With the explosion of the indie scene, and the volume of games it continues to produce, it has become harder than ever to garner the attentions of the press.
Authors and producers of the upcoming Independent By Design(pictured) Stace Harman and John Robertson - who are currently funding their book via Kickstarter – provide their advice on how to go about approaching the press to give yourself the best chance possible of securing the right kind of coverage.
- Make it easy to get in touch. Pretty simple, this one. If we can't find a way to contact you for a feature or interview, you probably won't be contacted. However, if you're concerned about being inundated with requests and your inbox taking over your life, it's fine to have some basic guidelines written-up on your website regarding contact. Examples of what we've seen some indie developers do is have different email addresses for different purposes, so info@ interviewrequest@ etc, or have an autoresponder that says when you're likely to be able to answer any requests. That way, the people trying to get in touch know what to expect and when.
- Have assets ready. Maybe it gets lost in the drive to deliver a playable build or even one that simply runs OK in a video, but understand that press outlets that want to cover your game may have varied requirements with regard to assets. Print publications, in particular, are likely to ask for higher quality visual assets, not only of your game but possibly also of a company logo or accompanying headshot of you.
- Have a basic understanding of the publications you're speaking to. Before you reach out to a particular outlet make sure you have a basic understanding of what aspects of you or your title their audience might be interested in. This allows you to pitch your activities in a way that will be more appealing. The goals, needs and wants of a publication like MCV differ wildly to those of GamesMaster, while both of those are different again to an enthusiastic blogger or popular YouTuber.
- Embrace your independence. One of the things that's truly great about independent developers is that they are generally free to speak about what they want, when they want. Don't attempt to emulate the drip-feed press strategy of the corporate multinationals, instead enjoy the fact that you are independent by design and be yourself. No two indie devs are the same but all have interesting stories to tell, embrace that as much as we do.
- Understand the difference between print and online press. Online and print publications work in very different ways, given their formats. Print publications are restricted by page space and release dates, meaning they must be more selective about what they cover and usually require much longer lead times. You might conduct an interview with an online publication and see it published the following day, while you might wait more than a month before an interview appears in print. Before you agree to take part in anything of this sort, make sure you have a rough idea of the publishing date so that what you're saying in print isn't merely a regurgitation of what was published online a month previously.
- Keep track of your press coverage. There's nothing wrong with reaching out to journalists or publications that you've spoken with before with some new cool update or bit of news. When doing this, remind them of previous coverage they've produced and perhaps one or two (good) things that they said about it at the time to make them want to revisit your title.
- Don't be shy. Be prepared to talk about your game, the journey you've been on with it and what's worked and what hasn't. This last point is particularly attractive to journalists and readers as it conveys a behind the scenes” feeling that is usually unique to independent development and is one of the key reasons that we're looking to write Independent By Design. Tell us about your game, why you're doing it and why it matters to you.
- Go to events, large and small. Lots of journos from a wide range of media attend a whole host of industry events, big and small. Always be on the lookout for events happening in or near your area as this is a great opportunity to speak to a great many people in a short space of time and from a wide-range of publications with differing audiences.
- Be persistent, but have things to say. If you've not had a response from a publication that you think is a natural fit to cover what you're up to then by all means follow-up with them to see if there's a chance they might write about you. However, do not get into the habit of sending out spam. Each time you follow-up try to have something new to say/show. This might be a new trailer, new screenshots or details about any updates you've made to the game. Tell/show them something they don't already know.
- Talk at conferences attended by press. Getting heard is one of the most difficult things to do, but one of the best ways to do it is by actually speaking. There are numerous conferences held throughout the year that actively seek speakers that can talk intelligently and interestingly about independent game development and the majority of these are attended by press. If you have interesting things to say - via a solo session or a group panel - the press will come looking for you.