About half of my day job consists of keeping tabs on new iOS and Mac apps, including writing features or full reviews of ones that catch my eye. Now, there are hundreds of thousands apps in the App Store and I know that it’s hard for you developers to capture the attention of the blogosphere to get a bit of love for the most recent by-product of your sweat, blood and tears. To help you out (and to vent a little frustration about what happens far too often, frankly), I’m posting this guide on what to do and what not to do to when submitting your app for consideration for review on a major site.
Know the site you’re targeting
Look for the review submission guidelines – all of the major app review sites have them. And for the love of all that is holy, follow those guidelines. They’re there for a reason. (Here are the ones I’ve posted at AppShopper.)
Failing to follow them usually makes it more difficult to get a grasp of what your app offers and when there are other developers who have followed the guidelines and given me everything I need right from the start, I’ll just file your email and look at their submissions instead.
Be informative and concise
I don’t need a 5-paragraph description of what your app does. Tell me in 2 or 3 sentences at most right at the start of your email. This is your “elevator pitch” for your app. Craft and refine it so it tells me why your app is special and unique, without using the words “special” and “unique.”
Prepare a media kit and make it easy to access
If I like your elevator pitch, I’ll keep reading your email and I’ll want to see screen shots and a link to a YouTube demo next. Attach a couple of screenshots (really, I don’t need 20 screenshots showing every last thing in your app) to your email and post more on your site if you really want to show more.
Note that a demo video can be very handy. Also, it’s a great bit of media I love to include in my posts if I do feature your app. Use a utility like Sound Stage for the Mac to record one.
A link to a blog post (or a press release) is also useful. Don’t feel the need to draft a formal press release if you don’t have experience writing them – a blog post will do just fine. Be sure to include important points like the release date and price. A bit of background on who you are on your own site’s About page is also nice – if there’s something unique there, I’ll include it to enhance my article. Describing the people behind good apps is something I like to do if possible.
Don’t leave me hanging
This really falls under the “Be informative and concise” section above but it happens often enough that I want to address it separately. If your email to me looks like this, there is no way in hell I’m going to review it:
Please review my app – I worked on it very hard and it is really good. You can find it in the App Store here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blahblahblah
(And, yes, I see a lot of emails that essentially look like this. And I have to wonder, dear developer, what were you thinking?)
Don’t pester me
This applies more to PR/marketing firms but I have seen some developers who do this as well. It’s safe to say that the major app sites get hundreds of review requests each week and there’s absolutely no way to respond to all of them. Emailing me every week to ask me if I’ve looked at your app yet only irritates me and makes me less likely to review your app. Your original email didn’t get lost and I do look at every email that arrives.
I usually reply to those who I end up featuring so they know about the post and I’ll sometimes ask for more information on apps that look interesting. But 99% of the emails received go unanswered because it would be physically be impossible to respond to all of them and get my other work done as well.
However, don’t take no response as a bad sign. Sometimes I’ve downloaded your app to try out and it sits on my iPhone for a while and I finally get to try it out a few weeks later, or I start using it regularly and put it on my list of apps to review once I’m satisfied I’ve spent enough time with it.
PR/marketing firm hired? Doesn’t matter.
If you’re a larger app development firm, you may be wondering if hiring a PR firm is worth your while. Frankly, from my point of view, it doesn’t matter. As long as I get the information requested in our app submission guidelines, I don’t care who it comes from.
What I have seen is that a PR firm will more than likely make sure you’ve prepared a media kit and have all of the resources in place to make reviewing your app easier. If this is an area you feel you need help with, go ahead and hire one.
Promo codes are not necessary (and don’t make me more inclined to review your app)
The app review sites I’m familiar with have dedicated iTunes accounts and funds to purchase paid apps that look interesting enough to check out and possibly review. So, the lure of getting an app for free isn’t really all that enticing after all and doesn’t influence the decision to review your app. You’re welcome to provide a promo code but know that one isn’t necessary (and it may go unused even).
As a side note, I’d recommend you save those promo codes for a contest or promotion on your site, Facebook, or Twitter.
Things that make me ignore submissions immediately:
– Sending a blanket email to several sites at once (and not bothering to BCC all of the emails included).
This is like yelling “Who wants to take me out to dinner tonight?” to a roomful of strangers. No one feels flattered you asked and no one with any dignity or a modicum of self-worth is going to respond.
– Submitting an app you already know I won’t review
TouchArcade, a most excellent site dedicated to iOS games, is a sister site to AppShopper. In favor of their expertise and to avoid overlap between our sites, I don’t review games. (To be truthful, I have mentioned some games here and there but only because it was huge news or I really, really liked the game but this has been more the exception than the rule, by far.) This is clearly stated in the app submission guidelines. If you ignore this, you’re either an exceptional optimist or you have trouble understanding directions. Either way, there’s little chance that I’ll even finish reading your submission once it’s clear your app is a game. Please save yourself (and me) some time and don’t bother submitting it.
– Contacting me through my personal site/email/Twitter
AppShopper and every other major app site has an email address dedicated for app submissions for a reason. Actually, several reasons. First, that email address may forward submissions to several reviewers at once, so if you target just one, you’re possibly missing getting the information about your app in front of all the people who should see it.
Second, my personal site/email/Twitter is just that – personal. I don’t like to mix work and personal stuff and most professionals I know don’t either. You may think you’re being clever or even “cutting” into a virtual line ahead of others to get my attention but you’re just annoying me in the end. And that makes me ignore your review request.
And last but not least, you have a stupid app
I’m sorry, but your fart/dating advice/boob viewing app is never, ever going to get a second glance from me. Why? Because it’s stupid. It serves no purpose other than to provide less than 30 seconds of amusement and annoy or titillate its users or those unfortunate enough to be in close proximity to those users.
Frankly, I’m not quite sure why you even bothered creating such an app. Perhaps it was the lure of quick money or the result of a bet lost among friends. Whatever the case, I don’t care. I don’t do stupid apps.
When I select an app to feature or review, it’s because it does something incredibly useful or unique and usually looks really, really good while doing it. It’s innovative, well-designed and a joy to use.
That’s it. Still not sure how to get the attention of app reviewers? Read the submission guidelines of the sites you’re targeting and this post again. Then make sure you have a useful/cool/unique app to begin with and email away.