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Rebuttal from a PDF publisher

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Post originally by The Le Games at 2005-07-07 08:36:37
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Sorry, but that is total crap.

In the PDF industry, I would go broke if I paid .05 per word. It is simply not financially feasable.

If you think I am wrong, then try to start up a pdf business yourself, and give me your numbers to prove me wrong.

Let's throw out some numbers to prove my point.

My upcoming book, 17 Magic Gloves clocks in at 4,263 words. At even $.02 per word we are looking at $85.00 in writer costs alone.

Assume art clocks in at a cheap $50.00. We are therefore looking at $135.00 to produce a 15-page book, which will sell as a PDF on rpgnow for $2.00

I will probably sell 50-100 copies of this book. For the sake of arguement, assume I sell 100 (whihc will take about ayear).

100 x $2.00 = $200.00 in gross sales.

Sounds good, right?

Wrong. If you're selling on Rpgnow.com, which you NEED to since they are the biggest d20 pdf retailer, you are looking at a 30% royalty off the top, which covers their bandwidth, transaction, and all that (which is well worth it).

$60.00 royalty to Rpgnow.com
$85.00 writers fee
$50.00 art + misc
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195.00 total

Leaving me with a nice $5.00 profit.

Want to prove me wrong? Start selling a pdf. I will even refer you to one of my freelance writers to make you a 15-page / $2.00 pdf book for you, charging you the rock bottom rate of .02 per word. In 6 months you can tell he how much profit you have made.

I am not talking about the print industry here, where you sell 100 books at $20.00 a pop. I am talking about the PDF industry, where you can charge about $2.00 for a 15 page book. And don't forget the price of artists, which are far far higher than what I just quoted. And don't forget the costs for a layout designer and editor. Oops, and the cost of the software if plan on doing any of this yourself.

I do believe that writers should be paid, but don't be so ignorant to think that small PDF publishers can afford to pay you $.05 per word, because they can't. Sure, there are Green Ronin's and EN Publishing's out there, but I said *small* PDF publishers. You can get $.02-$.05 per word at the big boys, but last time I checked there weren't a whole hell of alot of freelance openings there.

Take what you can get. Keep your integrity. If the price is too low, then don't take the job. Write because you enjoy it. And don't write for free.

But don't be so ignorant to think that you are the next Monty Cook and should be paid $.05 per word, especially not in the PDF industry.

Some jackass once said to me, "If you can't afford to pay writers at least $.02 per word and artists $20.00 per 1/4 page art, then you should not be in this business." I called him a beef witted apple jon and told him to bite me.

My products get good reviews, and I try to treat my aritists and writers with respect. I am upfront about my pay rates, and try to give my freelancers as much exposure as possible. I am making a tidy profit, but nothing to write home about. Every person I have talked to that says "minimum of $.02 per word and $20.00 per 1/4 page art" has been people who has never even tried to publish a PDF book in this industry. So I despise ignorance from people who preach about how pdf publishers should pay, but have never tried to be a pdf publisher.

As The Le Games has become more successful, I have increased my pay rate to freelancers, but make no mistake about it -- I am a small PDF publisher that will NEVER Pay $.05 per word. If you want that amount, go ahead and work for WOTC. I am sure they are more than willing to give you a job right off the bat at those rates. And later I will tell you about the flying reindeer that comes every December.

Go ahead and try to prove me wrong -- start a pdf business and start paying freelances. If your numbers can prove me wrong, I will happy to admit it, and I'll even come work for you at the rates that the author of the above article says you should pay me.

~Le
 
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Post originally by Aranwyth at 2005-07-07 09:39:39
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So how much do you make compatred to the writer?
 
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Post originally by Aranwyth at 2005-07-07 09:42:39
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Forget I reread the article and got the answer.
 
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Post originally by Ash at 2005-07-07 11:55:30
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Whether it's possible to make a profit or not may not be the issue. I personally would be more worried about the ethical treatment of artists and writers. If you can't afford to pay well, why not write the book yourself? If you can't write, learn. If you can't learn and can't afford to pay someone else, do what everyone else does when they can't afford something: go without. And if the writers aren't happy with the payment, let me say this: RPGNow don't charge that much for an account. If you're dead set on PDF RPG publishing, write for yourself, have your own account, find a few artists and DIY it. Honestly, it's not that hard. I can't say I've made tons of money out of it, but I've made more than 1 cent per word that's for certain.

Personally, I wouldn't consider working for less than 2 cents a word, and then only if the subject was one I was really interested in. 5 cents is a fair rate to pay an author, but I would consider going as low as 3 depending on the volume and circumstances. I doubt that 1 cent per word would even work out at minimum wage when you consider the work that goes into a properly written book.

It's all very well the publisher saying 'but there's not enough money in it', you knew that when you started producing RPG PDF's in the first place surely, this is not an industry that nets huge profits unless you're an industry leader like WotC or WW, but really some of the writer's fees I've seen offered recently are nothing less than exploitation. It's about time writers got paid what their effort is worth, not what the industry thinks it can afford and still make a profit.

Ash
 
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Who pays 5 cents a word?

Post originally by Jeb at 2005-07-07 11:58:17
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Really, show me who is paying, and who is able to pay a rate of 5 cents a word.

The realities of the gaming industry are such that a rate of 5 cents a word is difficult to sustain. Also, it is nice how Mr. Brown is more than comfortable having the publisher assume all the risk.

I am happy with the pdf royalties that I earn. They don't cover what I spend on lattes each month, but they will allow me to write off my trip to GenCon SoCal.

Jeb
 
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RE: Who pays 5 cents a word?

Post originally by Ash at 2005-07-07 12:24:48
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Hmm, things might have changed in the meantime, but last time I talked to them, the people who did the support stuff for Traveller (can't remember their name damnit) used to pay 3p a word, which is about 5 cents a word. Mind you it's been a year since then, so things may have changed.

Ash
 
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Post originally by Lloyd Brown at 2005-07-07 13:24:26
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Thanks for the reply. Let me touch on a couple of points.

<<In the PDF industry, I would go broke if I paid .05 per word. It is simply not financially feasable.>>

The marketability of your product and the feasibility of your business model were not the topic of this article.

<<If you think I am wrong, then try to start up a pdf business yourself, and give me your numbers to prove me wrong.>>

I largely ignored your numbers because I've already looked at pdf figures extensively. I agree with you that it's bad math to pay somebody .05/word for pdf material. Again, your problem is not what I'm discussing in this article.

<<But don't be so ignorant to think that you are the next Monty Cook and should be paid $.05 per word, especially not in the PDF industry. >>

Actually, I'm pretty well-informed, and I'll take the .10/word I've gotten so far (and counting) from my current publisher. Like I've said: name recognition is hard to come by in this industry, even for somebody who has written for Dragon, Shadis, KoDT, Pyramid, Polyhedron, the RPGA, and on two books nominated for Origins Awards. But the money is still there if you know how to find it. That's the point of this article.

<<If you want that amount, go ahead and work for WOTC. I am sure they are more than willing to give you a job right off the bat at those rates. And later I will tell you about the flying reindeer that comes every December. >>

How can you work in this industry and not be familiar with Dragon and Dungeon Magazine? And by "job", I assume you mean contract for freelance work. They pay their staffers a salary, not a word rate (if they did, Matt Forbeck would have broken them when he was there!).

<<If the price is too low, then don't take the job.>>

That would be exactly my point.
 
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RE: Who pays 5 cents a word?

Post originally by Lloyd Brown at 2005-07-07 13:26:56
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I'm working on a resource that includes all publisher rates. I'll share it when it's done. That nickel a word is rare, but not impossible. Unfortunately, it's finite, and it's fairly easy to tap out the market if you're productive.

At that point, you start writing for less.
 
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Post originally by Achijusan at 2005-07-07 14:26:09
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Thank goodness not ALL writers are quite as elitist and money hungry as you seem to be.

I enjoy PDF gaming products; particularly from smaller publishers; and am able to buy many more products for the 2-4 dollars for a pdf game or supplement than I possibly could for the 20-40 bucks it would cost for printed material (and to line your pockets...)
 
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Post originally by Strange Visitor at 2005-07-07 14:56:06
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While I think Lloyd is presenting an unrealistic suggestion to the mass of RPG writers (simply because most of them aren't going to get what he's suggesting, period, because the market won't support it) .05 a word is hardly "money hungry". There's people in service jobs who can do better than that while not having to cover their own medical expenses.
 
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