Every year, we receive thousands of proposals for magazine articles and adventures. If you’re someone who regularly sends pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you’re someone who’s never sent us a pitch but are looking to contribute to the D&D game, you’ll find the information in this Design & Development article particularly informative. Here, Greg Bilsland (D&D Producer) and Chris Perkins (D&D Senior Producer) discuss impending changes to the magazine submission guidelines.
The Submission Windows
Chris Perkins: For decades, magazine submissions to Dragon and Dungeon have been treated more or less the same way: People send us their ideas for articles and adventures, we commission the ones we like, and we publish them for the enjoyment of our subscribers. As editions and editors have changed, so too have our submission guidelines; but despite the changes, the magazines remain an excellent way to break into the RPG publishing industry.
As producers, Greg and I manage D&D game content for both print products and the online magazines. Ultimately we want to provide the best content we can with the time and resources that we have at our disposal. To this end, we’ve decided to make two significant changes to the submission guidelines.
First, we’ll only be accepting article and adventure pitches during two windows in a given year: between April 1st and May 31st and between October 1st and November 30th. This change will allow us to better manage the volume of content, which we’ll discuss in detail further on.
Second, every submission received in a given window will be given some kind of response (typically an acceptance, rejection, or request for revision) within 60 days after that window closes. Thus we can address the biggest problem of the current process: our inability to provide feedback, even if it’s just a polite “no, thank you.” Right now, sending us an article or adventure proposal can be like throwing pitches into a sphere of annihilation, and we know that a change for the better has been a long time coming.
Greg Bilsland: Some time ago, Chris and I made it our mission going forward to provide magazine content that was relevant and rewarding to subscribers. (The character theme articles appearing this month in Dragon are great examples.) Once we had finalized a content plan for May, the next piece of the puzzle was figuring out how we wanted to produce content for Dragon and Dungeon for the next twelve months.
As Steve Winter mentioned in his editorial earlier this month, we like the idea of tying the magazines more closely to themes—ones we think are really cool (Kara-Tur, anyone?)—in addition to our print products. We’re not going to mandate individual themes too rigorously or make all of the content in a given month speak to a single theme. After all, we don’t want Dragon and Dungeon to lose their eclectic charm.
Chris: The idea of magazine themes isn’t new. When I was working on Dragon back in 1997, we had themes for every issue. However, this is the first time I can recall the magazines placing theme support and print product support on equal footing. So, for example, this month in Dragon we have several theme-focused articles as well as articles tied to new products such as Player’s Option: Heroes of Shadow and The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond… and, we also have articles that step beyond both theme and our print offerings. It’s a nice balance.
The Importance of Feedback: to You and to Us
Greg: Ultimately, we want to get the magazine to a place where we rely on a large pool of regular, reliable freelance writers while still allowing opportunities for newcomers to break in. As mentioned before, one aspect that we’ve been frustrated by (and we’re sure some of you have as well) is our inability to respond to your pitches personally or in a timely fashion. We know how hard it is to break into the game industry, and there’s nothing quite so soul-crushing as waiting weeks (or months) to hear back about your pitch, and then receiving a form-rejection letter—or worse, hearing nothing at all.
I know this from personal experience. Before I worked here at Wizards of the Coast, I was no stranger to rejection letters. However, one thing I remember well from my days of aspiring freelance writing is when I submitted a novel to Wizards a few years back, and Nina Hess (one of the editors, now one of my co-workers) had the decency to send me a few comments to go along with that soul-crushing rejection letter. But it was those types of responses that helped keep me going.
Chris: I owe my entire career to the magazines. I remember the attention I got from Roger Moore and Barbara Young—a series of rejection letters that kicked off a wildly successful freelance writing career. Today, the problem we face is not with the quantity or quality of the submissions but with an issue of scheduling. Greg and I have lots of ongoing tasks, and trying to carve out time to give due consideration to your submissions can be challenging when it seems like there’s a dozen other more immediate tasks perpetually bearing down on us. As a result, we’ve decided to schedule more formal time to review your submissions and give ourselves more manageable timeframes for the submission process. April through May and October through November, we’ll open submissions to everyone who wishes to submit pitches (as always to email@example.com). If you’re wondering why we picked those months, let’s just say it has a lot to do with conventions and holiday seasons.
Greg: We hope that these limited submission windows will allow us to build our schedules in anticipation of new pitches. It will also allow us to look for common themes to fill upcoming months. At the same time, we will continue looking for opportunities to insert new articles into our schedule as needed. If we see a particular demand in the community for, let’s say, more character themes, we’ll still react to those desires. We can either expedite our internal design process, or conscript someone out of house to design, oh, a new runepriest build for example. Our process isn’t always nimble; it typically requires eight weeks to get new art for an article, and each step in our process (design, development, editing, managing editing, and typesetting) can require two weeks. However, it’s our hope that our planning and changes to the submissions guidelines will give us a more solid foundation for Dragon and Dungeon.
Chris: Ultimately, we hope this change to our submission policy benefits everyone—those of you who like to submit pitches, those of us who read your pitches, and those of you who subscribe to get our magazine content. We have some other ideas to present down the road as well, but we’re interested in first hearing what you think.