Dice & Deadlines: Freelancing

Hello and welcome to the inaugural column of Dice & Deadlines, a female’s perspective on writing for the RPG industry. As a resident expert on all things RPG related from the inside of the RPG publishing process, I have the honor of pulling back the veil on what it is like to write for the RPG industry and what it means to be a RPG freelance author.

I have written on RPGs since 2004 and have worked with both small and large RPG companies. I’ve had my share of fumbled rolls by way of bad contracts and critical successes in the form of awards won. I know what outlines mean, how to work with co-workers, when to manage deadline expectations and where to overwrite my word count. I’ve leveled up from contributor to co-author to author and I’ve worked for flat fees, cents per word and for royalties. I’ve got a broad range of experience and I’m ready to share it with you.

Look for the Opportunities

Freelancing for the RPG author is an active thing. You need to look for (or make) the opportunities and grab them. Whether you’ve completed your twentieth project or you are still looking for your first, a freelance RPG author needs to get out there and actively hunt for those jobs. This means looking at submission guidelines, calls for work, reading forums, talking to other professionals in the business and doing what needs doing to get the contract.

This is more than just putting your resume out there on the web or on a social network site and hoping for the best. If you have to start small, do so. I started by reviewing RPG books for Black Gate magazine and writing fiction for Campaign magazine. I read both magazines and noted in the first one that while they reviewed RPGs, none of the reviewers were female.  I emailed the editor and pitched the idea of a female RPG reviewer. He picked me up. In the second, I noted that while they were a gaming magazine, they did not have complimentary fiction as part of their lineup. I emailed them, proposed a fiction line, included my outline, and they hired me.

In both cases, I saw an opportunity to get a foot in the door and I knocked. Neither of these jobs was writing for RPGs but both helped me move into that career.

The Secret of Freelancing is Professionalism

The biggest secret to being a freelance author is to be professional. Freelancing is a job and needs to be treated like a job. Everything about you and what represents you needs to be professional. I’m talking demeanor, dress, business cards (yes, you need them), references and portfolios.  All of this will go a long way to show that you take your job seriously; because if there is one thing I’ve learned writing for roleplaying games, it’s that people take their fun very seriously.

The RPG publishing industry is a business. No matter how many people talk about doing it for the love of it, they are also in it for the money or prestige. This means that everyone working for them needs to be professional, good to work with, meets their deadlines, and accepts rewrite requests as well as displays a myriad of other intangible qualifications.

My final thought on freelancing for the RPG industry is that, by and large, it is a small, incestuous business. Freelancers work for many RPG companies as do editors. Those editors like to talk. They also have long memories. Burning bridges with one editor may end up burning bridges all over the industry. It is best to be polite and professional…and always meet your deadlines.

Do you have a specific question on what is considered professional in the RPG industry? Or do you have a comment about what I’ve touched on? Hit me with it. I’m all ears.

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