People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

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Crocosquirrel
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People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#1 Post by Crocosquirrel » Thu May 10, 2012 6:36 am

Okay, call me crazy, but it seems to me that there's a significant issue I see here, and I'd like some opinions on why it might be, and what might be done about it.

Before you start thinking I'm going to bash anyone here, let me assure you, I'm not. I see a disparity, and I feel it should be addressed.

Artists: I see a few of you here that are charging money for artwork, and most of you are good at what you do. It's a skill rarely found in any great degree. The rates you charge vary, but seem to run between $5US and $15 a sprite, although some charge much more, and a few less. All well and good. I'm pretty sure that somewhere down the line, you earn every penny.

Writers: The going rate for amateur fiction submitting cold to a magazine or other publication is just about $0.04 a word, and often as high as $0.06. Let's split the difference, and call it $0.05. With a a few published works under your belt, be they short stories or full novels (or anything in between), that number can as much as quadruple. The most famous authors draw even more. Jo Rowling was paid some $105,000 by Scholastic for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which was a mere 76944 words. Mind you, Scholastic only paid for the rights to publish this book in the United States. Another imprint gave her yet more for printing rights in the UK, but my google-fu is weak for the moment. I recall hearing it was roughly $40,000 US.

For the sake of argument, let's call that 77,000. Makes the math a hair easier. Take the amount she was paid for printing rights in the US alone, and divide by the number of words, and that runs up quite a sum: ~$1.364 per word. This is just one example, and in that one, the author retained her copyrights. Other, less talented writers have somehow commanded much more.

The ability to write well is a skill like any other, yes? In some ways, it's even harder than some of the artwork that goes with it. Yet, I rarely see people offering to pay writers, and those that do drastically underpay. I've spent the last 25 years developing a style of writing that is unique. Some of my peers here and elsewhere have spent considerable amounts of time and effort devoted to wordcraft as well.

Still, it would seem that the market will not support the paying of even a minimal wage for them. I've seen lots of numbers batted around, and I've heard a few horror stories. Writers of no small talent being offered a half-cent a word rather than the five cents that accepted entry-level writers have cause to expect. Then we get to deal with editors, rewrites, and all manner of other horror (Editors: Don't get me wrong. First drafts always suck. You'll forever be part of the process.), and still, more or less nothing for our time. I gave someone a rant about this with a breakdown a few days back, and I won't break it down again.

That said, I think it would be to the good to stop and think for a minute about what being a writer really means. You're doing it because you love it, true. I bet the artists do, too.

So I have the following questions, and I'd again like some opinions as well as hard numbers.

People artists: How long does it take you for a full-body sprite in a costume that's moderately complex, and what do you/would you charge for them?

BG and/or CG artists: How long do you take to complete a work, and what's your rate?

Composers: Same deal, except now for a three-minute track

Writers: How long to write 50,000 words, and what would you expect to be offered for a first draft?

Editors: Same as the writers except reading and correcting, since you're working on the same general payment plan (or should be, the pros all are)

Once you find your question, and have your numbers, compare that to the minimum wage wherever you are. Do you make more? Less? About the same?

Then, you non-writing folks: Would you take a 90% paycut to even it out with the folks providing the basis for the project you're working on?

How much do you think is fair?

TL;DR: Read it anyway ;)
I'm going to get off my soap-box now, and let you get back to your day.

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#2 Post by Applegate » Thu May 10, 2012 7:00 am

Someone once told me that "[they] make no heavy demands on writing; it just needs to be legible", and I think that this somewhat rings true. When talking to people about the VN creation process, they refer to artists as 'the talent', where 'writers' are a dime-a-dozen, regardless of actual skill at writing. I think this mindset is what prompts people to think that writers do not require much payment, or any payment at all: if anyone can write, then it's silly to pay for it, right?

I think many people underestimate the difficulty of writing, and writing well, and an equal amount just either does not care or can not discern if the writing is superior to someone else's writing even if they had the exact same plot.

Whereas anyone drawing a stick figure is embarrassed to call themselves an artist, people who write the equivalent of one do not feel the same embarrassment to call themselves a writer.

Frankly, writing is an under-appreciated art in Visual Novels, where good Visual can make up for your bad Novel, but not the reverse.

50,000 words would take about one to two months for me, providing that I do not turn it into my day job or anything, but that I do consistently write each day. (Pay me and this will be very real) This does not include the planning process, and does not account for rewrites and edits made to the work. I usually do 1,000 words on average per day when I get writing, but since I am hobbyist writer I usually do not write pieces exceeding 20,000 words.

Assuming a 50,000 word draft, for a professional company, I would very much ask for the 0.05 cent rate, and if I finish in two months that would be under minimum wages for me; $1250 per month translates to €965, and minimum wages are €1100 per month.

For an amateur VN hobbyist group, non-commercial? Likely, I'd ask nothing at all. For a commercial indie project? I honestly wouldn't know for sure, but probably around $0.03 per word, so $1500 for 50,000 words, which is far below minimum wages, but indies can't charge as much for their games as companies can. (well, usually)

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#3 Post by Zylinder » Thu May 10, 2012 7:17 am

If I could actually get anyone to buy my art, it'll probably have prices that look like this :

Sprites : 10$
BGs : 12$
CGs : 15$

It takes me about 3+ hours to make a bg, 6+ hours to make a CG, and anywhere from 3-6 hours to make a set of sprites. All these are generous estimates that assume that it goes well. When it doesn't and I keep redrawing them until they look good, that's usually double the time.

That's all in USD btw, since that's the common currency. Now, I live in Malaysia, where the usd translates to around 3x more money, so a sprite would actually be RM30 in my pocket. That's around a day's salary on minimum wage. Since it's not enough for a day's work (which is somewhere at least 9 hours++ here for minimum wage folks) I guess I'd consider myself overcharging but hey, I want to be a starving artist, not an arting starvist!
Then, you non-writing folks: Would you take a 90% paycut to even it out with the folks providing the basis for the project you're working on?

How much do you think is fair?
(I am assuming that you mean cutting out 90% of the pay they get)

No, I don't think it's fair. The way I see it, the prices that people are offering their art for are already rock bottom. I see some artists selling their art for 3$, and I don't think they're working so fast that it justifies being paid so little for it. While a lot of them aren't relying on this money to eat lunch, I find the prices fair enough that it doesn't justify a cut.

If the project creators want to pay for more people, then they should pay MORE in general. That's the point of having a budget - they should know what they need, what they don't need. Since the basis is fundamental, they should pay for that first, then figure out how they can stretch their budget to pay for the art assets. It's not by reducing artist payrolls. It's unfair for the artists, and honestly, you wouldn't expect a fruit vendor to lower his prices by a bunch just because your wallet's empty, would you? I think the same concept applies.

If you actually mean a 10% deduction... Then well, I suppose it COULD be acceptable. But in general, I oppose any sort of deduction, since most of the artists I see offering their art here already price them very reasonably.

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#4 Post by Crocosquirrel » Thu May 10, 2012 7:22 am

For myself, I try and do 1000 words per day, 335 days a year, with an average piece length of roughly 80-90,000 words. That's a book-sized body of work every three months. That's roughly 40k a year if I was paid for them all, and one can live reasonably on that. Give or take taxes, of course.

I gave amateur magazine rates, because frankly, the Indie market doesn't make a lot of money. A large commercial company would probably already offer double, with another couple of cents of negotiating room.

Zyl: I wouldn't ask such a thing of the artists in reality. I am suggesting that that's what's happening to the writers, and to a lesser degree, the Coders.
Last edited by Crocosquirrel on Thu May 10, 2012 7:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
I'm going to get off my soap-box now, and let you get back to your day.

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#5 Post by papillon » Thu May 10, 2012 7:23 am

The rates you charge vary, but seem to run between $5US and $15 a sprite, although some charge much more, and a few less.
Comparing this to what a magazine will pay an entry-level writer is worse than apples to oranges - $5 to $15 a sprite is NOWHERE NEAR what any artist who is actually working for money instead of luls will charge. The only reason you see people posting that price is that they are either inexperienced/kids/hobbyists or they WANT to more-or-less donate their time in order to help more games be created.

It's certainly not what they would get paid if they sold their art to a magazine.

Anyone selling at that rate already is taking an enormous pay cut.
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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#6 Post by jack_norton » Thu May 10, 2012 7:34 am

"Sprite" is generic. There's usually a big difference between waist-up, full body, and also if is colored or not, if is sketch style or not, if has eye/mouth animations, and so on.
I recently never paid less than $25-40 for an image, but I'd say because they are very good quality. But is hard to standardize since it depends on many factors, often artists are happy to work for me because I offer them BIG amount of work, so they make me a discount knowing that I always pay them in time, so they are sure of having work for several weeks/months :)
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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#7 Post by Zylinder » Thu May 10, 2012 8:02 am

papillon wrote:
$5 to $15 a sprite is NOWHERE NEAR what any artist who is actually working for money instead of luls will charge
This is true. I've seen artists who charge 400usd for a painting (which is basically a half body portrait, considering the artist's style) and some background artists go at 100usd+ per speedpaint background. Those are pros, of course, but even if you scale prices according to skill, some of the artists here still deserve to charge a LOT more than what they're charging people here.

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#8 Post by AnthonyHJ » Thu May 10, 2012 8:15 am

My daily rate varies, but 50K words is about 5 weeks by the time I've done a second draft, incorporated feedback and made it presentable. Writer's guild rates for videogames in the UK are about £300 per day for someone at my level writing someone else's story, so we're talking £7,500 for that work. I think that works out at a little under $12k in USD, so maybe 24c per word unless my maths went completely wrong somewhere. Yeah, 15p Sterling per word seems about right.

That's a short contract (so more expensive per word) for a specialist games-writer with five years' experience and visible examples of my work. Even then, I would drop my rates to maybe 6-8c a word for indie work or even work gratis if the game was something non-commercial I believed in.
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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#9 Post by Applegate » Thu May 10, 2012 8:26 am

The only reason you see people posting that price is that they are either inexperienced/kids/hobbyists or they WANT to more-or-less donate their time in order to help more games be created.
What would you say are fair prices to charge for Visual Novel art of decent quality? (decent being Katawa Shoujo-level sprites)

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#10 Post by Kleine Schnauzer » Thu May 10, 2012 8:52 am

Amateur magazines do not pay 5 cents per word. 5c/word (I presume you are talking USD here) is pro rate, as defined by SFWA and several other writers' organizations.

Alternately, one can look at Duotrope's definition of pay scale (jump down to the "Payment - Short Prose" section). Although I've seen semi-pro rates quoted elsewhere as 1.5-4.9c/word (Duotrope starts at 1c for their definition), it's close enough. Note that semi-pro payment does not mean amateur, either; many of them simply cannot afford to pay higher, despite drawing solid talent.

(And that's another thing: reputation and pay scale are not one and the same. In the SF field, some of the highly-regarded markets fall into token or semi-pro pay, including one of my favorites -- they're all ones that would be suitable for publication credentials if you netted them.)

And as for novels? Every time someone brings out J. K. Rowling as an example and does not point out that her circumstances are far outside the norm, I want to bang my head against something hard. Repeatedly. I have heard her initial UK advance for the first Harry Potter book was 8,000 (can't remember if it was USD or British pounds) - which in the former case is on the higher end of typical for a debut author, and in the latter is definitely above the norm but not extraordinarily so.

What is typical for a first-time author? About $5,000 USD. A solid midlist author probably nets five to ten times that. And this doesn't even touch the topic of e-pubs, which have their own pay scales and standards. (I think there's another forumite here more qualified than I am to talk about that.)

What would I expected to be offered for a first draft? A form rejection and possible covert editorial mockery. I would not submit anything less than a fourth draft for a publication attempt, nor have I; I take my work and theirs too seriously for anything less (and I am not a wunderkind who can spin out a publication-quality first or even second draft). Grammatical parts lined up, sound spelling, few typos? Easy. Quality is a whole other beast. Even for Lacuna, which is a labor of love I'll be releasing for free, I'm holding myself to those standards. That's the point I've established for myself where I feel like I'm offering something potentially publishable.

Note I'm not talking about work-for-hire, which I suspect is closer to the model used for games, especially indie VNs. That's a field I don't know very much about. Even there, I would expect that the contract would spell out what a first completed and polished draft is worth, pay adjustments if the amount of work expected/demanded changes, kill fees, etc -- and I would not work without a written contract. Period.

But would I demand pro rate? It would depend on the project, honestly. If it was something I felt passionate about, and I knew the people behind it well enough, I could easily adjust my rate downward. I definitely would do a free project if I liked the idea and the end result was freeware.

Teal deer version: So yeah, writing. Glamorous, isn't it? It'd really depend on the project, the people involved, and what rights were up for sale. Also, contracts. Also also, only have personalized Rs so far, so here's your complimentary salt brick.

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#11 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Thu May 10, 2012 8:55 am

Part of it is 'everyone thinks they can write'. While most of us know otherwise what is means to write well, lack of writing skills simply does not hit you in the face the way lack of art skills does. Basically, it's a lack of knowledge.

That said, $5-$15 per sprite is also laughable professional price for an artist. Unless I can do a full sprite in 45 minutes, $15 isn't even going to give me minimum wage where I live (which is part of the reason why I'm NOT trying to live off freelancing). A sprite takes me between 4-6 hours (more or less depending on detail). At minimum wage that's $68-$102 per sprite. No-one here can afford to pay that and I can make that money easily being a waitress. I get more with many more benefits being a graphic designer. Similarly backgrounds take me 8+ hours, so STARTING at $136. That's just to cover my time, not giving myself space to move for sick leave or super annuation or giving myself any benefit for my skill.

So basically, most people involved in this business are underpaid, or living in places with a lower cost of living.

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#12 Post by papillon » Thu May 10, 2012 9:01 am

What would you say are fair prices to charge for Visual Novel art of decent quality? (decent being Katawa Shoujo-level sprites)
Ehhhhh. That's a complicated question, as it depends a lot on exact styles and approaches and details and how much art you're asking from them. The exact breakdown will vary. I've paid as much as $300 for a 'single' sprite (with multiple expressions and multiple outfits) and I was happy with the deal.

I wouldn't *let* someone charge me less than $25 for a sprite with one pose/costume (and multiple expression layers). If they tried to undercut that because they're from a country where payscales are different, I'd explain that it was a mistake to charge that way and pay them more.

I don't think I've ever paid anything that low for one of my games, though. Just saying, anything below that and you're being ridiculous in my book. (But then, I'm commercial. It's not ridiculous to offer giveaway prices to free games if that's what you want to do.)

When I post job offers, I do sometimes get people offering to undercut the price I stated. To me that comes across as a warning sign - "I can't really do the job as well as you want but I hope you'll overlook that because I'm cheap!" Yeah, no. If I didn't have the budget I offered, I wouldn't have offered it. I'm far more likely to listen to people asking for a slightly higher price than I stated, as I figure that means they've actually thought through how much time the job will take and what pay will be reasonable.

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#13 Post by Dollywitch » Thu May 10, 2012 9:18 am

I wouldn't *let* someone charge me less than $25 for a sprite with one pose/costume (and multiple expression layers). If they tried to undercut that because they're from a country where payscales are different, I'd explain that it was a mistake to charge that way and pay them more.
That's very noble, but it depends on the quality of the sprite. Despite what Auro says, some people can churn out a workable single frame sprite in around an hour(in the Collab project I'm a part of, we seem to have a couple of artists like this, no idea how they manage it but they do), in which case they'd be on a wage of 25/hour. If so, it'd want to be a professional quality sprite(which is unlikely if they only spent an hour on it). Keep in mind that a lot of people on LSF and elsewhere do this as a hobby too, so being paid is a bonus.

I don't think that should mean artists shouldn't be valued, but it's already difficult enough as a writer getting an artist involved in your project. It seems sad that money should limit the story you can tell in this manner, but getting a free artist who's interested in your project can be very difficult. I wanted to make mine as a comic and spent years searching for a suitable artist.

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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#14 Post by Ziassan » Thu May 10, 2012 9:40 am

Hmm, concerning the sprites price, I think DarkSpartan spoke about what he was seeing on the recruitement forum. Since it's not common for an artist (and any creator) to just show prices like that in public. It depends so much on the project, the kind of work and million of others little things. People who begin or/and want to improve are more likely to give openly their rates.
So that's logic that DS just spoke about what he saw. Obviously normal rates are far more.

The thing to get is that often people who are no used to thing underestimate what is the real cost of a work. And many time when I spoke about this reality to some people, they seemed to get a headache and didn't to speak anymore.

OELVN market is just not big enough to allow real rates (or only for the most successful), often the original creator of a project is happy if he doesn't loose money, I think. People were used to commercial-quality VN for 0$, since piracy was "ok" because of the inaccessibility of most of the JVN. And gamers often don't find interest in such a "reader" thing, and readers prefer often books.
That's why until it gets bigger, rates will ever be something between usual semi-pro rates and free.

Even for music, the only thing I work in-. Depending on the size of a project, I lower sometimes by 4~8 times the usual price I would do for "normal" indie/semi-pro games or little projects (semi-pro documentary, etc.). And that's normal, because it's a community, and I want it to get big and better. It means to find ways to work faster of course, but it's possibly.

And also, you have the "issue" that people are doing that as hobby, and sometimes are okay to be hyper-low paid if they get a bit of acknowledgment. Most of the people would just find that wonderful, but in reality that's something bad, because it's selling something for like 40 times under the price it costs, and that's... damaging ? and I said that as a (actually) hobbyist.
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Re: People, VN Makers, and reasonable rates of exchange

#15 Post by papillon » Thu May 10, 2012 9:47 am

That's very noble, but it depends on the quality of the sprite.
Well, obviously, but considering who I am and what I'm hiring for, a cheap scribble is worth nothing to me. :) My circumstances aren't everyone's circumstances!

There's nothing wrong with giving your art away to free projects if that's what you want to do. There's nothing wrong with charging $5 if you're a kid drawing for fun and you're selling your art to a free project.

Trying to make sure the artist is getting paid a reasonable amount isn't exactly noble - there's a reason I automatically reject anyone who offers to work for free. I want artists who are going to stick around and get their work done, not people who are going to realise that they've made a terrible mistake when they look at the pile of work vs the pile of bills.

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