Sunday, October 23, 2011

Focused Fandom Review

I first met Steven Savage at the convention Kin-Yoobi Con, where I attended his panel on turning one's hobbies into a career. Now, I have a chance to review his new book about a similar topic: "Focused Fandom: Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers." Fear not, though, for I'm an impartial reviewer, and will give both credit and criticism where it's due.

This book is designed to help cosplayers and costumers (he's sure to differentiate between the two, although the advice is applicable to both) use the skills and passions they've developed through their hobbies to help with their careers. I know I'm not the only unemployed cosplayer trying to figure out if I have any marketable skills, and it turns out that all of us actually do.

The book is divided into three parts. The first (and I believe longest) section lists all the skills and advantages, or "edges," as he describes them, that cosplayers have. Not only that, but it explains how a cosplayer can use those to his/her advantage in the work world, while applying for jobs, or anything else needed to build a career. Not everything in those lists will apply to everyone, naturally, but with all the skills he points out, there's bound to be something that you (yes, I mean you specifically. The person sitting in front of a computer screen and reading this, that means you) can relate to and use. Personally, I found that the parts about building confidence, connecting with people, and creativity resonated with me the most, while the section about budgeting is important for everyone, regardless of career or hobby.

Each of the edges listed only takes up a few pages, so they go by quickly, yet it delves into decent detail. There are useful notes and steps for the interested reader to take to make the most of their skills, providing plenty of useful information without becoming dense. Reading through the lists, I began to realize that there are so many more skills I can gain from cosplay that I haven't even considered; it made me want to expand my horizons within my own hobby, and pointed out skills I didn't even realize I had gained.

Following that, the book lists several careers that one can use their cosplaying/costuming abilities in, or that one might want to consider pursuing because of their hobby. I know several people who are already working jobs where their cosplay experience comes in handy, while several more are pursuing careers that they can use for cosplay. Even I, an aspiring writer, can practice my craft by writing skits and reporting on conventions for California Conventions Blog (an affiliate of this blog). The section on writing and publishing I'll certainly be re-reading throughout my job hunt. As an added bonus, each section has the URLs to several websites and resources for the cosplaying job hunter.

Lastly, there's a section devoted to what one must do while pursuing a career. Much of the advice is applicable to more than just cosplay and costuming careers, such as networking and education, and that which isn't can easily be adjusted for non-cosplayers.

So, how does this book rate? It's a useful guide and tool for cosplayers and costumers who are trying to find a job, although the advice isn't universally applicable. The quotes and notes from fellow cosplayers sprinkled throughout are a nice touch, especially when I come across a quote from someone I know or have seen at conventions.

It's not so naive as to believe there are no difficulties to reaching many of the careers it lists, as it acknowledges that getting a job can be a difficult trial, but reiterates the advantages that we've gained from our hobbies. There's even instructions for an efficient job hunt and making the best of this book, as well as lists of several resources.

This may have been fixed by the time you pick up a copy, but I did notice the occasional typo or missing comma. At a little under 200 pages, it's not particularly bulky, and it's a quick read, but in a good way. Rather than sound like a list of things one must do, it read like I was receiving advice from someone who knows not only the difficulty of finding work, but how to put one's hobbies and geeky skills to use.

"Focused Fandom: Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers" is for a specific audience, so it's not something everyone can pick up and flip through. If you're part of the targeted crowd, though - if you're a cosplayer, someone who makes costumes, or anyone involved in the cosplay scene, and you're trying to find a job you can enjoy - it's certainly worth reading. I already feel more confident about my job search, and if you're like me, it will probably help you too.

If you're interested in this book, you can purchase it online at: http://www.focusedfandom.com/book-cosplay.html

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