Game Writers and SFWA Applications: Finding Your Itch and DriveThru Earnings

So, along with other SFWA members, I’ve been aggressively promoting independent game writers joining SFWA (the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association). Writing for video games, tabletop RPGs, and board games qualifies as a “related genre” for SFWA membership purposes (since 2019, I believe), and since the 2022 update to membership qualifications, you only need to show that you have earned $1K in revenue over the course of a lifetime.

To apply, you’ll need to go to the SFWA site and start the membership application. While you’re filling out the form, you’ll be asked to provide evidence of your income from qualifying writing (including writing for video games, TTRPGs, and board games). When I was filling it out in November 2022, I provided earnings income for five projects. This is frequently the part where people get nervous and feel like they’ve got to get everything exactly right. But people get their game-writing income from many sources and in many ways, and SFWA members understand that.

Most income is easy to document and summarize: you have payouts with summaries (I always ask anyone doing consignment to summarize what was sold when they send a payout), invoices, royalty statements, or other documentation that show how much you’ve been paid for that project or for selling those copies. If you’re selling your own physical and digital books, you can probably pull all of that data from your storefront CMS or payment processor and include that. That doesn’t mean it’s not a hassle to pull together, but it is pretty straightforward: make a PDF or image file from the evidence and then include those earnings in your total.

But dealing with TTRPGs’ two most popular storefronts, where a lot of us get a big chunk of our money, can feel intimidating. Here’s how I got my earnings numbers from DriveThruRPG (part of Roll20/OneBookShelf) and

DriveThru/OBS Sales

I’m starting with DriveThru since they’re the easiest to document (though getting that info can be confusing). Note for DriveThruRPG and its OBS companion sites (DriveThruFiction, Wargame Vault, etc.), one report should cover sales on all sites. I don’t sell on Roll20, so I can’t speak to whether or where those numbers show up.

You’ll get your statement on the Royalty Report if you sell via a Community Content program (such as DMs Guild, Storytellers Vault, or Miskatonic Repository). To find that, go to your Account Page, then look for My Content, and click Royalty Report.

the My Content section of a DriveThruRPG account page

If you’ve published your work to DriveThru or one OBS other sites, go to your Publisher area and click View a Sales Report under Sales Reports. Once there, adjust the settings of the report you want to run.

On the DriveThru Sales Report generator, deselect all options to show at-cost and free 'sales' as well as the option to show monthly sub-totals.

Set the date of the Sales Report to on or before the start of your time publishing with DriveThru/OBS, select the title you want to run the report on, and turn off reporting on any free or at-cost copies (you can include Bundle of Holding earnings if those are relevant to you, though). Also, turn off monthly subtotals: For this report, you just want your total sales and total earnings for that one project.

When looking at the report for your project, find the 'Earnings' column.

Record the total earnings for the project and then save the report as a screenshot or PDF. has become a popular marketplace for tabletop RPGs: it takes a smaller cut of sales, makes jam hosting simple, and gives you a lot of great information on your sales, downloads, and page views. While proudly displays your gross sales for a project, finding an earnings statement can be a hassle.

If you use your own PayPal, Payoneer, or similar accounts to process your Itch sales, your best bet is probably to pull that information from your payment service. I’m unsure if the directions below will work if Itch isn’t processing payments and sending you payouts.

If you have process your payments and send you payouts, your best bet is to look at your payout statements. To get them, go to the same page you use to request payouts (Dashboard –> Earnings –> Payouts) and then select the Payouts you want to include in your documentation. For each, click Download Receipt to open a printable page with all the relevant information and save that as PDF or screenshot. On each page, you’ll see a breakdown of how much you earned from each project in the payout under Revenue Breakdown.

Find the Revenue Breakdown section and look for your project's Net revenue in the final (right-most) column.

Note that doesn’t break out bundle sales to specific projects. If you need to document bundle sales to get over the threshold, and you have more than one project in a bundle, I suggest allocating that total to just one project and indicating clearly how you’re allocating those numbers. Be sure you report those numbers only once.

If you get a lot of your revenue from, this can be a pain in the ass, but it’s the clearest documentation you’ll get. To help summarize the info, I put all the PDFs and Images for each project I was documenting into one document (this is easy in Apple Preview, I’m sure there’s a way to make it easy on Windows, too), and then created a cover sheet detailing what was inside and what it added up to. You can also note any revenue sources that you didn’t report if you think the other writers evaluating your application might have questions about them. For instance, “I didn’t include the Kickstarter revenues for Game 1 in my summary here, and while Game 1 was part of my Big Summer Bundle Sale in 2022, those earnings were already included in my documents for Game 2.”

A Few Things to Remember

Keep the following in mind while you’re pulling everything together: - You’re not trying to document all game-writing or fiction-writing income you’ve earned over your entire life. You’re just trying to show you’ve completed and published enough projects to pass the qualification threshold (In USD, $1000 for Full Membership, $100 for Associate Membership). Many of my small projects had earned some money, but I just focused on five projects that had earned me over $100 and that I could clearly document. - You’re not trying to document all the money you’ve earned from the projects you’re listing, just that it contributes to helping you pass the $1000 or $100 thresholds. You’ve passed the threshold if you can show you’ve earned over $400 from one project, $300 on another, and between $150 and $200 on three more. That’s all you need to show. For instance, I included Barrow Keep but didn’t include the Kickstarter funds. I’d funded printing and distribution from that and also paid the editors, sensitivity reader, visual designer, artist, and other writers. That sounded like a pain to document, so I simply noted that I had crowdfunded the project and that money had largely gone to print costs, paying team members, etc., without giving any additional details. I’d also sold some Barrow Keep copies direct at Flame Con: I didn’t include those numbers either since that isn’t a major source of revenue. - You’re not trying to show your proudest or most impressive projects. They’re just confirming that they’re published, in a relevant genre (game writing in this case), and that you’ve earned the required amount of money from them in total. I included Freebooting Rogues of the Infinite Void on mine. It started as a joke, was never professionally edited, was laid out on Apple Pages (the original was laid out in Google Docs), and it’s about to go out of print, but it had earned me a few hundred dollars since I’d published it, so including it helped. - The projects you’re including do need to be published. Since I’d not yet released Moonlight on Roseville Beach at the time I applied, I didn’t include that. - If you pay additional royalties to contributors (I do with Roseville Beach), be sure your revenues reflect only the money that you keep, not any revenues you’re still paying out.

While you’re pulling your documents together, keep in mind that the other writers evaluating membership applications are real humans who aren’t hunting for excuses to deny you membership. If anything’s unclear, they’ll reach out.


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