Finding a writer ? Where ? How much?

Hello !

Thank you for paying attention to my first post on this forum, I will introduce myself quickly first.
I come from a computer science background (programming / research - ending my 4th year PhD), I have never worked in a company, always at the university (in research). I do not have any knowledge working in the video game and I have been watching for a few months self-taught a lot of things around the creation of a project, to try to produce a game in the interval of the next 9-12 months. I really love interactive fictions, from visual novels like danganronpa, phoenix wright to more text based stories like orwell, sorcery!, choice of games, some fighting fantasy games on smartphone…

My job at the university ends in 3 months and I will look for a co-writer to work with me on a project I had in my mind for a long time. A story based on the principle of “Groundhog Day” and discussing subjects such as young adult life and family abuse. Since march, in part time after my work, I worked around this game, who would be a visual novel. The employment of a writer seems to be essential, but I would like to have a minimum of control and to ensure a certain quality considering the importance of the dialogues in this kind of game.

Now the hard part, finding a writer in the coming months, with whom I have a good relationship and feels comfortable working with, and defining proper remuneration without putting all my savings for a small game (knowing I expect to pay a 2D artist on the side, and if I have a little money left, 1-2 musics). For the moment, I made the following steps:

  • I registered on some forums of French writers (i am french), I started to read some novels (but really quickly)
  • I tried to look for rates and think about the model to get a freelance writer. I saw that the payment by word / line / page existed, even if I understood that in the course of a choice games, these kind of wage doesnt seem to be the best.
  • I checked french wage for an author trying to publish a book, in France for example you can have an payement account before publishing (“à valoir” from 0 euros for new authors to 300k euros for well known ones with a median of 2k euros) and then a percentage on the number of sold books(6% to 12% depending of the number of sold books). But it’s really hard to know what are the standard rates for a video game writer…
  • I searched this forum but didn’t find a topic discussing the wage (how to pay, when and how much) of a freelance writer. I wrote in some other french game developer forums but no one really had any experience employing a writer for a narrative fiction.
  • same question for how/where to find the good writer. I joined some author forums in france but most of them are very selective and if you don’t post yourself some stories (i am clearly not a writer), you get kicked out pretty quickly

If anyone has any tips or experience he/she could share with me, it would be great. It might also helps someone having the same kind of questions in mind.

Have a good day.

3 Likes

I’m kind of a bit confused as to what you’re looking for?
Is it a writer to write the book for you? Or someone you plan to share the writing with. It’ll make a difference.

How big a project are you talking about making? (Give a very approx word count range.)

Since you’re asking for someone to write a very specific book for you, more details would be welcome since some authors are simply not interested in writing about certain things. It sounds like you want to write about a topic that a lot of people wont want to read or write about for various reasons, but some may really want to depending on what and how you want to cover it.

Will it be a commercial enterprise or just for yourself. (Again will probably affect pricing.) Also if you are going to publish, how? What has been the success of that publishing channel in the past. (Will determine if authors are willing to risk a % of sales in liu of up front payment.)

Also what platform are you planning to use? Choicescript could potentially be used to make a graphic novel, but it doesn’t really lend itself to it. If you plan to write in another language/program you might want to state that unless you plan to do all the coding yourself as the author might not know how to use it. If you’re talking about a traditional “paperback” type novel, then it’s a good idea to make that clear.

If you haven’t already, I’d look into how much the artwork is going to set you back. To fully illustrate/animate a decent length visual novel probably isn’t going to be inexpensive. You would want to know how much to budget before you start.

If you want an approx cost, you could start by looking at what COG pays for their official novels on the main site. (Although that is for professional writers and includes code.) Amature writers may be more negotiable, it depends on what you want. You should also state experience level including English skills and whether they are a published author or just need to present a sample of writing. If anything game books are harder to write than normal books if you expect the writers to organise all the variable and stat coding as well. In that case you’ll need to factor in how much for code and how much for prose.

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Thank you for your answer, clearly i was not giving much more info about the project cause i expected more general answers (but there are probably no standard wage, no standard way to hire, nothing like that in this kind of medium).

So to be more precise about what i am doing aside of my “normal” job

  • i am looking for someone who would transform ideas i have written (dialogues) into some better written pieces, if the author has ideas that could improve the storyline i had, would be great since I hope that person would at least be interested in what the story is about

  • a small visual novel (but there are still a lot of words in VN), may be 100k words if we try to go to the essential

  • the story is about the player (player choose a boy or a female) who can date two characters during one day (one female, one male). The day restarts like in “Groundhog day”, you are the only one having knowledge about that. In the end, the idea is to understand what makes this day reset (like in “Groundhog day”) and to try to get to know these 2 characters (you can romance them or not, depending on what you are after. It’s a dating sim Visual novel, in the meaning “meeting” two characters and discovering their stories. Both characters have several plotlines that you can discover progressively

  • commercial enterprise. Published on steam (if i have time, i will try to port it on smartphone but didn’t try anything about that right now), within the next year from now on.

  • i am using unity. I tried ink, choicescript, twice. I liked ink the most but i didn’t get enough out of it for what i wanted. So i worked during the previous 2 months on a language of my own (a little more complex than ink, i.e looking more like a program in some parts for things i wanted) but still in a text format, based on flex/bison (for the lexer and the grammar) and graphviz (dot) for the drawing in graphs to show the paths. The co-author will work with this language even if i don’t except him/her to do much more than write text (and clearly wont be in autonomy on it). Some conventions of the language can be changed as the co-author will prefer (but i can’t change completly the way i decided to create it). The language is then transfered to json format and loaded into c# classes to script the story.

  • i didn’t work for now on anything else this core engine for writing, even if it will need testing to refine the way the engine works. So no visual, no character displays, only texts and choice selections in a small window. Clearly, i have some works to do on my part time until the end of my current job (which has nothing to do with video game)

  • i checked at the cost for 2D artist, i am ready to put 1K (at most 1.5K) euros if needed for all the character sprites (don’t need animation, just lip sync that i will do myself with tools, same for the eyes movement). For the background, i am ready to use paid/free assets on the internet.

  • i will check what they pay right now, but clearly i doubt that it will be close to whatever i am ready to put on the table. I think 3k euros would be already a pretty good amount for me as a start, and a low percentage on each sale as a bonus. But i am probably completly out of the competition with a low amount like that. And after checking, i am !