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September 21, 2019, 10:43:14 PM

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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessHow to title your emails so the press opens them?
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ANtY
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« on: March 06, 2019, 12:26:55 AM »

Sup, this is a topic I've been thinking about and struggling with for the last 9 years and I still have no idea what makes a good, "openable" email title. Perhaps I know what not to do for sure, but I haven't have much success in this field so while maybe my titles are not the worst they definitely can and should be better.

I've tried describing the game in the title, phrasing it as it was a news piece title and referencing other more popular games. What are your experiences on this? What works for you?
What kind of title would make you open the email among many others?

If you include stuff like "coming to early access" / "releasing on X" and "(Steam key)" the amount of space left for a clever title is pretty tiny.

 Coffee
« Last Edit: March 06, 2019, 12:34:43 AM by ANtY » Logged

Ordnas
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« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2019, 03:40:56 AM »

The (few at the moment) Italian press contact I had for Humanity Is Dead, is because they contacted me. I think there is no special email title to convince to open the email (I think they open it anyway), in my experience I first make the game known by the community (TIGforum, itchio, other medias), otherwise it is difficult to get notice by the press. Probably someone with a different experience can say something different.
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ANtY
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« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2019, 03:43:21 AM »

I've been trying to build up a community on Steam and there has been some movement on the forums and in the news' comments sections but it converted to no press attention, probably not doing the best job at community building  Facepalm
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ANtY
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2019, 11:44:55 PM »

Come on, peeps, share your arcane knowledge  Wizard
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Schrompf
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2019, 11:42:20 PM »

Maybe there is no arcane knowledge? To my experience it's a lot of luck, and requires a long breath of being present in communities, having content worth of noticing and being helpful. On forums you're being known when you help others. On social networks you're getting known when you post your own content. Both should be done for a while. And both of it still does guarantee exactly nothing.

Just keep trying. Be present, be helpful to others. And stop your fruitless search for the magic chant of Open My Mail Influencers.
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ANtY
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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2019, 12:26:42 AM »

You are most definitely at least partially true and I will keep up my presence in online communities as well as helping others (I have wrote a few long articles here https://jakrobicgry.pl/ on how to approach indie gamedev, they're in Polish but maybe the google translate will do a decent job).

That said I still think it's worth the effort to make sure you're doing your best in each aspect of your marketing / game making approach. And that includes titling your emails, because a journalist from a bigger website probably receives like at least dozens of emails each day. And the title I am sure plays some role in the reception of the marketing message and / or the likelihood of it being clicked/opened. Just as the headline of your ad matters a lot for the conversion ratio it gets from the people looking at it. Wouldn't you agree, Schrompf?
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ProgramGamer
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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2019, 05:03:26 AM »

As far as optimizing the title of your email, I think the press will appreciate a short but informative "[name of game] - Review Request". Considering that press people have to read many emails a day, making it easy for them to glean what your game is about from a short paragraph and a few links is, I think, the most you can optimize out of that part of the process.

After that, it's just a matter of being well known or being on someone's VIP list. So yeah, keep steadily building your community and don't jump the gun on trying to make it big right away. Indie game marketing is a long term process now and very few people actually get to skip the early game.
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Ordnas
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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2019, 08:29:35 AM »

I also suggest to add a gif of your game in the body of the email, a trick I learnt from emailing to publishers.
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« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2019, 02:16:50 PM »

As you mentioned, include "(Steam key included)" in the subject line or don't bother sending it. No one's going to bother chasing down your game without a key. Without mentioning a key in the subject, it's an instant-delete.

Send it on Tuesday 8AM-9AM. If you're mass mailing at once, use East Coast time. New Yorkers will get it first thing in the morning when they're fresh, Californians will have it waiting in their inbox but still fairly fresh, and European recipients will receive it before it's too late in the date. If it's too late, or if it's Friday, recipients will just delete the email without reading to clear out their inbox.

We've had the best response when titles are personalized for the recipient. For example, if you know the recipient has waxed nostalgic about old school point-and-click adventures, tailor your title to appeal to that.
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Schrompf
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2019, 11:54:17 PM »

Good points, but I got the impression that you already covered most of those. My thoughts:

<Name> - <very short genre desc> - Review Steamkey

If you can get your USP into a few short words so that they fit the ~30 letters somebody reads from a mail subject, the better. I'd keep the standard text as short as possible - "Steam key included" is way too long for my taste, and there's a nice opportunity to smuggle the "review request" in there as well, and keep it all to a minimum at the same time.

Zeit² - Oldschool Shmup with time play - Review Steamkey

or my own

Splatter - Topdown shooter with light - Review Steamkey.

Apart from that, it's the same as with any other of your communications: get to the point, don't waste anyones time. Cut the stupid studio logo intros from your trailers, don't use PR speak like "excited", "experience" or all that stupid fluff that PR agencies stuck in the 00's tend to use. I like the GIF idea, though. If you can get the core gameplay idea into a GIF of <3s, <2MB or similar limitations, attach it directly to the email. External linked images will be blocked almost everywhere, and most mailers have ridiculously small size limits. Also keep in mind that Base64 encoding (the method to write arbitrary files into mail text) will increase the size of any file by ~33%, so better keep your overall attachment size < 1,5MiB
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2019, 03:09:14 AM »

i still get emails for game releases cuz i occasionally reviewed indie games for blogs in the past, though i almost never do that nowadays. but for me, there are only two things that make me open an email. one, having my name in the title -- that shows it's personalized. like 'hi paul' or something. second, 'steam key inside'. i open it just to get the steam key.
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ANtY
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« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2019, 08:43:34 PM »

Reporting in after some field tests  Wizard

The title / [STEAM KEY] Glorious Companions is a lovechild of Mount & Blade and HoMM 3 / didn't seem to work too well.

I've included a short intro with personal touch/comment on the receiver's channel and why I think the game will fit his audience. I've picked only youtubers that:
  • uploaded a video in the recent week
  • upload videos more often than 1 per week
  • don't only play one or two games
  • don't only play popular releases
  • seem to play nerdy stuff (rpgs, strategies, open worlds, sandboxes, etc.)
  • mostly small to medium size channels

The second paragraph was the steam key, then there was a GIF of the game, some important links and more info on the game / team / dev's story.

And here are the results:
3 out of 40 keys were activated
0 downloads of the game
0 responses except "don't have time but what marketing budget did you have in mind" and one auto-responder "I try to reply asap"

I've watched and read so many guides, tips, advices, tutorials on contacting youtubers / press / influencers and I'm still shooting out whole rounds of blanks Tired

« Last Edit: April 03, 2019, 09:09:51 PM by ANtY » Logged

ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2019, 10:07:23 PM »

3/40 is actually good! but you need to send many more emails than that. 1000, 2000, 5000, etc. -- the thing is, you are always going to get a low percent responding or opening it. you just need to send out massive numbers of them, each one personalized. and yeah that takes a lot of time. it might take a week, of doing it 10 hours a day. but it's the only thing that works. when i released immortal defense in 2007, i think i sent out 8000 free copies of the game to journalists, and that was back when there was less coverage of indie games in the media than there is now

remember not just to send to game journalists. all kinds of journalists, in every country, as long as their outlet occasionally covers games. even the new york times and stuff like that. out of all those emails, i got something like 30-40 reviews/articles about my game. but those 30-40 reviews were important. 8000 sounds like a lot, but remember that there are 200,000-300,000 journalists in the US, and often about that many in other countries too (like 100,000 in the UK or whatever). so even 8000 getting it is just a drop in the ocean.

things are completely different now so i'm not promising what i did even works now. i'm just saying... if you send out 40 emails, and only 3 open it, that's actually good. send out 400, and 30 will open it. send out 4000, and 300 will open it.

also, whether they reply or not, or especially if they do, keep sending them reminder emails once every few weeks until they either cover the game for say they won't cover it. reminder emails can be fairly short and simple, and reminders work very well. when i reviewed games, i was *much* more likely to cover a game if someone was persistent, and sent me reminders asking if i was going to cover their game. i think people are afraid to do reminders because they think they will be annoyed by them and then never cover their game. that isn't the case -- reminders aren't rude, especially if it isn't constant and it's just 2-3 times total, separated by a few weeks of time between reminders. to me, reminders just showed that indies cared about their game a lot, and made me want to help them succeed.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2019, 10:18:13 PM by ஒழுக்கின்மை » Logged

Ordnas
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« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2019, 11:44:06 AM »

IMHO sending more than 1000 emails is a bit too much, if the game or the developer is already known by the community, an email is just a reminder instead of a presentation. Even 10,000 emails cannot save a non-popular game, first convince the audience, them the coverage will follow it by nature.
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2019, 02:46:44 PM »

it's not about saving an unpopular game as this wouldn't be one's only or one's most important marketing method and your game *should* already be popular before launch (otherwise, delay launch until it's popular). it's more about optimizing the initial release to sell more copies than you would have otherwise

i know several indies who have achieved success using the method of sending thousands of emails. one example from this forum: https://store.steampowered.com/app/385710/INK/ -- the developers of that game told me that they send out thousands of emails to youtubers and one of them (a popular one) decided to cover the game, and that one popular one covering their game resulted in tens of thousands of sales alone. so you never know which email will work out.
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« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2019, 12:31:24 AM »

For me TRAILER or VIDEO LINK the title is the best because you can check out a game with no effort and no installation.
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« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2019, 10:14:16 PM »

The subject line is the first thing the prospects will read about you, your company and your product/service. So it needs to be the best you can to catch the prospect’s attention enough to open your email and read you offer. If you leave them curious enough about your email, they’ll open it. There is no second chance to create a good first impression, so here are some tips I normally follow when it comes to subject lines:

Don’t use the same subject lines as everybody. People normally read an article saying ‘10 subject lines that will get your email opened’, and they automatically use them in their cold email campaigns. This won’t work; why? Because by definition that subject line won’t stand out as soon as everybody uses it!

Personalize your emails. Make the prospect feel that you put some thought into the email before sending it, and it all starts with the subject line. Write his name and his company’s name as well, and he might get curious about your email.

Avoid spammy words and don’t try to fool the prospects. Don’t use words and expressions like ‘CLICK HERE TO GET A DISCOUNT’ or ‘WE ARE OFFERING THE FIRST FLYING CAR’ and then it's a joke. Spammy words won’t get your email open, and overpromising/lying in your subject line will only hurt your business.

Keep it short. The subject line should only lift the veil enough to make the prospect open your email.

If it makes sense, use humor. Don’t make fun of something out of the blue that the prospect can’t understand/relate.

But if you can use a catchy and funny phrase in your subject line that can increase the chances of getting your email opened, you should try to use it.
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2019, 07:09:53 PM »

good points taniya (finally returned to this thread and read it). anything that makes it stick out from other emails about other indie games in a pile of 20 emails they got that day about indie games would be good. so like, looking at your emails title, imagine: could any other indie game possibly use the same subject / title? if so, use something else.

i think an email title i used once for immortal defense was 'hi [name], is there anything you'd give up everything to defend?' which was sort of a question asked in the game and the theme of the game, and people were like 'what, what is this' and opened it out of curiosity because it stood out

getting people to actually click an email and read it is just the first step of course, but because probably 90% of emails about indie games sent to journalists/youtubers/streamers aren't even opened, that's an important step

note that i didn't use capitalization, everything was lower case, even their name. that also helps it stand out possibly, and made it feel more casual
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« Reply #18 on: August 30, 2019, 12:04:09 PM »

I would suggest not using email for the first time. They are busy people and receiving hundreds of emails similar to yours every day. Build the relationship slowly with your target journalist in order to get media coverage. if needed, make a list journalist you want to work with. Know your journalist and try to find out what topic they like and choose the relevant ones to your PR goals. Create an interesting story or respond to their posts on social media. try to discuss things with them. after the relationship is built, try to make a call and don't use email. on the call, tell them you have an interesting story for them. then you can send the story via email. keep in mind that they won't work a complete stranger. so, be creative. hope this helps.
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« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2019, 10:10:28 AM »

There's a lot of engagement with this thread!  Beer! Beer! Beer!

I hope I'm not giving the same answers as others, but here are my thoughts:

If we're sending a review copy out, we make the subject line clear and to the point (aka "Game Title: Review Submission") and if we're reaching out to content creators, it depends on the creator, how close are we and what we think will get their attention.

For example, if during our research phase, we notice that X streamer plays a ton of Dark Souls, if the game we're submitting has strong similarities to Dark Souls, we will mention it.

"Game Title: Dark Souls meets Other Similar Game - Steam key included"

We've also been playing with using emojis in our subject lines. That said, we make sure the subject line is still legible without the emojis, just in case the person we're reaching out to doesn't use an email client that displays them.

We try to be clear and concise. However, research can significantly help this process (aka know your audience before you start speaking).

The next step is focussing on how you present your game and how you're going to convince the person you're reaching out to that your game is something they will want to play.

I hope the above tips help!
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