Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The importance of sell-sheets

I'm starting to create my sell-sheets for the upcoming tabletop convention season and I realized that many of you might not realize how important they are in the world of tabletop game design... or even what sell-sheets are.

Sell-sheets are kind of like the one-pager document that you'll find in my book Level Up! the Guide to Great Video Game Design - these documents act as a touchstone for the design team (or designer) to remind them what is important about the game. But sell-sheets are much more than that.

Sell-sheets act as a promotional tool for the game - a game's resume as it were - that lets the reader know what's cool about the game. But it also provides vital information to a potential publisher - which helps them determine the game's genre, cost, play time, player age, and more.

A printed sell-sheet is a "leave-behind" for the designer to give to publishers at conventions.  They even are used as the first stage entry in many tabletop design contests.

Here are a few examples of sell-sheets that I've created over the years:

You'll notice that all of these sell-sheets have many elements in common. Let's take a look at what your sell-sheet needs.

1) Your game's title: Every game needs a title and yours is no different. Make sure you check Google and BoardGameGeek.com's database to make sure you aren't naming your game after something that already exists. I try to create the logo of the game on the sell-sheet. Fonts go pretty far to give a game an identity and get the game's genre across to the reader.

2) The "three essentials": Number of Players, Minimum Age of Players and Time it Takes to Play your game. These three pieces of information are critical to have on your sell sheet as it informs the publisher of many things about your game and whether they will want to publish it or not. For example, some publishers won't make games for two players, while others specialize in them.

3) Game play overview: A brief overview of how to play the game and how to win the game. Keep this as brief as possible, no more than a sentence. If you can't describe your game play in a sentence, you might have a problem.

4) Game photos: Show at least one photo of the game in action, preferably with it set up to show what it is like to play. You don't always need to show players playing the game in your photos - but if you do, make sure they look like they are having a good time. Fake the shot if you have to. Nobody want to buy a game if your models don't look like they are enjoying themselves.

5) Game play description: Describe the action that is going on in the photos. Tell the reader how the game is played, what's cool and unique about the game play and why they would want to make it. Use short sentence or bullet-points to get this across. Once again, beware the blocks of text. I also think that "beautiful art" and "great story" are not valid bullet points. All games should have these (unless they are an abstract game)

6) Components List: This is a list of all of the components the player will get in the game. This is actually very important because they let the publisher know just how much your game will cost to make. Have hundreds of miniatures in your game? Some publishers might think twice or reject your game completely based on that. Others, might welcome it. (Knowing who you are pitching your game to is a very important part of the selling process.)

7) Your contact information: You should always include your name, e-mail address and/or phone number on a sell-sheet. Otherwise, how will the publisher be able to contact you when they are ready to buy your game? I also put my "studio's logo" on the sell-sheet. It gives me a little bit of a "brand identity" and makes me feel a little more professional. It's not necessary, but it's fun.

8) Graphics: Finally, make your sell-sheet look nice. You don't necessarily need pictures on your sell-sheet but if you are trying to create a mood or a theme, drawings, fonts, and graphics can go far. Even at a glance, you can tell that A Town Called Showdown is a western themed game while Rayguns and Rocketships is a pulp sci-fi game all because of the color, graphics and fonts I used on the sell-sheet. When dealing with fonts, don't forget the "two-font" rule. You should never use more than two styles of fonts on your documents: a "fancy" or thematic one for titles and headers and a simple font for the rest of the text. I am a big fan of simple, legible fonts like Calibri, Cambria and Helvetica Neue.

I hope this helps you understand why sell-sheets are so important and some ideas and guidance on how to create your own. Good luck and be sure to share your own sell-sheets in the comments below!

1 comment:

Chris in South Korea said...

Great stuff! I'm guessing you'll take these to a print shop so as to not completely drain your own printer (?) or do you make a low-ink version of these when it comes time to actually print?