I had been meaning to write a long post-mortem on the Planet Apocalypse project, but haven’t had a chance to devote headspace to it, while being as continuously busy as I am. One of the things we’ve been busy with is expanding our stable of freelance developers for a vast increase in RPG publications we have in our pipeline.
Just today and in the past few days I had a rather weird experience, and perhaps as a way to therapize it for myself, I’m writing out what happened by sharing the back and forth communication – leaving out names and a few specifics of course.
We were connected with this person by another developer we are working with for a future project as someone who may be interested in helping out on the same project. He was someone a few of us were familiar with – I had at least one RPG book with his name in the credits, for example, and read his RPG blog, as did some others on our team. So we were keen on working with him. Unfortunately, it’s very much not going to happen now. Here’s the emails:
[Developer]: [After plenty of positive emails culminating in an agreement to hire him to work on this project, absent the detail of his pay rate.] “That’s great Arthur, were we going to discuss money at any point?”
Arthur: “Wait, aren’t you doing all this for free? ha. I apologize – I had thought this was arranged already with Christine [our business manager], and I apologize. Since the full scope of the work is very TBD, I’d prefer a rate per final word, over a flat fee. We can offer [$X] per word of the final manuscript as approved and submitted for editing. How does that sound?”
[Developer]: “Hmm, I need to think about this Arthur, I assume its ok if i take a night to sleep on it?”
[Developer]: “Hello Arthur, I’m sorry to tell you this but for a variety of reasons I don’t think I will be able to go ahead with Petersen Games. I have my Kickstarter which needs a lot of Admin for fulfilment, contracts with other companies and my self-owned projects, and a per-word rate really doesn’t work well with how I do things; I usually put a lot of thought into stuff and try hard to get the word-count _down_.I think the process of escalation on the project has gotten away from me a little. At first I was really interested in working with [Other Developer], then that lead to [Project], then that lead to Petersen Games and the nature of things has changed quite a bit over that process.I do wish you all at Petersen Games the best with the project and I hope it works out. My apologies for the wasted time, I think we can put this one down to experience.Please feel free to use any of the ideas in the pitch documents.”
Arthur: “I’m sorry to hear that. If a per word rate does not work for you, can you tell me a counter proposal for what you have in mind? We would still love for you to Contribute to this project.”
[Developer]: “I have no counter proposal. I very much dislike negotiation and my previous email was not the start of one. I consider the matter closed as of now.”
Arthur: “I feel as if we’ve done something to offend you? I am having a difficult time understanding the extreme change of tone and the situation. I’m not sure what you mean that the “nature of things has changed” and that the process has “escalated” – please enlighten me!”
[Developer]: “Arthur, When I tell you I’m not doing something in very final words. And then you email me back asking to negotiate. And then I directly and explicitly tell you that I very much dislike negotiation. An that I consider the matter closed. That is me telling you in the most explicit and bordering-on-rude terms that I consider the matter close and do not want to talk to you about it. I am telling you, simply, directly and in the most absolute terms – your repeated attempts to contact me and to extend a conversation which I only desire to leave are unpleasant and upsetting for me. This conversation is over. Do not contact me again.”
Yikes! So, when I forwarded this to Christine, she opined he seems a little unstable, and better to discover this now, then in the midst of working on the project.
Consider how discombobulating this was for me. He begins with a clear invitation for a discussion (“were we going to discuss money”), but then refuses to negotiate, also without having told me any baseline or standard rates he might have. What?
The first thing I can think of is that the proposed price I offered was below what he thought he deserved. But how could I have known that in advance? I’m not a mind reader, and he never proposed any price whatsoever. A reasonable person, having not communicated an expected price, would have to be prepared for some level of negotiation – there’s no other way around it. We’ve hired several dozen – possibly close to a hundred – different freelancers over the years at Petersen Games. Artists, sculptors, graphic designers, editors, proofreaders, game designers, writers, programmers, website developers, and more. And not once has the conversation been even remotely like this one. Some freelancers have standard rates. And we also offer standard rates. But there is often deviation (on both sides) from those, because that’s the nature of hiring freelancers.
It’s also possible he already thought he couldn’t take the project on with everything else going on in his work or life, and used this as an opportunity to say so. But he chose a rather odd way of communicating this – by claiming he refuses to negotiate and telling me to never contact him? Bizarre.
And just his word choices were stunning – like actually stunning to me, in that I didn’t know how to react at first, and kind of sat there in a brief stupor. I thought I was having a rather normal back and forth between a publisher and potential freelancer, and then suddenly “I consider the matter closed as of now” and “That is me telling you in the most explicit and bordering-on-rude terms that I consider the matter close and do not want to talk to you about it.” What?? It wasn’t “out of the blue.” I’d describe it as “out of the red.”
So now it becomes a tale for me, and now for you.