Writing for Roleplaying Games: the Process

There are probably two processes you’re interested in — how do you get hired to write roleplaying game (RPG) material, and what happens next?

The former depends on the company. Luckily we have the web now, so you should check the company’s web site for submission guidelines or instructions on how to get them. If they don’t have submission guidelines, then use the company’s contact information to contact them. Ask them for their writers’ guidelines and the current contact information for the game line you’re interested in writing for. A few quick tips:

  • Take your time when writing your inquiry letter. If it looks unprofessional, the company won’t expect your work to be any better.
  • Do your best to find out who exactly you should contact. If you just can’t get the right name, then use proper business letter etiquette for such situations.
  • Make your submission look professional.
  • Don’t send a company a package that requires a signature unless their guidelines say otherwise. If they have to stand in line for a half-hour to sign for an unsolicited submission, they’ll probably throw it out.
  • Pay attention to those writers’ guidelines! Read every line and follow instructions exactly.

Submitting Your Proposal

The process might involve submitting a proposal for a book (usually with a nondisclosure form), or perhaps a few samples of your work with a good cover letter. Be polite, for goodness’ sake. And don’t start off by insulting the person you’re getting in touch with. Remember that a developer has a strong hand in the line he develops, so starting out with “I hated this book you just put out, but…” is probably a no-no.

If you already know a developer well enough to feel comfortable sending him e mail, then you might inquire with him directly. But keep in mind that developers are busy people, and that posted submission guidelines are there specifically so developers won’t have to answer such questions.

What Happens Next?

What happens next? Well, if the developer wants to work with you he’ll contact you. You’ll get a phone call or an email one day from someone asking you if you’re interested in working for them. (Once you’ve worked for them a bit and they know they can trust you, they may start off by telling you what they want you to work on with no preamble.)

Developers often hunt for authors a little before they actually need them, so it may be a few weeks before you receive the contract and/or outline in the mail. You should sign and date both copies of the contract (usually they send two, ne for them and one for you) and anything else they want and send all the paperwork back to them–right away! They’re often required to wait to send you the rest of the material until they’ve received your contract or some sort of Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), so you need to get it back to them immediately. If you don’t, your mostly screwing yourself out of needed writing time.

Do not do work for a company without getting a contract signed first. It is unreasonable for a company to expect you to work without a contract, and it’s foolish of you to do so. That contract is the only means you have of making sure you get paid, and in the RPG industry (as in any other) this is occasionally a valid concern.

Then you’ll get the outline and any additional materials from the developer. He will often contact you by phone or email to talk with you about any concerns he may have, or that you may have. Some developers may ask you to write out an outline of what you plan to write for them and send it to them; I’ve never had one ask this of me (yet). It’s more common for them to ask you to give them a rough idea of what you’re planning so they can tell you if you’re way off-base. Then you start writing, probably with a co-author.

You write your first draft. Hopefully you and your co-author get along well enough that you look over and comment on each other’s work before it goes to the developer. Then he takes it and makes red marks all over it telling you what you did wrong. He sends it back to you, and then you have a few weeks to rewrite it before you send it to him one final time. (I’ve heard of companies giving a second rewrite, but it’s rare.)

That’s probably the last you’ll see of the manuscript until you get your comp (complimentary, i.e., free) copies from the company. (Very few companies don’t give at least one or two comp copies.) Then you sit around for long months waiting for your check.

Posted in Gaming, Writing

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