Pitches & Submissions

After the release of ARCADIA 1, we received a FLOOD of people asking about where they can send their article pitches, writing samples, general product submissions for consideration, etc. We're a small team, so this became quickly overwhelming and chaotic. It also puts us in an awkward position since we never open unsolicited submissions or pitches (legal blah blah) so those who monitor our support inboxes have to delete those messages before they cross the desk of the design and art teams. That sucks because we know folks put a lot of effort into what they create and are excited to share it, so we've put together a guide on how MCDM sources and teams up with freelancers, with a focus on writers and designers (though a similar process is used for artists and other disciplines like editing and layout as well).

So, straight from the source (Matt), here’s how we do things:

We Don't Accept Submissions

We solicit pitches from established writers and designers. That’s part of James’ brief; he knows the freelancing landscape better than anyone else at MCDM, moreso because he has long been a part of it.

We Reach Out to Reputable Freelancers

We’re looking for folks who have built a reputation on delivering good writing and design in a timely manner and who work well with editors and testers. So far that strategy is working well!

Our goal is to produce high-quality content and that requires writers who are not only experienced with 5e’s language and logic, but who are used to writing to a deadline and revising based on playtesting and editorial feedback. This produces a better product which means better value for our customers, but that also means ARCADIA and our other products are not the place for someone’s first published work.

The Path to Self-Publishing

Now that may seem discouraging. In a certain sense, it's meant to be. We want to discourage people from sending us pitches we can't review or a bunch of emails we don’t have time to answer (which makes it even more difficult to help those who need support in a timely manner). We are a tiny company! :D

But you shouldn’t feel too discouraged because there are paths you can take to get there. All these folks we’re working with now started off just like you; they wanted to make great content for 5e and get paid for it. There’s not one single path there—there are lots of ways to gain experience and make a name for yourself as a freelancer, but this is one proven method:

You start by putting your stuff up on one of the various PDF platforms: DriveThruRPG, itch.io, the DM’s Guild, something like that. This is pretty straightforward, but obviously it’s hard to get noticed on there. Being an actively engaged freelancer these days means you’re spending a lot of time writing and then a lot of time promoting yourself.

It’s good to be active in various 5e communities. Participate in them as another user, and then when the opportunity comes up, promote your work if it's allowed. If you only post to promote your work, people will be suspicious of you. They will see it as marketing and people don’t like being marketed to. So, you pick a forum or subreddit or two and just hang out there. Be part of the discussion, learn from others, and promote your work if it's appropriate.

Your work should be as well-produced as you can reasonably manage. The DM’s Guild has free art and layout resources, and there are resources online that make it very easy to produce a product that follows 5e’s layout and trade dress.

In other words: the finished product should look as good as you can reasonably make it. Presentation Is Part Of Design. Make sure you’ve edited it carefully—even professional products have typos, but you should do your best to make sure your prose is well-written and clear.

You have no real control over how quickly, if at all, your work attracts an audience. You just have to keep at it. Listen to feedback, but don’t feel like you have to make every change everyone suggests. If you get the same feedback from multiple people, time to take it seriously.

The best way to promote your first submission is to release another one. Each product you upload (within reason, I’ve seen people spam these marketplaces with content which has the opposite effect) acts as an ad for your previous work. People who like your new thing will go back and look at your old stuff.

Building on Your Success

As your work gets attention and (ideally) positive reviews, you can start shopping yourself around to smaller publishers. You can say “I published this, and it got a lot of positive reviews!” and back that up.

Make sure when you are submitting your work to other publishers that you make it as easy as possible for them to read it; some publishers will list what their submission requirements are so make sure to follow those as well. Attach a PDF, link to a Google Drive... don’t make them do work to hire you. Find ways to organize your email inbox so you don't miss out on an opportunity and follow-up in a reasonable timeframe. Show you're communicative and accessible!

While you’re doing all this, use social media. Don’t make that face, YouTube is social media and if it wasn’t for that you wouldn’t be reading this right now. There is a community of freelancers out there and they (generally!) support and promote each other. Be supportive! Folks like to work with people who have a positive attitude. Or so I’m told… :D

Through this process some writers bubble into our point of view. It’s not a race and there isn’t a finish line. There are lots of great writers and designers out there we’ve never heard of, happily earning a living at this, blissfully unaware of MCDM.

But it is possible to build a reputation as a freelance writer/designer and end up as a writer for MCDM—lots of people have done it now.

We Learned Our Lesson

Finally, lest you object that this is unfair (it’s not) or undemocratic (it is), allow me to regale you with the tale of how we started down this road. Some of you already know this story. :D

When I first decided back in 2019 that we should change MCDM from being the “Matt Writes Everything” company to being a real company that works with a team of writers and designers, we started with the Player’s Guide To Capital book (which is currently on the backburner).

Back then I had the very naïve idea that there might be some high-quality writers out there who’d only ever written their own homebrew stuff—who’d never written professionally before. So we posted a help wanted ad for writers saying; it’s ok if you’ve never been published before, if you want to write for us, send us a sample and we’ll read it.

Well, this was not the best way to go about it. For one thing, I was (for some reason) committed to reading everything anyone submitted. Even if it meant I had to go buy their product from the DM’s Guild. Please follow my advice upstream and make it as easy as possible for prospective employers to read your work.

It took me WEEKS, like, three weeks at least to read through everything, during which I got very little else done. So that was not a productive use of my time. And I would say 60% of the emails we got had no submission, just an email saying “I would love to write for you”. Probably half of those began with “I don’t know anything about writing but….” or some variation thereof.

But what I noticed was: the best submissions all—without exception—came from folks who had at least published their stuff on the DM’s Guild and gotten good reviews. Some of our writers have done no other freelancer work, they’re just popular DM’s Guild authors.

Most of the best writers had already done work for other companies as a freelancer. Because part of the process of becoming a good freelance writer is learning how to write to a deadline and work with an editor.

The stuff we got from amateurs was, not surprisingly, amateurish. Stuff we can’t use. Stuff that would take too long to edit and revise into a publishable state.

So, after that, I learned my lesson and that’s one of the reasons we reached out to James Introcaso. We needed someone who knew the community of freelancers and was known among them.

From the first Running the Game videos I made, I did everything I could with the limited time and budget I had to make the best videos I could. That’s MCDM’s brand; we’re going to give folks the highest quality content we can make and that means working with the best writers we can find. That can be you! But getting there takes work and trial and error and luck.

The good news is: lots of other RPG nerds have done it. There is a known path. You just gotta walk it.

Good luck, and don’t give up.

— Matt

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