How To Get Work Composing for Games

Last month, I received four emails from job-seeking game composers–a big jump from my usual one per month. Their pitch letters remind me so much of my own, from back when was hunting for my first gig, 15 years ago. Just like I did, they go about it entirely wrong.  To curb this disturbing trend, I am offering guidance, so that you, the aspiring VGM artist, will have better luck getting that first contract.

First, some background on me. Those of you who know me as an indie developer may not know that I worked as a contract game composer for 8 years, and have over 40 published titles. (Here are some.) If you owned the Nintendo handhelds in the mid-2000’s, you probably played one of the games I scored. I’ve lived all three roles now: aspiring composer, professional, Decider of Audio.

But enough about me. Let’s start with…

What Not To Do

You’ve exhausted your industry contacts, so you scour Google to find leads, and harvest a list of Entities That Make Games. The next step is where most people go wrong: Crafting a long-winded, five paragraph cover letter describing their education, qualifications, and passion, capped off with a portfolio link. This will get you nowhere, because it does not:

  1. Get their attention
  2. Address their concerns

The sobering reality is that there are 10 composers for every 1 gig available. To be part of the 10%, you must handle both of the above. Warning: it’s going to take some effort.

Continue reading How To Get Work Composing for Games

How To Contact the Press About Your Indie Game

My favorite talk from IndieCade last week was Sue Bohle’s PR Clinic.  I could hardly take notes fast enough.  When I mentioned this talk on Twitter, I got some interest from people who couldn’t attend and wanted to know the basics.  So here’s my distillation of Sue’s PR principles.

This is all based on the notes I took, some of which became illegible scrawls, with missing pieces filled in from memory.  My apologies to Sue if I end up misrepresenting anything she said.  I think this is pretty close though.

How to Get The Press Interested

  1. Describe what is unique and distinctive about your game. What stands out about its production, team, concept, to create an interesting story?
  2. A fun event such as a contest related to your game could generate interest
  3. Always respond to emails from editors promptly, and assume their time is very precious
  4. Don’t use attachments!  Put the press release in the body of the email, and use links to your screenshots.  (Would you open an email with an attachment from someone you don’t know?)
  5. Gather 12 great screenshots.  Pick 3 sites you want to get coverage on more than the others, and send them two exclusive screenshots apiece.  Send the others to the remaining sites as non-exclusive.
  6. Two movies are better than one… but one is essential.  Make a trailer.  Need an idea for a second movie?  Behind the scenes, developer interview, stuff like that.
  7. Look at the recipient’s website before you blindly send a PR… would they even be interested?

Elements of a Press Release

  1. Header (and email subject) should be a grabber.  This may be your only chance to get the writer interested in your game.
  2. First paragraph: Location & Date (like a news story), then answer who-what-when-where about your game in 35-50 words.  Imagine you have ten seconds to describe your game.
  3. Second paragraph: What amazing, interesting and unique features does your game have? Use a bullet point list. Not too many items, maybe 4-8.
  4. Third paragraph: quote from the developer (you) “in quotes.”  This is the personal touch.  Interview yourself.
  5. End with a call to action. Do you want them to check out your review copy? Set up an interview? Figure out what the whole point of the email was.
  6. Write the whole thing like a journalist would. A well-crafted press release could be copy-pasted verbatim and look like a news story.
I found this talk extremely informative, since I definitely violated many of these principles in the past.  I hope you find it useful as well.
Have anything to add?  Please comment!