Tuesday, 25 August 2015

ConBravo: Making It Online

This post is separate from the main ConBravo chronology. It focusses on a panel from Sunday called “So You Wanna Make It Online?”. There were three panelists, Joey Baggins (@joey_baggins), who said he managed to gain 300 subscribers to his show over a year, Obsessed Panda, who knows the Cosplay side, and Doctor Holocaust (@DoctorHolocaust), Toronto’s greatest gentleman villain.


My camera may have been visible...
Rule one is, use every opportunity you’ve got. Dr. Holocaust noted near the panel's start  “I’m not the centre of my thing, my character is” (and so that’s what’s on his business cards). Also keep in mind that, psychologically, human beings weren’t built for fame.

If your plan is YouTube videos, you need good equipment. Start with a quality microphone - it’s easier to offend the ear than the eye. Your content needs to be worth watching. Consider “Phillip Franco”, who had quality equipment and advertising, but no noteworthy content, compared to “Toby Turner” who made videos using his phone, but had fun content.

For cosplay, videos come from photographers that you work with. You don’t have to do it alone, but you must search out good quality. Instagram is a big thing. Dr. Holocaust noted that he hates Twitter (“short sentences about people’s lives bother me”) but it IS a way to expand beyond YouTube viewers. Your followers can easily get ahold of you, and can be notified about updates.

Gotta finish inking and colouring
these math characters...
I asked about how to get more viewers for something that isn’t in video form, but that you are doing regularly (like my serial stuff). It was interpreted as getting interest for something still in progress (true, in a sense), so we’ll go with that. For cosplay, Panda said it can be good to show the progress of your work, though you may get people criticizing an unfinished costume. Putting out something incomplete can also make you accountable. “Now that you’ve seen I’m halfway through this project I have to finish it”. (Dragonball fan film was brought up.)

Don’t worry overly about quality - as long as you’re having FUN, that’s the absolute CORE. Be it podcasting, or music, or anything. That enthusiasm will bleed into those around you. Dr. Holocaust told a tale of once dressing as a transformer using a box, and was told by people “that’s silly, leave the con!”. He didn’t. Three years later, he was recognized as “the box guy” and people were taking pictures.

Someone asked about how to get people to buy prints. All I seem to have written is it can be a solidarity thing, “I want to support a person who likes a character that I also like”. Noted that if you aren’t the face behind your stuff, leverage word of mouth. Featherweight makes costume accessories; he did one or two costumes to start, now it’s largely referrals (“I found a guy who can use your stuff”).


I will SHOW you Magic Steve's work!
Those are balloons, if you couldn't tell.
Another key element: Don’t TELL people, SHOW them. All the energy you have to EXPRESS your interests to people, turn it into DOING that thing - or at least starting it. That makes it real. And it may be that when you do it, you hate it: It’s not a failure, it’s something you tried that didn’t work. Move on, try something else. Joey also said that he found reviews weren’t his thing, so he stopped trying that, and now talks more about fandom, which is working better.

A collaboration is a great way to promote yourself, and is usually beneficial for both parties. Terrified to ask? Sometimes, you just have to. Not sure what to collaborate on? Perhaps simply ask the other person to send you some small amount of content. The worst you get is a ‘no’. Work on your PITCH. Aim for a single sentence, and try to relate it back to something that worked. (It’s like “Sin City” meets “Ninja Turtles”?) Dr. Holocaust uses the tag, “He’s the world’s nicest super villain”.

You may be able to get ideas for your pitch from people who play your game (or watch your content). The biggest complaint a panelist once got was “Your videos are great, but no one watches you.” You have to know how to sell yourself. If you’re not doing that, don’t get upset at having no viewers! Once people are hooked, build on that. (I also have here “Never satisfy your reader until they’ve read the book.”)

"Interesting. Doesn't change how my time travel
story is on a totally different blog, hmmm?!"
Don’t jump channels. Joey has lost his audience several times from doing this. Don’t totally shift your brand either - if something’s not working, that’s one thing, but if you decide to discuss gardening instead of reviewing anime, people likely won’t come back. If you lose your passion, don’t do it. If you need to rest for health reasons, do that. Yet often you have to push on - there will be bad days, days you don’t want to record - know you’ll love it later when you see the results.

Things can blow up unexpectedly. ObsessedPanda once took a selfie with some Iron Man friends before going to see the first movie. It was found and turned into a meme for one of the movie sequels - she stumbled on the picture, there were no names attached so no recognition out of it. Or things may not blow up! “If you think this isn’t going to grind you into the dust, you’re WRONG. It’s a huge amount of work.” Try to get people to help you (who can do sewing or special effects or whatever.)


From the panelists: If you love doing it, it pays for itself (Joey). Proofread, proofreading is your friend (Panda). And Doc’s motto: “Life is a war without end. Never stop fighting.”

Photo of Linkara and me from ConBravo 2012.
Because why not?
From me: Don’t be so focused on the long game that you miss the individual opportunities. Perhaps a bit of a contradiction given the marathon run, but hear me out.

Lots of what was said here was things I... not knew exactly, but sensed? For me, marketing and selling myself is the weak link. In large part because once something is done, and out there, I’m moving on to the next arc, or post, never trumpeting what I’ve already accomplished. Which means few know what I’m doing, and worse, I tend to get down on myself because I figure that means the long game isn’t worthwhile.

It goes back to "rule one". Don’t miss noticing a possible pitch, or a brand, or attending a convention, because you think you’re not good enough yet, or too busy with the next project. Because it might be what you need to make the next leg of the journey a bit easier. Thanks for reading!

(Incidentally, I am now personifying math in webcomic form. And I changed the tagline on my time travel serial to "Time Travel Redefined". It's like a cross between "Interstellar" and "Tomorrowland".)

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