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SnowOwl
06-25-2005, 12:08 AM
I have a good friend who is writing a roleplaying game. The game is set up in a universe of his own making and all that jazz. I've done some looking online, but I haven't been able to find out much about the RPG publishing industiry when the game isn't tied by default to DnD and the like.

Is anyone familiar with the protocol here? Should he query game companies directly and when one expresses real interest, find an agent to do the deal? Could he get an agent now to do the footwork for him? Or should he not get an agent at all?

If he should get an agent, should he just look for one interested in the fantasy genre or is there a special bracket for agencies who know how to deal with this industry?

I really appreciate your input, guys.

LloydBrown
06-25-2005, 12:41 AM
I have a good friend who is writing a roleplaying game. The game is set up in a universe of his own making and all that jazz. I've done some looking online, but I haven't been able to find out much about the RPG publishing industiry when the game isn't tied by default to DnD and the like.

Is anyone familiar with the protocol here? Should he query game companies directly and when one expresses real interest, find an agent to do the deal? Could he get an agent now to do the footwork for him? Or should he not get an agent at all?

If he should get an agent, should he just look for one interested in the fantasy genre or is there a special bracket for agencies who know how to deal with this industry?


I doubt you'd get an agent to represent you to an RPG publisher. For one thing, the numbers involved are tiny. 15% of "not much" is approximately "not worth my time". Most book trade publisher want to see a minimum of 10,000 sales. 10k in the gaming industry is a runaway hit.

Word rates run from less than a penny a word for pdf publishers to up to about .05/word for the mid-sized guys. Beyond that is reserved for people with name recognition among the customer base. Gary Gygax, the inventor of D&D, and Ed Greenwood (creator of the Forgotten Realms setting) command among the highest rates. Like .09/word. Yes, the best in the industry get 1/11th of what Reader's Digest offers.

Your friend should approach game publishers directly after reading their submission guidelines to find out if they're open to a new game. Most aren't, but they should be.

He can try personal contact at a convention, too. The largest in the industry, GenCon, draws the best publisher representation, too. It's in Indianapolis. Publishers are busy, but if he approaches them right, he can earn a few seconds to make a contact or a brief pitch. I recommend not trying to work out a full contract because they'll be busy with customers. He should write and practice delivering a 30-second sales pitch, have business cards prepared (with a cell phone number or with his hotel room & phone number written on the back) and make himself available for a meeting after the vendor hall closes (typically 6 PM).

If he does find somebody who is interested, they want to buy all rights. They don't want to have to negotiate each single supplement or sourcebook they want to release. I only know of one publisher that pays royalties, and they pay off of net. So if they overprint the initial print run, you don't make any money at all.

What usually happens is that somebody with an irrepressible desire to see his own work published tries it himself. Then he becomes a publisher instead of a writer. The number of people who are actually skilled enough to be both professional writer and successful business owner is small. Furthermore, he won't have much time to write once he has to deal with distributors, printers, freelancers, a website, and all of those other issues for a living.

I'll be creating a list of publishers for the RPG industry in a couple of months for a book I'm working on (which I might have mentioned to you). For now, some of the mid-to-large companies that handle RPGs include

Fantasy Flight Games*
Kenzer & Company*
Mongoose Publishing
White Wolf Publishing (specifically their Sword & Sorcery division)
Steve Jackson Games
Fantasy Productions
Alderac Entertainment Group
Eden Studios*

The ones that I've marked with an asterisk seem to be the most receptive to this kind of proposal. Kenzer publishes my work.

You can send him to me, and I'll be glad to answer questions, no matter how specific or general he wants to ask. You have my e-mail.

dblteam
06-29-2005, 03:10 AM
If I can ask a further question...

How does this situation change (if it does) for the electronic gaming industry? Do game development companies develop their games in house? If not, how do they get them, and in what form/level of development?

I've been curious about this for a while, but didn't know who to ask.

Thanks,

Valerie

LloydBrown
06-29-2005, 08:32 AM
If I can ask a further question...

How does this situation change (if it does) for the electronic gaming industry? Do game development companies develop their games in house? If not, how do they get them, and in what form/level of development?

I've been curious about this for a while, but didn't know who to ask.

Thanks,

Valerie

Most development is done in-house for two really good solid reasons. One, salaried writers are the best option for consistency and value for your content dollar. Two, they write to a deadline. If you think the video game industry is horrible now, with some releases 2-3 years late, add freelancers and see how long it takes a game to get done.

SnowOwl
06-29-2005, 07:02 PM
Thanks! I was hoping you'd reply. :o) I'll pass along your message with praises.

LloydBrown
06-29-2005, 07:28 PM
Thanks! I was hoping you'd reply. :o) I'll pass along your message with praises.

On that topic, though, many role-playing game designers have gone to computer game design successfully. Zeb Cook, who wrote the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook, works for Black Isle Entertainment, a division of Interplay, and Dave Gross, former editor of Dragon Magazine, is working in that field, too. It pays far better than tabletop RPGs. They're staffers, though, not freelancers.