Setting Rates For RPG Work

We now have a page with our rates on. They are minimums. They represent planting a flag and saying less than this is unacceptable for us, and by extension for other people working in RPGs. We’re not pricing ourselves highly at all and this blog post is to convince you of that. It’s to convince you to charge more for your work.

If you’re a new RPG author (or artist, or whatever) we strongly suggest you read this and then do the maths for yourself based on where you live and what you think you should be earning, and then refuse to do work that is unfair.

There obvious caveats to some of this. Rates vary by location. Profit sharing can be fair and equitable. Don’t engage with this in bad faith.

Edit: we’ve done work at rates lower than this before too, and we don’t bear any ill will towards those people we worked with. We wouldn’t take the same work on again, but that’s on us at this point.

Writing Rates

This is the most common freelance work you see floating around, so it’s a good starting point. We agree word rates are deeply flawed as a metric for all writing work, but they’re an industry standard and our position is here is rates should be higher, not rates should be measured differently. The issue is not enough money, not how you count it.

We’re going to work backwards here.

There’s 365 days in a year, and 104 of them are weekend days. You should have those off. If you do work them, it should be to make more money for specific goals, not to make ends meet. That 261 days you can maybe work.

You should have holidays. Across a lot of Europe the legal entitlement to holiday days is 20 plus national holiday. We’re going to use 28 because that’s we have here in the UK. We’ve got zero interest in hearing how folks get less in the US, work culture there is deplorable in how it exploits people and we won’t be using it as a reference point. So now we’re at 233 days you can work.

You’re a writer. You do your own taxes, or pay someone to. You have to have meetings with people about work you might get paid for. Some people disappear without paying you. You have to market yourself. You can’t allocate your time 100% efficiently all of the time. You will not fill 233 days with paid work, so we won’t budget for that. Let’s drop the 33. You’ve got 200 days of paid writing work to find, and 33 days to find it and do all the associated admin, plus sensible holidays and days off.

We’ve got an amount of time you spend working. Now let’s work out what you can produce during that time. You’re going to find people who talk about writing 2000 words a day, or even more. Don’t listen to them. Writing 2000 words a day, every single working day of every year you work as a writer is punishing. Being prolific should not be a prerequisite to being a writer. 2000 words a day for 200 days a year means an output of 400,000 words a year. For context, that’d mean you wrote work equivalent the length of all of Lord of the Rings in 18 months. On an ongoing basis.

I’m sure at this point some people will insist they can do that. Some of them probably can. Few of them can do it as a career and even fewer of them should. If you produce that much for 2 years and burn out, you haven’t succeeded as a writer, you’ve been put through grinder and been replaced with someone else who’ll probably burn out and the people paying you for that didn’t care. If you want a career writing, pace yourself and get paid properly.

Let’s say you can produce 1000-2000 words a day on the regular, or that your output averages out to 1500 words a day once you’re established. That’s still a pace where you produce epic length texts in the span of a couple of years. That number might need to come down if you’re doing anything technical (like say rules or statblocks in RPGs) or anything that requires the dreaded historical accuracy (again, common in RPGs) or even just a level of system literacy that requires reading around the system you’re working with (incredibly common in RPGs).

So we have 200 days of 1500 words. That’s 300,000 words a year. Every year of your writing career. Not easy, but perhaps doable.

Here in the UK, the so called living wage is £9.90 an hour. If you’re a self-employed writer you need to earn more than that. You need to pay for your own holiday days. You need a buffer for sick pay. You need a contingency for when work dries up. You need to pay for your office space. Your equipment. The books you buy and read as research. We’re going to fudge it and say you should earn £30,000+ a year to cover all of this. This is in the lower half of a teacher’s salary scale, and you’ll have costs that chip away at that. It is not living large. You should probably hope to earn more one day.

At this point the maths is simple. 300,000 words a year to earn £30,000 a year gives you ten pence a word.

10p/word. A ten word sentence like this one costs a pound.

That’s our new minimum rate as of 1st Jan 2022. If you want us to do technical work that needs research, reading, meetings, revisions or whatever else then we’ll be asking you for more.

We’ve set developmental editing at 6p a word. That’s based on us being able to edit twice as much as we can write, but with a higher amount of time spent on meetings and talking about the edits themselves.

We’ve set an hourly rate of £19. That’s because 200 days is 1600 working hours. 1600 into £30,000 is £18.75 and we rounded up a little.

On Accepting Cheap Work

The alarming thing some folks reading this will be thinking if that the work they see advertised from many RPG publishers pay anywhere between 1c and 6c a word, with 3 and 4c being very common. That’s US cents as well. For us 6c is only 4.4p.

These people are ripping you off, and they might not know it. They almost certainly won’t feel like they are. You’ll hear that they can only afford to pay this to keep the lights on in their business. If that’s true, then sadly the lights shouldn’t be on. If they’re not paying enough people to live on, that isn’t okay. That’s not up for discussion.

Another common response is that’s what new writers get paid, and experienced staff earn more. If you only pay experienced staff in an industry enough to live on, you’re doing it wrong. People are supposed to be able to afford to live in their first year on the job. Also not tabled for discussion. Find a different table if you want to argue about it.

Some new and aspiring folks will feel like you won’t get work unless you take these sub-standard rates. They’ll feel they need to do it get a foot in the door. Nonsense. Do good work and get paid for that quality. Convince peers that everyone needs to make a rate that lets you live on it.

Doing this is difficult. You may not be able to do it, you might need to take that job to make rent this month. Do it as much as you can, and make it clear you expect living rates in the future. Negotiate a royalty payment with a guaranteed minimum. Agree this piece of work at this rate, but add a guaranteed further piece at a higher rate if this is published.

We will go so far as to say you can see the rates many publishers pay in the quality of the work they release. Many RPG publishers, especially in the third party content market, favour quantity over quality, and its pretty transparent.

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

8 January 2022 at 8:51 am

Great content! Keep up the good work!