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How do people find and pay writers for RPGs?

Cognis

Explorer
I know this might belong in a more industry oriented forum, but I'm losing my mind trying to navigate that flipside of the online job market. So I thought I'd take my chances here. If I transgress, my sincere apologies...

After a long hiatus due to personal tragedy, I am once again working on my project to release novels and games set in a fictional universe I have been working on for quite some time. With all the Corona troubles and people losing their jobs and other incomes and whatnot, I thought I'd see if I could do some good with the project. So I am considering hiring people to do some writing. I intend to direct all income from the project to this in the future, too. I doubt it would make me rich, anyway, and I'm not financially vulnerable any longer.

BUT... finding writers is a freaking NIGHTMARE, Job sites seem to actively throw obstacles in the way, and the amount of false advertising out there is just backbreaking. I hope to be able to get a small group of writers, at first, then expand as the project becomes manageable for me. So I basically have two questions:

1: What kind of hiring would an RPG writer prefer, royalty or fixed rate? I thought fixed rate was more fair, since RPG sales are not usually selling like hotcakes, especially new ones. But some argued that it was unfair to not give the writer a share of earnings and told me to do royalties instead, so I am no longer sure which is better, or if there's a third option?

2: What are the rates, assuming the writers are novice to low experience, and assuming they know precisely what is to be written (though unsolicited work may also be a possibility)? Most seem to advertise hourly rates, but that says nothing about the results. I can write 2000 words/hour on a good day, but many (especially those also advertising poetry) go as low as 150 words per day(!), so it's a jungle!

Anyone with experience, please let me know if there are some kind of answers to this. Anyone who has offered this kind of work, what did you charge?

Note: I'm not currently seeking artists, not until I can get through this particular hiring challenge...
 

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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
A lot of it is word of mouth and who you know. Post calls on forums like this, on social media, etc.

As for rates, royalties, that stuff, I wrote an article about that a while back. Hope it's helpful!

 



Cognis

Explorer
A lot of it is word of mouth and who you know. Post calls on forums like this, on social media, etc.
I feared that. I guess I have to actually be social. Dangit...
As for rates, royalties, that stuff, I wrote an article about that a while back. Hope it's helpful!

VERY helpful!!! This was what I needed from the start! I still get confused about people stating they can't write more than 2000 words in a day, though. I do 1000 per hour, but I may be insane...
RPG.net has a sub-forum dedicated to freelancing that I've used before: Game Freelancing
Aaaand I needed that, too. Yoinks! (and thanks!)
Interesting thread. Freelancing is a tough way to make an easy living apparently. I've only ever written for fantasy sports sites and that was never a paying gig.
I doubt it ever was. I remember when I briefly did some, it really wasn't my thing. I'd like to think I can do better from the other side of the table, if I can get this project up and running for real...
And yes, interesting topic. It bothers me that there is apparently so little guidance on the matter, whether you hire or want to get hired.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I feared that. I guess I have to actually be social. Dangit...

VERY helpful!!! This was what I needed from the start! I still get confused about people stating they can't write more than 2000 words in a day, though. I do 1000 per hour, but I may be insane...
Well they have to be 2000 good words! I spend a lot of time editing people who write 'fast'. :)

But if you can consistently whack out 8000 words of quality copy a day, every day, you've got a talent!
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
I've always wanted to do game writing but I've always had the same sort of block. I was never sure how to get into it, and I never had or perhaps made the time to do the necessary leg work. I've written some games, but it's always been a case of 'with' and not 'for' and because it was working with the IP of others it was never going to be a paying opportunity.

8000 words a day is mental. Stephen King, a most prolific man himself, aims for 2-3000 words a day. With a 5 day work week @2000/day that's still half a million words a year.
 

aco175

Legend
You might find people on DMsGuild. You should be able to see sample writing and know that these people at least follow through in making finished products.
 

Cognis

Explorer
Well they have to be 2000 good words! I spend a lot of time editing people who write 'fast'. :)

But if you can consistently whack out 8000 words of quality copy a day, every day, you've got a talent!
I was of course refering to near-final stuff, yes :) Doing it non-stop for days on end won't be likely, but before all the Corona stuff I was regularly hitting 3-5000 words per day on the novel I'm on, and I can still do a casual 5K on the RPG stuff if I'm not losing my mind over life stuff. Which, sadly, I have been lately. I know people who write better and faster, too.
I've always wanted to do game writing but I've always had the same sort of block. I was never sure how to get into it, and I never had or perhaps made the time to do the necessary leg work. I've written some games, but it's always been a case of 'with' and not 'for' and because it was working with the IP of others it was never going to be a paying opportunity.
My intention is to make it "I'll show you how to do it" kinda thing. Still need to dot the i's and cross the t's on the process, but I know many who feel like you, and have even coached some to write creatively (not RPGs, though). Don't give up, I believe in you!
8000 words a day is mental. Stephen King, a most prolific man himself, aims for 2-3000 words a day. With a 5 day work week @2000/day that's still half a million words a year.
I know, I love seeing him talk about writing! I think the whole "every day, every week" part is one of the (my) big hurdles, but I'm working on it...
You might find people on DMsGuild. You should be able to see sample writing and know that these people at least follow through in making finished products.
Looking now, but it seems to be entirely D&D oritented?
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
It's not the creative part of the writing I struggle with so much. I'm a pretty good writer (and excellent inside some niche skills), and I have great research skills and reasonable game design chops. What I struggle with is both finding the opportunity (i.e. project) and making the organized time to write as much as I need to. I have four kids and I teach for a living, so my dance card is pretty full. Finding the discipline to make time every day has proved a struggle. I guess we both struggle with the every day every week part of things. Adulting isn't for the faint of heart.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I know, I love seeing him talk about writing! I think the whole "every day, every week" part is one of the (my) big hurdles, but I'm working on it...

Well that's kinda the point though. Sure, we can all hammer out 2000 words in an hour. Give me an hour, and the right mood, and some inspiration, I'll give you a couple of thousand words. No problem. But we're talking about ongoing consistent quality and quantity. Can you be inspired like that every hour? Does that translate into 16,000 words a day?

That's what people like Stephen King mean when they say 2-3000 words a day. I'm sure he could give you 2,000 words in an hour if you sat him down and he was in the right mood. Doesn't mean he can give you 16,000 words in a day though. And even if on an occasional obsessive binge he does manage to hammer out 16K words in a day, can he do that every day? :)
 

Cognis

Explorer
Adulting isn't for the faint of heart.
So true..... so true.... But if you ever decide to give it a shot, let me know, I'd love to see the results. Or challenge you :)
Well that's kinda the point though. Sure, we can all hammer out 2000 words in an hour. Give me an hour, and the right mood, and some inspiration, I'll give you a couple of thousand words. No problem. But we're talking about ongoing consistent quality and quantity. Can you be inspired like that every hour? Does that translate into 16,000 words a day?

That's what people like Stephen King mean when they say 2-3000 words a day. I'm sure he could give you 2,000 words in an hour if you sat him down and he was in the right mood. Doesn't mean he can give you 16,000 words in a day though. And even if on an occasional obsessive binge he does manage to hammer out 16K words in a day, can he do that every day? :)
True, but needing two days for 500 words seems extreme. As stated, 5K when I have the day for it and can get some peace of mind (like King describes for his 'process', actually) is perhaps my standard. If life wasn't such a nightmare these days, I could perhaps do it on a 5 days per week basis (who am I kidding, I have no social life, make that 6-7 days a week). If we're talking max speeds, I did clock 17K once, on an RPG. But I doubt that will ever happen again, and reading it now, there was perhaps a 10-12K value in the results...

My point is, 500 words per day seems a bit too small, if someone is actually doing it 'as a job'. Which they might not, but if they're not doing it as a job, it seems a bit much to expect it to pay their bills. But I don't know the work culture in the creative sector, I used to be a teacher and <edit>that's a discussion I quickly deleted again</edit> :D
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
The word goal comes easy some days and hard others. It's getting it done when it's hard that separates the whet from the chaff I expect. So far I'm not that guy. :p

I do have an RPG project that I just started. I'm going to use Either PbtA or Forged in the Dark as the engine of a different kind of urban fantasy RPG. It's much an exercise to flesh out the city as it is to build a game, but I thought why not do both. I've had this particular fantasy city setting marinating in my head for more than 20 years, it seemed like time to do something about it.

Just to see how it goes, I think I'll try to keep to that 2000 words mark, split between my RPG project and building a Star Wars conversion for Scum and Villainy.
 

Cognis

Explorer
I thought we were talking about 2000 words?
I can manage 2K per hour on my good days, I used that statement to contrast that 500 words per day, as listed for some freelancers offering their services, seemed like very little. Sorry if that all came across muddled, I am still nurturing a mild concussion...
 

Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
I still get confused about people stating they can't write more than 2000 words in a day, though. I do 1000 per hour, but I may be insane...
I freelanced part-time for about 10 years, though not in the RPG industry. I typically submitted 1000-1500 words per day, and managed to make a decent living doing it. So I can certainly believe that good RPG writers would limit themselves to 2000 words per day. It isn't only the writing, recall, but also the research, re/organizing, style/format checking, and self-proofing before submission. TBH, I think good freelance writers prefer to produce fewer pages of better prose because (1) they don't want an editor to kick it back for rewrite; and (2) they hope to be considered for future contracts!
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I can manage 2K per hour on my good days, I used that statement to contrast that 500 words per day, as listed for some freelancers offering their services, seemed like very little. Sorry if that all came across muddled, I am still nurturing a mild concussion...
Honestly - and this is no comment on your writing, as I've never seen it - as a publisher, I'm not sure I'd want work hammered out at 2000 words per hour. I would suspect that the editing overhead would be immense. But you may well be the exception! :)
 

Cognis

Explorer
I freelanced part-time for about 10 years, though not in the RPG industry. I typically submitted 1000-1500 words per day, and managed to make a decent living doing it. So I can certainly believe that good RPG writers would limit themselves to 2000 words per day. It isn't only the writing, recall, but also the research, re/organizing, style/format checking, and self-proofing before submission. TBH, I think good freelance writers prefer to produce fewer pages of better prose because (1) they don't want an editor to kick it back for rewrite; and (2) they hope to be considered for future contracts!
Honestly - and this is no comment on your writing, as I've never seen it - as a publisher, I'm not sure I'd want work hammered out at 2000 words per hour. I would suspect that the editing overhead would be immense. But you may well be the exception! :)
Granted, with research or significant reference, 2000words/day is a good reach. The ones I browsed were not offering that, but just basic creative writing, and I still think that 2000/day is a bit low if all you need to do is write from your own imagination (even if it needs to fit a client request). But I may be the odd one in that regard. 500 words/day, however, seems low for someone expecting to do it for a living. But again, I know very little about the greater industry, I only ever wrote short stories on the side for fun and what people felt like paying. At 1000-1500 words/hour, I never got complaints, but again, I wasn't writing for hardened editors, just people wanting a short story now and then for their own amusement. Maybe I sold myself cheap, but I don't feel bad about it, to be honest :)
I clearly need to study the industry a bit harder before offering any paid jobs. If anyone has good places to start that study, I'm still all ears. What I got here in a few days has been VERY useful, but also shown me that I need to have a more complicated strategy for this project hiring than I first expected. Nothing is easy, dangit!

EDIT: Found some of my old free, just-for-fun work, people are free to take a look and judge my writing harshly :)
 
Last edited:

MSJack

First Post
I know this might belong in a more industry oriented forum, but I'm losing my mind trying to navigate that flipside of the online job market. So I thought I'd take my chances here. If I transgress, my sincere apologies...

After a long hiatus due to personal tragedy, I am once again working on my project to release novels and games set in a fictional universe I have been working on for quite some time. With all the Corona troubles and people losing their jobs and other incomes and whatnot, I thought I'd see if I could do some good with the project. So I am considering hiring people to do some writing. I intend to direct all income from the project to this in the future, too. I doubt it would make me rich, anyway, and I'm not financially vulnerable any longer.

BUT... finding writers is a freaking NIGHTMARE, Job sites seem to actively throw obstacles in the way, and the amount of false advertising out there is just backbreaking. I hope to be able to get a small group of writers, at first, then expand as the project becomes manageable for me. So I basically have two questions:

1: What kind of hiring would an RPG writer prefer, royalty or fixed rate? I thought fixed rate was more fair, since RPG sales are not usually selling like hotcakes, especially new ones. But some argued that it was unfair to not give the writer a share of earnings and told me to do royalties instead, so I am no longer sure which is better, or if there's a third option?

2: What are the rates, assuming the writers are novice to low experience, and assuming they know precisely what is to be written (though unsolicited work may also be a possibility)? Most seem to advertise hourly rates, but that says nothing about the results. I can write 2000 words/hour on a good day, but many (especially those also advertising poetry) go as low as 150 words per day(!), so it's a jungle!

Anyone with experience, please let me know if there are some kind of answers to this. Anyone who has offered this kind of work, what did you charge?

Note: I'm not currently seeking artists, not until I can get through this particular hiring challenge...
Hey, I know it's a long shot, seeing as this was posted over a year ago, but c'est la vie. I was wondering if you are still looking for RPG writers or writers in general? Sounds like an interesting project and I'd love to know more and hopefully talk about working on it with you? Cheers.
 

I've always wanted to do game writing but I've always had the same sort of block. I was never sure how to get into it, and I never had or perhaps made the time to do the necessary leg work. I've written some games, but it's always been a case of 'with' and not 'for' and because it was working with the IP of others it was never going to be a paying opportunity.

8000 words a day is mental. Stephen King, a most prolific man himself, aims for 2-3000 words a day. With a 5 day work week @2000/day that's still half a million words a year.
I've read that Frank Herbert would write 5000 to 10000 a day, but often not keep most of it.

And I'll also say: A good, game-skilled, editor is a definite benefit. (My article for SJG owes much to my editor!)
 

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