When I was a teenager, I used to go to anime cons. My first one was A-kon in Dallas. About a decade ago, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue photography. In 2008, Anime Expo, the largest anime con in the country, moved to downtown LA, just 15 minutes from where I live.
Cons had definitely changed since I was a kid, and cosplay was increasingly better. I pondered, "Why doesn't someone create a book?" Creative folks spend time and money to make their costumes to pay tribute to their favorite characters, and no one was seeing this except for con attendees. A quick Amazon search told me there were tons of books on cosplay from across the ocean, but none really here in the United States.
So, I hatched a plan. I had to to find a publisher willing to take this on and then create a photography book to showcase what I saw. However, cosplay is a very niche market, and I doubted that mainstream publishers would have a clue how to promote it.
In the spirit of the independent filmmakers of the 90s who sunk their credit cards and took out loans to self finance their own movies, I decided that I could do the same thing. After three credit cards, one bank loan, six American anime cons, five months of traveling over 16,000+ miles, 1,651 cosplayers photographed, plus one year of blood, sweat, tears, and lots of help from friends later, I had a book!
"Cosplay in America" is a hardcover book - 8" x 10" , 272 pages that showcase 260 cosplayers representing over 30 states here in America. This is my personal tribute to cosplayers I've seen from coast to coast. If you've never been to a con, this book will give you a general idea of what you would see.
As with bands touring the country and filmmakers on the festival circuit, I took to the grass roots method - talking to people. I didn't have any money to devote to marketing, so I went to conventions to promote my book. Fortunately, there's a convention in this country almost every weekend. I also used social media, including Facebook (I currently have over 30,000 followers from around the globe) and YouTube, to post photos and videos.
Last year, I attended eight cons. This year, I'm planning on 20 cons. I photograph, record video interviews, and generally have the time of my life. Why do I do this? Because I believe in cosplay. I believe we all need to let off a little steam and to forget about bills, work, and all that. And what better way than dressing up and enjoying yourself at a con for a weekend? Forget your worries and remember what it was like when you were a child and didn't have a care in the world. Life's tough enough. Have fun with it!
Follow me around the country this year at Cosplay in America.
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.