Follow up starts in the meeting
It’s easy to forget about follow up while you’re pitching. You’ve got a short amount of time and you want to use it to talk about your games, but save a few minutes to lay good groundwork for follow up. Even if you nailed the pitch, the room was buzzing and your audience was wowed by your inventiveness… they’re not going to chase you for your game. That’s your job.
So before you leave the room (in order of importance):
- Get an email address!
- Find out which of your games they might be interested in (if any)
- Ask what they would like to see in terms of follow up (video, images, rulebooks, sell sheets…)
- Ask about their follow up process and timescale
As Billy Langsworthy and Deej Johnson from Mojo Nation say in their book, The Snakes and Ladders of Creative Thinking, “If, while you’re still in the room, there appears to be interest in any of your ideas, be sure that you can feel comfortable initiating follow up at a later date. There are three questions that we think make this easier: What’s Next?, To Whom Should I Speak? and When Should We Tie In?”.
Write it down
It’s one thing to ask all the right questions, but unless you write it down, the answers are pretty useless. You won’t remember it – especially if you’re doing multiple pitches back-to-back.
I have a sheet of paper or index card for each pitch. The card already contains the name of the company and the games I’m going to pitch (in my predetermined order of importance). In the meeting, I just have to tick or cross different games to show whether they’re interested, write down names and an email (or swap cards) and add any other relevant notes.
If a publisher makes a comment that might help you with future pitches, make a note of it. If time is too short – make a voice note as you’re running to your next pitch. Your future self will thank you.
The first follow up
After an intensive pitch event, it’s tempting to collapse and then move onto other things you put on hold until after the pitch. Woah there! Don’t put off the follow up – do it quickly. If you said you’d send them sell sheets and videos, do it as soon as you can. As I said in the first part of this blog series, aim to prepare everything you’ll need for follow up before the event.
Different companies will want different things, but most mass market publishers want to see a sizzle reel (overview video) and have an overview of the game – either a sell sheet or a short paragraph. Some may also want to see the rules or some extra images of the game.
This is where lots of designers fall down. Follow up is boring. But it’s probably the most important thing. Many companies have time scheduled in to review all the concepts they’ve seen after events like the Mojo Pitch. If they don’t have information about your games, they won’t get reviewed. You can set yourself apart from other inventors by being easy to deal with. Send out what they’ve asked for quickly. This shows the kind of designer you are. You’re not only brilliantly inventive and attentive to their wishlists, you are also businesslike. If you’re easy to work with – they’re more likely to work with you.
Sizzle and sell sheet content
I’ll talk about the specifics of how to create great sizzle reels and sell sheets in a future blog, but there’s one crucial point to bear in mind as you’re creating these assets… (I’ll put it in bold because it’s so important). The people you pitch to are not the only people that make the decision about whether to sign your game. Games that are shortlisted by the people you pitch to are then discussed with their wider team. They are pitched again – internally. Inventor relations teams see huge amounts of games. Don’t rely on their memory and patchy understanding of your game to do your game justice in an internal pitch.
Your sizzle reel and sell sheet have to pitch the game for you. They have to capture the essence of the game (just like you did in your live pitch). They have to sell the game to the wider team. Make sure these assets are a good representation of the game.
There’s no industry standard where follow up is concerned. Publishers make decisions at different speeds. Some have very transparent processes and clear timelines. Others don’t. I’ve had publishers tell me that they’re doing all their post pitch reviews in the week following the pitch. I’ve had others that, 9 months later, still tell me they’ve not yet reviewed the concepts.
Track your communications. Make a note of when you’ve followed up. Set reminders for the next follow up. As you glean more information, you’ll be able to refine your follow up process for each publisher. If I’ve had no response from my original post-pitch follow up (containing all the video links etc), then I’ll send an email a couple of weeks later – to check they’ve received the first one. But I have no standard follow up timescale after that – it depends on the publisher. I will always follow up though – multiple times.
I’ve had publishers sign a game within a month of the original pitch. I’ve also had companies sign games over 9 months later.
Establish a system for tracking the games you pitch to different publishers. There’s nothing worse than getting into a pitch meeting – showing a game that you think fits a company perfectly – then being told they rejected this last year. It’s fine to resubmit if you have a good reason for it (and you know you’re doing it), but you don’t want to do it unwittingly. I have a spreadsheet where I list each game I pitch to each company. As I send out prototypes or get rejections, I change the status. I also have a column for feedback. When I’m planning for a pitch, I always check back on what I’ve pitched to this company in the past.
Part of my pitch tracking spreadsheet
Rejections and next steps
You’ll mostly get rejections. Expect it. It’s not you that’s being rejected. A rejection only tells you that that game is not right for that company at that time. You could get the same game rejected by one company and accepted by another on a single day. You could get the same company accepting a different game on the same day. You could even get the same company accepting the same game at a later date (it’s not so likely, but it does happen).
If your sole purpose of pitching is to get that game signed quickly, you’re bound to be disappointed. Instead, aim to develop a good working relationship with each company you pitch to. When I get a rejection, I check that it’s fine to come back to them with other ideas in the future. Then I try to do that. I want to be part of their stable of inventors. Some companies have inventor email lists. If you’re on the list you’ll receive the latest wishlist; you’ll be told when they’re doing games sweeps; you’ll be invited to pitch. Get on the list.
And finally – make sure you go sign up for the next Mojo Pitch event. You’ll see the same inventor relations people each year. Make sure you have something new to show them and keep working on the relationship. Soon they’ll be telling other people about you and looking for a project to bring you in on.
The Mojo Nation Website
The Mojo Nation website is a fabulous resource for designers. There are loads of interviews with different publishers. They are often asked what they want to see in a pitch, what sort of games they’re looking for and how they want inventors to follow up. As you’re preparing for a pitch or managing the post-pitch follow up – do a search for the publisher and read the interviews.
You can also read interviews with other designers and learn from their inventing and pitching experience. You might like to start with this article about follow up: Chasing, ghosting and feedback: Inventors discuss post pitch follow up.
I hope you’ve found this series useful. Please do share your comments below.