With the rise of cosplay as an industry and profession, more cons are looking to invite cosplayers to be a part of their guest lineup! However, seeing as this is new and uncharted territory for many, how does one get to be a cosplay guest, exactly? Well, depending on your local cosplay scene you can either wait around, hoping that someone notices you or... you can be the one to reach out! This practice of cold calling conventions for a guest spot is not kosher in every con scene. But if it is an acceptable practice in your region, then it'll be far more successful if you reach out to cons rather than waiting for them to contact you.
However, there's some key things you'll want to know before you start throwing your name out to every convention you can find. This blog series, Cosplay Convos: Guesting Tips will be a 10-part article series that will cover the basics of everything you need to know about the world of cosplay guesting and how to start doing it for yourself! But let's start from the top: how to actually contact a convention to be a guest!
I have had the opportunity to guest with many great cons, small and large, like KentokyoCon North!
1 - Plan Your Yearly Schedule
Make a calendar for at least a full year, that lays out all the events you want to attend (either as a guest or non-guest) so that you don’t double-book a weekend or over-schedule yourself. Trust me, even 3 cons back-to-back is brutal, I don't know how super busy cosplayers do it!! You'll also have to plan if you need time off work, someone to watch your pets, the availability of any assistants/con helpers you want to bring, etc. and not to mention plan around actual life events like weddings, family gatherings, or other events that you may be attending.
2 - Research the Cons
If you’re interested in guesting at a con, do some research. See if they’ve had cosplay guests in the past, and if they have a specific cosplay guest application or point of contact on their website. Do not badger current or past guests about how they got in- they don’t need 30 questions of “omg how did you get this gig” every time they book an event. Also, keep an ear out in the community. Some cosplayers cite bad experiences guesting at certain conventions, but won't name them publicly. If you suspect an acquaintance had a bad experience with an event, you can try talking to them privately for more information.
3 - Find a Point of Contact
If the con doesn’t have an application or email specifically for cosplayer guests, then apply as any other guest would, using their normal guesting applications, request forms, or emails. If you can't find any such information, you may just want to contact the next best person, or the firstname.lastname@example.org email. As a last resort, you can try hitting up their social media privately, but I would only do that for smaller casual events. It can come off as unprofessional if you're messaging the social media pages of large events, or the private accounts of people that work for the con, but there are exceptions. Some cons may contact you through social media, and if that's the case, you'll be fine to continue contact with them on the same channel.
4 - Don't Meet the Requirements? You May Want to Apply Anyways
Within reason, of course. If someone says they're looking for a guest contest judge and you've never made a cosplay before, you aren't qualified to be a craftsmanship judge. Or if they're looking specifically for local people and you're a 9 hour drive away, don't apply. However, in other areas, some cons make requests that very few would ever qualify for, such as that you have 100k followers on a single platform to apply. For stuff like that, apply anyways- especially if their past or current cosplay guests don't even live up to that expectation! Maybe you're weak in that one area, but you can display areas where you excel, and sell them on that.
5 - Handle Rejection with Grace
Expect that some cons will never answer you, and that oftentimes they just didn't have time to reply to your inquiry. However, if you are met with an answer that you have been declined, respond to it! Thank them for their consideration, and wish them a happy con. This professional and polite response will stand out. And if the mood feels right to ask, you can request feedback on what areas you can improve as some constructive criticism. But they may get hundreds of applications, so be respectful of that if they aren’t able to provide you with critique.
"Sorry, we've already filled out cosplay guest list for this year!"
*insert cry emoji*
6 - Don't Start Off Making Demands
If you are “cold calling” a convention (pitching yourself without being prompted or using an online application) do not ask for anything like room, travel, per diem, etc. right off the bat in the first email. That part comes up later during the negotiations process. Ask only for the opportunity to guest or collaborate with the event as a featured cosplayer, and mention your credentials, services offered, social media, and points of contact.
As part of this Guesting Tips series, I'll have blogs on guesting negotiations coming soon!
Read my blog here to learn how to value your services!
7 - What Can -You- Do for Them
When pitching yourself to the con, it’s ALL about what you can do for them. List your skills, previous experience, accolades, social media numbers, etc. Link or attach your media kit, and offer your services directly on the application or in the email, such as your expertise as a craftsmanship judge, personality as an emcee, list of panels you can present, etc. If you can provide good content and service to their event, they’ll be more likely to pick you over someone that’s just intending to show up and sit at a booth all day. Generally, your content is what brings value to the event more than your name does, so be sure to emphasize what you can provide!
8 - Have a Resume and Media Kit Prepared
If you don’t already have a convention resume or cosplay media kit, MAKE ONE! They’re so important in summarizing your achievements and experience. In any case, it’s a lot easier to keep that one document updated, as opposed to restating it every time you do a guest application or email. You can see an example my my media kit on my website. I don't use a resume nearly as often, but I keep one on my computer in the event it is asked for!
Read my blog here to learn more about making your own cosplay resume and media kit!
9 - Use a Branded Email
A branded email will go a LONG way to impress convention organizers. An email like email@example.com or even firstname.lastname@example.org will look a lot better than a school email, or something with . And if you can swing it, having a portfolio or site with your own URL will also make a MUCH stronger impression than just linking to Facebook or Instagram. A website doesn’t have to be big or massive, and hosting a domain can cost as little as $1 a month through Google! It's something to highly consider if you want to stand out.
Good Emails: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Bad Emails: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
10 - Professionalism Matters!
Think of it this way: you’re applying for a job. So BE PROFESSIONAL. Use professional language, punctuation, and spelling. Contact them through email as much as possible. Yes, some cons will message you through Facebook (I honestly wish that weren’t the case) but always reach out through email first and whenever possible.
With so many guesting opportunities out there, but even MORE eager candidates, it's more important than ever for cosplayers applying to guest to be a professional representative for the community. Following this advice will help for not only you as an individual to be taken more seriously, but cosplayers as a whole. We can offer a LOT of value and content to a convention, and our value is not just in our social media numbers or how many costumes we've worn.
We are panelists, contest judges, influencers, community role models, artists, comedians, promoters, actors, educators, vloggers, entertainers, personalities, and activists. It's not us in a costume that cons want, (there's already plenty of that for free!) it's our talent as creators. So be sure to focus on those aspects when you are applying, and together, we can show cons that cosplayers are a valuable asset to bring entertainment, content, and unique experiences to their events! And remember, you're never too "small" of a creator to possess those things. So make the leap and start getting your name out there!
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Pictures of my cosplay tables from OhayoCon (left) and Cincinnati Comic Expo (right)
My Cosplay Convos: Guesting Tips series will be a 10 part series released over the next few weeks! This is the first part in this series.
Guesting Tips 2 - Cosplay Resumes and Media Kits
Guesting Tips 3 - Valuing Your Services
Guesting Tips 4 - Negotiations
Guesting Tips 5 - Social Media and Promotion
Guesting Tips 6 - Choosing a Cosplay Lineup
Guesting Tips 7 - Panels and Events
Guesting Tips 8 - Tables and Booths
Guesting Tips 9 - Prints and Merchandise
Guesting Tips 10 - Banners and Promotional Materials