Selling on DMs Guild – Pros and Cons

 

I’ve been selling 5e work on the Guild since pretty much the beginning. I’ve experienced some small success on the platform. In that process, I’ve seen a lot of flap out there about selling your content on the Guild. Some of it is kind of true. Some of it is false. Some of it is absurd. This is an attempt to address some common misconceptions.
 

First off, don’t go by what you hear. Practice due diligence. Read the Creator FAQ. Go do that now. This post will still be here when you get back. 
Second, if you’re thinking about creating content for the Guild, there’s a Facebook group for that — a helpful, friendly group of creators who just want to help other folks make awesome stuff. Leverage that knowledge base. The Guild creator community is one of the best, most friendly, most helpful communities you’re ever going to find.
 
Third, yes, the Guild pays 50% royalty as opposed to DTRPG’s 70+% or the 100% you can get by selling on your own site. There’s a couple of huge reasons for that smaller royalty: selling your stuff through the Guild gives you access to the vast majority of protected Wizards D&D IP, and it’s the single largest captive market for 5e materials.
 
Let me unpack both of those a bit farther.
 
When you sell your work on the Guild, you get access to the Wizards D&D library. If you want to feature Khelben Blackstaff as an NPC in and adventure set in Waterdeep which also features beholders and illithids, you can. You may not legally do that anywhere else. If that’s not important to you, you can sell it anywhere you like, provided you comply with the OGL, which isn’t *hard* but can be complicated (read it carefully).
 
When you sell on the Guild you’re putting your work in front of people who come there solely to consume D&D 5e materials. In addition, Wizards is making an effort to drive buyers to the Guild on all their social-media and streaming channels, which means you don’t have to do a massive amount of marketing (though a bit of marketing helps if you want to be successful). Creators of 5e OGL content have a really tough job marketing their work unless they’re large houses like Kobold Press, who can afford to spend time and money marketing their products. If you’re willing to put an awful lot of effort into marketing your work, you can sell it on DTRPG (or hell, your own website) and make a much larger percentage on it. Personally, I find that having all my 5e material in one place and letting someone else do the heavy marketing lifting translates to a greater volume of sales, which makes up for the smaller royalty percentage per unit sold.
 
Fourth, you may have heard that selling on the Guild means you can’t publish that work anywhere else. Yes, that’s absolutely true, there’s precisely nothing wrong with it, and it boggles my mind how it can be confusing to anyone.
The Guild is your publisher. That’s how publishing usually works, unless you get lucky or famous or find an edge case (like EN5IDER).* If I write an article for a magazine, I get paid for that article, and that article belongs to the magazine. It’s even simpler than that: You sold a thing to someone else. That thing now belongs to them. You wouldn’t sell a skateboard to someone then insist you be allowed to sell that skateboard to someone else, would you? No. That doesn’t make sense.
 
The only difference here is that the Guild doesn’t pay you a lump sum all at once. They pay you a little bit over time through royalties.
 
Because, and this is the key to the whole matter, the Guild is your publisher. You don’t publish things on the Guild. The Guild is your publisher. It’s just that they’re not very picky about what they publish; they publish everything that comes to them. 😉
 
How does that compare to DTRPG? DTRPG is a platform, not a publisher. Publishers sell work via DTRPG’s platform. The smaller percentage DTRPG takes from every sale is a fee for the service. It’s no different than Amazon or any other selling platform. They let you sell your stuff and take a bit from each sale.
For example, I have an adventure coming out soon for Odysseys & Overlords, a new OSR setting (which is awesome and you should check it out). I sold it to Aegis Studios, the publisher of O&O. Aegis Studios is the entity who sells it on DTRPG. I have no expectation of retaining any rights to that work. I sold a thing to them.

Here’s the kicker: For that work, I will be paid a percentage, a royalty, just like for my Guild work. It’s a royalty pretty much the size of the Guild royalty percentage. I get paid for my work, the publisher gets paid for the product, the platform gets paid for their service.

Choosing where and how to sell your work is sometimes difficult. I hope this helps clear the murk a bit.

* EN5IDER buys exclusive rights to your work for a year, after which you get the rights back.

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