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20 Mar 2014

Tips For Writing Compelling Email Subject Lines

This week’s guest on Game Academy Radio is Rafael Wawer – an engineer-turned-indie developer that is developing Proven Lands (currently on Kickstarter). We had an awesome interview (so definitely check it out this week), but one of things that stood out to me was the discussion of the press replying back to the requests of indie developers. It’s no secret that members of the press get way too many emails per day – they can’t reply back to every one of them. I unfortunately admitted that I have failed to respond to my fair share of coverage requests from indie developers over the years (in addition to AAA developers as well), simply because (again) as a member of the press, you get way too many requests for coverage!

I felt bad about telling Wawer that I was part of the problem so many indie developers are facing. Too many publications still want to cover AAA games and not enough indie games. It’s true – most publications would rather cover Titanfall right now than an unknown indie developer making his/her first game. Yet, the press isn’t solely to blame – that goes to the indie developers as well.

So I didn’t finish my story. I mentioned I received an email from an indie developer about covering their indie game. Now, it takes a lot for me to open a request for coverage immediately, but their email subject grabbed my attention so much that I had to click on it and request an interview with them.

And as an indie developer, that is exactly what you have to do: make your email requests for coverage ridiculously clickable.

Should the press cover more indie games? Of course they should – but that’s another argument for another time. But instead of getting angry and pointing fingers at the press, give them a reason to click on your request for coverage by writing compelling email subject lines. Make the email clickable. Here are a few tips to ensure the press will not be able to resist opening your emails.


Think like ‘us’

In other words, start thinking like a journalist. Take a look at some of the biggest and most shared posts of the day on Facebook, Reddit, and so on and read the headlines of these posts. Most headlines summarize the main idea of a story in eight words or less, all the while enticing readers to ‘read further.’

That’s exactly what your email subject line must do! Instead of writing a boring subject line, think about the type of headline that would make you want to read more. You read quite a few posts on the Web, right? What headlines stand out to you the most? Which headlines force you to click on them and read more about the story?

Think about that to yourself. Think about what makes headlines clickable and apply them to your email subject.


Show the benefits

While it may seem selfish that most journalists will not reply to a request for coverage if there ‘isn’t anything in it for them,’ it makes sense because, let’s face it: journalism is a business like anything else. You want coverage, but unless you cannot let them know, ‘what’s in it for them,’ then they are much less likely to reply back to you. A great way to do this is to link it to a trend that is impacting the readers of the publication.

For example, survival games are all the rage these days (Rust, DayZ, etc.). If you are making a game that is about surviving in Antarctica, you may want your email subject to compare a few popular games in the genre. In as few words as possible, state in your email subject that readers that enjoy these types of games will be interested in yours as well.

In other words, ‘if your audience likes a + b, they will love our game c because of d, e, and f.’

And you have to do that in as few words as possible. Sound difficult? It is. Yet, if creating compelling email subjects were easy, everyone would be doing it.


Avoid the fluff

It can be easy to fall into the ‘fluff’ trap when following the first two tips in this list. Don’t use hyperbolic words such as ‘awesome,’ ‘best,’ ‘captivating,’ and so on. Be true. Don’t pad your subject with words that are empty and have no meaning. Be to the point, concise, and remember: use the least amount of words possible to write a compelling email subject.


Again, be true

And do not overpromise anything. Thinking about writing an email subject that says, ‘our new game is going to be a game changer?’ Don’t! Nobody is going to open that email because:

a). They have their doubts.

b). A game changer of what?

That phrase means absolutely nothing, and a journalist is going to see it for what it really is: a trick to entice you to open the email. While our industry is built around hype, gaming journalists are still sensitive to ‘hype.’ For a game to be hyped, there needs to be a reason for it to be hyped in the first place (awesome feature, revolutionary gameplay, etc.), and if you attempt to hype your game without any proof that it’s truly awesome, it’s going to blow up in your face. Again, be true to yourself and in turn, journalists – they appreciate that.

Do you have any tips for writing compelling email subject lines? Let us know in the comments below!

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