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Submission Guidelines: Roleplaying Games

Last Updated: August 14, 2017

Why You Should Read This

We work with a lot of new writers. Many have never sold a game before. Over the years, we've learned that a would-be writer who can't or won't follow these guidelines is a lot less likely ever to create a publishable manuscript.

If your initial submission shows that you have read and understood this material, then we're a lot more likely to take you seriously right from the start. That would make everyone happier!

That is why you should read this.

What We Want

We want you. The purpose of this page is to solicit proposals from those who would like to write supplements for our games. If you're a writer or aspiring writer who's familiar with our games, and if you think you can take an idea and turn it into a quality product on deadline, read this page and evaluate our offer. We aren't promising you a contract – only that we'll read your letter. We will give you a fair shake, though, and if your proposal is in the top few percent, we may have something to talk about.

General Guidelines

All game material should be fun to read – it should be an interesting narrative. This is necessary for roleplaying adventures, but even rules material is better if it's well-written. Don't equate "interesting" with "long-winded," though. Our games are written in clear, simple English; show off your vocabulary somewhere else.

This doesn't necessarily mean simple rules, however. We want to make our games as complex as they need to be – no more, no less. We try to present fully realized settings in our worldbooks, accurate research in our sourcebooks, and logical rules in our rulebooks – and we value internal consistency in all cases.

We take pride in our products, and we want writers who share our pride. We expect the author of a game or supplement to playtest it extensively before we get the final version. If you want to write a supplement for an existing game, be sure you're familiar with that game first!

Our Wish List

We have a wish list of products we think will strengthen our lines and appeal to our customers. We update that list according to feedback from our fans, and we recruit writers to submit proposals for those items. The goal is to share our vision with people who would like to write for us.

Most of this list (sometimes all of it) consists of roleplaying game supplements, especially for GURPS. That's because we have specific ideas of what we want in this area. When we know what we want for another type of game, we usually sit down and create it ourselves. That doesn't mean we won't look at outside ideas . . . it just means they're "unsolicited proposals" (see the next section). Be sure to take a look at our list of what we don't want before you take that path, and please note that right now, we're mostly looking for submissions to Warehouse 23 for roleplaying support in PDF form.

The Nature of Proposals

There are two kinds of proposals:

  1. Solicited proposals are submitted in response to requests we've made. Our wish list is such a request. Those titles are pre-approved: these are items we want to publish, and we're asking you to consider writing them. There are some differences between publicly solicited proposals and ones we've asked for in private, though. First, we're going to be choosier; we'll probably get many proposals per title, so we may wait until we have several and then pick the best one. Second, we won't guarantee a spot on our publication schedule. Not only will your proposal be in competition with others, but the title you want will be competing for a limited number of publication slots – your proposal may be sheer genius and your writing impeccable, but we haven't the resources to publish everything. Finally, we can't promise that we'll be interested when your proposal arrives. We may have already found an author, and our needs often outpace our web updates.
  2. Unsolicited proposals pertain to titles that don't appear on our wish list. We will consider proposals out of the blue, because innovation is an important part of designing fun games, but such proposals won't get as high a priority as solicited ones. We'll read them only as time permits, and they'll have to be brilliant to merit acceptance. To make our biases clear: established authors who've shown flashes of brilliance in the past will occasionally get a break in this department, as we're more likely to bet on the "sure thing" when we take a gamble. Please don't send unsolicited proposals for items that appear on our "ANTI-wish-list."

The Proposal Process

There are four steps to the proposal process:

STEP 1: Read our guidelines. We expect you to read the appropriate guidelines before you send us anything. Then read them again. You should be familiar with our style, formatting, and preferences before you contact us. If you're unwilling or unable to comply, please don't bother to submit a proposal – that's wasting your time and ours. We can usually tell when someone hasn't read the guidelines, and if we can tell, your odds of writing for us have just become a round multiple of zero. For your convenience, here are links to our current guidelines:

STEP 2: Choose a title. Those submitting solicited proposals should go to our wish list and select a title (only one title per proposal, please), then read the capsule description and any attached outline. They should also be familiar with any "required reading" suggested there. Those submitting unsolicited proposals should make sure that their idea doesn't appear on our list of what's currently off-limits.

STEP 3: Send us a query letter. Once you know what you want to write and how we want it written, send us a short, informal email and tell us about it. This is not a formal proposal and shouldn't include detailed outlines, writing samples or anything of the kind. It should be well-written, though; if you can't write a letter, you can't write a book . . . not for us, anyhow. Think of it as a job application for the job of writing a book. Contents must include:

  • The title you're interested in.
  • The reason why you're interested in that title.
  • A concise synopsis (one or two paragraphs) of how you would go about the project, including proposed alterations to the wish list description (if applicable).
  • A list of special skills you have that make you uniquely qualified to write the supplement (if applicable).
  • A list of books or professional print or online magazine articles you've written (if applicable).
  • Anything else you think we should know about you.

Once you've written your letter and made sure it includes all the information we need, send it to

You will get a reply, but as editors are busy people, that may take time. Unless you received a bounce message when your email was sent, you may safely assume your proposal arrived. If a month passes without a reply, by all means follow up your query with a "nudge note." Please don't nudge us repeatedly, though, or after only a week or two. Thank you!

If your query is accepted, then note any advice or requests in the editor's reply and proceed to Step 4. Please realize that this doesn't mean your entire proposal has been accepted or that you'll be writing for us tomorrow! It just means your query was good enough to merit further consideration. If your query is rejected, that's that. We'll briefly indicate why it was unacceptable, but that isn't an invitation for debate – no means no. Please don't resubmit a rejected query in the hope that we'll "change our mind"; we won't, and you'll be doing yourself a disservice.

STEP 4: Send us a formal proposal. If we're interested in your query, you may have a shot at writing for us. To help us make up our mind, we need some more information. This is the actual proposal, and it's a lot of work. Writing a book is a lot more work, though; we expect anyone who's serious about writing for us to follow these directions. A formal proposal consists of these parts:

  • A cover letter reiterating your query and indicating that you've received and addressed the editor's comments.
  • An outline summarizing the work's contents by chapter, section, and subsection. Indicate if there will be vignettes at the start of each chapter. The same goes for important maps or diagrams. The editor may provide a template outline for you to use; if so, you must use it and you must fill it in according to any instructions included with it. In all cases, provide an estimated page count for each chapter.
  • If you have never written for SJ Games: A writing sample of the length requested by the editor – typically one page (850 words), rarely more than 2,000 words – consisting of text representative of the proposed work.
  • If you intend to reuse content from existing SJ Games products: A reuse list estimating the word count to be taken from each publication.
  • If the editor specifically asks for it: A copy of this Game Evaluation Waiver. This is only likely for unsolicited proposals for complete games, in which case you'll need to send a notarized copy by postal mail. Do not send the waiver unless specifically told to do so!

Submit your proposal to the appropriate line editor (you'll be given contact information in the reply to your query). Once more, we ask you to realize that your contact is likely to be busy. Also recognize that a formal proposal takes longer to review than a query letter. Again, you will get a reply – we promise you that.

If your proposal is rejected – as most are – don't take it personally. Rejection letters are just part of the writing business. "This doesn't meet our current needs" is NOT the same as "this is lousy." Learn from the experience and try again. If your proposal is accepted, though, it's time to talk contract. For legal reasons, we aren't going to discuss that here. If and when the time comes, we'll deal with it in private.

Good luck!

A Note on Electronic Submissions

We ask that you send us queries, proposals, and even entire manuscripts via electronic mail. When sending electronic submissions, please respect the following rules:

  • Send query letters as plain text (not as fancy or "rich" text formatted by your mailer!), and send outlines and writing samples as text or Word files attached to your letter. Send actual manuscripts as Word files created using our WYSIWYG Template.
  • Send files as attachments. Do not just paste text into the body of a message.
  • Do not send graphics unless specifically requested (e.g., your contract requires you to provide us with maps).

Working with Your Editor

Once we accept your proposal and sign a contract with you, you'll be assigned an editor – usually an employee of SJ Games, occasionally a trusted freelancer. This person's job is to make sure your work is well-written and conforms to our style; that (if it's a supplement) it conforms to the rules of the game it supplements; and that it's interesting, readable, logical, and fun.

The editor is being paid to edit your work, not to rewrite it. In the case of minor problems with grammar and style, the editor will make corrections and let you know, so you can do better. If severe problems with organization or content crop up, the editor will return the manuscript with comments, so you can try again. It is extremely unlikely that we'll consider a buyout.

Please don't expect your editor to consult you in advance about every little (or even medium-sized) change. The editor's first duty is to deliver a publishable manuscript; training writers comes second. Still, training writers means the next manuscript will be better, which is why we do it.

However, you should expect your editor to contact you regularly with comments about your work; to keep you informed about its status; to jog you if you fall behind schedule; and to answer your questions about game rules and company policy. If you have any problems with your manuscript (or with SJ Games), talk to your editor first.

Warning: A Note on Plagiarism

The dictionary definition of plagiarism is "to steal and pass off as your own the work of another." Unfortunately, some writers do steal – we've encountered this more than once in work submitted to us under contract. If you copy someone else's work without attribution and present it as your own, we will find out eventually, and we'll certainly never work with you again. There are also legal implications; a plagiarist can be taken to court by both the publisher and the person stolen from.

Reusing material from other SJ Games supplements isn't plagiarism . . . if you get your editor's permission. Some reuse is unavoidable, but too much is a bad idea, and the editor has to know about it in order to credit the original creator.

Quotations aren't plagiarism if properly attributed.

Steve Jackson Games
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