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Analysis between Solo and Collaboration projects on DMsGuild

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And I’m back on blog posts focused on TTRPG content creators. This time I want to address an interesting topic: the differences between working alone (solo) and with other people (collabs).

So far, I’ve worked a fair share on solo projects (both involving writing and/or cartography) but since 2021, I’ve been involved exclusively in collabs. No solo stuff yet. 

But first off, let’s clarify a few things. You never truly work alone in this business, as even if you do all the writing, layout, get the art and all that, you still need an editor. Self-editing is not recommended. So a solo project means that it’s your idea and you did the majority of the work. A collab is working with other people (2 or more) and can go in many ways, but that’s the basic definition. An example: you did the writing, someone edited and a 3rd person laid out the product into its final state.

Pros and Cons of Solos

This list will of course vary from person to person, but it’s just to give an overall idea on what works better and what doesn’t work so well on solo works.

Pros

  • Freedom: you don’t depend on anyone else to do the job, you can work in your own way
  • Flexibility: due to the reason mentioned above, you can define your deadlines, change them if need, and adjust things to fit your needs and wishes
  • Higher Royalties/Revenue/Profits: since you’re doing most of the work, you’ll be the one to get the better financial outcome based on this product’s sales (more on that later)

Cons

  • Time-Costly: since your doing mostly everything on your own, it’s a lot of work
  • Writer’s Block: working alone, you won’t always have someone to talk about the project to overcome a block
  • Learning Limitation: you are limited by your own capabilities in regards to what you will learn by working on this project. You won’t be faced with different opinions and perspectives  

Pros and Cons of Collabs

Maybe you have a different list of pros and cons, but here are some common ones.

Pros

  • Learning Opportunities: by getting involved with other people, communicating with them, sharing ideas and discussing them, you can learn A LOT! You’ll see how they think, how they work and hence you’ll naturally grow 
  • Split Tasks: since you’re working with other people, this usually means a reduced scope and less work for each person involved for that kind of project. Of course, a huge collab could still be more work for each team member than a tiny solo product. But you got what I meant! You’ll do your writing (e.g. an adventure), and that’s it. 
  • Network: knowing people and making contacts is very important for both hobbyists and business folks. Having a strong network can help you boost your skills, pick you up when you’re down or even help you with sales by help on promotions
  • Fun: working with other people is often fun, mainly if you’re working on something really cool
  • Portfolio Growth: considering that collabs usually require less involvement, you could participate in more collabs and with that, increase and grow your portfolio. This is very helpful as some people may become impressed/interested when they see that you’ve been involved in a lot of stuff
  • Bigger Reach: being in a team means that you have more social media reach to promote your product

Cons

  • Out-of-control Deadlines: in such projects you usually have little to no control on the deadline, meaning that you need to make an effort to keep it (avoid missing deadlines as much as possible)
  • Handling Feedback: sometimes you may be faced with feedback from your team members and this is here as a Cons since not everyone handles constructive feedback so well but that’s actually a Pros as feedback helps you grow
  • Lower Royalties: since more people are involved, you’ll get a lower cut but also the work and involvement should also been lower 

Financial Analysis

Content Warning: Amounts

Maybe you wonder which one is better when we consider the financial aspect. I will bring you my experience and vision on the topic, but that surely varies from creator to creator. I’ve been doing this for nearly 15 months now and financially, most of my revenue comes from solo products created in 2020. Overall, solo products represent 87% of my revenue to-date.

Yet, for 2021, I have no solo products planned. Doesn’t seem like the smartest business decision right? Maybe. Probably. I want to try things out and build a catalog, so that why I’m testing this out. But let’s go for specifics analyzing my biggest solo and collab sellers, both releases in November 2020.

Tasha’s Crucible of Everything

This project involved 25 creators, it was a huge project very well managed by Andrew from QL Games. My involvement wasn’t super huge if compared to the solo product I’ll mention below but it was some 8+ weeks, even though some them needed very little involvement. In terms of costs, I recall it being like $ 5 to 10 for the cover. 
Volume I has sold 1588 copies so far and has netted me $ 471.98, which is quite alright. Monthly, that would be roughly $ 67 on average only with this product. This May, Volume 2 came out so that’s nice, it’s selling well and Volume 2 got zero involvement from my side besides promoting it.

Encounters in Barovia

For this project, I spent maybe a week creating maps, another week writing it and finally a few days laying it out. In between, editing happened but that had little involvement from me. I made this during the RPG Writer’s Workshop (now Storytelling Collective) and I asked Rogue Watson to create a promotional video, so there was a cost of $ 55, aside from the Adobe Stock art I used from my subscription. 
This product has sold 870 copies so far, plus 58 from its Fantasy Grounds conversion and netted be  $2,425.29 so far. Monthly, we’re talking about $ 346.47. There’s a rather huge difference there. It’s worth mentioning that not all solo products will sell that well. I have a couple of products that have been out for a few months and have sold a little over 10 copies.

Conclusion

While solo works could potentially mean better financial results if the product sells well, collabs are key for a number of other reasons. I would aim to mix both of them, with a balance that will suit you best. Maybe more collabs and solos, or vice-versa. You’ll know what works best for you.

Spending a reasonable amount of time on a solo project and not seeing the sales meeting our expectations can be tough. I recommend moving on and working on your next thing, be it collab or solo.

Once I have more data (maybe around August) I intend to post many different statistics involving my sales in the TTRPG business, considering solo/collabs, WotC IP/non-IP, maps/written products, etc.