GenCon was my first gaming convention almost 3 years ago! Since then I have gone for fun, to work an exhibitor’s booth and this year I will be trying to get one of my games signed. I started preparing months ago with fine tuning my designs through playtesting and attending smaller conventions. I had decided to pay for slots in the First Exposure Playtest Hall (FEPH) to get more exposure and play testing in. For anyone considering doing the FEPH be prepared to not know your time slots until less then a week before the Con. This made me worried while I scheduled meetings with publishers. Eventually I decided an actual pitch to a publisher was more important than the best FEPH time slots. So, I said "yes" to every time a publisher offered me that I didn’t already have a meeting scheduled for.
When the FEPH time slots were being confirmed I requested to switch a better morning time slot with the 8pm to midnight shift which is notoriously slow especially on the weekend. I made this switch because I didn’t want to give up any meeting I set with a publisher because they’re the thing I came to GenCon for. Even if I don’t get as good a showing for that shift Friday night it’s still worth the money. I paid $300 to get two 4-hour FEH time blocks which I split between Nut Stash and Curbside. This $400 also included two 4-day passes which are normally $110 a pass so I really only paid $80 to show off my game for a total of 8 hours plus advertise on their board. That’s cheaper than some ads cost! My only issue was how last second it was. Thankfully my friend Ryan Soliwoda is helping me on the Sunday morning with playtesting Nut Stash so I can sneak away to a meeting.
Having friends in this industry is great. Not only to help you demo games but to get a bite to eat with, share a hotel room, go to parties with, send you leads on publishers accepting pitches and more. Last year I had one hour a day open while I worked the exhibitor hall. During that one hour I rushed around the hall to play as many games as I could. This year I have already planned to meet with 8 publishers at GenCon about my games Nut Stash, Curbside and Star Gazers. So I'll be running around just as much as last year during my free times to see everything.
Here are a few tips that helped me make those meetings happen:
I stayed active on Facebook game design groups just in case any publisher reached out saying they’re looking for new games.
I joined Twitter and followed every publisher I like/thought my game would fit well with. I found publishers love to tweet that they’re looking for something new.
I contacted publishers I know from past meetings and events.
My friend/fellow aspiring designer Stefan Barkow and I would send each other leads anytime we saw them. That helped us not miss any.
I looked through publishers’ websites to look for contact info or submission forms. I made sure to do my research before contacting them, so I wasn’t pitching a light game to a heavy Euro company.
At the end of the day I just kept trying and reaching out. Since I had multiple games, I was able to show a few to publishers to pick from. From those 8 publisher meetings my games will be looked at 12 times since some publishers are interested in more then just one game.
These few days leading up to GenCon I am preparing my playtest forms, sell sheets for my three games, some business cards, creating demo copies incase a publisher wants to take one back to playtest and researching every company I have a meeting with so I can tailor my pitch to them. I have packed my schedule so full that I have it on my phone with reminders, in my notes as a list and printed on paper.
Bellow is a quick glimps of what my Friday to Sunday at GenCon looks like:
In between these scheduled meetings and events, I hope to catch up with friends, play some new games and attempt to get a little sleep. One huge tip is to pack your lunches and snacks. That’s going to help me get through most of my busy schedule. As exciting as it is to have a packed schedule I can’t wait for the 3 hours at the end of Sunday that I get to use to check out other people’s games.