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Rebuttal from a PDF publisher

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Post originally by Lloyd Brown at 2005-07-07 15:07:50
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<< 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...)>>

I'm money hungry because I demand a certain minimum wage for my work? Do you work for 15 cents/hour in the United States because that's all they can afford to pay in third-world countries? I doubt it. You expect a certain wage based on the skills that you have and the market for those skills.

Honestly, tell me how far out of your way you would go to take an 80% pay cut.

That I recognize a market for my skills does not make me elitist.

Folks, compare the gaming industry to the real world: top of the market in gaming: about .09/word, largely unadvertised. Cosmo and Reader's Digest are a dollar a word! Some trade magazines pay up to $1.35 per word--maybe more; that's just the highest I know of.

No, no elitism here.
 
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RE: Who pays 5 cents a word?

Post originally by Ash at 2005-07-07 15:49:27
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I'd love to see this resource when it's finished. Mind you, my ideas are usually too outlandish for mainstream publishers. The curse of being original I guess.

Ash
 
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Post originally by Ash at 2005-07-07 15:53:26
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I would also like to point out that, while RPGNow charge a 30% royalty for PLATINUM distributers, it is possible to have a quite serviceable account at SILVER or GOLD levels for a smaller royalty, 15% and 25% I think it was, although I can't remember off the top of my head. Must check some time. Sure the Platinum bonuses are all very nice and useful, but they are an option not a necessity.

Ash
 
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Post originally by Ace at 2005-07-07 15:55:28
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As someone planning to try and sell a few PDF's I can see both POV's here.

Lloyd is correct in stating there are NO intangible benefits in terms of name reognition -- heck I have published stuff from Pyramid, D20 Weekly and the old Autoduel Vehicle Guide -- I don't even get "props" at the FLGS

heck my respect and about $5 US will get me some Starbucks

OTOH there is no way I could afford to pay writers a decent amount for their effort, sales are just too low -- I expect generously to sell 100 units, it is a little optomistic but hey -- The Le did the math already and I agree with him on the results

-- SJ Games (a pretty major player) can manage between "1.5 to 3.5 cents a word to e23 authors" -- from the web page -- they pay decently for the game business

As a writer given the time cost I am not going to write 5000 words for $50 US -- it isnt that much fun
Given the industry limits IMO the best approach is too either do it yourself or do it free

If you DYI a PDF of 5000 words and sell 100 at $5 you will make maybe $200-$300 -- even with the time input for editing at least you will get 2 to 3 cents US a word, roughly what SJ offers

. Also if sales are unusually good --say 300 or more or if you get a print offer your money will go up --

Working cheap OTOH degrades the value of everyones labor and won't benefit you in the long run either
 
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RE: Who pays 5 cents a word?

Post originally by Darrin at 2005-07-07 16:06:43
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Dragon and Pyramid pretty much sets the bar as far as pay rates. Dragon pays about .05/word for print articles, and Pyramid pays .03/word for online articles... or since you can be paid with a credit voucher for double that, .06/word if all you want is SJGames product.

I have no idea what SJGames' rates are for e23/pdf products... I imagine that's up in the air at the moment, since a lot of e23 products are most likely back-burner or out-of-print books where the author may have been paid already.

Writing for sourcebooks rather than magazines is a little different... most freelance work is done "work for hire", where the game company buys the text and all the rights to the work, and they'll either offer a flat rate or a "per word" rate depending on the project. The last work-for-hire I did with Atlas Games, I think I was paid .02/word... but I was happy to do it because 1) the scenario was already written and 2) it was my first actual print product.

In the print world, Sci-Fi/Fantasy fiction magazines have to offer .03 to .05 per word before they're considered "professional". SciFi.com offers a whopping .10/word, which is generally considered the highest among the SciFi mags, but everything they publish is online and they don't publish quite so much material as Analog or Asimov.

PDF publishing is so new, I don't think "standard" prices have been established yet. Compared to what I've been paid for online articles or print sourcebooks... .01/word wouldn't suprise me, and I'd probably consider it reasonable given the current PDF market.
 
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Post originally by ... at 2005-07-07 18:53:59
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>>Sure the Platinum bonuses are all very nice and useful,
>>but they are an option not a necessity.

It is "Gold" not "Platinum", and yes it is 25% for non Gold, and an additional +5% for gold.

I can say without hesitation that the GOLD membership increases sales significantly. If you want a successful pdf business, then the Gold option is definitely a necessity.
 
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The real message

Post originally by Rob Knop at 2005-07-07 19:06:06
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Don't try to write RPG games for a living.

Yeah, a few people do it already. But they are so few that any given person reading this article is unlikely to be the next one-- and if he is, he may have an inkling of it already.

When you're not writing it for a living, but you're writing it for a hobby, then the economics are completely different. You can write it and not get paid at all; lots of people have all sorts of web page material up that they've put up for free. If you get paid a little, it's a bonus.

I'll give you another example. I've done a lot of community theater. Now, you could just as easily say, don't act for free. You can make yadda yadda even as an extra, etc. etc. Well, if you say don't act for free, and people follow that suggestion, then community theater dies. This is bad not only for the audiences who enjoy it, but for, yes, the actors who enjoy doing the shows, and are happy to do it for the fun and thrill of acting in front of the public.

If the PDF market is generally supported by people who write RPG products on the side, who do it to make a little extra beer money or to help defray the cost of going to a con, great! That's fine. That doesn't even have to undermine the people who manage to scrape out a living writing RPGs professionally for the publishers who can pay $0.05 a word.

There's nothing wrong with sharing the fruits of your hobby for a lot less than the labor value of those fruits, as long as it is your hobby and not your attempt to earn a living. Lots of people do that in lots of areas other than writing RPGs.

-Rob
 
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RE: The real message

Post originally by Chris Farrell at 2005-07-07 21:28:37
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<<I'll give you another example. I've done a lot of community theater.>>

The community theatre example isn't exactly on point. If you act in community theatre, you are likely to be gaining vaulable experience ... you most likely are working with an experienced director, and the experience of acting in front of an audience is valuable. Plus, the admission fees are likely just covering costs - nobody is trying to make money.

Writing for a pittance for a publisher who isn't going anywhere isn't giving you that comparable experience, as Lloyd points out.

If you're going to write serious quantities for peanuts or for free, IMHO you should be doing it on your own website and for your own benefit, reaching out to like-minded fans and developing your own "brand" as it were, or at least working for some better cause than a throwaway PDF for a company with no coherent business plan and no vision.

Chris
http://homepage.mac.com/c_farrell/iblog
 
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RE: The real message

Post originally by DougS at 2005-07-07 22:02:26
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Yes, the community theater analogy isn't exact at all. Community theater productions serve a local audience and don't compete at all with Broadway shows. The RPG market, however, jumbles together because companies don't serve geographically limited audiences, not when you can sell product over the Internet. Everyone who buys a .pdf product might also buy a WotC product, and vice-versa.

I think Lloyd's column and comments are pretty much spot-on. There really isn't much name recognition for RPG writers, except among the hard-cores on RPG.net. And that's partly by design. When I wrote Paths of the Wise for Decipher's LotR RPG line, I asked Owen Seyler if I could get cover credit. Now, Owen was and is a good friend, and if anyone would have done me the favor, he would have. But he cooly told me that it was never to the publisher's advantage to help promote individual writers, since the promotional focus always has to be on the product line as a whole.

As to publishers not being able to pay this rate or that, I freely acknowledge that the economics of RPG publishing are daunting. When publishers say, "We can't afford to pay 5 cents/word" I believe them. But Lloyd is also right to point out that he wasn't addressing the viability of anyone's business plan, simply the effect that all of this has on the hired help.

And as another of my freinds from the late, lamented Decipher RPG once said, "There are 5 cent/word writers, and then there are 2 cent/word writers." His point was that more often than not, you get what you pay for. Not just in terms of writing quality, or design genius, but in terms of basic professionalism. Publishers are entirely within their rights to offer 1 cent/word (or nothing), but they are *highly* unlikely to get an Ed Greenwood, or a Lloyd Brown, or a Ken Hite... or even a Doug Sun for that rate. Given a choice between writing for 2 cents/word and 1 cent/word, what direction makes the most sense for me? Personal friendship with a line developer or company exec is the only consideration that would sway me from taking the higher paying gig.

Lastly, it always gripes my ass whenever RPG freelancers are accused of being greedy because we want to get paid more for what we do. What professional doesn't, after all? And it's not like we're pro athletes grousing because we want $10 million/year and the team is only offering us $8.5 mil. Why is it so hard to understand that we want to maximize our earning power precisely *because* we love what we do, and we want to be able to afford to keep on doing it? Lloyd makes that point, too, although phrasing it a little differently. RPG writing pays so little to begin with that if we didn't love it, we wouldn't be doing it at all. We 'd be writing ad copy and driving much nicer cars.
 
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Post originally by Dana Jorgensen at 2005-07-07 22:26:38
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Le, allow me to supplement your argument.

I have a project that has been in the works for over a year now. When it is done, it will be in excess of 150,000 words. I had planned to pay $0.04 per word, but that would end up costing over $6,000. The project is an anthology work, with many contributors. No big name to prop it up, just a lot of fine work by some relatively unknown authors.

At that rate, as a PDF, I'd end up needing to sell about 400 copies to break even. While I am one of the more fortunate publishers in that I have several books available that have sold in excess of 300 units, that level of sales is still quite rare for me.

Even at $0.02 per word, my adjusted rate, I'm still looking at the need to sell in excess of 200 copies to make ends meet on the project.

And putting the book into print is a costly proposition as well. Selling 1000 copies at a competitive price, I'd just barely recover enough revenue to pay the costs, with little profit to speak of.

My advice for everyone is to ignore the likes of Lloyd Brown and other authors who do not deal with all aspects of the business. His advice is absolutely worthless until he has successfully run an RPG publication business of his own. His arguments are based on a complete lack of adequate information, regardless how "well informed" he thinks he is.

Second bit of advice. Re-writing five times and charging five times as much is just silly. Writing is NOT something you should be putting effort into. If you have to work hard at it, if you have to rewrite endlessly to produce good work, you shouldn't be writing to begin with. Writing is an artistic talent, just like drawing, painting, or composing music. Either you have it or you don't. Learn to recognize if you have the talent. And if you do not, don't bother trying to force it. Just go do something else.

Lastly, "exposure" and "name recognition" is important, contrary to Lloyd's beliefs. In this industry, where that counts the most is not the author or artist names, but the name of the publisher of a book and the rules system used in a product. SJ Games, Green Ronin, and all the others mentioned in the thread did not start out paying their current rates. They are only able to pay those rates through the recognition of their branding. As PDF publishers manage to gain brand recognition and the general barrier toward PDF purchasing collapses, sales will increase and PDF publishers will pay more. Unfortunately, Lloyd ignored one of the universal truths about ALL business, regardless the type. In the end, the flow of all revenue is based upon what the market will bear.

Personally, I think the entire article was written because Lloyd is unhappy with the fact that he's pretty much still as unknown as an author just starting out and no one is willing to pay him what he feels he's worth. Sorry Lloyd, but a handful of Dragon articles and three Kingdoms of Kalamar books does not make you a recognizable name with selling power on par with the Monte Cooks and Gary Gygaxes of the gaming world.
 
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