Recently I was approached by someone who was looking to “hire” writers for their TTRPG supplement (you’ll see why I put hire in quote marks soon). The exchange (which was conducted over DM) was over within just a few messages, and afterwards I was left with the burning desire to subtweet, which I decided not to indulge.
Instead, I let the idea sit with me for a while and after speaking to a few friends, I realised that I wasn’t wrong for coming away from that conversation with the thoughts I had. I didn’t want to leave the exchange completely unaddressed, so decided to write this post in hope that anyone else sliding into my (or anyone else’s) DMs wanting me to work on their next project may read it first.
1. Pay your writers (and artists, and everyone else!)
I cannot stress this enough. Let people know if this is a paid job up front (hint: it should be). If you are not able to offer a per-word rate or lump sum payment then say so – some people won’t work for anything else. If you are offering royalties or a different form of payment, say so. Some creators may be happy with this, but they shouldn’t have to probe for this information, or listen to a lot of information before finding out the payment terms are something they may not be prepared to accept.
If you can’t pay at all, then I advise finding a way to do so before you start approaching strangers and asking them to do work for you.
2. Provide all of the basic job information up front (but keep it concise)
Imagine that I am a hugely successful writer with loads of offers in my inbox at any one time (what? You don’t know that I don’t). What is going to make me read your message over everyone elses?
Providing a brief explanation of the project is necessary, but don’t go overboard. As per the above, let the person know if the job is paid or not. You want to be enticing, but also succinct. If they are checking a whole lot of messages then they probably don’t have time to read multiple paragraphs of introduction, or have to ask a whole lot of questions to find the basic information that they need. It might sound harsh, but people will skip over you if it’s too complicated.
Alongside payment information, make sure you include an explanation of the setting (covered below), word count required, deadlines, etc.
3. Do not assume anything
Regardless of how wildly successful you may be, please do not assume that someone knows you or your products, or anyone else’s products that you may be working with. If you are pitching for a new setting book, for example, adding a sentence to explain what it’s about is really helpful. Include what system it is for, too – providing only the title is usually not enough, and you should never expect your potential suppliers to have to do their own research when it comes to finding these things out if you are the one who has approached them in the first place.
For example, saying that you need a writer for your upcoming book “Watery Treasures of the Nine Isles” doesn’t tell me much. Is it pirates? Is it medieval fantasy? Is it modern? Is it an adventure book or a compendium of items? Is it for Dungeons & Dragons, or something else? Even if you’ve talked about it loads before on social media, adding a line or two to explain this is hugely helpful – algorithms work in mysterious ways!
4. Be diverse, and pay attention to who you are pitching to
More and more, creators are wanting to work in diverse teams, whether they themselves are a part of a minority or not. Making it clear that you are looking for more BIPOC, queer, women, GNC, disabled, or other folks from marginalised groups in your teams is only ever going to work in your favour.
Additionally, providing a reason as to why you are pitching to this particular person shows that you’ve made an effort to check out who they are and aren’t just throwing your fishing rod out to a whole bunch of creatives and hoping one bites.
5. Invite them to hear more
Ending your brief introduction with an invitation to hear more is a nice way to let people know that you are prepared to give further information, but that you respect their time and don’t want to bombard them with info they may not need or want to hear. It allows for a simple reply without needing to probe for specifics – something like this would work really well, for example:
“Hey there, I’m looking for more queer writers for my upcoming D&D5E supplement, “Watery Treasures of the Nine Isles”. It’s a pirate themed campaign setting book, and I need help coming up with some factions and NPCs. I’ve seen your character work and think it’s great! It’s a paid job (per word) – would you be interested to hear more?”
6. Be polite
Although I believe that everyone should always conduct themselves with politeness, when you are pitching to a writer, the the things you say (or don’t say) are doubly important. In the case that your pitch is declined, remember that it’s not necessarily because they dislike your project – it might be bad timing, or they are simply not interested in that particular genre. Ghosting them or telling them they’ve made a bad decision is not going to earn you any points.
So, if someone declines your pitch, for whatever reason, please take the time to thank them anyway. It may mean the difference between being considered or disregarded for future projects.