: Chad Underkoffler: Freelancing for RPGs
Welcome, new people! I know you're here for the fight, but I'm going to do my best now to stop fighting and pull my foot out of it, if I can. Stick around if you want.
It turns out that I know nothing about freelancing in the rpg world, and that's dumb. I wrote Chad Underkoffler and asked if he could educate me some, and he was happy to undertake it.
1. I understand that you've both freelanced and self-published your rpg work. How much of each? Which did you do first? Come to think of it, how long have you been working in rpgs?
CU > I started working freelance in RPGs back in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Initially, this was doing unpaid/on spec playtest work on GURPS books for Steven Jackson Games; if you got a playtesting credit, you often got a complimentary copy of the book. That's not really freelancing, but it's a step toward it.
After that, I started writing articles for Pyramid Online; my first accepted article was in the September 25, 1998 issue. Submit, get accepted, get paid, and the company owns the work.
Then, in 1999/2000, I began submitting on spec materials for GURPS STEAM-TECH, and Atlas Games' Unknown Armies line. Again, submit, get accepted, get paid, and the company owns the work.
From 2001 to 2006, I had my own column in Pyramid called "Campaign in a Box"; it was a bi-monthly quick setting description. Once someone gives you a column, the "submit, get accepted" bar lowers a bit; you wouldn't have gotten the opportunity if your work wasn't up to snuff, and you can't afford to slack off -- if you do, you could lose the gig.
Starting with HUSH HUSH (2000), because of my work previous and elsewhere, people -- in this case, the first was Atlas Games -- started approaching me to do specific, contracted work for hire (WFH) for them to their stated needs and requirements.
Around 2004, I started pitching my own ideas for books to the publishers to see if they'd be interested (once success: Temple of the Lost Gods, a PDF product for GURPS; one very bad situation that resolved well in the end: a multi-year attempt to write GURPS URBAN MAGIC), continued doing on spec and WFH for people, and started self-publishing with my game DEAD INSIDE.
Other than doing "Campaign in a Box" until 2006, for the most part, I concentrated on self-published works until around 2008, I started working with Evil Hat Productions. Late 2007 is around the time that I realized I was not having fun with the business end of self-publishing, and partnering with EHP to handle that was a great move for me -- thus, Atomic Sock Monkey is sort of an imprint there, under the overall publishing structure, if they want to support a project I pitch. I also do WFH for EHP on stuff like DRESDEN FILES. I'm also doing WFH for Margaret Weis Productions and Adamant Entertainment.
And I'm slowly working on a second edition of DEAD INSIDE, to hopefully publish through the ASMP+EHP partnership... but don't look for that for a couple... years.
2. I assume that you usually work with a contract. Is that true? How often have you worked without a contract? Under what circumstances?
CU > Yes and no.
On spec work that you send in out of the blue -- like a call for new monsters or character classes or equipment or a magazine article -- the closest thing to a contract is the submission guidelines. Follow those, you'll probably be fine.
For WFH, I've worked with a simple/email agreement; I've signed and sometimes had to get paper contracts notarized; I've received no advance, small advances, complimentary research materials, etc.; been paid on acceptance, before publication, and 90 days post-publication.
I've never been stiffed, and have only ever had to return one (small) advance. I don't think I've missed a deadline more than five times, and in all of those cases, people were notified ahead of time, in two of them, it was the projects eventually were just killed because they ended up being unworkable (my original pitch for GURPS URBAN MAGIC and my UA PDF THIN BLACK LINE).
I have been extremely lucky in this regard.
3. What are common terms for freelancers like? I've heard things like "net-30" and "on acceptance" - what do these mean?
CU > Standard seems to get paid $0.02 to $0.03 cents a word, sometime after publication (45 to 60 days seems usual).
If you're lucky, you get $0.03 per on acceptance.
If you're lucky and good at it, you get $0.05 per on acceptance and/or maybe comped materials to do your work.
If you're lucky and a superstar, you might get $0.10 (last I heard), comps, and/or a small advance.
That's for WFH writing; WFH editing and book writing contracts can be whole other kettles of fish.
I believe "net-30" is more a publisher/distributor invoicing term; I've never heard it applied to the writing end of it, but I might be sheltered.
What's the difference between licensing publication rights and work for hire?
I wouldn't know, because all my game industry life, I've been told from every company I've worked with: "We here at Company XYZ have no interest in licensing your IP. We want our own IP. If we like the IP you're pitching, we might buy it, but we'd rather come up with our own. Or have you come up with a new one for us."
So, no different than WFH, from Comapny XYZ's outlook; it's in their best interest that it's that way.
Which is why electronic and POD self-publishing started exploding around 2003, when it became affordable to do.
I guess you could consider the partnership I have with EHP on the publishing of S7S to be a licensing of publications rights, though, but I'm pretty sure it's an atypical one. I've never heard of anyone else doing it the way we are (percentage cut betwixt ASMP and EHP). Maybe I'm just naive; hopefully, someone in comments will educate me.
4. What's the worst contract you've ever signed? What's the best?
CU > The worst one was for GURPS URBAN MAGIC, for two reasons: 1) the project never got completed, and 2) I had to return a small advance. It was worst because I wanted to complete that project and I needed that money.
It was also the first book contract I pitched, went through several rounds of outline development, work began, some stuff with Steve Jackson Games changed (the doubling in size of books from 128 pages to 256 pages, and the gear-up for GURPS 4e development), stuff we me changed (more freelance and self-publishing work), years passed, co-authors came and went, outlines got revised again, etc.
When I pitched and eventually signed the contract, SJG and I were on the same page. At the end, we were in different places. I was the one who asked to be let out of the contract, because I didn't think I could do the book anymore, and I said that at the time. Part of it was project fatigue, or you could call it the loss of being able to see the fun from my end.
So, I returned the advance, thanked Steve and Kromm, and I believe Bill Stoddard went on to essentially write a (completely) different version of the book, building off of the other work he'd been doing for them.
It was a very amicable and businesslike break-up, as 'twere, and I have communicated with Steve and Kromm on other issues since perfectly pleasantly.
So, honesty is the best policy.
Objectively, it was a pretty good contract. I gotta say, maybe it's the people/companies I've worked with, but all the contracts I've signed have been pretty decent and fair. Slanted to the company's favor, of course, but they're the ones handing you the contract.
Not a big fan of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), but they're something you gotta do sometimes. And in the wake of some stuff I've seen over the past couple of years, I can see why they're actually a necessity.
5. Have your publishers typically lived up to their contracts? Do you often have to fight for them? How have you fought? Have you ever been unpaid for published work?
CU > Always. No. Haven't had to. No.
And I am truly, truly lucky about that. I have friends who have been stiffed on multiple thousands of dollars. More than once. And that sucks.
I think it used to happen more about 5 6 years ago. Less so now. Just an opinion.
You say you've been extremely lucky. Is it really just luck, or are there things you've done to help yourself out?
CU > A good chunk of it is luck, a good chunk of it i knowing your skills and limits, and a good chunk of it is Wheaton's Law ("Don't be a dick").
Do you feel like sharing a real horror story you know about (without naming names)?
A friend of mine is still owed $5000+ for work done when Guardians of Order folded up tents and skedaddled. But that was a bad situation all around, in all kinds of ways.
6. What's the best thing about freelancing vs. self publishing? What's the worst?
CU > Freelancing: BEST -- You're working on something you like, and know other people like, and there's an excellent chance you'll get paid a little for it and make more friends and get more work. WORST -- You're not gonna get paid much, you're not going to own your work, not gonna have much control on how it ends up, and if nobody notices its *you* who did *that*, less egoboo, future work, or friends.
Self-Publishing: BEST -- You own the work and have control over it; and stand to get a larger payout if the product does well, in money and fame. WORST -- No idea if people will like it, no good chance you'll get paid much for it (75% of $0 is $0), a helluva lot more work to do yourself or farm out to other people, you'll be spending money to (maybe) eventually make money.
As an example, I think the cash amount from my very last WFH check from EHP was greater than the first 3 years of the net sales of DEAD INSIDE.
Thanks, Chad! Will you be willing to stick around and answer questions from the gallery?
CU > Absolutely!
1. On 2012-03-06, ndp wrote:
not really a question, but another data point wrt licensing publication rights: I have a contract with Dev where I publish The Dance and the Dawn. I pay up-front publication costs (licensing fee for art, printing and re-printing, essentially). Once sales have covered those costs, we split profits 50/50 (on a quarterly basis). Either of us can cancel the deal at any time for any reason. Dev retains his IP, I get exclusive print publication rights until/unless the deal is cancelled.
Why? He had a great game, I wanted to see it in the world, and he didn't want to deal with the nitty-gritty. It's been working out so far!
Chad's experiences track with mine pretty closely, and I've been working as a full-time freelancer for since 2003.
The one point I'd add is that there are no "big" rpg companies, outside of (maybe) Wizards and Paizo. Most companies have only 1-3 full-time employees, if any, and a few more part-timers/regular freelancers. (Right now, for example, I'm on staff at C7, but I'm also regularly freelancing for Pelgrane, Mongoose and anyone else who'll pay me.)
Chad, suppose you have a friend who's thinking of entering into their first WFH contract with a small RPG company. They have two options from two different companies. Your friend asks you to look over both contracts, and all the terms seem standard.
Your friend optimistically looks to your example as a sign that the companies could honor their contracts to the letter, but then looks at a million horror stories and has second thoughts. Your friend asks you:
1. How do I get a sense if these contracts will be honored or not? Is there any info I should ask or dig for?
2. Are there any precautions I can take? Is there an effective way to remind them to pay me?
3. If they don't pay me on time, I assume I can either maintain a good relationship (send polite reminders not too frequently, possibly to no avail) or go hard after the money (give notice of hiring a collection agency). Is there any way to do both?
What do you tell them?
Your friend only has the time and the budget to do this work if the contracts are honored. Your friend isn't just doing this for fun or to meet people. If they think the money won't come, they'll do something else.
Net-30 is a biling term meaning that the bills are paid on a 30 day invoicing cycle. If a company pays on a net-30 it means they'll pull together all their bills of 30 days and cut checks on a steady billing cycle.
Most gaming contracts either pay on a net-30 (cut a check some time in their 30 day cycle after publication) or on a 45-90 day cycle. Companies that pay on a 45-90 day cycle are not trying to screw freelancers. They are trying to get the balance due as capital payment for their balance sheets for the quarter.
SJG is known for being one of the few companies that pay on a Net-30. Most pay at end of the quarter for tax reasons.
Work for Hire contracts are a risk on both sides. The RPG gaming business is flighty on the best of days and these contracts carry a large amount of uncertainty in the business transaction. You, as a freelancer, need to make the same good judgments on who you work for that the employer makes about you.
Never build expectations you will pay your mortgage with a check from your freelance game writing. On the other hand, don't let the worry the company you're writing for will go away tomorrow stop you from writing a few thousand words on spec. Read your contract carefully before signing it, understand your responsibilities, ask questions before signing, and keep your expectations reasonable.
>>Your friend asks you:
1. How do I get a sense if these contracts will be honored or not? Is there any info I should ask or dig for?<<
Not from the company. From other people who have worked for them. This is entirely IMAO. Every contract I've worked on has been honored, but that's because friends, people I respect, and people that I respect and consider friends keep working for them.
And then there can be a sudden implosion, like GoO, where friends etc. got burned.
My ultimate sense is -- save for one or two companies I've heard tell of -- contracts get honored. (And I'm not sharing scuttlebutt or rumor, because I don't have facts or personal experience. But the point is if you hear of dodgy terms or outcomes, investigate with people you know who've who've worked for them, and make a decision. That's smart.)
>>2. Are there any precautions I can take? Is there an effective way to remind them to pay me?<<
A nice, pleasantly worded email usually does the trick. If you suspect they're stalling overmuch... again, investigate.
Again, I've worked with honorable people thus far. I don't have advice for dealing with people who are less than honorable. (In every case, less than two, I think, that payment was late, it was because of cash-flow issues, or somebody got sick, or somebody just forgot, or stupid bureaucracy is slow -- and I'm counting in the professional technical editor freelancing work I've done outside the game industry in this.)
>>3. If they don't pay me on time, I assume I can either maintain a good relationship (send polite reminders not too frequently, possibly to no avail) or go hard after the money (give notice of hiring a collection agency). Is there any way to do both?<<
Hiring a collection agency is an escalation, and, truthfully... any money you get back from the company will probably go to pay the collection agency.
Polite reminders, spaced appropriately (two weeks post payment date, two months repeating after past payment date) are probably best. Within six months, the financial person will either cut you a check, apologize and explain, prevaricate and spin, refuse to answer, or say something stupid. Last three are when you consider lawyering up, if you can find someone pro bono. If you can't, don't even do it.
Because of the small amount of money in the hobby industry, it's almost never worth it. It sucks, but that's what we're dealt.
...But this is secondhand information/advice that I haven't experienced, so don't trust me on it. Explore.
>>What do you tell them?<<
The choice between two standard contracts by two different companies? Look into how the companies treat their freelancers. Talk to those freelancers (more than one). Look at how many freelancers stick around, year-to-year.
>>Your friend only has the time and the budget to do this work if the contracts are honored. Your friend isn't just doing this for fun or to meet people. If they think the money won't come, they'll do something else.<<
If given a formal WFH contract, you've probably been involved with the company or their game already in some wise; thus -- you respect, are familiar with, or are acquaintances/friends with long-term contributors. Just ask them. "Hey, XYZ wants me to write 'Elves Gone Wild,' and ABC wants me to do 'The Tome of Tomb Torchery.' What do you think about each company?"
A freelancer will tell you.
If it's completely out of the blue... I got nuthin'.
Chad, thanks for the response. Sorry for asking you to speculate about stuff you haven't dealt with firsthand; I'm still glad to hear your experiences as an observer of such issues. "Ask their other freelancers" makes sense to me... I guess there isn't any magic secret, huh?
As a freelance web designer, my experiences are quite different from everything discussed here.
Here's one data point that may or may not be relevant here. I offer it primarily for the sake of discussion about understanding and recognizing employers' positions.
My friend Mike is an awesome illustrator. He did a bunch of illustrations for the New York Press newspaper. Mike was having a hard time finding clients, so he kept doing work for NYPress even after they were late paying him for his first few contracted works.
I think they had paid him for 2 illustrations by the time he'd finished his 7th or 8th. The people he spoke with about the matter were very apologetic but also didn't offer any great certainties. No dates, no insights into the process, just, "So sorry, don't worry, we're working on it!"
As it turns out, NYPress wasn't selling well, and their organization was a disaster. Payroll and editorial were both messes, and the interaction between them was a mess too. I know this firsthand; I met these people when I did an illustration for them (for fun; I knew I wouldn't get paid). My impression was that the lack of organization and the lack of sales were related. It was simply not a well-run company.
Apparently, the owner agreed, and he fired everyone. I mean everyone; every department. It was almost like going out of business and then starting again.
No records were retained of the money they owed my friend Mike. After trying a few times to get paid for the final 75% of the work he'd done, he gave up. He couldn't afford a lawyer and wasn't motivated to look into collection agencies.
This is what flashed through my mind when I heard that Luke Crane lost a substantial number of Burning Wheel books when the distributor he used (Diamond?) went out of business. Last I heard (a few years ago), no one had made any effort to send the unsold books back to Luke.
Whenever I start building a website for a new client, I think about how stable their business is and how likely it is that they will be able to pay me. I don't have a formula for putting these thoughts into action, though. I work on hourly rates whenever possible, which gets me all sorts of useful financial feedback; but I assume that's not a standard option for RPG works for hire.
Hi, there. For those who don't know, in addition to being a game publisher, I am an attorney specializing in debt collection.
I have to disagree with you, Chad, on one point. I would rarely recommend going to a collection agency. They generally charge higher rates on worse terms than collection attorneys, and as non-attorneys they have less "ammo" at their disposal, e.g., filing suit. I would look for a collection attorney local to the publisher. If you have trouble locating one, you can always ping me; I have a nationwide directory of such attorneys.
There are practical limitations on your legal rights. An attorney will not take a case for suit over, e.g., $500. (Though they might be willing to write a demand letter and/or make some calls.) Many collection attorneys will do a demand letter for a modest flat fee, e.g., $50. For larger cases, most collection attorneys will work on a contingent fee basis, i.e., a percentage of what they are able to actually collect. If they don't collect anything, you don't pay anything. Some may work for court-awarded fees if they are provided for by the contract.
>>I have to disagree with you, Chad, on one point. I would rarely recommend going to a collection agency. <<
I thought I was recommending pro bono attorneys more than collections lawyers, agencies, or services. Perhaps I misrepresented.
>>There are practical limitations on your legal rights. An attorney will not take a case for suit over, e.g., $500.<<
Did you mean under or over, here?
>>(Though they might be willing to write a demand letter and/or make some calls.) Many collection attorneys will do a demand letter for a modest flat fee, e.g., $50. For larger cases, most collection attorneys will work on a contingent fee basis, i.e., a percentage of what they are able to actually collect. If they don't collect anything, you don't pay anything. Some may work for court-awarded fees if they are provided for by the contract.<<
And in the miniscule amount of money in this end of the pool, I find this is why we never, ever hear about this: because it never happens. Too low.
The amounts of money are too low for a collection agency or a lawyer to bother with.
That means that some (very tiny) companies can be dicks.
Most companies, however, are not dicks. In my experience.
It wouldn't have occurred to me that publishers would pay on a 90-day cycle for tax reasons, but it's obvious now that you say it. Thanks, Emily.
Mytholder, I know that rpg companies are almost all tiny, but I hadn't thought about them, like, sharing freelancers. It's interesting to think that different companies' games might be more related than they look, because they have freelancers in common. Huh.
Nathan, Chad, I suspect that arrangements like that are going to get more and more common. I think that EHP's arrangement with Daniel Solis is similar too (although I don't know for sure).
There's this interesting sliding scale. The higher the balance due, the more likely an attorney will take the case. The lower the balance due, the more likely the freelancer will get paid by the publisher in the first place. Yes, it doesn't always work out that way. But, like many things, the "horror stories" overshadow the many, many instances where things go absolutely smoothly.
>>Nathan, Chad, I suspect that arrangements like that are going to get more and more common. I think that EHP's arrangement with Daniel Solis is similar too (although I don't know for sure).<<
I suspect that too, but don't know.
None of my business.
But yeah, when I was trying to run ASMP as a business, I was hugely fond of offering percentage of net profits for participants (artist, layout, editor), in lieu of solid up-front payments.
We were all speculating. Some people took it well, others didn't. All cool.
I'm pretty sure that people got their usual rate, with a bonus because of the percentage sharing.
Generally, I'd later offer a flat-cash buyout of their percentage around 18 months to 2 years in. That's where the long tail of most gaming products starts biting in. Unless you're a phenomenon, 18 months and you're done.
The only ways it helped me was that I wasn't cutting $10 checks to people who deserved much more, and I could theoretically keep those ten bucks that would have otherwise flown out the window.
Non-RPG example: I once sold an article to a magazine that didn't pay and refused to respond. It was a magazine for writers! Here in the UK we have a thing called Small Claims Court where you can start proceedings for a few pounds. Not sure whether it was when I notified the mag or after it had run its course, but I got paid.
RPG observation: re up thread question - if you are so distrustful about taking on freelancing for company X, don't do it. Both sides should have a reasonable assumption that things will work well. If I were the publisher I wouldn't want to deal with people who interpret all our interactions as me trying to get one over on them. Exhausting!
What advice do you have to publishers who employ freelancers? How do they get in your good books?
How much feedback and rewrites requests do you get from publishers? How much do they playtest your stuff before publication? Do you prefer lots of feedback and be forced to rewrite or a vaccuum which occasionally splurges out money?
As a data point, I've twice guilted other publishers (in private) into paying freelancers who've worked for me into paying substantial sums they've owed to those freelancers for years.
I'd be very happy to post something from the other point of view if it's helpful.
Both Cubicle 7 and Galileo do the same thing EHP is doing, as Chad describes. Anybody who publishes through me (that didn't do work on spec for one of my other lines, like Mortal Coil or Bulldogs!) retains copyright, and we split profits after expenses.
Also, I pay on a 90 day cycle, because that's when I get my IPR checks.
David, it wasn't Diamond and it wasn't a distributor. It was a fulfillment house. The books WERE sold, but none of the proceeds ever made it to Luke. It was a substantial amount of money.
As another data point: I now have a staff writer position, but I've spent the past few years freelancing for various technology-related online publications. My gigs generally paid between $0.35 and $0.45 a word for 800 to 1,200 word articles.
26. On 2012-03-07, Paolo Guccione (RosenMcStern elsewhere) wrote:
First of all, let me express the greatest kudos of all to Vincent. After all the unpleasant fuss that has been going on for the last days, it takes some guts to "make things right" and publish an informative post which explains all these little details that could have helped understand what people were talking about. As usual, Vincent shows he has guts and confirms that lumpley.com is still a source of valuable info.
In reply to Chad:
>> But yeah, when I was trying to run ASMP as a business, I was hugely fond of offering percentage of net profits for participants (artist, layout, editor), in lieu of solid up-front payments.
This is exactly how I have worked for the first year of activity. Work on our award-winning book was (actually, it still is) compensated this way. I stopped doing this for artists and editors after one year, but it is still the norm for writers. And they sound rather happy!
>> Generally, I'd later offer a flat-cash buyout of their percentage around 18 months to 2 years in. That's where the long tail of most gaming products starts biting in. Unless you're a phenomenon, 18 months and you're done.
Then I must have phenomenal writers, because I am still paying royalties in the $100-$200 per quarter for stuff published in 2009 and 2010 :) Uhm, okay, I should also clarify that I have the aforementioned Cubicle Seven as publishing partner. Their marketing squad rocks.
Ok, speaking seriously. I will probably do the same and buyout the remaining rights for artists and minor products after a while, but this has never occurred to me yet. In my experience, products are still viable and worth paying on a percentage after 3+ years, and using PayPal or money transfer eliminates the cost and annoyance of physical checks.
To summarize: as Vincent noted above, there are many different ways you can organize your business model when publishing or freelancing RPGs nowadays. It does not boil down to "indie vs. work for hire" only. There are ways you can work for small press and still retain your IP while making some money. It is great that this article provided an opportunity to keep people informed about what goes around in our small world.
> There are ways you can work for small press and still retain your IP while making some money. It is great that this article provided an opportunity to keep people informed about what goes around in our small world.
In fact, in a sense, Vincent is working for me right now on Mobile Frame Zero. I'm paying him a royalty. Nathan is working similarly with Dev. My illustrators retain their copyrights and I license them.
@Chad, even I've always turned a profit on my games. It might feel like you don't know if you're going to make any money when publishing your own stuff, but I'm sure you've outsold me by an order of magnitude.
>>As another data point: I now have a staff writer position, but I've spent the past few years freelancing for various technology-related online publications. My gigs generally paid between $0.35 and $0.45 a word for 800 to 1,200 word articles.<<
Please note, everyone, that Thor is being paid an order of magnitude more money per than freelance game writers are. Right now, today.
And that's a good gig.
I have a rant about fiction/nonfiction word rates I'm not going to go into here.
>>Ok, speaking seriously. I will probably do the same and buyout the remaining rights for artists and minor products after a while, but this has never occurred to me yet. In my experience, products are still viable and worth paying on a percentage after 3+ years, and using PayPal or money transfer eliminates the cost and annoyance of physical checks.<<
Congratulations! Good for you; my sales always started to peter out around 18 months, so that's when I started looking for the buyout. Again, it might also be attributed to my lack of interest in the business-end of the situation, so. I don't know. If it's still working for you, great!
>>To summarize: as Vincent noted above, there are many different ways you can organize your business model when publishing or freelancing RPGs nowadays. It does not boil down to "indie vs. work for hire" only. There are ways you can work for small press and still retain your IP while making some money. It is great that this article provided an opportunity to keep people informed about what goes around in our small world.<<
Totally agreed, and I was glad to pitch in my two cents.
>>even I've always turned a profit on my games. It might feel like you don't know if you're going to make any money when publishing your own stuff, but I'm sure you've outsold me by an order of magnitude.<<
I have, too.
It's just the amount of profit, the amount of time to collect it, and your personal immediate finances that throw up the oddities, I think.
WFH is a fairly safe bet you'll get paid a $$ lump sum in the next 3 months.
Self-publishing is you'll get $ sums, almost forever.
>>Oh, I think I get it. So if I'm trying to get $1000 out of a company with troubles, the attorney is going to take one look and know it ain't happening. "Sorry kid. Next." Is that it?<<
Well, it depends on the lawyer. I've certainly taken cases at $1,000 and even less. If we can get collection without suit, i.e., based just on letters and calls, that works fine. Doesn't happen routinely, but it does happen.
The problem arises when you can't get paid without suit. Are you going to file suit on a $750 claim if you have to pay, say, $250 in court costs to do it. Yes, you can ultimately recover those costs from the debtor, assuming you can collect. But you have to lay it out in the first instance, and there is no guarantee of recovery.
Then, there is the decision of whether the attorney would take that claim for suit. Where I would take a claim for collection, I generally do not file suit on cases less than $2,000. Here's the big kicker though: I will file suit on a smaller balance if the claim is based on a contract that includes a provision for attorneys' fees. This means that I, as the attorney, can get paid for my time from the debtor as part of the damages. In that instance, the amount of the claim is not such a big barrier.
So, among other things, I always recommend you include a fee provision in your contract. I posted a sample contract on my blog so you can see what I'm talking about.
Totally. Now granted, I've been in and around that area for 12 years now. I was able to command those rates because I have experience and connections. But even a rank beginner in that area should be able to command about $0.15 to $0.20 a word. And that is lousy pay. You have to be a machine to work for $0.02 or $0.03 and support yourself doing it.
I enjoy working on RPGs, but man, it's a tough business.
The other reason a lot of hobby game publishers pay out on an extended billing cycle is at they like to play their creators after the big hobby distributors pay THEM. It's a big game of cash flow management. I get wholesale terms from Alliance of NET 30 and order a new game. Alliance pays out to the publisher at NET 45 or 60 or whatever, and the publishers us out to the freelancers on a 90 day cycle. if it works like it's supposed to, everyone has money in the bank from those sales before they need to pay their creditors. When you're publishing on a mass scale, and not on an artisan scale, you need that spread of capital and mitigation of risk. Distrobutors are valuable less because they provide fulfillment, but because they provide credit to retailers who generate the cash flow across the market required to keep mass publishing enterprises afloat.
On the question of 'profit', there's a big difference between having a day job and being a game publisher and being a full-time creator and being a game publisher. if a creator is working on a self-published game instead of doing freelance work, he needs to count those hours in his costs; the time he's budgeted for the project needs to be assigned a value and cred against revenue. that includes time and money he spends at Cons promoting the game, etc. If all you're counting is art, materials, an d the actual cost of printing, it's wicked easy to show a 'profit', but the question of the relative value of that profit compared to something else that you could havre been working on is what Chad is talking about. If I spend 200 hours on my self-published game and it makes me $400 after print costs and art but Vincent spent 50 hours on his and 'only' made $250, did I really make 'more profit'?
I am just really curious how you guys account for sunk time, or even if you count it at all. I suspect it's a major factor for folks who are trying to make a reasonable chunk of their living from the industry, much less so from people who treat it as a supplement to an outside, regular income stream. It's certainly an issue when I do mentoring/counseling for other retailers, who will talk about their stores being 'profitable', but they don't pay themselves for working in it... I am totally not disputing the characterization, just seeking a clarification of terms and expectations!
Just wanted to say how interesting this followup stuff has been! I care so little for internescene conflict that I have banned Edition Wars arguments from my store, so I'm thrilled that a productive discussion has emerged from that troubling start.
I'm really curious if the patronage/publishing model might be a good way for stores with some money in the bank to sponsor creators they believe in and be a new way to add value to the industry, but that's probably a separate discussion...
Jim, I'm not sure I understand how distributors provide credit to retailers. Is it that a retailer receives the RPGs (or whatever) on May 1, and doesn't have to pay the distributor for them until May 31? And thus the retailer can sell a few of them in May, and thus have the money to pay the distributor on May 31, whereas they (the retailer) didn't have money to pay on May 1?
Exactly, David. The distributors finance retail sales with extended payment terms. It's effectively a short-term loan in the amount of any invoices we receive.
A well-run store will have enough money in the bank to cover the total of any open invoices they have, but that leeway allows for handling unexpected emergencies, special situations, and August of every year when every publisher in the world has come to believe it's the best time to release everything into the market, all at once, at the same time. Late September A/P is never fun, though late August/early September sales numbers sometimes are.