Vko6)Ygbyp8͚dE(a0(U~a%%ٲiG0){x2!%>K&#: )H)4CiI̒yB%꛹Ҋ$(23;}HHnQ|`ITg /$\P0ngԱ:sde>?DA?/ꋳxy[,f#/Y7A#4rRчǦX,j< j/̅ ݗOgj ȿ,<24 "jD+g] HŖG\@vC }D{fiۮFײ0TQBnmpPbitҬԓ$1-kh,1]k$\mkٶ4OcD"` 3 BnQhgt9KlaIuO̗aeR>h&RiEPݲ~M9D]x4DF<뺥0xŸv۶{=ѝ>tGB4Huǀ} 8N'qY1QbPaFg7dDQ-`H.G D1n[ġܠoyP8i_]'Ab֞AK;4@uB Xeբ慾My QN)e"< "|tcџ\WvMcoS+@4 yD4̕„#U.k]sJ>aR`.""+5t }m8g"%KF7=9<Ȗ'y{V,U}"A|Ëf7^XV+.ܶZNguبL]{sX.KtQ~ Z6?;y]2e20U2zw@PȍB*F:^.7]WT%oc> {v %G{(I%~'mOdݖ+[l!fFݏ@4&M\|\a?++7!sOOӚх0,wП spM jFB0]V)Dxf'aNR>>:R/~ƩxOJV.ؔ 0gm|WiX7U, fϜv+SNw:Rwo缌isew,(nMۛ[UTaՊc=hp$*7bE'j4grgTwی%q.

Freelancing Is Not For Free

How NOT to Look Like an Idiot in a Query Letter

by Lloyd Brown
Apr 11,2005

 

Freelancing Is Not For Free

Freelancing is Not for Free is a column that serves the professional freelancer. Several hundred people out there are willing to spit out modular pieces, fiction and even rules design for little or nothing on a regular basis.

This column is not for them.

If you want to maximize your chance of selling your work and maximize your return for your time, read this column. I'm now a full-time writer, having started out in the doldrums of TSR's "no cash in the bank" era, then becoming a game store owner and then selling that off when I had no time to write anymore.Working as a freelancer gaveme an excellent insight into what publishers need--sometimes more than they know themselves on certain topics.

Whether you want to write full-time or just want to supplement your income with a few sales,this column aims to help you be a better businessperson. We'll discuss proposals, writing campaign settings, how to work a convention, your website contents, and a point-by-point breakdown of a writing contract. Roll up your sleeves and close the office door. It's time to go to work!


How NOT to Look Like an Idiot in a Query Letter

You think you have a great idea for an adventure or a supplement or even a book. You want to propose it to a publisher but you've never done anything like this before. Where do you start? How do you do it?

What you need to write is called a query letter, and it follows certain rules. One simple rule that keeps you from looking like an idiot is to keep it as short as possible while making it complete. The shorter it is, the less chance you have to screw up and talk yourself out of a sale.

Here's a sample query letter. Read it, and then we'll take it apart piece by piece.

Dear Mr. Kenzer,

I'd like to propose a book on the planes for your Hackmaster product line. This book has structure and purpose similar to the old D&D title Manual of the Planes, only realigned for the Hackmaster universe. My working title is Hackmaster's Guide to the Planes.

I haven't been published, but my posts on your message board have been well-received. I've written numerous term papers for college that exceeded 20,000 words, so I think I can manage a book this size.

I estimate the word count will be around 120,000. I do have a day job, so my work time is limited. It might take as long as 10 months to complete the manuscript.

You can reach me at this e-mail address (name@domain.com) or at the address below. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,
Steve Arneson
1234 Pine St.
Lake Geneva WI 53147

Now the breakdown

Dear Mr. Kenzer,

One rule for asking for help is to ask people that can help you. You don't call your lawyer to put out a house fire. You call the fire department.

Start by checking out who publishes similar topics. If you want to do a supplement set in ancient Sumer, Green Ronin might be a place to go. They've done Testament, which covers adventuring in the lands of the Old Testament. Holistic Design publishes a real- life series, although it's based in the modern world. With the release of D20 Past from Wizards of the Coast, Holistic might be willing to expand the line. Steve Jackson might be interested because time travel is a big part of their GURPS setting. Steve Jackson's online publication Pyramid might be interested if your concept is small enough or modular enough to work within their guidelines.

On the other hand, don't bother somebody with an idea too close to something they just ran. Asking Green Ronin about a game based on the Torah would probably be redundant. Asking virtually anybody about a D20 book on elves or pirates is pretty much useless. It has been done. Too many times.

Once you have a publisher in mind, check the website for contact information or submission guidelines. Find the name of the person you need to e-mail or write to (if, Heaven forbid, you're still using paper). When all else fails, address it to "Dear Editor."

One more thing: Dave is "Mr. Kenzer" until he tells you to call him Dave. The game industry is made up of pretty friendly folks, but you don't need to pretend to be more familiar with somebody than you really are.

I'd like to propose a book on the planes for your Hackmaster product line.

In the first line you identify what you're trying to write in very general terms. If this topic turns the publisher off right here, they don't need to read further.

Be perfectly clear in what you're trying to do. "I have an idea for a book." That's great. Is this something you'd like to buy when it comes out? No. Use direct wording: "I'd like to propose a book on Nazi Occult Powers for your Godlike RPG." "I'd like to propose" or "I'd like to offer" are standard phrases in publishing that tell the publisher exactly what you're doing. Be creative in your writing, not in your business communication.

This book has structure and purpose similar to the old D&D title Manual of the Planes, only realigned for the Hackmaster universe.

Try to paint a mental picture for the publisher to help him visualize what you're talking about. If the first line is your book's topic, this line is your concept. Think of it as a subject and a verb. In this case, since you're comparing it to a book that already exists, the image is pretty clear right off the bat.

My working title is Hackmaster's Guide to the Planes.

Include some kind of title, even if it's just so a label the publisher can use in responding to you. I often don't commit to a name until the end. You could spend obsessive hours trying to nail down a perfect title ahead of time, or you could spend those hours writing the book.

Also, be aware that if this book fits within a product line, they might have already assigned a title.

I haven't been published, but my posts on your message board have been well- received. I've written numerous term papers for college that exceeded 20,000 words, so I think I can manage a book this size.

Normally, this part of a query letter is where you establish that you are the person for this project. Later on, you will state your publishing credits, but for right now we're assuming that you don't have a lot of practice at writing for pay, so you're weak in this area. If you do have more than a few articles published, be representative. Don't list every single piece. "I have been published in Dragon magazine regularly for the last two years," or "I write a regular column for Pyramid Magazine."

Things to avoid are "but my mom likes it" and "all my players say I'm the best DM ever." Don't be self-deprecating, either: "You'll probably hate it, but ".

I estimate the word count will be around 120,000. I do have a day job, so my work time is limited. It might take as long as 10 months to complete the manuscript.

The key elements here are 1) word count, and 2) deadline. You can estimate a word count by comparing your product to a similar book and counting those words. No, not each word! Count the number of words in a line and count lines. Multiply the one number times the other. Then multiply that by page count. Count off a fraction for art (15-30%).

You decide on a deadline by measuring the rate at which you wrote previous work. If you haven't, then spend an afternoon or two writing and measure your progress. Count out how long it'll take at that rate and then consider that you'll slow down drastically after a while. Toward the end, you'll spend more time revising and editing than writing, and that doesn't really help bump up a word count.

Also, real life intrudes. My rule of thumb is to add 50% to how long I actually think it'll take. There is no penalty for finishing early.

If you have the manuscript ready now, well, say so, but that was a mistake. It might not work out poorly for you this time, but writing in advance of a query letter is not a great idea if you want to do this as a career or supplemental source of income. That's a matter for another column, though.

You can reach me at this e-mail address (name@domain.com) or at the address below. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,
Steve Arneson
1234 Pine St.
Lake Geneva WI 53147

Standard contact info and closing. Even though your e-mail address is in the header, these letters might get forwarded to other people in the company. You want to make sure it's in the text so that they don't lose it.

And there you have a proposal that doesn't have "idiot" stamped across it in large letters. In the worst-case scenario, Mr. Kenzer would send this back with "We're not looking for a book like this at this time" or something similarly professional. If you didn't screw up, you now have a book to write.

TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
"; } ?>

Previous columns

Other columns at RPGnet

TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg