As you may have noticed this last week, there have been a lot of Natsume Yuujinchou posts coming out as Irina and I finally published our collaboration series which ended up being a battle royale between the supporting cast members from Natsume. As I mentioned in the introduction to the series, I don’t think either Irina or I knew what we were in for when we decided that was a good idea. We ended up breaking our own hearts so many times while writing it and then of course we couldn’t agree on a winner anyway (mostly because neither one of us really wanted the other character to lose anyway).
However, this post isn’t really about Natsume, given you’ve either read the posts or you are certain to click the links below and check them out because it was great fun writing and we’d love for you to vote on your favourite character so we can announce a winner next week. This post is about the collaboration process itself.
Links to Natsume Posts:
- Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 1 Part A
- Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 1 Part B
- Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 2 Part A
- Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 2 Part B
- Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 3 Part A
- Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 3 Part B
First and foremost, I have to thank Irina for being an amazing collaboration partner. Admittedly I don’t have a lot of experience with successful collaborations. I’ve had a few fall through, but working with Irina has been fantastic both this time and our previous efforts when we debated the merits (or lack of them) of Black Butler Season 2. The only other collaboration I’ve been working on consistently is with Weekend Otaku and our 200 Word Anime series which is quite different because it is an episode review once a week rather than an overall project. That said, I also have to give a huge thank-you to Weekend Otaku for being a fantastic collaboration partner through both the Autumn 2017 season and the Winter 2018 season and hopefully we can work together again in the future.
Collaboration takes many different forms and depending on who you are working with, your intent, scope of the project, and a whole bunch of other issues, how you approach a collaboration will change. So there’s no handbook for making sure a collaboration is successful. Yet there’s some pretty surefire ways to not end up with a successful collaboration. I mentioned I’ve had some unsuccessful collaboration experiences and I’m pretty sure I’m the reason in most of those instances but here are some of the things that go a little bit wrong and why you need to have patience, perseverance, and some sort of goal if you are actually going to get a collaboration off the ground.
What can go wrong?
01. Slow response to emails or DM’s on Twitter. As much as I am online in the morning and evening everyday, that is morning and evening Australian time. There’s only a very small window in the morning before I go to work where people in America seem to actually be active online, which means I can get a message sent to me in the morning and it will be 12 or so hours later before I can respond, at which point the person who sent it is probably either at work or asleep depending on their timezone and by the time they respond I’m back at work or whatever. It means it can take days to settle a simple question if there are multiple clarifications to be made and let’s be honest, most people don’t have the patience for it.
And if things are this difficult just to agree on a topic or conditions or whatever it is you are trying to settle then you start thinking how hard it will be to work long term with a person and generally speaking it ends up being easier to walk away. There’s also instances where a DM hasn’t actually come up with a notification so I wasn’t even aware it existed so obviously haven’t read it.
Fortunately, Irina has incredible patience and despite the 80+ emails this last collaboration post took from request to collaborate on a Natsume themed project to finalising the post schedule, we’ve managed to keep the project moving through January and February and were finally ready to post.
02. Also on the time thing, I regularly get asked if I’d like to be a part of a podcast or whatever but unfortunately these usually happen when I am either asleep or at work. And while if I was on holidays I could just pull an all nighter or stay home and participate, during my usual schedule, it is just not possible so I have to thank the person for their offer but politely decline. I would actually love to be involved in this sort of thing at some point, but that will probably be if I ever make blogging a full time thing and then I will have time to do this.
03. The main reason a collaboration doesn’t happen though seems to be a lack of a vision for what to do. It is easy enough to send someone a message asking if they’d like to collaborate on something but the question then becomes what. Is it a one off post? Is it a series? What’s the topic and the angle? What do you want to do with it? Where will the final project be posted? What will each person contribute? There’s so many details and while hitting someone with a full agenda before they’ve even agreed to participate isn’t good, having a basic idea of what you want or some options can really help the project get off the ground.
When I approached Irina about this most recent project I asked her if she wanted to collaborate on a Natsume themed project for February or March and suggested I wanted to look at the supporting cast of Natsume. It wasn’t a concrete plan but it opened a discussion about what the project could be about. And I didn’t just randomly ask Irina about Natsume. Last year, Irina watched and reviewed all six seasons of Natsume on their blog, so I knew she was a fan of the show and had fairly current knowledge of it and I kind of thought she’d want to be involved in the project (which fortunately she was).
We bounced a few ideas back and forth and then decided on the battle royale style tournament between eight of the support cast and then we were finally ready to actually start writing some stuff on the project.
Why is it worth it?
Do you know that feeling you have when you meet someone and you realise they like your favourite show and you get lost for hours discussing it? Imagine that feeling over and over again as you work with someone equally passionate about the topic who wants to create something and share something about that show you love. It makes you realise everything you love about the show and everything that might be better but it is okay because you love it anyway. It is a really great feeling.
And then there is the reward of finishing the project and reading through all those words and realising that you did that together. You built an idea from a random email asking if there was any interest in a collaboration into a six post battle featuring some of the best characters you’ve ever met (okay, that’s very specifically this project that did that – but you get the idea). You’ve gained a new perspective, you’ve attempted to up your writing game because you don’t want to let the other person down, you’ve pushed through some tough times in real life because someone else was waiting for your part to be finished so why it isn’t pressure it is a nice encouraging push to keep working on it as best you can, and ultimately you’ve had a really good time.
Ultimately, whether the project is successful or not, and whether you end up with a finished post, a series of posts, or just a lot of emails sent back and forth, working with another blogger is an awesome experience and one you can definitely gain from.
I know I will definitely look forward to my next chance to work with Irina. I’m really hoping that in a future season Weekend Otaku and I collaborate again. I’ve been approached about a similar collaboration project (to 200 Word Anime) for the Spring 2018 season already and I’m really excited about that collaboration (and nervous, but that’s okay, it will be amazing).
For people looking to collaborate but who are a bit nervous about approaching someone, I think you just need to give it a go. That said, don’t just approach someone randomly. If you are approaching them for a collaboration, you should have built up some sort of relationship with them by following their blog, commenting, and getting involved in the conversation so they have a bit of an idea of who you are before you hit them with a request. Also, don’t take rejection the wrong way. I turn requests down mostly because I can’t meet my commitment to the request and I would rather say no outright than agree to a project and then fail spectacularly to deliver. And I’m sure a lot of other bloggers feel the same way. If they don’t have time, they won’t say yes when they really mean no.
Another big thank-you to Irina and Weekend Otaku.
And now, I’d love to know your thoughts on collaborations and what works and what doesn’t work in your experience?
Thanks for reading.
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