I’ve received some recent emails and comments related to my post on turning your Dungeons and Dragons campaign into novel. It gives me the warm fuzzies to know that people are still reading this poor, neglected blog. It has also spurred me to ask why people are so interested in writing a D&D novel based on a campaign they played in.
The question is, for the most part, rhetorical. I can think of several reasons why:
- It’s easy creative fodder for the aspiring writer. They have characters, locations, and action all ready developed, and if they can get WotC to publish it, they don’t have to worry about things like IP and copyright.
- The D&D brand has a built in audience. Many aspiring writers–and published ones, like myself–dream of being a bestseller, and that requires more than just good writing. Marketing and brand recogniziton play a role in grabbing readership, and having an established brand like D&D makes writing a D&D book attractive. More on this later.
- It’s a geek’s dream-come-true. What better way to feel a part of the D&D community that has given you so much than to contribute something official to the D&D canon? While designing something for the game might seem more logical, there is a perception that game design requires a certain level of skill not necessary for writing, which brings me to my last reason…
- The perception that there is a lower threshold for the market. Tie-in fiction, particulary from media such as games, has long been frowned upon by readers and writers who perceive such stories to be of inferior quality just because they are based on a non-literary product. Aspiring novelists who lack confidence (and/or skill) in their craft might interpret this snobbery as an indication that the editors’ standards will not be as stringent when it comes to the writing. This is not the case, as I will point out below.
It has been my experience, and that of other authors, that media tie-in markets like Wizards of the Coast are some of the hardest to break into. WotC is one of the few that actually publish guidelines for submitting writing samples that may get you a chance to write for them. Most markets find their talent through the buddy system–their stable of authors and editors recommend their buddies. This reason alone is enough for me to suggest to aspiring writers that they not attempt to write a D&D novel, but here are some others:
- D&D’s brand won’t guarantee a bestseller. The only D&D author who consistently makes the bestseller lists is R. A. Salvatore, and the others who have did so by writing a novel in a series that bore Mr. Salvatore’s name on the cover. Paul Kemp’s Erevis Cale is arguably the second most popular character in Forgotten Realms fiction, but none of the books featuring Cale has made the NYT list. (Kemp was the author of one of the NYT bestseller novels in the War of the Spider Queen series, and his Star Wars novel Crosscurrent also made the list.)
- Storylines for D&D novels are planned far in advance. That awesome story you wrote about your campaign likely doesn’t fit with those plans. Either the ground has already been covered, or it conflicts with another story already in the works. That even happens with the solicited proposals.
- Editors are never interested in anything but your best writing. If you aren’t confident enough in your craft to submit your story to “real” markets then don’t bother submitting it at all. WotC is a professional market that pays professional rates. There are plenty of amateur markets where aspiring writers can practice their craft.
Now, if after reading all this, you still really want to write a Dungeons and Dragons novel, I encourage you to read through WotC’s guidelines and submit your sample of writing. My point in writing all this, however, is to have you consider whether it wouldn’t be better to just write a fantasy fiction novel that doesn’t tie-in to someone else’s IP. That was the intent of the original post about making a novelization of your D&D campaign. You have just about the same chance of getting published by Tor or Del Rey as you do by WotC. Maybe even a little better.