The economics of 3PP are notoriously tight. Most books sell under 250 copies—at least in the first few months after release. It’s a doddle to lose money as a 3PP.
Most publishers react to this razor-thin margin by cutting costs to the bone. One of the first casualties of any cost-cutting frenzy is designer word rates. Another is the art budget. This doesn’t help anyone, really. Sure we get the words or the art cheaper, but that means we’ll probably end up with a worse product. That means fewer people will like it, which means fewer people will buy our next book. Consequently, the publisher isn’t happy, the freelancers aren’t happy and—of course—the customers aren’t happy.
A vicious circle ensues. That’s somewhat less than ideal.
Pay Well and Win
Paying decent rates to your freelancers is a win/win/win. You get motivated designers keen to turn over—on time—their best work. This inevitably results in a better product for you and your customers. This makes eveyone happy!
Raging Swan Press escaped the vicious cycle of bad word rates on Patreon. Every month, over 300 (rather marvellous and heroic) GMs come together to fund excellent word and art rates for excellent work. Together we’ve raised Raging Swan Press’s word rate from 1 cent a word to 11 cents a word. And we include more original art in our books now. I couldn’t have done it without our heroic patrons, and I’m tremendously grateful for their helping in paying excellent rates of pay for excellent work!
Pay a Flat Rate
The other thing we do at Raging Swan Press is to pay a flat rate. That is, whether it is your first job with us or your 20th, you get the same rate of pay as everyone else. This just seems the decent, sensible way to operate. If you are good enough to work for Raging Swan Press, you are good enough to work for Raging Swan Press. Your design/game/industry background and experience level are irrelevant, and I’m not going to waste my time (and yours) getting into protracted discussions about why you are (or are not) worth more than someone else. Who precisely does that conversation really help?
The Final Word
If you are running a 3PP I urge you to spend as much as you can on the best material you can—you’ll have a much better product, happier freelancers and happier customers as a result—and, more importantly, you’ll be doing the right thing.