So you’ve playtested your game a few times, you’ve decided to pitch it to a publisher, and you’re hearing you need a ‘sell sheet’… But what is a sell sheet?
As a way of introduction, let’s do a little thought exercise. Think back to when you applied for your first job. Maybe your first ‘real’ job, or just a job that required a bit of work to get. You had application forms, interviews, a resume – lots of little things to learn about. However you assembled your resume, it’s goal was to communicate your experience and skills on a single sheet of paper. It did a lot of ‘talking’ for you, especially when it came to presenting yourself in the best light.
The sell sheet is to board games what your resume is to finding work – everything about your game on a single sheet of paper, complete with some structure — but no one ‘format’ — that has to be followed.
A sell sheet exists to give the reader (usually a publisher, but also other interested parties) a quick overview of your game in a single sheet of paper. It’s also called a ‘sale sheet’ or ‘sales sheet’, and there’s another type of sell sheet to mention later on… but for right now, the main thing designers use a sell sheet for is to communicate their game to a publisher, just like your resume communicates your experiences and skills.
There are plenty of ways to design them: I personally use PowerPoint (why? Check this post out.), but you could easily use Microsoft Publisher, Affinity Publisher, InDesign, Photoshop, Canva, or any other graphic design program you know. What matters is that you need a Letter / A4 sheet when you’re done, whether you’re sending it on as a PDF or printing it off to show someone in real life.
Where can I find a sell sheet template?
Right here! The template below is based on the same sell sheets I make for my own games. They use four images with a limited amount of space for text, which forces you to be concise.
While sell sheets can be formatted and look a thousand different ways, the key things it needs are non-negotiable:
- The name of your game (usually at the top in big text – this can, and usually is, stylized like a logo)
- A brief description of the setting and mechanics (again, usually near the top)
- The component list (how many cards, how many dice, etc.)
- Contact info (your name, e-mail address, phone number, etc.)
Several other things are good ideas:
- A tagline (usually just below the title, but almost always near the top)
- Photos (or screenshots in Tabletop Simulator) to help show examples of gameplay
- A sense of how the game plays, or what you do on your turn
- While it can be labeled a number of different ways, describe your game’s hook, what makes it great, or its key features.
- Any awards the game has been nominated for or won.
From a graphic design standpoint, a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep text as readable as possible. This means being conscious of font size, font color vs. background color, and so on. Not everyone is going to read it at full size – try reading it on a mobile phone.
- Use graphics, illustrations, colors, and fonts to help set the scene. Nothing comes across as ‘boring’ faster than a plain white background using a basic font like Arial or Calibri (or worse, Comic Sans).
- Remember this is often the publisher’s first interaction with this game, and you know what they say about first impressions. Make it a good one.
From the publisher’s perspective…
Obviously, I’m not a publisher, but I have friends that are, and I’ve pitched to a few of them.
- The component’s list helps them ‘price out’ a game – they know what various components cost, which can mentally tell them whether your game’s in the ballpark of the types they make.
- It’s a decent filtering tool – in a matter of seconds, you can figure out whether a game is a fit with what you currently make, or perhaps with the direction you’re looking to take.
- A game has to intrigue them – a hook, a unique theme, or a twist on a common mechanic are all good places to start.
- A sell sheet is not the whole pitch, just the first step, and few games are signed on the strength of a sell sheet alone. It does help you set up a meeting or book an appointment, and that’s where your game can really come to life.
These sell sheets come from fellow game designers – and again, there are plenty of other examples out there. I won’t be commenting on these, except to say they all have their own sense of style, and yours will as well. You can also check out my own sell sheets over at https://www.entrogames.com/games.
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What are your thoughts on sell sheets? Comments are open.