Thursday, August 12, 2010

Working with RPG Writers - A look behind the curtain to see how some really feel about you...

Ok here is an actually conversation that I had with a writer this morning about some work he had submitted to me.  This conversation has not been edited or changed to fix grammar.  It is 100% raw footage.  I wanted you to get the full impact of what is going on is all it raw form.  Enjoy!

5:03am Writer X: Sent you an email. Time to sleep.
5:04am LPJ Design: I know. I will get back to you on this later.
5:05am  Writer X: i'm sure you will
5:07am  Writer X: I'm assuming you're talking about the side bits and whether or not to include them and not the product as i haven't given you a rough or a final yet
5:07am  LPJ Design: Don't assume.
5:08am  Writer X: is this where you and I differ over the definition of hazard?
5:09am  LPJ Design: No. This is where we differ of what will actually sell and what will not.
5:10am  Writer X: too esoteric or too original?
5:11am  LPJ Design: Will people find it interesting enough to put down money? When writing that his to be a focus area. If it is cool but people won't purchase then it is a failure.
5:12am  Writer X: so if I want to do things that haven't been done before, I'm going to have to line it with drek that's been statted up a hundred times for safety's sake
5:14am  Writer X: is the set of hazards a standalone or is it part of a larger product?
5:15am  LPJ Design:  No. You have to think, "Why would someone actually give me money for this?" Being cool and interesting in not enough. Is it useful? Can I add it to my campaign? What issues will it be if I use it in my campaign? How far does it bend the rules? Since it is not a Paizo product, will they ignore it? Things sell for LOTS of reason that don't make logical sense.
5:16am  Writer X: the problem is, I'm better than the mouth-breathing masses. Everything I listed is a thing I either thought up and decided would be neat (two of which as things to center plots around) or looked for in products and could never find rules for that I liked.
5:17am  Writer X: which is why half the list was really easy to come up with and the other half took the better part of 3 hours
5:17am  LPJ Design:  Those “Mouth breathing masses” are the ones you want money from. How do you service your customer is the mantra you need to adapt if you want to make sales.
5:18am  Writer X: yes well it may take time for me to write to their level and until then i'll agree to take the criticism that I'm an elitist pig if you'll agree to read the full copy before telling me it won't sell. I'm not going to say you're wrong, I'd just like you to read the full copy once i've got it for you. as i understand it, making it usable is my job, making it pretty is yours
5:20am  LPJ Design: I am not saying that. What I am saying is remember how you customer is and how you can help get him what he wants, a more enjoyable gaming experience.
5:20am  Writer X: that's good advice, and I will take it to heart. I'd like to get the same devices into the product, i'll try and find more mouth breather friendly names for didn't answer as to whether this was a part of a larger release or not
5:21am  LPJ Design:  Hey can I place this conversation up at my blog. I think a few people would find it interesting.
5:22am  Writer X: as long as my name isn't anywhere near it sure. I'd prefer that when I do finally get the fame that my ego deserves, it not be associated with me calling my fanbase a bunch of mouth breathing cretins.
5:24am  LPJ Design:  I give the Writer X tag.
5:24am  Writer X: cool.
5:25am  Writer X: I'm sure publishing would be a lot easier without writers. we're whiny egotistical unfeeling and stubborn.  at least I recognize this and talk to you during the creative process so we can do less of this after you get my copy 
5:27am  LPJ Design: Writers are the easy ones. Artists are a lot worst.
5:27am  Writer X: seriously
5:27am  LPJ Design: Oh yes. Artists have problems following instruction and turning in work on time. I only work with a small group of HIGHLY reliable artists. It has taken YEARS to find them though.
5:28am  Writer X: there we go. John C Wright. That's the writer I was going to bring up. Bah I hate being mildly OCD. I have problems with deadlines, but only usually when pressed to give them. I usually try to give something on time.
5:30am  LPJ Design: The magic to selling anything is like being a great lover: Ask the person what they want. Do what they ask. Ask them if they liked it. If they did, do it again. If not, Ask them what they like. Pretty simple.
5:30am  Writer X: see that's a hard sell for me. I was born a great lover. never really got into sales though different technique. You can't play a customer like an instrument.
5:32am  LPJ Design: But you can treat them like a lover and they will forever LOVE you and what you do.
5:32am  Writer X: but I want my customer to be able to walk. otherwise they won't be able to come back. as fascinating as this metaphor is, I'd rather you send me an email with which points you think are unsaleable and I'll work on making them worthwhile with the copy and i'll go to bed
5:33am  LPJ Design: Will do!

Now who Writer X is isn't important. What is important is how he feels about customers and selling.  As a writer, what his bottom line? Selling what he wrote. As a RPG publisher, what is my bottom line? Customer satisfaction. And that makes all the difference.  Talk to you later...


  1. I'd respond... but I'm too busy breathing through my mouth to remember what I just read.

  2. Wow. That was insane.

    I'm always amazed at writers who think so highly of their work that they don't see that the publication process is collaborative. I work for a publishing company as an editor and I've heard all kinds of stories about people who think so highly of their work that they forget that they need to be nice to a publisher to get something done. It's ungrateful and egotistical.

  3. I'm an RPG writer with 3 books and a pdf bearing my name on the cover, with contributions to just about as many other works, and more still in the pipe. I admit, I don't think about the "customer", I think about the "player", for that is the end user. That's just a matter of labels - ideally, every player is a potential or actual customer. That's not the point - the point is that this writer is an arrogant tool. The written work means nothing until someone sits down with it and plays, and hopefully has fun with it. That is when it lives. People who get caught up in their own supposed brilliance and have contempt for their audience are not the sort of people I want to work with. After all, we are all part of someone else's audience. Yes, I charge money for my work. I invest a lot of time into it. But my goal isn't to sell my work - it's to make something that other players, people like myself who want to enjoy their roleplaying experience, will enjoy. And if people enjoy your products, they'll buy them.

  4. I'm a commissioning editor for a major US publisher (based in Signapore) and it's hilarious how similar this is in tone to some of the conversations I have with potential authors on a regular basis. Writers are writers, some good some bad, but it doesn't seem to matter whether they're writing business books for me or RPGs for you!

  5. I'm my own writer and publisher. I just released a Pathfinder compatible campaign setting in the form of a hardcover book. I too think this Writer X guy thinks way to highly of himself. write because I enjoy writing. I dreamed of having my own book for years before I got it. But I still need to keep the customer in mind. Thinking of them as mouth breathers does no one any good. And no one "deserves" success. They earn it through their talent and their ability to work within the guidelines set by the publisher.

  6. This sounds to me like a rookie writer ("when I get the fame I deserve"), and I don't think it's at all fair to sut throw this up here and say "see what writers are like"? In my new experience, I have taken what's given me, allowed my stuff to be wildly rewritten for marketing reasons, been on time, and never once badgered someone about my content or their approval. When I was just getting started (and I am still just getting started), I took the advice of other very successful writers, which includes humility, completion, and bring the fun. My 'mentorish' writers are pretty successful and I can't imagine even one of them ever giving someone this kind of grief. I just think it's not representative of the writers I know, and not indicative of one who will go very far. I'll be watching for LJP releases and looking for new writers to not purchase things from in the future.