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10 months. 12 cities. 1,000 + cosplayers. A behind-the-scenes look at cosplay in America.

As mention on Laughing Squid, MediaBistro and Huffington Post ! Find out more at Cosplay in America.

COSPLAY ?

Cosplay is short for costume-play or dressing up as your favorite characters from comic books, anime, video games, movies, novels, anything in the media.

The term was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi to describe what he witnessed as WorldCon, a science fiction convention held in Los Angeles in 1984. At first, the term cosplay related to Japanese media though in the past few years, it has spread to encompass many fandoms. There are several ways to cosplay. You can buy a costume online, commission someone to make it for you or do it yourself.

While originally the meaning related to Japanese media, today it includes anything in pop culture media - comics, anime, TV, movies, videogames, books, and so on.

Cosplay in America (2010)
Cosplay in America (2010)
Devin (Houston,TX) from the original book.
Devin (Houston,TX) from the original book.
Portraits from the original book.
Portraits from the original book.

WAIT ... DIDN'T YOU DO A BOOK ALREADY ? 

Yes, in 2009, I traveled the U.S. to photograph cosplayers at conventions. I self-financed the hardcover book thanks to a few credit cards and a bank loan. Then I spent the next few years going to cons to promote the book.

I like going to conventions and seeing people who are into the same fandoms that I am. The book contains photos of cosplayers of different sizes, shapes, races and experience levels. I wanted to show how fun cosplay is and how anyone can do it if they wish. Cosplay is for everyone !

The book was well-received by many. I've been written up on MTV Geek, Boing Boing and to my surprise, the Madeline Brand Show on public radio.

SO WHY ANOTHER BOOK ?

How do you see cosplay? Where do you see it? Maybe you saw photos online. Maybe you were at a convention and saw cosplayers in person. Either way, what you see is the complete outfit. Unless you are friends with a cosplayer, or you are a cosplayer, you don't see the long nights, weeks and months spent crafting outfits and props.

The process of cosplay doesn't get covered often. This next book will be a collection of behind-the-scenes photographs as well as portraits. We may see cosplayers trek to the hardware store to find the right PVC pipe for a prop. We might watch the search for the proper fabric for a costume. Whether cosplayers are spray painting under the hot sun or hunched over a sewing machine at midnight, I want to document it.

I also plan on following cosplayers around at anime and comic book conventions - think of it as a day in a life of a cosplayer - though instead of one cosplayer, I'm following many groups of cosplayers.

What I hope to achieve with this book is simple : to provide an understanding of the cosplay culture here in the United States and a glimpse into the lives of many creative individuals engaged in the creating of costumes and props.

Candace and her grandmother working on her cosplay (Highland, CA)

Nick Wolfe working on Kristen Hughey's makeup (Orlando, FL)

Bill Doran working on his prop weapon (Tukwila, WA)

WHAT'S THE BATTLE PLAN ?

The book consists of two parts : Portraits taken at conventions (just like the first book) and behind the scene photos taken at hotels / homes / garages as well at conventions - both anime and comic book conventions as well as DragonCon. There will be interviews as well as essays on cosplay.

I've spent the past six months traveling to cons working on this book (floating on frequent flyer mileage), but I am getting to the point where I need YOUR help to finish this.

I will arrive a week prior to the convention, rent a car and visit cosplayers to photograph them at working on their costumes and props. I usually can do 2-3 cosplayer/cosplay groups per day.

By the way, are you interested in having me photograph you while you work on your cosplay?

On the Saturday of the convention, I will be set up to take portraits in the same style as the first book. I usually average around 100 cosplayers photographed per con. I stand in one spot for about 8 hours. There is no charge for photos. Nada. Free. Anyone in costume, feel free to come up to be photographed. Only drawback is you don't get the photos afterwards - and that is I prefer not to have images out before the book is released.

The following is a list of cons I will be attending.

  • San Diego Comic Con (San Diego, CA) July 18-21, 2013
  • Otakon (Baltimore, MD) Aug. 9-11, 2013
  • NDK (Denver, CO) Sept. 13-15, 2013
  • DragonCon (Atlanta, GA) Aug. 30 - Sept. 2, 2013
  • New York Comic Con (New York, NY) Oct. 10-13, 2013
  • Naka-Kon (Kansas City, KS) March 14-16, 2014
  • Anime Boston (Boston, MD) March 21-23. 2014
  • Anime Detour (Bloomington, MN) April 4-6, 2014
  • MTAC (Nashville, TN) April 2014
  • Animazement (Raleigh, NC) May 23-26, 2014

Other cities I would travel to are Orlando, Chicago and Phoenix to photograph cosplayers at home. I had already visited these cities for MegaCon, C2E2 and Phoenix Comicon but was unable to stay a week to continue work.

The schedule is subjected to change. For example, MTAC in Nashville has not announced their 2014 date and if it conflicts with another con, I'll have to switch it. 

Here's a list of conventions I've already travelled in the past year for the project.

  • A-kn (Dallas, TX)
  • Anime Banzai (Layton, UT)
  • Anime Central (Chicago, IL)
  • Anime Expo (Los Angeles, CA)
  • C2E2 (Chicago, IL)
  • Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle, WA)
  • Fanime (San Jose, CA)
  • MegaCon (Orlando, FL)
  • Phoenix Comicon (Phoenix, AZ)
  • San Japan (San Antonio, TX)
  • WonderCon (Anaheim, CA)
  • Youmacon (Detroit, MI)


The timeline is as follows :

Summer of 2013 - May 2014 - Travel to 12 cities to photograph at conventions and homes.

June 2014 - Start editing and building the book. I'm giving myself four months to do this. The book will be roughly 200+ pages and include interviews with cosplayers and prop makers as well as essays.

Sept. 2014 - Send files to Shanghai to have the book printed and shipped back to the United States by freighter.

Nov. 2014 - Books arrived, start shipping out to Kickstarter supporters

Spring 2015 - Book available online, shops and at conventions. 

I will also host Kickstarter meetups at the cities I'll be visiting so I can personally thank you and answer any questions you may have. Only Kickstarter supporters will get the email to the time and location.

My photo booth set-up @ DragonCon 2011  (photo : iM Photography  )
My photo booth set-up @ DragonCon 2011 (photo : iM Photography )

WHY $35,000 ?

The biggest cost is printing. My first book in 2009 cost $18,000 to have printed in Shanghai. All this was financed by maxing three credit cards and taking out a loan from a credit union. I worked on the first book when I could in-between my other jobs. It was really a labor of love and had a wonderful experience meeting and talking to cosplayers. Today the book is out of print and people are still asking me for copies so I plan to devote $20,000 to the printing

$10,000 goes to cover the cost of travel and stay in 12 cities. $10,000 / 12 = $833.33 for each city to cover airfare, car rental, gas, food, lodging. I plan to crash on people's couches, live on Subway sandwiches (and Clif Bars !) and do what I can to stretch every dollar I have. 

The remainder of the $5,000 goes to Kickstarter fees as well as costs of producing the rewards (see rewards at the end).

WHO ARE YOU ?

When I was a kid, I was a nerd and regular got picked on in school so I read comic books and watch anime to escape. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and moved to Los Angeles to pursue photography shortly after college. In 2008, I attended my first Anime Expo and promptly fell into photographing cosplayers. My day job I work as a photographer, photo assistant as well as running social media for a photography company. www.ejenchuang.com 

WHAT IS KICKSTARTER ?

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. Creators posts up their campaigns to finance art, design, publishing, film and other projects with a certain financial goal to meet at the end of the campaign. If the campaign's goal isn't met within the time frame - the creator doesn't get anything and your credit card doesn't get charged. If the goal is met, your card will be charged after the campaign ends. You are free to add to your pledge or cancel your pledge at anytime during the campaign. Find out more at http://www.kickstarter.com/hello

FINAL THOUGHTS

From day one, I've always said I couldn't do this without the support of cosplayers and it is true. I wanted to show what was going on around the country so I started posting convention videos in 2010 as well as taking photos of cosplayers on my phone and uploading it live to my social media. Cosplay and conventions have exploded in attendance since my first Anime Expo in 2008. 

At the end of the day, I'm just the photographer, the true stars are the many men and women at the conventions who proudly show their fandom.

I know times are tough out there. If you are unable to donate, no big deal, I understand. Just tell people about this and direct them to this page. I've had a remarkable journey the last few years thanks to everyone out there and I hope you will join me on this next chapter.

Finally, my last thank you to everyone who has visited my table at a convention, come up and chatted with me, invited me to their homes, and generally welcome me into their world. It's been a remarkable experience for me.

Find out more at Cosplay in America as well as my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube

REWARDS !

TWEET TWEET !

Every bit helps ! Find me at a convention and I'll be glad to shake your hand. I'll also give you a shout out on my twitter, or tumblr, or Facebook . Thank you so much !

PRODUCTION BLOG

Get access to my behind the scene production blog from the journey across the country. Go into homes and conventions across the country, meet the countless numbers of cosplayers and get a sneak peak into the production of the book project through exclusive video and photos ! Once you become a donor, I'll send you the password and the link within a few days. Plus previous rewards. 

COSPLAY IN AMERICA POSTCARD

Imagine, getting a signed Cosplay in America postcard from somewhere in the country during my travel. I reserve the right to doodle or write random sentences on your postcard. I might have random cosplayers or even airport strangers sign it. Postage is free. International add $2. Plus previous rewards.

YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK

Imagine you are at a store or a library with your friend. You casually pull the book from the shelf and flip it open. Yup, on the contributor's page, your name will be listed there and the counter clerk will oooh and awwww over. (Ooooh and Awwws not guaranteed)

Each reward level you pledge to, your name gets higher on the list. You also get access to the production blog, postcard and a twitter shout out .

SIGNED COPY OF THE BOOK

Your very own copy of the book with a special Contributor Edition stamped on the inside cover and you will receive the book a few months before it is available to the public. Shipping is free in the US, $15 for international. Plus previous rewards - your name in the book, access to the production blog, signed postcard, and tweets !

SUPPORTER'S T-SHIRT

You can now say "I supported Cosplay in America and all I got was a t-shirt !" so wear that T-shirt proudly when you go out to your mailbox that get my postcard doodled with my terrible drawing skills. The shirt will be the Cosplay in America logo. Plus previous rewards - your name in the book, a signed copy of the book, access to production blog, and tweets !

18 X 24 POSTERS

Four different posters to choose from - all 18 x 24 matte paper, perfect for framing. You also get the previous rewards as well - name in book, signed copy of the book, the Cosplay in America t-shirt, postcard, access to production blog and tweet tweet !

#1 Cloud (Final Fantasy) / Cosplayer : James 

#2 Faye & Spike (Cowboy Bebop) / Cosplayer : Illiara  and Ryan Comstock-McMurry

#3 Absinthe Fairy / Cosplayer : Yaya Han

#4 Panty (Panty & Stocking) / Cosplayer : Jessica Nigri

Shipping is free within the US. Additional $10 for international.

ALL 18 X 24 POSTERS

Save all getting all four posters as well as previous rewards plus shipping is free for US and international !

COSPLAY IN AMERICA SKATEBOARD DECK

Limited edition Cosplay in America skateboard deck with the logo. This may seem to be an odd choice but I've been collecting decks to put on my wall lately. I found a local shop here in Southern California to produced a limited number of these boards. This is available only within the United States (sorry, international !)

You do get also the four 18x24 posters, t-shirt, your name in the book, signed copy of the book, postcard, access to production blog and tweet tweet !

COSPLAY IN AMERICA 

A copy of the first book signed by : Yaya HanJessica NigriLinda Le (Vampy)MaridahMangaFreak150NadyasonikaMissyeruMonika LeeToni DarlingLiving Ichigo and more to be added ! Yes, I tracked all these cosplayers down so you can have all these signatures in one book. 

You also get a skateboard deck, four 18x24 posters, signed copy of the next book with your name in it, t-shirt, postcard, access to production blog and twitter shout out.

TRIP TO ANIME EXPO 2015

You get the flight, hotel, four day badge to Anime Expo, dinner with me one night, plus a day at my table in the exhibition hall  and witness all that is spectacular at Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the country. 

You also get a signed copy of the first book signed by tons of cosplayers, copy of the second book with your name listed in it, a limited edition skateboard deck, all four 18x24 postes, a postcard, t-shirt, access to production blog, as well as a shout out on twitter. You also get your own special credit in the book as well. 

* Open to lower 48 states. One person per reward only.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

I've heard problems before from the rewards not delivered on time so I've built in time cushions for the rewards. While it may say shipped by this date, to me, that is the absolute deadline. Rewards will go out as soon as possible.

My setbacks from the first time I made the book was the editing process. My original deadline to send the book to the printer was January 2010 and finally went to the print in March 2010. Three months late. This time around, I'm giving myself close to 7 months to edit and get the book sent to the printers.

For the second book, I'm stopping the shooting process at May 2014. Printing and shipping the book can take 6-8 weeks so in order to get the books to Kickstarter supporters by the time for Christmas, it means shipping mid-November. My book has to be ready to go the printers by August 2014 giving me four months to put the book together.

This is my biggest worry is to get the book done on time and out to people as I promised. Keeping my word is pretty important to me and I want this to be a great gift for you or someone you love for Dec 2014.

The great thing about making a book already is you have the experience under your belt. Believe me, I made a lot of mistakes over the years. Hopefully on this round there won't be anything too drastic.

FAQ

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    TUMBLR SHOUT OUT ! Every little bit helps, thank you ! You'll get a shout out on my tumblr ! And maybe my twitter... and maybe my Facebook too... Aw heck, I'm spamming everyone with your name !

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    PRODUCTION BLOG ! Get inside access to my production blog detailing my journey as the book design process and meet the people behind this project. Includes previous reward as well.

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    POSTCARDS ! Who doesn't love postcards ? You get a Cosplay in America postcard signed by me from a random city in somewhere in the country ! Plus you get all the previous rewards as well.

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    YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK. Yes, I'll have a contributor list and your name can be there for all of eternity... well, as long as my book is in the library system or on someone's bookshelf ! You'll get the previous rewards as well.

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    18 X 24 POSTERS #1 The cover of the first Cosplay in America book - Cloud (James) as well as all previous rewards. Free shopping for US residents. Additional $10 for international.

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    ALL FOUR 18X24 POSTERS plus all the previous rewards including the t-shirt, signed copy of the book, name in the book, postcard, production blog, tumblr/twitter shout out, did I miss anything ? Free shipping of poster for US/International.

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    COSPLAY IN AMERICA limited signed Skateboard Deck as well as t-shirt, postcard, name in the book, signed copy of the book, all four posters and all the previous rewards.

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    COSPLAY IN AMERICA vol. 1 signed by Yaya Han, Vampy, Jessica Nigri, as well as other cosplayers. See list in the main description. Plus the t-shirt, postcard, name in the book, signed copy of the book, and all the other rewards before this.

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    TRIP TO Anime Expo 2015. Yes, I will fly you out, put you in a hotel, 4 day pass and you get to sit next to me at my table and meet all the cosplayers and witness all the shenanigans. Check the description for full details. Open only to lower 48 States. And yes, you get everything listed below. EVERYTHING as well as your own special credit in the book.

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