tradeshows! There are few and far between, do not miss them if you can help it! There is nothing like being in front of your customers, and also some shows will give you the chance of being in front of distributors and bigger companies that might be interested in licensing your game. Might be a long shot, but if you’re not there, you will certainly miss the chance!

Promoting the games you put so much effort into is up to you. To make sure as many people as possible know and understand you have your game there is up to you. It is hard and it is time consuming, but promoting your game is never, ever, a waste of time. Some of you might be doing some of that. Some will be doing all of that. If you aren’t, what do you think would benefit you? Do you do anything different?

You can continue the conversation in our Boardgame Geek Guild. Over to you!