I’m gettin’ on this crazy ride again. Come join me! It’s a really fun game.
David Hill has a lot to say about the realities of the freelancer life and getting paid over on Google+ from his perspective as a freelancer.
This is me talking from the publisher perspective.
Pay on Publication contracts need to die a fiery death, folks. These are contracts that say to a writer, editor, artist, graphic designer, or other creative worker on a game project that they won’t get paid until the project they’re working on sees publication.
This is utter crap.
As a publisher, there are a few things you’re bringing to the picture:
- Overall vision
- Implementation coordination
- Connections and clout for publication and distribution
- Sales and marketing
All of those go into the activity of actual publication. They are your goddamn responsibility.
The creative folk you hire to do work that fits your vision do not carry any of this. Their job is to produce components to spec that you can get assembled into a final sellable thing. Once that work gets into your hands, they’ve done 100% of what you’ve asked them to do.
If, in the face of that, you ask them to wait to get paid until publication, you’re asking them to wait to get paid until you can get your shit together. They have no control over your actual ability to get to that publication date. You’re asking them to trust that you can do so at best possible speed. You’re asking them to extend you a loan (think about how ridiculous that is) equal to the full value of their work at 0% interest for an indeterminate amount of time.
This is an incredibly dishonest and shifty way to do the work of being a publisher. It’s also, frankly, just bad business. It gives you a chance to fail in a way that affects folks’ livelihoods. Those failures, even if they happen for good reasons, become a reputation. If you’re eager to make a lifestyle out of publishing, your reputation is your make or break asset. While there will always be new, fresh, gullible talent to come around to accept these sorts of terms from folks like you, you’re going to end up hurting the experienced folks (which hurts all of us, as it can end up ejecting them from the talent pool for good) and perpetually saddling yourself only with inexerpienced talent. And worst of all, you’ll be their first impression of how the industry operates.
Bottom line: If as a publisher you don’t have the money already to pay someone for work when they finish doing it, you should not be hiring them in the first place.
Publishing can be a juggling act but your funding should not be. See the list of bullets up at the top of this post. It’s your wheelhouse. It’s your responsibility. It’s your burden. It’s the service you’re providing to creative folk. You shouldn’t provide those folks less value than they can provide themselves as self-publishers. Those bullets are how you offer added value and none of them are optional.
At Evil Hat we pay on the accepted delivery of the work. Because that’s the end of the freelancer’s responsibility. Where there’s wiggle room, it’s in how that “accepted delivery” gets defined. Maybe it means a writer doesn’t get paid until after the editing and revision cycle is completed. That’s fair: the editor can be seen as your mechanism for determining the acceptability of the supplied work.
But however you define it, it sure as shit shouldn’t be “until you get off your ass and get the thing published”.
Initiative By Action Type
Taking a page from the Doctor Who RPG, consider this for your initiative order:
- Folks who are going to Overcome act first
- Folks who Create Advantage act next
- Folks who Attack act last
This lets folks create advantages to bolster their defense—and it also supports teamwork actions where folks create one or more advantages which then get handed to their team’s “hitter”.
Overcome going first means that running away (or towards), climbing, talking, fixing, etc, are typically going to happen first.
Stun attacks! They deal stress like anything else. When they inflict consequences, they can only inflict Mild consequences. These Mild consequences can fill the slots of more serious consequences; they’ll all fade quickly as Mild consequences tend to. This means that using stun attacks you can get someone to Taken Out a bit faster (i.e., with lower amounts of stress inflicted) than you could with more wounding methods — but that also constrains what you can do to someone when you Take them Out with a stun attack (generally it’s just a KO).
So, woo! The Fate Core Kickstarter brought in $433,365. That’s money in the bank, y’all. We’re swimming in it like Scrooge McDuck, right?
At this point we’ve taken care of printing and shipping all of the physical reward components for the Kickstarter. There are still funded stretch goals that we’ve yet to get done, which we haven’t really spent any money on yet. Those are Do: Fate of the Flying Temple, Young Centurions, Shadow of the Century, and Dresden Files Accelerated.
So the question is, how much money do we have left to make those things happen?
- $433k to start…
- minus ~$22k for Kickstarter’s cut
- minus ~$20k for Amazon’s payment processing cut
- minus ~$20k for development & art of Core (not including printing)
- minus ~$4k for development & art on FAE
- minus ~$8k for development & art Fate System Toolkit
- minus ~$20k for development & art Fate Worlds 1 & 2
- minus ~$6k to get the art, Fate Core expansion, and index for Strange Tales of the Century (editing and writing had already been paid for outside of the kickstarter)
- minus ~$15k for development and where necessary art on other projects (Sally Slick novel, Freeport, Day After Ragnarok, Deck of Fate, the various consultations)
- minus ~$68k for printing Core, FAE, Worlds 1, Worlds 2, Toolkit, Strange Tales, and Sally Slick
- minus ~$24k in preemptive royalties paid to Jim Butcher for the essentially free PDF we’ll be giving backers of Dresden Files Accelerated once it’s done
- minus ~$120k for shipping all the physical rewards (rough estimate to include cost of sending replacements for lost and damaged stuff as well)
Assuming I’ve accounted for everything in the above — and it’s not certain that I have — and that the shipping estimate is accurate, that leaves us with about $106k to spend on the remaining four projects from the Kickstarter.
This is without accounting for the expense of supporting all that: my time, Carrie’s marketing time, Chris’s business development time, Sean’s project management time. I didn’t charge the company anything separate from my salary to do layout on FAE and Toolkit; I’ve spent at least a full month’s time solely on customer service and data-wrangling for this campaign. Carrie has been making sure we’ve got solid product message and marketing for all of that. Chris has been charting the trajectory for all this stuff and helped conceive of a bunch of it with me during the campaign. And Sean’s efforts are a big part of why we’ve been able to deliver so much in so little time. So what’s definitely not reflected in the above is a lot of additional sweat and the coin needed to turn up the heat.
Bottom line, I think there’s a chance that we’ll still retain a small profit after accounting for the as-yet-unpaid costs of those four stretch goal projects we have as yet to complete, but it’s in no way certain… and really, taxes on the income/“profit” we’re carrying into 2014 might eat that up right quick. So I’ve been looking at Fate Core as a “profit-neutral” Kickstarter.
Had we not managed to time the second wave of physical books such that they all came out and were able to be shipped at the same time, the additional shipments for those who wanted the split might have put us more firmly into the red. As it is, I’d rate this as a very approximated break-even, with our actual profit-taking to come in the sales of the product line outside of the Kickstarter campaign.
Which, at the end of the day, is pretty much as designed and intended.
Folks have joked that Kickstarter should be called “Kickfinisher” because you do best to bring a nearly-finished product to any campaign you’re Kicking; it’s not so smart to launch a campaign where you really haven’t started work yet.
But I think it’s in this kind of breakdown and analysis that the -starter suffix makes the most sense. Having crowdfunded an entire product line, with solid expectations that our costs will be all or close to covered by that funding, we’re now starting a new phase of Evil Hat with our most robust product line ever on offer. If there’s profits to be made, it’s not in the Kickstarter campaign and its fulfillment, it’s in what comes after, that the campaign made possible. We brought a near-finished product to get it going in the first place, yes, but we walk away with thousands of books in inventory and already paid for and ready for sale.
That is what we Kickstarted.
If you’re looking for the panels I will be on at Metatopia, that’s in this other post.
Outside of the panels, what I have scheduled is:
Friday, 2pm-4pm: Iron Edda playtest.
Saturday, 6pm-8pm: Boneyard playtest.
Sunday, 10am-1pm: Timewatch playtest.
That’s it! Together with my panels it still means I have plenty to do, but I’m going to have a lot of big gaps in my schedule too. I expect to use these to hit panels of interest (there’s a ton of them), grab meals, have conversations with folks, and do some off-book demoing (both of Evil Hat things like our upcoming Don’t Rest Your Head themed board game Don’t Turn Your Back, and other folks’ stuff).
Importantly, Rob Donoghue invites anyone who gets up at that hour to join him for breakfast each morning at Metatopia. So if you’re not planning on sleeping in, make sure this is on your radar.
If you are hoping to get a few minutes of my time, make sure I know it! You can either comment on this post or use the “contact” form here on the site.