Earlier today, Macktholemew (designer of Killer Croquet and owner of a name that is probably not “Macktholemew”) asked about resources for figuring out how to reach out to reviewers on the Card & Board Game Deisngers Group on Facebook. Since my day job is in digital PR (aka finding and emailing people basically all day), I figure I’m pretty qualified to discuss this. Reaching out to reviewers is just like reaching out to anybody else who’s a human being that you don’t know. You need to be:
You absolutely do NOT want to be:
- Scammy in the slightest (we’ll get to that)
The email template that I base most of my “cold call” requests on is this one:
My name is Name Naminson, and I’m the designer of a game called The Gamey Game. I’m wondering if you could tell me a bit more about how you select the games you review?
The Gamey Game has mechanics, and takes this many people. This is where I would write about the theme, and basically give my “elevator pitch” in 3 sentences or less. I would also link to my website here, as a plain link, not as a hyperlink, here: http://www.jasmineadavis.com
[OPTIONAL: I’m reaching out to you with this game because of reasons (see below).]
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions! Any information you can offer would be tremendously appreciated.
This basic template can be customized with your information and stylistic preferences. It’s polite and short without asking for too much. If you simply state, “I want you to review my game,” you may turn off potential reviewers. After all, you don’t know how they select games to review! They may only review games for money, or perhaps they only pick games that they know they like. They may have been burned by past, scammy designers, and may be less open to new “pitches” from other designers.
Don’t Be Scammy
As I mentioned earlier, you want to avoid any whiff of scam. There are a few ways you can do this. First of all, do not attach images or any other documents. If a reviewer wants them, they will ask for them. Many email programs treat attachments with extra caution, too, so attaching anything makes you more likely to go to spam.
Also, do not hyperlink your website. Think about it – if a stranger sent you an email, would you click a link in it? Probably not. Give them the URL for your website or Facebook page outright. If it’s a really long URL (ie, more than about a line and a half), either give them the top-level domain (with brief directions if required) or send them to one of your social media profiles for the game instead.
Advanced Tip: Why You?
Some reviewers are perfectly happy to take a chance on an unknown designer, or review lots of games and are willing to take yours. Others are less willing to do so – so you’ll need to do the legwork for them and explain why YOUR game is awesome. However, you should still do this briefly – 1-2 sentences at the very most. You’ll want to do research and get creative here. Consider things like:
- Do they always review a certain type of game, and your game fits that category?
- Have they expressed a preference for a certain theme, and your game fits that theme?
- Have they expressed a preference for a certain type of mechanic, and your game has that mechanic?
- Does your game fit their demographic, ie, family game, “gamer game”?
- Do you think your game fills a gap in their current roster of reviews? For example, if they’ve never covered a deckbuilder, and you have one, you could mention that.
Meanwhile, if you know a reviewer hates deckbuilders and you have one, consider not reaching out to them. Your game is probably not the one that’s going to change their mind.
If it’s been several weeks (2 – 3 weeks and no sooner) and you haven’t heard back, you can follow up politely. Here’s my typical email for this:
I reached out to you a few weeks ago to learn more about how you select games for review on Your Game Review Website. I just wanted to follow up and see if you needed any additional information about The Gamey Game, or if I can help in any way, let me know.
Feel free to get in touch, and have a great weekend!
A Few Extra Tips
- You pay for both the cost of the prototype and shipping. If you want it back, you pay shipping both ways. Depending on your game, you could send self-addressed packing materials for your prototype’s return.
- They’re doing you a favor. Remember that if you happen to get frustrated. Unless money has changed hands, you don’t get to dictate their timeline for reviewing or publishing the game.
- They’re not obligated to give you a positive review. Don’t ask for a positive review.
- Check their website for a page that explains how to submit games for reviews. If they have a page like this, then do that, instead. Always follow the process that the reviewer prefers (especially if that includes not soliciting reviews – in that case, don’t reach out. They don’t want to hear from you).
- People are people. Think about the kind of info you’d want, and the kind of stuff you’d want to see, from a total stranger. Make yourself legitimate.
- Put your name, email, website link, Twitter handle, etc, in your email signature. Not only is it something that will mark you as a pro, it’s also a way for them to check you out.
Wondering how to find reviewers? James Mathe has put together a list of reviewers, along with their follower counts, email addresses and websites. You can find it here, and use these tips to reach out to them!