Thursday, April 1, 2021

Freelancers are Interchangeable Widgets or Cogs, or So I've Heard

You aren't something until you are something.

Freelancers are hired for a specific reason - to provide content at a price that is profitable for the publisher and that, hopefully, requires the smallest amount of editing and/or rewriting.

You may think what you've written is the closest thing to perfection that you've ever done in your life, but the reality is many writers feel that way about their work. What you actually are, as a freelancer, is a content provider. You aren't writing lore. You aren't presenting something magical. Well, maybe you are, but that likely isn't what your publisher is paying you for, and likely such material will fall to the might of the red pen.

Your submission will, hopefully, make enough money for the publisher to make a profit after editing, layout, art, advertising, and anything else that crops up. If it doesn't, the publisher won't be publishing for very long.

Your feelings are irrelevant. 

You are work for hire. You are not staff. You are working for spec.

There are many freelancers. Very few rise to the level that they are sought after by publishers and are followed by fans. The vast majority are interchangeable widgets or cogs in the wheel. They have a job to do and many others waiting in the wings to do it instead if they fail. 

It can be a nasty business.

Does that suck? Sure. But that IS the reality, and many gamers would give their left hand just to be published once by a major publisher, let alone WotC.

Self-publishing has its own hurdles and its own rewards, but you won't be an interchangeable widget with IP that you own, that you control. Something to think about when considering the place of a widget...

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection.  


  1. This must be in reference to the recent Candleleep kerfluffle where a writer got his feelings hurt that his 30,000 word adventure was cut down to fit the requirements.

  2. Preach! I’ve written for Eberron, but I am much happier doing my own thing. Full control, full accountability, all the accolades and jeers. But it’s all me.

  3. While that may be broadly true, there are industries where it definitely isn't. The vast majority of creators in the comic book industry are freelancers, working without any sort of long term contract or the benefits you'd expect from being a regular employee. They're sometimes treated as interchangeable, but as both the Big Two publishers have discovered to their regret (and ever-declining sales) the fan base doesn't see it that way at all. Swapping creative teams on and off of books is endemic in that field, and it almost always costs them readers.

    And yeah, I get it, you're talking about that WotC freelancer who was complaining about how their (overlong, overspecific) adventure was edited, not comics. But there are parallels. You see the same kind of "mean mister editor can't touch my artistry" thing in comics too. You also see dubiously incompetent editors dictating storylines to writers and artists when they probably shouldn't, often at the behest of teh marketing department. Neither one of those situations is good for business.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition