Help With Writing Laws

Paizo General Discussion

I am currently writing a fantasy novel that uses mostly Pathfinder style classes, a few cities and monsters. I'm not sure where copyright laws sit and how to avoid them. Any help on information would be greatly appreciated!

You can't use anything Golarion-specific, like place names, people, or even spells that aren't OGC (open game content), if you're seeking to publish it for profit (unless Paizo wants to buy it, which they most likely won't, if you're not an established fantasy author).

If you're not writing it for profit, but just to share with friends or online, look in the threads about Wayfinder, where lots of Paizo fans do share stories based in Golarion, and they even do a free magazine with all kinds of PF short story goodness.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Krixis wrote:
I am currently writing a fantasy novel that uses mostly Pathfinder style classes, a few cities and monsters. I'm not sure where copyright laws sit and how to avoid them. Any help on information would be greatly appreciated!

If you're talking about non-commercial fan-fiction, check out our Community Use Policy for how you may be able to use some of our setting stuff. When it comes to mechanics, though, you may want to check out the OGL, which is included as part of every OGL product. (You might note that our own Pathfinder Tales novels don't use the OGL—we just avoid using mechanics that may contain the intellectual property of others.)

If you're talking about potential commercial use, you can still use the OGL, but you can't use anything that we've identified as Product Identity, which is most of our setting material.

As someone who reads fantasy novels,

Why would Piazo not even consider buying the book if it was actually really good?

Ever read the drow Insurrection series headed by R.A. Salvator?

All of those authors were fairly new and that serious was amazing. They all have work now.

I could never understand how some companies only take 'established writers."

personally I wont read ANYTHING by Salvator cause it seems like he is just writing to write, absolute garbage lately, Wies Hickman, absolute gods in fantasy world, I've even given up on.

Its time for new authors, good stories. If his story is actually good, why wouldn't it make money, In fact, having the "pathfinder" name on such a novel could make an author. If he were good.

I never read his "book." but I will say this, by a publishing company refusing to even consider reading material, it sorta is contradictory of what a publishing company is. Isn't it your duty to read pretty much everything??

Its like a demo tape sent to a recording label. They listen to everything.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

The issue is accepting unsolicited work. If someone can get themselves an agent to approach us, they automatically establish themselves as more than just someone who wants to write a novel, but someone who wants to do so professionally.

Writing a novel is a huge undertaking and before someone takes it on, we need to approve it, and approving something from someone who we can't be sure will even ever complete the novel, much less have the name enough to sell any copies, is a big risk. We have ways of allowing new authors to get into writing adventures and other rules content through RPG Superstar and the Pathfinder Society open call, and after the novels line has built up momentum with established authors, we may have similar opportunities for new ones. Until then, the folks at Pathfinder Chronicler run a great operation for fan fiction writers to hone their craft and perhaps even catch the notice of us or other fantasy fiction publishers.


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Hold tight, children... it's UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH TIME!

It's true that Paizo does not consider unsolicited manuscripts, and currently only publishes fiction from authors who've already been professionally published. Here's why:

First off, it isn't even an issue of pro versus amateur--it's a question of staffing. Paizo's still a small company. As it stands, I barely have time to read all the stories that I purchase from our top-tier authors, and once that's done I have to scrape together the time to read the story samples I've requested from other professional authors to see if they're a good fit for the line. If I opened the floodgates to unsolicited manuscripts, I'd be flooded in a few days, and those manuscripts would still remain unread--but I'd have given a bunch of good folks a false sense of hope. That's not cool.

Second, we actually don't accept unsolicited manuscripts from anyone. Every story you see in a Paizo product has gone through a long pitching and revision process to make sure that it meets our needs, doesn't conflict with upcoming projects, isn't too similar to other stories we've purchased, etc. Ask any of my authors, and they'll tell you about all the story ideas they had that stalled out on the drawing board. When authors write manuscripts without going through that process, they're almost guaranteed to have to make sweeping changes--and it's way more work for both author and editor to revise an existing book than to collaborate from the ground up.

Third--and this is where the truths really start to get uncomfortable--Mark's right that it's a big risk working with unestablished writers. Not only are they almost guaranteed to sell fewer books, they're also far less likely to know how to market themselves, to meet deadlines, or to know how to produce the kind of work I need. Writing is a hobby for a lot of folks, but since our grocery budget depends on authors being able to give us what we need under intense pressure, it's better for us to use folks that have already proven themselves. If we just published generic short stories or novels, it'd be easy to read an unsolicited novel and accept it if it was good and reject it if it was bad. But there are so many gears whirring in any media tie-in property (like Pathfinder, or Star Wars, or Halo, or Dr. Who) that any cog which isn't precisely fitted in advance is going to grind the whole machine to a halt.

Last but not least--it's not even safe for us to read unsolicited stuff. Most major authors refuse to read amateur authors' manuscripts for the same reason: because if they read the manuscript, then at any point in the future that fan may see something in one of that author's books that reminds him of his own work and slap the publisher with a lawsuit for copyright infringement or plagiarism. It happens all the time, and while authors are almost always exonerated--turns out that the crazy fan wasn't the only person to have the "what if the heroes rode dragons?" idea--legal battles are expensive and time consuming. So most authors save themselves from suspicion by throwing away all such manuscripts without reading the first word.

I'm not trying to beat down on you, dragonslie123, as you raise good questions. But in your specific example--the War of the Spider Queen books--all of those authors had been around the industry (and WotC) for quite some time, and had already proven themselves long before those books were published. And even then, WotC still put Salvatore's name on the top (that whole "established writer credibility" thing).

I would love to be in a world where publishing companies could afford to read everything, but it's just not feasible. And unfortunately, as someone who spent ten years gigging with various bands, I can tell you that the same is true of the music industry--just because you send a major label or radio station a demo doesn't mean they listen to it.

In both industries, it's all about starting at the bottom and working your way up, establishing your credibility and professionalism (and fan base), and hoping that eventually you'll be recognized for your skills. If there are any shortcuts, I haven't found them yet....

You may want to consider something like the National Novel Writing Month contest as a way to both get yourself some name recognition as a writer and working on a deadline. It requires you to write a 50,000 word piece over the month of November and can be found here if you're interested.

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