Pitching and Selling

There’s an unfortunate reality behind any creative endeavour. If you want to make money off of these things, you’ve got to sell them. In order to sell things, you have to know how to market it. The joys of submitting short stories to literary markets is the attempt to keep it as close to a true meritocracy as possible. You don’t get to sell your work, to make your case for why its important. The work just stands or fails on its own. Well, mostly on its own.
That isn’t what this is about though. Most work in the creative field has to be sold. You need to put on a marketing or a sales hat, or find someone else to do that for you, and tell the world why they should care about your beautiful creation. That’s a different task than just creating. Whether you’re trying to convince an agent to look at your novel, trying to get someone to back your kickstarter, or whatever. You have to know how to sell your things.
Pitching to conventions is a great miniature sample on how to do these things. You have to pitch your things, and then get feedback from the world. That feedback is key to learning.
I put together a pile of pitches for GenCon and Origins this year, and have been obsessing over the feedback that I’ve been getting. Several of the things that I pitched sold out quickly. The ones that did the best, from my reading, were the ones that serviced a pre-existing niche (in this case, players of Call of Cthulhu) and then told them exactly what they were going to get from this (here, check out Wild Hunt or Hudson and Brand: what you know, but with these twists). By contrast, the one that did the worst was a brand new game of my own creation with the working title of Strange Aeons.
I did not sell this game properly. It has been a hard-fought task for me to get a finger on what this game is. Even the first players of it spent the first hour grappling with some of the implication of what the mechanics meant (what do you mean I can trade part of my soul for a creature that will live in my ear and whisper secrets?). It’s an incredibly weird game, by design. Conveying it to other people is a challenge akin to trying to show someone the inside of my skull.
There was an important failure here, and an opportunity for me to learn. One of the things that I had to learn was how to work on conveying these more complex and esoteric ideas to people. In this instance, the thing I likely should have done was consulted the initial playtesters, and workshopped how to pitch this to others.
I’ll continue to work on this, but there’s such an important message here. Many of our other games have done so much better than this one, so there’s proof that there’s value to proper pitches. The trick that had to happen here was just understanding the niche better, and being better at showing those people who would love it that it was meant for them.

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