Art, the writers’ nightmare!

Yesterday’s post proved quite popular so I thought I would carry on…

Assuming you are happy to write in your word-processor of choice and sell as PDF, there are probably three main ingredients to an adventure. The text, some kind of map, and at least something artistic to set the tone.

You don’t need the art, it is just that all the professionally created adventures or supplements have it, so we kind of feel obliged.

Unless you are one of those sickeningly talented people who can draw stuff and it looks like what you intended, you are going to need to source art. From this point on you have a number of options. The trend will be you can spend money or effort and there is a sliding scale between the two.

Before I get stuck in, I want to share this tweet by Daniel D Fox (he of Zweihänder fame).

An offer like that is an amazing opportunity to get something published and get a pro team to support you.

Yet, I digress. The last time I commissioned a piece of art it was for an adventure that in the past 12 months had made a grand total $336.

The quote for a single piece of cover art (1/3rd of a page) was $700 and that was discounted ‘mates rates’. I declined. I went with an artist that was looking to get into RPG art who gave me a discounted first piece, but said that further work would be more expensive. That cost me $90.

Could I make the numbers work, playing hundreds of dollars for bespoke art? The answer is ‘not yet but eventually’. I know this because week on week I build up my blog readers list (please see below) on this site and my mailing list on DriveThruRPG. Twelve months ago I could reach out to about 900 people to tell them when I had released something new. Today I can reach out to over 2,500 with the same message. Typically 2% of my DTRPG mailing list buy each new release, because it is not particularly well targeted. Most of my blog readers get to see what I am working on for a few weeks before release and they are exceptionally well informed about what they are getting. My conversion rate from my own readers is nearer 24%.

By extrapolation, when my mailing list is large enough, and I have enough conversion data, I will be able to correctly budget for commissioning art. The ‘problem’ is that it has taken a very long time to build that mailing list. If you need to sell books to build a mailing list to enable you to sell books, you are on an uphill struggle.

Commissioning professional art from North American or Western European artists is pretty much a non-starter for a new writer. Prices get cheaper in Eastern Europe and Asia and very cheap in South America and Africa.

If you want to go overseas for your art then Fiverr is a good option. Make a PDF or webpage with lots of examples of exactly the sort of thing you are looking for and direct people to it as part of your proposal. In my experience you will get about 30 responses, 25 of which will not even have read your proposal, they just auto respond to every job offer, 3 will be out of your price range and two will be viable. What I did was under budget by 10% knowing that artists would try and push the upper budget. In this way I knew I could give ground and ended up paying what I wanted and they felt they had gotten more for their efforts. Everyone won. Using Fiverr you can get a full page full colour piece of art for $20, in North America or Europe that would probably have cost $2,000 if not more.

$20 may sound cheap, one of my recent projects used 51 pieces of art. My SURPS book used half a dozen. Even spending $20 a piece soon mounts up and when you are spending $120 to $1,000 up front that is a big barrier to overcome.

Tomorrow. I will write about free art sources.

Reader Discounts

I mentioned that I maintain a contact list for my blog readers. I use it for three things. The first is for new release notifications. With each new release I try and give a 40% discount, just as a thank you for trusting me with your email address. I will also let you know about sales or discounts. Finally, I would sometimes like to ask you questions about RPG books or games. There is absolutely no point in me writing stuff that you don’t want to use. These fact finding emails are few and far between. I am one person and I cannot work that fast to bombard anyone with questions.

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