What Are The Current Freelance Writing Rates In The TTRPG Industry?

Several years ago in 2015 I gathered information on industry freelance rates. Recently, I put out another pair of surveys intended to update that information to current rates. I did not ask respondents to identify themselves or the companies they worked for, although I (optionally) asked them to categorize the type of publisher.

We had over a thousand respondents. Thank you to those who provided the data. Here are the results for freelance writing rates. Artists and other rates will be covered in a separate article.


Respondents

Screenshot 2023-08-25 at 1.22.05 PM.png


Definitions: Single (one staff member/owner), Small (has 1 or 2 full-time staff), Medium (has multiple full-time staff, well known brands), Large (has offices, lots of staff, departments, etc.), Industry Leader (we're talking WotC or Paizo size here). Size was self-reported by respondents.

Screenshot 2023-08-25 at 1.02.48 PM.png

Note that time in industry was only reported by about 50% of respondents.​


Overall
  • The mean rate for writers was 8.5 cents per word. The mode is 10 cents per word.
  • In 2015 the mean rate was about 3 cents per word. However, that was a much smaller data set, based on published word rates for a couple of dozen companies.
  • The highest (with a single occurrence) is 40 cents per word, and the lowest (excluding unpaid work) is under 1 cent per word.
Screenshot 2023-08-25 at 1.36.34 PM.png


Screenshot 2023-08-25 at 12.48.56 PM.png


Screenshot 2023-08-25 at 1.25.27 PM.png

Note that time in industry was only reported by about 50% of respondents.

Screenshot 2023-08-03 at 11.50.06 AM.png


Notes By Size

Industry Leader - we're talking WotC or Paizo size here
  • Mean rate 17 cents; mode 12 cents (21% of jobs)
  • 20% under 10 cents, 20% over 20 cents
  • All work for hire
  • 57% paid within one month, 29% within 6 months
  • 14% did not get contributor copy
Large - has offices, lots of staff, departments, etc.
  • Mean rate 9 cents; mode equal 6/10
  • 64% under 10 cents; none over 20 cents
  • 99% work for hire
  • Varied payments schedule -- fairly evenly spread
  • Less than 1% did not get contributor copy
  • 57% were full time, but only half of respondents answered that field
  • Average industry length was 12 years, but only half of respondents answered that field
Medium - has multiple full-time staff, well known brands
  • Mean rate 8 cents; mode 10 cents (22% of jobs)
  • 51% under 10 cents; 6% over 20 cents
  • 92% work for hire
  • 54% paid within 1 month; 24% immediate; 5% on publication
  • Average industry length 12 years but only 20% of respondents answered that field
Small - has 1 or 2 full-time staff
  • Mean rate 7 cents; mode 5 cents
  • 77% under 10 cents; under 2% over 20 cents
  • 80% work for hire
  • 58% paid within 1 month; 16% immediate; 6% on publication
  • Average industry length 9 years; 64% of respondents answered
Single - one staff member/owner
  • Mean rate 9 cents; mode 10 cents
  • 57% under 10 cents; 13% over 20 cents
  • Rights varied -- 24% licensed, 50% work for hire
  • 50% paid immediately, 30% within 1 month, 8% on publication
  • Average industry length 5 years; 54% of respondents answered
 
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Von Ether

Legend
This is very interesting. On our podcast, I had a rant about rates being depressed by eager amateurs (like myself!) undervaluing our work just to see our name in print. And urged even dilitante TTRPG writers (including me) to charge properly. Your comment about Community content makes we wonder if, we community content creators should declare our per word earnings from what we put up for sale. I have long railed against people putting stuff up for free or PWYW as it undervalues the work, but I would be interested to see what have earned per word at the prices I have set...

if any one wants to listen to my rant, it’s about 40 minutes into this episode: Effekt | The Devil of Slaughterville
Very relevant to your post.

 

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MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I couldn't imagine even just a few years ago someone running a Kickstarter and saying "At this stretch goal, you customers get nothing but all the people who worked on the game get a raise" and people applauding them for it when about a decade ago, several Kickstarters caught flack for disclosing budgets where the creators got paid at all because the mentality was all the Kickstarter funds should go into production and nothing else.
Wow, really?! I have been backing projects on Kickstarter since nearly its beginning and about the only time I read backer comments or pay attention to any social media about them is if they are becoming very late, and then the over-the-top vitriol keeps me away.

But backers being upset by a creator trying to make--GASP--a profit, seems beyond the normal, entitled, crazy hyperbole I've seen on Kickstarter and in TTRPG discussion boards. I mean, Kickstarter is not Go Fund Me.

I can get that people may decide that a USD 60 book is more than they want to spend. Fine. Supply and demand, etc. But I don't get why people work themselves into a tizzy over it.

Its hard to make it big in art, entertainment, and sports. But in the TTRPG industry most people are not going to be able to meet basic requirements, much less minimum wage, much less a living wage. Those who are making a living at it, tend to do more than just write material. They have to brand themselves and become personalities, mixing YouTube content, Patreons, podcasts, etc. If all you want to do is publish, you'll likely perish.
 

Von Ether

Legend
I couldn't imagine even just a few years ago someone running a Kickstarter and saying "At this stretch goal, you customers get nothing but all the people who worked on the game get a raise" and people applauding them for it when about a decade ago, several Kickstarters caught flack for disclosing budgets where the creators got paid at all because the mentality was all the Kickstarter funds should go into production and nothing else.
I remember something like this. Creators mentioned how a project was paying for groceries or rent and some supporters flipped.
 

Abstruse

Legend
I remember something like this. Creators mentioned how a project was paying for groceries or rent and some supporters flipped.
Yeah, little stuff like that and then a bigger dust-up when an author Kickstarting a self-published book broke down the budget and included rent, bills, and groceries and people got angry because they expected a full novel final draft proofread and edited with professional cover printed in six months while the author still worked a full-time job.
 

All I know is that I want it now and I want it cheap, or I'm not interested. There's so much free stuff out there that paying for RPG material isn't really necessary.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
I'm retired for health reasons. I did some hobby level writing and my experiences very much match what is aid here. Since I have a pension I was never dependent on this pay, so I could put may more hours into these projects than the pay merited. I realize this makes it harder for those who do try to making a living this way. Its a harsh world.

I got 1, 2, 3, and 4 cents a word from different publishers. The reviews didn't really change what I was paid, but the length of time I had been with a publisher did earn me more pay. What I found to be most rewarding to do was to be an editor/developer. A book by other authors from my publisher got 1-star reviews, so I got the job to rewrite it, developing the concept, making it rules compliant (this was PH1), and improving the language. I got the 1-star review into a 4-star IIR. This was great fun to do! I also wrote some things to order, such as a book about ducks as a PC race. What i found least rewarding, but still good fun, was publishing my own campaign rules, mainly archetypes, again to Pathfinder 1.

I did write for Trailseeker, but my attempts to get in touch with En5ider have failed. My experience with Trailseeker was that because of the short length, what I wrote for Trailseeker often ended up as a sketch for something I would later develop more fully for other publishers, maybe a year later-
 

Von Ether

Legend
All I know is that I want it now and I want it cheap, or I'm not interested. There's so much free stuff out there that paying for RPG material isn't really necessary.
I have a friend who applies to almost all of his entertainment. He reads free, translated Korean novels, free video games, etc. He started to imply I was fool for paying anything.

Then he paid full price for Baulder's Gate 3 and its the only thing he talks about now. And only two weeks prior he was grouse when we tried to get him to buy a $5 video game a night's entertainment online with us. His logic was "It got lots of great reviews!" Lots of $60 games have gotten great reviews. This one just hit his sweet spot.

Nothing is a guarantee; sometimes you get a bargain for free but most of the time you get the quality you for.
 
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Nothing is a guarantee; sometimes you get a bargain for free but most of the time you quality when you pay for it.
Obviously. I travel first-class in my other hobbies. But there is such a vast sea of quality material out there, that paying for RPG material is often unnecessary, and paying a lot is indefensible..
 

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