How many times have you heard someone call a band (or an author, celebrity, etc. – whatever works best for you in this example), “a sellout,” on the basis that they are self-promoting their work?
“I remember when they were in it for the fun of it, now they’re all about making money,” is a quote you probably heard from the individual – the individual that obviously has no idea what it takes to earn a living creatively. There is still a large taboo when it comes to self-promoting your work, as if letting others know about your accomplishments, past and current roles, products released/soon to be released, and so on is a bad thing. It isn’t. Sure, you may feel a little odd self-promoting yourself as an indie game developer – especially if you feel uncomfortable talking about things like that – but self-promoting is absolutely necessary if you want to continue doing what you love the most (making games of course).
Yet, there are proper ways to self-promote your work, and it starts with being genuine about your work, stating the facts, and never trying too hard to promote your games and your overall brand. Self-promotion should feel natural and never forced. With these disciplines, you will then be ready to self-promote yourself properly, and it starts with doing good work. But first….
Your work must be solid
If you are going to self-promote yourself, make certain that you are actually promoting quality games. Think about it: if you are promoting games that have received generally poor reviews, what does that say about you as an indie developer? Harsh to be sure, yet it’s the reality of the situation.
Does that mean if you developed a poorly received game that you are going to have a difficult times as an indie developer? Absolutely not. Believe it or not, but a lot of successful devs have terrible games under their belt. They have amazing games to boot, but not everyone can have a library of awesomely reviewed games in their portfolio and nothing else. It’s guaranteed that some games are going to be well received than your other games, and that’s fine. Yet, when it comes to self-promotion? Ensure the vast majority of your work is solid.
Take pride in your work. Do everything in your power to create an awesome game. And if your game isn’t panning out? Realize there is true value from walking away from your game and canning the project. I’m getting on a completely different topics for another time though. Long story short? Do everything in your power to ensure your work is solid so you actually have a reason to self-promote yourself.
Promote yourself by sharing helpful advice
I’m going to do a bit of shameless self-promoting myself by stating that this is one of the main ideas behind Game Academy Radio. The show is designed to not only provide an insightful look into the lives of indie develops from all walks of life, but it also allows indie developers to share their ideas, their experiences, and their helpful tips. The show acts as a way for indie developers to self-promote their games and brand as a whole. Yet when you listen to each episode, it really doesn’t seem like it at all as each episode is centered around a couple of people discussing the topics of indie gaming, the state of the industry, the dev’s upcoming game (and past games), and so on. If you listen to an episode, you cannot deny that self-promotion is definitely going on, but there is so much substance to the promoting that it doesn’t feel forced or unnatural.
The keyword here is ‘forced.’ Self-promoting yourself can never feel forced, and as stated above, a great way to do this is to provide great advice for aspiring indie devs. Even if you are just starting out yourself, providing your two cents can make the difference in the careers of beginning and seasoned indie devs alike whether you would like to believe this or not.
How can you get your advice across to others? One of the best ways I have discovered is via shows like ours. Moreover, guest blogging and blogging on your own website is a great way to do this as well. Heck, even providing insightful tips on indie gaming subreddits on Reddit is a helpful way to self-promote yourself via tips and tricks. Generally, be a nice guy (or gal) and provide helpful advice whenever possible. It seems like a no-brainer, but this is truly one of the most powerful methods for self-promoting that you will ever find.
Ensure you get the credit you deserve
That sounds a bit snooty I know, but it’s vital to ensuring that your achievements are recognized so you can self-promote yourself later on. For example, if you had a certain title when working on a game at an indie studio, before the game launches, ensure that your name and proper title can be found in the credits. By doing so, when you self-promote yourself you have proof to back it all up. That’s the key to self-promoting yourself properly too: never self-promote yourself if you cannot back it up.
Dishonesty will come back to haunt you, and it could ruin your indie development career.
When self-promoting, promote your entire team
Unless you developed your game 100% alone, promote your entire team when self-promoting yourself. Whether you are promoting a game and only had three people working on it, do your part to give them credit as well by saying ‘we’ when self-promoting (e.g. “We had a blast developing this game and can’t wait for it to be released,” versus “I had a blast during the development of this game and cannot wait for its release.”) This accomplishes one important goal when you do this:
It makes you look humble.
It’s hard to give a humble person flack when they are trying to self-promote their work. By being humble, you are showing that you are not self-promoting your work just because it can benefit you, but because it benefits your team, your studio, your upcoming game (and your library of games), and so on. Thus, self-promotion becomes a beautiful thing and a necessary tool to use – one that will increase the chances of your success over time.