Often, aspiring writers ask me how to break into the worlds of tie-in fiction or role-playing game writing. My advice for folks looking to get their foot in the door includes knowing somebody, making cool stuff and putting it out there, making it easy for folks to find you, and applying to freelancer open calls. In this article, I’ll go into detail on each of these four ways to get noticed and hired, and then give my recommendations for ways you can stand out from the crowd.

Tip 1: Know Somebody

The hard truth is that knowing somebody working in the industry is the most surefire way of getting hired to write for them. If you can put yourself in a position where people doing the hiring can contact you—or you can contact them—you’ve overcome the hardest part already. Even if you don’t have a contact inside the company, someone in your network who has worked for them before could recommend you for that new project or assignment.

Although cultivating those connections can be challenging, there are ways you can grow your network without seeming disingenuous. When trying to make new connections, the key lies in networking with your peers—those at a similar level in their professional career. Folks in your cohort can provide valuable feedback on your work, share useful resources, serve as accountability partners, and help keep you motivated. And as you and your connections make headway within the RPG- and tie-in fiction-writing industries, opportunities might arise where they can recommend you for projects, and vice versa.

So how can you meet folks in your cohort? Try joining subreddits or Discord communities for the games, genres, and fandoms you’re looking to break into. Attend conventions and game days both online and in person, or consider hosting a game day yourself. Chances are, you’ll find local creators who are demoing or playtesting their games or supplements. You can also look for writing groups to join in your local community or for specific fandoms. You might also consider seeking out folks to collaborate with on projects such as podcasts, actual plays, game supplements, setting sourcebooks, or fanfiction. Note that LinkedIn is not the greatest platform for building genuine connections (in my opinion), but it is a good spot to showcase the work you’ve created (see tips 2 and 3).

Generally speaking, folks will be able to sense if you’re only in it to leapfrog over them or leverage their connections. By contrast, folks will remember if you’re generous with your support and share your knowledge and leads freely. Putting in a good word for someone else when you don’t have the bandwidth to take on an opportunity yourself, or when the project just isn’t in your wheelhouse, helps foster real relationships that can pave the way for future opportunities. If you’re looking out for them as you become more successful, they’ll be much more likely to reciprocate in kind. Not to mention, finding like-minded individuals to share gaming experiences and fandoms is its own reward.

Tip 2: Make Cool Stuff and Put it Out There

All that being said, growing your network and getting to know the right folks takes time and a bit of luck. In the meantime, there’s plenty you can do on your own to help improve your chances of breaking into tie-in fiction or RPG writing: namely, by writing the kinds of things you’re hoping to get paid to write, and then sharing those things online with others. The main point is to demonstrate to prospective clients that you already have the skills they’re looking for (including the critical skill of finishing something). If you don’t have any games or stories or supplements to showcase on a website, or to sell through community content programs, it’s extremely unlikely that a company will take a chance on you creating that work for the first time for them. For instance, if don’t already have a body of work of fiction and/or fanfiction, it’s highly unlikely that a tie-in novel publisher would invite you to start pitching work for them.

By producing cool content and sharing it publicly, you’ll not only improve your skills through good-old-fashioned practice, but you could also receive valuable feedback to hone your craft further. Creating original work also allows you to build up your writing resume, which is what prospective clients will be looking at when they see someone recommend you or review your open call application. My advice is to focus on creating content that aligns with your goals, whether it’s designing an RPG from scratch, writing material for D&D 5th edition, or crafting tie-in fiction for your favorite gaming universe. Don’t write screenplays if you want to be paid to write novels, for example. If you want to write World of Darkness of Call of Cthulhu content for the companies developing them, start out publishing on the Storyteller’s Vault or Miskatonic Repository programs.

I want to be clear that I’m not recommending you work for “exposure” or give your work away for free (unless you’re writing fanfiction, obviously). Definitely sell or otherwise monetize your work! Nowadays, there are many avenues to legally profit from RPG content that uses someone else’s system. Explore platforms like DMsGuild, DriveThruRPG, itch.io, Patreon, or other spaces where you can sell your work. Read the fine print, understand the terms, and potentially set up an LLC before putting your work up for sale. As you begin self-publishing your work, save your receipts and learn how to fill out a Schedule C tax form (or the equivalent for non-US countries) to track your income and expenditures. Treat your efforts like a job, which it basically is—you’re just self-employed instead of working for others… for now, anyway!

Once you’ve published your work, share links to your creations on social media platforms. (These days, I prefer Blue Sky and Mastodon, where algorithms are less likely to bury you under the latest rage-bait.) Ask your friends, family, and colleagues to share your work with folks they think would enjoy them. Additionally, consider reaching out to reviewers or content creators within your niche and offer them a free copy of your work for review. Share your successes on LinkedIn and on your website’s blog if you have one.

As you embark on your writing journey, here are some additional suggestions to help save yourself time, money, and headache as you try to take this from a hobby to a professional pursuit.

Tip 3: Make it Easy to Be Found

If you’ve gone through all the trouble to create sharable work, it could be for naught if you don’t have a central location to showcase them, whether that’s a website, Linktree, social media profile, or Facebook or Goodreads author page. It’s crucial that whatever space you’ve created has your contact information or a contact form so people who want to hire you can reach out.

Ideally, you want to be easily findable online, whether folks are looking for you on Google or social media or on Discord. Include an “About” section that talks about the kind of work you’re looking for. Having a blog where share work in progress, or a Goodreads or Facebook author page, can also help your efforts, as these will drive potential clients to sample rest of your work, and linking between them all will help you rise in the ranks of search results. At the very least, maintain an up-to-date list of publications on a static site, with links to buy or read your work and contact you. Personally, I’ve used Google to search for sensitivity reviewers and cultural consultants, and I’ve sought out writers of tie-in fiction on places like Goodreads, but that’s only turned into paying work for them if I found a way to get in touch once discovering their list of past publications.

Tip 4: Apply to Open Calls

Finally, keep an eye out for open calls from companies you’d like to work for. When those companies are looking to refresh their pool of talent—or to reach different talent to launch a new game line—they’ll often post an open call for interested writers to send in resumes and writing samples. These opportunities can be few and far between, so you want to take advantage of them when they do come around. Bookmark these companies’ websites and follow their social media accounts to be the first to know when new projects and opportunities arise.

When submitting to an open call, tailor your writing resume to the company you’re submitting to—include the most relevant writing credits at the top. This is where having a list of self-published work (see tip 2) is invaluable, as that can help prove that you’ve done the type of work they’re looking for. Some companies also request samples for you to show you can write to spec. This could include writing up an NPC stat block that demonstrates your grasp of the rules as well as your talent for crafting flavorful descriptions. Having practice writing this kind of content will go a long way to help your entry stand out, and doing your own work also increases the chances that you’ve already written something that falls within the bounds of the assignment.

Lastly, my number one piece of advice for applying to open calls is to follow the directions as closely as possible. If inundated with applicants, it’s easy for the company to set aside any applications that didn’t adhere to the guidelines. I’ve written an entire article on tips when applying to a freelance writing open call, so check it out if this is something you’ll be doing soon!

I wish you the best as you launch your writing career, and I hope these tips give you some things to try as you endeavor to get your first job as a writer of tie-in fiction or RPG materials. Please share this post with a friend if you found these tips helpful, and subscribe to my newsletter if you’d like more advice and resources like this delivered straight to your inbox!