The Siryn’s Call: So You Wanna Be a Cosplay Guest?
Hello, and welcome to The Siryn’s Call! I’m SirynRae. I mostly fill my time with cosplay, but I also enjoy being loud and opinionated. Which is where this new column comes in handy. I have little musings from time to time and, now, one generous person has given me a platform. So, let’s all be costumed and loud together!
To Guest or not to Guest?
I get asked from time to time how to cross over from hobbyist to professional cosplayer. I’m no expert on the matter, my path isn’t the only path, but I will be super happy to tell you how I’ve been doing it since day one.
It takes a lot of effort and money to be a cosplay guest at a convention. I truly believe that the toughest skin you have to have is when dealing with cons. It means the majority of your time for the next few days is spent on your feet, putting on your best face, never failing to give 100%. It’s an investment, and not always a worthwhile one for some. Let me run through what you can expect your first year of guesting.
The Reach Out
First, you have to reach out to conventions. This can be incredibly easy or difficult depending on the convention. Sometimes they make it easy on you, others you have to really dig to find that email address.
- Present yourself as if you are applying for a job. BECAUSE!!!! You are. This is work from beginning to end. As soon as you make contact with the convention owner, you have to be on. This means you should have a cosplay cover letter. Introduce yourself in your email. Brag about yourself. Tell them what you can offer their convention that no other cosplay guest can.
- Prep a media kit. There are more and more cosplayers every day. You have to stand out. Your media kit should feature multiple, professional photos of yourself, list your followers on ALL your pages, present what panels you would offer and what panels you have contributed to in the past, and list any accolades/awards/cons you have guested at in the past. Sell yourself. You are special; they need to know why.
- Do not get discouraged. If you reach out to 10 conventions, 6 of them will not respond, 3 of them will send a “thanks, but no thanks,” and one will book you. And these are good odds. Focus on the ones that write back to you. Even if they’re rejections, they have taken time out of their schedule to address you. They’ve checked out your pages, they have seen what you have to offer. Respond to these. Say “thank you.” Ask them to keep you in mind for the future. And move on. There are way more than 10 cons out there.
- Lastly, know your limits. What are you going to negotiate? What do you have to get out of the deal? Table? Passes? Travel? Hotel? Appearance fee? Per diem? The less well known you are, the less likely you can ask for some of these expenses to be paid. A con even 3 hours away can cost you hundreds of dollars. Never be afraid to ask for what you want, but always be prepared to hear “no.”
Congrats! You’ve booked a con! It is four months out and you have plenty of time to organize for it! Now what do you do?
- First and foremost, you are a cosplay guest, so promote the con. Retweet your announcement. Announce your guest position on your own pages. As they advertise more, as the convention gets closer and closer, you advertise for them more. You want to post about your costume line-up, your panel schedule and subjects, tag other cosplayers that will be there with you that day…let your followers know what they can expect. The con wants you there because they want your followers there too. Hype you and the con at the same time.
- Figure out what your presence is going to be like. Are you going to have a table? Do you sell prints or props or accessories? You want your presence to be a little different every time, whether that is offering a new panel, new prints, or even your set up is a little different. Cons like original content that is exclusive to them, so once you figure out what kind of guest you are, figure out how to tweak it every time.
It’s Con Time, Baby
You’re a cosplay guest! And today’s the convention! What are you gonna do now?
- SHOW UP ON TIME!!! It is only respectful to appear 15 minutes before VIPs get in. If you need 2 hours to get ready, 20 minutes to drive to the con, 30 minutes to set up your table…then account for it. You are officially part of the con experience and con owners should not have to regret inviting you because you’re not there on time. Keep in mind: this is a job!
- Keep track of your schedule. If you have 3 or 4 panels, a photo shoot, whatever, you need to be ready for it. That means keeping a phone or watch handy. Send out updates as time goes by, especially if schedules get rearranged, but do your best to keep yourself on track.
- The majority of your time should be spent at your table or designated location. It may stink sometimes to miss out on the John Barrowman panel or not getting Stephen Amell’s autograph, but as a cosplay guest, you are working the convention, not attending it. You are allowed to schedule yourself breaks for food, bathroom, and fun. Every job includes those things. Celebrities and vendors do it too. Your main attraction, though, is you and people need to be able to find you. Put up a little sign that says when you’ll be back and be efficient with your time away from your table.
- That being said, it never hurts to have someone with you. This weekend, at my last guest spot of the year, I’ll be on 2 demonstrations and 4 panels. That’s a minimum of 6 hours away. You can bet that I will have someone watching over my personal stuff, my wares, and be able to take payments and talk me up.
- Be on! Be the best version of yourself. If you role play, then stay in character. Don’t get caught behind the table on your phone the entire time (some is fine, you’re still expected to keep your social media presence up!) or letting the pinchy shoes bring you down. You never know who came just for you.
- You’re allowed to leave early. It’s not frowned upon if you pack up at 5 pm instead of 7. You may have other obligations to the convention you have to factor in. I have hosted Drink and Draws before or asked to appear at after parties. That’s fine. I’ve also had 9 hour drives ahead of me and, because I’m stingy with my PTO and never take Mondays off, I want to be home before 2 am. You give it your all when you’re there, but know that it’s okay to have a life outside of cosplay. Cons can and will respect it.
- Have fun. This part is my favorite part. I revel in meeting new people. If you don’t like this, then guesting won’t ever feel fun. And there are ways of being a professional cosplayer without doing a convention tour, so not all hope is lost.
You can find me at my last cosplay guest spot this weekend, November 10-12 at Kansas City Comic Con.
Also, be sure to see all of the great Cosplay on this site in the SciFinatik Cosplay Gallery!