Freelance Advice: How to Pitch a Project

You’ve been published and now you’ve got the writing bug. You’ve had an adventure or supplement in your head for ages and now is the time to strike. You fire off a submission proposal to a publisher and wait and wait and wait…

 

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

 

Like everything in life, there is an art to successfully pitching a project to a prospective publisher. It doesn’t matter how awesome your work is; unless you approach the process correctly your pitch is doomed to be deleted unread. First off, though:

  • Do Your Research: Sending the proposal to the right company is vital. If your proposal includes elements of high fantasy, sending it to a company specialising in low fantasy, gritty supplements is a waste of your time (and the publishers). Take the time to send your pitch to the right person and name that person in the email.

Send

Send the following information and files to a prospective publisher:

  • Short Blurb: Send a short blurb (under 300 words or so) providing an exciting summary of the project. This is the kind of thing that would go on the book’s back cover or webpage to entice customers to buy. You are, after all, trying to sell your idea to the publisher. The goal of this blurb is to get the publisher to read your summary.
  • Summary: Include a longer summary (or storyboard) of the project detailing exactly what material the project entails. For an adventure, this would include major villains, an overview of important encounters and a brief background and synopsis. For a rules supplement this should include a list of new feats, spells, skills (or whatever) you’ll be designing. Send this as an attached file in an easy to read and edit format (.doc, .rtf etc.) This makes it easy for the publisher to insert notes; if he is interested he might have comments and suggestions.
  • Work Sample: If you’ve never worked with the publisher before – or if your proposed project is very different to your previous material – include a representative sample of your work. The sample should be no longer than 1,500 words. Busy publishers don’t have time to read anything longer.
  • Vital Information: If the publisher is interested, some of the first questions he’ll ask include, “when can you deliver this and how long is it going to be?” Include this information in your proposal (and be realistic).
  • Personal Bio: If the publisher doesn’t know you, sending a brief bio of a couple hundred words is a good idea. Include previous (relevant) design credits and try to show why you are the person for the job.

Don’t…

So we’ve talked about what to send. What shouldn’t you send?

  • Send A Complete Manuscript: Very few publishers are going to read a complete, unsolicited manuscript. Like you, publishers are very busy people; they just don’t have the time.
  • Include An NDA: If you send an NDA for the publisher to sign (so he can’t steal your work because it is so awesome) he is not going to bother unless you are Ed Greenwood or some other legendary designer (which you probably aren’t).
  • Contact Multiple Publishers Simultaneously: Sending your proposal to more than one publisher at the same time is bad form. Don’t do it. Also don’t include “subtle” suggestions that other publishers are really interested in your idea. This is the roleplaying game industry; a bidding war is phenomenally unlikely.

So that’s it. If you follow the suggestions above you’ll have a much better chance of getting your submission read (and ultimately accepted).

Help Fellow Freelancers!

Got any hints or tips for getting a proposal accepted by a publisher (beyond blackmail)? Please leave them in the comments below and help your fellow freelancers grow their careers!

Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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