How to Find an Artist for Your Board Game

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It’s no secret that one of the most critical parts of making a board game that will sell is making it gorgeous.¬†Box art alone has the ability to multiply sales of an otherwise unassuming board game. Finding an artist is something that many first-time board game designers find very difficult to do. Finding and taking care of an artist involves¬†multiple expensive business transactions and a product whose quality can never be anything but subjective, so it’s very sensible to be worried.

You don’t have to be worried, though, since I’ve got strong feelings about this subject and I’m here to share everything I’ve learned over the last two years ūüėČ

In this article, I will cover five subjects:

  1. Making your project attractive to artists
  2. Looking for artists
  3. Reaching out to artists
  4. Sealing the deal
  5. Getting the best work out of your artist

 

 

Step 1: Make Your Project Attractive to Artists

First things first, 80% of the battle is fought here. If you want to find an artist and get a good deal on money, you need to make your project an attractive prospect. Consider the incentives which artists respond to: pay, exposure, autonomy, and meaning. Pay attention to these things. You want to be a great client.

Pay: Artists make art for a living! That means that when you hire an artist as a freelancer, you need to pay them for their time and effort. For many projects, this will involve shelling out thousands of dollars. Unless you have a personal connection to an artist OR you hire someone very wet behind the ears, you cannot avoid this. By all means, negotiate on price, but don’t be a cheapskate. Since every project is different, you’ll probably want to make an art budget and set aside some cash and get a variety of quotes from different artists. If all the artists’ quotes are not even remotely close to your budget, you’ll have to scale down your art needs or set your sights lower on quality.

 

Exposure: If you don’t have a lot of money on your hands, you may be able to offer some intangible benefits. For example, if you have a large social media network and you commit to publicizing your artist as much as possible to improve their career prospects, you might be able to pay them less. In fact, this is how I got James Masino to do 300 unique pieces of art for¬†War Co. for a price that I’m frankly embarrassed to disclose. Exposure is not¬†“teehee, I’m on your portfolio which you can put on your website.” Exposure is “I’m swinging the full weight of a network that touches tens of thousands of people to get your name out there.” I did this until he was eventually offered a job for 10 times the pay by someone who was following me on Twitter.

 

 

Autonomy: Artists often work alone, especially the sort of freelancers who you might expect to get involved with board game projects. They like to set their own schedules, do work their own way, and be self-directed. Don’t micromanage. Don’t set unrealistic deadlines. Give them a chance to grow their careers as they create your work.

Meaning: People need to feel like their actions mean something. People especially need to feel like the toil they put into their labor is worthwhile and building something great. Look, we make board games. We don’t cure cancer. Yet if you can consistently provide your artist with context that tells them how their work fits into the larger picture and what it means to you personally, they will pick up on that and it will make their work sweeter. That’s so important and so often neglected.

 

Step 2: Start Looking for Artists

Compared to the above, this is simple. There are three fantastic places I know of where you can find no shortage of talented individuals. They are DeviantArt, Instagram, and Twitter. This is one of the many reasons I think social media is very important for game developers, but to take advantage of these websites to find artists, you don’t even have to be all that active. You can use the search features on all of these websites and start scrolling through work. Start clicking on bios and seeing who is active, available, and looking for work. Make a list of everyone you’re interested in. You’ll probably want about 20 people on that list. Ten won’t get back to you, five won’t be interested, and only one or two of the remaining five will end up being good once you start talking¬†brass tacks.

Finding an artist is the simplest part of getting art on your project, but there are still some pitfalls. Consider whether you want a newbie artist or a veteran artist. Newbie artists are not hard to find and the market has a greater supply than demand, so if you have a good deal of money, you have the upper hand. If you’re looking for a veteran artist, it costs a lot, lot more. That’s the price of consistency, reliability, and a proven track record. If you’re working on a big budget game, by all means, go for a veteran artist. All things equal, I’d personally go with the newbie because their work can parallel veterans with the right instruction. Just be aware that choosing a newbie might save you some cash, but it could lead to low quality art and project delays. I’ve never had to deal with that, but it’s not uncommon and it’s a risk you have to bear.

When you’re looking for artists, make sure you pay attention to the sort of work they’ve done before. If you’re doing a sci-fi game, and all they’ve done is fantasy art, they might not be a good match. It’s still okay to ask, and I recommend that you do, but don’t get your hopes up. Likewise, if all the artist’s work is scenery and machinery, don’t expect them to paint decent looking people. If you have a variety of art styles in your game, you may even consider hiring multiple artists and divvying up the work according to specialty.

 

Step 3: Reach out to Artists

Once you have a list of artists who you believe would be appropriate for your project, it’s time to start shaking hands. By shaking hands, of course, I mean sending emails. Even though you’re likely finding the artists through social media or DeviantArt, I still strongly suggest you get their email and send them a message that way. If their email is not on their profile or they don’t respond to emails, that’s a red flag. Freelancers should be checking their emails pretty often. Remember what I said above: about half of who you email won’t get back to you, so you can just cross them right off your list.

 

Paint Handshake
This is why I email artists to shake hands instead of literally shaking hands.

 

Let’s say you’ve got your email client up and you’ve got their address in the To box. Oh, but what do you say? Well, I’ll copy and paste my first email to James Masino, the artist for War Co., and we’ll break it down sentence by sentence – all the rights and wrongs. Then I’ll give you a template.

 

Hi James,

I am working on a trading card game called War Co. It has a sci-fi post-apocalypse theme. I’ve been looking for an artist for a while, and our mutual friend Alex said you might be the right guy to talk to.

I checked out your site and it’s pretty cool! You have an impressive set of skills with a variety of tools that I’ve only played around with for a few hours. I would like to work with you in the future on creating the artwork for my game.

Just to be clear, I’ve never taken on a project of this scale before. I’ve never needed to work with an artist, so I don’t know what the process involves. I’ve got an overall method to my madness as well as a written plan, but there’s a lot of things I’m still working out.

Thank you and looking forward to your reply,

Brandon Rollins
[My Personal Email]
[My Personal Phone Number]

[War Co. Website]

 

I am working on a trading card game called War Co. I immediately explain the nature of my project. (I changed the genre to “expandable card game” later on, but that didn’t affect art.)

It has a sci-fi post-apocalypse theme. This lets him know what to expect as far as art style.

I’ve been looking for an artist for a while, and our mutual friend Alex said you might be the right guy to talk to.¬†I explain what I’m looking for from him and how I found him.

I checked out your site and it’s pretty cool! You have an impressive set of skills with a variety of tools that I’ve only played around with for a few hours. I explain why I’m reaching out specifically to¬†him and not someone else.

I would like to work with you in the future on creating the artwork for my game.¬†I state again specifically what I’m looking for.

Just to be clear, I’ve never taken on a project of this scale before. I’ve never needed to work with an artist, so I don’t know what the process involves. I’ve got an overall method to my madness as well as a written plan, but there’s a lot of things I’m still working out.¬†I’m torn on how I handled this. I might have tipped my hand a bit too much with what I don’t know. However, if you need the artist to take the lead on setting realistic deadlines, make sure you¬†make that clear.

[Contact Information]¬†I made sure to give him two ways to contact me, as well as a link to the website so he could read more. By then, I already had an enormous amount of information online about the game so he could know what he’s getting into.

 

You’ll notice that price did not come up at all the first time around. Before you even discuss price, let the artist get back to you and tell you whether or not they’re available and whether or not they’re interested. Very few will get past this stage, and at that point, it is fair to ask about price.

 

Here’s a template you can use for that first email.

 

Hi [First Name],

[Describe your project.] [Describe desired art style.] [Say you’re looking for an artist.]

[Say how you found the artist.] [Explain why you like the artist and reached out to them.] [Reiterate that you’re looking for game art.]

[Give a rough overview of your game as a project.]

Thank you and looking forward to your reply,

[Your First and Last Name]
[Your Email]
[Your Phone Number]

[Your Website]

 

Step 4: Seal the Deal with the Artists

At this point, you’ll soon find yourself in a discussion about payment amounts and schedules, contracts, and royalties. I cannot give you templates to get through this phase. You’ll have to rely on your own good judgment. However, there are some tips which I strongly suggest you follow.

  • Make sure you get a contract. Make sure it’s clear and make sure you both sign and date it. Notarize it if you feel the need.
  • When it comes to price, you have some negotiation room. However, if it’s way out of your budget, you’ll simply have to walk.
  • Make sure the art is made on a “work for hire” basis. That means upon payment, you become the copyright holder – not the artist. This is so, so important!
  • If you offer a royalty, I’d suggest between 2-5% split between all artists involved in the game. I’d also suggest making the royalty apply only to sales after Kickstarter and pre-orders. Applying a royalty fee to the tender early state of your fundraising could really hurt you in terms of cash flow. Offering more than 5% could also really hurt you in the long-run because there are so many factors that go into getting a game published.
  • Set schedules and milestones for when certain parts of the art will be done. Adjust them as necessary if they turn out to be unrealistic, but have a spine if you find out you’re being played by a procrastinator.

This is hard to do right. Make sure you communicate very clearly and stay focused on the needs of everyone involved.

 

Step 5: Get the Best Work out of Your Artist

Once you start discussing money and contracts, you’ve already succeeded. Yet if you really want to take your art up to the next level, you don’t just have to depend on your artist. You have a pretty solid amount of influence as the game developer. Indeed, you can push a good artist to make great art by doing three things:

  • Be completely straightforward about your business needs and intentions.
  • Be as specific as possible when providing art directions.
  • Provide instructions that are consistent with good marketing practices.

You want your artist’s trust. Game development is a long, winding journey and a single game will almost certainly not make you rich. You want to focus on developing good relationships, so you need to be really straightforward and honest with your artist about where your business is, where you expect to go with it, and how much you can afford. It takes time to develop an instinct for this, but if you keep this all in mind and keep trying, you will figure it out. You want long-term contacts. Artists know other artists.

Regarding art directions: the more detailed you can be, the better. You want to strike a balance between giving your artist freedom and giving them direction. You want rework to be minimal, because that is absolutely exhausting for an artist. When you provide those directions, make sure you provide directions that make art pop on the shelf. This is hard to explain, but I’ll just show you what I said to James.

 

Narrative Themes:
This game’s story is about corruption, bureaucracy, conflicts of interest, group psychology, war, trauma, resilience, hope, and pyrrhic victories. Sometimes it’s about the mundane application of high-flying technology, sometimes it’s about disappointment, sometimes it’s about miscommunication. There’s a ton of themes, and I made no effort to stick to one. I picked slices of a complicated world to throw on the floor with no rhyme or reason. Every person will make their own narrative. I’d argue traditional media like novels and films work the same way. I’m just being more blunt about it. Each card has its own theme, basically.
Visual Themes:
From a business and game perspective, there’s one thing I’m trying to ensure in this game that I don’t see anywhere else: simplicity. Trading card games are nerd territory because they’re complicated. Superheroes used to be in the same boat before the turn of the century. When drawing pictures, be conservative about your level of detail. I’d like it to be sharp, snappy, and to leave an immediate impression. That doesn’t mean you can’t make large hulking ships with baroque levels of detail…it just means pay very close attention to how the viewer’s eye will be directed. Whether this translates into photorealism or simplified/smoothed-out reality, I leave to your better judgement. User-friendliness is how I plan on playing alongside the big kids like Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokemon TCG.

I’m trying really hard to avoid the stereotypical annoying client “make it pop” speech, so I’ll use a visual example.

 

I’ll use Mad Max: Fury Road. That movie was fantastic! Here’s some things I like about the picture below:

  • It‚Äôs clearly violent and post-apocalyptic, but it’s also bright and colorful. Too many people associate “apocalypse” and “gray/desaturated.” I think that trope is clich√©.
  • The most important details are up-front, immediate, visible, and I’d even say “right up in your face.” Once you process the immediate part, then you can say “oh wow, there’s actually a lot going on here. Who’s behind him? What’s with the fire? Look at his gross neck sweat!” and so on.

 

We had some further conversation in next few emails and he said that he really appreciated these instructions. What you don’t see is that I had about a 200-300 word story for each piece of art, but otherwise left it up to interpretation. James’ response to these instructions was to create art like the following, which has been praised as a strong point of the game by nearly every review of¬†War Co.

 

 

Key Takeways for Game Devs

  • The most important part is making your project attractive to artists.
  • Pay your artists as well as you can.
  • If you have a large online following, do everything you can to promote your artist – especially if your pay is low.
  • Respect your artist’s need for self-direction.
  • Give your artist context to know how their work fits into the larger picture.
  • Find artists on DeviantArt, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Make a list of 20 artists who you like.
  • Think about whether to hire a newbie or a veteran artist – both have advantages and disadvantages.
  • Make sure you find an artist who is experienced and interested in the themes and styles you’ll need for your game.
  • Send a polite email to all the artists on your list. See my template in section 3.
  • Use good judgment when you’re committing to an artist.
    • Get a contract.
    • Negotiate some, but don’t be a cheapskate.
    • MAKE SURE THE ART IS DONE ON A WORK FOR HIRE BASIS!
    • Offer a royalty that is no greater than 5% split between all artists.
    • Set schedules and milestones for when parts of the art will be done. Adjust as needed.
  • Communicate very clearly and stay focused on the needs of everyone involved.
  • Give specific art directions that have marketing in mind.
  • Be good to your artist. You need long-term contacts. Artists know artists.

How to Get Big on Twitter as a Board Game Dev

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I am thrilled that many of you enjoyed Setting Up Social Media as a Board Game Dev: A Primer Course. Marketing is a big concern for game developers, especially in the chaotic arena¬†of social media. Sites¬†like Twitter and Instagram provide some of the biggest and most accessible ways to attract an audience, even while they’re still mysterious and new.

In fact, you probably found me through Twitter, where I’ve got a combined following of over 12,000 between the blog,¬†War Co., and¬†Highways & Byways¬†accounts. You might know me through Instagram, where I have a combined following of 30,000 for¬†War Co.¬†and¬†Highways & Byways. This is no accident, and I’ve spent a substantial amount of time researching the subject of online marketing. Of all the sites I’ve played with, though, Twitter is my favorite.

 

mascot-blue-cartoon-bird-website-animal-twitter

 

Any board game developer can gradually develop a large, engaged, authentic Twitter following with a little bit of ongoing effort. Twitter is an effective marketing tool that can increase the visibility of new board game developers, especially for Kickstarter. Twitter can also provide a wealth of information on several different aspects of the board game industry, with applications including idea testing, market research, making connections with influential individuals, and trend analysis.

This guide is going to be very detailed. It will be the longest article I’ve ever made. There’s lots of blog articles about building a Twitter following, but I think they’re largely half-assed. I want to see you build your account organically into the thousands. (Perhaps you’ll spare a retweet for a blogger you like…)

I’ve broken this up into six sections. Feel free to skip around, but whether you’re new to Twitter or not, I encourage you to read section 1. It’s always good to keep your endgame in mind.

  1. What is Twitter Good For?
  2. Getting Started
  3. Getting Noticed
  4. Refining Your Approach
  5. Using Twitter for More than Just Tweeting
  6. Key Takeaways for Game Devs

 


 

What is Twitter Good For?

 

Reasons to Use Twitter

Before getting into any time-consuming commitment, it’s always smart to ask yourself “why am I doing this?” Twitter can provide a great deal of visibility and it can be an excellent marketing tool for board game developers.¬†The effect can be profound and a well-run Twitter account can bring in thousands of dollars, as long as you’ve got a good business model to make money once you get people’s attention. Getting people’s attention is only the beginning, though, since your behavior on Twitter has to make your audience¬†care. We’ll get to that in the next section.

There are a lot of benefits to using Twitter that no one talks about.¬†These benefits include the ability to test ideas, do market research, connect with leaders, and keep up with¬†industry trends. Think long and hard about your goals before you start your Twitter. The more specific they are, the better. Your goals determine how you’ll be using Twitter. The more in line your behavior with your goals, the better.

 

 

Reasons not to Use Twitter

Building a Twitter following with a lot of real, engaged people is a slow process. You won’t get big quick.¬†If you do get big, that doesn’t mean you’ll make a bunch of money either. There’s a handy model called AIDA. It’s well-recognized by both¬†marketers and¬†Glengarry Glen Ross¬†aficionados.

 

AIDA Model

 

AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. When you’re a marketer, the first thing you need to do is get people to know you exist – attention. Then you have to make people care about your game – interest. If they start to want your game, that’s a good sign – desire. Next, they get on your website or Amazon with intention to buy – action.

Marketing is a slow dance. You have to very slowly build your reputation. Twitter is great because it lets new developers draw¬†attention to themselves¬†with fewer barriers than ever before. But it’s still a long, slow climb from Attention to Action. You have to have a great game, a great website, a good business case, and so on.¬†You can’t tweet yourself to the Top 100 on Board Game Geek. Trust me, I tried.

There’s another really compelling reason not to use Twitter: the community. I generally find Twitter to be a place full of beauty, humor, and rapier wit, but I’m also very particular about what I read there.¬†The Twitter community can be exhausting. Know what you’re getting into. There are a lot of narcissists, a lot of people oversharing banal stories of their lives, and a lot of people browbeating others over politics (even if you voted for the same person).¬†If¬†this will make you miserable, you will probably get more enjoyment out of a different social media outlet.

 

 

Getting Started

 

Setting Up Your Account & Making it Look Good

So you’ve decided you want to take the plunge and get a Twitter? Awesome! There’s six things you need to do be ready to do right after you get on the site:

  1. Register
  2. Pick a handle
  3. Pick a display name
  4. Write your bio
  5. Set a profile photo
  6. Set a header photo

I won’t get into the details of where to go and what to click. Twitter could very well change that in the near future and I want this guide to have staying power. So with that in mind, I advise you to stick by a few principles:

  • Unless you’re representing a full studio, go by your name. People connect way better with me as Brandon Rollins than they do with me as Pangea Games.
  • Put your face on your profile photo. In my experience¬†are about¬†2-3x more likely to follow a face than a logo.
  • Keep your bio to the point. Don’t try to be too clever. Just explain who you are, and possibly incorporate some humor. Here are the bios I use:
    • BrandonGameDev bio:¬†Board game development is a wild, meandering journey. We’re in this together. Made @WarMachinesCo, making @BywaysGame. I own and run Pangea Games.
    • WarMachinesCo bio:¬†Creator of War Co., a card game funded on Kickstarter, which is on sale now. I pretend to be a scary corporation in my spare time. Other Twitter @BrandonGameDev
    • BywaysGame bio: Creating Highways & Byways, a board game about the road trip of a lifetime. Based on real places you can go! I’m @BrandonGameDev, creator of @WarMachinesCo.

In general,¬†be as human as possible¬†and¬†make it clear that you’re a board game developer.¬†A little bit of clarity and little bit of genuineness go a long way on this platform.

 

The First Two Weeks (Of Your Account or Your Strategy)

In your first two weeks, you don’t want to focus on followers. It’s too soon. You’ve got two main responsibilities.

Create a few Twitter lists¬†and follow people you’re genuinely interested in. They don’t even have to be related to board games. Add each person you follow to a Twitter list. When you want to check Twitter, check these lists. This will help you keep your Twitter organized and enjoyable while you’re heavily promoting your account.

 

Twitter Lists
I love my Twitter lists.

 

With listening on lock, now you’ve got to figure out what you want to say! There are a lot of factors to consider if you want to represent yourself well on Twitter.

The first is what I call Content Mix. This is comprised of three different forms of communication: sharing, talking, and self-promotion. Sharing involves retweeting others’ tweets when they speak to you, or alternatively, finding cool stuff online that’s worth bringing up in conversation. Talking is simply hanging out and passing time. Self-promotion is self-explanatory. However, relentless self-promotion will make you look dumb. Failure to self-promote at all will give you very few benefits because no one will know what you do. You have strike a balance.

I suggest taking a 5/3/2 approach. For every 10 tweets, 5 should be sharing others’ work, 3 should be conversational, and 2 should be self-promoting. Naturally, you’ll want to tweak this to what your audience responds to. As for what specifically to say and share, watch what other successful tweeters do. Copy the things they do that you like, but make sure you do so in your own words. As time passes, you will find your own voice.

One last thing: try to post at times when people are online. I’ve noticed a lot of my audience is online around 11 am to 1 pm US Eastern Time. Play it by ear, see what works for you and your audience.

 

Getting Noticed

 

Growing a Following – Different Tactics

Curating and creating great tweets go a long way toward making a viable marketing strategy on Twitter. Reading other people’s stuff will keep you in touch with the community and provide you with opportunities to retweet others. Your own tweets will provide a great way for people to find you and get to know you.¬†There’s just one issue.¬†People won’t reach out to you first on Twitter – you have to take the initiative.

Having great content is half the battle. You’ve also got to make conscious efforts to gain followers. There are a lot of ways to do this. Some of them are clean, some of them are dirty, and many are in between. I’ll cover all of them.

 

Clean Ways to Gain Followers

Let’s talk about some clean ways to gain followers first. The most obvious way is simply to post great tweets. Follow the advice above and iterate until you find the right wording for your audience. This approach is excellent at building your brand and it helps people get to know who you are and how you think. However, it’s a little weak on outreach. You can’t simply make¬†great tweets¬†and expect people to show up.

A more direct way to get people’s attention on Twitter is to start liking and replying to tweets that you see on your feed. Twitter is just about the only place in the world where it’s not rude to butt into a conversation that doesn’t involve you. In fact, that’s much of the magic of the platform and why it’s so great for building a robust network. Replying to tweets on Twitter is the most reliable way I’ve seen to get dedicated fans. However, this is time-consuming as hell and it requires you to be constantly “on” and conversational.

A lot of people know Twitter for its #hashtags. Simply appending that odd little # symbol makes the words following the symbol searchable on Twitter. It’s very easy to use hashtags, but it’s very hard to find hashtags that get real attention. If you use the right hashtag (such as a trending tag on the left side of the page), you might have a tweet blow up and get really big. If you use hashtags, try to work them into a sentence and not just stick them at the end of the tweet. And for the love of humanity, don’t use more than three in a tweet – that’s a surefire way to make folks cringe.

 

Trending tags

 

Lastly, you can use advertising to promote your Twitter. With advertising, you can practically guarantee a certain number of retweets, likes, website clicks, or views. Advertising is really hands-off, but also extremely expensive.¬†You also will have to target your ads exceptionally well to your audience, with particular attention being paid to optimizing them. If you’re going to be shelling out the hundreds of dollars it takes to run a good campaign, you want your words to be actionable and your images to be clickable. That means you should probably test your ads on a test audience or focus group before you put them out there.

 

Dirty Ways to Gain Followers

Twitter is not always a place of honor. I strongly discourage you from using¬†either of these two tactics for growing your following. Think of me like your Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. I’m teaching you evil ways to game the system because you should know they exist.

There are a number of services which promise to grow your Twitter following fast through complete automation. That means these services take your Twitter credentials and indiscriminately follow people in massive numbers.¬†Do not use automatic mass following. Though it will get you a lot of followers very fast for low effort, it’s spammy, your followers will be low quality, and you can get banned for the practice.

Likewise, you can also outright buy followers on websites such as Fiverr. Do not directly buy followers through any means other than Twitter advertising. Though you can get truly massive amounts of followers (even in the thousands) within days, most of the accounts will be fake or at least low quality. Again, this is spammy and it costs money.

 

Trenchcoat Guy
“You wanna buy followers, do ya?”

 

 

The Gray Areas

Obviously, not every action you can take on Twitter to gain followers falls within the strict dichotomy of “clean” or “dirty.” I know of, and admittedly have used in the past, many techniques that fall within a gray area.¬†If you choose to use these tactics, do so wisely and within an understanding of the pitfalls.

The first gray area is more a method of retaining followers than gaining them.¬†Many people follow everyone who follows them and unfollow everyone who unfollows them. This is not a bad tactic early on, but it’s a little gross. You wind up keeping your numbers up, but many of those folks will be spammers or people who will wind up unfollowing you two weeks later. Keeping your follower number high has significant benefits, but don’t expect followbacks to gain you an engaged audience. It just stops you from bleeding followers.

Indiscriminate following back is a light gray area in my opinion. This next one is a little darker: targeted manual mass following.

One way to get a lot followers is to follow a lot of people. You don’t want to follow people completely indiscriminately, because that will get you low quality followers. Instead, you¬†can use Twitter’s suggestions to follow many people you think fall into your target audience. You can also look at the followers of other accounts that are similar to yours and start following their followers.

Targeted manual mass following gets a lot of followers, but there are a lot of drawbacks. While it is true that follower growth is quick and you can often make genuine friends in the process, it’s kind of spammy if you aren’t really careful about it. It’s annoying to Twitter users. You have to periodically unfollow a lot of people if they’re not following back. You’ll probably get blocked a lot. You might follow the same person multiple times. You might get some angry DMs every once in a while. It’s extremely time-consuming, too.¬†You can even get banned or suspended if you go way overboard, such as following over 300 accounts per day everyday.

I don’t like targeted manual mass followings, but the truth is simple: it works and you’ll make friends. Even still, I don’t recommend it. It’s very common practice, though, and you should know it exists and make up your mind about whether or not you want to do it.

 

 

Refining Your Approach

 

Automating Your Tweets: Ongoing

You can’t automate relationship building. You can’t automate making genuine, heartfelt connections with others. You can, however, automate the tweets which you broadcast to the whole world. I strongly suggest you use¬†Hootsuite to prepare tweets in advance.¬†This free software lets you schedule tweets so that they automatically post when you’re not around. Basically, you can log onto Hootsuite every week or two, come up with a bunch of tweets, and pick the optimal time to post them. You don’t have to be tied to your phone.

You should still check Twitter on a regular basis. It’s still a good idea to converse with others. Automation will allow you to have some constant presence at all times, even when you’re at work, with your kids, or on vacation.

 

Refining Your Account: Ongoing

Automating tweets will also free up time for you to start refining your tweets. After a month or two of tweeting, you’ll be able to make good use of Twitter Analytics¬†– a robust data-gathering system that comes automatically with Twitter. Figure out what people retweet and like and post more of it. As you refine your approach, you’ll get followers more automatically and less manually.

 

Twitter Analytics provides a really handy way of finding out what people like.

 

You’ll also want to periodically go through your followings and unfollow people. A lot of people obsess over their “following-to-follower ratio.” It’s overrated in my opinion. In general, you want to follow fewer people than you follow. In the first six months, don’t sweat this. Just make sure it’s not a ridiculous gap like 2,500 following to 400 followers. If it’s 2,100 following to 1,800 followers, that’s fine. After six to nine months, you want to make sure you always have more people following you than you follow. Once you break about 5,000 followers, then it’s different. No matter how big you get, you don’t want to follow more than about 3,000 people.

At first, just get rid of inactive accounts, spammers, and anyone who doesn’t speak your language. After a little while longer, you can start unfollowing people who don’t contribute much to your Twitter experience. There are a lot of automated services that can help you with unfollowing, such as ManageFlitter. No matter what you use, though, you’ll want to go slow. If you try to be Speed Racer about unfollowing, you’ll get banhammered by the big birds up top.

 

Using Twitter for More than Just Tweeting

 

There are all sorts of things you can use Twitter for that go beyond the typical purview¬†of marketing. I won’t get too into detail about the tactics you would use, but I do want to get the wheels in your head spinning. I want you to see the potential and have some possible ideas for how to use Twitter which you can Google later on.

 

Testing Ideas

Twitter is a really great place to test ideas. With a sufficiently large and engaged following, you can ask questions such as “do you prefer a tracker card or d20 to keep track of points?” You can show two pieces of art and ask your followers¬†what they like better. You can do sophisticated A/B testing on Twitter. If you take the initiative to form good questions and make it easy for people to answer them, you will open yourself up to an enormous wealth of data about the market-worthiness of your ideas.

 

scientist-with-erlenmeyer-flask
Marketing is a science – lots of testing and research.

 

Market Research

You can use Twitter for more than just testing your own ideas, though. You can read through the tweets of gamers get a feel for what they would like to see in a game, especially if you have them in a list. You can find your target audience, learn about their interests and desires, and observe the way they interact with each other. This is enormously powerful information if you wield it in the right way. Marketers of the bygone century would have done many bad deeds to have access to what we have access to. If you want to get really formal about your market research, you can even start tracking tweets in Excel and do heavier data analysis there.

 

Trend Analysis

What games are hot? What games are not? Market research can teach you about the small picture, but I’d say that trend analysis is more about the big picture. You can get a feel for how board gamers as a large group think and act. Though trends may not affect your prospective customers’ thoughts, feelings, and actions directly, you can bet that they change the climate in which they have¬†those thoughts and feelings and make their actions. Twitter is known for being a great thermometer for trending topics. Learn how to read that thermometer.

 

Making Connections

This should go without saying, but so many people miss this critical point of Twitter.¬†Twitter is not about gaining followers, it’s about making connections. You’ll meet all sorts of people online – game devs of different genres, gamers, creatives of all types, podcasters, bloggers, artists, and so on and so on. Talk to them! Make connections! Start up a conversation and perhaps even DM them. Making connections is so important that I spent weeks getting ready to launch a game dev Discord group. I compiled a big list of people who I was already talking to who might be interested in the group and started systematically inviting them.

Connections are where the money is made, too. Broadcasting to a wide audience won’t get a whole lot of attention. It’s like being a street preacher. Yet if you start talking to individuals on a one-on-one basis, you’re far more likely to get Kickstarter backers, if that’s the road you decide to take in your game development.¬†The trick – if you want to call it a trick – is to genuinely converse and genuinely care.

 

Go make some connections!

 

Key Takeaways for Game Devs

 

  • Reasons to use Twitter: great visibility, great marketing, idea testing, market research, trend analysis, making connections.
  • Reasons not to use Twitter:¬†you won’t get rich quick and the community has some annoying quirks.
  • When setting up your Twitter account: register, pick a handle and display name, write a good bio, set your profile and header photos.
  • In the first two weeks of tweeting: make Twitter lists and start posting good content (with the right mix of sharing, talking, and self-promotion).
  • Dirty ways to get followers: buying followers and automatic following. Avoid these.
  • Gray area ways to get followers: targeted mass manual follows and indiscriminate followbacks. There’s no hard or fast rule. Do what you think is right.
  • Clean ways to get followers: post great tweets, talk to a lot of people, use hashtags wisely, and advertise.¬†Do as many of these as you like!
  • Automate your tweets through Hootsuite to save time.
  • Track and optimize: figure out what people like and retweet. Give them more of it.
  • Prune your following: use tools such as ManageFlitter to periodically unfollow accounts that you don’t want to follow any more.
  • Test ideas:¬†With a sufficiently large and engaged following, you can ask potential customers questions and refine your game.
  • Do market research:¬†You can read through the tweets of gamers get a feel for what they would like to see in a game, especially if you have them in a list.
  • Trend analysis:¬†You can get a feel for how board gamers as a large group think and act.
  • Make connections:¬†Twitter is not about gaining followers, it’s about making connections. You’ll meet all sorts of people online.

How to List Your First Game on Board Game Geek

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Know-How

Board Game Geek is the online mecca for board gamers. There is no site like it. It’s extraordinarily popular and an immense repository of all the board game data you can imagine. It’s an agreed-upon gathering place for gamers to an extent that most other hobbies cannot relate to.¬†I cannot overstate the importance of Board Game Geek to the board game community.

Now, you don’t have to post there every day to succeed. In fact, there’s plenty of benefits to be reaped simply by lurking on the website. However, ignoring it is foolish.¬†I think that many game developers make the mistake of ignoring Board Game Geek because of its intimidating design.¬†Please don’t make that mistake.

 

Board Game Geek
Hey, at least it’s not a generic WordPress theme!

 

I could go into the nuances of Board Game Geek as a social system. I could also go into detail about how to best use the data available on the site. I’m not going to do that. That could be an entirely different article…which I may very well make one day soon!

In this guide, I’ll be showing game developers how to get board games listed on Board Game Geek.¬†As I write this article, I’m going to assume this is your first board game, that neither your team members nor your publishing company are entered into the database, and that you have a Board Game Geek account. (If you don’t have an account, sign up here.)

Before you get your game listed on Board Game Geek, it’s helpful to understand their data model. You can enter Board Games, People, and Publishers. Board Games reference People and Publishers. People include artists, designers, and other staff involved in making a Board Game. Publishers are the companies that publish Board Games. A good Board Game needs People and Publishers, as well as a lot of other information.

Here’s where it gets weird.

You need to make People and Publishers first…but you can’t have People and Publishers without games. You have to submit the People and Publishers entries first. Then you have to reference the People and Publishers in the Board Game entry. Then you submit the Board Game entry. Lastly, you go back and edit the yet-to-be approved People and Publishers entries to reference the new Board Game entry.

Clear as mud? Great! Let’s continue!

Another important consideration is when you submit your Board Game entry. You need to wait until your game is very close to complete and preferably publicly reviewed. However, if you’re going to be doing a Kickstarter campaign, you need to make sure you make a Board Game entry at least a week or two before the Kickstarter.

 

Alright, let’s get started…

 

Step 1: Submit Entries for All Designers and Artists

Navigation: Misc > Add to Database > Person

 

Create Person on Board Game Geek

 

For each designer and artist involved in the creation of your game, make a Person entry. The most important fields to fill out are Name and Description. The credits sections can be filled out after you’ve got a Board Game entry pending.

You don’t have to fill out the Note to Admin field, but you may choose to mention that you are making a Board Game entry and linking it in the credits shortly after submitting this entry. You may also choose to type nothing but a smiley face. It’s up to you.

 

Step 2: Submit an Entry for the Publisher

Navigation: Misc > Add to Database > Publisher

 

Create Board Game Publisher on Board Game Geek

 

If your publisher doesn’t already exist in the Board Game Geek database, create a Publisher entry. This would apply to your company, if you have created your own company with intention to self-publish. That’s what I did by publishing War Co. through Pangea Games, which I own.

The most important fields to fill out are Primary Name and Description. The credits sections can be filled out after you’ve got a Board Game entry pending. Again, the Note to Admin field doesn’t have to be filled in.

 

Step 3: Submit an Entry for the Board Game

Navigation: Misc > Add to Database > Board Game

 

Create a Board Game Entry on Board Game Geek

 

Here is the real beast that you have to slay to get your game listed. The fields you need to fill out include are spelled out below. The rest is optional, but you should include it if you can.

 

The fields you should definitely fill out include:

  • Primary Name: Use the name of your game as you’d like it to appear on the Board Game Geek listing.
  • Description: A couple of paragraphs to describe your game. Use other listings as reference material when writing your description.
  • Year Published
  • Minimum Players
  • Maximum Players
  • Minimum Age
  • Playing Time
  • Category: The specific type of game, chosen from a list. No free text.
  • Mechanic: Mechanics involved in playing the game, chosen from a list.¬†No free text.
  • Designer(s): Reference the pending Person entry or entries of your designer(s).
  • Artist(s):¬†Reference the pending Person entry or entries of your artist(s).
  • Version Nickname: Anything you want it to be.
  • Version Publisher: Reference your pending Publisher entry.
  • Version Artist(s): Reference the pending Person entry or entries of your artist(s).
  • Year Published
  • Product Code (if you have bar codes – if you don’t, please see a reputable bar code reseller such as Buy A Bar Code)
  • Dimensions: The size of your game.
  • Weight
  • Languages: Chosen from a list.
  • Release Date: Pick an anticipated release date if your game is not out yet. You can edit this later if you have to.

 

Step 4: Edit the Person and Publisher Entries to Reference the Board Game

Navigation: Click here to find your pending Person entries. Click here to find your pending Publisher entries.

 

Phew. That’s a lot of data. Now all you have to do is go back to each Person and Publisher entry to reference your pending Board Game entry.

For each designer, edit their Person entry by clicking [Add Board Game Designer Credits] and clicking on your pending Board Game entry.

For each artist, edit their Person entry by clicking [Add Board Game Artist Credits] and clicking on your pending Board Game entry.

For your publisher, edit the Publisher entry by clicking [Add Board Game Credits] and clicking on your pending Board Game entry.

 


 

There you have it! It’s a lot of information to absorb, but following these steps is a surefire way to have your game listed on Board Game Geek in no time. Keep an eye out for emails from the Board Game Geek admins once you submit your entries. They may require some modest changes.

If you do this and you find that the process works a little differently for you, let me know what you find and I’ll revise this guide. I want to keep it up to date!

Please share your experiences in the comments.