Sunday, May 14, 2017

Q&A with TifaIA Cosplay - Why Don't You Guest More Often?

I get quite a few questions sent to my inbox, daily. Sometimes it's about crafting details, and others are a bit more insightful. Every now and then I'll receive a question that I feel needs to be discussed more openly. If enough people ask the question, why not address it head on? Maybe I need to make this into a weekly/bi-weekly occurrence? I'll chew on that for a bit.

So the question I received was this: "Why don't I see you as a guest or judge at more conventions?"

Lots of reasons!

Today's cosplay market is saturated with tens of thousands of wonderful people who are the full package that conventions look for. They are personable, they have great presence, they can craft, they know how to market themselves, they have products to sell, and can teach basic panels. Trying to stand out as a unique cosplay persona is very difficult. As a convention organizer or cosplay director, you can't easily search on Google or Facebook and expect to get a handful of results. You're now faced with 29 million results (according to Google). How does one narrow it down?

So instead of waiting around for a convention to find them, some cosplayers now take it upon themselves to market their work and contact the con to ask to be a guest. The days of hoping that a con will stumble upon you are over. With so many cosplayers out there, conventions don't have the time to surf the internet and find you. You have to make yourself known among the con team.

If you have an outgoing personality, this might come naturally to you. I don't, and I still find it weird writing in to a convention and asking if I can be a guest. It feels like begging...I know it's not. It's become the norm. But it puts me in an awkward position mentally, that I'm not great at handling. I'm not an aggressive person. I tend to be passive and like to take time to think before I act. Which makes it difficult for me to promote myself to a convention. I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of asking a con to make me a guest/judge. It's like a job interview for a weekend of work that I may or may not get paid for. I really dislike job interviews. So having to do that for multiple conventions is a scary concept!

At this point, if you want to be a cosplay guest, you have to ask for it and prove to the con that you're worth the invitation. Until you reach cosplay celebrity status like Yaya Han or Jessica Nigri where everyone knows your name, that's the route we all have to take.

I think that's the big reason why I'm not a guest as often - I don't market myself to conventions. That's a personal hurdle that I have to overcome if I want to be more involved on the convention circuit. In my life right now, that's not a priority. I'm just getting back into sewing after taking some time off to get myself mentally back on track. Not to say that if the opportunity presents itself from a convention, that I'd immediately turn it down. As long as everything fits the schedule and I'm able to make it work, then heck yeah! Sign me up as your guest/judge!

But the other reason I think is due to my podcast. We've been running CosPod for over 5 years and in that time we've only been asked to be a guest at one convention. There have been times where we've hosted panels as a team for CosPod, but we weren't guests of the con. We were attendees offering panel content. Part of the reason is because of the self-marking thing. The other part is that we're a podcast. How many podcasts have you seen at anime conventions or cons focusing on cosplay? Yeah. That's what I thought. Podcasts are an odd niché. People enjoy them and their popularity continues to blossom every day. But when it comes to bringing them in as guests, not many conventions do this. No one really knows how to pitch us. Most podcasters don't know how to host panels, or have merchandise to sell. They may only appeal to a specific audience and not provide the content the contention needs. Beyond a "how to start a podcast" panel, podcasters are on the low end of the interest spectrum for conventions.

CosPod is pigeonholed right now. Conventions don't know what to do with us, so we're not offered guesting positions. Though we have a huge library of panels that we have offered and taught over the years, along with dozens of cosplay awards and prior guesting/juding experience, we're still a podcast. We're still stereotyped under that label.

That's not to say that all podcasters fall into this pit. Jedi Cole has a plethora of nerdy podcasts and he's done well at touring smaller conventions to bring his brand of comedy and game shows to audiences. But he's one of the few that has been able to break away from the stigma. For now, CosPod has cemented itself as press. It's not a bad place to be, and does offer us access to content that general attendees typically wouldn't see. As a podcast, that's where we'll be.

We've also morphed the CosPod brand to act as the organization behind ALL-CON Dallas and Infinicon's Cosplay Contests. This was a big leap for us. Our focus has been on these events for the past 3 years and it's been amazing. This may have turned other local cons off from having us as guests. Some conventions have interesting cosplay guest policies where if you are staff at another con, you're not to be invited. For reasons I have yet to understand. But it's their con, their rules. And I'm okay with that. I'd much rather pour our efforts into having fun contests at ALL-CON and Infinicon.

On the rare occasion that I have been a guest judge or a guest, um, guest, it's been great!

But I understand the reality of it all. A lot of it is due to me not marking myself directly to conventions. Eventually I'll get over that speed bump and adapt. Having typed that, if there is a convention you'd like for me to guest at, let me know! I'll put in the effort and try to overcome my social norms and contact the convention.

Hopefully that helps answer the question! And if you have your own with anything about cosplay, video games, or unexpected life lessons, drop me a line!


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